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100 miles later

Friday 10th June
Well, that time has come, the final day. I had pondered a few different activities during the week. Cycling was a possibility along with a few more adventurous ideas but the week was spent walking. This choice was partly down to the unpredictable weather but mostly down to the ‘100 mile challenge’ put before me by work colleagues and today I was just a few miles off completion.

After breakfast  I wandered back up to my room to fill the rucksack. The weather forecast was good but I didn’t trust it so in went the waterproof jacket and (extremely muddy) waterproof over-trousers along with sunglasses and travel towel. All bases covered!
I’d left my boots on the balcony and they were still wet after yesterday’s 24 hours of rain. Hopefully I’d get some sun to enable them to dry of a little.

I could have started the day in a hectic fashion to get the 8.20 bus to Bohinj, instead I decided to go for the more leisurely 9.20.
I left the hotel and crossed to the bus station opposite.  The tickets are bought from the driver costing €3.60*  for a single adult journey. Make sure you ask for and get off at Bohinj jezzero (lake) rather than the town of  Bohinjska Bistrica  6.5km/4 miles up the road. ‘Bohinj’ itself is the valley or basin.

As the bus pulled in to a stop in the outskirts of Bled, we were passed by a man wearing what is best described as wheely skis, I suppose you have to practice cross-country skiing somehow during the summer months!

Lake BohinjI left the bus at Ribčev Laz, a village to the East of the lake side of the lake and  the most recognisable part of the area as it features in all the tourist information for the area.
The bridge at the end of the lake does get busy with people getting the perfect photos but it’s not difficult to see why, it really is a picture postcard view!

I started my walk by crossing the bridge, towards the church of Sv Jenez then following the road up to Stara Fuzina. The Bohinj International Ironworks festival was taking place in the top end of the village which seemed to be popular with the local school kids.

I crossed over the bridge to the North of the village then took a left following the river Mostnica to Hudičev most, The Devil’s Bridge.  The bridge was built in the 18th century to improve the supply of iron ore from the surrounding mountains to the iron ore plant.
Legend says that the people of Bohinj built a bridge before nightfall, but by the morning it had been destroyed so decided the Devil  should build the bridge for them (as you do). In exchange for building it, the Devil demanded the first soul that crossed it.
When the bridge had been completed, a peasant threw a bone to the other side for his dog, therefore, the Devil received the dog’s soul and was a bit miffed. In his anger he thrashed his tail  bringing down the fence but the bridge still stands.

After crossing the river I took a right and continued North, eventually reaching a pay booth for the Mostnica Gorge.
It cost me €2.50* to enter the gorge but it was well worth it. Personally, I think this gorge is on par with the more popular Vintgar Gorge near Bled. It’s a pleasant walk through the woods and it’s easy to leave the path and take a closer look a the picturesque gorge.

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At the end of the gorge, I crossed the bridge then joined the road up towards the Planinska koča na Vojah mountain hut.Sign to Triglav

Navigation wise, this  be the easiest walk of the trip as it was so well signposted.
Bohinj caters for walkers far better than Bled having so many more well marked routes.
The signs also give a fairly accurate idea of how long it takes to reach the chosen destination.

 

Sign to Triglav

The plan now was to go and see the Slap Mostnica, the 21 meter high waterfall at the end of the valley.

I continued, past the mountain hut to a fork in the road. Both directions head to the waterfall. I chose the left hand fork. This turned out to be a very good decision!

I didn’t see a single person as I made my towards the waterfall, keeping the river to my right. Once I arrived there it was clear that the ‘Health and Safety Rule Book’ went out of the window! No handrails or barriers, you’re free to wander where you like to get the best views.

Waterfall near Bohinj SloveniaAfter taking some photos and video footage, I sat for a while near a smaller waterfall slightly downstream the main falls. The sun was out, the views were amazing and I felt I was the only person around for miles.

Eventually I worked my way back to the path  South, crossed the river  and headed back towards Stara Fužina. As I left the woods to join the main track, I passed a group of walkers heading towards the waterfall. I walked past a few more people heading the opposite way as I continued. I had obviously gone at the right time and gone the right way around the circuit!

Once I got back to Stara Fužina it was too early to get the bus back. It was my last day and I was going to make the most of it!
I  took a right out of Stara Fužina to the lake. My plan was to go part way round and see how I was for time.

While it doesn’t have a pretty church on an island or a castle over looking it, Bohinj is as beautiful as Bled, perhaps in some ways, more so. It’s less touristy and the imposing mountains make a fantastic backdrop.  I was aware I had to get back for the bus, but couldn’t resist lots of stops to take photos….lots of photos!

