Slovenia

Day 6 – The Greens and the Greys of Slovenian Alps

Early bird in Austria

The alarm rings at 7am after a rainy -and noisy- night. The fun thing is that we got to bed saying that we are glad the van is well isolated, and then spent the night hearing the drops of water hitting the metal roof.

After the last breakfast in Italy we cross the border and stop by the first Austrian village to buy rice, vegetables and bread. We follow the road 83 until Villach, where we are supposed to find a gas station selling cooking gas. After a few wrong attempts, we finally end up in the right station where we refill our gas bottle and buy cooling liquid for our radiator. We take advantage of Austrian oil prices, probably the lowest in Europe, to refill the van. Since we already spent 80 euros, we decide to buy a tarpaulin for the next rains, we did not have any protection before and we are a bit sick of everything getting humid.

Another challenge for our van

The way to Slovenia is steep: our old van and G’s limited driving skills, make of this road a challenge, which we manage to accomplish with dignity. Slovenian police officers stop us at the border. They ask where we are directed to: “Triglavski Narodni Park”, and when G tries to hand them his document they refuse to look at it and let us go with a welcoming -maybe?- smile.

The valley from above is astonishing. The grey sky and the low clouds mix with the green of the pines and of the grasses, the shy rocks show up here and there. The way down is flatter -our van is thankful. We live behind ourselves the first two villages, Podkoren and Kranjska Gora, to reach today’s destination: the majestic gorges of the river Hladnik and the tall waterfall of Jerman stream.

And guess how we are planning to do it? Two beautiful via ferrata have been equipped to explore these amazing places.

A wet climb in the clearest waters

The first via ferrata -ferata Hvadnik, we know, our Italian friends are getting suspicious on the spelling, but life is like it is- is easy, but wet, which makes it hard. It is a mixture of canyoning, climbing and hiking. The waters are the clearest we met yet. G finds pleasure in trying to take good pictures, unsuccessfully, while M rushes the climb with her fast moves.

The second, that we are able to start directly from the path descending from the first, is physical and impressive: we climb almost under the waterfall Jermanovi slapovi. We both agree that this is a must do in Slovenian Alps!

Best night-stay – for the moment

On the website park4night.com we find what is supposed to be a nice spot where to spend the late afternoon and, hopefully, a restful night. Unfortunately, the park is right on the road. We opt for the next one, which surprises us. We reach the riverside through a countryside road. We are on the riverside of Sava Dolinka, under the jurisdiction of the village of Belca… The sun is finally out, it’s warm but not hot, the wine tastes good, the table is set to work, G is going to cook pasta with pesto. Life is good.

Day 7 – The perfect spot

Life is good until the police wakes you up

Last night, we were sleeping so well after a satisfying day and a good dinner in an amazing scenery… when suddenly we hear someone violently knocking on the van door. G was in a sleeping coma, while M was afraid that someone wanted to rob us: we both didn’t really understand what was going on. When finally G managed to exit his coma and to ask “Yes?”, from the other side of the door we heard “Policija”. Better the police than some crazy thief.

Before to start writing about our interaction with two Slovenian police officers, you should know one thing about our van. The door doesn’t open well, basically to make it slide properly we have to lift it at the same moment as sliding. It’s quite annoying and complicated, many times it blocks along the way and it takes always a bit of time. It’s a pity we were lazy to repair it, but we worked so much on the van that we didn’t feel like.

Now that you know this, guess how much time it took G to open it with the police on the other side waiting with their huge flash lights. They must have thought, ‘these French hippies…’.

With the door half opened G asks what is wrong. The taller officer explains that sleeping in parking lots is forbidden under Slovenian law. The fine for sleeping on the road is 40 euros each. They ask our documents. The smaller officer, that doesn’t speak English tells something to his colleague. M finds our documents and hands them to the officers. They check them and give them back to us. The small officer speaks again with the other. Finally, after some thinking, the taller officer tells us that for this time we are forgiven, to find a campsite, and remember that in Slovenia you cannot sleep on the road.

Campsites are expensive here

We surf the internet in order to find the closest campsite. They all seem to be expensive, for two people is basically around 36 euros the night. Quite a lot considering the prices of other goods around here -half a litre of beer is 3 euros…

We finally find out a parking for campers that seems to be free, no amenities. It’s a few kilometres away, in front of Kranjska Gora ski station. Here we can finally rest.

A bit of climbing and more resting

A quick breakfast, bread and jam, and we are ready for another climb: Ferata Mojstrana. The way is pretty easy the view it’s worth it, spacing on the homonymous village and on the upper Sava valley. We eat our lunch at the top, in the shade of a beech.

The village of Mojstrana also hosts the Slovenian museum of Alpinism and works as information point for the excursion to the surrounding summits, Triglav -the highest with its 2864 metres- included.

Today we are spending the night in a campsite. We arrive to this decision after a good hour of considering all the possible options. We are particularly tired and M needs some place to rest ant to shower properly -she has to deal with her period, doing this and at the same time bearing G is hard work. We opt for a beautiful campsite in Godz Martuljek. Once we showered, we kind of understand why campsites are expensive. It’s clean, flat, shaded, the supermarket sells cheap and fresh beer, it is just underneath the two via ferrata of the village.

A nice dinner and a good sleep

To treat ourselves we decide to cook crepes. We bought a local cheese that together with Italian dried tomatoes and pesto is the perfect filling for our crepes. Dinner is good and abundant as well as our sleep.

Day 8 – Sun is Up/Chill

Some solo time – not much

At 10:30 our good breakfast is over. We figured out that ‘orzo’ is the perfect substitute to coffee if you want to consume local and package free -or at least no plastic packaging. We make it in our 35 years old Italian coffee machine that G’s parents offered us. It tastes similar to coffee, the one we bought is made in Italy, is organic and is packaged in a thin paper box. Half a kilo should last some 6 months for us.

G chooses to redo ferata Jerm’n, that is actually very quick, in less than an hour he’s back at the campsite. Here M enjoyed a morning shower and a bit of rest.

Since one of our most affectionate follower asked for some description of the climbs we are doing, here you are.

Ferata Jerm’n

The via ferrata starts a few metres above the road that connects Godz Martuljek to Srednji Vrh and it develops vertically along Jermanovi slapovi, the waterfall of this clear watered river.

The climb is harsh from the first metres, vertical, with not much grip for the feet. The first wall is vertical and presents no natural holds, it is to be done with the metal rope and the artificial holds.

On the top of this wall, we proceed left towards Jermanovi waterfall. We cross the river walking on a rope, and attack the wall -the longest of the itinerary- that follows vertically the waterfall. With a few hard passages we finally top Jermanovi slapovi and can enjoy the fresh drops of water on our faces.

We cross again the stream -another steel rope- and conclude the via through a final wall, where, with attention, we can use the natural holds in the rock. A great Scots pine signals the end of the via.

The itinerary lasts less then an hour in total, it’s a beautiful way to explore this spectacular waterfall and to enjoy the clear waters of Jerm’n.

Chill afternoon along the Pisnika river

The afternoon is hot in the sun and cold in the shadow, with a gentle breeze that transforms in wind from time to time. We walk along the river Pisnika until two lakes -that we assume to be artificial- and spend a moment reading in the crowd of tourists and locals. The parking lots around the small lakes are full with cars, bicycle, campers and motorbikes. Luckily we came by foot. The path to the lakes is under the shade of pines and spruces. The water of the lakes is prohibitively cold.

We spend the rest of the afternoon in another park, eating peanuts and talking.

We are going to spend the night in the same parking as two days ago, which, apparently, is the only free and legal in Slovenia.

