We returned to Smeteoz after dropping the kids off at the airport in Venice, Italy and spent another 9 days with dad in Slovenia. Our next tour began with a journey to the beautiful town of Tolmin, Slovenia nestled in the Soca Valley at the confluence of the emerald blue waters from the Soca and Tolminka rivers. Tolmin is situated on the southern tip of the Julian Alps and very close to the Italian border, an idyllic Slovenian mountain town.
The first morning was spent driving through the scenic mountains and once again Garmin Electra (my GPS) took us on some questionable routes. Although a bit nerve racking on single track roads that hugged the side of the mountains our risk taking was rewarded with the most amazing views.
Arriving in Tolmin we stopped at a café along the Soca River for a quick beer and checked in early at our apartment which was difficult to find. It was hidden in a valley up in the mountains, a lovely spot that was serene and quiet, the apartment itself was basic but comfortable. We left the apartment and headed out to hike the Tolmin Gorges in the Triglav National Park. At the park gate, you pay $6 Euros per person to enter the trail where for a moderate hike that takes about 2 hours to complete.
You’ll walk over the Devils Bridge suspended high above the narrow gorge and up to Dantes Cave, a large cave system that can only be accessed with a prearranged, certified guide. You can continue to the village of Zadlaz Cadrg (you can also drive this portion) or hike down to the trail that leads to the Bears Head, a large bolder that fell into and stuck between the gorge walls. From here you hike down into the gorge and trek along the trails that follow the river, leading back to the parking lot. It was a great hike, just physical enough with some amazing viewpoints.
Leaving the gorge we headed back towards the edge of town for dinner at Gostilna Zatolmin where Janet and I indulged in a Tolmin Steak- Turkey slices in a walnut gravy covered with melted Tolmin cheese that is famous from this area, served with garlic mashed potatoes and veggies, washed down with a Union Radler. Dad had his favorite dish which is widely popular in the mountainous regions of Europe, the delicious Weiner Schnizel. Sitting at the outside patio, watching the sunset wash over the mountains and darken the valley below was the perfect setting for an alpine dinner.
Here is a video of our trip to Tolmin, Slovenia, just click on the photo below to go to our Youtube video.
The next morning, we had an easy continental breakfast before checking out of our apartment and heading up into the Alps for a trek to the Memorial Church of the Holy Spirit in Javorca. But first we had to get there and the drive was nerve racking to say the least. Leaving a paved road, we ventured onto a gravel and dirt path just wide enough for one vehicle as we climbed high up into the Alps, twisting and turning, hugging the cliff side road we prayed no one would be coming down the mountain. After about 12 kms we emerged into an alpine valley surrounded by forest and an incredible mountain range. We found a spot to park and began our trek up to Javorca, the hills were alive with the sound of music and we felt like the Von traps hiking through the Julien Alps. After a steep hike of about 30 minutes we emerged into a valley surrounded by the most beautiful mountain range and perched up on the plateau was the wooden shrine. It was built during the first world war in memory of fallen comrades from the Austro-Hungarian Battalions that defended this area. It is heart wrenching to wander the church and ponder those lost in such an ugly war amidst such incredible beauty, high up and so far from civilization.
After spending some contemplative time at the memorial, we ventured back down to our car and drove a further kilometer up the valley to a small farm where the famed Tolmin cheese is produced. We were greeted by the farmer who took us on a short tour, showing us how the cheese was produced and sold us a large chunk that we would bring home.
And now we had to gather our courage and attempt the drive back down the mountain, again praying no one would be coming up the mountain this time. We weren’t so lucky this time, we came around a steep bend and saw a car coming up the mountain. I had no choose but to back up a bit to a section where the road was a little wider, dad got out and directed me tight against the hill side so there would be enough room for the other driver to get by. Luckily, I was on the inside this time and the other poor guy had to have nerves of steel to get by with one tire almost hanging in the air over the cliff. Breathing a sigh of relief, we waved to each other and continued down the mountain finally reaching the safety of town. I’m not sure I’d want to drive that again, there is a bus that goes on weekends in the summer so if available I’d maybe opt for that but being a passenger would be just as stressful. I certainly wouldn’t want to be driving and meet up with the bus though, I don’t know how that would work!
Check out this video of our hike to the Javorka Memorial Chapel, high in the Julian Alps. Just click on the photo below:
We left Tolmin early in the afternoon and made our way to Austria where we would spend a night in the city of Klagenfurt. That day we had breakfast in Slovenia, lunch in Italy and dinner in Austria. It was the most beautiful drive I have ever done, the portion from Slovenia to the Italian border was breathtaking. We had lunch in Tarviso, a small Italian village where we waited for a storm to pass by before continuing onto Klagenfurt.
It wasn’t that far to the Austrian border and early in the evening we checked into our apartment on the outskirts of town. We had naps and later in the evening headed into the city where we had dinner at the bustling promenade on the shores of Lake Worthersee.
In the morning, we awoke to the sound of a Kookoo bird (and yes, sounds just like a kookoo clock) that echoed through the forest surrounding our home, an ambient start to the day. Dad and I zipped to the grocery store to pickup some eggs and Austrian sausage which we brought home and cooked up for breakfast before packing up and moving on. We headed into the old town center of Klagenfurt and spent a few hours walking through the narrow streets, lined by the ornate facades of Baroque and Renaissance buildings.
We quietly entered the cathedral while a baptism was taking place to gaze at its elaborate frescoes and reliefs that adorn this piece of history dating back to the 1500’s. We ended at the Alter Platz (main square). anchored by the old town hall from the 17th century and in the center a large statue of a winged dragon (the Lindwurm) which is the emblem of this Austrian capital city for the southern province of Carinthia. The center is spectacular, a great place to wonder for a few hours with some interesting shops. We ended at an outdoor café in the main square where we enjoyed some cappuccino’s before continuing on the road.
Heading back into the mountains the scenery continued to dazzle us as we continued towards the Slovenian border. Shortly after crossing we came to the Slovenian town of Kranj and decided to investigate as dad had heard it was worth seeing.
We parked and walked towards to the old town center, its was a Saturday afternoon and just like its Italian counterparts everything was shut down mid day. Wandering its renaissance streets all the shops were closed but we were able to go inside a few churches, a museum and to the edge of town for some views of the valley below. We stopped at a café for a few Union Radlers, a Slovenian Beer infused with grapefruit that became a summer favorite for us, refreshing in the afternoon heat. The town was a surprise and we thoroughly enjoyed walking its cobblestoned streets.
Leaving Kranj we got back on the road and followed Garmin Electra for a GPS tour through many small towns and villages before entering the highway and making our way back to home base in Smeteoz, our mountain tour complete.
If you’d like to see more photos of these stunning, Slovenian towns then click on this link to the photo gallery.