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odie1 Jun 17th, 2019 06:25 PM

Six Days in Magical Slovenia via Two Days in Venice

I am just copying and pasting this from my blog but I always get so much wonderful information from the forums that I like to return the favor:

Bellissimo Venezia

It will be ten years next month that my father passed away. There is hardly a day that goes by that I don’t think of him, miss him desperately and think of what fun he and Jenny would have together. They were kindred spirits, what with their adventurous streaks, both always up for a good time.

They also shared their patriotism. My father was a proud American; the flag flew everyday at our home growing up-it was raised with our morning coffee and lowered at sunset, with little fail. But as proud as my dad was to be to be an American, he still had devotion to the Netherlands and was a Dutchman at heart, always rooting orange, blue and white!

So for multiple reasons, I decided to go to the Netherlands this year. I wanted to take Jenny back to a place where a quarter of her roots are from. A place I have such fond memories of. A place where so many dear friends of our family live. A place my dad’s 92 years old twin brother still resides. A place where I could feel close to my dad in a manner that is different then when I return to Greer. I wanted to spend time with people who are as comfortable as an old pair of jeans and as fun to be with as watching “Elf” at Christmas time. I wanted Jenny to experience it as well, now that she is old enough to remember it and mature enough to appreciate it.

So our initial plan was to go to the Netherlands, to reconnect with family and friends, to check out some colleges and to deliver to the Dutch Resistance Museum in Amsterdam, something that had belonged to my father, that we found in an aged folder, in a half-broken file cabinet drawer in the storage room in Greer. It was something we believed should be preserved and the best place for it was the museum dedicated to those who served in the Resistance. My father and grandfather both played key roles in this organization, an incredibly dangerous position that so many honorable men and women took, rarely ever having spoken of their service, fading into history at the close of the war, while to this day still almost completely unrecognized for their service to mankind.

So we set out to go to Eindhoven but during the planning realized that while we were there, we might as well take advantage of the opportunity to see another country. We had the time, so I let Jenny choose and she chose Slovenia, a country that was formed from the former Yugoslavia that just happens to be drop dead gorgeous, at least from the images we saw online. It is off the tourist grid for now, no cruise ships dock there and it appeared to have everything that we tend to enjoy in a foreign country, including some of Europe’s best fly fishing!

Slovenia is a not-too-easy-to-reach place when originating from the US, with out having to either make multiple stops or pay a hefty fare-neither of which was appealing, so I found the best alternative I could. I would get us as close to Slovenia as possible, making only one stop and keeping the price within check, since this flight would not be a miles redemption flight. We would fly into Italy!

Arrival into Marco Polo airport after sitting in cramped, hard-as-rock seats, for almost twelve hours was a bit of a bummer as it was raining. We had seen the forecast before we departed so while we were not surprised, we were not prepared to have our raincoats in our carry on bag because arriving into Venice is like arriving to the islands-deplane directly onto the tarmac. Immigration was the snappiest we have ever encountered anywhere and our bags were already spinning on the carousel when we walked into baggage claim. We were out the door and handing over our prepaid voucher for our speedboat ride from the airport to the door of the Hotel Danieli within 30 minutes of touchdown!

The skies had let up and while still overcast and dreary, we were able to pop out from the cabin and watch as Venice came into view-the scenery was gorgeous and we certainly felt like we were in a Bond movie, speeding along the lagoon in a private shuttle.

The salmon colored building is the Hotel Danieli.

We were whisked into reception where, based on Trip Advisor reviews, I was anticipating a cool reception, but to the contrary. We were warmly greeted, thanked for our loyalty to Marriott, and assured there would be no additional charge for the third person. We knew ahead of time we had been upgraded to a suite facing the lagoon but oh my… we weren’t prepared for how lovely it was. Minutes later a bottle of wine and box of cookies arrived as a welcome gift. This is really how Marriott should treat their elite members and it quickly made up for the fiasco we had encountered in Cambodia at the Courtyard! living room aka Jenny’s bedroom view out of our room-fantastico!
We were all exhausted so with the rain pouring down and the unfathomable amount of tourists moving about below our balcony, we settled in to the views of the lagoon and the Giorgio San Maggiore directly in front of us and listened to the few gondoliers serenading their passengers who braved the wet weather to take a ride. I counted eight cruise ships in port when we were coming in for a landing and Jenny saw one more off the other side of the plane so we knew it was going to be busy but holy cow it was insane.

After freshening up, both Jenny and Billy proceeded to pass out. I, on the other hand, determined to get on Euro time as quick as possible, wandered the halls of this beautiful 14th century building, taking pictures, admiring the views and eventually settling down in one of the cozy chairs in the Bar Dandolo for a…Prosecco of course-when in Rome right?

Billy and Jenny woke in time for us to make it to our reservation for dinner. I had chosen a place close by that had solid reviews in a small local restaurant. Jenny was thrilled that they had beef carpaccio on the menu. Our dinners were good-not fantastic but we were all so tired we really couldn’t have enjoyed anything more.

After dinner, we enjoyed strolling through the narrow streets of Venice, now that the cruise ship passengers had returned to their vessels. We rambled over bridges while a light mist fell, and dusk turned into night with the amber glow of the trattoria lights reflecting off the canals; it lent a different feel to the never ending stream of people we had seen from our balcony earlier in the day. We let Jenny lead the way, all the while knowing we were getting lost in the labyrinth of alleyways that make up Venice’s streets. The evening was magical, in a pleasantly surprising way, as we were all a bit skeptical of whether we would enjoy Venice or not; so far so good!

Once back at the hotel, we were welcomed back with two lovely boxes of chocolates left on our bed. We took one more look at the stunning view off our balcony, but it was only a matter of minutes before jet lag got the better of us and we all fell sound asleep.

odie1 Jun 18th, 2019 05:46 AM

In Search of Peaceful, Authentic Venice

This morning I woke up at 7:30 and flew out of bed. I wanted to get out before thousands of cruisers descended on Venice to try and enjoy it in the tranquility I was sure it possessed. My crew wasn’t budging so I set off on my own. I took a quick glance out the window and it appeared only overcast so I left my raincoat and headed out. By the time I reached the lobby, the skies had opened up and it was bucketing. I grabbed an umbrella from the hotel and made my way to Plazza San Marco, which was just a few doors down. I passed by the famous Bridge of Sighs, so named as the prisoners would cross it and be able to take one last glance at the beautiful San Giorgio Maggiore, for which they would sigh knowing they would never see it again before being executed-so romantic, right?

As I made the corner into the square, I was immediately struck by the sight of emptiness. The entire square had three other people in it-absolutely incredible. To be standing here in almost total isolation was a true wonderment.

From the plaza I continued on through the streets, over more bridges and then turned out to the Grand Canal where I got a perfect view of Santa Maria Della Salute with its multiple domes standing guard right at the canal entrance. The view was breathtaking; Venice is certainly a unique city.

It wasn’t long after that Billy texted to say he was up and ready to go but Jenny hadn’t budged. I told him I would walk back and meet him and to let Jenny sleep and she could text us when she was up. Saint Mark’s Square was beginning to fill up by this time and I was thankful I had seen it empty. Billy and I retraced the route I had already taken and then continued on a bit further to the Accademia Bridge from where the view was even more spectacular-actually, I don’t think there is a bad view to be had in Venice.

Not long thereafter Jenny texted she was up, so we decided to walk back to the hotel to meet her for breakfast and plan the rest of the day. By the time we reached the square the people were out in full force; I felt like I was in a completely different place then the one of tranquility I had stood in early this morning.

Breakfast at the hotel was a real treat-sitting up against the window looking out over the lagoon noshing on fresh fruit and yogurt with a few pastries thrown in for good measure!

With the help of the concierge, our plan to get away from the crowds was laid. We would take the #1 vaporetto all the way up the Grand Canal to the final stop of Piazzale Roma where we would disembark and then make our way down through the the Dorsoduro district which many of the cruise ship passengers seldom travel to.

The ride up the canal was a wonderful way to see more of Venice and to experience a bit of a more local way of life. Upon disembarking, we got a quick lay of the land as this was where we were to return to tomorrow to meet our shuttle van to drive us across the border to Slovenia.

Our walk down the Dorsoduro was very pleasant and certainly felt very authentic. We had no plan on where to go, we just turned down roads that looked appealing. More than once we ended up on dead end alleyways that terminated at a canal but always it was worth the extra steps because the scene was always charming.

We stopped for a cappuccino and some beers in Campo Santa Margarita and enjoyed watching daily life go by. The weather up to this point had been drizzly but no downpours.

