Coming from Colorado (and now living in California) I exist in a car heavy world. I know there are places in both Colorado and California where you can, and many people do, live without a car. However, IN GENERAL people have cars and use their cars. When I meet people abroad and they ask about visiting the United States I ALWAYS recommend getting/renting/borrowing a car in order to see the highlights of America. In Europe things are different. Distances are shorter and there are far more regional, domestic and international forms of transport to get you to where you want to go. It is easy to plan a trip in which you only use public transport. I am discovering, however, that just like the United States, Europe has truly beautiful gems hidden away from bus and train lines and that a rental car is often the only practical way (I mean, you COULD pay for a taxi) to discover natural wonders wherever you may be.
Driving the Julian Alps was on the original itinerary for Slovenia when Logan and I came last year. We were going to suck it up and pay for a rental car just this one time. And then we extended our trip three additional weeks and many of our more expensive days trips got cut from our to-do list in order to pay for the extra travel time. So, this time around, with my over 25 year old travel companion (my mom) I knew I would make up the windy-beautiful pass and down into the Soca River Valley.
The drive up the mountain is pretty steep and the curves the very definition of “hairpin”. This is not a drive for the faint of heart or those without excellent manual transmission driving skills (luckily my mom has nerves of steel and is a driving pro). The road was built by Russian prisoners of war during World War I and as you wind your way up and up and up there are some reminders of the men who made this trip possible, including a small Russian church, made from wood from the surrounding forest.
We embraced our inner tourist selves for the day and stopped practically at every turn off to take pictures and enjoy the beauty of each vista. One of my favorite spots had stacked rocks just like the ones we saw in Scotland (made for the fairies!). Coming over the top of the pass and heading down into the valley the road follows the river and we made a few more stops in order to stand on rickety wooden suspension bridges and obsess over the water beneath us.
Our final destination for the day was the small town of Kobarid and we arrived just in time for a late lunch. After dropping our bags we checked out the main square and decided to get pizza. I feel at this point I should mention that at home neither my mom nor I eat gluten (we both have an intolerance, not an allergy). I discovered last year that the flour used in most of Europe doesn’t bother me like the flour at home (maybe because it’s not genetically modified here?), so I took full advantage of all the pasta and pizza I could forcibly eat. My mom was curious to test her own intolerance here and was thrilled to find out that she doesn’t react negatively to gluten here either!! So, it’s been pasta and pizza and beer any chance we get. This pizza was a particular favorite, with smoked salmon on top.
After gorging ourselves on delicious pizza we took a little afternoon hike to Kozjak Falls. This trailhead is a walk able distance from town, but we drove instead (because cars are faster and we were full). The trail is beautiful and not difficult and it ends in a beautiful in a beautiful canyon with a waterfall.
On the way back to town we decided to take a bit of a drive. We wandered aimlessly, not sure of where we really were, but enjoying the trees and mountains around us and the freedom of having a car. We stumbled upon a little town (name unknown) with a beautiful white church on top of a hill that happened to have a perfect rainbow over it. It’s amazing the things you can find if you let yourself get a little lost.