Day 9 – Getting Ready for Slovenian Highest Peak

A day of reading and resting

After breakfast at the local bakery, we decide to go to the park and chill reading and talking.

Actually, this is what we dedicated all our day to. Only lunch interrupted the routine, a beer in the afternoon and dinner. The day was hot, but under the shadow of the chestnuts, close-by a fresh fountain, it was pleasant and relaxing.

Preparing our climb to Triglav summit

We decided that we cannot move further into Slovenia before conquering its highest peak: Triglav.

We opt to go for the north face, which is partially equipped as a sort of via ferrata. Basically, it is a huge wall 2800m tall and majestically dominating Triglav National Park, the one and only national park of Slovenia.

Our journey will start at 1015m on the sea level to reach the 2864m at the top. The climb will last approximately 6 hours (5h to the mountain hut + 1h to the peak). But we will describe it in the following days.

Wish us luck!

Day 10 & 11 – Triglav North Face – The Edge of Slovenian Alps

Triglav National Park in the Julian Alps

The alarm rings early, at 7:45 we are buying cakes and bread at the bakery. At 8:15 we reach Mojstrana and leave the main road for the 908, the countryside road that follows Triglavska Bistrica, the river descending from mount Triglav. We drive deep inside Vrata valley and end up in the earth of Triglav National Park.

We leave the van in the parking, which costs 5 euros and is managed by the park authority. The forest is luxurious and the waters are clear. We decide to treat ourselves with a coffee at Aljazev dom v Vraith, 1015m. Basically where our ascent begins, at the so-called ‘mountain stage’. Here the forest is tall and mixed.

We follow the river for 10 minutes until a partisan monument from which we take the left. And here the path begins to be steep, the trail marker that we follow -Tominskova pot- announces Triglav summit to be 6 hours and 30 minutes far.

A vertical Forest

We spend a first good hour gaining altitude quickly. The path is basically vertical, a sort of staircase going up through the trees. We just stop to breath, dry our sweat, drink, and mostly, getting undressed. It is still quite cold, but going up we do not feel it. The forest is amazing, a mature one, where the competition is far from the soil and the sun rarely infiltrates through the canopy. It is ancient, dark, and calls for respect and silence. But we talk a lot, mostly to sweeten M’s first great ascension.

We are now in full ‘subalpine stage’ at around 1700m, the mixed forest now uniforms, we mainly meet conifers. The more we climb, the more the trees shorten, the forest opens, the sun reaches the soil, some flowers show up and grasses are green and abundant.

No more trees

Finally we reach the ‘alpine stage’ and what was supposed to be the via ferrata, begins. But we quickly realise that we didn’t need any climbing material to do this. The exposed passages are easy and well protected, the rock holds pretty well and the only possible danger are stones falling from above. However, even this risk is very limited today, we are the only two people following this trail. Only an ibex could make our climb dangerous by making rocks falling.

Indeed, when the ‘ferrata’ passages are over we start spotting ibexes. Not that there is much to spot, they are kind of everywhere. From approximately 2000m to 2600m we meet ibexes of every size, sex and age. They are not much afraid. Typically, they keep eating grass and watching us until our path crosses their. Once too close, they run away just to reach again their spot when we are far enough. We try not to bother them too much.

The last snows and Kredarica hut

The landscape transforms again when we reach the 2200 metres of altitude. Here a great plain of rocks and snow -where white and grey are the dominant colours- welcomes us. Here we drink water from a weak spring, and eat our sandwiches. The sun starts hitting, we are one hour away from Kredarica hut, where we will be passing the night.

The hut reached, 2540m, we have been walking 4 hours and 20 minutes. We decide to go for the summit after a quick break.

Here the trail looks more like a climb: vertical, exposed, rocky and stunning. The rocks have some red shades, the grey becomes almost pink. We finally meet more people, groups, loners and couples. Someone going up, others down. Exposed passages start tiring us, when we reach the top we are sweaty and exhausted. 2864M, we gained 1849m of vertical distance. The view is majestic, the sun is hot. We walked 5 hours and 15 minutes to reach the roof of Slovenia.

Not the hut we expected

The hut where we spend the night is the highest of Slovenia. It is big, not well entertained, expensive. The dinner do not reach our French/Italian-hut expectations. The room is small, and cosy, all in wood, as big as the bed. It feels like a mountain crib.

Breakfast is just a cup of tea with the biscuits we brought ourselves from Italy.

Back to the forest

The way down is smooth and fast. We stop for an early sandwich at 11. We chose a less exposed trail for the descent, however, some passages are harsh but well protected. We meet a kid -he cannot be more than 10- overcoming, calmly but determined, a vertical passage followed by his father. He is going to become a real Slovenian today. They say that you can call yourself Slovenian only once you climbed Triglav.

At the bottom of the valley we follow the river dipping in the forest. Back to the shadow and pleasant temperatures until our van.

Our way to Bled

We leave Vrata valley to reach again the upper Sava valley, and follow it until Lesce, where we leave the main road to reach Bled.

We have an overview of the lake only at the last moment, when we pass by the railway station. Its dark blue waters and the island in the middle strike us, as well as the number of people on its shore. The campsite where we decided to spend the night is right in front of the lake, we just have to cross the road to reach it.

A bath in the lake is the last physical activity of the day, before to enjoy a warm risotto and a good night sleep.

Day 12 – Bled: the Most Beautiful Lake of Slovenia?

Around the lake

A good sleep and an abundant breakfast -we are still recovering from our ascent to Triglav- is what we need before walking around Bled lake. We follow the north shore in order to reach Blejski grad, the castle. After 15 minutes we reach the hilltop where we have a full sight of the lake. The entrance to the castle is expensive 13 euros, we decide to enjoy the view and to descend towards the village of Bled.

A town for tourists

The village consists in tourist accommodations, bars, restaurants, tourist offices, bike and boat rentals, minigolf… and whatever tourists might want to do, see or eat. There’s nothing really interesting apart from a few old buildings and villas that are now transformed in hotels or bed and breakfast.

We continue our tour of the lake,the southern shore has some beautiful spots, trees dip their roots in the water, the water is so clear we can see thousands of fishes, waterlily are starting to blossom, the pedestrian walk is in the shadow and almost quiet.

Stunned by Slovenian clearest waters

The most stunning characteristic of this lake is its waters. Incredibly clear. Swimming is a pleasure, we can spot fishes everywhere. Ducks are swimming among the tourists.

But tourists, tourists are everywhere, us included. There is not an access to the lake that isn’t invaded by tourists. We wonder how this natural paradise can be so well preserved with all this people coming all year long. For what we understand this is far from being the best season for tourism due to the virus.

It is definitely worth to pay a visit to the lake, for us two days in between the tourists were enough, we are moving forward towards our destination, Jezersko.

Day 13 – A walk on the border of Triglav National Park

An unfruitful climb

After a morning swim we enjoy breakfast and the last hours in the campsite. M cooks one of her amazing Dahl that we eat for an early lunch, before check-out time. At 12 we pay the camping and leave towards the small climbing spot of Gorje, not far from Bled castle.

The campsite was expensive, we didn’t really realize that the tourist tax for two people on two days would have been of 12 euros. Therefore, two days in a campsite in front of Bled lake, for two people, without electricity… 82 euros! We wonder how can people stay a full week and yet pay for extra activities, tourist tours and so on. Everything is very expensive here. We have discovered that in 2011 this same campsite cost 10 euros per person per night. This is why tonight we are going to sleep in a parking lot in Zgornje Gorje and renounce to drinking a fresh beer.

