“You crazy Slovenians, do you always need to hike?” This is what I often hear from friends. Whenever they describe us, we always come off as avid hikers, skiers, bikers, or runners, who dress up in water resistant garments and sports gear daily. And it is so true. If I bring to mind most of my friends, sports is de facto who we are.
I in my opinion come from a sports family, where skiing in the winter, hiking in the summertime, and lots of other actions in among were a natural lifestyle. Raising our sons is not that different — they both play ice hockey and miss day by day when practices aren’t in consultation. Besides that, we hike, ski, bike, swim, or paddle any other time we have accessible. Since famous spots were full, we had to recall to mind alternate hiking adventures. At first, we were super happy to hike just above our house. We discovered a large number of little paths and areas that we’ve got never walked before.
One of our favorites was discovering a waterfall called “Devil Washing an Old Lady” — a very funny name and a ravishing spot to perform a little hiking, with out the crowds. Then we began exploring other alternatives and came to Juliana Trail, a phenomenal long distance trail along the perimeters of the two mountain ranges of Slovenia, the Julian Alps and Karavanke. Parts of it take you during the Triglav National Park area, a major area crammed with amazing wildlife. Besides discovering pastures, river springs, bigger and smaller waterfalls, enthralling forests, there also is enough history that follows the trail of old miners, writers, poets, musicians, blacksmiths, beekeepers… It sounded so exciting that we determined to do it. The path’s length is 270 km and runs along 16 stages, beginning and completing in Kranjska Gora.
It doesn’t reach any high peaks, but it helps a bit with personal persistence walking around 20 km per stage, somewhat up and a little down the hill and gives us a respect for the surprising nature and what our ancestors left for us to cherish. The stage is marked with the letters “J” and “A” on a diamond shaped sign, with a little spruce at the underside. The “J” and “A” stand for Julian Alps, because this is where the general public of the trail goes. The Julian Alps — a similar mountain range as the Alps that start in France and finish in our country — are the bottom a part of the diversity. This is why Julius Caesar, back in the day, determined to cross here and has given our part of the Alps its name.
At this moment, we’ve only started with the trail. We gave ourselves time until the tip of this summer. The first six stages are accomplished, and we are crushed by the wonder and beauty of the place. On all walks so far, we haven’t encountered other hikers — only a handful of locals and farmers at points where the trail goes via villages and pastures. But we have encountered immense beauty, peace, and quietness. It is like finding a path back to ourselves, and to our beginnings.
Birds chirp, vegetation bloom, and leaves whisper with the assistance of sunshine winds. Our lungs are filled with fresh air and fragrant pastures. Our eyes bathe in the beautiful surroundings unfolding in front of us step by step. And I am stunned how easy it definitely is to walk each of these 20 km stages. Yes, the feet hurt and muscle tissue ache, however the body cannot wait to go on an alternate stage and find out increasingly of the wonder our little country has to give. To connect with guides like Tina and Sašo directly, and to listen to from them of their own words, have a look at the Rick Steves Guides’ Marketplace, which we’ve designed only for this aim.
There you’ll learn in regards to the many ways our guides — all of whom are working hard to stay creative and keep teaching through these difficult times — were applying a travel mind-set to present times. Many of them, like Tina and Sašo, have enticing blogs that allow you to do a bit vicarious travel in Europe. Others are arising with creative ways to generate some income during this crisis. And them all rejoice our collective passion for Europe. This hard fought historical past has left this northeastern corner of Italy bicultural in addition to bilingual. Signs and literature in the independent province are in both languages, but there’s an emphasis on der Deutsch.
It still feels Austrian, culturally as much as geographically. Germanic color survives in a blue aproned, ruddy faced, lederhosen wearing way. Most locals still speak German first and plenty of feel a closer bond with their Germanic ancestors than with their Italian countrymen. While most have a working abilities of Italian, they watch German language TV, read newspapers auf Deutsch, and live in Tirolean browsing villages. The executive has wooed cranky German communicating locals with economic breaks that make this one of Italy’s richest areas. It’s hard for today’s visitors to consider the gray and bleak Prague of the communist era.
Before 1989, the town was a wistful jumble of lost opportunities. Sooty, crusty homes shadowed cobbled lanes. Thick, dark timbers bridging narrow streets kept decrepit buildings from crumbling. Consumer goods were plain and uniform, stacked like bricks on thin shelves in shops where clients waited in line for a beat up cabbage, tin of ham, or bottle of ersatz Coke. The Charles Bridge was as sooty as its statues, with a few shady characters trying to change money.
Hotels had two tiered pricing: one for individuals of the Warsaw Pact countries and an alternative for capitalists. This made the run down Soviet style hotels as costly for most travelers as fine hotels in Western Europe. At the train station, worried but determined characters would meet arriving foreigners to rent them a room in their flat. They were scrambling to get enough hard Western cash to buy batteries or Levis at some of the hard forex stores. With every visit, to get oriented, I head for the vast Old Town Square. It’s ringed with colourful pastel homes and dotted with Baroque towers, steeples, and statues.
Street performers provide a jaunty soundtrack. Segways dodge horse drawn carriages crisscrossing the square. At the head of the hour, travelers gather around the towering 15th century astronomical clock to see a mechanical show of moving figures. With Turks, Jews, bishops, a grim reaper with an hourglass, and a cock crowing, the fears and frustrations of the Middle Ages are on parade every 60 mins. It must have been an absolute wonder to nation folk vacationing the big city 500 years ago. I continue a few blocks past the Old Town Square to the center-piece of modern Prague: Wenceslas Square.
Looking around, I discover that the most dramatic moments in modern Czech historical past played out in this stage. The Czechoslovak state was proclaimed here in 1918. In 1969, here is where Jan Palach set himself on fire to protest the puppet Soviet government. And it was here that big demonstrations led to the overthrow of the communist govt in 1989. Czechs filled the square night after night, 100,000 strong, calling for independence.
One night, their message was finally heard and a higher morning, they aroused from sleep a free nation. Every evening, Prague offers tempting reasons to be out and about. Black Light Theater, a mix of illusion, pantomime, puppetry, and modern dance that has no language barrier, is uniquely interesting. Much just like the work of fatherland writer Franz Kafka — and, many would say, just like the city of Prague itself — Black Light Theater fuses realism, the fantastic, and the absurd. I’ve capped other evenings with live opera, classical, jazz, and pop music.
Crowd alluring live shows are hosted nightly in the city’s ornate Old Town halls and ancient churches, featuring all the finest hits of Vivaldi, Mozart, and native boys Anton Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana.