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We had booked a fortnight’s holiday in Slovenia for July 2016, but my partner Kate was diagnosed with primary breast cancer only weeks before departure, so we cancelled.

She died barely a year later and, shortly after the funeral, I decided to undertake our planned holiday alone. It felt like unfinished business – and also a memorial of sorts.

The first week was spent in and around Kranjska Gora, the second next to Lake Bohinj, both located in the Julian Alps in north-western Slovenia. I transferred via Ljubljana, the capital city.

This travelogue recalls my experience as a solitary holidaymaker, including the walking routes I followed. It is illustrated by photographs of the achingly beautiful scenery through which I passed.

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A brief introduction to Slovenia

Formerly the northernmost part of Yugoslavia, Slovenia established independence in 1991.

The total area is some 20,000 square kilometres, the population just two million. The capital Ljubljana, located in the middle of the country, accounts for approximately 15% of the population.

Slovenia joined the European Union in 2004. The national language is Slovene, spoken in several different dialects, but English is widely spoken and understood.

The country is almost entirely landlocked apart from a short stretch of Adriatic coastline just to the south of Trieste. It is sandwiched between Austria to the North and Croatia to the south, sharing shorter borders with Italy to the west and Hungary to the east.

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The Upper Carniola region is home to roughly 200,000 inhabitants despite its predominantly rural, alpine geography.

It is dominated by the Eastern Julian Alps which include several big mountains, the tallest being Triglav (2,864m) whose three peaks feature in the Slovenian coat of arms.

Much of the range is located within the Triglav National Park. Kranjska Gora lies at  the northernmost extremity; Lake Bohinj is closer to the southern edge, between the small settlements of Ribcev Laz at one end and Ukanc at the other

I spent the bulk of my holiday within this area, apart from a few hours in Ljubljana and a brief visit to the Brda region, adjacent to Italy.

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Kranjska Gora

I flew via British Airways into Salzburg Airport, transferring to Kranjska Gora across the border by road, a journey accomplished in about three hours, including a brief lunch stop.

My minibus companions were an unusually taciturn bunch, their enthusiasm dampened no doubt by early starts and the persistent rain. I sought refuge in music.

On arrival it was still raining – some said the deluge had begun two weeks earlier, at the beginning of September.

So I unfurled my umbrella and reconnoitred the village. One of my trainers was leaking. I hummed the Traffic song but failed to conjure up a giant albatross.

Most of Kranjska Gora’s facilities are located on Borovŝka cesta. At one end you’ll find the Vopa Pub, post office and Mercator supermarket; at the other a choice of pizzerias and, just round the corner, the prominent tourist information centre.

Midway along there’s a couple more bar cafes, one of which features an automaton cow riding a bicycle, the empty but imposing Hotel Razor (built in 1902, up for sale at 1.4m euros) and the fifteenth century church.

Set back from the road and opposite the supermarket there’s a small greengrocer and a shop selling wooden items. I forgot to mention two sportswear shops and a clutch of souvenir outlets on the main drag.

The sportswear was expensive; the souvenirs limited in range and quality. But the beer – typically Lasko or Union – is good value at 2.5 euros per half litre measure. Or you can buy a can for in the supermarket for just 99 cents.

I stayed in the Hotel Miklic, a smaller 17-room establishment tucked away at the back of the village with its own restaurant. My room was large and decently priced, despite a hefty single supplement. There was a generous balcony with attractive views, although on the wrong side for the mountains.

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Residents on half-board could select freely from the substantial dinner menu – and could eat at any point of the afternoon or evening. Four courses: starter, salad, main and dessert.

Soups were typically served in a hollowed out cylindrical loaf of bread. Mains normally came with a choice of rice or roast potatoes. Portions were large and the quality good, although vegetables were limited and typically overcooked.

Locals came to eat in the restaurant, but thankfully no pesky coach parties.

A beery bunch of Flemish-speaking mountain bikers – unluckily 13-strong – dominated on the first night. On the second a wedding reception featured a keyboard player singing Slovenian pop ballads slightly out of tune.

Both were vaguely entertaining and, after that, things quietened down.

Here as elsewhere solitary diners face three broad choices: stare vacantly into space, scrutinise a mobile phone or prop open a book.

I opted for the latter, toting an English translation of the heavyweight ‘A la recherché due temps perdu’.