Once at the climbing spot we welcome the suggestion of a local on the pitch to choose -because we didn’t find any description online. She tells us to start with the 5c we have just in front of us. It reveals to be more difficult than what we thought. G doesn’t manage to finish it. M tries to remedy to the situation without success. G tries again and manages to clip the rope in the belay stance. It’s just not the day for climbing. We both are still tired from the excursion, the heat and the crowd of Bled. Another try on the pitch just next, still unsuccessful. We decide to go to our next destination Vintgar gorges, on Radovna river.

The nature that cannot be accessed

M’s legs are finally not painful any more. For this reason, we decide to go for an 10km walk on the borders of Triglav National Park passing by Vintgar gorges. When we arrive at the gorges, after a half an hour walk, we find out that parking costs 5 euros the day, 10 for campers. If this is not enough, the access to the path that follows the gorges costs 10 euros per person. We look at each other and decide to take an alternative path, frustrated by this kind of nature monetisation.

The path we take follows the border of Triglav National Park, that coincide with Radovna river course, but allows for no view of the river. However, we learn that this was the ancient road connecting the village of Vintgar to the neighbouring ones. It was built in the 18th century and it is known as ‘The steep side’ -“Strma stran” in Slovenian. Tradition has it, that once a farmer was on his way home, he looked down towards the gorges and he felt in the cliff dying on the impact with a rock. This road was mainly use for commerce and transportation of timber, today it runs in a protected forest.

We pass the village of Vintgar and reach Sum waterfall.

The way back is even more beautiful, passing through pastures with on the background the mountains. The sun is getting lower and the green of the trees and of the grass surrounds us pleasantly.

A night without cops

Back to the parking lot the van is incredibly hot, after a day under the sun. We decide to have dinner on a bench not far, with a nice view on Bled’s countryside. After dinner we watch a film and at 10 we are in bed.

The night passes by calmly and we enjoy the pleasure of not being awaken by the police but by G. At 7 he is up ready to drive until Kranj, our next destination.

Day 14 – Slovenian Alpine Capital: Kranj

Towards the city

After Verona we spent time mostly in the nature and in small villages. Bled is the largest town we stopped-by, it counts a bit more than 8.000 inhabitants. Kranj, with almost 38.000 inhabitants is definitely the biggest city we decided to stop in Slovenia, yet.

Even if the upper town doesn’t reach the 400m of altitude, it is surrounded by Slovenian Alps. For this reason, it is known as the Capital of the Alps. It has the largest water sport facilities of Slovenia -if anyone is interested, we know this just because we parked the van in front of the swimming centre, the only free parking not too far from the old city.

A lively town – at least on Saturday mornings

The way to the centre is calm and nice on a path along Kokra river. They built a pedestrian bridge over a small, but impressive -given the proximity to the city centre-, gorge. This is a beautiful natural spot just under the old town where one can refresh their feet in the clear water.

We climb the stairs to the centre and are surprised by the Saturday’s market. From vegetables, to cheese, wooden tools, tea and other goods. Breakfast in a nice cafe definitely wakes us up and give additional energy to walk through the town. In some 3 hours we walked through the town at least three times, we bought a National Geographic of 2008, bread, local cheese and had a nice sandwich assembled with local products. The old town is attractive with all the cafes, bakeries, market stands, antiquities shops and street artists.

Kranj underground

We decided to have a tour of Kranj tunnels, it sounds interesting and it’s the only guided tour that attracts us available today. However, we have to wait until 4:30pm for it. Which means that we have time to go around even more. We end up doing some 10km of walking around, drinking a beer and working/reading. When it’s finally 4 o’clock it starts raining dogs and cats, we wait for the beginning of the tour inside the tourist office.

The tunnels are right under the city centre. From 1941 to 1944 they dig some 1.300 metres of tunnels, 2,20m tall and 3m large. The first works were realised under the Slovenian government; the whole thing was completed in 1944 under the German control by 132 workers. The tunnels were used a few times between ‘44 and ‘45. They now serve to touristic purposes, exhibitions and concerts.

It is humid and cold. However, there are some species of animals living here, cave crickets, bats and the weirdest fish. The thing can live up to 100 years, it can fast some 10 years. Now this creature is studied in a tunnel-laboratory where no public is allowed.

The visit closes with a simulation of the bombing, which is pretty realistic and makes one think.

A rainy night – is the van leaking?

We get back to the van, wet. We stop to buy something to eat and head towards our night destination, a parking lot by the lake Crnava. Once parked, we realise that there is a leak in the roof of the van, where we passed the cables of the solar panel. We’ll have to take care of it, for tonight M’s bed will be wet.

Day 15 – The Village of Preddvor

Early birds

Fearing another incursion of Slovenian police we wake up at 7 and leave the parking lot of the lake’s hotel. We decide to go for a morning walk around Crnava lake. It’s a calm and chilly Sunday morning, around the lake we meet just a fisherman and a couple with a dog. When we read a sign indicating “Sekvoja”, we follow it presuming we will find a sequoia.

Instead, we enter a beautiful forest at its mature stage but no trace of sequoias. We find maples, spruces and pines, with their little sign at the bottom. We keep looking for the sequoia sign along the path, unsuccessfully. Hunger prevails, we decide to look for a bar.

Deserved coffee

Even if we are trying not to consume coffee any more, sometime is the easiest way to go to a toilet and to seat and relax. At 8:15 in the morning our neighbouring bar clients are having beers and wine, happy Sunday to you mates!

We then decide to drive towards Zgornje Jezersko, where we will be volunteering in a farm for the next two weeks, and stop by the first parking we find to have bread and jam, our deserved breakfast.

Along the way we cannot decide where to stop when suddenly we reach Jewersko. We park the van in the main parking of the village to consume our breakfast.

Lakes everywhere

Plansarsko lake was once covering all Jezersko’s basin, and it is believed that the village was named after the ancient lake itself. Today, it is small and shallow but it attracts a lot of people on Sundays because of a small market and the restaurant that was built on its shore. We eat our sandwiches looking at the reflection of the trees in the lake. Indeed, the forest around is stunning, it counts mainly pines and spruces.

Planning to explore new peaks

Surrounded by high peaks Jezersko has a history of alpinism that we will be exploring in the next weeks climbing traditional routes like the famous “New central direction in Velika Baba”. For this reason, we pass by the tourist office where we find a comprehensive booklet collecting the most interesting climbs and trails. We will be definitely using it.

Meeting our hosts

As we mentioned we are going to spend two weeks -at least- here. We will be working with Anja and Matej. They mostly grow and transform herbs. They produce syrups, balms and other things we are going to discover in the next days. Their commerce is mostly local and has spread enough to be their main income thanks to the tell-a-friend principle. They are particularly welcoming, we drink together their self-brewed beer. Our bedroom is cosy and our windows has the most amazing view on the peaks. A reddish sunset closes this day, with no leaks from the roof we are ready to sleep.

Day 16 – Living in Jezersko as Herbs Farmers

Sifting Elderflowers

The milk of the neighbour tastes very good and helps in starting the day well. We meet Matej at 9 that quickly explains us our morning task. We basically have to sift dried Elderflowers separating the stem from the flowers themselves and put them in a paper bag for later use. Anja will make syrup out of them, which is then sold to local restaurants and cafes.

The task reveals to be repetitive from the first minutes. However, it gives time to talk, look around at the mountain peaks and enjoy the fresh morning. In the end we do not even realise that is 11:45 and they are ready to eat. Lunch is quick but good, chickpeas soup with home made bread.

