So many told us that Slovenia was a country not to miss… and we were certainly not disappointed.
After 2 weeks surrounded by the most majestic mountain ranges, manicured green pastures and cool lakes in Switzerland, I did not think I could be awed by any more mountains. For me, the Swiss landscape is familiar. I guessed at least Piers could feast his eyes on imposing mountain ranges for a bit longer…
We headed towards Italy. In and out of tunnels. One of them the famous Gotthard Tunnel, 17km long and separating the Swiss German side from the Italian side. From there, it was just a short drive to the border. And a big sigh of relief from Piers. He was not sad leaving behind the Swiss Franc and its ridiculous prices…instead we stocked up on all of our favourite essentials like coffee, mozzarella, focaccia, pasta, paper thin prosciutto and panettone for a fraction of the price as soon as we crossed the border. After blowing the budget in Switzerland, we are safely back in financially more acceptable lands.
We took the stunning and hair rising drive along Lake Como late afternoon, in search of a Camperstop the cheap option for an overnight stay). We passed George Clooneys Italian village and squeezed into a little spot along the lake nearby by sunset. We have gotten into the habit of sending Piers off on a reconnaissance ride around the area to locate toilets and other points of interest. He usually comes back with all the essential intel, along with bakery, shops and entertainment for the evening. So that night we joined the villagers and tourists (minus George) to an evening of brass band concerto and gelato. It was lovely to finally be in Italy. But that feeling was short lived. We had to do the same trip in reverse, as Piers’s Swiss papers had come through and with that an appointment the next day back in Lucerne…..umph….so after only 24h in Italy we drove back into Switzerland for a quick photograph, then out via Liechtenstein the same day.
Our destination was Slovenia, so instead of making the same journey via Italy for the 3rd time, we decided to make our way instead via Liechtenstein and Austria into Slovenia.
And here we come back to the imposing mountains. Driving through Switzerland and Austria, your head was always looking up. Eyes scanning the high pastures, tree lines and ultimately, rocky cliffs and sometimes snow capped tops. The roads lead through natural pathways through valleys and villages at the bottom of a seemingly never-ending mountain range. I don’t know what it is about high mountains, endless seas and sunsets, but they are undoubtedly mother nature nature’s awe-inspiring spectacle. Faced with nature’s magnitude and beauty, humans shrink to insignificance and all we can do is feel gratitude for simply existing alongside it.
Big words, but driving through and over Austria’s mountains I felt truly grateful for this trip we are taking, for the experiences and beautiful places we are able to see. But just when I thought I had seen the most spectacular sights, we drove into Slovenia and the Bohinj Valley.
We had arranged for our next Workaway stint in this valley, and without much planning, it turned out to be one of he most beautiful areas of Slovenia. And as fate would have it, our hosts had us staying in their hay barn, isolated, above this little village and surrounded by rolling green hills.
The hay barn walls were made of straw, a few shelves and a gas cooker the kitchen and some low seats and a tree stump a table. We slept in the top floor on mats. No power and running water made our humble abode perfect. Getting up with the sun in the morning, with the valley below us covered in mist was breathtaking.
Matej,and Mina our hosts were the loveliest couple, generous and relaxed with their time. Luckily their kids spoke some English and proved to be the perfect playmates for ours. The kids are hanging for other kids to play with…I guess spending 24/7 together gets a bit much after a while?
Piers did some work on their house (another epic, drawn out building project…we are not the only ones!). Then there was the grass to be cut on the fields and some tree cutting. The kids and I spent our time riding our bikes down to the lake, lolling about in the crystal clear water or jumping off a mini trampoline into the lake. So, yes, a pretty chilled week, surrounded by the sound of puttering tractors, green hills and blue water. I managed to learn some useful Slovenian phrases and the kids can now count in Slovenian.
What we love about Workaway is though the connections we make with our hosts. You meet with the mutual interest to get to know each other and contribute. As with our French hosts Marcus and Diane, we instantly clicked with Matej and Mina. A family like us, we got to know a little bit more about their life, Slovenian culture and the war of independence in Yugoslavia. As is always the case when meeting people while travelling, the connections are real, honest and often straight to the point. They might be brief, but we can learn so much from each other.
During our stay, Piers got to tick off one of his life-long dreams. 21st rally Di Alpi, The Historic world rally championship, just over the hill in Udine, Italy. He went off with the van, loaded it on the train and headed through the Soce Valley. Stunning as it is, I am a bit sorry to have missed this epic journey, but it was good for Piers to have some me time doing something he has been dreaming of. The kids and I spend the days paddling in the lake and enjoying some meals out…you know, when the cat is out….
After our 10 days working, we had to say goodbye to our barn and our new friends. By this time, we were even looking forward to be back in our van and softish beds…
Ljubljana is the gorgeous capital and totally worth the visit. The camperstop was right next to the policlinic with all-night sirens. That part was not a great first impression, but once mounted on our bikes, we found the old town, meandering river and the castle high up on the hill. We spent a gorgeous day exploring the town and stocked up on english books. That was before we had to negotiate teenage tantrums….Both our Kobos have died. My screen broke a couple of chapters before the end of my book and I still can’t get over the fact that I don’t know ‘who did it’!!! I am now slowly reading my last book, hoping to get a new Ereader in Italy. But a new teenager without a book is even worse….but Emilia is reading a book in 24h, so she is yet to learn to savour the pages of a novel and draw the pleasure out.
-> for those interest in my literary travels, I have now completed the Neapolitan Stories by Elena Ferrante, followed by 2 more novels by the same author. I now have enough of this morose author, who thoroughly popped my bubble about Italy….I counteracted this with some lighthearted books, one of them the new novel by Liane Moriarty (Australian and always a good page turner). Then I had a book that I was trying to read back home called Dark Days (same author as Gone Girl). Dark indeed and in the end gripping. That is when the screen broke and i never found out what happened in the end….I bought a copy of “All the Light we cannot see” and am loving this slow read. I also found a copy of The Bourne Identity….I know…but when you are desperate, you can read anything….So, I am hoping to get a new Kobo with a longer lifespan in Italy to continue my reading journey.
From Ljublijana we did a quick stop to the famous Postojna Caves. My mum visited them over 40 years ago and they are still there. Hurray for us! Best day ever for the kids, travelling through a underground cave system that makes your jaws drop. OMG they said. Who know that under a rocky hill, all this exists….
Anyway! From Postojna we finally made our way to Croatia. I don’t know why, but I have been looking forward to Croatia so much. Imagining mediterranean colours, the smell of salt and delicious seafood, spit roast and more sunny days. Heading into autumn, we are trying to prolong this endless summer…..