Sometimes I happen across a place, and I fall in love in an instant. And when I leave, a little piece of my heart is left behind there. That is exactly what happened when we visited the Slovenian Alps in the Soča Region. Drawn by the promise of a fantastic meal at Hiša Franko, and further lured by the magical chalets at Nebesa, we were charmed beyond belief by the jaw-dropping scenery, rocky ravines, waterfalls, turquoise rivers, gorgeous wildflowers and majestic mountains.
We drove into the mountains from Lipica, having spent the morning reveling in the beauty of the Lipizaner horses—of Spanish Riding School fame—which are bred and trained there. We even squeezed in a 90 minute dressage lesson. More on that later.
The twisty-turny roads took us in and out of Italy and back into Slovenia a few times – flirting with the border has its charms. The disused, rusty barricade which is no longer manned, made for an unremarkable entry into these stunning green, forested mountains. We were headed for Livek, the little village below Nebesa. An even narrower road took us to our lodgings. Monkey fell in love with the doe-eyed calves, kept in a field at the bottom of the hill.
Thanks to Katja, co-owner of Nebesa, we quickly started to learn about the area’s history as a First World War front, heard about the commemorative Walk of Peace—320 km of trail along the front lines—and reconstructed trenches, and scoped out the general lay of the land. The Nebesa web site is chock full of information.
The next day I decided that the only way to manage our still-full bellies after over-indulging at Hiša Franko, was to hike in the heat. We headed down to Kobarid and checked out the Napoleon Bridge which straddles the gorge created by the River Soča.
There is little to no parking near the bridge, but we managed to pull over to the side of the road and snap these shots. It’s hard to take a bad photo in the face of such natural beauty.
From there, we found a little parking lot and started out on our hike. With wildflowers to spot, lunch at the camping ground, trenches to find and a waterfall to marvel at, we knew we had an adventure ahead of us.
We were immediately rewarded with the sight of abundant flowers in the meadows leading up to the pathway by the river. And no surprise, we also spotted some colorful beehives just a few feet away.
A little way down, we found the wooden suspension bridge that took us across to the other side of the river where we found some of the abandoned trenches from the First World War. It’s sobering to think of all that happened in these mountains. We learned about many of the wintery atrocities of war at the museum in Kobarid. It’s hard to imagine men starving to protect a frozen boundary on a sweltering summer’s day 100 years later, but it’s important to try.
By now, we seemed to have worked off the previous evening’s dinner and were ready to contemplate lunch. Luckily for us, Katja had clued us in to the local camping ground’s restaurant—the Lazar Tourist Center, which proved to be a veritable haven of delicious local food. (Separate post to follow).
Once satiated, we crossed back over the bridge and headed out on a mission to find the waterfall. This entire area is heaven for adventuring souls. From serious hikers, to hang-gliders up above us, and folks zip-lining down into cavernous waterholes (I’m sure there is a more technical name for this sport)… I really felt rather sedentary.
As we got near the waterfall, the hot air suddenly become cool, almost chilly. If you decide to venture right up close to the waterfall, be warned. The approach is incredibly slippery and I very nearly ended up falling off a mossy ridgeway into the water below!
Having reached our destination, there was little to do, but turn around and retrace our steps. By now the heat had really risen, and Monkey declared it was time to go into Kobarid and find an ice cream.
All-in-all, we probably spent about three to four hours wandering, marveling, eating and clambering. It was a perfect way to spend a summer’s day, and if camping is your thing, the Lazar center looked truly spectacular.