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Report 2033: Alpine Journey 2012

By SL Jones from Illinois USA, Fall 2012

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Page 6 of 10: Slovenia's Julian Alps, Soca Valley and a Little Friuli

photo by L J

A Pastel Soca River

This should have been so great. The route was praised in guide books. But as we left Ljubljana and took the quick drive to Slovenia's Julian Alps, the weather turned bad again. Drizzle and fog - very bad for touring. What mountains?! We could see just enough to know that the route was spectacular, breathtakingly impressive. We exited the autoroute at Kranjska Gora and entered the national park. We drove south and took the 50 switchbacks past Mount Triglav. The mountains around us were steep and very much like the most awesome Dolomites in their craggy splendor. But the mist was thick, the clouds low, there were frequent showers, and the world was a study in shades of gray. Wasn't this just the kind of mountain experience we were hoping to avoid? We would have fled to somewhere without such limits, but a vast area was experiencing the same weather.

We finally called it a day in Bovec, a pleasant enough town in the valley we were threading through. I'd chosen a small hotel - the Villa Dobra Villa. We checked in and gawked at the sophisticated art deco interior. The young owner was helpful and chatty. The place was unique in many ways and we admired it. (See my review) From the hotel we chose to walk (despite driving rain, with an umbrella) to a local restaurant. I'm quite sure we were the only Americans there. The food was copious, as usual in Slovenia, and pretty good. We went to a WW1 museum in nearby Kobarid and found it very moving. Over 600,000 lives were lost in this area during those years of fighting.

Ever the optimists, we looked forward to the Soca Valley the next day. The weather just might turn and we'd see our surroundings! But no ... it wasn't to be. Again, we saw just enough to realize that we were missing something very special. I wish I could be certain that we'd go back and see it in better weather with good visibility. We did stop and watch some fly fishermen standing in the Soca in the rain and it was lovely. Aqua water, pink sand. We gave up on the mountains of Slovenia and headed for Friuli (just over the Italian border, near the Soca) for one night before going to Piran, on the coast.

I found our Friuli agriturismo on Booking.com -it was the right location, and online it looked like it had some charm. We got it right! This place, Agriturismo Ronchi di Sant'Egidio, is near Manzano, SE of Udine. I cannot say that we were awed with our trip through Friuli (from Kobarid near the border, in Slovenia), as it seemed rather industrial and functional. It didn't look promising until we climbed up off the main roads into the vineyards. They were harvesting their grapes, processing them right underneath our window. Such busy activity as they hurried to get a big load of grapes done - they worked into the night. Though very busy, the staff was friendly and stretched to communicate well without much English. Our room was a huge attic-like space, with a phenomenal shower. (See my review) We walked about a kilometer up and down the small road to a local restaurant for large midday meal. A miscommunication caused us to have way too much food, but I must say we enjoyed it all. Glorious mushrooms two ways, grilled and in gnochhi, fresh and in season. We shared a big grilled bistecca, full of sinful fat but oh so delicious. Wow.

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