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Bound for Bohinj


Lake Bohinj (Bohinjsko Jezero), lesser known than its busier and overdeveloped  cousin  in  nearby  Bled, offers  stunning  vista  and  boundless  leisure  pursuits, all  under  the  protective wing  of  the  Triglav  National  Park  (TNP).

The  lake (Jezero), surrounded  by  the  behemoth-like  limestone  peaks of the Julian Alps, sits within the inner limits of the TNP, affording greater security from ever-keen property developers, ensuring that this unique environment is guarded for this, and many generations to come.

Bohinj, 74 km from Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana, but feeling further after a ponderous two hour bus-journey (www.ap-ljubljana.si/eng/), is not actually a resort but a collection of settlements, the main one being Bohinjsko Bistrica  – its administrative centre – 10 km from the lakeside. However, the main tourist infrastructure is based at Ribèev Laz; here you won’t find Bled-style casinos or parades of expensive shops, just the prerequisites needed for a successful holiday, whether you are an experienced Alpinist or plodding hiker.

Accommodation can be found here for all depths of pockets, from private rooms (from €10 room only) arranged through the tourist-office in Ribèev Laz (00386 4572 3370 www.bohinj-info.com) to the magnificently positioned – by the lakeside –  Hotel Jezero (00386 4572 9100 hotel.jezero@cc-line.si). Prices for singles start from €59, though a lake-view should be requested.

Behind the Hotel Jezero, at the denouement of a steep 800 metre long forest road, is the Hotel Bellevue (00386 4572 3331 prices from €42), frequented by Agatha Christie in the 1960’s. The architectural aesthetics have seen many better days, but nevertheless the Bellevue’s name is an apt one for its scenically advantageous position, on a plateau amongst a dark forest. Again, like the Hotel Jezero, a lake-view room is a must and apart from the Christie connection, the only tangible reason for staying here. On a clear day, these rooms behold breathtaking views across the lake and Mount Triglav, Slovenia’s highest mountain at 2864 metres. The prosaic menu will not detain you for too long, but for the views alone, and a visit to Room 206 where Agatha stayed, a short detour is recommended.
Careful observers will note the three-headed Triglav on the national flag; in fact references to it are to be found all over the country, including even a Triglav Insurance Company. All good Slovenians are expected to make the ascent at least once in their lifetimes, which would probably explain why the nation’s politicians take a helicopter to the summit. Should you have the fitness and necessary preparation to mount an assault on Triglav, it should be noted that on weekends the popular routes become stiflingly packed.

In hiking circles, Bohinj (pronounced Boheen), is unusual that there are routes for all standards of hikers, therefore catering for the timid and the experienced. You are just as likely to see a group of chiselled mountaineers setting off in the early hours heading for Triglav as you are a party of elderly travellers doing circuits of the lake, which takes three to four hours. The lake walk is an excellent ice – breaker and introduction to the area, and which brings you to the southern end of the lake where many of the more strenuous walks commence from. Alternatively, if you want to maximise your walking-time, a five minute bus journey from Ribev Laz will drop you at the hamlet of Ukanc, 4.5 km’s away, and where the bottom-station of the Mount Vogel cable-car (www.vogel.si) is to be found. The gondola, €12 for a return journey, whisks you imperceptibly to 1800 metres in a matter of minutes, whilst affording, you guessed it, outstanding views of the lake and beyond. From the top-station, Mount Vogel (1922metres) can be reached, along with a difficult but pleasing traverse of such peaks as Šija, Rodica and Èrna Prst, where a mountain-hut can be found (mid June – October opening) to replenish your flagging energy levels. All these summits (Vrh’s) hover just below the 2000 metre mark but the change in temperature is significant, as are the chances of electrical-storms. Care therefore should be taken on these routes, where little natural shelter is available.

Descending on the gondola or on foot via the precipitous Zagarjev Graben route – a winter ski-run of some repute – will bring you back to your starting point at the cable-car bottom-station. From here, a twenty – five minute walk, following signs to Savica, will bring you to, in the eyes of many Slovenian’s, the jewel in the Bohinj crown. The internationally renowned Savica waterfall(Slap Savica) is a 60 metre cascade of poetry in motion, so much so that Slovenia’s pre-eminent poet, France Prešeren (1800 – 1849), felt sufficiently moved to write the “baptism at Savica waterfall”, the seminal work in his oeuvre. This alone ensures the permanent residence of Bohinj and especially Savica in the hearts of many of his compatriates. A steep but relatively short walk after the toll – booth (€2.40 entrance fee) will amply reward you with an awe-inspiring spectacle, especially if you have been propitious to visit after a heavy storm.

From Savica, a two and a half hour trek uphill –well signposted – will bring you to Dom na Komni (00386 4069 5783), a mountain-hut situated at 1520 metres and offering the ubiquitous stunning panoramas and a friendly welcome, common to all Slovenian mountain-refuges. Whilst sipping your Ledeni Èaj (ice-tea), you will be able to look back over the lake to Ribèev Laz, the densely – wooded hills of Rudnica and Peè further beyond. To the east you will get a different perspective of Mount Vogel and to the west the limestone-hulk at Vogar, all looking higher than their relatively modest altitudes at which they stand. Dom na Komni welcomes visitors all year round with overnight accommodation always possible. As with all popular routes, booking ahead is invariably a prerequisite.

On your return to Ribèev laz, a change of pace might be the order of the day. If you can resist the bewildering array of cakes on the Hotel Jezero terrace, situated directly opposite is the Alpinsport agency (00386 4572 3486), where all imaginable adrenalin-laced pursuits can be engaged in, canyoning, caving, rafting and paragliding to name but a few. Equipment for all of the above and more can be hired, as can mountain-bikes. For extra confidence on the high-level routes, experience local walking guides can be hired, from €85 per day.

Crepuscular gatherings, as one would expect, are a tranquil and relaxed affairs, centred around the terraces at the Hotels Jezero and the nearby Rožic (www.pensionrozic-bohinj.com) Here, tired but exuberant hikers swap stories of their respective days in the mountains, over a beer or three, of which the Èrni Baron (Black Baron) is heartily recommended – aficionados will liken its colour, taste and texture to Murphy’s. For those seeking flesh – pot pubs and clubs pumping out repetitious euro-dance anthems will be disappointed. Even during the ski-season, the atmosphere rarely, if ever becomes anything nearing raucous.

Whilst prices have inevitably increased, as popularity and awareness of the area has exponentially grown, a break in Slovenia’s northwestern Julian Alps offers fantastic value for money and a great introduction for children to the wonderful world of alpinism.
Generations of Britain’s have enjoyed the serenity of this area and the hospitality it offers long before the Yugoslav disintegration commenced. Standing defiantly and independently for nearly twenty years now, Slovenia is a fully paid-up member of the European Union, the first country of the old eastern-block to adopt free-market reforms and to adopt the Euro (€). Slovenia is now justly one of Europe’s most popular alpine destinations, and with sympathetic development of its tourist infrastructure, looks certain to go from strength to strength in the future.

Agatha Christie said she could never base a book in Bohinj, for it was deemed too beautiful to stain the area with a murder. In these days hardly anywhere is immune from such crimes, there are few greater endorsements than this.

Easyjet (www.easyjet.com) fly daily to Ljubljana from London Stansted. The national-carrier Adria Airways (0207-7344630 www.adria.si) fly daily from London Gatwick and during May to September, from Birmingham & Manchester.

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