I took the road to Uccea to cross the border with Slovenia. A winding road desperately climbing up the forest and the rocky mountain walls. On the road some fallen rocks. The topography was dramatic and the fog and drizzle made everything even more mystical.
There was no one there and I was happy: I could drive relaxed and didn’t have to queue at the customs. After 30-40 minutes (and ca. 20 switchbacks) at about 1 km from the customs: booom! …The road was closed. Nooooo!
“They are fixing the road. There is a sign in the valley indicating that the road is closed!” I hear myself being scolded by a woman who worked in a small bar in Uccea (and who didn’t won miss-sympathy). I smiled trying to raise up my karma: ‘I just followed the sign “Slovenia” and there was nothing indicating that the road is closed’. Well, nothing to do. I turned back, retracing the 20 switchbacks and informing other adventurers that the passage was impracticable.
I thought the border crossing at Tarvisio would be an agony. What worried me most was that I was missing a veterinary certificate for Dimitri … there was not a soul in sight. The Slovenian customs, a bit shabby with its broken shutters, was deserted.
After few kilometer without hesitation I took a road that pointed to a national park. I admit it: I had no idea where and what to see in the greenest country of Europe. In fact, for some arcane reason I thought I would cross Slovenia fairly quickly.
Love at first sight. Pure nature. Wilderness. Clean. Well preserved. The weather was horrendous and despite the fog and rain the landscape and atmosphere was enchanting … the road a little less: narrow, steep and winding, partly cobbled … better than the road to Uccea, but still a sort of ‘déjà vu’.
But what are those numbers? 17, 18 … aaaah! It’s the number of the switchbacks. Damn, I’ve already done 18! … 25, 26 … what the hell?! Some cyclo-travellers in the opposite direction: very tired faces, soaking wet clothes. I was glad to be in my Pajero. The heating on. Lovely music in background. Warm feet. I remember that sensation to cycle in awful weather conditions … 32, 33 … Geeeeez! I started to be tired … 41, 42, 43 … oooooh pleeeeease! … 50, 51! Yep, that was the road in Val Trenta. Apparently this road is quite famous for its 51 steep switchbacks. This means that in one afternoon I drove 91 switchbacks … what a champion (ironic).
But more than the road it was the weather that tired me. Pouring, interminable rain. One day it seemed like they were throwing buckets of water on the windscreen. Humidity through the roof. Humid clothes. Humid sleeping bags. Humid cat. It was really uncomfortable.
Fortunately there were meetings to warm up the heart. In front of the Boka waterfall a car with Ticino plates (!) pulls up beside me. Immediately a pleasant chat began with Marica (of Slovenian origin) and Tino. We ended up in a bar in Kobarid over a cappuccino. Or the super nice couple Dario and Francesca with whom we shared many opinions, laugh and life philosophies. And the very sweet Dutch couple with their two small children with whom we exchanged travel experiences. And then of course the locals: very friendly (and very talented with the Italian language!), proud and attached to customs and traditions. All this sweetened by a genuine, locally sourced and delicious cuisine.
I knew practically nothing about Slovenia. Taking the time to visit a part of it allowed me to learn more about its culture, traditions and history.
To think that the beautiful valley where the enchanting river Soca (Isonzo) flows was the scene of major battles during the First World War … More than 300’000 between Italians and Austro-Hungarians fell … if the riverbanks could speak! I kept thinking about how many young men died in this region. Surely as young as those who come here today for a dose of adrenaline by practicing rafting, canyoning and other activities …
I would have liked to have seen more. I could have, actually, but I wanted to continue my route south, not to miss the autumn colours of other Balkan regions of which I had heard very very very good things… and I think I did just right! But I will tell you about that in the next post.
Stefi and Dimitri