Monday, 17 October 2016

Part 2: Slovenia: Caves, Gorges, River Rafting, Alpine Nature, and Lake Bled.


Since arrival in Piran from Croatia coastal trip the previous night was so late leaving us no time at all to explore this one of the only three major towns of Slovenian Istria, our first destination in Slovenia became the Skocjan Caves which ranks among the most important caves in the world and represents the most significant underground phenomena both on the Karst Plateau and in Slovenia. It was huge! We walked lots of stairs throughout the 2.5-hour guided tour, we would have been even colder standing still at 12°C otherwise. Visitors are not allowed to take pictures until they have finished the tour and reached the outdoor area just opposite the canyon where more waterfalls and caves could be seen. If you could spend only one day, or do only one thing in Slovenia, this is it!


With just a 30-minute drive northeast we arrived at Postojna Caves, the second-longest cave system in the country as well as one of its top tourism sites. It might not be as huge but the visiting experience was just as remarkable partly because of the exciting train ride inside the cave systems. Unlike Skocjan Caves, visitors can take as many pictures as they desire. Temperature was between 8 and 10°C and each guided tour lasts one hour and a half. We were so glad we decided to visit both cave systems in one day.
Just 10-km drive northwest is the Predjama Castle situated in the middle of a towering cliff. Picturesque, magnificent, defiant, mysterious and impregnable, the Renaissance castle has perched high up in the 123-metre high cliff for more than 800 years. It is listed among the Guinness World Records as the largest cave castle in the world. We preferred to watching the sunlight on the castle fading away in the late afternoon to entering to see the interiors which was not at all highly rated anyway.


From arrival at 09:00 at Soca Rider Office, the entire programme lasted 3.5 hours including transportation, changing, briefing, and a total of an hour and a half on the river. Soca river is a perfect whitewater rafting fun park, so we spent our time surfing in the waves, jumping from bigger and smaller rocks, enjoying the slides on the bottom of our raft. In the end of the rafting tour you can try swimming in an easy rapid, to feel how powerful white water rivers can be, if you feel just fine with the freezing cold water.


The rest of the day we stayed mostly in the car on a scenic route within Triglav National Park, as it does take long to go from one point to another in the mountains. Major stops were Mangart Mountain, Waterfall Slap Savica, and Lake Bohinj.


Physical efforts made walking/hiking around Lake Bled were rewarded with excellent postcard shots against an azure background from different angles. Footpaths and signposts were more or less well maintained. Together with a map showing available routes either downloaded before your trip or collected from a tourist office, you probably would not get lost. Do allow four hours for a complete tour.
Lake Bled is a lake in the Julian Alps of northwestern Slovenia, where it adjoins the town of Bled. The lake surrounds Bled Island, which always sits in the middle of that postcard picture! We did not bother climbing up to visit Bled Castle, a medieval castle built on a precipice above the city, as we surely had already had the best views of Lake Bled, as well as the castle itself, during the hike.


Vintgar Gorge, just 15-minute drive north from Bled, was the last stop of our 3-day trip in Slovenia. It took us less than 2 hours to walk through the circular visiting route and admire the amazing canyon scenery along a blue-green river, where the walls in some places are only few metres apart.
This evening we crossed the border again and got ourselves ready for the last part of our summer vacation - an 8-day trip in Austria!

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