IV - The road journey through Slovenia continues.
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III - The road journey from Venice east into Slovenia.
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V - The road journey continues into Croatia.
Log Entry Monday 13th May - We visit Predjama Castle, a fortress built into a cave.
When we purchased our tickets for the cave we opted for a package purchase for both the cave and Predjama Castle, a castle protruding out of a 123 metre high cavern. It is said to be dated back to the 12th Century when the first structure was built, there is documented evidence back to the second half of the 13th Century to support this. It is clear from the cold and damp within the structure that life within would not have been easy, but certainly secure, in fact it was siege for over a year without falling?
The castle sits in a beautiful hamlet of Predjama, it appears quite daunting, would be perfect in a horror movie?
One enters the castle over a moat entrance, above the door the coat of arms of Count Cobenzl one of the most famous inhabitants of the castle in the early 1800's.
One is allowed to wander through the structure through out the various levels, each level influenced by the cave itself providing a cold damp sensation.
There is even a reconstructed Court Room with dungeon and torture area, a poor chap hangs from the roof for his sins?
There is a room set aside to explain the ownership, in it's later years the owner at that time used it as a hunting lodge in the warmer times, eventually being managed by Turizem KRASS d.d today.
The upper levels reach high into the cavern roof top, where an armoury has been reconstructed.
The battlements are all interesting and built clearly to protect the structure.
There is a small chapel reconstructed along side the court room, perhaps so he could pray for those being tortured? The structure is fascinating, obviously redeveloped over time, but it is clear that inhabitants would be far from comfortable as one is constantly reminded of the dampness and cold resulting form it's location - the price of security perhaps?
Log Entry Monday 13th May - We visit Postojna Cave, a 20km long under ground world.
We wish our farewells to Barbara and Paul, and pledge to our next meeting, where ever? We intend to visit Postojna Cave today some 20km to the south east of Logatec, we arrive easily but surprised at the magnitude of the commercial enterprise around the cave system?
The complex is also part of a large international hotel, the cave complemented with numerous cafes, souvenir shops etc. There is even a "coat rental kiosk" for those not prepared for the 10C maximum temperatures down below and of coarse the wet conditions! The cave system is claimed to be approximately 20km long, serviced by an under ground train. The system is built up of three levels, the main system is the central level, varying in depth from 20-80 meters below ground, the lower level system is completely flooded and carries a river that exits along side the hotel. The upper level is described as muddy and not navigable to us?
An interesting tunnel system map.
The cave system is said to have been discovered in the early 1800's open to the public since the late 1800's. We are loaded into a small train, just over 100 people I reckoned and transported under ground, a journey taking about 20 minutes.
From the drop off point we are split into "language groups" and assigned a guide and taken on a further 20 minute walk into the system. It is so professionally executed that photography is only allowed during "stationary briefings", even so a member of staff hangs back to rush on any stragglers?
The description of the construction and extension is quite detailed and interesting, during the First World War, Russian prisoners were used to open up new sections, a bridge walkway is actually named "The Russian Bridge". We are walked through a series of tunnels and end up in the "Great Hall", the last three pictures above, only 20 metres below the hotel. The hall is used three times a year for concerts, it obviously contains a gift/souvenir shop! In time the train arrives to take us back out of the system.
We disembark the train over an open section of the lower cave system, the flowing river clearly seen down below us.
From there we are given an opportunity to purchase photographs taken earlier of the group @ €6.50 each, then hired coats and audio systems are collected by staff and we exit through what is claimed to be the original 1819 exit of the tunnel system. What a business, and for the record, that one train was carrying about €3,500.00! Oh! and the tunnel system was very interesting too!
Log Entry Sunday 12th May - We meet up with Paul & Barbara after two years, calling in at Vintgar falls on the way?
With another night of rainfall we were awake early, so we began to pack up early, before we knew it the tent was down and the car fully loaded, it was only 0830 so we paid our fees and decided to have a coffee in the site cafe before we leave. The staff were setting up for the coming day, we began chatting, we were asked if we had been to nearby "Vintgar", it was described as beautiful by the local, so we thought it worth the effort to visit. We had time as we were not expected at Paul & Barbara's until about 1300 hours, so off we went.
It was easy to find and parking easy too, the only concern was that it was sign posted as a 1600 metre trail, we thought we would give it a go? We paid an entrance fee of €4 each, at first we thought it some what of a cheek to charge for a waterfall but we agreed with the fee as we saw the effort put into the walk way, both the construction and maintenance.