Kate’s death reminded me how easily time can be lost – and I’d never managed to make enough time for Proust. Moreover I needed something substantial, challenging and relevant to occupy my thoughts.

The lone diner on holiday strives for self-possession tempered by a hint of vulnerability, so that more fortunate holidaymakers won’t feel pity but, equally, won’t be disinclined to interact.

Consensus on a recent bereavement walk is that the size and title of the book can make a real difference on the interaction front. I can attest that my voluminous Proust was not the right choice.

Or perhaps I need to practice the physiognomy of vulnerability.

Breakfasts were predominantly buffet-style and substantial. Excellent coffee – and I enjoyed the mix of scrambled egg, ham and cheese they offered in place of full English.

As a gym-rat I was also impressed by the machine in the cellar (but left it alone to rest a shoulder strain).

The owners were reputed to offer helpful advice to hikers but none came my way, nor was I offered a packed lunch, though one or two other guests seemed to receive them. I simply ate a bigger breakfast.

This hotel was a wise choice and I recommend it over the alternatives. My only quibble is that I needed a document in my room setting out the full list of services: the onus should be on the hotel to state their offer, not on the guest to ask.

I had originally requested the much larger Hotel Lek, because of its wider range of facilities, including a swimming pool, but the Lek had just been sold to Best Western and was clearly a regular stop on the coach tour circuit. It felt a lucky escape.

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Walking in the vicinity of Kranjska Gora

Prior to departure I had purchased ‘Walking the Julian Alps of Slovenia’ by Clark and Carey (2015), but found it of limited value and used it hardly at all.

The tourist office in Kranjska Gora supplies a 1:30,000 tourist map for €5.90 which is sufficiently detailed to meet most needs. It shows 21 walking trails and 16 cycling trails in the vicinity. On the rear of the map there are brief directions for each walk and, helpfully, a graph showing the elevation throughout the route.

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The walking routes are signposted with small yellow signs, though relatively infrequently, and occasionally the paths are also marked with yellow circles painted on rocks and trees.

In the valleys, by rivers and through meadows, these routes are usually clear and well-maintained.

On one or two occasions I came across foresters felling trees and so obliterating the path. One hoped they were alert to the possibility that walkers might be passing through…

Once or twice the signage became invisible or cryptic when circumnavigating farmhouses: one wondered whether the farmers were less than enthusiastic about maintaining clarity.

It was often much more difficult to follow the forest paths, particularly where foresters had been active, creating several ‘false trails’.

I was fortunate to lose myself only once – and still more fortunate on that occasion to encounter an English-speaking woman with dog who set me back on the right track. Even then it was desperately hard to follow and I was mightily relieved to emerge on the road.

By the end of the holiday I had had more than had my fill of solitary walks through wet forests. One misses the distraction of conversation.

The rustlings in the undergrowth can be unnerving, particularly when one knows that brown bears, lynx and wolves are native to Slovenia!

Fortunately the only forest creature I encountered directly was a single fire salamander.

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Day 1: Lake Jasna (route 21) and Podkoren (route 4 – aborted)

I didn’t sleep too well – the church bell rings the quarters throughout the night and insomnia has been an issue.

The rain was persistent but eased enough by late morning to permit a walk along the short 3,000m trail beside the Piščnica River to the impressive but artificial Lake Jasna, and back again along the other side.

The Lake boasts a diving stage, a bar (closed) and a statue of Zlatorog, a mythical golden-horned chamois. There is a very similar statue at the Ribcev Laz end of Lake Bohinj.

The vista wasn’t at its best in the heavy cloud and drizzle, but this photograph still manages to convey something of its beauty.

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That afternoon I began route 4, a 4,200m trail across the meadows to Podkoren, the next village westwards along the valley.

But I had barely passed the almost deserted Eco-camp – a couple of symbolic ‘teardrop’ tents hanging from its trees – before the rain became so heavy that I cut my losses and turned back for an early dinner.

Later I went to my room and sought refuge in the NFL coverage, as the singer downstairs persisted until drowned out by a vigorous thunderstorm.

I couldn’t face the Vopa Bar, packed with locals and tourists watching Slovenia beat Serbia to win its first European basketball title.

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Day 2: Podkoren (route 4) and back (route 3)

The rain relented after breakfast, so I made a second attempt at Podkoren via route 4. Even in the damp conditions this offered beautiful views, contrasting lush green meadows with snow-capped mountains wreathed in cloud.

