Hiking in Slovenia – final post

This post will cover the final four days of our hike. So strap yourself in, it’s going to be a long one. If you are like me, you may lose interest before the end – I have a short attention span so I understand if you just look at the photos, that is fine!

On our third day, we bid goodbye to Kranjska Gora and we were taken to a lovely little town to start our journey to beautiful Lake Bled.

It was a glorious day as we passed little children who took delight in patting the goats/sheep (they actually are sheep).

Then it was onto beautiful Vintgar Gorge which we walked along for about 2 kilometres.

This was followed by an ascent up through some lovely woodland until we finally reached the church of Saint Catherine, with sweeping views below.

After a stop for our picnic lunch, nearby to the cows, we wandered onto the next little village and then onto Lake Bled.

At one point, we were distracted by a pretty garden

which meant we missed one of the landmarks in our Bible and so we entered Bled from the opposite direction. Point is, we got there, and it is magnificent.

When Hotel Triglav came into view, it was a sweet sight indeed. It is a beautiful establishment, away from the tourist town of Bled itself. It has a beautiful old world charm and I recommend you check out the link I provided above to get a glimpse of our time there and its history. Here’s a photo from one of its little corners.

It is perched quite high up so that of course means steps down to the lake (and back up).

We had a sauna and a swim in the heated pool and felt completely revived. Our balcony overlooked Lake Bled and we could also see Bled Island with its fairy tale church.

The next day was a “rest” day which meant we didn’t follow the book but still walked. We walked around the lake, climbed up to Bled Castle,

tasted the famous Bled Cream Cake

and found an artist by the lake selling little water colours of Lake Bled. So we each bought one and on the back he then painted a portrait of Ros and me. He really got so much pleasure out of it – as did we! Here are some more photos of Lake Bled.

After our two glorious days in Lake Bled, it was off to our final leg – up to the plateau that would then take us to Lake Bohinj.

We were back to the more inclement weather and this was a gradual descent from beginning to end.

First we popped into a local hut for hot chocolate.

Some parts of the path were almost treacherous – I found a small branch to support me as we wandered over broken branches, fallen trees, rocks, tree roots – you get the picture. We also saw sone salamanders.

It would be fair to say for me that Lake Bled was the highlight; walking into Bohinj on a grey, wet day and having to keep walking until we found our, ahem four star hotel was less than inspiring. We really appreciated Hotel Triglav when I asked at reception if the sauna could be turned on, to be told that would be 30 Euros! Suddenly a hot shower seemed like a really good idea.

The next (sixth) day was another rest day and so we walked down to the lake and took the boat up to the beautiful Savica Waterfalls.

On the boat, we had a guide who provided very interesting information on the glacial lake and also on the boat. Turns out it is a German boat, 62 years old and still using the original electric motor – how good is that? As Lake Bohinj is in a national park, fuel-powered boats are not allowed.

There were 440 steps up to the waterfall but after what we had done, this was…a walk in the park.

On our descent, we went to a quaint cafe and ordered home-made apple strudel.

We needed nothing more until dinner time. Then we wandered back home around the lake and prepared ourselves for our departure the next morning to Ljubljana. The bad weather continued and my photos reflect this so I have not included any. It is a beautiful little city, about 300,000 population. It has an old town centre and a castle perched high near the centre of town. Worthy of another trip.

And that is where I will leave my journal for this 2019 trip, dear readers.

Thank you for reading and commenting and I hope to be back in 2020!

Slovenia Hiking – Day 2

Our hotel manager is an experienced hiker and he said we could do the walk to Mount Pec – noting the chance of rain increased throughout the day. He told us he used a Norwegian website for weather which he highly regarded but then he reminded us it was only a prediction. What were we to do with this information?

All eight of us decided to give the walk a go and so we loaded into the mini-bus that would take us to our drop off point in a small neighbouring village.

It soon became clear that we weren’t in Kansas any more but once we started and got so far, there really was no point in turning back.

We put on our gaiters and we set off.

Here are some pretty little flowers in the snow.

There were also little waterfalls along the way.

