September 15th – 21st
Kyra: As we get to countries that experience heavy snow, we’ve started to see houses with roofs that have tiny triangles across them. Apparently we weren’t the only ones who turned to the internet to understand what snow guards are.
Ben: Instead of an article, I have a request. We stopped by a tiny market in the tiny town we stayed in and Google Maps didn’t really know it was a market, so I reviewed it and let other travelers know. It would be awesome if the nice lady who ran it could get a few more 5 star reviews! Do so here 🙂
How we got there
Ben: Introducing “How we got there,” a new section for the blog, as we figured people may be interested in what we were doing between destinations. The answer? A lot of sitting. Whether that’s on a plane, bus, car, or train, we’ve sat for hours, moving thousands of miles throughout our trip thus far. To get to Bohinj, Slovenia, we had to take a few trains and stop over one night in a small Italian town.
Kyra: Without any internet to guide our trip from Jesolo to Savica, Slovenia, we hopped on a bus from Jesolo to Sana Dona and on to Trieste. Our prescient instincts were fortunate to have a day’s buffer between reservations. In Gorizia, Italy, a town bordering Slovenia, we stopped for dinner and spent the night at our first hotel of the trip.
Ben: In the morning, we walked across the Slovenian border to catch our train.
Kyra: As we passed rivers of limestone infused water, cutting through cliffs, I imagined an artist conjuring up the surreal setting of a Guillermo Del Toro film. Guillermo would dictate a road that cut through a red-roofed village and the artist would add intricacies such as a pumpkin patch at the foot of a mountain or cat perched on the still-warm engine of a tractor. Sometimes the descriptions would get ahead of the artist; roads unfinished, houses not yet painted.
Ben: With roads like American sidewalks, I was constantly impressed by the driver’s ability to navigate hairpin turns, tunnels, and even half a road:
Where we stayed
Ben: We stayed in Savica, Slovenia, near Lake Bohinj. The town itself has no more than 30 people living in it, and is bordered by towering mountains and a picturesque teal river. It’s also about 2 miles from the train station. This seems like short distance in nice weather, but is extended substantially when it begins to downpour about .3 miles in. It’s also lengthened by the fact that I opted for this transportation because of my failure to research the bus station (sorry Kyra…).
Kyra: Savica is approximately halfway between Bohinj Bistricka (a town where Slovenian people actually live) and Bohinj Jezero (a town where Slovenian people go to entertain tourists in exchange for money).
Ben: Once we arrived, however, things quickly improved. The weather forecast for the week, which was originally all rain, improved to slight showers only a few times in the first few days we were there. Our hiking and biking in the nearby mountains was always accompanied by sun!
Ben: We also had the top level apartment in a large house which allowed us to cook most of our own meals, have internet (finally!), enjoy crazy views in the mornings (see below), and sleep soundly.
Kyra: Our little apartment was sunny and beautiful. At night we’d hunt for the lone mosquito that always snuck in.
Ben: After an hour long bike ride constantly threatened by rain, we decided to take a break at a smaller restaurant, Don Andro, in Ukanc, at the western edge of Lake Bohinj. The fare was mainly Italian and we both jumped at what looked like a delicious pizza. We both ate half a pizza and decided we should bike even more afterward: this may or may not have been a great idea. Regardless, the pizza was well made and the views beat almost any restaurant we’ve seen on the trip (Notre Dame probably won so far, but see for yourself below).
Kyra: Other than Don Andro, our other meals were homemade. We bought bottles of soy and oyster sauce which were incorporated into every dinner.
Ben: I really enjoyed both the sausage and sauerkraut at the Cow’s Ball, although I’m not sure Kyra felt the same. For a few minutes, we were both entranced an entire boar roasting on a spit behind one stand. The carcass and flesh roasting were a bit grotesque to be on display. However, this is a rare occurrence in the US and it’s always nice to be reminded where our food comes from.