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The photographs show that autumn in the vicinity of Kranjska Gora was comparatively little advanced, compared with Lake Bohinj.

The village itself seemed almost deserted. I somehow missed the plaque celebrating an association with scientist Humphry Davy who visited in 1819 and 1827.

His memoirs recall:

‘The valley of the Save, with its cataracts and lakes, particularly struck me. I have seen nothing so beautiful in Europe.’

I had hoped that the weather would hold long enough for me to continue as far as the Zelenci Nature Reserve but, by the time I had found the route, the rain was threatening once more, so I headed back along the riverside path (route 3) to Kranjska Gora.

I made a brief detour up a hill called Peĉi (via route 10) hoping to see the wonderful view promised by the map, but the descending cloud and swampy conditions rapidly made this pointless.

The rain left off again by mid-afternoon, but it was too late to begin a substantial walk, so I bought a sandwich at the supermarket and ate it overlooking Lake Jasna. Then it started raining, again.

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Day 3: Excursion to Brda

The forecast remaining negative, I insured against a third successive washout by booking on an excursion to Brda.

Yes, I became part of a pesky coach tour!

The route was circuitous, beginning with a coach transfer to Bled, which was drowning in the rain.

The touristic takeover was apparent, even in late September. Lake Bled is fast catching up with other hotspots like Zell-am-Zee in Austria and consequently losing something of its appeal.

There are too many people and hotels – and too much traffic. Together these are compromising the area’s undeniable natural beauty.

We transferred from coach to train at Bled Jezero, catching the regional service to Most Na Soci, south of the National Park and close to the Italian border.

The three-carriage train, plastered with graffiti, looked like a veteran of the 1960s. It was chock-full of steaming tourists, touting umbrellas and cameras, no doubt attracted by the promise of a beautifully scenic route.

Unfortunately there was little to be seen during the hour-long journey, except condensation on the windows.

The wider Slovenian rail network is relatively well-developed and, as in England, the better-quality trains tend to ply the long distance routes, or serve the capital city.

At Most Na Soci we transferred to a pleasure boat for a ‘scenic trip’ up and down the slate blue reservoir. The entire deck was surrounded by supposedly transparent plastic sheeting, but what remained of the view was eliminated by raindrops.

The ‘captain’ regaled us with risqué jokes and sexist banter. The atmosphere was redolent of a wet weekend in Blackpool, so I’m afraid I resorted to Proust.

Then back on the coach to Nova Gorica, a Tito-constructed new town conjoined with Gorizia, the Italian settlement on the other side of the border. We passed several hydro-electric plants and an impressive bridge with a stone-built arch spanning 86 metres.

Our lunch stop was the Pri Marjotu restaurant, in the Municipality of Brda to the North-west of Nova Gorica. The contents of two coaches decanted into the main restaurant and what followed was heavily redolent of school dinners as various parties strove to save seats for their mates on the communal tables.

We rejects eventually found ourselves in a chilly spill-over room at the other end of the building. A huge hound sprawled in the lobby between.

The meal was a little school-dinnery too, but rendered palatable by a one-euro glass of the local red wine.

Afterwards I climbed the neighbouring 24 metre viewing tower and, braving the gale, attempted a few photos across the Italian border. Here’s a panoramic shot

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Finally we toured the wine cellar Klet Brda, established as a co-operative in 1957, and sampled a few of their brands.

The red was decent, but not enough to part me from euros. You can pick up a Pinot Bianco from M&S for £11 which, from memory, is slightly cheaper than the price in the cellar shop.

According to a wall map, Nigeria is an increasingly important export market. Who knew?

The return journey picked up the scenic route SS54, which travels in a north-easterly direction through the mountains on the Italian side of the border, turning into route 102 once on the Slovenian side.

Back in the Julian Alps, the snowline on the mountains was perceptibly lower, but thankfully the weather was changing.

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Day 4: Srednji Vrh and Gozd Martuljek (Route 2) and back (Route 5)

Early on there was, for the first time, a real autumnal chill. I embarked on a far more ambitious circular route, striking out on route 2 in an easterly direction, roughly parallel with the valley.

It began with a fairly steep ascent round several hairpin bends. There was little traffic, though I did encounter a fast-moving car with something large, brown and dead in the trailer behind.

