The morning I left Santorini I was literally on the verge of tears. I was so sad to be leaving. It’s such a beautiful place. At the same time, I was overwhelmingly happy as I reflected on the amazing travel experiences God has made possible for me. I couldn’t deny His hand in the majestic beauty of the islands peeking out from the sea; the sunrise off the right wing of the airplane as we ascended into the sky; the way the misty sky blended completely into the vast ocean; the landscape beneath me as I flew in and out of Athens, onward to the breathtaking scenery of Venice.
While difficult to leave behind the wonderful memories of one adventure, it’s always exciting to anticipate the next. I was so excited to be reunited with Laura, my roomie from my last two years of college. While I’ve seen her many times since graduating (ahem, 13 years ago, ahem), it would be the first to see her since she and her husband moved to Italy last year. She would be joining me on the next part of my trip.
I landed in Venice and excitedly waited in the café with a croissant and two espressos. That’s right – early, stressful mornings call for more than one. I was excited to step up to the bar and order my food and espresso in Italian. I succeeded! She understood me and I understood her and my heart was beaming with joy! Hearing the Italian language again was music to my ears and brought back sweet memories of last year’s trip.
Just as I sat down, Laura popped around the corner with her big smile and enthusiastic wave! I was SO excited! Laura was kind enough to drive us to Bovec, Slovenia, where we would be “glamping”. This was a new concept Laura introduced to me, and I’ll admit, I was apprehensive. Laura has always been more outdoorsy than me. For those of you who are as clueless as I was, glamping = glamorous camping. (Makes sense now, right)?!
After mapping routes on both phones and Laura’s GPS, we finally decided we were ready to venture off into the Italian countryside toward Slovenia.
We made a pitstop in Udine, Italy for a light lunch and some exploration. My grandmother’s cousin was from Udine, so aside from being an easy place to stop, it held sentimental value to me as well.
The town is charming, and we were sad to realize they were about to host a city wide wine festival. We momentarily considered scrapping our glamping plans, but instead decided we’d just drink wine at the glampground. (I don’t kow if that’s a word, but it seems reasonable). We had an amazing Sardinian lunch and then did some shopping and sauntering around the city. I consumed the obligatory Italian gelato, and then we continued on our journey.
After an eternity of hairpin turns, we finally reached Adrenalincek Eco Place. As I walked up the manmade dirt and wooden stairs through the trees, I was reminded of church camp, circa 1994.
As we emerged from the trees, we were greeted by a beautiful solar-powered, self-sustainable glampground, and a ridiculously beautiful man who’s name I can’t pronounce. (This is apparently a common issue, so he goes by “Roy”). Roy never wears a shirt and somehow manages to make carrying laundry look sexy. Upon learning we were checking in, Roy went and got Matic, also quite attractive and mostly shirtless. We received a quick orientation of the camp and then he took us to our cute little tent – a white canvas tent with black and white bedding, and a polka-dotted rug. There were two chairs on the porch, which faced toward the Julian Alps. (Incidentally, it overlooked the rest of the camp, so I could also sit on the porch and watch Roy fold laundry and play volleyball).
We didn’t waste any time before setting out to our first of many sights, Narnia Beach. This is an area of the Soča River where they filmed the Chronicles of Narnia. It was a short 5 minute walk from the camp, and I was mesmerized by the beauty of it. They don’t call it the “Emerald River” for nothing. Beautiful hues of crystal clear greenish-blue water cascaded over white limestone rocks, with a backdrop of the Julian Alps.
We spent some time walking around the river, taking photos, and then walked to a nearby restaurant, Žvikar, where we’d eat a delicious meal. I had the most amazing cabbage soup and a traditional Slovenian meal: gnocchi with a Slovenian mushroom sauce.
We walked back to our glamorous camping accommodation and fell fast asleep.
The next two mornings we ate at Felix, a darling little restaurant in the center of Bovec, pronounced “Boveytz”. In Europe, it’s difficult to find a substantial breakfast. In fact, the first morning we bypassed many restaurants because they were only serving coffee. It’s not unusual to find only pastries for breakfast. From my fitness point of view, this is not acceptable. I need more protein and fewer carbs!!!!!! I was delighted to find Felix offered eggs, with the option of a sandwich with ham. While I find it strange to eat a sandwich for breakfast, I was thankful for the protein.
Our first day we rafted the Soča River with Alpe Sport Vancar. The water was cold, but tolerable in our wetsuits. I remember when I was trying to decide where to travel, I was looking at photos of the Soča River, and closed my eyes to imagine myself rafting down the river, wondering what it would feel like to say: “I did that.” I couldn’t believe that dream was being carried out. I sat in the raft with one of my best friends opposite me, the beautiful Emerald River beneath me, the Julian Alps above me, and in that moment I was taken aback again by the amazing experiences I’ve been given. At times it brings me to tears. I am so grateful.
