Slovenia

New territory

Although we had never been to Austria before it was still Western Europe and not much different to southern Germany or Switzerland.  Slovenia though is out of Western Europe.  Is it central or eastern?  I don’t know but it’s definitely different.  The first thing we observe is the standard of driving.  It’s shockingly bad.  Cars seem to be driven at a crawl or just too fast and frankly out of control.  We are overtaken in both the van and more worryingly the bike with just inches to spare.  The roads are not fantastic either but this could also be down to the fact that we chose not to by a Vignette to use their motorways as its more scenic to take the back roads isn’t it?  Or are we just too tight?

The hotel Stellplatz

Once again we find a cracking little Stellplatz at a hotel with full services,  EHU and even free but not very good wifi.  All for less than eight quid a night.  We are just ten miles outside of Ljubljana the capital of Slovenia and despite the manic driving we decide to take the bike in for a trip.  My strategy to fox the mad overtakers is to simply drive faster than everything else.  We whiz into the city a full chat down the three lane carriageway and it isn’t until I have carved up everything in sight, jumped to the front of every traffic light queue and taken ownership of the fast lane that a rather pale faced and frankly terrified Michelle points out that everyone in the Capitol is driving properly and at a reasonable pace.  It’s only when we get back in the sticks that we notice the loons come out again.  Maybe you only have to pass a test in the Capital.

Ljubljana turns out to be lovely in the middle.  The approach to it though reminds me of communist Russia (not sure why as I have never been but there you go).

People are helpful here as well.  We go off looking for a market as I read in a leaflet that they sell Cheese!!!  A local woman just comes up to us out of the blue and asks us if we need any help.  Very kind of you I say, where is the Market.  You’re standing in it she tells us.  Ah!  So we are.  There is one stall selling what looks like a single round rather bland looking cheese and nothing else.  I rapidly lose interest.

Some interesting Art though.  One bridge has been decorated with thousands of padlocks while another street has washing lines running across it with thousands of old trainers hanging from it. 

We stay three nights at the Stellplatz and have a lazy final day on Saturday just resting.  The hotel is in the middle of nowhere on a river and there isn’t much going on although we do see a sign for a Vegetable Meeting!  Michelle suggests that I should definitely attend!  

We are just thinking of having an early night when at the back of the hotel music starts playing.  A coach load of tourists has arrived (The first guests we have seen since we arrived) but it’s mainly locals who turn up to Waltz the night away.  More and more cars turn up and it’s obvious it’s not going to be an early night.  When we eventually give up and go to bed at midnight, it’s still going on and we are woken up around 2am when they all decide to leave.  Noisily!

Lake Bled.  The jewel of Slovenia?

Lake Bled has been one of those places on the Agenda that has been recommended and built up to death.  We are expecting something magical.  A splendid vista of a clear blue lake nestled in the Triglav National Park in the heart of the Julian Alps.  The problem with all these places that are hyped up and recommended to death is they never quite live up to your expectations.  Yes it’s pretty.  Well the lake is but the town of Bled is a bit grotty to be honest but its way too touristy and a tad spoilt for our liking. Are we just getting too picky or have we just seen too many wonderful places that it takes a lot to impress us?

Campsites.  Again!

Our opinion of the place is not helped by the fact that there is no free / wild camping allowed anywhere in the park.  Fair enough.  The night before we arrive though I read all the reviews of Camping Bled on Trip Advisor and they were very good and positively glowing so I was quite hopeful that for once we would end up on a campsite that we actually liked!  Err.  Nope!  It’s dreadful.  We expected it to be busy but the only spot we are offered is right at the bottom of the site near reception and the kids play park.  Great!  It’s a bit of muddy scrubland and by the time it’s filled up with motorhomes, caravans and the odd trailer tent it’s a bit of a confused mash up.  Now I wouldn’t mind if it was an Aire in France as it would probably be free.  We don’t need water or any services and it’s still costing us €27 for a muddy car park for the night.  It’s not the money (well a bit) but I just hate been herded into these places and then surrounded by the inevitable annoying children who seem to congregate around our van.  We decide to stay one night only!

For this reason we pack in a busy day having arrived early. We enjoy a lovely walk through the Vintgar gorges just a few miles out of Bled.  It’s a good two mile hike through the gorges and back along wooden platforms over and around what can only be described as serious white water!

We have a good hike around Bled and then decide to row around it in the Dinghy.  We even manage to land on the little island in the middle which houses a church and a few shops.  Then out of the blue we are treated to another free Air Show.  Stunt planes fly very low over the lake and perform all sorts of Acrobatics and we get the best seats out in the dinghy.

Tomorrow we are off to Lake Bohinj which promises to be a much more natural and quieter lake and then off deeper into the Triglav National Park in search of big scary Brown Bears we hope.  Apparently there are so many Bears in Slovenia they flog them to other countries! 

 As I write this the jury is still out on Slovenia.  I think I like it.  Its people are certainly friendly but sadly like some of Austria it’s not very motorhome friendly.  Talks of France are already being aired.  (Aired!  Get it?) And we still have a good bit of Italy to do yet.  Mind you Italy is Motorhome friendly and I think they do cheese.  Even if they don’t they are near enough to France to import some decent stuff! 