The clearer weather rendered the landscape so much more impressive. This photograph shows the mountains behind Kranjska Gora, which is obscured by the rising ground on my side of the valley.

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It was on this trip that I lost myself in the forest, only to be rescued by a woman with basket and dog. She must have been picking mushrooms or berries.

The barking dog emerging suddenly from the (almost) silent forest gave me a start, but I was thankful he found me as otherwise I was facing an extremely steep descent.

The correct route took me upwards instead. I found it more demanding than the official ‘medium’ rating. Once or twice I feared I’d strayed onto one of the more difficult alpine paths, but eventually I emerged onto the road at Jurež.

I took this photograph from that road.

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Then it was time to tackle the apparently endless hairpin descent into Gozd Martuljek, via a couple of hamlets.

It took me some time to locate the beginning of route 5 back to Kranjska Gora, but eventually I sussed it with the help of a friendly English couple.

Lunch was eaten on a bench overlooking the mountains across the Sava Dolinka River. It was an idyllic spot that Kate would have loved but, unfortunately, my photographs don’t really do it justice.

The full round trip was approximately 12 miles and I rewarded myself with a celebratory Lasko in the Vopa.

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Day 5: Planica (route 9), the Italian border past Rateče (cycling route 13) and back via Zelenci (route 12) to Kranjska Gora

Dawn revealed an altogether finer and warmer day, boasting large patches of blue sky by the time I began route 9 across the meadows to Planica.

This is a large winter sports complex, dominated by a series of ski-jumps. It was strange to emerge from the countryside into such a hub of activity.

Several ski-jumpers were launching themselves from the hills, while dozens of cross-country skiers were hurtling along a track, but also along the roads in convoy, apparently without fear of oncoming traffic.

Here are some of the (Italian?) team making their way back up the hill as I walked down.

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Enjoying the sunshine – even wearing my sunhat for the first time – I strode down to Rateče, continuing alongside a lake called Ledine until I reached the border.

Here I posed with foolish grin for a photograph taken by an elderly English couple. I dutifully reciprocated.

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On my way back I wandered through Rateče before stopping at the Zelenci pools,  located within a peaceful nature reserve, though spoilt a little by the proximity of the main road.

Strive as I might, I couldn’t get a photograph to rival those outstanding examples already published online.

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Day 6: Towards Belca (cycle track 2)

On my final day in Kranjska Gora I headed out and back along cycle track 2, past Gozd Martuljek in an easterly direction towards Belca, turning at an iron bridge slightly short of there.

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On the outward journey I was particularly struck by one landscape and experimented for several minutes with my camera settings. An old man sat reflecting sadly on a bench not far away. I wondered if he too was recollecting a dead spouse.

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On the return journey I ate my packed lunch in his place. Sentimentalist!

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Ljubljana

Once more we travelled via Bled, which looked slightly better in fine weather. This was snatched through the coach window – sorry about the road sign!

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We arrived in the capital around 11.00 and were deposited in Congress Square, graced at one end by the Slovenian Philharmonic, which bears the date 1701, although the building itself was not constructed until 1891.

The opposite end is dominated by the Ursuline Church of the Holy Trinity, completed in 1726. This detail shows a lamppost and a statue outside.

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Our arrival coincided with preparations for a chef-cooked meal, to be served on a deck raised 50 metres into the air by a crane. WHY?

Ljubljana is one of those places where one’s eye is constantly caught by architectural detail. There is a superabundance of statuary and many of the buildings boast extra frills and furbelows.

The art nouveau Dragon Bridge is iconic. I searched high and low for a half-way decent dragon-themed souvenir, but to no avail.

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I had lunch in the gardens surrounding the hilltop Castle, having ascended via the funicular railway.

We reassembled in Congress Square, which was gradually filling with nerdy student types, each hooked up to their phone, playing some online game. Rather like the Dungeons and Dragons crowd back in the day, but with added obesity.

And so on to Lake Bohinj.

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Ribcev Laz

As I arrived the Lake was basking in the late afternoon sun. It was breathtakingly beautiful, but fellow tourists swarmed around the spot on which I stood.

This was among the first of the hundreds of photographs I took of the Lake that week, in an effort to capture its ever-changing loveliness.

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Perhaps it was the contrast with the outstanding natural beauty outside, but my first impressions of the Hotel Jezero weren’t quite so positive.