The walk way followed the river side, mostly constructed of wood as described to us by the waiter. There was several bridges to cross as we made our way down stream. There were already a couple of coaches in the car park, unfortunately we did pass a number of elderly tourists, a group of "London ladies" struggling with the distance and/or number of steps.
The walk continued, the scenery was very pleasant, every thing clearly well maintained.
We walked on and on, it was clear that the 1600 metres was not an exaggeration, it was good that we had also brought our coats as with both spray from various falls and rain water falling from cliff faces above some sections were quite wet! No matter what we seem to be up too it involves getting wet?
The beauty is interesting as is the wild life, various birds some, fishing, but all so fast nothing could be caught on camera. It was also evident that certain sections contained the remnants of old hydro electric generation stations, now unused for what ever reason?
Eventually we reach the main fall, quite spectacular it was too, the air soaked by the spray, well worth the 3200 metre trail, there and back. We turned around and made our way back to the car.
Once back to the car we stripped off our fleeces and rain coats as away from the rocks and spray the air was now warm and set the satnav to take us to Paul & Barbara's. The drive took just over a couple of hours, we opted on the highway as the fastest routing. We arrived on time and amazingly the satnav took us right to their door without any issues.
We said our hello's and sat down to lunch, typical Slovenia style, we chatted about what we had all been up in the two years since we last met - the time disappeared. We then decided to go out for a walk into town before we sit down to dinner that evening. Logatec is a beautifully kept town and area, it appears to have every thing a family community would want, a beautiful setting, and what appeared to be well used sports facilities etc.
The school is full of "child participation" from muriel's on the walls to gardens created and maintained by the children.
The town is very clean and tidy, we meet some of Paul's younger family with their children off to the local ice scream parlor for ices, we opt for a coffee at their local bar/cafe where we continue to chat and discuss "future plans" of both parties.
The bar is opposite the town railway station, we sit and talk, the afternoon disappears and the discussions run into early evening, it is then back home for more traditional Slovenian food - what a great evening! We close the day off by pledging to meet up again but before two years this time, a good plan to work on! It was great to meet them again, we are very fortunate to have so many good friends from all over the world.
Log Entry Saturday 11th May - With more rain what can one do to fill in the time - sit in an interesting pub?
We think to ourselves "How much rain can there be in Slovenia, it must all be falling on us?" We wake to water running from under our tent, most of the site appears in a similar state irrespective of the visible drainage installed? We decide to commit to one more day here then move on, irrespective of how wet it is - we make life a little easier with black garbage sacks. We are due to drive to Logatec to stay with Paul and Barbara a couple of sailing friends, they warn us of possible difficult driving conditions in the forecast extreme rainfall. There are a number of positive points to our position, living around the weather is how we live, so that is exactly what we do. Secondly, there are a number of British here on holiday, the wet has a different effect on them? Today it will be wet most of the day so we decide to stay nearby and explore a little of the luscious green area around us.
We initially drive up to Bled Castle but most is outside there are coach loads of "wet people" leaving the castle, we abandon that idea and just drive north.
We drive high up above the lake and end up passing through a small hamlet called "Zatrnik" in it's centre is a restaurant, an intriguing place (Pr JAGRU). We are later told by the proprietor that translated it means "The Huntsman", not difficult to work out once inside.
The building is two stories, there is an external bar made from the wood stock used for heating. Under a covered section there are five gentlemen already drinking beer and it is only 1030! Clearly they have no wife to provide "guidance" as Ann calls it?
As we get out of the car we create interest, the British number plate always does once away from tourist centres. We are greeted by a young lady owner and a bear! It is explained that is only a small one they at the moment have "issues" with a much larger seven year old prowling around locally? The room is effectively a trophy room, we are told every thing was shot locally?
The business is new, declared as a cafe/bar/restaurant/information centre, almost every thing it could be I guess. We initially only order coffee but when we are shown the menu it's contents are interesting, very favourably priced and, it was now nearly lunch time? Ann settles down to a venice broth, I opt for a barley type broth with cabbage and sausage! The meal was lovely served with bread, extremely filling, we share the two meals for the experience. As we eat two Aussie's arrive for coffee, they similar to us started in France, traveled further north than us and had just crossed over from Hungary - we share experiences and recommendations. The Aussie's leave first we say our good byes and wish each other luck, we pay our bill and wish the lady proprietor the same.
Log Entry Friday 10th May - A further cool box failure occupies most of the day especially with the rain coming yet again?