Gradually, this…

Turned into this…

And then this…

We made it to the top of Mount Pec – and I’ll show you. This is not the most flattering selfie I’ve taken but it reflects the conditions…

OMG! We were so cold – we managed to eat our piece of fruit, agree that there was no view and then got ready for the steep descent. At this point, our Gold Coast friends arrived – they had taken shelter under another hut that actually provided shelter (as opposed to the hut we chose that allowed the rain to descend upon us).

So we debated with Jen and Geoff whether to go back down the way we came or proceed down the zig zag more direct ascent. We all finally agreed (led by Ros and her sense of adventure) on the zig zag. Jen and Geoff had walking poles – we did not. So they went on ahead and would call out every now and then to see if we were OK. Phew what a time we had.

We both had our own “style” for getting down the mountain and they both worked – although my decision to try to swing around the inside of a tree on one corner showed a distinct lack of judgement.

Finally we arrived in the town of Ratece where the local sheep (which we thought were goats) greeted us enthusiastically. It’s as if they were saying “well done!”

Then it was onto the local tavern (Surc) for the most wonderful bowl of tomato soup – it’s amazing how much you appreciate the simple things in life when you are cold, wet and tired.

It’s also where I discovered Viljamovka. I asked our host for a warming drink and he heartily recommended this pear-based drink. It’s in the water glass behind our soup.

Then we took the short cut by catching a bus back to our hotel. Day 2 completed!

Slovenia Hiking – Day One

We arrived early evening in Kranjska Gora – the starting point for our first three days of hiking. Behind the pretty township is a backdrop of mountains, the first ascent we would undertake the next day was a modest 1,100 metres high.

I had organised this self-guided walking/hiking tour through a Slovenian company – Helia. Turned out the company took a very light touch to managing our group – four Aussies (Ros and me and a couple from the Gold Coast) and four Russians.

We were met by a representative on that first evening who talked us through our book which had step-by-step photos and directions for each of our six days of walking. It quickly became our Bible (but it also was soon clear that some sections needed updating). Beyond that, we only had the drivers who transported us on a couple of the days. Anyway, we all made it through OK.

So Day 1 of our walk was described as a “‘warm-up” and was about 17 kilometres.

The region had some unexpectedly late and heavy snow falls so we weren’t even sure if we could take on our second higher ascent.

We left our hotel after breakfast, Bible and map in hand and were not really sure how we would go.

I’ll let the photos tell the story, starting at the nearby lake, Lake Jasna.

There were many little cairns along the way.

And then the snow remained with us and got thicker until we reached our ascent.

We had been told by our contact that the hut wouldn’t be open so we were very delighted to discover it was – turns out it is open almost every day of the year.

Next it was onto the Russian Chapel which is a memorial to the Russian prisoners-of-war who built the chapel during World War I.

As we walked, we had to watch our steps – throughout the six days, there were tree roots, rocks and may uneven surfaces with which to deal.

As we descended, we passed through meadows of such lush green that we can only imagine in Australia. The weather was changeable throughout the day but all-in-all, we were OK and arrived back at our cosy hotel, with the beautiful mountains that we had partially climbed behind us.

A sauna helped restore us, ready for Day 2 when we hoped to walk to the top of Mount Pec – the 1500 metre peak where the three borders of Austria, Italy and Slovenia meet. Spoiler alert – if you look at the web link I’ve included on Mount Pec, you’ll see a glorious site of people sitting on the side of the mountain in the sun. This is not what we experienced.

Villach

My posts have not been in linear/chronological order – I had been hoping my phone would catch up with me with some of the photos that I had taken to be used. Anyway, good news! Manfredi has been in touch and he expects delivery of my phone soon. So it should arrive home in Canberra sometime in the coming months.

So just to remind you, I started in France with my sister, moved onto Switzerland where we met up with our mum, Nikki left for the Netherlands, Mum and I spent time in various places in Switzerland before moving onto Italy. Then Mum went onto Athens for the next part of her trip and I met up with my friend Ros in Venice for our hiking venture in Slovenia.

This post will be about the delightful Austrian town of Villach. To get to Slovenia for our hiking leg, Ros and I caught a train from Venice to Villach and then another train and then a bus – a hike in itself.

We had the afternoon in Villach and the weather was beautiful so we deposited our luggage at the train station and dropped into the information centre to see what we could do in the time available to us.

Off we went across the river into the old town centre.

