Road Trip Slovenia
Suddenly there is a horrifying scream, startling me and causing me to take a step back. Is there someone in danger?
They stand in their underwear, dripping wet and shivering. They had just jumped into the “cooling” waters of the Slap Zadnja waterfall, a little ambitious perhaps in temperatures below 10⁰C. The girls are from the Czech Republic and have come to Slovenia for a healthy dose of adventure, nature and adrenaline by backpacking through Triglav National Park. I indefinitely postpone my plan to take a dip in the waterfall, bid the girls farewell and walk back to ‘Kekec Home’, the farmhouse high in the Trenta Valley where I spend the night.
Soaking wet, the girls are shivering in their underwear
A typical feature of karst mountains is that there is not a drop of water to be found. In the valley, on the other hand, it literally sprays out from the walls, as does the source of the Soča River. Pure, ice cold water bubbles out from between the rocks on the way to the Adriatic. Before the river reaches the sea however, it carves out these stunning canyons from the soft rock, where the emerald green waters transform into a Class IV wild-water course.
The emerald green waters carve out stunning canyons from the soft rock
It is only a short walk from the car park to the Mlinarica waterfall. Although it’s peak season I have the waterfall all to myself. A little further along I park the car by the side of the road. Here the footpath runs along the Soča, which is especially deeply worn here, no less than five meters deep, yet I could still jump from one side to the other. There are signs that others have done this before me, but I manage to control myself.
Almost a hundred years ago, during the First World War, this area was the site of some of the bloodiest alpine battles ever fought between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Italy. Over the course of three years, more than 800,000 soldiers were killed, and many traces of the war still remain in these mountains. At the war museum in Kobarid, the impressive exhibitions give me a good idea of the misery that these soldiers had to endure. I leave the museum deeply impressed, ignorant never again of the trench warfare here that was comparable to Verdun and Gallipoli in its intensity and number of casualties.
800.000 soldiers died on the Isonzo front
During the First World War, the Italians were very progressive. They laid roads in places you would never expect. Tactics dictate that those who control the higher ground have the upper hand over the opponent below them, and thus the Mangart Road was constructed. I really want to see the sunrise from the top of the Mangart, so before dawn I set off up the mountain in my car. The narrow road is barely the width of a car and there is a diversion for oncoming traffic. I wind up the mountain in my car through the mist, emerging just below the mountain pass. The view from here is phenomenal on clear days: to the east, you look out over the Julian Alps and to the west the Dolomites. There are more roads built by the military, but this is the only one that has been tarmacked and accessible to traffic. The rest is easily managed on foot.
I cross over the Soča at Tolmin, and after a visit to the ‘Tolmin Gorges’, I follow the back roads back to Kobarid. Beyond Tolmin, the landscape slowly opens up and the steep mountains make way for glowing scenery. At Kanal, I also leave the Soča and turn off in the direction of the Brda wine region, affectionately known amongst Slovenes as “Slovenian Tuscany”. With a little imagination, this name is appropriate. The road through the hills is surrounded by vineyards on both sides, with villages and churches dotted here and there. I stop at the Ferdinant winery, a small, relatively young business that produces modern, award-winning wines. With a boot full of wine I descend towards the coast of Istria, following a road that winds its way down towards Trieste, the Italian city which once formed part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s coastline.
The winelands of Brda are lovingly called ‘Slovenian Toscany’
As the sun lazily sets over the salt flats, the swallows perform feats of aerial acrobatics. An hour later the crickets emerge and break the Mediterranean silence. My glass of Slovenian wine tastes wonderful as I sit on the balcony of Case del Sal, my stylish accommodation for the night.
At Hisa Franko, in Kobarid, the world-famous chef Ana Ros holds sway. Ana is known for the TV series ‘Chef’s Table’ and serves fantastic culinary creations in an intimate home setting, which are a feast for both the eyes and the taste buds. Book in advance as reservations fill up quickly!!