Out of the mountains and into the rolling hillside. It was time to leave the horror of overly-technical trails behind and prance through lush meadows all the way to the Adriatic coast. Well not quite… but actually better in a way.
We had arrived at Lake Bohinj (the ½ way point) tired, sore and unenthusiastic. Thinking if we focused on going fast, Rosie chalked up an ambitious schedule to knock the rest of the trail off in 8 speedy days hoping athletic challenge and the exhilaration of running again would revive us. The tone of the remaining 200km would be “Let’s get it over and done with, I’m sick of lugging this bag everywhere”.
Of course nothing written down on a map tends to go to plan and our theme was disrupted and affably replaced on the first night.
We ran through bountiful vegetable gardens and orchards full of apples and plums en route to a local “Gostilna” (the Slovenian version of an Osteria or Inn) with a reputation for great food. Seeing the beautifully manicured lettuce patches and buckets of pears swarming with honey bees, we realised we’d gotten it all wrong. “Supercharged and superfast” would be a wasted opportunity to experience the fruit bowl of Slovenia, and there the “Gluttonous gastronomic tour of Eastern Slovenia” began!
We started off easy, with pork neck with rich sauce, high-carb Gnocchi, sugary desserts, and debilitating (for Rosie) local cheese and dairy galore.
The inn keeper’s passion for food beamed from his face as he proudly spoke of the cheese and ham from his mates down the road and his fresh veges grown ten meters away. As a country heavily influenced by Austria, Italy and its Balkan neighbours, Slovenia was generously offering up all the spoils that New Zealanders tend to consider to be ambiguously “European”.
Then wine drinking crept in. We crossed the beautiful Vipava valley, taking a detour from the official trail to swap a summit excursion with a fantastic wine tasting adventure.
Crossing through vineyards between quaint little villages we stopped at “JEIJ”, a winery with a decent enough web presence to make us feel like we would be welcomed with a little tour and some tasting, only to find we had interrupted Marlon Brando’s mother hanging out her washing. Charmingly, the old lady (who of course didn’t speak a word of english) finished hanging the last of her shirts and served us a local red straight from the vat. We followed her around the cellar as she pointed at things, lifted covers and waved her hands around speaking Slovenian. All round great fun!
We then trotted along to a more organised fare at the local information centre. We tasted a huge range of biodynamic and single origin wines from across the valley while we asked dumb questions to the very knowledgeable hostess.
“Do they crush the wine by foot?”
“No, no, no. Oh well maybe the old lady at Jeij does…you got a very traditional experience there!”
My low alcohol tolerance was certainly not aided by my new fastpacking generated low body fat % and I was in full Asian flush after our lunch of grilled local trout and yet more wine.
Nothing an 800m ascent to our farmhouse accommodation couldn’t fix.
A cave tour to see some limestone stalactites and mites capped off an amazing six day tour of the east setting us up for a big 52km finale. And while it may not sound athletic, elite or remotely adventurous, the “Fastpack Journal wine and food tour of southeastern Slovenia” really fitted what we came here to do: engross ourselves in the local culture through slow-paced travel. European fastpacking at its finest!
Written by Jeff
The Slovenska Planinska Pot
A lesser known long distance trail that traverses the width of Slovenia. The trail is only 400km long but is effectively a peak bagging route with long stages and difficult ascents, often via ferrata which we will probably skip. The trail starts in Slovenia’s second major city – Maribor, traverses the Kamnik-Savinja alps, kisses the Austrian border, proceeds to climb almost everything in the Julian alps including Triglav (2,864m), before tailing off into the Adriatic coast near Trieste in Italy.
Even though we were only halfway, this is effectively the final run to the coast. The scenery and trails are still spectacular, particularly the Gora escarpment offering amazing views over the Vipava valley and out to the bay of Trieste in the Adriatic. Interesting sight seeing too at the UNESCO heritage sites in Idrija (castle) and Divača (caves).
Food and wine is GREAT in this region!
Distance: 162km in 6 days
Difficulty: Certainly not an absence of hill climbs, some were pretty tough after 6 glasses of wine at lunch…
Also published on Medium.