Following our pit stop we thought we would make our way to Basilica Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, a large church built in 1492 that the concierge had recommended seeing. We chose to head there without the aid of the map or GPS and 30 minutes later, ended up right back in Campo Santa Margarita to which we laughed and celebrated with a delicious gelato! We were struck by the number of banners we saw in this area opposing the large cruise ships-clearly we agree with them. While it can be said the cruise ship industry brings money into select hands of the local economy, it destroys the areas authenticity and has far more negative consequences.

Off we went again, this time with the aid of a GPS to at least get us going in the right direction. We came upon San Pantaleon which we had passed before but whose doors had been closed then, but were now open so Jenny and I went in. San Pantaleon dates back to 1161 and was a beautiful church (no pictures allowed) where Jenny and I each lit a candle-me for my father and Jenny for Cliff, our dear friend in Greer who recently, unexpectedly passed away.

30 minutes later, and a few more dead ends, we reached the basilica. The doors were open so we paid the entrance fee and were immediately wowed by its beauty. It is mammoth in size with soaring ceilings and large monuments built to various people whose names I did not recognize. We enjoyed walking in silence through this sacred place, admiring the works of art and the two large organs that sat on either side of the wooden choir-one can only imagine what it must sound like in there when the organs are being played. We lit more candles before walking out into…fleeting sunshine; perhaps it was a message from those we remembered…

As we continued to make our way along, the crowds slowly grew heavier and as we approached the famed Rialto Bridge, we encountered loads of people. I am not too sure what the draw is of the bridge but it certainly was a main attraction. We stopped again for another cappuccino and adult beverage and enjoyed sitting outside even if there was a bit of a chill.

By the time we made it back to the hotel, we had covered almost eight miles. Pooped, but in need of dinner we took the concierge’s recommendation and walked through St Mark’s square where we entered a restaurant that, at first appearance, seemed to be nothing more than a tourist trap with the posted sign that it was approved by Princess Cruises. Too tired to change plans, we went with it. As we were being shown to our table, the host kept calling out that we were the party, "from the Hotel Danieli.” I couldn’t figure out why he was making that announcement to all the waitstaff except that maybe they wanted to make sure that we were pleased.

Our dinner was quite good and the staff could not have been friendlier. Jenny of course was thrilled with carpaccio, once again. As well as, we had watched the waiter making steak tartare for another table and were intrigued with their methods. I was telling Jenny how tartare had been one of my dad’s favorites, and how excited he would get if my mom made it or a restaurant had it on the menu. The waiter, obviously appreciating our interest in his tartare making skills asked the table if they would allow him to serve us a small portion to taste, to which they obliged. Billy wouldn’t partake, but Jenny and I gladly did and it was delicious-raw egg and all-another thing my dad and Jenny had in common apparently-their love of raw meat!

After our delightful dinner, and the joyful conversation in Spanish with the table next to us, an adorable couple from Miami via Venezuela, we walked out to find Saint Mark’s Square flooded. Jenny said she would take her shoes off to walk through but with all the pigeon poop that is all over the square and now in the water, there was no way I was going to let her do that! So I bought her a pair of knee high shoe covers to which she was thrilled as she danced around in the square, stomping in the water, merrily splashing away. It was a perfectly fun evening to end our stay in enchanting Venice!

yestravel Jun 18th, 2019 01:59 PM

Hi odie! Enjoying your TR. Looks like our weather during some of our trip. Can't wait to compare your trip to ours in Slovenia. We really liked it but suffered from not so great weather.

scrb11 Jun 18th, 2019 02:12 PM

I don't dare ask what the Grand Canal view hotel room at the Danieli cost ...

Was this trip during the winter?

isabel Jun 18th, 2019 02:12 PM

Too bad about the weather (when were you there?) but your photos are great - and Venice is beautiful even in the rain. Sounds like you were successful in evading the worst of the crowds.

Leely2 Jun 18th, 2019 02:15 PM

Our visits may have overlapped. I was there late May and had rain my first two days—the rest of the week was sunny and bright. One morning I got up (but not at 7:30!) and wandered over to San Marco. The piazza was empty. I have photo quite similar to yours:

scrb11 Jun 18th, 2019 02:19 PM

Wow, no pigeons in San Marco!

Hope they've gotten rid of the scourge.

odie1 Jun 18th, 2019 05:22 PM

yestravel-we were just behind you and we too had some rough weather on our trip

scrb11-We paid a Toal of $25 for the suite because we used points and then upgrade certificates but I think the going rate when we were there, May 18-19, was along the lines of $1200/night-ouch!. And there were pigeons, especially when the touts carrying the food would arrive

Isabel-we were there May 18 and 19 and yes all things considered, we were able to avoid the crowds almost all of the time.

Leery-That picture is almost identical. When I came back through there around 9:00, it was already getting quite full

odie1 Jun 18th, 2019 05:26 PM

May 20
Bovec Bound

I had left the decision to wake up this morning and get out before the crowds to Jenny. We would only realistically have about an hour to do it because we had a transfer to Slovenia today and since I had seen as much as I probably could in an hour yesterday, I was ambivalent. She said she would set her alarm and if she felt up to it she would wake me otherwise she would turn it off. All made perfect sense, except I forgot to plan for the latter and at 8:30 I awoke with a start, jumping out of bed announcing we had overslept and everyone had better get their a$$es up like now! It was a bit of a mad frenzy with packing bags and showering, and still trying to fit our gratis breakfast in-so much for Jenny’s request of a long, leisurely breakfast!

As I was the first one ready, I headed downstairs to settle up and secure a ride to the Piazza Roma to meet our shuttle. They had told us it would take fifteen minutes to transfer and of course, in my mind, I added at least ten minutes to that time frame and was getting quite anxious when Billy and Jenny still weren’t in the lobby by 9:35. As it turned out, it was OK and we docked with two minutes to spare. We met up with our driver from Go Opti, and before we knew it we were off.

As we drove off, we all agreed that Venice exceeded our expectations. From everything I had read, I was prepared for us to be disappointed, which I think we would have been had we not gotten out of the area we were staying in. Being able to see Venice without the cloak of mass tourism made the difference for me. Walking the Dorsoduro neighborhood, made the difference for us. It really is one of the most unique places we have ever seen and is charming beyond words. I could spend an extended period of time there, even in the rain, that did not bother us, if only for the crowds.

(I will leave you with some additional pictures of Venice that I took and especially for the dog lovers-the last few are for you).
The drive was uneventful and with the continued dreary weather, it was almost boring. We enjoyed seeing vineyards and poplar groves and while our driver, Uros, was very cautious, he spoke little English so we couldn’t have any conversation with him. We arrived in Nova Gorica in the absolute pouring rain, trying to find our rental car agency. Uros was great stopping here and there asking for help until he was finally pointed in the direction of the VW dealership. We were surprised to see that the rental car agency was located inside, but thrilled to learn that our rental car would be a brand new VW. We were also shocked to see that a brand new Touareg costs over $100k! I signed on to be the designated driver and before long we were out the door. It cracked Jenny and I up that literally, I was out of the parking lot in seconds flat, with little idea of where we were going and Billy was in the backseat letting me know how different we are because he,“would have taken the time to adjust his mirrors, learn what all the buttons did, figure out the temperature control and windshield wipers, blah, blah, blah” Me? I’m a balls to the wall kind of gal…let’s go!!!

We thought it amazing how we had left the sea and the flat agricultural fields and within minutes of crossing the border, were in an environment that was lush and green. We felt more like we should be in South America somewhere than Europe. We quickly entered into a river valley with verdant mountains on both sides. The sinuous road followed along the cyan Soča River-a river we would basically follow to our final destination. Driving in Slovenia was easy enough, and cruising along in a stick shift VW was kind of fun-a throw back to my high school days (except this one had six gears instead of five).

The scenery the entire trip, at least what we could see of it, was gorgeous. The rain continued and with it came the ultra low-lying clouds which basically blocked any of the mountain views. We pulled into Bovec, our home for the next three nights, in less than two hours. We arrived earlier than anticipated and tried to find our AirBnb but we lacked confidence in the directions our GPS was giving us, so we opted to find lunch instead.

Dobra Villa, was a very traditional Slovenian restaurant, but with a waitress that spoke perfect English-thank goodness! We all enjoyed our lunches and then made a quick stop at the supermarket-something we always enjoy doing but even more so this time as we basically guessed at what we were buying. Needless to say, people clearly thought I was nuts as they watched me act out a Goldilocks-like moment shaking the cardboard dairy containers to try and determine which one sounded thick but not too thick and not too thin, thus indicating cream. As it turned out-I nailed the cream but Billy’s grape juice turned out to be blueberry syrup-nothing a little water couldn’t fix!

After stocking up on the necessities, we headed back out to find our AirBnb. As it turns out, the GPS was leading us in the right direction but we were all cracking up looking at the directions it was giving us!

Our apartment was cute, certainly nothing as plush as our previous accommodations, but fittingly perfect for us-two bedrooms, a nicely equipped kitchen, a refurbished bathroom, and a living room and dining room with a wonderful balcony looking out to what, I am sure, should be an incredible view. We did all love hearing the cuckoo birds though!, behind all of those clouds should be tall, glorious mountains!
The bad weather was bumming Jenny out, so I suggested we just take a drive down to the river and get out to see some of the other natural beauty this area is know for. As we crossed the bridge, the river was a bit of a disappointment as well, as the normal turquoise color was discolored from all the rain that was causing the river to run at a much higher rate.

Determined not to let the weather get Jenny down, we continued on à la Venice style without any idea where we were headed. We drove through an adorable little village-each turn giving me pause whether it was one-way, whether our car would even fit between the buildings, and whether it was even a “road” and not some footpath.

When we finally cleared the village and continued on along the river, we found some solace in the nature surrounding us. As we rounded a bend in the road, I looked off in the distance and saw an absolutely incredible sight that reminded me of the grand falls of Yellowstone. Wow-was it incredible, and from this far away. The never ending rain had certainly created quite the spectacle for us!

Exhaustion had taken its toll on Jenny and so we decided that since we had had such a late lunch, we would skip dinner and just call it a night. Billy had an early call tomorrow to meet up with the fly fishing guide I had lined up for him, so we all just turned in!

yestravel Jun 18th, 2019 06:12 PM

I love your pictures! It was fun to try and guess what a view might be behind all the cloud cover. We found our GPS took us on some very weird and often small, mountainous roads. It got us where we were going, but what routes we had a few times.

northie Jun 19th, 2019 02:01 AM

Your photos are great - haven't been to Venice so especially love those.
We loved Slovenia .
I laughed at your comment on Touaregs price - the luxury SUV here is over $80,000.
I don't think Americans realise how cheap cars are in US compared to the rest of us.
Lookng forward to the rest f your trip report

odie1 Jun 19th, 2019 05:10 AM

May 21, 2019

Hoping to See What We Came Here For

This morning I drove Billy to meet his fishing guide, who he would be spending the entire day with in hopes of catching trout-including the elusive marble trout that is native to this area. I had a glitch with the guide when I confirmed with him from Venice as he told me I had never confirmed dates, and so we were out of luck. Needless to say, my head about exploded in the middle of the Bar Dandolo at the Hotel Danieli. Billy handled it well, and tried to calm me down, but I had all the emails confirming everything since I originally booked it back in February. So I “kindly” forwarded their emails to him, and lucky for us, or rather for him, he realized his mistake and assured me there would be a guide there for Billy on the 21st.

The skies were overcast and the mountains were still shrouded in clouds but at least it had stopped raining for now. Jenny was really depressed about not being able to see the beauty that she knew surrounded us; if you have read previous blogs, you know the mountains are her peace and being in them always bring her to her happy place. Not about to allow that to get us down, I insisted she get moving, and we would head out to still have a marvelous day.

We decided to go back the way we had come in, to see some of the towns that we had driven through and stop at some of the picture worthy locales we had passed by. We decided we would drive as far as Tomlin and then turn around and make our way back, stopping along the way then. Of course, as soon as we got into Tomlin, we got off the beaten track-following small roads that were taking us up, up, up, into the mountains-past farmers and their cows, fields of wildflowers to views that looked out over the red roofs.

Back on the main road, we pulled over onto the side of the highway where there was a beautiful field and an old barn that looked too picturesque to pass up. We walked out and snapped some photos-to which we must have become a bit of an attraction as everyone was passing by honking and waving at us!

From there, we headed to Kobarid to have lunch at a highly recommended spot, but we arrived two minutes before closing and they were closed. Bummer!

We looked across the street and saw another restaurant that looked nice and because of the time and the fact we were starved, we decided to give it a go. The inside was decorated in a total nautical theme, a bit strange for the mountains, but very nicely done. The waiters all wore bow ties and long white aprons. They brought us a complimentary amuse-bouche which turned out to be fried cheese croquettes-of which two of the four were still frozen in the middle. “Uh oh,” we said, but neither of us had the heart to pull the shoot. As it turned out, our meals were very good-a meat and cheese platter for me (kind of hard to mess that one up) and a bolognese for Jenny. When the meal was over they brought us out two complimentary pitchers of some sort of liqueur that were about 20% and nearly 50% alcohol, according to the waiter. We poured enough to moisten our lips and then left it at that.
After lunch, we decided to make our way to the church we had seen at the top of the hill. It turned out to be an ossuary, dedicated by Mussolini, housing the remains of over 7,000 Italian soldiers that had been killed during World War I. The ossuary had been built around an original 17th century church. This entire area was what was known as the Isonzo Front (or nowadays in Slovenia as the Sôca Front). It was the home of countless battles during WWI, accounting for the deaths of more than half of the entire death toll for Italy during the war-roughly 300,000 soldiers.