We are in a hurry because the mint syrup has reached 80°C and it’s time to bottle it. M goes in the basement to help Anja bottling the hot syrup. G arranges the table and joins them to help cleaning the containers in which the syrup cooked. Some 50 bottles are filled.

Where the magic happens

We decide to join Matej who is going to collect some mint with his children deep into the valley. In a few minute drive we reach the best exposed part of Jezersko valley where the biggest farms are located. Matej and Anja have some two fields here, not too far from each other. One is an orchard of raspberries, blackberries, currants and black currants; the other is a field of different varieties of garlic, mint, thyme, and other aromatics.

We collect some mint to make tea because they are running short of it. While Matej and his kids go back home by car, we decide to walk along the stream. We meet them again in the garden where we select the leaves of mint that are going to be used for the precious infusion. This kind of tea, where all the processing of the plant is manually done, is particularly expensive and tasteful.

We are officially tired

These two days hiding from Slovenian police and walking made us tired. We are planning an early sleep and some climbing for tomorrow’s afternoon. But first, we take care of the van applying silicone where the water is supposed to infiltrate. Hopefully M’s bed won’t be wet any more.

Fresh eggs from the garden hens are waiting us to make a nice omelette out of them.

P.s. in the picture the view from our window

Day 17 – Some Climbing and a Lot of Mint Cleaning

7:00am

Today we will be working in the afternoon. We are having lunch with Matej and Anja at noon, and cleaning mint all together afterwards. We decide to start exploring the area by doing a morning via ferrata -Ferata Češka koča.

For this reason, we wake up at 7am -even if the alarm started ringing from 6:30- drive the van at the end of the valley –10 minutes– walk 15 in the woods and 10 in along a scree to reach the starting point of the climb. We parked at the bottom of Ravenska kocna valley, followed the trail to Zrelo, then the signs of the via ferrata.

Ferata Češka koča

The climb starts abrupt, slippery and physical. Unfortunately, this harsh passages do not last long. Surpassed the first wall the rock starts leaning and the climb gets easy and quick. On the right we can see two small waterfalls and above us the high peaks and what remains of the ancient glacier.

The rest of the ‘ferata’ do not present any surprise. Once at the top we can see the Češka koča hut, and on the opposite side of the valley, the famous “New central direction in Velika Baba”. The most traditional and frequented climb of Jezersko, we will do it soon, hopefully.

Cleaning mint, then cleaning mint and more mint

We spend the afternoon cleaning mint and talking with Matej and Anja. Without the good talking, it would be very boring. Fortunately our guests have much to share and we do as well.

Cleaning mint is an easy and repetitive work. It smells nice but leaves a black trace on the fingers with which we separate the leaves from the stems.

After 5 hours of this, we spread the mint on trays in order to dry it and put it in the dry room.

A quick reparation on the van and we can enjoy the late afternoon and a simple dinner.

Day 18 – Do You Remember Yesterday’s Mint? More Mint!

Morning in the fields

At 9am we are in the fields at the end of the valley. Today’s weeding day! Basically, we have to clean the rows of mint from weeds, that otherwise compromise the harvest. This is done once the first mint has already been picked -which happened few days ago. Indeed, in-between two harvests, the space on the ground that is not covered by the herb is invaded by weeds. This is crucial to ensure a good production.

In practice, it is much more boring than this. We have to search among mint plants for weeds and eradicate them. Basically, we spend 3 hours and a half trying to find a comfortable position to do the job, with our necks and knees hurting. Luckily it’s not particularly hot, and some clouds shade the otherwise unbearable sun. In addition, the mountains around, the moos of the cows, and the general bucolic setting make the task more pleasant. A sudden visit of four small pigs gives us the excuse for a pause. We climb the fence behind which they are eating and start playing with them.

Once back to work, one pig trespasses on the herbs field, we scare it back, he runs crying in terror while we block the hole he passed by.

The final product

After lunch we work a small additional hour packing tea. We finally meet the mythical combination of ten herbs this couple is known for. Our task consists in mixing the herbs, putting them in bags and being sure that there is the same quantity of tea -50g- in each of them.

It smells delicious and we bring with us the smell after finishing. The whole house is a mixture of different smells. At the second floor -where we are sleeping- we mostly breath dried herbs. In the basement it smells like syrup, the first floor smells like the food that is cooked daily. It’s nice and very welcoming, a lively place with a lot of people, animals and plants all living together.

Chilling, not really

We spend the afternoon resting, cutting G’s hair, running/cycling, cleaning, and cooking one of M’s Dahl. This nature around us is just amazing, everywhere we look we see trees, rocks, fields, small houses. It feels like humans can live in harmony -at least apparently- with nature.

Day 19 – Tea and rain

Teabags

Three hundred teabags might not seem much when we buy them at the supermarket. But we can assure you that when you have to fill each of them with the right quantity of herbs, it is. We spend the first part of the morning doing this: filling teabags with the famous 10 herbs combination of Matej. We talk, listen to music and exchange opinions meanwhile. It is actually better than what it seems.

Afterwards, we start stripping and painting the wooden fence surrounding the house. Our hosts have an atelier with all the sort of tools we might be needing.

A grey day

The afternoon begins with more wood painting and ends with a nice beer in the restaurant. The lady serves us convinced we are Germans, we ask in English, she replies “zwei bier”, we nod and sit outside, once again facing the mountains. It has been raining almost all day, the clouds cover the highest peaks, it’s fresh but not cold.

We drink and talk until 5:30, the first costumers are sitting at the restaurant ready for dinner. As we are getting used to local rhythms as well we head back to the house to shower and prepare dinner. Tonight, given the weather and our mind state -we feel a bit bored, it’s probably the grey sky- we are going to eat early and watch a movie.

Day 20 – The Orchard and Wet Climbing

Cleaning the rows

At 9:00 we are in the orchard, today is mowing day. We are preparing the orchard for the harvest which will be in about two weeks. We cut the grass, rake it, collect it and pile it in the corners of the field. The weather is not the best, it is sunny then it suddenly rains, then it’s cloudy, then the cloud leave space to a deep blue sky and then it rains again.

Just before 1pm we are done, the orchard looks tidy and in shape.

For lunch Anja prepares something very typical, they call it the meal of the shepherd, now we cannot recall the Slovenian name, we will ask tomorrow. It consists in cooked flour -buckwheat-, that forms a sort of crumble with cabbage on the side and some sour cream on top. It’s delicious. We tried the same thing at Kredarica hut in Triglav National Park, but it was tasteless, expensive and cold. We are happy to have had a second chance, because it’s worth it.

Wet climbing

Under the recommendation of our hosts, we decide to go for an afternoon climb, even though the weather doesn’t promise anything good. However, they give us the indications to reach the place, a website on which to find the description of the pitches and they show us the weather forecast saying “the rain is over”.

When we arrive in front of the wall of Veliki vhr it rains. Nevertheless, we decide to go for it. The approach follows a road used by woodcutters full of mud and cut trees, then it enters the forest and reaches in few hundred steep metres the beginning of the climbs. We decide to go for something easy, the rock is wet and we do not want to take further risks. Our choice falls on Sanje neke gospodinje. G starts first, despite crying on the wet rock, he reaches the first belay stance. After exchanging with M, it is decided that the climb is to be done. M reaches G and proceed towards the next stance. When she reaches it, she has some doubts on how to belay from above, it’s her official first time. We exchange again and finally is G turn to go. The last pitch is blurry, G climbs first when suddenly he doesn’t find the following bolts. Fortunately the route is easy, and by now has almost completely dried, he goes on, he find a lonely bolt, but nothing afterwards. After almost ten metres without any bolt he reaches the last belay stance. While M is climbing it starts raining again and the clouds surround us, we cannot see anything but the wall. To find the path going down we climb some rocks, mud, grass and trees. When we find the path to the bottom we are relieved.

