Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Walking in Slovenia's Julian Alps

Walking in Slovenia’s Julian Alps

Monument to the Partizans of WW2 under Triglav's North Face
 Driving from Ljubljana Airport towards Bohinj, which was to be our base, I remember commenting on how green the countryside was and how clean this country appeared. That was on our first trip in May.  We were fortunate to return for a longer stay in August and I got the same impression. Slovenia is a beautiful mountainous country.  Slovene’s are very proud of their mountains, Triglav the country’s highest mountain (2864m) even appears on the national flag and every Slovene is expected to climb Triglav at least once during their life!

Lake Bohinj and the Monument to Zloterog
The base for our first trip was Stara Fuzina near the shore of Lake Bohinj.  It was from here in 1778 that three local men set out and made the first ascent of Triglav.  In May when we made our first visit there was still too much snow to walk the high peaks safely but the high pastures were clear and full of the most spectacular spring flowers.  Indeed there was a flower festival happening attracting many visitors on guided walks into the alpine meadows.  This would be a great time to visit, before it got too hot for some late spring warmth. The only down side of visiting in May was that many of the huts were not yet open, during the season they provide a good service in food and drinks.

The paths are very well marked with red and white markers and all major junctions are marked with signposts giving place names and the time it will take to get there.

Triglav from the south East
When we visited again in August, it was very much hotter with valley temperatures up to 30 degrees during the day.  On this trip though we planned to spend most of the time up in the high mountains which was much cooler like a British summer!  At night and early in the morning it did get cold requiring jackets, hats and gloves.

We toured around the Triglav area staying in some of the numerous huts that provide clean though basic hostel accommodation. The paths we walked were limestone with amazing Karst features.  Often with steep rocky steps, sometimes with wires and metal steps to help.  Ibex were common and although this was late summer there were still many stunning plants including Edelweiss and the rare Zois Bellflower (a plant where bees have to drill into the flower to get at the nectar).

Pri Jezeru Hut and Alpine Pasture
Historically the area is fascinating too. A country that has been ruled by other nations from Roman times until recent independence with the dismantling of Yugoslavia. There are three aspects of their history that I found particularly interesting: the sites of fortifications and other remnants of the 1st world war high in the mountains; examples of forms of cooperative farming dating to the early 1800’s which when the communists took power in the 1940’s were held up as models of good practice allowing these alpine cooperatives to continue; and the history of Slovene mountaineering which is remarkable. There are museums to visit that highlight all three of these subjects.

Zois Bellflower
The walking in this area is as good as any in the central alps and Slovene culture is geared up to support walkers with a great network of signed paths and alpine huts.  The most difficult aspect is how to get there as flights are limited and the only low cost airline flying there from the U.K. is Easyjet flying from Stanstead. Once in Slovenia, public transport is good though if you are planning a hut to hut tour consider getting a taxi to and from your start and finish points.

Mountain House Holidays will be running Hut to Hut walking tours of the Triglav area in September 2013.  These 7 night full board, fully guided holidays will cost £850.  The price includes all transport, accommodation and food and the services of a fully qualified International Mountain Leader.

Mike and Jane from Mountain House Holidays are fully qualified International Mountain Leaders.  If you or you group would like a Walking Holiday in Slovenia organised at other dates, please contact us to discuss your ideas.