Our final stop was Napolean’s Bridge over the Soča River. The original bridge was blown up by the Austrians during WWI and this bridge was built in its place by the Italians following the war.

We met up with Billy back at the apartment where he proceeded to tell us about his epic day of fly fishing. He caught over a dozen fish-the largest-a big fat grayling, the most-rainbows of various sizes, the best-one marble trout of more than decent size. one and only Marble Trout Billy caught. fishing hole
Even though we were all tired, we decided we could not forgo dinner again and so we walked down to the restaurant that we had had lunch in yesterday as it was close and we were pleased with the selection. Dinner turned out to be delicious-veal with a mushroom sauce for both Billy and I and the meat and cheese plate for Jenny.

Our day today was wonderful, we loved all of the little towns and their beautiful churches. Most of this area was destroyed during WWI and has been rebuilt so it lacks the usual charm one finds in small European towns, but is nonetheless interesting.

We were bummed at the continuing weather. We came for the natural beauty, the mountains specifically, and while we have not been able to see them, the area we can experience is stunning. We are hoping that tomorrow will bring some clearing and we can actually see all that nature has to offer in this region. I told Jenny when she went to bed that I was going to wake her up the second I saw blue sky, as it was my birthday, I was anticipating good things-even though the forecast called for 100% chance of rain…

thursdaysd Jun 19th, 2019 06:22 AM

Bummer about the weather. Serious envy of the Danieli! I love Venice, but have been in November to avoid the crowds - I'm not good at early rising. I love Ljubljana as well, hope you did too.

yestravel Jun 19th, 2019 07:36 AM

I'm chuckling as I read your comments on the weather. Sounds like us and tryng to make the best of what we could see and do. It was crazy wasnt it?

Leely2 Jun 19th, 2019 07:53 AM

Slovenia looks beautiful, even when drizzly. I'm enjoying your photos.

I guess I was in Venice about ten days after you. Crazy that it was still raining. At the very end of my trip, I was in Paris after a few weeks of sunshine and hot weather in Italy. So I arrive in Paris. Guess what? It rained.

scrb11 Jun 19th, 2019 08:39 AM

There was no snow in the Slovenian mountains?

Isn't Slovenia the Switzerland of the Balkans?

odie1 Jun 20th, 2019 04:12 AM

May 22

Birthday Gifts

We woke up to a tad of blue skies but we could actually see some of the mountain tops. It was amazing to realize how deep in the valley we were. I waited an hour or two, in hopes the mountains would clear some more but clouds kept coming and going so, as promised, I woke Jenny so she could see some of the snow packed mountain tops.

The forecast was still showing rain and the radar was pretty much confirming it but we decided to try and get out into the mountains to see what we could-clouds be dammed! We stopped at the market for some car provisions, not knowing how long we would be gone or where the next provisioning stop would be and headed out.

Bovec lies just outside of Triglav National Park, named after the highest peak at 8,592 feet, so it wasn’t long before we entered the park. Our first stop was to see where Billy had fished yesterday, as the pictures certainly made it look appealing. The river was gorgeous and had already dropped a few feet from the day before since the rain had let up. It was absolutely incredible that you could see the huge trout swimming around in the pools. Billy had not bothered bringing his rod with him on our road trip because a fishing license in Slovenia is over $60 per day-ouch!

We continued on until we came upon a beautiful church where we stopped. As we walked around the graveyard, Jenny quickly noticed the gravesites and how nice they were that they were solid tops and had built in planters. The cemetery was an original WWI cemetery but was used today as well. It was a beautiful and peaceful spot.

The mountain tops would poke out here and there as we drove further into the Soča Valley but still there was no moment of total clarity. Our spirits were being lifted though as we drove higher. The road was a wild one with a 14% gradient and 26 hairpin turns to the top-I can’t ever remember having to downshift into first gear while still accelerating in order to keep from stalling!

Another stop, on a point looking out back over the valley we had started to ascend from and a chance to honor the man who first explored and then wrote about this area of the Julian Alps, Dr. Julius Kugy.