However, the trail back is steep, exposed, muddy and slippery. We are definitely relieved when we reach the van and we can finally go back to our room and dry our cloths.

Shower and a warm dinner are deserved.

Day 21 – Jezersko’s Adventurers

A small village for great adventurers

Today, instead of tiring you with our usual routine, we want to talk about Jezerso’s people.

Jezersko -which means land of the lake- was originally named after the large lake covering the bottom of the large valley. The lake started disappearing because of a series of earthquake beginning in 1348, although in 1689 a reporter described the village as dominated by a large lake. The two small remaining of the lake are definitely small.

Originally part of the Austrian Region of Carinthia, Jezersko now belongs to the Upper Carniola Statistical Region, which is almost entirely alpine in nature and includes mount Triglav itself.

With 638 inhabitants, it is one of the smallest, numerically speaking, municipalities in Slovenia, even if its surface extends over 68.8km2.

Of these 638 people, some have recently entered history books thanks to their achievements. Like skiing down the Everest, Annapurna and all the Seven Summits, the highest mountain of each continent. And here we are, hosted by the daughter of Davo Karničar: the man that in 2000 skied down the Everest, from summit to bottom with no interruptions. This was the first top-to-bottom descent of Everest’s south face without removing the skies. Before this unique achievement, he skied down the summit of Annapurna with his brother Drejc. And, finally, in 2007 he became the first person to have skied all the Seven Summits.

However, as they explained us, he couldn’t take advantage of his fame, which was particularly appreciated by Americans. He was a simple man, he liked skiing, mountaineering, working in the nature and, as his numerous descendants testimony, women.

Davo Karničar died last year cutting a tree in his beloved birth village. He was planning to build a hut for welcoming tourists in Jezersko, but something went wrong when he was cutting a pine, a branch broke violently and threw him dead to the ground. The only regret he might have had is K2, he never managed to ski down this deadly mountain.

For those not born in Jezersko

Here it seems normal to have cycled until China, Patagonia, to have climbed Mount Blanc at 16, or to ice climbing… but for someone who lived in a ‘normal’ environment it is not. Even if we are both passionate about mountains, this is something recent for us and we didn’t really took part to great adventures yet, even it we can be considered somehow adventurous. This is why we open our mouth and eyes wide when Anja tells us she first climbed Mount Blanc when she was 16, as her birthday present, and after a year she went back to climb it again and ski down the summit. That she has skied all the mountains around here, that she climbed all over the valley, and she did some amazing ice climbs as well. She is the president of Jezersko Alpine Club and has beens part of Jezerso’s alpine rescue team. With three kids she now hike from time to time and ski in spring.

Her mother is the actual manager of Češka Koča, Slovenia first mountain hut that, as the name recalls, was built as the Czech branch of the Slovene Mountaineering Association based in Prague. In summer she spends three months in the hut and descend and climb back once a week.

Matej was the one who cycled until China, and a bit further, actually. He left Jezersko and in some 6 months reached China. Then he continued to Laos, and Thailand, with as final goal Vietnam. After a series of problems he doesn’t want to share with us, he took a bus to Bangkok and flew back to Europe, Vietnam remaining unreached. With a budget of 10 euros per day, he managed to spend less, people are very welcoming in some eastern countries, especially in Iran, where he was systematically hosted and fed by locals. With Anja they cycled across Patagonia…

Matej is currently part of Jezersko’s alpine rescue team. Today he was alerted because someone was stuck on the via ferrata we did last Tuesday, he was ready to go on the rescue mission, but a colleague of his was already at Češka Koča hut and managed to control the situation. Mountain rescuing, as he says, is one of his hobbies.

Day 22 & 23 – Our Adventure in Jezersko – Never Again Like This

New Central Direction in Velika Baba

These stories of adventurers and alpinists brought us the idea of climbing Velika Baba’s New Central Direction, an easy -difficulty IV- but long -700 vertical metres- climb. Nothing comparable to our guests adventures, but something challenging for us.

After having read on the tourist office booklet that it’s the most popular climb in the valley, that it’s bolted from bottom to top, that the way back is easy and spectacular, we cannot wait to climb it.

The approach

G’s alarms rings an hour later than planned, what we call a good start. After an abundant but quick breakfast we are ready to start walking to the bottom of the wall. The approach reveals to be more complicated than expected. The climb is not really indicated and the original path to reach it has been erased by a recent landslide. By looking at pictures of the climbing route we manage to spot the starting point, a big yellow circle on a rock.

The first pitches are very easy and protections are only meant for descending. The real climb starts from the fourth pitch, a beautiful and easy slab that lasts two more pitches. Then a small chimney and Chaos. We cannot find other bolts.

Chaos and terror

We spot a belay stance on the right. G reaches it, belays M and climb again towards the right not seeing any bolt or other signs of a climbing route. After 10 metres G starts to feel uncomfortable. He doesn’t even find a stable rock where to set a ‘quick’ protection. The rock doesn’t hold, it falls apart, stones fall down towards M, who is well hidden, fortunately. G goes on hoping for something, at least a solid rock to set a rappel. Nothing. He ends up putting his right hand in the wrong place and a 40cm long and 20 wide rock falls, outbalances and almost make him fall. G is scared and doesn’t trust the rock, he realizes that the only chance he has to rappel down to M are trees. There is a mountain pine a metre away, it looks well rooted. G reaches it and somehow, sweating, terrified and trembling, manages to place a sling around a small trunk. Until he touches the ground he fears for the tree to collapse and to fall on him.

When G touches the solid rock and clips in he starts crying. M is scared by his reaction. It’s her turn to explore towards the left. We need to find something soon, time is passing by and we are not over the half of the climb. We look around until we see something resembling to a belay stance, an orange cord. Before to climb towards it we take a picture, zoom, yes it definitely is a piece of rope on a bolt. M goes for it. G stopped trembling and is ready to belay her.

M easily reaches the belay stance and belay G towards it. However, afterwards we cannot see anything. Once again. We read the description of the climb one more time, we find some similarities with what we see around us but we are not sure of anything. First M explores a few meters further to spot a bolt, then it’s G turn, both unsuccessful.

G tries again, he finds a chord tensioned between two mountain pines. It almost corresponds to the description we found online. He goes further to be sure that is the correct way. But nothing. No bolts or piton. G climbs back to the belay stance. We look around. Time is passing by. G tries one last time. After 10 metres of traverse he spots on the left, some 30 metres away, a brand new bolt with a carabiner in it. We are definitely lost, and it’s not nice to get lost when climbing.

Calling for help

We contact our guests. They are supposed to know by heart the climb and be able to explain us if we are lost or not. The first thing that Anja says do not reassure us: a lot of people get lost, if we find some chords or piton it doesn’t mean we are on the right path. However, on the phone we are not able to explain exactly where we are nor they are able to help us. Anja decides to call her mother in Češka Koča hut. From the hut, with a binocular, they are able to spot us on the wall and to realize that we are way too far on the right, following some non-existing or very old route. We are supposed to climb down some 50 metres and take the left towards the actual trace. It’s now 7pm. We start rappelling to catch the correct path. At 7:30pm we are at the crossroads where we got lost. From what they explained us we are more or less half way to the top, which means that in a couple of hours we could be done with the climb, then in about an hour we could be at the top and in 1 hour and 30 minutes to the parking lot. In total 4 hours and a half, with the possibility to get lost again. Otherwise, we could rappel until the bottom, coming back from the way we came. We have no frontal lamps, G’s phone has 20% of battery and M’s around 50%.

