Bled and a short walk up Mt Triglav

Trip Start Jul 01, 2007
Trip End Nov 25, 2007

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Friday, October 5, 2007

Our next trip is to the resort town of Bled in northern Slovenia, at the foot of the Julian Alps. The town of Bled is set around beautiful Lake Bled, which is overlooked by Bled Castle set on a sheer cliff high above the lake.
Our first day we walk several kilometres to Vintgar Gorges, passing by quiet little villages set among apple and pear orchards. We find some trees that seem to be on public land and pick a few, some of which we eat on the spot and others we keep for later. The apples are incredibly crisp and flavoursome and the pears tiny and sweet. There's also lots of pumpkins and cabbages about.
Vintgar gorge is a narrow gash in the mountains - a 1.6km ledge has been built along the gorge and it is a beautiful walk. The water is a transparent green colour and the river snakes its way scenically down the gorge - there are rapids, waterfalls, etc and it is cool and bracing as little sun enters the gorge - I enjoy it so much I take my shirt off, and it's entertaining to see the faces of other tourists, who are all rugged up, when they see me.
We come out into a forest and finally out into the sunshine and stroll back to Bled after our walk of about 10kms. We finish the day with a climb up to Bled castle and a white wine on the sunny terrace, watching the boatmen row people across the lake in their characteristic covered boats.
We meet a lovely couple from California, who are also staying at our pension, and have a lively and entertaining conversation with them in the museum. Later that evening we have a chat with them at dinner and they have an interesting story. They had a computer business for many years which they ran with their son. His best friend lived with them and also worked in the business. They started getting calls from customers about being overcharged and found out that their son's friend, who they had treated as one of the family, had stolen their son's identity (credit card info, bank, etc) and had charged up huge debts. Their son and they were terribly shocked, but recovered and now their son is a freelance consultant on computer identity theft and they provide admin support for him, maintain his website, etc. In the meantime they travel as much as they can as they are retired.
We are staying at the Penzion Mayer, a very spick and span operation that is very popular and we have a very nice meal that evening - the best mushroom soup I've ever had (no cream, and nice and chunky) with buckwheat mash, fried cheese, fried vegetable dumplings, bratwurst and sauerkraut, and an apple strudel to finish off (yes, I ordered too much). A nice house wine and a glass of local schnapps finish the meal off nicely (I have to tell you that Alice has accused me repeatedly now of making her 'fat and drunk', as she puts it).
The next day I decide to climb Mt Triglav in the Julian Alps nearby - Alice decides to walk around the lake, take a boat ride to Bled island, etc. Mt Triglav is the highest mountain in Slovenia and is 2,864 metres. As you have heard a number of times by now, I get a late start, mainly because I can't find the Mt Triglav National Park office to get a map and find out what conditions are like - they don't have a map, it's raining and snowing I'm told, and it will take at least 6 hours to get up to the refuge on the ridge immediately below the dummit.
I decide to go up and see what the conditions are like and see how far I can get. By the time I drive up, park the car (at around 1,300 metres), and start walking it's 11.45am. The first part of the walk is up a steep path through a pine forest, then onto a small, flat plain, before climbing up a rocky watercourse to a saddle, where there are a number of signs in Slovenian that are meaningless to me. I think for a while and choose what I think is the right track (thankfully it is), which contours for a fair distance around a mountain, crosses huge scree slopes, and in one section steel spikes have been driven into the rack as part of the track because otherwise it would be impassable without climbing gear. I am thoroughly enjoying being up here in the coll crisp air on my own striding along among magnificent scenery.
I reach another saddle, where there is another sign that says that the refuge hut is 1 hour and 30 minutes away. It's 3pm so I decide if I move fast I can probably do it in an hour, and still get back before 7pm when it will be dark.
I forgot to tell you I am wearing shorts and I have taken off my shirt much earlier because I was hot from the fast climb up. So off I go and soon come to the snow line (and put on my shirt) - fresh powder snow has fallen and I often break through to my knees and my feet get very cold and wet as I pick my way through the rocky terrain, trying not to lose the track.
I finally make it to the upper refuge hut on the ridge about 200 to 300 metres below the summit around 4pm and spend around 45 minutes climbing a little higher, eating my lunch (an apple and a pear), and taking photos. A weak sun has come out as I start back, but it's enough to soften the snow, so the first part of the descent was wallowing through waist-high snow in my shorts, sometimes falling through and scraping my knees and legs on rocks under the snow. I am up there all alone and lose the trail almost immediately - there are footsteps going off in every direction, and I have to scramble across steep, brittle rock for some distance before I find the trail. Within a short time I lose it again, but after slogging through more snow and across rocks I find it again, although it's tough going. My boots and socks are completely sodden with snoiw and my feet and legs are frozen. I have a pair of long trousers in my pack but I figure that if I put them on they will only get wet and make me even colder. The effort in wading through the snow has made me a bit tired by this time and I slip and slide on the way down.
I finally make it off the snowline, then really get cracking walking down the track as dusk has fallen and I don't want to get trapped on the mountain in the dark. It's not easy though, as the track is very rocky and there are many places where it's easy to take a wrong turn and get lost. I finally make it to the pine forest when it's almost dark (and the forest is dark inside anyhow) but somehow my eyes adjust and I manage to not trip over tree roots and rocks as I almost run down to where I have parked the car. I arrive around 7.30, then speed down the mountain road in the Citroen and arrive back at the pension just minutes before 8pm, the time I have figured Alice is going to really start worrying about me. She has a look on her face halfway between being relieved to see me and scolding me for making her worry so much. I don't blame her and feel a bit sheepish having caused worry. I know some of you will think I'm at worst mad, and at best irresponsible and self indulgent, and I can't really argue with that - I just have an inner urge and enjoy these challenges, and although they can sometimes be a little dangerous, I always calculate the risks carefully, although the margin for error can sometimes be a little thin. This particular walk is one of the most tiring I have done,
I go and have a hot shower and get changed and have an enormous meal - mushroom soup again, fried vegetable dumplings, a platter of mixed grilled meats and a bottle of red wine - the waiter looks at me a bit funny when I order all this, but I tell him I've just climbed a mountain and can he get a hurry on.
We head back to Ljubljana again early in the morning and I leave Alice at the railway station with our luggage as I take the rental car back. I drop it off at the Metelkova Mesto hostel, which is a former army barracks converted to a sprawling hostel painted in a riot of colours and filled with odd art and graffiti.
Our train for Prague leaves at 10.20am.
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