The location is perfect, but I can best describe the style of the building as balconied brutalism. It detracts from the natural beauty rather than complementing it.

Here I had booked into a single room which seemed exactly half the size of the doubles, and so decidedly pokey after my Kranjska Gora experience.

My balcony looked out onto a car park rather than the Lake. The church was quiet but early morning deliveries and refuse collection less so.

There were daily packed lunches and more channels on the TV, but overall it felt like a downgrade. Least worst option was to sit on the balcony with a can of beer and the TV set to a radio stream.

Midway through my stay I discovered that the indoor pool was virtually unused, so a daily swim raised the Hotel in my estimation. The fitness room was less well-stocked however and doubled as a ping-pong venue.

I was disappointed there was nothing resembling a cosy firelit bar in which I could curl up with Proust and a drink, or even chat with other guests.

The only alternative to the dining room were two more dining areas full of tables and chairs, apart from a sofa in a lobby rather misleadingly called the cocktail bar. I never found anyone else sitting there.

Dinner that first evening was also a shock, as this hotel runs a buffet service and I was swept aside by an incoming coach tour.

I learned to fear the Chinese parties, notable for their disinclination to queue and a fearsome capacity to hoover up all the desserts.

The quality of what was left to eat was poor although, to be fair, it improved a great deal over the course of the week.

I particularly enjoyed the industrial-strength morning coffee and man-sized chocolate croissants. Beer and wine were free with the evening buffet. It was with difficulty that I confined myself to a single glass of red.

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The Hotel is located in Ribcev Laz, a small settlement in which most of the houses are away from the Lake, along or behind the main road that stretches back up the valley.

There is a clutch of outdoor bars in the immediate vicinity of the Hotel, a tourist information centre, a mini-supermarket and a souvenir shop or two.

As a last resort I bought a green Chairman Mao-style cap with ‘Bohinj’ written on the side alongside an embroidered flower. The label says it was made in China and imported by a French company. It cost 9 Euros. I shall probably never wear it.

Over the road there is a double-arched low stone bridge marking the intersection of the Lake with the Sava Bohinjka River and, next to it, the Church of St John the Baptist, parts of which date from the Fifteenth Century, but which is topped out by a ‘baroque bell tower with a double bulb-shaped cap and lantern’ dating from 1738.

There is a large fresco of St Christopher on the outside wall. It has been painted three times, most recently around 1530. The saint is said to have six toes, but I had grave difficulty distinguishing them.

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Lake Bohinj itself is approximately four kilometres long and more than one kilometre wide. The maximum depth is 45 metres. The resident trout are said to reach 120 centimetres in length.

I was bitterly disappointed to learn that there are no local monster legends – and threatened to invent one.

A beautiful ‘tourist boat’ plies the length of the Lake, between a station in Ribcev Laz and another next to the campsite on the outskirts of Ukanc.

Perhaps we had an affinity because we are almost exact contemporaries, though it hails from the Konigsee in Bavaria.

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The local tourist pack included a ‘mobility guest card’ enabling one to travel on the boat as often as one wished, entirely free of charge.

As in Kranjska Gora, the local tourist office provided a map for €5.90 – this time 1:25,000 and showing 22 hiking trails and 6 cycling trails in the vicinity.

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Day 1: Around Lake Bohinj (routes 4 and 2)

Naturally I began by circumnavigating the Lake, opting to do so in an anti-clockwise direction.

A path, veering to the left on the other side of the bridge, allows one to escape rapidly from the crowds milling about the Church.

Initially it gives access to a handful of tiny beaches where moss and exposed tree roots give way to sand. Then it enters a small patch of woodland before emerging alongside a small campervan site, complete with bar and volleyball court.

This in turn gives on to a small grassy promontory and the track round the north side of the Lake. Behind the meadow stretches back to the outskirts of Stara Fužina, the first village in an upper valley leading away from the Lake.

A windsock guides the hang glider pilots that land here having launched from the mountain above.

Stara Fužina (see below) has more character than Ribcev Laz and I coveted several of its houses, especially a small hedge-bound property that looked out over the Lake.

I returned again and again to this section of the shore, entranced by its tranquillity and the ever-changing patterns made by the reflections of the clouds, trees and mountains in the clear water.

Sitting on the benches dotted around the shore, I felt at peace with myself and in far closer communion with Kate.

