Sunday, June 30, 2013

the Julian Alps

A truck parks in a field of flowers. It's full of beehives - stacked, colorfully, as is the custom here, one on top of another. Above it -- haze of flying honey bees.

I want a photo of this, but I already pulled off the road, two minutes ago to take a snapshot of a woman working in her stationary hives. (The colors apparently help the bees come back to the right hive.)

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...and for the  goats, perched on the remains of ... something.

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... and perhaps most importantly, for the Soca River -- a color so unique, that you think -- must be algae. Except it isn't. It's all in the particles of limestone here. It's quiet just at this stretch.

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And then there were the photos I stopped for when we were discussing the curiously labor intensive way they have for stacking hay here.

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And of course, there were the views.

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So I let the truck with beehives go. You can't stop for everything.

We are driving from Bled to the Soca valley.

(Leaving early, saying good bye to our sweet little Penzion in Bled, with the pretty breakfast.)

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If you know your geography, you'll know that you have to cross the lower mountains to get from Bled to the Soca Valley. It's a short trip, mileage wise -- maybe 50? But my oh my, does it take a long while! The secondary road (that's all that you have to work with) twists and climbs. I'm in second gear nearly the whole time. And then it goes down -- a dizzying grade, switching, turning. We pass cyclists -- numerous ones. How do they do it?? It is so steep that near the bottom, I have to pause, get out, clear my head, which feels stuffed with cotton. Three hours, to cover such a short stretch of roadway!

If you know your history, your World War I history, you'll recognize the Soca Valley immediately: the place where soldiers died -- more than a million -- entrenched in the mountains that line the valley, Italian against the Austro-Hungarian army -- a horrible series of battles in brutal conditions. (Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms is based in large part on the Soca Front.)

We're staying for our last days in Europe right in the Soca Valley -- near the village of Kobarid. Well, actually, five kilometers up from it -- in the tiny village of Dreznica. Well, actually one kilometer up from that, in the hamlet of Kosec, which means "harvester," like this guy:


We are in the Julian Alps.

One consequence of this remoteness is that the internet, though available, doesn't do the tricks you're used to back home. Flickr photo uploads? Painful. One at a time. I had a choice -- give you a wordy post or a photo post. I chose the latter. I cannot do both.

So,  first, the drive now in the Soca Valley to the village Kobarid. We poke around a little here. Buy some cookies.

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Then, up the mountain toward Dreznice. Here it is, the most picture perfect tiny village (it has a church, but does it even have a store?)

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Arriving at the Kranjc family farm (and rural bed and breakfast and dinner)...


..where we have a room with a view!

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And by three in the afternoon, we are on the trails. Right from the hamlet (which itself has commanding views).

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We see two waterfalls on our trail -- one early on and it's a beaut!


The path is initially forested and so when we finally get a clearing, we take a pause.

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Then up again, up, up -- we use sticks, they help! And then it opens toward a pasture. With views.

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And this is probably the worst part of it for me -- I pause to take photos of the cows. You know, so Alpine bucolic. And oh, isn't that interesting how the bull is flaring his nostrils and making baying noises. (That's bull talk for  get the hell out here, but I did not understand.)

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Ed is up ahead. Suddenly, the bull has had enough of giving me hints. He leaves the pack and comes toward me. Briskly.


But, truthfully, what can Ed do (except to tell me after -- I can't believe you stood around taking photos when the bull was telling you to get lost!)

I was lucky. As I meekly retreated, saying kind words and looking humbled, he stopped, changed his mind and went back to the pack.

The sweat on that one was... tremendous.

Then comes the best part -- we climb through a forest again and come out on this Alpine meadow.

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Words cannot describe it. Photos (at least mine) are inadequate.

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And finally, we come to the final stretch (in total, it's a two hour climb and just about that on the descent)  and here, the sign says DANGER and I get a little nervous, but in truth, the trail is well maintained and in crucial parts, there are steel ropes embedded in the rocks to help you along.

And we come to the second of the waterfalls. It looks puny in the photo. In fact, it's just a faint shower of water. And it is absolutely beautiful.

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Okay, back we go. We are in a hurry. It's after 5 and dinner at the farm is promptly at 7.

Still, a couple of pauses are in order. For the flowers.


In the darkening forest.

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In the pasture, where the cows and bull had their say,  it's quiet now. They've gone on to graze elsewhere. The skies are cloudy, the views no less spectacular.

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Alright. Back at the farm, dinner could not be more fresh, more honest. Mushroom soup (we pick them by the waterfall!).

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We asked for no red meat and so we are spared the baby lamb. Chicken and cabbage and wild garlic tart. And potatoes.

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And dessert.

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And a cat, watching us stumble back, stiff, tired, to our room.