Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Slovenia Pt. 2- The Julien Alps

The suburbs of Chicago, with strip mall and chain restaurant-lined boulevards connecting shopping center to residential subdivision, hardly constitute cities. But despite spending my formidable years in the suburbs, my blood has always pulsed to the beat of the big city. Yes, I was that annoying (naive?) kid, who, at 12, thought she was old enough to individually navigate a major metropolis and savvy enough to understand the inner-workings and demands of those choosing skyscrapers over subdivisions. 

The luxury of Europe, though, is that city life is easily complimented by quiet countryside. The suburban sprawl lamented in moody, nostalgic songs is still existent, but undoubtedly takes a different shape; the smaller distances between crisscrossing, traffic-filled streets and crisscrossing, mud-filled hiking trails make weekend escapes or adventures into natural landscapes much easier to come by.

Ljubljana is the perfect example. A two hour drive north west and you're standing on peaks in the Alps yoddeling into Italy and Austria. A one to two hour drive south and you're jumping off the craggy Croatian shoreline into the Dalmatian Sea. 

climbing through Triglav national park

mountaintop footie
steps from the monastery to the shoreline on Lake Bled's island

"Nerd Camp"'s convenient location allowed us to exploit non-study hours and to profit from such a choice of landscapes. We took day trips to eat vanilla cakes on the shores of Lake Bled and to paddle the inefficient traditional boats to lake's central island/monastary. We hiked to the source of the Sava River and watched water cascade over white rocks, falling down the mountains of Triglav National Park and into Lake Bohinj. We drank big beers and jumped off bridges into the water, still cool from the springs a few kilometers up into the mountains- quite the respite at 4pm when the sun is battering you with 35 degree heat. 

source of the sava river


After courses ended, though, we hopped in the car and drove past Bled, past Bohijn, and deeper into Triglav, over the mountain ridges, finally following the perfectly turquoise Soča River towards the Italian border. We were largely alone in this incredible valley, save for Italian motorcyclists constantly passing me on the narrow, winding roads. Never mind the harrowing drive- we counted 12 switch backs/hair pin turns in the 3km uphill from the main road to the house we rented-  this place is the essence of perfect, natural beauty. Peaks hang overhead and in the distance. White rocks and boulders line the shores of the river. The water runs clear, cold and impossibly blue. Scrabbling over the rocky river bank towards its source, with the quietness of great mountains surrounding us, a weighty thought kept crossing my mind: perhaps I'd be quite content to trade my metro pass and city flat for a pair of hiking boots and rustic Alpine cabin. But for now, I'll make peace with myself knowing that the quiet found in the nook where two peaks meet the valley is just a short journey away. 

Soča River valley 

 wading the soča's ice cold waters