The path around this lake is far more rugged than the route around Bled. At one point, it crosses over some rocks but nothing too difficult if you take time and care.
Boat on lake Bohinj SloveniaAlthough the route on one side of the lake through woodland, the path on the other side is predominantly tarmac where I could make up some time.
I reached Ukanc, a small village at the far side of the lake containing mostly holiday accommodation.
A sign by the, now closed, hotel Zlatarog claimed it would take me 1 hour 15 minutes to reach Ribčev Laz. It was 15:30, my bus was at 16:50. I had to get wriggle on!
I managed to make it back to Ribčev Laz. at 16:15. Enough time to sit by the waters edge for a while!

There were a lot of people milling around near the bus stop and I assumed the bus would be full but no, all the English had taken an organised tour bus tour  from Bled to Ribčev Laz.  They paid had €32 per person for a half day trip, I paid €7.20 (two single bus tickets)* I also had the bonus of arriving and leaving when I wanted!

The bus arrived dead on time and dropped off at the bus station right outside my hotel, the Jelovica

The last evening meal of the holiday started with kulen, a tasty salami style sausage. There is some debate as to whether this is a Slovenian or Croatian sausage, either way, it’s very good!

Needless to say, as it wasn’t raining, I needed my final evening passeggiata and this was going to be a memorable one!
Sign on Bled castle doorI left the hotel and took a left up Graska Cesta then the next left, climbing up to the castle.
The sun had set over Bled as I freely entered through the castle walls. Although the castle itself was closed, the grounds were still open and if the worst came to the worst, a telephone number was pinned to the back of the castle gates so I would be able to get out!
I sat on my own on one of the walls looking out across the town and lake  – a great way to end the holiday!
This 2.7 mile/4.3km route is available as a GPX file.

 

Epilogue
So, in conclusion, my seventh trip to Slovenia didn’t disappoint!
When I first came to Slovenia I travelled to Bohinj on my last day and I clearly remember walking back to the bus stop wishing I could stay.  I vowed to return and I did….several times!
This occasion was no different.  The weather wasn’t great and some of the walks didn’t go to plan but I still loved every minute and travelling back to the airport,  I started planning holiday number eight!
While it was lovely seeing Bled again, I don’t think it has as much to offer walkers as other areas such as Bohinj, Kranjska Gora or Bovec. Yes there are walking routes, fantastic scenery and plenty of establishments offering all sorts of activities but I think be another trip to Bohinj will be next…watch this space!

*Prices as of June 2016

Back to Bled

Saturday 4th June
For the first in a long while, I was flying out to my holiday destination at a decent time, I didn’t have to leave my house until 10 am. The traffic  flowed freely and I arrived at Manchester airport before check in opened.  It was interesting to see how many pairs of  shiny new walking boots I saw  in the check in queue, perhaps new to walking? During the course of the week it became worryingly obvious how little experience and knowledge of the outdoors some people have.

Adria airways view from window This would be my seventh time  to Slovenia. The first visit was when the former Yugoslavian country was still outside the EU and my old passport has a few Brnik stamps.
I was now returning to the area where my love for the country first started, Lake Bled.

So what’s changed?
Well flight wise, a lot. Slovenia’s national carrier,  Adria Airways  still have the traditional check in at Manchester i.e. no online check-in (although it is slowly being rolled out) The only seat choice you get is aisle or window.
I was sat by the window on seat 9A on the Airbus A319. The place between me and the aisle seat was free which allowed me to spread out a little.
Gone are the days of the free meal and drinks, the only free beverage now is water although various drinks and snacks were available to buy.
The airline’s ‘OnAir’ service is good. Connect with the WiFi on your phone or tablet to play games, read magazine articles, play games or chat with other passengers. The aviation section  of the magazine is a particularly interesting read and, when the views were lost beneath clouds, the 2048 game passed the time.
It was a nice flight with a smooth landing.
Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport is small enough to allow you to pass through quickly and, once outside, a number of shuttle buses to Lake Bled were parked up. .Despite the terrible weather forecast, we saw blue skies when we landed and remained as I made my way to the Hotel Jelovica in Bled.

Balcony view hotel Jelovica Bled Slovenia
Balcony view

I was told at check-in that the hotel has no single rooms so I was given a good sized double room (369) with views of the church and castle. As with most hotels in Europe, there are no drink making facilities in the room, but there is a vending machine on the second floor filled with soft drinks and a few snacks.

