julian alps

hello all! i’m back to tell you more about slovenia– specifically, the mountainous part. i was telling you last tuesday about my lovely camping trip to lake bled and how it was anything but relaxing, for better or worse. it was because i wanted the full slovenia experience, and this meant journeying deep into the triglav national park (located in the northwest corner of the country including a little bit of italy) which includes the julian alps (named for julius caeser).

i know you may have not known slovenia had an adriatic coastline, but did you know there were alps too? yep. mostly known for the time ernest hemingway spent near there as an ambulance driver during WWI and wrote about in a farewell to arms. and for a journey into the alps, i wasn’t about to go by bus or rent a car to take on the fifty hairpin turns in the road, leading to vršič pass at an altitude of 5,285 fit (1,611m). nope, we hired a guide and hung out with gorazd for a day. gorazd is the father of a married couple team that run a quality private guide company out of bled. as well as passionate about the region, he was also a three time yugoslav ice hockey olympian! interesting guy to say the least.

though it was a foggy day in the alps, it was a beautiful place to be. although we couldn’t see the peak of the tallest mountain, triglav due to weather conditions, it was fun to know that apparently you aren’t a true slovene unless you’ve climbed it (which of course gorazd has–many times). below, the highest point accessible by car.

and so many little places of interest to pop out and see along the way. the roads of the vršič (ver-seech) mountain pass were put together by russian prisoners of war during WWI, so there’s a russian chapel (below) commemorating the people who died in the process.

honestly, the julian alps are practically chock-full of fascinating WWI sights: there’s something to see everywhere. a tunnel here, a little still-standing fort there, a fortress here…. 

loads of glimpses of the icy soča river…

gorazd took us to an amazing restaurant in bovec (bo-vets) specializing in local cuisine. we each had sheep’s cheese potato pancakes– incredible. it was great to drink espresso together and have a chat about all things slovenia and non-slovenia related.

and to our delight, we popped into italy on the way back to bled… mostly because the road loops around and this tiny slice of italy is interesting to see. right before the border, there just happens to be a world war one fort in excellent condition that you can visit if so inclined, below.

i snapped only one (kinda awful, raindrop-stained) photo in italy– it was pouring rain and a bit hazy but this “five finger” formation on the top of this mountain sparked intrigue. also of note is that all of the italian villages near the border are almost entirely abandoned, aside from a stray holiday cabin or two. there used to be a lead mine in the area, and business ain’t booming for that anymore. anyone living in the area has to commute to jesenice (industrial city south of the austrian border) for work.

a day in this curious corner of the alps was definitely worth the time and can be done either by car or private guide– not worthwhile by public transport, unfortunately. although it would be fine to drive (so long as you have no fear of heights!), i love hearing all of the history tidbits and knowledge you can only learn hangin’ around a local.

the area practically reeks of history– i loved that aspect as much as i liked the great mountain views. but for an alp lover, the slovenian (julian) alps is a must.

happy travel tuesday!