We wandered the pedestrian-only region, visited the old church and walked the 240 steps up to the steeple and a view across to the Julian Alps (I think).

We then next walked through parkland to view an amazing diorama of the region – known as Carinthia.

The above photos provide you with some sense of the scale of this structure. We were on the second floor of this building, taking in the detail and listening to and watching the 10 minute presentation that provided a history of the region.

This next photo shows the triple borders of Austria, Italy and Slovenia, where we would walk in coming days. I took the photo as the weather forecast wasn’t looking good for that day and I thought this may be the only vision I would have of this region.

We continued our walking which took us through more beautiful parks and past lovely homes and old buildings.

Then we visited a pretty church – You can see the architectural style is quite different from Italian churches.

Then it was back across the river to wait for our onward journey to Kranjska Gora via Jesenice.

Bernina Express – from Switzerland to Italy

During this trip, I have gained a deep appreciation of many things, including the amazing Swiss feats of engineering. From the funiculars to the many train tracks that reach the heights of the great mountains such as Jungfrau.

Unfortunately, the weather did not allow me to travel to Jungfrau and so it was with great anticipation that we boarded the train at Zurich for Chur, the start of the Bernina Express.

It was also at this point that I realised I had left my phone in the Zurich hotel room – the porter on the train kindly phoned the hotel to confirm this.

Mum and I were faced with a tough decision – get off the train and rescue the phone or stay on the train and get the hotel to send the phone on.

With the old 20-20 hindsight, had I known about the complications we would experience with Italian Customs, we may well have jumped off the train.

As I write this on 11 May, my phone is still stuck in Customs, having left Switzerland on 2 May, priority overnight express. The issue at heart is that Switzerland, not being part of the EU means that items originating from there need to go through Italian Customs. Anyway, one day, I will receive a parcel from my man, Manfredi, in Treviso and that will be a fun end to the saga. Manfredi was our Airbnb host and has been nothing short of fantastic. It is experiences and hosts such as Manfredi that are why I support Airbnb. Not all my stays have been with hosts as great as Manfredi but I find if I read the reviews thoroughly and check all the details, my stay should be pretty good.

So, back to the train trip. I have wanted to take the Bernina Express for years, one reason being that it ends in Tirano in northern Italy very near the border with Switzerland. Tirano is the town from where my father’s family comes.

We weren’t sure how much snow we would see as we travelled up to the peaks of the Alps in Switzerland and Italy. Our carriage was full and the scenery was amazing as we wended our way up and up. The full glass windows were great for viewing but created a lot of reflections for photo-taking.

I had read that the regional trains that covers the same journey are better for photos as you can open the windows. In fact, I noticed someone in the first carriage (which seemed to be an older one) with his head and camera out of the window.

Regardless, it was a fantastic journey, with viaducts and 360 degree turns.

Here are some photos to show the journey (you will see sometimes the glass reflecting in the photos).

As we climbed, we saw more and more snow, passed glacial lakes and when we reached the stop Alp Grum, we had 20 minutes to soak up the scenery and take photos.

See the ice on the side of the tracks – this shows the cold weather that had swept through the region.

As we started our descent towards Italy, we could see this beautiful township and lake in the distance.

And then it was time for a 360 degree turn.

And finally into Tirano, where the mural in our apartment summarised this turn very well.

Relatives from my father’s family were waiting on the train platform for us and looked after us for the rest of the day and evening.

We went to a restaurant in a rustic building that has been renovated with such care. Here are a few shots from the central courtyard.

The next morning, we had a short walk around the beautiful town of Tirano before starting our train treck across Italy, changing trains at Milan and then Vicenza, before finally arriving in Treviso which is in the Veneto region, about 30 minutes away from Venice.

Here are some shots from our time in Tirano, starting with photos from my realtives’ house – the view from their balcony, new grape vines that Attilio has recently planted and some of the fruits of his labour in his cellar.

Here is a local cafe on the way to the train station.

I’ll finish with a photo of Baruffini, a small village high above Tirano from where my grandparents hailed. I can only imagine how hard their lives must have been, especially to make them leave everything familiar to travel to a place as far away as Australia!

One night in Venice

Dear reader, I am posting this about my current journey to Slovenia.