With another night of heavy rainfall, and more due by lunch time our day was going to be some what restricted. However, during the night the cool box failed yet again, the socket had over heated previously and distorted, again during the night we heard it stop, all of our back up fuses blew in an hour or so? As day light broke I pulled it apart, I find that during the manufacture the power cable had been "nipped" with the power lead being constantly moved the cable core had gradually broken, I repaired that but the socket was now so bad it needed replacing? I shopped around with little hope of finding such a "fused plug", were being referred to Ljubljana, the capital about 100 miles away in the wrong direction? With the help of an auto electrician, installing car sound systems I was able to put enough bits together to make it work effectively. It may not look as pretty as previously, but it works just as good, my opinion any way?.
As we were searching components for the cool box we had seen the "Tourist Train", what better way to see the attractions of the lake than by the little train that circumnavigates the lake on an hourly basis?
We return to Bled and wait for the next train, as we do we take in the local sites, there is a lakeside promenade and park which we find very attractive.
We catch the train in time and try to take pictures how ever very quickly we realise we are wasting our time due to speed and vibration, still, a worth while trip for our eyes.
Log Entry Thursday 9th May - A second attempt, this time successful, to leave Bovec and cross the Julian Alps to Lake Bled.
When we had retired the previous evening we had been, once again the only tent on the site? Around nine we had heard cars arrive and tents erected and heard voices until about 2230 hours - "just guys enjoying themselves" I had said to Ann! We awoke to about 6 small tents around us, the cars all from the Chez Republic to the north, their cars racked with Kayaks, clear to us why these guys were here. Three of them in particular caught our attention, one had the seats of his estate car down and was sleeping in the car with the back door open, two others we sleeping out in the open, "Real men!" Ann declared! I got talking to them later, they were here for the Kayaking, they had come from Hungary and had a number of river sections to complete. I was still confused as to why they did not sleep in their tent, but I chose not to enquire any further as one chap opened a beer for breakfast!
I had another task on my hands, our cool box had failed during the night, I was able to source a replacement fuse but the plug had badly over heated and distorted, with a small hand file I was able to get it working again?
This was a very interesting structure we came across, a "Telpherline", essentially a continuous line of cable used to transport goods up and down the mountain side. We did see a couple of much small units still in use today. This the principle was developed predominantly during the First World War to transport goods, supplies, armaments etc. This large unit was build in 1931 by a Charcoal Company to transport wood for the process, it's cable was 2100 metres long, carried timber through a height difference of 638 metres and could move 100 cubic metres daily. It was replaced in 1956 by a motorised version then dismantled in 1989, the cable removed for safety reasons.
Our road journey continued, this time without issue, we passed the bend marked "1038 metres" the point at which we had turned back yesterday with no issues what so ever and continued on the climb. The engine temperature watched with focus never moved from the norm.
We reach a view point with only 3km to travel to the Vrsic Pass, the views are fantastic, breath taking in fact, at points you can even make the road out we had traveled, more information on the road is give. The road was locally know as the "Russian Road", it was constructed by over 10,000 Russian prisoners of war during the First World War. In length over 24km if laid flat, with 51 hairpin bends up and down the 1611 metre climb. The road is only open on average about seven months of the year due to snow fall! The concrete base shown above is in fact the remains of another First World War "Telpherline".
From the scenic view point we can make some of the road out ahead, still quite a challenge ahead of us.
The road gains in beauty and fascination as we continue to climb, eventually turning a corner to find a small lay by and, believe it or not - a Souvenir Shop, we pull over as it sits in another view point.
It is amazing to see the ongoing activity, cyclists climbing the same route we had struggled with in the car?
The views again are great, no more to say than that, pictures never really show the full capture?
We purchase a few postcards, they receive an "official stamp" we are told, the price is the same as any where else we have paid? As we look down at the road we have just traveled we see guys at work repairing, must be an "ongoing job," plenty of job security I bet? They must enjoy it too, we here them laughing hundreds of metres away?
We then drive through the pass, the snow drifts still evident, we are now on the route down to Kranjska Gora, the snow thickens at first, the result of being north facing I guess?
As we continue our down hill passage our speed is again restricted but this time for the condition of the road surface, it is extremely bad in places with many pot holes, sections that look ready to slide down the hill at any moment? No reason could be seen for this than the weather possibly, being northerly facing the frosts etc would be far more severe?
Less than a mile or so after the pass we come across a lodge and decide to stop for a coffee and again admire the views, it was an interesting place, fully geared up for skiing etc, but no guests, as we walk in, the proprietor stretched out in the lounge watching tv, "awaiting guests"? We ordered coffee and sat outside, the spring flowers just beginning to appear all around us, "late this year" we are told?
We continued down the mountain side eventually arriving at Kranjska Gora, it was from here a drive almost due east to Lake Bled.
