Friday, July 29, 2011

Slovenia: Soča River Valley and Lake Bled

By Brian at 4:13 AM
July 5 - July 8

With sandwiches and snacks packed, we left Ljubljana for picturesque Lake Bled on an all-day journey that would take us along the Western border with Italy through some incredible scenery.

Brian, Melissa, and the VW Polo
From Soca Valley, Slovenia

About one hour west of Ljubljana we hit the beginning (or rather, the end) of the Soča river that forms the Soča River valley. The river is crystal clear at its shallow points, but at deeper sections it takes on a radiant turquoise color that neither of us have seen a body of water take on. At first you think it can't be real--that someone dyed the river, but it indeed it is. As we follow the road along the river we pass through tiny, cute villages, some with fewer than 25 people, each with a charming church steeple rising from the middle of the town.

The vivid turquoise water of the Soca river
From Soca Valley, Slovenia

The scenery becomes more dramatic with larger, more craggy mountains as we approach the Julian Alps. We stopped at a pedestrian bridge to grab some shots of the river below and noticed a large waterfall in the distance. Boka waterfall is one of the largest in Slovenia and approachable by a somewhat intense 1.5 hour hike. We only made it one third of the way through before deciding that we had a good enough view from our current position and headed back to the comfort of the car.

Soca river and the Julian Alps in the background
From Soca Valley, Slovenia

Canoes ready to embark
From Soca Valley, Slovenia

Soca river closer to the Julian Alps
From Soca Valley, Slovenia

View of Boka waterfall
From Soca Valley, Slovenia

We passed through several towns, including Bovec, a center for skiing and other outdoor activities, and then made our way for the storied Vršič pass that will take us over the Julian Alps into Kranjska Gora. The pass, along with the rest of the Soča valley, played a significant role in World War I. Over 600,000 Austro-Hungarian and Italian troops died over the course of two years, fighting along what is called the Isonzo Front. The Vršič pass was built by the Austro-Hungarians to supply the troops fighting in the valley below. The road contains around 50 hairpin turns to climb the steep mountain, but the effort is rewarded with sweeping views of the mountains, valley (on a clear day) and passageway to Kranjska Gora, another ski resort that is stunningly beautiful in the summer. From Kranjska Gora we made our way to our final destination of the road trip: Bled.

Soca Valley looking south near Bovec
From Soca Valley, Slovenia

The Julian Alps from the top of Vrsic Pass
From Soca Valley, Slovenia

Julian Alps on the other side of Vrsic Pass
From Soca Valley, Slovenia

Brian and Melissa in Kranjska Gora
From Soca Valley, Slovenia

Lake Bled was meant to appear on postcards. The perfectly clear lake is surrounded by large hills and the Julian Alps. A medieval castle on top of a steep cliff watches over the lake, while a cute church sits on a tiny island in the middle of the lake. We were blessed with two clear and sunny days, which made for excellent picture taking.

Bled castle
From Bled, Slovenia

Island church from the front
From Bled, Slovenia

Bled Castle and island church
From Bled, Slovenia

Julian Alps over Lake Bled
From Bled, Slovenia

We spent our time strolling around the lake, relaxing at the beach, eating lemon sladoled, stuffed peppers, grilled local sausages, giant hamburgers, and discovering the local sweet delicacy, the Kremsnita, a vanilla cream cake topped with hard, flakey shell that makes it impossibly hard to eat. Oh yeah, and Melissa rescued a poor Jack Russell Terrier from the lake that somehow found itself in the lake but with not enough energy to climb over the stone wall surrounding the lake onto the shore. The dog didn't repay the favor with a slobbering wet kiss--he just ran off in search of his owners.

Small beach on Lake Bled
From Bled, Slovenia

Brian eating the biggest burger of his life
From Bled, Slovenia

The local pastry - Kremsnita
From Bled, Slovenia

After two days in Bled we reluctantly said goodbye to Slovenia and boarded a train for Zagreb in Croatia.

Melissa, Brian, and the island church
From Bled, Slovenia

More photos of Soca River Valley and Lake Bled.