Dinner is an all you can eat buffet which included free drinks; wine, beer, water or pop. As I entered the restaurant,  I gave my room number and was shown to my table for the week then just got up and helped myself.
My meal started with the Slovenian staple, thin beef soup with noodles. The salad came with a choice of dressing (I went for pumpkin oil), then it was steak  in a porcini sauce with duchess potatoes. There was also an impressive array of deserts which were very popular with those with a sweeter tooth than I!

I took a leisurely  wander to the lake after dinner, returning to room at 9.30 pm  for a drink and early night. Luckily, the church which was a few feet from my balcony turns the bells off at night, however, the ringing starts again at around 6.

Sunday 5th June
Woke fairly early after a decent sleep.
After breakfast, I took a stroll to the shopping centre by Hotel Golf.
Bled hasn’t changed much over the years but the supermarket opening times certainly have! Gone are the days of the Mercator closing Saturday afternoon and staying shut until Monday morning. Supermarket wine
One supermarket just up the road from my hotel on Presernova Cesta is open 7am – 9pm Monday to Saturday and 8am – 5pm Sundays & holidays. It even has a 24 hour vending machine offering drinks, sweets, ham, cheese and sandwiches.  I think this shop also has draft wine for you to fill your own bottles, I’m not 100% sure of this but have seen something similar in Pescasseroli, Italy.

The shopping centre contains a few bars and restaurants, the supermarket, pharmacy, clothes shops and the tourist information office.
Shopping in Slovenia is cheap – although compared to England almost everywhere is!  50p buys a half litre of Cola, 40p for a can.  80p gets a half litre bottle of beer.
Not that you go to Bled for the shopping!

After stocking up on a few drinks for the walk and for the room afterwards, I headed to the lake.
It was 9.15am and still reasonably quiet as I walked along the path on the ‘road side’ of the lake. It’s worth doing the lake walk early as it can get busy later in the day.

The 88 StepsNot far from the bottom end of the lake, there are three paths all heading to Osojnica, I took the third option.
Here came the start of the climb.
Although the path was through woodland and it was still early in the day, the temperature was already quite warm and humid.  I was glad of the drinks in my rucksack!

At one point there are 88 steps to ascend and some climbing, assisted with an iron rope and footholds but the views from the top are amazing!
Staza Hill dominates the right hand side of the lake with Bled directly ahead and Mlino on the right. I could also make out the mountains of the Karavanke range which mark the border with Austria.

Views over lake Bled

I continued on route 6 to Velika Osojnica. My map implied that once I got there I would need to retrace my steps a bit. The lack of markings past the view seemed to confirm that.
chamoisTo be honest, there are better,  unobstructed views along the walk but it’s another peak ticked off (756 metres) I returned to the junction of paths and continued straight on, passing some local wild life!

The path descends through woodland back to the Lake. I carried on around the lake until reaching a path to Visce. The route around the lake was getting busy and I was keen to get off the beaten track again.  (Continuing around the lake would make the walk five half miles in total)

SnakeIt didn’t take long to loose the crowds…. and come across  a snake doing battle with a frog!
Both went their separate ways when the sensed me coming, much to the frog’s relief! The masses on the lake path would probably have no idea of the types of wildlife just a few metres away.

I zig zagged around, passing the monument to Adolf Muhr, a merchant who once owned Bled castle.
The path eventually came out near the castle and from there I returned to the hotel to plan the next route.
This walk  was 7.45 miles/12km in total (starting and finishing at Hotel Jelovica)  and can be downloaded from the ViewRanger website

Given that it was early afternoon and the sun was still shining, I headed out again. I followed the single track roads through some villages to the South East of Bled.
It doesn’t take long to leave the centre of Bled and begin walking alongside fields with views of the mountains beyond.

Ribno
Ribno

This route took in the villages of Koritno, Bodešče and the larger village of Ribno.
Although I was  walking, I imagine it would make a nice bike ride which can be easily extended to include other villages.
I was walking mostly on roads but they are so quiet that it  never caused a problem. I also find the drivers in Slovenia to be extremely patient with walkers and cyclists.
This 5.8mile/9.44km route is available to download.

Dinner tonight was  tomato soup, salad, garlicky cray tails, venison ragu with 3 grains and mixed vegetables. Once again, very nice!