It was a very picturesque place, a lake formed as a result of snow melting and human control of the passing water to generate electricity, we have seen numerous small hydro-electric power plants like this. This plant creating a very pretty northern gateway to the Triglavski National park, we watched as a technician adjusted sluice gates to maintain water flow/power generation.
The drive from there to Lake Bled was very easy and relatively quickly, before we knew it we were sitting in a railway station cafe high above the lake looking down on it. Ann has become quite partial to dark beer since her experience with the "Trapiest Beer" in Belgium?
We then drop down to the campsite which is literally "lakeside", we get our selves checked in and settled, then walk out the front to the lakeside cafe to see the evening in. The drive had been one of the most pleasant drives we have participated in, certainly one of the most beautify, we will never forget it. The drive itself was only 61 miles directly but had taken us over five hours to complete with terrain and "scenic stops", well worth the effort in our opinion.
As an hour or so passes at the lakeside we then think there is only one thing left to do to complete a perfect day?
Finish the evening off with local food, which is what we did in the lake side restaurant.
Log Entry Wednesday 8th May - Time to leave Bovec and head north over the Julian Alps, through the Vršic pass north to Lake Bled.
Claimed to be one of the most beautiful drives in Slovenia we plan to drive north following the River Soca through the Trigiavski National Park.
The park and especially the River Soca has a reputation for the out door activities, the river especially kayaking, it is sometimes known as the "Emerald Region" because of the colour of the waters, the whole region is full of out door centres, visible from the car number plates it clearly attracts people from all over Europe. The region also boasts "The highest lying road pass - Vršic" at 1611 metres above sea level, our goal being to cross the Julian Alps at this point.
It is a beautiful day and we have plenty of time so we take in the fantastic views en-route, the Soca is an amazingly fast waterway. It is fascinating to see it being negotiated at such speed?
We follow the narrow, winding road carefully northeast, the snow on the mountain tops has always been visible but now, as we make our way towards it, it appears more challenging. As we continue on our way there appears to be less and less traffic which suits us.
Numerous things attract our attention as we make our way, many times we pull over to take a picture or try and imagine what it must belike to live in such a magnificant place, extremely difficult in the winter we imagine?
For many miles our accent is noted on the satnav display, the climb, fairly gradual initially begins to steepen.
As one approaches within 5km of the Vršic Pass the rate of accent increased greatly, each narrow turn on the now extremely winding road is posted with the altitude at that point above sea level.
All vehicles over 3 ton in weight are banned from this road, just as well as they would never make the turns around the bends, unfortunately many touring bikers seem to use the route as a race track, we had some interesting corners? As we ascended I had been watching the engines temperature gauge carefully as speed was very slow and engine revs high to make the climb, especially as our car is "full to the brim" with our gear? We had just made a corner, around 980 meters above sea level when I noticed the engine temperature began to rise quickly away from the norm? Initially I put it down to the exceptionally hard work the engine was doing, but as we made a further turn at 1,038 metres above sea level, the temperature was just too high, fortunately there was a place to pull over, as I did the warning light and alarm came on so I shut the engine down.
The engine had not boiled over, no coolant was lost, I lifted the bonnet to see if I could see what the issue was, nothing obvious so we sat and let the engine cool down. In time it was cool enough to re-start, once running again the problem was clear, the radiator cooling fans were not running at all so at the low speed up the climb, there was nothing to cool the engine down, I checked fuses, connections all seemed ok, nothing would start the fans?
We still had above 600 metres in altitude to climb so the best thing to do was to turn around and make our way back to Bovec and seek assistance, I had seen a garage in the village, hopefully he could assist? We "managed" the engine temperature for the 16 miles back to Bovec, having to pull over once as we came behind a tractor on the road. Sitting behind him I feared would not provide enough cooling air through the radiator, the road was too winding and narrow to over take - "better to be safe than sorry!".
We returned back to Bovec, drove to the garage and explained the problem, the guy clearly knew his role, he had the fan problem resolved (he believed) in less than 15 minutes! The problem was one of the three system fuses, not blown they looked good, but "aged" he declared. When he pulled out the fuse it was clearly corroded, he replaced it and told us to go and test the car - we did and it was perfect! The cost was a massive €15, including the replacement fuse - I gave him €20 and thanked him for seeing to us straight away, and leaving the vehicle he had been working on. A further benefit was that our air conditioning had not been very effective, we had it service before we left, the inefficiency we put down to age of the vehicle - it was now brilliant! We returned to the campsite we had left that morning and stayed another evening, one would have to be nuts to attempt that drive in the dark!