Deciding to climb down

We loose some more time trying to make the good decision. If we want to rappel until the bottom, with a 50m rope, it is far from being an easy task. Indeed, we can descend only of 25m at the time. In order to set a rappel -you have to know that it’s M’s first time doing this for real- it takes us about 10 minutes each time and 5 minutes to climb down the rope. We have to descend some 300 metres. This means 12 times 15 minutes, three hours. Sun is setting at 8:45. Both the option involve finding ourselves in the complete dark at some point. We decide that it’s more reasonable to go back from the way we are supposed to know. This is what we do.

After a couple of rappel, M starts to master the technique and the way back seems possible. When it’s starting to be dark we recognise the first pitches and the beautiful slab. An additional problem sums up to this unlucky day. In the dark we cannot see the half of the rope, the sign that normally indicates it has been erased by time and numerous climbs. When we find it G puts a patch on it to find it back easily in the night, this is vital when throwing the rope down for rappelling. Somehow, it works. We continue our way to the bottom in the complete dark. We are scared, but we are close to the ground. Meanwhile, down in Jezersko they are starting to worry for us knowing that we have no lights and apparently we are not answering to the phone.

The rescuer

At 11pm we are at the cave where the real climb begins, which means that we are missing only a few pitches, 2 or 3. Now, at 11pm, on a cloudy Sunday night, what we can see is just the metre of rock in front of us, and the helmet of our climbing mate. Nothing else. We sort of figured out exactly where we are, but we do not remember perfectly how’s the way to the bottom. But something beautiful happens. We receive a phonecall from Matej, he left Jezersko, he’s coming to rescue us with frontal lamps and his knowledge of the place. Knowing that an experienced alpinist like him that grew up in this valley is coming towards us with artificial light makes us feel better. However, at the same time, something bad happens. The rope gets stuck and G is too tired and scared to be enough rational to retrieve it. And more time goes away like this.

It’s only Matej arrival that speeds up the operations and allows us to react. We leave the rope where it is, we follow him climbing down the last 3 easy pitches. Everything around is unreal, the front lamps light are flashy and move irrationally. We start sweating to keep up with Matej pace. Somehow, we climb down some steep walls, enter the bushes of mountain pines, adventure between the branches, holding them tight. We climb down another small wall and we finally reach the scree, which means no more climbing for today. Midnight has passed, we finally walk some safe trails back to the parking lot, to the van, to Jezersko and our beds. We switch off the light in our bedroom at 2am.

We had our climbing shoes on for 13 hours, going up and down Velika Baba’s wall, we spent 16 hours trying to reach the summit first, and the bottom then. We climbed more than two hours in the complete dark. We will never do the same mistake again: first thing we will never forget our front lamps; we will never loose time taking a decision, one of us will be in charge of taking one; we will never underestimate a climb, even when everyone tells us that it’s easy and presents no risks; we will ask for help, if there is someone that can help us, before it’s too late; we will wake up earlier.

The rescue mission – Getting our rope back

G wakes up at 9:30, he has been developing some anxiety about retrieving the rope all night. He wakes up M that could have willingly slept until noon. After breakfast we force ourselves to go and get the rope. We estimated to be needing about 4 hours and 30 minutes to climb until the cave, unstuck the rope and walk back. First thing: we put our front lamps in our backpacks.

We leave the parking lot at 11:15am and we get back exactly at 2:15pm. Everything goes smoothly. We find the path through the mountain pines, take the left towards the last part of the scree, climb the first easy pitches, M retrieve the rope in just a few minutes, we rappel down the pitches we just climbed -just to take no more risks- and walk back to the parking lot. It’s surprising how easy this can be in the daylight.

Picking black currant

In the afternoon we spend a couple of hours picking black currants with Anja and the kids. Not all the fruits are ripe, therefore, in order to pick only the good ones, we shake the plants violently, and collect what falls on the fabric underneath the plants.

When we get back to the house, we paint a section of the fence.

A quick dinner and an early sleep is what we need after these two days.

Day 24 & 25 – Two Days Working

A 35 years old fence

These days we are helping renewing the fence surrounding the garden of the house. It is 35 years old and has been designed by a friend of the family who was architect. We dismount the sections of the fence, bring them to the atelier, remove the paint and sand them, repair the broken parts and paint them back with a dark brown colour. This operation takes a lot of time, but the goal is not to change the fence to save material, and we like that. With this treatment it should last at least 5 years more, which for some wood that is exposed to whatever weather all year long is not bad at all.

Melissa

The morning goes by working the wood. After lunch -G prepared one of his favourite meals, ‘Pizzoccheri’- is Melissa-cleaning-time. Melissa is one of the herbs Matej uses in his famous 10 herbs tea. It has a lemony taste that adds an exotic note to the mix. The plant allows for two harvest, of which the first is right now in July and it’s the most abundant, while the second -mid-August- will be made of smaller and lesser leaves.

The picking and the cleaning are almost the same as for mint. It’s a bit boring but we can talk with Matej and Anja, which is always interesting. We are starting to be quick in cleaning, which actually helps.

Picking Millefeuille flowers

Today we are also picking some Yarrow flowers, in order to finish the harvest before the rains forecasted for the next days arrive. It feels nice to be in the fields, it’s not too hot, it smells good and we get to eat some freshly harvested pickles, they are very tasty eaten directly from the plant. Indeed, we pick some small cucumbers with which Matej is planning to prepare as jarred pickles.

More Melissa and fences

Wednesday passes by similarly to Tuesday. We do sand another fence section and paint it. We do clean Melissa after lunch.

Once we are done working, G makes a quick Tiramisù, while M dedicates some hours to the preparation of ‘Oreilles d’âne’-literally: donkey ears– a typical meal from Champsaur, not far from where M comes from. It’s a long procedure. First, she cooks 20 crepes, then she rolls them in a baking tray, covers them with béchamel, spinach, salad and cheese. Then it’s meant to be cooked for 30 minutes in the oven.

We eat crepes with cheese and go to bed early.

Day 26 – Austrian Afternoon – Eisenkappel

A via ferrata on the river

We spend the morning relaxing and working on our computers. For lunch M cooks the ‘Oreilles d’âne’, and G serves his Tiramisù with the coffee. After this light meal, we decide to follow our hosts suggestion and spend the afternoon in Austria climbing and digesting.

Our destination is Eisenkappel, 17km from Jezersko. At the border they take our temperature. Along the way, we stop by “Murijev vrelec”, a naturally carbonated mineral water source rich in iron. Anja asked us to bring her back a tank of 5 litres of this water that is supposed to be very good for the health.

Once in Eisenkappel, we enter a bäckerei in order to buy a bretzel -we both love them- but we aren’t lucky. Therefore, we proceed to the parking from which we can join the via ferrata Türkenkopf. We cross the river Vellach through an old wooden bridge that produces non reassuring sounds. The ‘via’ starts a few metres from the parking, on the river shore. The first block of climbing consists in a series of zig-zag above the river. Then it deepens into the forest just to bring us again on the cliff for the most physical passage, a long and exposed traverse.

It ends a few metres under the peak of the mountain on which it develops, a panoramic viewpoint allows us to overlook the village. We mostly appreciated the technical side of the ‘via’; however, we did not like the fact that all along the climb we could hear cars and see the road.

Some sport climbing

After stopping-by to buy some bread, we explore the other side of the valley in search of a climbing spot our hosts suggested us to visit. We find it after some 15 minutes of walk. We cannot find the name of the spot or any description of the pitches. However, it’s easy to find exiting the village there is a green sign on the right indicating the climbing area, there is a small parking just on the other side of the road.