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Eventually though, the path enters dense woodland fringing the steeply-rising cliff faces of the mountains above. As I started this section it began to rain, and the rain set in for the rest of the day.

On the way round I heard strains of music from across the water at Ukanc where the 60th annual Cow Ball was in full swing, celebrating the return of the herds from their mountain pastures. This was originally scheduled for the week before but had been postponed because of the rain.

I’m not sure that this iteration was any drier!

The traditional, localised festivities associated with the arrival of the returning herdsman became centred upon Ukanc in the 1920s and, by the mid-1950s, had  developed into an annual event targeted equally at tourists.

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I caught a glimpse of accordions and twirling petticoat, but neither cows nor folk dancing being my thing, I circumnavigated the stage and eventually the derelict Hotel Zlatorog, so arriving at the lakeside campsite (also called Zlatorog) which was closed for the season.

Rather than wait for the boat I walked back to Ribcev Laz along route 2, just above the road, pausing only to eat my sandwiches under an umbrella, seated on a damp bench on the edge of the Lake.

This route takes one past an outdoor activities centre, a hostel and the second place of worship on the Lake – The Church of the Holy Spirit – built in 1743 and renovated in 1981.

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Day 2: Via Stara Fužina to the Mostnica Waterfall (route 7)

It was raining again. I crossed the bridge and headed into the centre of Stara Fužina, historically a centre for iron-working, admiring many of the alpine cottages while sidestepping the dairy farming museum.

It took some time to pinpoint the start of route 7, which runs in a northerly direction away from the Lake, following the Voje Valley. A man with a big umbrella and a little hut requested money, but desisted when I showed him my tourist card.

The first half of the trail runs through forest, on either side of the river. Eventually one reaches the Devil’s Bridge, carved from stone in the 1770s on the orders of Baron Sigmund Zois to assist with the transport of iron ore and charcoal.

A folk tale insists that the Devil built the bridge in return for the soul of the first to cross it, but was tricked when a farmer’s dog crossed first chasing a bone.

There are some turquoise pools here, marking the bottom of the gorge. Eventually the track merges with a small road and cycling route which rises through the forest, veering left into another walking track shortly after a guest house.

Eventually the track opens out into meadows, dotted with small wooden barns and cottages, which resemble a green bowl, completely surrounded by mountains.

One traverses this to reach the 20-metre waterfall which, if I’m honest, is a little underwhelming, particularly in poor weather. I clambered up the muddy bank and dutifully took a couple of photographs.

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The route down is much the same as the route up.

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Day 3: To the Vogel cable car station (route 1) up Mount Vogel and back on the tourist boat

The weather forecast was more promising so I made an early start along the forest footpath above the Lake’s southern shore which runs directly to the cable car station.

I found this section of forest quite eerie with many strange rustlings and the hooting of unknown birds. There was nothing in particular to look at and so little pleasure to be had. Though this was where I encountered the fire salamander.

I pressed on and caught the 10.30 cable car with seconds to spare. The car takes only a few minutes to ascend almost 1,000 metres, passing an identical vehicle coming down.

This photograph of one of the gondolas is taken with zoom from the tourist boat on the Lake.

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Luckily the mountain was free of cloud on the ascent. This is taken from the vertiginous viewing platform alongside the upper station. The floor is a metal grid and standing here in a stiff wind is a scarily uncomfortable experience.

The village in the picture is Stara Fužina and the tower of the Church of St John the Baptist at Ribcev Laz is also visible.

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I began to explore the ski resort, eventually wandering further afield in an effort to find alternative views down on the Lake, but these were not forthcoming.

Suddenly the cloud descended, reducing visibility to some 20 metres in a matter of minutes. This was extremely disorientating and it was with difficulty that I found my way back to civilization.

Just as I did so the cloud cleared somewhat, but now the rain had set in. I descended on the midday service, eating my lunch at the tourist boat landing stage.

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On the journey back to Ribcev Laz I became fascinated by the patterns made in the water by reflections of the surrounding mountains and the boat’s wake.

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Day 4: To Srednja Vas (cycle path 1) returning to Stara Fužina (route 8)

I picked up the cycle path at a bridge between Stara Fužina and Ribcev Laz, following the Mostnica and Ribnica Rivers along the upper valley.

Shortly before Studor I switched to the road to avoid a stubborn bullock, arriving in the centre of the village through a sequence of iconic Slovenian hayracks.

