Oh my Lord, where does the time go? Like Lewis Carroll’s White Rabbit, I seem to be constantly chasing my tail with this blogging (I’m not sure I like that word very much) malarkey. (However, regular readers will recognise that I do rather like that one.) So with some gentle sense of alarm, I realise that tomorrow we must begin the homeward leg of our Croatian Odessey, yet the story of our trip so far still feels barely nascent.
There’s still so much to report (although I have, at least, now gleaned sufficient ‘blogging’ experience to realise that any attempt at a chronological story-line is futile) so am edging towards this being another of those catch-all, sweepy-uppy sort of pieces, which I will nevertheless try not to hurry.
So what more do you want to know? How our visit to the recommended ‘must-see’ locations of Bohinj (and subsequently Bled) Lake in Slovenia led us, by fortuitous accident, to the most wonderful motorhome ‘aire’ on the outskirts of a tiny village called Srednja Vas. This not only provided peaceful and spectacular views up and down a verdant, mountain-edged U-shaped valley, but hard-standing; electric hook-up and a regular free, Park & Ride minibus service back into the Windermeresque lakeside tourist resort of Bohinj. Being pioneers, we chose instead to cycle this 4.8km winding road, getting caught on our way back in a torrential downpour which did nothing to amuse the taciturn proprietor of the village store, as we dripped our way around her tiny aisles in search of provisions for an in-van dinner.
Having arrived the evening previously, we’d already dined out by walking (in gathering dusk) a short and fascinating route – flanked throughout by tall, narrow, vertical, rustic timber-built hay-racks set in open fields – to stumble upon a bustling, atmospheric outdoor restaurant (called ‘Gostilna Pri Hrvatu’, just for the record) where we were served welcome beers, wild boar and exquisite raspberry pancakes. “5-star” it says in our journal notes and indeed, was well worthy of that accolade since we’d found it by complete accident nestling beneath the local church in a tiny, agricultural village where no other form of hospitality appeared to exist. Indeed, a couple subsequently seated within earshot of us proudly proclaimed that they’d made a special journey (from Lake Bled, some 31km distant) to sample its fare, having read about it in a guide-book. So how clever were we?
Lake Bled is also one of Slovenia’s primary go-to tourist destinations (an atmospheric photograph of its undoubtedly picturesque island-church graces the cover of our Lonely Planet Guide) although we found Lake Bohinj marginally less over-developed, despite the rammed campsites from which we were turned away clearly demonstrating the popularity of this ‘lesser’ destination. Our magnificently scenic inland drive from Soca to Bohinj provided steep ascents and descents; soaring mountain tops; harvested fields filling the cab with the smell of freshly-cut grass (still being hand-scythed in some locations); hairpin bends aplenty and a throat-lumpingly narrow, steep-sided river gorge running alongside most of it.
Although our motorhome-specific satnav provides the confidence we lack on these sort of routes, it also reminded us to exercise a little caution, when it led us from our two-night stopover at Srednja Vas. Both it (and we) were completely ignorant of a couple of temporary road signs which encroached half-way across our carriageway on our way out of the village, so we weaved past them to promptly discover they indicated that the tiny rural road ahead was closed for resurfacing. No matter, as we were swiftly offered an alternative route from our colour-keyed dash-mounted screen, which we – plus another couple of local motorists – duly followed. As our fellow-motorists disappeared ahead of us, the cloud of dust we espied in the distance should really have alerted us more than it did, as the tarmac surface suddenly gave way to a gravelled track. Satnav continued to display a route forwards so on we trekked, assuming we would soon be returned to solid ground, but – of course – not a bit of it. Rounding a bend, the track suddenly climbed steeply towards a tree-flanked Y-junction and as we approached, our lumbering 3.5 tonne bulk lost traction and we slithered to an ignominious, handbrake-creaking halt. The expedition’s Intrepid Navigating Troutess alighted the vehicle to see what lay ahead, only to manage (just) to flag down a speeding pick-up-trucked local about to hurtle around the junction from the opposite direction – and straight into our now groaning, anchored position.
Oh my, was he not impressed. (And who could blame him really? Suddenly finding a UK-plated Knumptywagen jammed half-way up a gravelled farm-track, miles from bloody-anywhere, would be enough to have any right-minded citizen tapping the side of their head) but he was at least gracious enough to reverse off the junction, where, now witnessed by an unimpressed and impatient audience of one, we had no option but to roll backwards; take a run-up and hurtle as best we could up the track in an attempt to reach one arm of the ‘Y’. Here, we’d ascertained we might then conceivably allow gravity to roll us backwards into the other of its arms, whence we could turn around and head back down the hill – back to tarmac and away from this infernal, tight-lipped and very British embarrassment.
Tyre-smoke, mud, exhaust fumes and rocks spewed into the air around us for what seemed like an eternity but we managed to reach the arm of the ‘Y’ – whence our audience immediately accelerated onto the track we’d just cleared and disappeared at contemptuous speed over the distant horizon. “Well, up yours too, mate” we thought, as we gently edged our now cooling tyres back towards the safe haven of tarmac. Our ignominy deserved one further outing however, as – having waved a friendly farewell to our camping compatriots about 45 minutes previously – they were now to witness our mud-spattered bulk pass by the campsite again, in the same direction as previous, our eyes now studiously fixed on the road – and journey – ahead.
We didn’t wave this time.