Kobarid, Slovenia

Tucked in the mountains on the extreme western edge of Slovenia is the tiny town of Kobarid.  You may be familiar with the town without knowing it as it featured in Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.  During World War I it was the front line between Italian and Austro-Hungarian forces. You should read up on it as the history is interesting.  After many battles the Italians retreated but were given the area after the war(Spoils to the victor). In the hills surronding the town you can still find trenches and embattlements, but those days of fighting are long past.  Now this beautiful area is a nature lovers and adverturers paradise.

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The town proper has a small main street with a hotel and restaurants.  There is the Kobarid museum, a school, quite a few guide shops(one selling my favorite outdoor wear, Prana), and of course, houses.  Surrounding the town are a few campgrounds and mountains full of well marked trails, both hiking and biking.  But the main attraction is the Soca River.  This colorful river hosts kayakers, swimmers, and rafters.  There are a few bridges offering fantastic views.  By following little crystal clear streams that enter into the Soca you will come to some impressive slap(Slovenian for waterfall, perhaps named after the sound they make).

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Make Kobarid a stop on your trip through Slovenia.  The campgrounds are fantastic(Detailed in another post), the pizza at the restaurants delicious, the river and waterwalls beautiful.  There is nothing not to like.  Kayak or raft down the river, hike or bike up the mountains, travel back to World World I by standing in the embattlements and visiting the museum.  Then spend a day relaxing , just staring at the mountains and breathing in the fresh air.

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Slovenia-Overview

Toast and coffee in hand(and mouth), I stare out the window of the cafe pondering if Slovenia is the most beautiful country I have been to.  Not this exact location per se, as this area of Maribor, the second largest city of a whopping 90,000 population, is drab communist concrete and grey.  The overcast skys and rain don’t help raise the atmosphere.  My current view aside, the country on a whole is in league with New Zealand and other top players.

This tiny country of two million sits comfortably between Italy, Austria, Croatia, and Hungary.  The Eastern portion is made up of rolling hills that flatten out as you enter Hungary.  The West is full of majestic mountains, there is a beautiful lake near the center, and for beachlovers there is a tiny coastline in the Southwest.  The Soca river is a beautiful glacier color.  As far as nature goes the country is perfect.  Tunnels and bridges are commonplace and offer fantastic views of the countryside.  The roads are perfect, like pretty much everything else.  Slovenia is using EU money extremely well, unlike some other recipients(I’m looking at you Hungary and all your missing EU cash).  2017-09-17-1053.jpg

The people are fantastic as well.  Most speak English as well as a few other languages.  Croatian, Serbian, Italian, German being quite popular.  They are nice and service was top notch.  The service industry doesn’t ignore you as Eastern European countries do and they aren’t begging for tips or sales as Americans do.  My number one compliment to the people is to acknowldge their cleanliness.  There was no rubbish to be seen.  Not in city centers, roadsides, or on mountain trails.  I take that back, I did see rubbish in dumpsters and trash cans.  I was amazed.  I have never seen such a well taken care of country.

Slovenia is not just for nature lovers, though it is a paradise for hiking, biking, camping, skiing, motorbiking, paragliding, kayaking, climbing, and all other outdoor pursuits.  It is also rich in World War I history.  The mountains were the setting for massive battles between the Austo-Hungarians and Italians.  You can still walk through the trenches and see the defensive lines. Russian prisioners of war built the most impressive road I have ever been on.  It climbs straight up a mountain with dozens of switchbacks.  Many were killed building it and so the survivors built a pretty memorial church at the top of the pass to honor them.  My apologies to owls and partiers, I have no idea about Slovenian nightlife.  2017-09-17-1055.jpg

Food is a mix of neighboring countries.  Slovenia does not have its won food culture.  Sorry foodies.  The pizza is delicious and the local beer, Lasko, tastes like an IPA to me.  I wasn’t a fan.

Even the small things are awesome.  One example is that speed cameras are everywhere but there are multiple warning signs well before all of them.  It appears to be impossible to get a speeding ticket even if you drive with blinders on.

It does rain a lot, but that is to be expected in any green country.  I love the rain and having coffee on foggy mornings so this isn’t a negative to me.  Bring a jacket and remember that water dries and doesn’t hurt.

Visit Slovenia as soon as possible.  See Lake Bled, camp in the mountains, kayak the Soca, and take a city break in Ljubljana(just hope you never need to spell it).  Hell, if you pay my way I’ll join you and be your personal guide.  You will get a small amount of information wrapped in layers of sarcasm and wit.

 

Mammoth Lakes, California

Paradise on Earth exists, and Mammoth Lakes be its name.  Actually there are quite a few paradises on this globe of ours and this definitely is one of them.  L1040325

Sitting near the border of Nevada and California this area sits.  Driving in from the Nevada side does not look promising. Brush covered desert with barren rolling hills and snow capped mountains in the distance.  The one sight you will pass on your journey is a disgusting mud hole.  Here you must stop and cover yourself in therapeutic mud.  At least a salesman once convinced someone else that it was therapeutic and that belief has continued unabated to this day.  L1040328

My how the scenery changes once you enter the lakes.  Beautiful hills, pine trees, water like glass, and beautiful flowers surround you.   Take your pick of how to enjoy this pristine nature.  Row out on a lake, hike a well kept trail, sit in camp drinking a few cold ones with friends, or sun yourself behind a waterfall.  Nature is yours to do with as you please.  L1040341

Take a few days and explore.  Hike up to the top of a cliff overlooking a lake and enjoy a secluded picnic.   Go off the beaten path and find a new adventure, such as getting face to face with a bear and live to write about it.  L1040363L1040376

One day must be devoted to Devils Postpile National Monument.  An incredible natural formation of rock.  It takes a little bit of a hike from the entrance to get but everyone should go.  If you need help get somebody to carry you or crawl or hire a pack mule(Bring your own as they are not available on location). Climb on them, lay down on them, take lots of pictures and enjoy.  Do not to miss this formation.  L1040370.JPG

There is one item that impresses me that is not of nature and that is the locals.  They are a weird bunch.  I have not seen a dog groom anywhere else in the world.  L1040332