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Day Sixteen: Bistra, Slovenia to Postojna, Slovenia

(Guide says 33.6 km – 20.9 miles, but we walked 36 km – 22.4 miles)

We begin walking at 6am straight down the winding narrow road the hotel sits on. There’s no shoulder at all for the first 3 km. It’s surprisingly busy this morning. We had a choice of another new route through the woods, one that Jenny told us about, but Gary wasn’t confident that it would be marked well enough, so here we are dodging cars. This makes me a bit grumpy to start. We had almost had our fill of half asleep or cell phone chatting drivers edging us off the road when, all of a sudden, and unexpectedly, we have lovely brand-new sidewalk to walk on. It looks like they’re trying to build it along the entire stretch of road which will be great for future walkers.

After walking through the village of Verd, we came up on a hill that allowed us to look back over the  small town before we set off into the woods on gravel logging roads. We expected this as the guide says that “approximately 15km of today’s walk will be up and down hills through areas being logged”. What we didn’t expect at all was to see beware of bear signs everywhere! Our guide never mentions bears, or the need for bear bells or bear spray. I’ll admit I wasn’t mentally prepared for this at all. I was psyched about the 33km “TOUGH” in all caps walk for today, because I’m feeling so strong now, but this changed everything in an instant. Suddenly I’m full of feelings of apprehension. Gary and I had a bear issue while hiking in Japan last summer that has left us both, (mostly me) with completely irrational fears.

I immediately start talking to make noise, since we’ve no bells, this makes sense to me. But it’s hot and the hike is hilly, so after about an hour and a half I turn to Gary and say, “I really can’t talk anymore, I need a rest…can you take over and make some noise?” At this he yells the most blood curdling yell I’ve ever heard in my life and scares the living crap out of me. He thinks it’s funny, but there’s also a bit of a disturbing element to it that makes me realize that he’s potentially losing it. The combination of the long, hot days walking, the stress of often feeling lost and frequently being lost, and now possibly bears, combined with me talking incessantly for the past 90 minutes has done him in completely. I give him a dead pan look and he says, “Well, you said to make some noise in a completely sarcastic and very pleased with himself tone.” To this my reply is simply, “Piss off.” We continued walking in silence but are both so mad that we didn’t even really care about the bears anymore. I guess that was one way to solve the bear problem!

At our hotel last night, we had quite the group. After the stops at Ljubljana and Lake Bled, where many people took varying days of rest, we ended up with three groups together. Luckily, they are all small in numbers. We have the lovely David and Sue from England, then Ann and Marg from Australia, Tina from Portland, Penny from the Lake District of England and three other young women who never made it out of their rooms. They must’ve been exhausted. We’re hoping to be able to meet everybody tonight after we all make our way to the next accommodation.

At about the 17km mark, we cross the motorway to find a Marsché, which is very similar to a Motto roadside stop in England. This one has surprisingly good food and coffee as well as fresh juices. We couldn’t resist the cherry strudel, cheese strudel, a cappuccino and a fresh squeezed orange juice. If you’re wondering, yes, we didn’t share, we each ate that. It’s what we needed after the whole bear situation and screaming incident. The food was so enjoyable that we starting speaking to each other again. Once again, an entire morning spent in the woods hot and sweaty, getting eaten by flies and mosquitos, and then immediately popping out to find quite posh civilization. There really is such a fine line between the wild, and the chaos.

The next 3 1/2 km seem to take hours with our bellies full of strudel. That combined with more logging roads where our marked path has been clear cut and can be found stacked and lying on the ground rather than standing upright directing our path, made things a bit challenging. After we sorted that out, we found ourselves walking along the roadside with no shoulder again, down into the village of Laze. It’s really a toss up. Peaceful logging roads (if you don’t count the enormous trucks cruising past periodically kicking up dust) with a slight chance for bear encounter, or road walking with cars flying past. There are positives and negatives to both, but I find myself thinking about the ACT or PCT experience, more and more with each passing day. I realize that a hike like that would require me to get into much better shape than I currently am, but it’s a nice ‘someday’ goal. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we were leaving the village, we stopped in a pub to see if we could fill our water bottles and ran into Tina and Penny. Two other walkers who had arrived at the hotel last night. We say a quick hello and then all set out to finish the rest of the day. Just after leaving we had an older woman stop us, shake her hand and ask if she could give us water, coffee, or food. We thanked her and told her we had just stopped for a nice juice and still had a long walk ahead, so we needed to keep moving. Just then a friend of hers pulled up in a car and asked if we wanted a ride. We thanked her as well but passed because we told her that wanted to walk the whole thing. They said, “Okay, but it’s too hot for walking today, you need to be careful and drink plenty of water.” They were genuinely worried about us.

We knew it was roadside walking the rest of the way and most people skip this. They take taxis or a bus on to the next accommodation. What we found, however, is that it’s a really beautiful walk on the small winding country road past quaint houses with lovely gardens and that you seldom see any cars. Until, that is, the last 6km when the nice little winding road joins a busier motorway, the 409, with no shoulder, crazy traffic including semi after semi, and, just to make it more fun, hairpin turns winding up the mountain.

