The mountains are calling..

and I must go. ∼ John Muir

Slovenia  contains two major mountain ranges: the Julian Alps and the Kamnik-Savinja Alps.  The Julian Alps lie to the northwest, eventually reaching the borders with Italy and Austria.  This range is home to Triglav, Slovenia’s highest mountain (2,864 m), which provides the name for Triglav National Park.  Within this park exist almost 400 other 2,000+ m mountains formed of limestone.  Triglav National Park is home to some of Slovenia’s most famous sights such as the lakes Bled and Bohinj.

I have spent two weekends this past month in the mountains, strapping on my pack for a two-day hike up to the top of one of Slovenia’s breathtaking peaks.  The first trip was to Prehodavci mountain (2071 m), where we stayed the night in a winter cabin for hikers.  It’s so fascinating to scale the mountains at this time of year, because at the base of the mountain the forest is all green and the weather pretty mild; as you start trekking to higher altitudes, the trees have already changed colors and shed their leaves.  Eventually you reach the snow, and from then on it’s a winter wonderland (just make sure you bring enough clothes – it gets pretty darn cold up there!).  Slovenia’s mountain trails are marked by dots painted on rocks, so you have to be very vigilant to make sure that you’re always following the correct path.

We reached the cabin at the top of this mountain with about 20 minutes to sunset.  Though we were colder than heck and my boots were soaked through, we waited to see the sun set, turning the sky brilliant shades of yellow and blue.  (Oh my goodness, I did not mean that to be a rhyme).  Standing on top of a mountain is such an invigorating moment.  I don’t want to call it exhilarating, although it definitely is; it’s more that your heart swells as you become fully aware of where you are and the absolute wonder of the earth that surrounds you.  In those moments, I feel completely content.

At the winter hut, we were joined by a party of four Slovenian guys.  Only one of them spoke good English, so it became a bit of a game trying to get our points across to each other.  We all unpacked our bags and pulled out food to cook up dinner, and it was so hilarious when I started cooking my lentils (with a bit of curry), and one of the Slovenian guys said “What is this, a Chinese restaurant?”  Apparently they’re not fans of curry.

In the morning we parted ways, Ines, Jan, and I heading back the way we came, while the other guys when to climb another peak before heading back to the bottom.  We were definitely surprised then, when we reached a hut near the bottom only to run back into them!  They must have scaled that peak ridiculously fast.  I guess I’ll add that to my life goals.  (Seriously though, some people climb here wicked fast.  One guy on Kamisko Sedlo ran down, up, and back down the mountain before we could even make it halfway back down.)  We ended up eating lunch together and walking together the rest of the way to the trailhead.

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The next weekend the weather warmed up significantly, and there was no snow on the mountains.  This route was a lot more complicated than the first, requiring us to weave our way through limestone flats that looked like the blades of a pastry cutter, crossing small crevices, and navigating our way across regions with iron steps and handles or ropes.  The last 500 meters up to the top of Skuta (2,532 m) felt almost vertical, and as I’m not a fan of falling, I used my awkward climbing technique of trying to keep my entire body planted to the ground as I climbed. Jan’s climbed a thousand times and looked like he just floated up the route, while I took my sweet time triple checking my hold on the next rock before pulling myself up.  I guess the comfort just comes with practice!  I had the song “Rhythm of Love” stuck in my head all day because of the lyrics “my head is up in the clouds,” but by the time we got to the top of this mountain, there was nothing but sky and a view for miles as all of the clouds sat below us.  Turn to the left, and there’s Italy.  Turn to the right, and there’s Austria.  Look down…well, maybe you shouldn’t do that. 🙂

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That’s the end of the mountain adventures thus far; I’ve had a couple more low key weekends since then.  The first was to Trieste, Italy to visit a family friend.  I’ll have to go back sometime since the bakery was closed when I stopped by before coming home, so I still haven’t had a good Italian cannoli!  The sea looks just marvelous though, even though it was raining all weekend.

This past weekend Slovenia celebrated St. Martin’s Day, which is when they say St. Martin turned juice into wine.  Wine festivals popped up all over the country, accompanied by the typical festive dish of pumpkin soup, roast duck, potatoes, and cabbage.  That reminds me, I’ve got to start thinking about making my own Thanksgiving dinner next week!

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