On we climbed until we saw an actual pull off where we stopped and walked out on a platform that jutted out over the valley below-if only the mountains could be seen. There were scant signs of them and while we could make them out some, it still wasn’t very clear. As we walked back to the car, we passed a couple having a picnic and we all stopped to see that they had a carton of Chocomel! Oh how we can’t wait to get to the Netherlands and open up one of those bright yellow cartons of chocolatey liquid goodness!

From the look out point, we could see the top of the Vrsîc Pass just up from us so we knew that would be our next stop. It was probably less than a mile’s drive but how quickly the terrain changed from a mixed deciduous forest to an alpine meadow one-with the dainty alpine flowers and purple heather covering the ground, along with snow! We pulled the car in and made our way over to a point where…mountains…we could see them! Yes-finally! My second birthday gift of the day!

Heading back down over the other side was another set of 24 hairpin turns, these all laid in cobblestone! We marveled at the bicyclists climbing this pass-a la Tour de France style, as well as the convoys of motorcycles, Porsches and souped-up Audis and VWs-managing to hit 60 mph on turns I barely made it out of first gear on. It is clearly a favorite drive of those with performance vehicles!

A few more stops, including at the Russian chapel built by the former Russian prisoners of war who were used to build the road. The chapel was a means to honor their fellow diseased and suffering comrades. And of course, to stop and smell the flowers, well really just admire them but still!
At the bottom of the pass we came into Kransjka Gora where there sat the most beautiful, crystal clear lakes. It was then that the rain started again but we had seen mountains! Maybe not in all of their glory, perhaps partially enshrouded but still it was better than we had expected and we were thrilled with what we got.

We took the drive back over through Italy, through the old border crossing and down into Bovec, in the absolute pouring rain. We felt pleased that we had seen what we had since the weather here had looked like it never cleared much. As we were getting ready to leave for dinner, the rain stopped and then a rainbow appeared-a third birthday gift, perhaps from my dad…

We chose the best restaurant in town for my birthday dinner, Dobra Vila Hotel, which turned out be exquisite-in every way. It was a set menu and we all three ate every last tasty morsel from the venison appetizer, to the trout and asparagus second, the duck and potato main, and the desert which was some concoction of cheese, pepper, ice cream-all matched with incredible Slovenian wines, eaten in a lovely setting looking out at the now clear mountains. A final birthday gift on a truly magnificent day!

yestravel Jun 20th, 2019 05:30 AM

Loving your TR and the photos. We missed the Russian church -- darn! Our birthdays are 10 days apart. I celebrated in Lake Bled.

odie1 Jun 20th, 2019 06:24 AM

The Church was not well marked at all, especially if coming from Bovec to Kransjka Gora. It was only that I happened to see stairs on the side of the road.

odie1 Jun 21st, 2019 04:47 AM

May 23

My, Oh My…Blue Skies

After three nights in Bovec, our schedule was to move on to Ljublana, the capital of Slovenia. Our original plan was to drive to Most na Soči and take the car train. It sounds pretty straightforward except this particular train runs through the mountains in a tunnel for the better part of 30 minutes. You drive your car onto a train car and then choose to either remain in your vehicle or ride in the front train car for the time through the tunnel. A unique experience for sure!

But…we woke up to blue skies-not a rain cloud in sight- and the very last thing I could imagine was to sit in complete darkness when we finally had some sun. So the decision was quickly made to go to Ljublana over the Vršič Pass-the very same windy road we drove yesterday! You have to be nuts, or desperately seeking mountain views to subject yourself to that road again but I am afraid we are both. We figured we could finally see the mountains in all their glory and experience the Julian Alps in the way we had hoped to. Since we had already made the stops, and were at least familiar with the road, we thought it would not take us too long to retrace our steps, and we would have the added benefit of the natural beauty surrounding us. is the view from our balcony that we had been waiting for!
But…first things first…we needed to stop for some sustenance in the form of the bakery at the supermarket. With zero Slovenian knowledge on our parts and a much better command of the English language on the baker lady’s part-we managed to round up a few different items including donuts and blintzes. The funny thing was as we were driving and Jenny bit into her O-shaped sprinkled donut, there was some sort of jelly in the donut. I about crashed the car from laughing when a severely disappointed Jenny adamantly insisted, “What the heck. A hole in a donut should be the universal symbol for NO filling!” But of course, the question remained…how did they get the jelly into a donut that has a hole?

