Luxembourg8th August 1980
Italy – There and back again, early journeys9th August 1980
Country number: 11
Territory number: 13
When? A long time ago. Coming from Austria, dipping into what is now Croatia and then north to Italy
How? Camping, with the car
Who? With Don
‘Good sense is better than velvet’.
- This is Communist territory, under Tito’s reign and arguably the only easily visitable country behind the Iron Curtain.
- Ljubljana, another gem of a city,with a castle up top and amazing views. It’s a blend of Romanesque, Renaissance and Baroque, with some more colourful twentieth century thrown in for good measure. It wasn’t the capital then of course.
- Bled is half an hour’s drive from Ljubljana today. It took longer in those days to travel the 33 mile distance, but it’s a satisfyingly scenic journey into the Julian Alps. Triglav is elusive, but the iconic views of Lake Bled, with its little church on the centre of a tear shaped island, framed by mountain peaks are indeed, breath-taking. If you’ve seen a picture of Slovenia you’ve almost certainly seen Lake Bled. The water is glacial green, with perfect reflections. The church, with its tiny onion dome, has a 52 metre tower and 99 stone steps. Tradition says that if the groom can carry the bride up the steps on the day of their wedding and ring the bell, he may make a wish inside the church. It doesn’t say it will come true. The campsite is on the shores of the lake and there are fish lunches in lakeside restaurants. The uniformed waiters didn’t speak English, but they still had some German, so that’s how we ordered our trout.
- Postojna Cave is the country’s most visited attraction. It’s one of my first experiences of stalagmites and stalactites and has been discovered long enough that it’s known as the cradle of speleobiology. I’m told this is partly because it’s home to the endangered Proteus anguinus, a blind salamander known as “the human fish” because of its pinkish skin colour. But I didn’t see one. It also boasts the first underground train in a cave.
- There isn’t much coastline in Slovenia (it abuts the Adriatic Sea) and in those days it was all Yugoslavia. We stopped off in the resort town of Portorož, described in the Telegraph recently as Coney Island, Blackpool and Bondi Beach rolled into one. It has a nice wide, sandy beach with wooden piers.
- The roads deteriorating alarmingly as we travelled south. Some, were little more than dirt tracks. Needless to say we collected several punctures, got lost more than once and there was much bad language from the driver, Poreč is a popular summer resort on the coast of the Istrian Peninsula , now in western Croatia. We ate melon and sat outside our tent at night in the balmy air. I wore a cheesecloth shirt and discovered that it was not impervious to mosquito bites. I gave up counting when I got to one hundred.
- Pula and its Roman amphitheatre. The campsite was new, had European style squat toilets and someone had smeared faeces over all the walls. Time to head for home.
Slovenia is largely a mountainous republic. Mt. Triglav, towering to a height of 2863 m, is the highest peak in the Slovenian Alps. It is also represented on Slovenia’s national coat of arms
More than half of its total area covered in forest, 53.6 %of Slovenia is protected land, a higher percentage than any other country on Earth except Venezuela.
Slovenia has a tiny coastline – just 24 miles.
The Slovene lands were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the latter’s dissolution at the end of World War I. In 1918, the Slovenes joined the Serbs and Croats in forming a new multinational state, which was named Yugoslavia in 1929.After World War II, Slovenia became a republic of the renewed Yugoslavia, which though Communist, distanced itself from Moscow’s rule. Following on from Gorbachev’s perestroika and a short, ten day war with Serbia, Slovenia declared independence from Yugoslavia on 25th June 1991.
Hayricks are a unique cultural symbol of Slovenia and the country is also known as the Land of Hayricks.