I spent my last (sunny) day in Treviso holed up in the apartment, waiting with hope for my phone to be delivered.

It did not come – still stuck in Customs somewhere. Anyway, Mum went off to catch her plane to Athens for the next part of her journey and then late that day, I said “Arrivederci Treviso” and hopped on a train to Venice.

I met my friend Ros and we had a lovely meal down by the canal in the Cannaregio district (sestiere) of Venice which includes the 16th century Jewish Ghetto. The beautiful piazza there has a moving tribute to the over 200 members of the Jewish population of Venice who were taken to Auschwitz.

Whilst it is not the oldest Jewish ghetto, the English word ghetto is derived from the Jewish ghetto in Venice.

Here are a couple of photos from our dinner down by the canal at and after sunset.

The next morning we had time for a quick walk in the local area, popping into the church very close to the train station and taking a photo of the views from our rooftop.

We are now on our way to Slovenia for 6 days of walking. There were quite substantial and unseasonal snow falls on Sunday so the first two days of our walks have been changed. Disappointingly, this includes the walk that was to take us up to the border where Slovenia, Austria and Italy meet.

Ah well, we do finish today’s first train trip in Villach, Austria which is near the borders so we hope to be able to see a view from there.

Next post I will return to Switzerland where we started our trip on the Bernina Express that would take us to the northern Italian town of Tirano.

Post script to Treviso post

I try to go to a photography exhibition each time I travel overseas.

This time there is one in Treviso for Inge Morath – who must have been one of the first, if not the first, female photographer who was invited to join the Magnum photographers.

I wasn’t very familiar with Inge’s work but some photos I recognised. She was also married to the playwright, Arthur Miller.

Anyway, here’s one of her photos – whimsical and delightful. This one’s for you Lauren.

Working backwards – in Treviso

We have been based in Treviso for most of our time in Italy. Our plan was to use it as a launching pad to other nearby towns. Treviso is about half an hour from Venice by train but a world away in so many ways.

I love Venice but it can be difficult to move around with all the tourists and it’s a city that causes me some consternation as a visitor. You’ve probably read that the permanent population of Venice continues to decrease as the cost of living and the demand for tourist accommodation increase.

Add to that the overcrowded vaporettos (water taxis), the huge cruise ships that go up the Grand Canal and the accompanying large tourist groups that disembark from these ships just for the day and you can understand why many of the remaining locals who try to live there (and who do not rely on tourists for their livelihood) get fed up with trying to go about their daily business.

This is why I believe it is important for tourists to respect the places and people they visit.

Oh my, that all sounds a bit like I’m delivering a sermon from a pulpit in one of the churches I’ve visited recently.

Here’s one for you Rita – the Church of St Rita in Treviso.

Anyway, the point I was making was that I chose Treviso because it is an easier town to get around, not as touristy yet close to various areas I thought we could visit.

Like many Italian towns, Treviso has an old town centre which is surrounded by a wall. Treviso’s walls date back to the sixteenth century.

Our apartment is not too far outside the wall and we have had some lovely walks in the old town (sometimes these walks were longer than planned as I did take us on some circuitous routes).

Treviso has some canals – not to the same extent as Venice but it is known as a city on water. Treviso’s rivers are the Sile and Botteniga.

Here are some photos from the old town.

This last photo which shows part of Ancilloto Square, includes the unassuming shopfront of the beautiful Le Beccherie restaurant – known as the home of Tiramesù (Italian spelling).

Tasting this classic dessert was on my to-do list but I am so pleased we decided to have lunch as well. The service was excellent, the surroundings were delightful and we really appreciated the care that the staff took in meeting our dietary requirements.

Here’s some photos of some of the beautiful touches – see the baking tins on the ceiling in the light fitting?

There were shelves with books and we were made to feel at home – “please feel free to put your bags and hat on the shelves”.

And now, what you have all been waiting for – the dessert.

It looks pretty unassuming but I can tell you it was fantastic! I have the recipe and the story behind its creation. Surprisingly, it’s not as old as I thought – it dates back to the 1970s – although it has its genesis in 1955 when the then owner of the restaurant – Alba Campeol – was pregnant and her mother-in-law would make her a breakfast dish (eggnog and coffee) to give her the strength she needed to get through her busy days. Alba, then in the early 1970s, worked with the pastry chef, Roberto Loli Linguanotto, to create a dessert based on the breakfast. After much experimentation, the dessert was made and included in the Milan Trade Fair in 1972. In 2010, Le Beccherie’s Tiramesù Le Beccherie Restaurant recipe was filed in a notarial deed with the Italian Cooking Academy.