Dan – Hey
Da – Yes (the woman at the tiny market in Savica repeated Da over and over again and we played charades trying to mime the food we wanted)
Local View and Lessons Learned
Ben: One of my lessons learned is about the difficulty of meeting people on the road. It’s a feast or famine issue – either we meet and talk to someone for a few hours, or we don’t converse with anyone for a few days, just “hi” and “bye” in their native language. Kyra and I talked through this recently and realized that part of the issue is that we’re quite comfortable with one another – this itself isn’t an issue, but it can mean we fall prey to not seeking out opportunities to meet people :). So we’ve decided to begin randomly greeting at least one person everyday – something we hope will spark change in our attitudes towards a place and give us a deeper understanding of the local culture.
Kyra: One day we were talking to Urska outside the apartment and I noticed grapes growing on the terrace. I asked her if they were real grapes for eating and she looked at me totally perplexed, “no we just have them to look at. Yes, of course they’re for eating. Here, I will cut you some.” Apparently decorative fruit is NOT a thing in Slovenia. The grapes’ taste were spot-on Laffy Taffy grape flavor.
Ben: Our wonderful host, Urska, had bikes for rent so one sunny day Kyra and I took advantage and used them all day. We biked through the mountains a bit, on beautiful trails, and made our way around the large Lake Bohinj. The views continued to amaze:
Ben: Once we made it to the other side of the lake, we stopped for beer and pizza (more below) and decided we should continue on to the Savica waterfall, even though the rain was encroaching on us. The waterfall was one of the more touristed spots in the area but that only meant around 50 people or so. Our walk to the fall was fun (especially because my shoes of choice that day were flip-flops) and we grabbed some nice selfies at the summit:
Kyra: The forecast for the duration of our stay was rain, every hour, of every day, which made the beautiful weather that much more wonderful.
Hiking through the mountains near Savica, Slovenia
Ben: To be honest, this was probably my favorite part of our time in Slovenia. When woke up to hike we were a bit concerned that it might start raining when once we were an hour or more from home. It turned out that only a few light sprinkles punctuated our hike through beautiful meadows, into small towns, and along rivers. We were on the move for at least four hours, stopping once by a nice river for a quick lunch, and again for a drink from a fountain we later found was for cows to quench their thirst while climbing higher into the mountains (I’m fine with this, it was delicious and cool water. I’m sure that’s the same reason the cows go for it). After nearly every hill there was a new photo opportunity.
Ben: This was the entire reason we decided on Slovenia in the first place. Kyra had done some research on festivals in Europe and this was listed in Lonely Planet’s top 10. The premise is that everyone from the area gathers in Ukanc to celebrate the safe return of the farmers and cows from the fields. It did not disappoint.
Ben: When we first arrived I was a bit nervous because it looked as though we had just paid 10 euros to attend a large garage sale. We passed booth after booth of t-shirts, hats, candies, cheeses, and meats. I was worried this would just continue up and over the mountain, but we finally got to an opening with 100 picnic tables and a stage with local bands performing Slovenian and Croatian music. After finding out when the cow parade was, Kyra and I grabbed a beer/radler and made our way around. We watched a man demonstrating a tractor-powered wood splitter, another showing how to cut a tree (and their chain-resistant pants) with a chain saw, and finally a group of older woman dancing to “Man! I Feel Like A Woman.”
Ben: We then started to see mobile metal fences going up around us, marking the area for the parade. Grabbing our spot, we started watching the locals begin parading down the mountain, with the cows following close behind. Everyone was dressed in traditional garb, which many times included lederhosen and clogs – great for hiking in the mountains.
There were a few points where I wondered about the safety of everyone in attendance based on the “fences” that were up and the attitude of a few cows. The man below shared my attitude as he saw a cow waltz quickly past him towards a group of small children in the parade – please see his facial reaction below:
Ben: All in all, the Cow’s Ball was an awesome experience and made me a bit less sad about missing the MN State Fair.
Kyra: Gardening. Slovenia had beautiful, lush vegetation everywhere. The flora ran the gamut from pumpkins to lettuce, sunflowers to roses, and prunes to pears. Apparently no buckwheat grows in the are though.