Our drive to the top didn’t take us long and we all marveled at what a difference a day makes. It is a bit of a surreal feeling stepping foot in a place that you have been before but never really experienced as far as the physical layout. We loved every minute of it and once again, gave kudos to Jenny for a great spot for a vacation.

Some of these photos are the same ones we took yesterday but I had to post them again, with blue sky and visibility.

After we left Kransjka Gora, the rest of the route was all new territory. Our goal for the day was to visit Lake Bled, a large glacial lake about an hour north of Ljubljana with the only natural island in all of Slovenia.

The lake is surreal, tinted a color blue we have never seen before except for maybe at a Disneyland ride. Even the many glacial lakes we have seen in Patagonia, didn’t hold a candle to the color of this one-I like to think of it as bubblegum blue.

We drove up to the castle that overlooks Lake Bled, originally built in 1011, but clearly not in its original state. The location was stunning, but except for the stunning view, there wasn’t much of a castle to see.
We sat at the cafe for a refreshment and a piece of the famous delicious Bled Cake-a confectionary that is similar to a Boston Cream Pie but with no sponge and is ultra light in density. We took in the incredible views and from our perch, at least a hundred feet up, we could see fish schooling in the lake below-Billy was beside himself watching them swim around!

Wanting to get a different perspective on Lake Bled, we decided to drive around the lake, looking for a place to stop. Away from the town and the castle, there were fewer people. We enjoyed a walk along the boardwalk that lined the shoreline, eventually plopping down on a bench for a rest and to just relax in what was really an awe-inspiring location.

The remainder of the drive into Ljubljana was uneventful in the sense that nothing major occurred but it is always interesting trying to decipher what all the signs in a foreign country mean and trying to figure out whether a solid white line that abruptly turns into a solid yellow line means we can stay in that lane or not. Thank goodness for me, I had two great copilots who keep very calm and helped me navigate the somewhat nerve wracking situation.

As we neared our apartment, I was a bit nervous for the fact that there was graffiti everywhere-and I mean everywhere.
I was able to parallel park the car into a minuscule spot in front of the building and we entered into a rather dank set up. A three floor walk up-with our 45 lbs suitcase was no easy task, but the apartment was brilliant with two extremely oversized bedrooms, a modern kitchen with dining table and a lovely balcony. view from our balcony
As Billy and I went downstairs to unload the last bits of the car, we decided we should try and find a place to buy a couple of beers. The building has a florist on the ground floor, so we went there to seek some information but I ended up asking a guy who looked to be about 25 if he spoke any English. His response was, “A little.” When I asked him where there was a grocery store, he offered to walk me there because he was headed in that direction. Turns out his little bit of English was an understatement as he was using terms like "ratio" and "optimist." He pointed us in the right direction and gave us a recommendation for dinner. He could not have been nicer and was really the first truly friendly Slovanian we have encountered. Everyone else has been pretty unexcitable, with little expression to the point that they seldom returned a friendly smile.

Turned out the suggested restaurant was unable to accommodate us, so I was able to find another one in its place. The manager made me a deal that if we would be in by 7:00 and out by 9:00 we could have a table-no problem I assured him!

Čompa was a hole in the wall place, whose outside gruff appearance could not have been more contrary to the hidden charm of the inside.

When we sat down, an unassuming lady in a formal chef outfit (but not the tall white hat-French style, think more floppy hat, worn to the left style), came over to the table and gave us some pointers on the menu. Everything was expected to be shared family style-they had warm starters, cold starters, mains and side dishes. She went over the vegetable sides that they had in season, and how they were prepared-all sounding delicious. She then touched base on the mains-there were various cuts of beef, a local pork that was a bit fattier than the usual and there were a few selections of horse…yes horse! That took me back for a moment (or two) but understanding the cultural differences, I held no judgement. The lady chef, who actually turned out to be the owner-Mila, was very kind in recognizing that, “Americans typically have a hard time with that one but for Slovenians eating horse is part of our heritage.” No problem-just not for me (this coming from the girl who ate Bambi, Daffy and Nemo for dinner last night).

Our entire meal was fantastic, the wine spectacular and Mila was just wonderful. We felt very fortunate to have been able to snag a table as countless people entered and were turned away! asparagus that is matchstick thin and bitter. The chef was afraid we might not like it. Jenny ordered a second plate of it! sign that we enjoyed our dinner!
Another delicious dinner in Slovenia, where I had read the food is pretty blah but we have not found that at all, in fact our last three dinners have been outstanding!

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