Working backwards from Trieste

Still no phone – despite my tracking record showing that it has been in and out of Venice and Treviso. This morning I went to the nearby TNT depot with my fabulous Airbnb host, fully expecting to recover my phone. The wording on the tracking page said on Friday 3 May 2019, at 20:01, “Consignment at branch – please contact TNT express”.

My host tried to call TNT express, I tried to send an online request but neither worked. So it was off to the depot to see what was happening. The very helpful officer at TNT explained that international deliveries were difficult and my phone seemed to be somewhere near Bologna however, he felt confident that the phone would be delivered on Monday (this was meant to be overnight delivery from Zurich where my phone started its journey on Wednesday!). I wish I had pushed things a bit further but with the Italian flying at the rate of knots, I really had no idea what was happening and my host said he would explain afterwards and that the officer was being really helpful. But I had a record showing it had been to the Venice airport three times. Three times!! Do you notice that just writing about it makes me cranky?

Anyway, what I propose to do in my blog is work backwards from Trieste in the hope that by the time I get to where I left off before the Zurich incident, I will have my phone back.

Our trip from Treviso to Trieste took about two and a half hours by train, passing through the flat Veneto region, onto the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region. We hugged the coast as we approached Trieste and hoped that the showers we had passed through on our train trip would not ruin our half day in this very easterly city that is very close to the Slovenian and Croatian borders.

For many centuries (roughly from the late 14th century until 1918), Trieste was part of Austria and then Austrian-Hungarian Empire. After World War I, Trieste became part of Italy. It is said that the collapse of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and the annexation to Italy led to the city’s decline both economically and culturally.

There were still some unsettling times ahead for Trieste and the region. Early after World War II, Trieste was declared an Independent State under the protection of the UN and then in 1954, after a national referendum, Trieste was returned to Italy, with the neighbouring region given to then Yugoslavia.

Trieste has a number of larger piazzas, the largest – Piazza Unità d’Italia – faces the Adriatic Sea. I believe it is the only Italian sea-facing square.

The city also boasts some wonderful and historical cafes and we popped in for an after-lunch espresso at Caffe degli Specchi (I won’t write about the lunch as it is not worth writing about). This grand cafe started operation in 1839 and the current family owners have been running it since the early 1970s, bringing their chocolate making art to the fore.

We were served our espressos with a little shot glass filled with cold, thick chocolate and told to drink the chocolate before the coffee.

You’ve got to hand it to those Italians – they know how to do service with panache (pennacchio).

Here is a view from the pier out from the Piazza Unità d’Italia, followed by a photo of the piazza.

These photos show a distinct lack of people which reflects the bad weather. But you’ve got to take the good with the bad. This doesn’t look so bad – a view of the grand canal of Trieste, looking towards the sea.

The weather no doubt has an impact on how you feel about a place but I would recommend Trieste as a place to visit – there are other things I would like to have done – including a tour of the Illy coffee factory. Ah well, another time.

We wandered back to the train station as another shower started.

And in keeping with my earlier posts from Switzerland, here’s another statue of a woman – just outside the station – Empress Elisabetta of Austria. Elisabetta or Sissi as she was known, was married to Francis Joseph I of Austria. Sadly, she was assassinated in Geneva when she was 60.

Next post, I will take you around the old town centre of Treviso.

On a train to Trieste

Well we have jumped ahead to Italy. There is so much to update you on dear reader.

My lack of posts is due to my leaving my phone in Zurich.

Anyway I hope it will arrive today. In the meantime I am using a trusty old phone.

Today, we are expecting a change in weather to rain so we are taking a two and a half hour train trip to Trieste on the very eastern edge of Italy.

Photos to follow but you may be interested to know that yesterday I ate Tiramisu in Treviso, the home of the delicious dessert.

The restaurant is Le Beccherie – a beautiful restaurant in the old town centre.

It was fabuloso (and they gave us the recipe).