Nothing seemed more necessary after returning from my hike to Mount Tosc, than reviving myself with a swim in Lake Bohinj. I borrowed one of the hostel’s bicycles and followed the road around the southern shore of the lake, all the way to the far western edge. As I crossed a bridge over the Savica river, I was stopped in my tracks by the stunning beauty of the scenery. Under a canopy of lush green forest, white rapids swirled around moss-covered rocks forming deep and inviting emerald green pools. The river’s source was somewhere high above in the alps. Fed by snow melt and spring rains, it flowed with determination towards its final destination, only a few hundred metres from the bridge, in the expansive waters of Lake Bohinj.
I secured the bike to a tree and walked along a trail through the forest, following the lake’s northern shore. I found a relatively secluded spot, not far off the path, at the base of a natural embankment. There was a small beach of tiny pebbles where trees overhanging the shoreline kept most of the beach in shade. The water had a cold sharpness as I plunged into its grey-green depths. I looked out over the lake and could see two men and a woman in a canoe some distance away, paddling across to the opposite shore. Several people walked past through the trees above me, but for the most part, I was on my own.
The coldness of the water kept my swim short and with the skies becoming increasingly overcast I returned to the shore and changed back into dry clothes. With little warning the air suddenly became cooler, prompting me to pack up my things. Within minutes, the first drops began to fall and before long it was pouring with rain.
Despite the onslaught, I revelled in my surroundings. I was on the shore of an alpine lake, surrounded by mountains, obscured by forest and caught in the middle of a gathering storm. As the wind picked up the rain gradually mixed with hail. The surrounding forest became a flurry of movement, blown to and fro in the furious wind and the waters of the lake grew severely agitated.
With my vision blurred by rivulets of water, I hastened my journey back towards the bicycle. The light rain jacket I was wearing didn’t offer much protection. It was more for warmth than anything. In driving rain I peddled hard along the road, following the contours of the lake. There were very few people about. Most had quickly dispersed towards cars and buildings but every so often I would see someone, caught in the deluge, huddled under whatever protection they could find.
It rained hard for almost an hour and just before I arrived at the hostel the rain stopped almost as quickly as it started. I was completely drenched and covered in mud and had little choice but to slosh my way up the stairs towards the bathroom. I stepped into the shower fully clothed and gradually peeled off layers, washing each item of clothing as I went. After mopping up the trail of water that had followed me inside, I constructed a network of clotheslines inside my room and began the drying process.
After a day of rest I took the bike out again, following the same road along the southern shore of the lake before continuing well beyond the lake’s western boundary to the Savica Waterfall. The last few kilometres of the ride undulated through thick forest, but with an overall gain in altitude. Eventually the road terminated at a car park surrounded by several buildings including a restaurant and an information kiosk. The waterfall itself, a 20 minute walk away, was formed by the Savica river as it flowed down the mountainside on its way to Lake Bohinj.
The falls seemed to emanate from a narrow cave high up on the cliff face before flowing with considerable force down a natural channel of rock to the pool below. On the other side of the gorge a mountainous wall extended steeply upwards, to the elevated terrain of the Julian Alps beyond. Close to the waterfall, but on the opposite side of the river, I could just make out some metal rungs hammered into the rock, forming a kind of ladder. I was intrigued by its purpose but even more so by how I might access it. I was convinced there must be a way to get to the other side and possibly a trail leading closer to the waterfall or up the cliff face to the Alps above.
After a hearty sausage and sauerkraut stew at the restaurant, I started walking eastwards along a dirt road and over a bridge that crossed the river. Not far from the bridge was a hiking trail leading steeply up the side of the mountain. A small red sign indicated a 1 hour and 45 minute hike to Crno Jezero, the Slovenian name for ‘Black Lake’, one of several sources for the Savica River and the falls I had just visited.
I headed up the trail and immediately appreciated its rapid gain in altitude and the steep sections requiring hand-to-hand scrambling up walls of rock. In some places, metal rungs and cables had been attached to aid the ascent. It was a real adventure trail and after hiking at a solid pace for just over an hour, I’d reached the top and the small alpine lake, Crno Jezero. There were only two other people there when I arrived, basking in the last of the sunshine on top of a large boulder. The skies were again becoming overcast and it looked as if there could soon be rain. The trail continued on around the opposite side of the lake before leading deeper into the alps. I wished I could explore further and spend weeks in the mountains hiking through the entire region.
On the way back down I found a rather discreet turn off in the trail that wound its way around the side of the mountain to a vantage point on the other side of the waterfall. I was now somewhere just above the iron rungs in the rock face I had seen earlier, but any attempt to reach them would have been precarious without a rope. From a certain point I could just make out a small crowd of tourists on the viewing platform on the opposite side of the river. I wondered if they could see me and whether any of them were curious about how I’d gotten here.
Within twenty minutes I was back on the bicycle riding around the lake’s southern shore. I decided to stop at the cable car station at the foot of Mount Vogel (1535 m) and took a cable car to the ski resort nearly 1000 metres above. As expected at this time of year, the resort and the ski runs were deserted apart from a smattering of sightseers and hikers who like me had come primarily for the views.
From various locations on Mount Vogel there were spectacular vistas of Lake Bohinj far below, with Stara Fuzina clearly visible at the north-eastern edge and the Julian Alps rising beyond to a similar height on the opposite side of the valley.
That evening, back in Stara Fuzina, I had dinner at the village restaurant with Vincent and Clair, an English couple from south-east London. Both were in Slovenia for a holiday and we talked at length about our respective adventures. I was delighted to discover Clair has spent several years teaching English to local people in Nepal. The next morning I met a family comprising an Australian, a New Zealander and several young children. The parents were PE teachers at an international school in Muscat, Oman and had driven to Slovenia from Budapest for their school holiday break.
After breakfast, it was time to leave the hostel. I would have stayed longer if I could, but it was booked out until the end of the summer. I decided I would head back to Ljubljana and after saying farewell to my Slovenian hosts, packed up my gear and walked to Lake Bohinj to catch the bus.
Just before the lake was a well-known church named after St John the Baptist. The 700 year old building with its distinctive steeple and wood-shingle roof, incorporated both Romanesque and Gothic architecture in its design. The simple hand-painted interior smelled of oils and candle wax, contained an intricately carved altar piece and some of the oldest frescoes in Slovenia. It was a memorable final stop in the Slovenian countryside before the journey back to the city.