The pitches we choose are nice and not demanding, however, after a couple of climbs we are tired. When we hear the first rain on the canopy, we are drinking a beer. Even though we run to the van, we get completely wet. The rain doesn’t stop, a huge storm accompanies us until Jezersko and in our bed.

Day 27 – Collecting Spruce Resin for the Magic Balm

It’s not a good morning if you do not pick berries

The weather forecast for the next days says “a lot of rain”. For this reason, we spend three hours in the orchard, under the last sun, in order to collect as many black currants as possible. We manage to finish the row before lunch.

Collecting resin from wounded Spruces

No spruces were harmed during this process… Before it starts to rain we go into the forest in order to collect spruces’ resin. To do this, Matej follows the roads created by woodcutters and, with the permission of the owner of the forest, collects the resin only from those trees that were wounded by the workers. This is a great way to avoid wounding other trees. In one hour, that’s all the time the bad weather allowed us, we collect about 3 kilos of resin, which is the main ingredient of the balm Matej produces. Collecting is nice, we get to spend sometime in the forest with knives: every kid’s dream.

The resin is very sticky, to take it out from our hands we first use some oil -which does most of the job- that we rub with a metal sponge all over our hands; then we use a product for car mechanic. The final result: our hands are soft and smell of resin. In the next days we will collect more resin and cook the cream, that is told to have some magical healing powers.

Day 28 – Spruces’ Gold and Painting

Jezersko’s weather

Legend has it that Jezersko has a weird micro-climate. We definitely believe the legend. Today it was supposed to be rainy and cold. Apart from the first hours in the morning, it has been sunny and quite hot.

We spent the morning painting the famous fence, it’s going to be the most beautiful -and the oldest- of the neighbourhood. G made a risotto for lunch that the kids didn’t seem to enjoy, at least at first. After lunch, since it’s not raining, it’s resin time.

Mining Spruces

We go back to the same spot as yesterday. Now that we know how resin collecting works we are quicker. We easily spot harmed spruces, approach them and excavate the resin with our knives and collect it in our baskets. It is particularly satisfying when we find a good source with a lot of soft resin. It smells too good. So far, this is our favourite activity, unfortunately, Matej doesn’t need a lot of resin… with today’s harvest we are done for the summer.

A new climbing spot!

As we are getting to know the locals, they are opening up. Yesterday Matej confessed that there is a climbing spot in Jezersko just behind the basketball field. We decide to go check it out before having a beer. In exactly 5 minutes from the house we are there. There are about 20 pitches from 5a to 7c approximately. We will be trying the spot out in the next days. The beer is nice, the sun is warm.

Day 29 & 30 – A Meet-Up – Enjoying the mountains

Friends from Asia-Europe Foundation

In the past days, G contacted a friend of his who lives in Slovenia. They first met during an international summer school held in Croatia and Slovenia. It so happens that another friend from the same summer school is in Slovenia as well.

The result is a nice meet up with Ana -Slovenian- and Pavlîna -Czech- in beautiful Jezersko. And the goal of the day is to enjoy a nice meal in Češka Koča mountain hut. We walk together to Jezersko’s lake to take the path towards the hut. The weather is nice, sunny but not too hot. This is why we are not the only ones on the trail. In addition, it is a Sunday… what did we expect. Despite meeting a lot of people on the way, once at the hut we find a table outside and we can enjoy a very good soup with cabbage -Vipavska Jota-, with sour milk on the side. Delicious and abundant. A fried desert tempts us all, we decide to try it out and it’s the perfect closure of a good meal.

The way back is a bit ‘heavier’, but gives us the opportunity to update on what we all are currently doing in our lives. Which is interesting two years after we met. We discuss a lot on the way how tourism changed this summer and how it impacts alpine valleys like the one we are walking in. Here in Jezersko not everyone is happy about the arrival of more international tourists every year…

The last black currants

More black currants are ready to be picked. This is our main activity on Monday morning. We go to the field with Anja, and spend about 4 hours picking these little berries. If you wonder why berries are expensive… it’s mainly because the plants are not very productive, the fruits go bad easily, picking is long and cannot be done all in one day, but it’s an activity going on for a month during all summer, little by little following the ripeness of the fruits. In addition, in order to preserve the berries they have to be frozen or directly transformed, which means using more energy and time. When you buy any kind of berry jam, if it’s from a small producer, you are paying hours and hours of hard work.

We are almost over with picking black currants, tomorrow we will pick what remains. It’s surprising to notice these past days how quickly the fruits grow from one day to the other.

Climbing in Jezersko

We finally decide to spend the afternoon in Jezersko sport-climbing spot. It is just below the tennis court and the basketball field, there’s a partially visible path starting right aside from the tennis court that in about 5 minutes brings to the pitches.

The first sector has 6 belaying stances, we manage to reach only 3 of them, the other pitches are very demanding (VII+ to VIII+). The first pitch we complete is a IV+, the second a VI+ and the last we are not really sure, around V, but being the first part of a VII, it is not indicated as a single pitch. For each belaying stance there are two pitches, we did in total about 6 climbs each.

After a beer in the wood at sunset we enjoy a calm evening.

Day 31 & 32 – Two Small Excursions Around Jezersko

More berries

Today it’s, once again berries time. We pick the last black currants -finally- and start with the early raspberries. The older plants, 4 years old, are producing a lot of berries, they are tasteful and easy to pick because at our height. The younger plants -from 1 to 2 years old- have very few fruits, but they are huge and delicious. Anja grows 8 different varieties of raspberries. This allow her to have different times of ripeness and to distribute the harvest over the whole month, which is perfect for solo-working.

At first G was a faster picker, now M is always a bit ahead. Raspberries are definitely easier to harvest than currants because we can do the picking standing and walking around the orchard.

It’s finally summer in Jezersko

Days are getting hotter here. We finally feel the summer coming, however, at night it’s always fresh and the breezy. We decide to take advantage of this sunny and warm afternoon to walk to “Ankova slapova”, a waterfall nearby Jezersko.

It takes us about one hour and a half to reach the waterfall, which is not particularly impressive. However, in the late afternoon the wood has some magical colours, and the needles of the pines and spruces reflect the orange of the setting sun. We pick a few Cantharelli mushrooms that we are planning to use for dinner, when M suddenly spots a Boletus Edulis, G’s favourite mushroom. We run down towards the village excited for dinner, we decided to have fried mushrooms and risotto.

A rich dinner

We mix beer, salt and flour for a perfect batter in which we deep our freshly picked mushroom before to fry them. The result it’s just delicious. Surprisingly, Cantharelli taste even better than the boletus. Luckily enough we had enough Cantharelli also for a good risotto -we were still hungry.

Full and tired we sleep until 7, an early alarm for a morning walk.

Virnikov Grintovec

The morning goal is to reach Virnikov Grintovec summit. This mountain dominating the western side of the village, is 1654 metres high and it’s right in front of the ‘real’ mountain Grintovec that measures 2558m. Between them, Jezersko. The path is indicated from the very centre of jezersko, it asses on the side of the church and enters into the forest just after. The way up is steep, but some parts on a woodcutter roads help decreasing the rhythm and breathing from time to time. We rush it until the top, it takes us 1 hour and 20 minutes -yes Mathilde is always timing our excursions-, while the panel just next to the house, in the centre of Jezersko, indicates 2 hours 30. The way from the top is majestic, in front of us Austrians valleys, behind Jezersko and the highest peaks of the region.

