Slowenien – der Canyon

We left Croatia. Due to how we had planned out our drive we didn’t have too far to go, as we had been working our way back north all week. We passed Ljubljana on the highway, and before we knew it we found ourselves passing lake Bled on our way towards lodging. We had picked out an apartment within the boundaries of Triglav National Park in the tiny little village of Stara Fužina. We made our way to the town only to find that all the street names were literally just “Stara Fužina”. Tiny alleyways, narrow passages, and sharp turns made the whole layout all the more confusing. Eventually we managed to find our apartment and checked in by getting the key from a neighbor. Chelsea got out to the car and walked to find the place because the roads were so tight. The place was cozy with room for 4 or 5 guests and a full kitchen.

After checking in we looked up a place for dinner and settled on a pizza joint a few minutes down the road back towards Bled. I ordered a strange pizza with onions, mushrooms, peppers, sausage, and other toppings. Chelsea got pasta with hot-dogs mixed in.  The food was good and we both liked the atmosphere, if not the decorations. We spent some time at dinner picking out the artwork on the walls to determine whether we’d want them hanging in our apartments. We usually said no, but in some cases we agreed that the art looked good when presented in the appropriate context.

After dinner we didn’t have much else planned – we set up our bags for the next day and went to bed in anticipation of an early start the following day.

The next day started with a quick fruit breakfast before we drove to Bled where we had made prior arrangements. Our destination was actually back in Triglav NP, but our guided excursion departed from Bled. When we arrived in town we parked on the street near the office, only to find that we couldn’t stay parked there. Our first challenge of the day was finding parking – I trusted Chelsea to find the lot and we only got lost a little 🙂 We found a lot nearby which cost 5EUR for daily parking but we had beaten the attendant to the lot and consequently didn’t have to pay.

Returning to the office, we took care of some paperwork, Chelsea paid (thank you!) and we got off on our way. We were spending the morning with another couple, whose names were Matt and Jess, who happened to be from Atlanta. Shortly before we got in the van I saw one of them had left a wallet in the office, it was lucky I noticed and was able to return it to them. We had about an hour drive out to our destination, during which our guide discussed Slovenia, activities and natural features in the area, and asked us about our background in the United States. The drive actually passed through Italy before passing back into Slovenia. Our guide talked about the skiing and climbing culture in the area. Given the staggering rock walls surrounding us as we drove, it was easy to see why the alpine culture ran deep in this part of Slovenia.

We passed a beautiful hidden lake banked by steep mountains on all sides. Shortly after that we arrived at our destination in Triglav NP, an unassuming valley with a small village nearby. Our guide parked on an open patch of gravel and laid out our equipment for the day: wet-suits, helmets, and shoes with decent grip. Our task for the day? Canyoning!

For the unfamiliar, canyoning is a recreational sport of following a river through a canyon (hence the name). It entails sliding, jumping, and climbing down waterfalls, brief bouts of swimming, and lots of climbing and scrambling. We started off with some easier obstacles; short slides, climbing over rocks, and wading through the stream. Before long we faced our first large waterfall. Unfortunately we had to be lowered down this. Our guide skillfully prepared the rope and deftly lowered us one by one.

After our first big descent we continued on. We crossed several more pools and took on more slides. We did a few that were taller than before, where our guide lowered us partially before allowing us to plunge into the icy cold water. It was a blast and the pristine blue waters and white rocks framed the experience beautifully.

Two parts of the trip stand out as being even more memorable than the rest. Our trip down the canyon featured a 50m waterfall descent. Obviously this is too high to jump or slide, so our guide tied us to a long stretch of rope we’d brought along and lowered us down. Hanging in the air with frigid water pouring over my head, I admit I worried about the integrity of his knots. It was one of the few times in recent memory I can recall fearing for my life. If something in that rope failed, I’d surely have died as there were rocks directly below the falls. The harness dug into my legs a little as it supported my weight, but I was treated to a beautiful alpine view in the clearing ahead. I was the first one down and watched as the rest of our group was lowered one-by-one. Afterwards, the guide skillfully made his way down quickly, hoisting himself.

The other experience that stuck out was when we were allowed to jump into one of the pools, skipping the waterfall entirely. I can recall vividly the rapid surge of icy water as I plunged into the deep little nook. I surfaced beaming, breathing heavily from the shock. The others followed me (though a few opted to slide rather than jump) and we pressed on.

We continued sliding, climbing, and weaving our way through the canyon. As we neared the end, things started to flatten out a little. While it was slightly disappointing that we were nearing the end, the widening of the canyon brought more spectacular views of the valley enveloping us.

We reached the end. We had survived – we thanked our guide and exchanged contact information with the other couple. As we were climbing out of our wet suits our ride back to Bled arrived. He had brought cold beer for us, and I indulged as Chelsea didn’t seem too interested in trying the alcohol. On the ride back we talked with the guide a bit about different things. Education came up and we learned he spoke at least 4 or 5 languages. His child was learning several at once as well. Europe always impresses me with its members’ tolerance of other cultures and languages.

We arrived back in Bled and found a nearby pizza place for lunch. We were eating late, so we had the place more-or-less to ourselves. The quiet atmosphere was a nice change after an exciting morning.

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After lunch we spent some time walking around lake Bled. We climbed up to the castle entrance but found that the admittance was too expensive for our taste, so we circled back down and hung out by the shore for a bit. We didn’t stay too late before heading back to the apartment to relax and prep for the following day. We spent the evening by the nearby lake (Bohinj) skipping stones and enjoying a small picnic.

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We’d only had a day in Slovenia, but we’d already had the opportunity to experience so much beauty and adventure. Next time I’ll tell you about the following two days we had in Slovenia and what else we got up to. Until then,

Best wishes and safe travels everyone,

– Ben

 

Note: We have pictures of the canyoning from the other couple we went with, but as they have not yet uploaded the pictures I haven’t been able to include them. I’ll edit this post accordingly when I have access to the photos.

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