The Julian Alps

How to see the Alps without driving or hopping on a huge tour bus? Book Tina, recommended by Rick Steves, for a day-long tour in her van. She picked us up at 8:00 and proceeded just a few minutes outside of Bled to a small village known for its 18th century beekeeper and the wonderful painted bee panels.historic bee shed

The pictures, meant to help the bees remember where home was, are based on Bible stories and folklore.  beehive pictures wife beating husand, barkeep trying to serve another drink

Soon enough we came to the first of many, many gorgeous views of the Alps. first stop for photos alpsFrom here it was one wonderful view after another, first as we ascended the Russian Road, constructed by Russian prisoners of war during WWI, and consisting of 50 switchbacks. Partway up is the charming Russian chapel, Russian chapel along Russian road (pass over the alps) IMGP4155chillingly constructed to commemorate the death of hundreds of Russian POWs in an avalanche in 1916 (?).

On the way up, we stopped here for coffee, alps by our coffee stopand Tina pointed out the amazing rock formations.  the hole in the mountainHere are some words about the so-called Front Window. IMGP4162 At the top of the pass, we found a number of sheep bleating piteously at the tourists.sheep at the top of the pass

Tina offered us both a sip of blueberry brandy from a little leather case where she stored tiny metal stirrup cups. quick stop for blueberry brandy and postcards, top of Vrsic passIf you can’t be Slovene until you climb Mt. Triglav (she’s climbed it three times), then you can’t say you’ve been to the mountains until you’ve sipped brandy at the top.

From here we could see two valleys, the Trenta Looking into the Trenta valleyand the Soca, one carved out by a glacier and the other by a river. The views continued to be spectacular as we wended our way back down.  view into the Trenta valley another cloud over the mountainWe stopped for our picnic by a statue of the man who most loved these mountains. Statue of the man who first explored this area

Then we headed down, down, down to the Soca River, a clear green river that has carved out deep troughs in the landscape. one day I will walk thisOne view was from a suspension bridgeSoca river and mountains from the suspension bridge

– Tina took the pictures while I cowered partway over –

and then from little byways which we would never have found on our own. This was one of the most impressive.IMGP4213Here are some words about these so-called river troughs.they arespectacular

The Soca Valley was also the site of lots of WW1 battles, as mentioned in Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. strong fightersTina stopped at a cemetery that is used now cemetry in the Soca valleybut also has a memorial to the soldiers of the then Austro-Hungarian army who died in the war. memorial to the Austro-Hungarian soldiersThere’s a 16-mile path along the river that I would love to take one day…Soca river and mountains

We returned via another pass, not so dramatic but beautiful all the same.on the way up the second pass

In the course of this part of the trip, we visited Italy for about 20 minutes, without ever needing to show a passport.We enter Italy without any notice taken

Tina told wonderful stories about traveling to Austria and Italy under Tito to buy shoes, dresses, and other wonderful things, always telling Customs that all they had was groceries – witness the bag of coffee, toilet paper and detergent. Of course, one time the six-year-old Tina, when her mother replied in the usual way, had to say, “But, Mama, what about the new shoes we bought?” To say nothing of the friends who bought a refrigerator. They had to declare it, of course, but inside were a TV and VCR that went unmentioned…

We came back into Slovenia to see the world’s highest ski-jump, a terrifying sight, which was to be the site the next day of a run up and down the jump. I can hardly imagine!biggest ski jump (flight) in the world

Tina dropped us off at the Mayer after a day that was exhausting but unforgettable. Brilliant skies, good and informative guiding, and a resolve to return again one day.mountains from the valley

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