I passed the ranch where they breed Icelandic horses and walked on to Srednja Vas, a few more kilometres up the valley. There I climbed the steps to St Martin’s Church, a mid-18th Century baroque edifice, to take in the view.

A small cemetery is set out in the churchyard and a new grave was being tended by an old lady and (probably) her grandson. I told them in English that I was sorry for their loss.

I followed route 8 back to Stara Fužina, emerging at St Paul’s Church, whose roof was being renewed.

Rather than immediately returning to Ribcev Laz, I took cycle path 1 in the other direction, following the Sava River along the lower valley as far as Polje before retracing my steps.

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Day 5: To the Savica Waterfall (route 2, cycle route 4) and back (route 3 and the tourist boat)

The day started with the disappointing news that there was no space for me on the next day’s excursion to Piran on the Adriatic coast.

I’d been assured that, since this was the final trip of the season, places would not be in great demand. The rep. felt guilty, kept asking if there was anything I needed. I was sorely tempted to say ‘company’, but forbore.

At her suggestion I headed for another waterfall. The walk began via route 2, but in the opposite direction. This also doubles as cycle route 4, which continues uphill to the waterfall.

I paused briefly at the bottom beside the First World War Cemetery, populated mainly by Austro-Hungarian infantry killed in the mountain battles of 1915 and a few prisoners of war, mainly Russian.

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I continued onward through woodland to the Savica Waterfall. This is a major tourist attraction so there are shops and bars to negotiate before one starts to climb the 500-or-so steps. A fee is payable, but those with a tourist card are exempt.

This waterfall is significantly larger than its cousin at Mostnica, stretching 78 metres from top to bottom, but it is hard to take a good photograph of any waterfall, no matter how impressive. Here’s my best shot.

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This is the view back down the valley to the Lake

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I ate my packed lunch at the head of route 3, which passes through woodland back to Ukanc and from there took the tourist boat back to the Hotel.

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Day 6: To Bohinjska Bistrica (route 20) and back (cycle route 1)

In place of the Piran excursion I devoted my final day to an extended walk along the lower valley as far as Bohinjska Bistrica, the outward journey via walking route 20 on the southern slopes of the valley and the return via cycle path 1 on the other side of the river, part of which I’d traversed on Day 4.

To shorten the first part of the outward journey I kept to the road out of Ribcev Laz, joining route 20 at a small village called Laski Rovt. The route is mainly through meadow, at one point featuring a small practice slope for aspiring ski jumpers.

Bohinjska Bistrica is the nearest thing to a town in the vicinity and it was with difficulty that I found my way through its streets after a fortnight in the countryside.

To get to the beginning of the cycle path one has to navigate round a busy main road and over a bridge.

This path is a delight in good weather, much of it sticking close to the beautiful Sava Bohinjka River. In several spots there were fly fisherman standing waist-deep in midstream. A heron flew overhead.

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I passed the small farming settlement of Brod, with its small church dedicated to St Mary Madgalene, then soon found myself retracing my steps over the section I had walked two days before. Lunch was taken at a small hut, then back to Ribcev Laz for one final farewell trip on the tourist boat.

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Finale

I had the minibus to myself on the journey back to Salzburg Airport. We spoke, inevitably, of borders and Brexit.

Given the frighteningly early start the Hotel had given me a ‘packed breakfast’, which turned out to be very similar to a packed lunch, except the filling had not been inserted into the sandwich.

The flight was uneventful and I was home by mid-afternoon.

Looking back over the experience, it was cathartic to spend a fortnight in such outstandingly beautiful surroundings. Lake Bohinj, especially, was all I expected and more.

There are many advantages to travelling alone, but it can be all too easy to overdose on solitude. At times I strayed a little too close to loneliness.

There is much that the industry could do to support lone tourists – and we should be rating their services from our perspective.

Slovenian tourism has increased substantially in recent years. Over three million foreign tourists visited in 2016, up some 10% on 2015.

Almost 110,000 were from the UK, an increase of 16.5% compared with 2015. Many of them head to precisely the locations I selected. But the ski season accounts for a sizeable percentage.

If one avoids Bled and July/August, this part of Slovenia is still off the beaten track, its landscape pristine and unspoilt. More laid back and cheaper than its Alpine counterparts, it is well worth a visit.

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TD

October 2017

 

 

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