Slovenia's mountains are divided into two regions, the Kamnik Alps due north of Ljubljana, and the Julian Alps tucked in the top left-hand corner where Slovenia meets Italy and Austria. Really, there's not much that divides them, and if you stray only a few steps north in either region you'll end up in Austria!
We drove north from Ljubljana to sample the hiking in the Kamnik Alps first, and wished we had left more time to enjoy the stunning scenery and generally laid-back ambiance.
Just by Googling "hiking in Slovenia" a few months ago I discovered a gem of a place called Velika Planina. Try it, go to Google images, and you won't believe your eyes! It took a bit more digging to discover a route that didn't involve the cable-car, and the result was a hike that will stand out in our memories forever, it was truly amazing! In fact, I think that was the day John decided to restrict me to 27 "amazing"s per day......... I had to resort to "spectacular" and "outstanding"!
Mind you, the drive to get to the trailhead was literally breath-taking! But oh so worthwhile! After 25 mins of gentle uphill hiking through beautiful deciduous woods we suddenly stepped out into the sun and saw THIS..........
In your head you must add the tinkling of cowbells! Ok, not tinkling, clanging! I don't know how the poor things don't go deaf!
The name Velika Planina literally translated means big pasture, and suits it well!
As we climbed further we came across many scattered communities of huts, each group with its own name.
The original herdsman's huts have a distinctive design, rather like an alien landing craft, or Darth Vader's helmet, which was intended to shelter livestock under the roof, but outside the one-room dwelling. The herdsmen spend the summer up here living a supposedly traditional lifestyle, but somewhat changed by the cable car bringing tourists!
This is the only place in Europe where such a large collection of herdsman's huts still exists, but, there's a sad side to this story. The Nazis actually burned them all down, along with the original church, so they have been rebuilt. We imagine they would have been perfect for sheltering partisans, and perhaps the Nazis thought so too. The new huts, as you can see, have mod-cons such as solar panels, but we saw no sign of a supply of electricity and many examples of a communal tap!
Here's the chapel of Marija Snezna, Our Lady of the Snows, rebuilt in 1988. I think snezna, meaning snow, is my favourite word in Slovene! Or maybe slap, which means waterfall!
We hiked up from the valley to the east, on the west side is a cable-car, along with several short ski lifts and a large collection of what we presume to be ski huts, rather than herders' dwellings, in a variety of styles. To the north is a view to knock your socks off! Here's why we lingered so long over our lunch!
The highest peak is Ostrica at 2350m or 7709ft. And, by the way, there is no snow, or snezna, on these mountains yet, that is the colour of the rock! It is dolomite limestone.
The signs were plentiful but very confusing because the name of a place you are going to changes once you get there! But once we had grasped that it became easier! There was no map anywhere to help us, but luckily we eventually found our way back to the top of the same trail we had taken on the way up!
Four hours after leaving it we arrived back at our car totally wowed by our day's hiking at Velika Planina.
Heading further north, on ever more twisty roads, we eventually reached our destination for the night, Logarska Dolina. This stunning alpine valley at around 2500ft is so picturesque there is even a little toll booth where they collect 7€ per car - unless you arrive after the toll collector has gone home, as we did! The view as we turned the corner into the valley was spectacular in the setting sun.
There are several farms and guest houses, and we had booked for one night at Ostrica Guest House, home of the Plesnik family. We were met with a warm welcome, including a glass of firey blueberry liqueur, and one of delicious home-made elderflower drink!
Two other branches of the Plesnik family are just across the road in Hotel Plesnik and Plesnik Tourist Farm. They originally built the first hotel in 1933. And here's the family in 1952 when Tito came to visit!
Amazingly, the mountain we could see from our bedroom window was Ostrica - the other side of which we had been gazing at from Velika Planina earlier! And that's still not snow, just limestone!
When we arrived Barbara Plesznik and her mother had just returned from picking mushrooms in the forest, here they are preparing them for our supper of delicious mushroom soup, followed by the tastiest fried trout ever, and rounded off with Nutella crepes!
We went to bed stuffed with delicious home-cooked food. The teenage daughter served us while her father cooked, Barbara was busy welcoming guests, grandma was installed at the bar, behind which the neighbour's 12 year old was serving drinks to the locals! Before going to bed I stepped outside to look at a sky simply bursting with stars! The night was as quiet as you'll find at any guest house in Europe!
BUT........The next morning we were woken by gunfire as the visiting Russians tried out their rifles before setting off for a day of hunting! Not to worry, a sumptuous breakfast was waiting! After which we borrowed bikes and set off on a killer 5km ride, uphill all the way, followed by a 20 min hike steeply up to the head of the valley to see Slap Rinka - yes, that's a slap all right!
Our visit to Logarska Dolina was complete once we had seen it from another 1500ft up.........by driving the hair-raising "panoramic road" to the north, just a stone's throw from the Austrian border and only one car wide! Here's the evidence, the same white rock is used for the unpaved roads as you can see here.....
We saw many jewel-like alpine farms up there, along with stunning views down into Logarska Dolina.
Here's a map showing Mt Ostrica in the centre, Velika Planina behind it, the valley of Logarska Dolina below and to the right, and the Panoramic Road along the bottom. This is looking south, from the Austrian border. This area definitely should be on your itinerary if you come to Slovenia, don't miss it!
Stay tuned for the Julian alps next!