After dinner, at around 9pm I got my head torch and went for a walk round the lake. Initially I wondered if this was the best idea, lots of midges flying around but (unusually) none bothered me (perhaps it was the garlic) so I continued on for around  four miles.
Most of the path has some street lighting but it’s well worth taking a torch as it can get very dark in places particularly on the wooden walk way on the side furthest from town. It’s also worth taking a tripod, there are some lovely photo opportunities.

Lake Bled at night

This brings me on to something else, safety.
Despite being a female travelling alone, I am sometimes a little blasé  especially in Slovenia. I didn’t think twice about a night walk, however,  Slovenia is a very safe country, the World’s  10th safest in 2016 . Yes, there is a small amount of petty crime in the larger cities but the risks can be reduced by taking the usual common sense precautions.

Back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep….another walk planned for tomorrow!
Part 2 >>

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Coleman CHT 15 Headlamp

This last winter has seen the start of some night walking.
A fairly new experience for me, yes, I’ve done often take a ‘passeggiata’ on holidays but up in the hills, away from the sodium lighting of the roads, towns and villages was something very different. It can get dark, very dark!
I needed to invest in a decent head torch, however, given that I was new to night walking, I wasn’t prepared to spend large sums of money.
Moel Famau view at night

I went to my local GoOutdoors to pick up the Coleman CHT 15 Ultra Bright Headlamp.   Winner of Trail Magazine’s Best Value award (February 2014), it is surprisingly good despite it’s ‘budget tag.

headtorchPowered by 3AAA batteries, it provides  150 lumens which illuminate up to 180 feet on it’s highest setting. This setting can be activated with a single press of the big easy to use (even with gloves) button. This button is also used to cycle between the different modes, red, blue, low (35 lumens), medium and full power.
The red setting is useful when taking a break and don’t want to dazzle the people you’re with  as the colour does not appear as bright to the human eye as white LED and it prevents loss of night vision.
The blue light makes for easier map reading as it retains the map’s colours. Blue is the also only light which can cut through fog.

The battery life is around 6 hours on full power. There is a red battery power indicator that warns when the battery is running low. however, changing the batteries is fiddly and best first attempted in the comfort of your own home until you get the hang of it.
A mounded key is attached to the strap buckle and used to unscrew the battery housing end cap. Reattaching doesn’t give a reassuring click but does appear to be tight enough.

It is a reasonably comfortable fit, stays on well, doesn’t feel too heavy and doesn’t leave mark on your forehead.  The headband is elastic, fully adjustable as is the light itself which can be moved to aim the beam.  I’ve worn it in the rain without issues and it does feel durable and can withstand being dropped – although I don’t want to test that too much!

To conclude, for my first venture in to night walking this head torch proved to be a good purchase  Yes, I would always take a spare torch (or two!) but I’m pleased with the Coleman and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to a novice night time walker or camper.

 

 

An Evening with Frank

Another day, another storm.
I’m sure the amount of storms that have hit the UK has increased tenfold since they started naming them. This evening ‘Frank’ was on it’s way bringing wind and rain.

We parked up near the church in Cilcain, a small village near the foot of Moel Famau, reached via a single track road off the A494.
Armed with the Coleman CHT 15 headlamp (and plenty of batteries and a few spare torches!) we walked East, past the church, following the road to the left. We took another left at the next junction where the road eventually became a muddy track heading South East.
The climb here was gradual but the work rate soon increased as we joined the Offa’s Dyke path to the South towards Moel Dywyll.

So far, the navigation was fairly straight forward but, with the pitch black skies and various routes becoming available, the GPS became a very welcome bit of kit!
It’s  disorientating walking in these conditions, even on hills visited numerous times previously, however, the views over to the twinkling lights of Wirral, Liverpool and beyond are fantastic. Sadly, this photo doesn’t do it justice.
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There are tales of ghosts who haunt this part of the Clwydian hills and sightings of UFOs flying overhead.  Personally, I don’t believe such stories, but, it might have been fun to see a spirit or alien though!
You can understand how such stories come about when you turn off the head torches and look out in to the silent, inky blackness.

Once we reached the first cairn the wind had really got up making walking quite difficult. By the time we had got to Jubilee Tower we concluded it would be unsafe to stay there for our coffee break given that the wind was gusting around 45mph!

We dropped down and took the Clwydian Way path to the North which had become very muddy and slippery. I managed to stay on my feet….unlike others (-:
It was here we fired up the Jetboil to get a welcome brew on.
We returned to the car a few hours later, slightly windswept and extremely muddy but an enjoyable walk!

Walk mapThis 6 mile route can be downloaded from ViewRanger.

 

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