We’ve just crawled into our sleeping bags under the awning of a 15th century church. I have some doubts about the legality of this arrangement, but it’s been a long day, my legs are sore, and Slovenia has some fairly restrictive wild camping laws.
Still, I’m not particularly enjoying the compulsion to rehearse my backstory every time I hear a footstep. Or a voice.
Considering how stressed this is making me, I suspect I’m not cut out for a life of crime.
Kris and I set out this morning from Postonja, taking a bus that passed through progressively more stunning terrain until we were dropped off at the Razdrto bus stop. We fired up the GPS, the satellite tracker, and the five separate apps* we’ll be using to navigate our way along this hike. And then promptly walked in the wrong direction. This will be reflected in our sadly un-editable GPS tracks.
After figuring out that we were actually supposed to be following the fairly obvious sign labelled ‘Nanos’, we headed over a highway and up a six hundred metre mountain. They don’t really ease you into things around here.
The climb up Nanos was a slightly rude reminder that, despite what we encountered on the Pennine Way, not all of Europe is cold, wet and boggy. In fact it was much more like hiking in Australia. For starters it was hot. And there’s actually insects here – the eternal chirping of various critters was something I didn’t realise I’d missed in England.
(Now I can hear a horse galloping in the paddock below us. Is it running from a bear? wonders my anxious brain. Should we have tied our food up a tree? Is that something people actually do?)
Close to the summit we crossed paths with a stream of brightly coloured fit people. Turns out there was a 100 km ultra-marathon today, which we were briefly (and slowly) following the path of. Clusters of supporters sat on the the hillside yelling ‘Bravo!’ and clanging cymbals as each runner passed. Thankfully, they tactfully ignored our pack-laden waddle.
At the summit we lunched by the five star resort that passes as a mountain hut here. A group of kids played football (soccer, but I’m being European) in the field beside us, scoring injuries and dramatic goals in equal measure.
Heading down the hill, we began the post-lunch slog, stopping for a breather in the lovely village of Strane. There’s been a few moments today where I’ve just been knocked out by how pretty Slovenia is, and the descent into Strane is one of them. The seems to be an endless supply of wildflower meadows and rolling fields for us to stroll through. I could live here.
A few fields later and Predjamski grad (= castle) comes into site. It really is stunning up close, and luckily there’s a cafe underneath it for others who think the same. Citing the need for wi-fi, we stop here for a quick drink to take the edge off the burning sun.
Three hours later we’ve finished our dinner (and our €1 glasses of wine) and decided it’s dark enough to set up camp under the awning of a nearby church. One of the things I love about Europe is it’s long days (around 16 hours from sunrise to sunset at the moment) but it does make trespass camping just a little more difficult. That’s where I am now, bundled in my sleeping bag, on the nicely warmed flagstones in front of the church. It’s surprisingly comfortable here.
I think I can safely say that Slovenia is as close to a fairy tale as any place I’ve ever been. This land is dramatic, with mountains giving way to pine forests giving way to red-roofed villages all in a few kilometres. And then there’s another mountain, so close that when you’re on one mountain you have the bizarre sense of being not beside but above its neighbour – these sorts of views are usually reserved for helicopters.
Despite this, the landscape doesn’t feel crowded; all the green is tied together by white: the limestone cliffs, the pale bark of the pines, and the uniformly whitewashed houses. Together with the ever present terracotta roofs, you end up with a colour scheme more commonly associated with Slovenia’s neighbour, Italy – green, white and red.
Well, I’m starting to worry about both the phone battery and the way the screen probably turns my face into some kind of beacon, so I’d say that’s enough for tonight. One day down, only eighty-nine to go.
* Garmin Earthmate for tracking, Outdooractive for route information, Google Maps for food finding, MyMaps for the most recent GPS tracks, and Maps.ME for halfway decent offline maps.
Slovenia, Stage 1
Start and end points: Bus stop at Razdrto to Predjama
Approximate distance: 16.5 km
Villages: (Postonja) – Razdrto – Strane – Smihel pod Nanosum – Predjama
Features: Nanos Plateau – Pleŝa (1262 m) – Vojkova koča na Nanosu (Vojkova mountain hut) – Sveti Bric (Bric church) – Predjamski grad (Predjama castle)