I’m also thankful to have survived my first rafting experience. As it’s the end of the summer season, the water level is low, and therefore the rapids not as… rapid. The water is typically up in November when they receive rains, and in April/May when the snow begins to melt off the Alps. I couldn’t have asked for a better first experience.
We spent the rest of our time hiking in Triglav National Park. We made friends with some domestic sheep – literally, they behaved like dogs, wishing to be pet and fed!
We wound our way through the forest, hopped from rock to rock in bubbling creeks, problem-solved and followed cairns to find our way, climbed a million stairs. No really – a million, at least. At one point we climbed 315 at once to reach the next part of the hiking trail. In fact, as we stood at the base of the stairs next to a hydroelectric plant, we joked at how ridiculous it would be if that was the path we were supposed to take. Five minutes later, we realized that was the path we were supposed to take.
We made it up all the stairs, which seemingly went straight up. We continued to follow a beautiful hiking path.
For all of our hard work, we were rewarded with a gorgeous view.
Slap Virje was a beautiful waterfall with an aqua green pool beneath, secluded within a canopy of trees, and overlooking a nearly dry creek bed full of beautiful bright green covered mossy rocks.
Slap Boka, on the other hand, is one of the tallest waterfalls in Slovenia, falling nearly 450 feet. We were fortunate this hike was also close to Adrenalincek, and we made sure to get to it before we left on our last day. Sadly, we couldn’t get as close to Slap Boka as the other waterfalls, but it was still a sight to see. I can imagine it’s even more magnificent in the Spring as the snow is melting… and would you believe I forgot to take a picture of it? Fail.
At Slap Zapotok I took advantage of a completely private waterfall and pool. We only saw two other groups on the trail: a pair of girls leaving as we were entering, and a group of 3 women who set up a sunbathing area before reaching the waterfall. DO THEY EVEN KNOW WHAT THEY MISSED???? I have adopted the “When in Rome” concept, and when safe, I always try to make the most of every experience. In this case, I threw caution to the wind, threw my tank and hiking pants onto a nearby boulder, and apprehensively jumped into an 8°C (46.4°F) pool at the base of the waterfall. The creek bed I stood in while building up the nerve to jump in was made of small jagged rocks, similar to those at the black sand beach, only this time my feet were so numb I could no longer feel the pain as I quickly tried to escape the icebath. My only regret is that I wish I would’ve stayed in a little longer rather than jumping in and immediately swimming out. My expeditious escape made for some entertaining pictures, however!
Aside from the waterfalls, we enjoyed some other hikes.
While snowmelt is responsible for some of the waterfalls during the spring, there are also several natural springs that supply the waterfalls and rivers below. We climbed a scary cliffside trail alllllllll the way up so we could see the Soča River source.
Again, because the water level is low there wasn’t much to see but we were at least able to go to the very start, whereas if water was flowing from it, our ability to see it from the top would have been limited.
Finally, we hiked along the great Soča Gorge. This area of the Soča River hiking trail, narrow and very close to the edge, ran parallel to the gorge. It was beautiful, but also very scary. There was nothing to keep me from slipping and falling deep into the gorge. The water below flowed agressively over the rocks, and would show me no mercy. I wanted to get a good look and take some great pictures, but as I’m not typically a fan of heights, or dying for that matter, I kept my visit to the edge relatively short and held on tightly to a tree for safe measure. I did find some areas further in the hike that I could be a bit more adventurous with my photography efforts without risking my life to the extent as before.
All in all, the hiking was fabulous and the company was great. Together, we did more hikes to more places than I’d have done by myself. I was thankful to have Laura with me, and we got to spend a lot of quality time with each other.
Likely, our biggest accomplishment in the 3 days was our brainchild: a calendar of the Adrenalincek men. In January, Roy will be playing volleyball, shirtless. In February, Matic will be repairing the outdoor shower, shirtless. In March, Roy will be cooking, shirtless. They will also be carrying laundry, doing pullups high up in a tree (this really happened), rolling a wheelbarrel past the sheep farm… so on and so forth. We haven’t figured out how to pitch our idea to them, but we’re sure it will be a hit!
One other highlight from our time in Bovec was meeting another solo traveler, Claire, from Australia. Thanks to Matic, we met her our last night there. We had asked for some wine and he brought half a bottle, instructing us to share with Claire. We became fast friends and she joined us on a hike our final morning in Bovec, went to breakfast with us afterward, and then she and I rode the bus to Ljubljana together while Laura returned home to Italy. Once arriving in Ljubljana, Claire carried on to Zagreb to catch a flight back to Australia the following morning, and I went to my Airbnb in the city center of Ljubljana.
We met lots of people at the campground, enjoyed peace and quiet, amazing food and beautiful nature. Leaving Santorini I thought its beauty could not be rivaled, but in fact, it can. Triglav National Park provided a different type of beauty, but still completely breathtaking. I’m so glad I ventured off my beaten path to check out the Soča River Valley. I have to give props to my buddy, Ashley, in the UK who tipped me off to this gem. XX