14 May, 2007

Vršič Pass and the Soča River

The Vršič Pass is the only direct route through Triglav National Forest and consists of 52 switchbacks. It was freezing at the highest point, snow on the ground and everything. We took a short break and then jumped back in the car where we headed to a much warmer Bovec, home of the Soča River, one of the rare rivers that retains its stunning emerald color throughout their length. Most of the pictures of the river are right from our campsite. We were lucky enough to pitch our tents right on the banks. I have to say it was the coldest thing I've ever stepped into. We had bets one night on who could keep their feet in the longest. No one could go much longer than 15-20 seconds and we all agreed that around 10 it started to hurt.

The Boka Waterfall. There's a nice little hike up to the base of the falls which we didn't have time for....something for next time.

Vintgar Gorge

Slovenian Climbing

We found some spots in the Triglav National Forest to climb for a few days. This one is right next to the Soca River. Easily accessible, with some fun climbs and a bit of bouldering.
Sandra, making her way up our first climb.
Pierre...hopefully not sitting in sheep poop, which was plentiful.

David sailing up some mystery climb since we didn't have a guide book

Me looking strong right before I fail on the mystery climb :)

The Rog Forest, Base 20, Life-Sized Chess and Volcano Pizza


Kočevski Rog is a large plateau is southern Slovenian covered in forest. It was the safe haven of the Slovene Communist Party during WWII where 26 hospitals and many mini-settlements were built (Baza 20). Two hospitals and one settlement of 26 buildings remain. The combination of well camouflaged buildings and an advanced security system helped them survive the war undiscovered. During the winter it was forbidden to leave, as any footprints in the snow could give them away.

oooh, the bathrooms. Four holes one right next to the other. So much for privacy.

We just happened to be travelling with two chess freaks. The first few days, Sandra and I waited eagerly to start our days or even go to dinner while Pierre and David played epic 2-3 hour games of chess. This is the per game time, I kid you not. While visiting the forest we stayed in Dolenjske Toplice, which just happened to have a life sized chess board. Sandra and I played the queens.

"Hey look at our family sized volcano pizza girls?...Doesn't it look good? We have no idea that it's smothered in Tabasco sauce and full of jalapeño peppers. Hahaha, it's a Volcano pizza, I wonder why they call it a Volcano???""WOAH, this pizza IS like a Volcano! But Pierre we don't eat lots of spices we're French, what are we going to do? Can we eat all this pizza???""Hmmmm, let's eat some of this pizza and figure out what we're going to do about this"

Drinking Cockta (c'est bon pour toi) at the Salt Pans

We started along the coast of the Adriatic in Piran. Just along the Slovenian/Croatian border on the Adriatic, they still have old salt pans, where salt is produced the traditional way. The floor of each rectangular segment that you see below is coated with a mixture of minerals that keeps the salt from mixing with the soil. Then after the water evaporates a little and the water is completely saturated, it starts to gather on the floor and people come around and gather it by hand. There is mini rail system, which you can also see below. They push the carts along the tracks to gather the salt from each plot.We were supposed to see a demonstration but appartently we missed them all. Instead, Pierre gave us his own well informed, highly technical demonstration. There is something in Slovenia called Cockta. We found it for half a euro in the salt pan vending machine. Intrigued, Sandra and I decided we had to have it. It was quite possibly the most disgusting thing, besides cuttlefish, that I have ever tasted. We passed it back and forth to each other, thinking that maybe the next sip wouldn't be so bad. It tasted like Coke with Lemon and too much syrup. We wouldn't suggest buying a Cockta if you come to Slovenia.

Škocjan Caves

Back to Slovenia again. This time with a car, David, Pierre and Sandra.
Our first stop in Slovenia were the famous Škocjan Caves. They're a series of 11 limestone caves in the Karst region (SW) of Slovenia. The Reka river runs through the cave and then underground for about 34km where it joins the Adriatic. When we joined the river at the end of the cave, we were about 50 feet above it, so the view was pretty amazing. And then of course they do the thing where they turn all the lights off in the cave so that you know how really far you are from natural light. Not exactly my favorite part :) I didn't take the picture above, it's courtesy of good old Wikipedia, we weren't allowed to take pictures.
This is where the river enters the cave, and where we exited. You can see the entrance to the cave in the top center.
And then the weather started to turn when we walked to the view point. So we headed back to the car where we met a Slovenian man who started to talk to us...which was interesting because we only know the basic, hello/goodbye/thank you/where is the gas station. But he kept on talking, we eventually made out that his parents own some property behind the church in the picture. Slovenians aren't typically put off by you not understanding them, they just keep on talking. But then we realized he spoke German, so Pierre talked and translated.

03 May, 2007

The Calanques 2

02 May, 2007

Marseille and the Calanques