Monday, July 01, 2013

a reminder

Dear Ocean drop-ins, readers, friends -- It is that time: time to make connections, to worry about not being at the train station/airport on time, to move quickly form one place to the next, at the same time that I try to take it all in, every last detail: to memorize what I have learned from being elsewhere. 

In other words, it is time to go home.

My last post from Slovenia will be written (I hope) on the train to Milan. My last post from Europe will be posted (most likely) from Madison. In other words, Ocean, which is usually quite predictable, will, in these days of lengthy travels, fly into a tailspin.

So stick with me: I'll still publish each day. You know I will. It just wont be so predictably on schedule tomorrow, or the next day.

the hike

Why be tame, why soften up now -- just because the knees stiffen, the joints complain from overuse -- why indulge such nonsense?

Of course, in truth, I am a fair weather hiker. I like it when mountains aren't shrouded in misty rainy clouds. And a few other things -- me and mountains, we have a strange relationship. I'm fine with long steep hikes, but put me by a precipitous drop and I freeze. Ed has dealt with that before -- up in the Rockies, on loose stones, plunging to some unfathomable depths, I suddenly could not move. So, no sudden drops, please. But good views! With a good challenge in the ascent. And, since we are in the Alps -- some alpine scenes. Flowers maybe? Animals grazing? And Ed is into history and there is a lot of it here, so it would be good to encounter some of it.

If this sounds like a hefty request, well it is. But I put it to our hosts who, after all, grew up here, farm here, raise their children and grandchildren here and know these mountains intimately.

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Of course, they cannot deliver good weather. Urska, one of the daughters (there are two and they run the guest house along with their parents and maybe a spouse or two and some kiddies and kitties), tells me it's been weird here this year. A cold spring. And then a really hot week and then more rain, constant rain, really strange.

Yes, well, we're familiar with all that. No one back home would call this year's spring "normal." But at least we don't have this one additional worry that the little hamlet on the mountainside shoulders. Ed asks about it, noting a huge hole in the forest up the mountainside. An avalanche?

Yes, in 2001. First there was a small one -- in the middle of the night. The sound was terrible -- like all the trees being snapped in two. They evacuated the village. And then came the bigger one and luckily it stopped above us. After, the experts came and they studied it and said the danger is not so high now.

I tell Ed later -- I surely would not like to live in the path of an avalanche.
He shrugs -- every place has its burden. Tornadoes. Hurricanes. Wildfires.  Ever the realist.

So, first a photo of the mountains, just before dawn. Oh, it's going to be a brilliant day!


Then a farm breakfast...

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...and  we set out, following Urska's suggestion: Krasji Vrh -- a summit just to the north of the village. After, if we're still game, a hike to the neighboring valley, to one of sites of the Soca Front battle scenes. Again, I give you the photos and limited words.

We find the trail head late. I look at my watch: it's 11:15 when we finally start hiking.

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Much of it is, of course, through the forests. But every time we come to a clearing, there are the flowers. Different combinations, always delicately enchanting.

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There are several decision points -- which peak, which view, which direction. Here's one of them. (The Slovenian language has words with no vowels in them. How about that! Vrh is one of them.)

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The trees thin out, the views begin.

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And into the valley below (yes, there's a paraglider).

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Then the trees disappear altogether. Meadowland and rocks. And flowers. And butterflies. (They pick this particular flower for tea here.)

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And adorable sheep. (Our farmers send their flock into the mountains in the spring and they don't see them again until fall.)

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The views? Magnificent!

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We are now high enough to see the chain of the Julian Alps unfold, all the way to Italy and beyond.

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 To the south, of course, our valley. (The thin brown strip on the forested mountain is the site of the avalanche. The ribbon to the right is the Soca River.)

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Impossible to position the camera well. But, the twosome photo anyway.

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And then we reverse ourselves, walk halfway down, through that incredible forest of stone and twisted tree...

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...and we take a detour, crossing over to the valley just below the Globoko mountain ridge. We come across an old cheese farm. No electricity here. Just pastureland and lots of cows. And a Sunday family gathering. Ed waits while I take a handful of photos.

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Ready to be milked (note the thick leather belt for the heavy bell).

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Kids, at home with the cows.

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Needed tools and stools.

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Family gathering.

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Boy with dog and pigs.

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The cheese farm from a distance.

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Mountains, as viewed from the valley.

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And from here, we hike the Peace Trail -- to the Zaprikraj trenches of World War I. It is at once a numbing and chilling experience to walk through them (literally so -- the trenches are, even on this warm day, damp and cold).

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Lots to think about. Details of history to review, to try to make sense, to understand.

And then we reverse, heading downhill, passing the pasture lands again.

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...Where many calves are taking in their evening supper.


Along the path -- Alpine fraises de bois! Yes, I eat them. Ed thinks fraises de bois taste like detergent. He is so wrong -- they are exquisite! (I know them well from my childhood years in Poland).

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Back in our valley now. Goats -- with one kid scampering ahead to take the lead.

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The sun is quickly retreating.

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 Time to rake in the hay and hang it on those rods to dry.


And we're retreating too, only not to our farm guest house. We were concerned that we wouldn't make it back in time for dinner (as it turns out, we just finished our hike at around 7) and so we told them in advance that we'd eat in the village below -- in Kobarid.

Wouldn't you know it,  this small village -- population just a tad over 1000 -- has a couple of pretty good eating venues -- ones with a pronounced Italian influence. (Small wonder -- the village was Italian until 1947.) We eat at a place just in the town center and I straddle the two worlds with my food -- the Adriatic scampi in a tomato sauce and the river trout from the mountains. Delicious, both of them.

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The drive up to our hamlet seems trivial now. Five, six kilometers up a winding road. Could do it with eyes closed. Maybe not quite that, though those eyes closed awfully quickly upon our return. Seven and a half hours in the mountains will do that to you.