Even with all that, we felt strong and walked fast. We were both ready to have the long day behind us. The last 4km seemed to go on forever though, as it always does. When we finally arrived at the accommodation, we find a huge, but clean and nice hostel. Both inside and out, the building looks exactly like the dorms my children lived in during their London boarding school experience. This kind of cracks me up. There are giant bouncy balls, huge Tetris blocks and several other brightly colored things to amuse oneself. It honestly looks like a preschool for teenagers to me. I find myself thinking that my students would love it here.

We find that in addition to a pharmacy, they have the biggest cave in Slovenia, a Castle built inside a cave, and a Chinese restaurant in town. Without even discussing it, we make a quick decision to layover an extra night. We’ve spent a lot of time trying to get medication for my newest all body rash, with no lunch, but we’re told there’s a great pharmacist here. We also want to go out and explore a bit. I’ve apparently become allergic to the sun because it seems that slathering on sunscreen multiple times each day, and wearing my ridiculous hat everywhere I go, is no longer enough to keep me from breaking out in hives from head to toe. I’ve literally got a rash of some type on every part of my body from the sun, or constant sweat combined with friction, and I won’t even bore you with the sunspots I’ve acquired since we started this little walk. I’m really hoping the pharmacist can hook me up with some remedies for all my current aliments. But, to be completely honest, hearing of the the Chinese restaurant was the thing that really made the decision for me. It’s always the FOOD!! 🙂 I’ve been away from Hawaii for a month and a half now and have had no Asian food since. I’ve been praying for a Thai restaurant, but this will have to do for now.

The first night we get to spend some time with David & Sue’s group at dinner. We kind of invited ourselves along to an Italian place they were going to because we like them so much and we’re disappointed that we didn’t get more time with them. The food is wonderful, the highlight being a Caprese starter with tomatoes so ripe the red hurts your eyes, and the company phenomenal. We talk and laugh until my sides ache at the one liners David throws out, and I’m reminded by David and Sue’s complete zest for life and quick wit humor, of my dear friends Jim and Joyce. I am so overdue for a trip to my beloved Cornwall to see these lovely surrogate parents of mine. As I sit there, I make a promise to myself to get there this year. Time flies by quickly at dinner, and we get back to settle in and go to sleep much later than we should have. A couple days after our dinner, Gary casually mentions during one of our long walking talks, that David is an original band member of Simply Red. Apparently they had been chatting about music and David had discreetly shared that he played the keyboard and included this little tidbit with him. My only thought was, of course he is. 

After a quick trip to the pharmacy, which was more than bountiful, my goal was to be at the Postojna cave in the first group to board the train. Thinking that there would be less people early in the day so we could have a calm, great photo op experience just like Vintar Gorge. We make it in time and are the first group of English speakers to board the train, however, there’s another train with German, another with Italian, and yet another with Korean. All the trains are full and everyone goes in at the same time. So, what I’m saying is that there’s really no point in getting there early. The experience will be packed with people at any point in the day. It was truly like Disneyland where every step you bumped into someone and couldn’t help it. As we tried to linger a bit and take photos, the staff bellowed, “Keep moving” to the top of their lungs. The cave is magnificent, but the experience really is awful. As we were leaving, I asked if it’s possible to book a private tour and was told that it is. So, consider doing that. You’d still have loads of people everywhere, but could likely go at a slower pace to see things and actually hear what the tour guide is saying. The cave is cold, and 24km (miles) long, so bring a jacket and give yourself plenty of time.

We went to Predjana Castle as well, they offer a “free shuttle” that you actually pay for when you buy your ticket. The castle itself is unbelievable, but expect to pay to use the restrooms and to get fussed at if you touch anything in one of the many gift shops. It’s quite over the top with trying to sell you stuff at every single turn. At one point, I picked up a small mace and pretended to use it and was scolded by the pimply faced teen manning the shop. “These items are for purchase only, not for playing with.” 🤣 Leave it to me to get into trouble! So rough to be that uptight at such a young age.

So, other than the pressure of succumbing to mass consumerism and purchasing worthless items that will only get you in trouble or collect dust, the Castle is beautiful and very cool! Be prepared to walk about 15km today by the way. Or I suppose you could pay a taxi…but that’s just not how we roll. It’s unbelievable on a rest day, but it’s what we’ve done on every one so far.

After the Castle, I recommend going to the Makao Chinese restaurant just past the square to gorge yourself on something a bit different. I was so excited that I squealed when I opened my chopsticks. We ordered an embarrassing amount of food and our giant feast was very nice.The Hot & Sour soup is a must! It’s so funny to me that after five years of living in Hawaii, Asian food has now become my comfort food. I’ve actually been dreaming of poke bowls at night. I’m standing at the counter of Fresh Catch, placing my order, mouth watering and so excited, then suddenly I wake up. It’s torture. The places we live definitely change who we are.

Accommodation:
Hostel Proteus
17 euro per person, 3 euro for breakfast served at 7am
Other meals on your own, many restaurants, markets, and banks in the area.
Free, strong wifi

Additional photos:

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