I have always been a water person. I love to be as near a large body of water as much as possible, and am constantly seeking out the chance to be close to the ocean.
About a year ago, my group of friends passed around the following question to one another:
If there was a hammock hanging with a view of the sea in front, and the mountains facing the back, which way would you choose to face?
It wasn’t a question for me, the answer was a no brainer. The sea. Always the sea.
Al and I spent the last three days exploring the Julian Alps in Slovenia, and for the first time, I started reconsidering my hammock answer.
The Julian Alps are the most beautiful mountains (or landscape for that matter) I have ever seen in my entire life, and I suddenly realized why people are so drawn to them. On top of how gorgeous they were, being near the mountains and so much nature meant that Al and I were outside and being active nearly every single moment of each day, which was a huge adjustment to what our bodies are used to.
At home in Chicago, I considered myself to be a relatively active person. I went to the gym five times a week and (weather permitting, which admittedly was much less than you’d think) tried to get outside for a walk or do some type of physical activity on the weekends. Then, I came to Slovenia and saw how active Slovenians are all the time, and I realized that I was nowhere near as active as I considered myself to be. They are constantly biking (completely uphill), hiking, walking somewhere, or doing some type of outdoor sport. Every single day. It seems the only time they sit is for meals. If I really think about it, I probably spent most of my waking hours at home sitting down at my desk, in a chair somewhere, or on my couch.
This all changed once we got to the mountains.
After we left our unexpected hotel room in Bled, we checked into our Airbnb about 10 minutes outside of Bled, in a tiny neighborhood called Lancovo, which is part of the bigger town, Radovljica. This turned out to be the perfect base for us to spend our days hiking and exploring Triglav National park, as well as getting a real feel for what life is like in Slovenia (thanks to our amazing Airbnb host). Over homemade Slovenian wine and fresh tomatoes paired with cheese that melts in your mouth, our host gave us every recommendation she had for things to do, as well as beautiful hikes to take in the area.
After that, we were out the door and constantly moving around. I couldn’t believe how many things we would fit in a day: hiking up waterfalls all morning, followed by an hour of canoeing, and a two hour hike before dinner in the evening. I am not saying any of this to brag, I am saying it out of amazement over how much being in an active environment can make a difference.
This is particularly significant when I think about the fact that after a day of work at home, Al and I would actually argue over having to go to CVS (which was basically connected to our building) to pick up toilet paper on a Tuesday night.
Al and I felt like we were spending days on end walking on some type of an uphill incline. When things would get particularly challenging, one of us would say to the other,
“Let’s do this. We gotta earn that Laško.’ (the local beer in Slovenia).
We would say it to encourage each other by imagining how good that cold beer at the end of the day was going to taste after we had spent the day earning it. And it really worked. The satisfaction of a Laško after so many hours of non-stop activity, was so much greater than having my favorite beer in the world after a day at work sitting behind my desk.
Here are some of the highlights over our 3 days in the mountains, and how we tried to earn those beers.
Radovlijca and the hike to Pusti Grad
The medieval old town of Radovlijca is a historic town built in front of a church dating back to the 1300’s, and was about a 20 minute walk uphill from our Airbnb. We loved walking around and reading about the history, and imagining what it was like for people walking the streets centuries ago. Another great memory was having wine next to the green hills filled with vines, mountain views, and beautiful ancient buildings.
Another highlight was the 2 hour hike we took from the old town to the remains of Pusti Grad, a medieval castle (that is relatively unknown, as there is very limited information on it) from around 1100.
The ‘trail’ went through winding dirt roads, huge mountain passes, fields with sweeping views of the surrounding land, and we would randomly run into herds of sheep or chickens crossing the road. Getting to the castle remains was an adventure in itself, and Al and I both felt like we were on some kind of medieval quest the entire time (gotta entertain ourselves somehow).
Some beautiful sights along the trail:
Bohinj Lake is about 35 minutes from lake Bled. When I was doing my research, I read that many people like it much more than Bled, reasoning that it is less touristy, still breathtakingly beautiful, and the water is even more clear than what you’ll see in Lake Bled.
I definitely can’t argue with any of those points. I found it to have a much more natural and ‘Slovenia’ feel to it, and there’s much more to do from an outdoorsy standpoint. Al and I spent our time in Bohinj hiking around the lake, and we even decided to rent a canoe (for 9 euro an hour) to get more up close and personal with the water. Al has been itching to swim into one of these lakes ever since we arrived, so he was finally able to check that first-week bucket list item off the list.
After canoeing, we walked uphill (again) for about 30 minutes to the famous Slap (waterfall) Slavica to get a glimpse of this natural beauty:
Triglav National Park
I probably need to write a whole separate post on Triglavski National Park. The park takes up a whopping 4% of Slovenia’s entire country, and is named after the highest mountain in the range, Mt. Triglav, standing at 2864 meters high. The Julian Alps are what make up the bulk of the park, but there are also lakes, giant waterfalls, miles of green forest, historic passes and museums from WWI, open Alpine meadows, caves, gorges, interesting vegetation, and SO much more.
The reason I want to write a separate post on this, is because there was so much to do that we almost felt overwhelmed with where to start. We wanted to see everything, but we weren’t sure which would be the best paths for us to hike, and attractions for us to see in just 3 days. Thankfully, we left so happy with what we were able to cover (but we still were left wanting more)
For now, I’ll just leave you with some of our favorites from the park:
This gives some of our highlights, but there is so much more to see and do, that we probably could’ve spent a month in this area, and still not see everything.
Our time in Lancovo is one of those experiences that I don’t think I will ever be able to put into words in the right way. There were days when I would wake up irritable, or homesick, but after only a few minutes into a hike or being in nature, the feelings would instantly melt away.
These days in the mountains made me realize more than ever, just how important it is for me to live somewhere that gives me access to this type of nature. Plus, that way I won’t have to feel bad about all the beers afterwards.
So, maybe I’ll just turn my hammock sideways from now on.