The way down is even faster. In 50 minutes we are back to the village.

Elderflower cleaning and painting

We spend the afternoon cleaning dried Elderflower and painting the famous fence. We talk and listen to podcasts. We finish at around 6pm, get to our room and write about the past days. The sun is setting on Grintovec, we can see it from our window.

Day 33 & 34 – Our Rural Life in Jezersko

Thursday working

On Thursday we are working again in the herbs field. It’s, once again, weeding time. In summer there is always something to do in the fields, because, on the one hand, fruits ripe from one day to the other and weeds grow at a fast pace. Harvest of herbs or fruit are done every day.

The morning goes by fast, and the afternoon repeats the morning work. Today it’s hot and it’s harder than usual to bend over the plants and kneel in the rows of mint and Millefeuille. When we go back to the herbs field we pass by Jezersko’s Mineral Water Spring. Matej explains us that once he had to wait for a person to refill 400 litres of water at the spring. Apparently, there’s people coming from all over Slovenia to enjoy the pureness of this spring. When we arrive there we are the first and we brought 7 bottles of 1 litre to refill. A couple with mountain bikes arrive just after us. A guy that worked with Matej in the past arrives last. He starts speaking with Matej and refilling his half a litre bottle. Matej doesn’t complain. But the mountain biker does, he starts yelling at us while Matej tries to mediate and his friend, instead, instigates him. After an animated discussion, of which we do not get a word apart from ‘voda’, the biker and his partner finally fill their bottles and drink the precious water.

Friday in the orchard

The eight varieties of raspberries that Anja has planted ask for daily harvests. At 9 we are in the orchard ready for picking. In 4 hours we manage to do our best harvest. We do not know exactly how many kilos because it’s Anja taking care of this in the basement of the house. She keeps track of every harvest, the amount of fruits picked by variety, their quality and dimensions.

It’s still sunny and we are trying to harvest everything we can before the rain comes. It has been forecasted, indeed, heavy rains for the next few days, starting from Saturday evening.

Thinking of Velika Baba

During lunch we start discussing about the fact that our stay in Jezersko is almost over and we still didn’t climb Velika Baba. We figure out that the only viable day is tomorrow, with an early start we can do it before the bad weather arrives. Matej and Anja convince us to go back and conquer this summit that tricked us last time. It so is decided. Tomorrow we are going to wake up at 5am, be at the parking lot at 6 start climbing at 7:30 and be back home at 3pm.

The fastest man of Jezersko

We are both worried not to be able to go to sleep early enough to wake up at 5am and not being too tired. Even if we worked a lot and we are getting used to sleep early, a 5am alarm could be traumatic.

For this reason, G decides to go running with Matej, who is known to be the fastest runner in Jezersko. It’s Friday 31, Matej has to run enough to achieve his monthly amount of 200km. He misses 11km, so it’s decided. He plans an itinerary of 11km with 600 metres of positive vertical distance. He explains G that around Jezersko it’s not possible to run more than 5km without having at least 200m of vertical distance.

Matej is definitely too fast for G and push him to his limits. Before to get back to the house G deeps in an extremely cold pond that awakens him from the hard run.

An early dinner and at 9:30 we are in bed ready for tomorrow’s climb.

For the whole description please click here!

Day 35 – Velika Baba – New Central Direction

Day 36 & 37 – Our Last Days in Jezersko

Sunday balm

Now that we are real Slovenians also to the eyes of the people of Jezersko -climbing Triglav for them has no value since it’s too easy, we had to climb also Velika Baba Nova Centralna- Matej feels like we are ready to cook the spruce resin magic balm. This is the ritual that is going to make us real Jezerskans.

The process is secret and cannot be shared with non-Jezerskans, for this reason we will limit our explanation to the following passages. The spruce resin we collected in the past weeks has to be mixed with oil and boiled. The bee wax has to be added together with a secret ingredient. Everything is then filtered and jarred. It takes organisation,cleanness, good timing and precision, especially when filling the jars.

Outside it’s raining. It has been raining since last night, with a violent thunderstorm and buckets of water. It’s the perfect weather to be in the basement heating up oil and resin.

Home-made beer, the best beer

These past weeks we have been drinking Matej beer, he was happy to share it and promised that when it was about to be over we would have brewed more together. The beer was very good and we drunk it everyday. For this reason, now, after three weeks it’s almost over. Fortunately, Matej prepared 25 litres on new beer about two weeks ago, and today we are making 25 more. The beer itself is easy and quick -apart the two weeks of waiting for fermentation- to make. However, home-sterilizing takes time and it’s hot. Boil around 50 litres of water, use a few litres to sterilize all the caps in a large pan, and fill each bottle with some boiling water, shake it, wait a few seconds, empty and close with the cap without touching it. We also add a few grams of sugar to boost the fermentation, the beer is not fizzy enough according to Matej. After a few bottles we get a good rhythm. We bring the closed and sterile bottles at the third floor of the house where the beer is fermenting at the perfect temperature of 24°C. We fill each bottle paying attention not to touch the caps, with the beer that will keep fermenting some more days in the bottles thanks to the sugar we added.

We then go back to the basement where we clean and sterilize the 25l tank of beer and brew new beer for the next months. Matej uses malt and yeast he buys on a website for DIY beer, boiled water, and organic sugar. He also adds a secret ingredient he doesn’t want us to share.

We taste the beer before the fermentation, it’s good, but not the best hot!

A busy afternoon

While we are making the beer Matej receives a call from a local bed and breakfast that asks him for his balm and teas. They are selling local products in their small shop and they just ran out of Matej products after a group of tourists arrived. Luckily we did the balm in the morning, it is all sold by the afternoon. We also pack all the already mixed tea, there is enough for eight 50g bags, also sold to the bed and breakfast as well as some bottles of syrup.

Moreover, there is people passing by to buy syrup and jams, we all are in the basement, making beer, selling products and talking to the tourists.

Anja also receives an order of 10 litres of syrup from a famous pub in Ljubljana. We agree that since we are passing by tomorrow afternoon we will deliver the syrup.

Our last morning in Jezersko

Since all the balm has been sold, Matej asks us to make more. This is the activity that occupies our morning together with cleaning.

We have one last lunch with Matej and Anja. She cooks -with M’s help- a soup with the vegetables from the garden, served with home-made bread. Eggs-dipped-fried-bread with sugar is the perfect dessert for this simple and delicious meal. After our last Turkish coffee we leave with the syrup heading to Ljubljana.

Slovenian capital City

Ljubljana is quite small to be an European capital. It counts 294.113 inhabitants and it is located in the middle of the country at 300m above the sea level. It is a nice city, with some beautiful corners and classy buildings. The castle that dominates the town is worth a visit and allows for an interesting overview of the urban area.

After delivering the syrup, we head towards the parking we found online where we will be spending the night. It’s just behind a Mercator (Slovenian supermarket) and costs 12 euros for 24 hours, there is also an access to electricity -useless for us, with our panel we are independent.

We then walk to the city centre and wonder around. We buy a plastic-free solid shampoo (we are afraid not to find any in Slovakia) and have a beer in the main square -bought in the closest supermarket.

At 6pm we meet a friend of M, they met a few years ago in South Korea, volunteering in a hostel in Busan. He brings us to a vegan fast food where we have a very nice falafel wrap. We eat it in a bar not far drinking one last Lasko -Slovenian most common beer. Around us it’s raining very heavily, luckily the tarpaulin over our heads seems to be holding the water pretty well.

We then go back to the van. When we arrive at the parking we are soaked with water and tired. The night in the parking lot is calm and restful.

Heading to Hungary...

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