Stephen Hawkings Radio and the Hair Bear Biker

There is a local radio station in Slovenia that every so often provides “Slovenian Facts” broadcast in English by what sounds very much like Stephen Hawkings!  Every so often we get lovely snippets of information such as Slovenia has lots of festivals including the Salt Makers’ Festival, Cabbage Festival, Chestnut Sunday and Bean Day”.  We crack up laughing every time he is on.  Sometimes he reads the news as well.

Our neighbor at Camping Danica at Bohinj looks like he is here for the summer.  His caravan (I say the word caravan but it’s hard to tell what lies beneath all the awnings and plastic lean too add ons that now surround the structure) is about seventy with massive white hair that’s a cross between Hair Bear and Doc the mad professor from Back to the Future.  He is very friendly to us and miserable to everyone else.  This could be because we have a bike.  For Hair Bear is a biker.  He has his own add on plastic workshop and in it is a scooter but parked outside is his real pride and joy, a bright Yellow 1000cc racing monster.   He tinkers with it most of the day and every now and then he fires it up.  The earth shakes, the birds take flight and everyone spills their tea, beer or lunch.  I love the sound though.  Then he will take off with no helmet, his mass of grey afro flying out in all directions for a tour around the campsite.  He then returns and restarts the tinkering.  Mrs Hair Bear mostly ignores him and carries on her daily chores.

White Water Rafting on the Cheap

The river that flows past the site is quite fast in places and down at the lake I notice there is Kayaking and rafting on offer.  Michelle isn’t feeling too great so doesn’t want to do it and I don’t really fancy it on my own (and it costs the same for one as for two!) so I decide to go back to my youth and blow up the giant rubber ring we have and go on a white water rafting adventure on that.   When I was young we often did this down the Tees in old Tractor inner tubes and still lived to tell the tale (the wards at Darlington Memorial however were often littered in the summer with kids with various size holes in them as the result of “rafting” down the Tees).

Eventually I brave the fast flowing current upstream from the van and drift quite quickly back past where we are pitched.  I have a few goes and then decide to carry on into the faster rapids further beyond where we are parked.  I’m very quickly swept downstream towards the end of the campsite where I notice there is a distinct drop in the river ahead and managed to paddle out of the rapids to avoid the small waterfall and torrent beyond it.  It’s no good though I have to risk it and go down the (very) small waterfall and through the torrent and beyond.   I have no idea what lies beneath it, could be a giant pointy rock or a barbed wire fence for all I know but nothing ventured and all that and off I plunge, smashing into the waves which bury me for a second before emerging and being swept downstream at a rate of knots.  Wahay!  What a laugh.  Who needs organised white water rafting tours?  It is then that I realise that the campsite beach has ended and beyond where the rapids look worse the banks of the river rises steeply and there doesn’t look to be anyway out and for all I know the Slovenian Niagara Falls could be around the next bend.  I franticly paddle like buggery to get out of the flow so I can make it back up the bank to the site.  Just like when I was a kid the whole adventure is repeated several times until I get bored!

Joining the Slovenian Hells Angels and a German Stitch up!

We are out flying around the lake on Pig when all of a sudden we are held up by a mass of bikers which pull out of a side road on all sorts of evil looking 1000cc monsters.  For a few minutes we are part of the pack as little Pig keeps the pace right in the middle of the throng.  It’s so loud I can’t hear Michelle or even our own engine anymore.   After a while the huge convoy comes to a halt for no apparent reason and much conflabing ensues.  In the end we cautiously decide to eek our way to the front and here is Hair Bear with his bright yellow monster, still with no helmet ordering everybody about.  We decide that perhaps we had better leave them to it as we don’t want to spoil their image but for a while we were part of the Slovenian Hells Angels gang!

When we return to our riverside pitch next to Hair Bears Garage somehow a German Tugger (Caravan) has managed to sneak through a tiny gap between Hair Bears pitch and ours and has then proceeded to park it right across Hair Bears river view.  Clearly Hair Bear has made efforts to prevent this by placing what looks like an old hay cart and some planks of wood to stop anyone parking on what is effectively his front lawn on his riverside pitch.  They must have had the bear faced cheek to move all his barriers just to get a riverside pitch.  I smile though when I realise they have parked the caravan right next to where the bike tinkering goes on.   They manage a quiet night though as Hair Bear doesn’t return until later (Probably been off biting the heads of chickens or whatever Slovenian  Hells Angels do).  As we get ready to leave the yellow monster is now poised right next to the Germans van but Hair Bear is nowhere to be seen.  I suspect this is the quiet before the storm and sadly we are leaving today but I hope and pray that before we go he fires it up next to the caravan so I can watch its windows fall out!

Bovec and the Soca Valley next.  Still not seen any Bears yet but people keep telling me there are so many they sell them to other countries!  

 

 


Its steep getting to Slovenia!

The hotel Stellplatz.  Lookz quiet now!

We just drove over them in the background

Ljubljana

Gorges

Ducks and Drakes in the Gorges

We have one at home in Teesdale bigger!

Bled

Docked on the Island at Bled

Bled at night

Lake Bohinj

Savica Waterfall

Cheapo white water rafting.

Bohinj

Its feels faster than it looks!

Lake Bohinj

Lake Bohinj

Mountains