Slovenia, 3rd July 2007

I backtracked a few miles after leaving my parking spot, I wasn't sure what I was going to find in Slovenia, so I wanted to pick up a few provisions in the previous village, and search for an internet connection. I didn't find the internet, so I continued with some trepidation. I had never heard of Slovenia until about a couple of weeks ago, I knew they were in the EEC, but that was about it. I wondered if you might never hear from me again, and if I would never hear from you. Not as a result of rogues and vagabonds you understand, just in terms of internet connection.

But talking rogues and vagabonds I have decided to cut out my trip to Greece, my visit with Costa Sgantzos in Kalamata. Everybody, but everybody, that I have talked to says go down through Italy, and take the ferry. One man I talked to in Slovenia, a Frenchman, said he had driven his camping car many times to Greece. First he drove down through the Balkans, Albanania, Croatia, etc, but in recent years he drove through Italy. He thought it safer. Even Costa - who actually would like to meet with me - wrote about the Balkans

"It's a great mixture of philosophers, warriors, agriculture workers, bandits, gypsies, businessmen and they all match together in a beautiful colourful combination. I'd advise you too, to get the easy path and go through Italy. You will miss all the 'extras' but, I'm not so sure you'd want to have them anyway... "

I think I'll sub contract Costa to write my emails. It takes a certain skill to write wordage like that, especially when it's not your mother tongue.

I don't want to drive down through Italy. I don't really know why. Partly because I haven't planned it, partly because I've already driven most of it, partly because I wonder, do I have to come back the same route? So I'll take Hungary as the next stop. Well, after Slovenia.

First, from the town where I took the good Pizza, there was a cemetery.

There were also a couple of museums there. A church museum, and a museum showing the history of the Dolomites. They were rubbish. Sure, a lot of time and effort had gone into displaying probably priceless exhibits, but it didn't work for me.

Just before I left Italy there was a lake.

This was about my first sight of Slovenia.

This a superb waterfall. It rained when I went to see it, so here is a publicity photo.

The water just comes out from a hole in the cliff at the top of the falls.

Hey! They are making a film here! Or part of a film. Narnia number 3. It was on TV when Eleanor was about 10. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. She loved it, so did I.

I went to a museum about the Great War (1914-1918) in nearby Kobarid.

It was boring. Lots of artefacts, lots of photos, but boring. It won the European Museum of the year award for 1993 and it was boring. If this was the best in Europe then I think they should be shipping people over to see how they run museums in the US.

Oh, the above photo has nothing to do with the museum, except it is a street in Kobarid.

I'm staying in Bovec. It's a very pretty area, I'll try to get a decent photo before I leave. Actually I'm staying 2 nights. Although I didn't know that when I stayed the first night. As it is now the second night, I can say with confidence, 2 nights here. I found a municipal camp site - it's where I met the Frenchman I spoke to that I mentioned earlier, who took his camping car to Greece, and here I am.

My internet fears were unfounded. So far, it's easier than Italy, close to being as easy as in the USA.

In the morning after the first night, I took the cable lift up the mountain.

Well, that was the best bit of it. At the top, not a lot to see. Although if you want to be picky picky picky, I took that photo on the way down. The white bits are due to the plastic windows, they're not clouds.

After lunch I couldn't open the back door. It's the end of the month, I print out my bank statements etc, I need the printer, and that's behind the back door. I got the printer out, from inside the van, but the door was still stuck. It took me all afternoon to fix it. There was something wrong with the workings of the lock. To get to the lock I need to strip the lining, just like on the side door. But I've got furniture fitted in just inside the back door, I need the back door open to get the furniture out, or to access the lining. After amazing contortions I managed to strip the lining and found the problem, with the help of a torch and a mirror. A bolt had fallen into the door mechanism, jamming it. It was a bit of a fiddle getting the bolt out but eventually it was OK.

In the morning I left for the Fort Kluze museum. At last a museum that works! There was a superb model of the Fort, and a film with great presentation, including a presumably computer developed model with fascinating movement and changes of camera positions. There was loads of other stuff, including a display showing first world war artefacts buried underground, with real grass on top, and round the base.

Touch of genius, that idea!

Here's a river.

And another.

I've noticed that everyone stacks their wood very neatly, often at the front of the house, as though for decoration.

I headed off for the Vrsic pass from Bovec and took a couple of pictures on the way.

Just opposite this neat stack of wood was the National Park Visitor Centre. A huge, new, expensive looking building, empty looking, with an enquiry desk and a museum stretching over 3 floors. It looked a very expensively produced museum which, again, just didn't work with me.

It rained most of the way, and just after crossing the pass I looked for somewhere to stay the night. I spotted a closed up house and tucked in quietly behind. Some while later a man in a van drove up and stopped. I don't know how he spotted me from the main road. But he said overnight camping is not allowed in the national park. Well I knew that, but I'd seen a sign further down the lane prohibiting camping, and thought I was outside that. No point in telling him all that though, I just said OK no problem, and headed to the next town. Although it was getting dark I soon found a super quiet spot, near a cemetery car park, behind a church. Then it rained again, and then it rained some more. Oh, as I write this next evening, it's raining again. But I'm tucked up in the van.

It was a nice town, Kranjiska Gora, rather more hotels than Bovec, and a nice tourist office. This is a street.

Before I came I'd never really heard of Slovenia, as I said. I'll bet there is a few other people haven't either. It is situated a bit to the east of northern Italy, above Trieste. It used to be the province of Slovenia in Yugoslavia, but became independent in 1994, joined the EEC in 2004, and switched to the Euro at the start of this year. There is only 2 million population, but apart from the scenery there are other nice things about the country.

Almost everyone speaks English. There are toilets, new, clean, portaloos, at many places outside town centres. In town centres I'm told you go to a hotel or a cafe. While in Italy I only once saw any public toilets. I've mentioned internet connections are easy. Petrol is way cheaper than the other European countries that I know, I paid 1.08/litre (that's only $5.50/US gallon - they're practically giving it away). There are many cyclists, but not as many cyclists as in Italy. I forgot to mention, the Sunday I left Piero's there were cyclists everywhere on the roads, almost solid on the roads, there could have been up to 500 per mile, some heads down in packs rushing, others more leisurely cruising. I don't understand how they don't run away with the Tour de France, all that talent out there. In the US I doubt I see the inverse ratio to Italy, i.e. 1 cyclist per 500 miles, yet the US keeps winning the Tour! There are hikers, it's a nice relaxed place. Bovec is an extreme sports centre, there's rafting, kayaking, and so on, all at really competitive prices, apparently.

The villages are pretty too.

I looked at a museum in Jesenice. It was somewhat tucked away and a bit basic but absolutely fascinating because I had a personal guided tour. They had a small toy exhibit, and some fossils, but the main part was based around the town's iron production. This iron production was about the only industry in the town. The name of the type of iron ore that they mined in the mountains around has gone right out of my head! Magnesium ferrite, something like that. But there were some superb models of complete buildings with blast furnaces and so on, with roofs that slowly lifted off and fronts that dropped, so that you see what was inside. My guide seemed to have knowledge about every single exhibit. He showed me some of his files of old photographs, each one carefully annotated, and told me how much he loved working there, his daily 8 hours just flew by. They don't have many visitors, about 400 per month, I don't know if that included the school parties who visited.

Here's another cemetery. This probably represents less than a third of the total cemetery.

This waterfall is called Pod Slap. Or maybe that means camera point in the local language.........

I took a walk up a gorge.

There's about a mile each way, up and down, and most of it on catwalks like this built onto the canyon sides.

Well I'm now in the small car park at the lower end of the canyon, most people start at the top, there's a big parking lot there. I asked in the ticket office if it was OK to park here overnight, she said it was OK as far as she was concerned. She said most mornings park officials checked the big park for overnight camping but she didn't know about here, there is only space for about 4 cars to park, maybe they don't bother. I've been looking at the map, as far as I can tell the top parking is definitely in the national park area and here I think I'm just, only just, outside. It would help if they put up big signs saying you are now entering the park. But they don't.

If I get turfed out I won't have time to amend this email. You'll have to wait until episode 8 to find out what happens. My, you'll be on the edge of your seats.................

Best regards

David Barker

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