After three eventful days we’re back at a place with wireless internet, the Hudicevic Tourist Farm. But it’s a long story about how we got here and here’s a brief synopsis.
September 4, 2010: bus from Ljubljana to Trieste (we almost missed it because the alarm didn’t go off). Trieste city bus to Muggia, the start of the Via Alpina.
From Marconi Square we found the way through the maze of streets up to N. Colarich street, where we found the first Via Alpina sign.
All of a sudden the street went up very steeply, for quite a while. Eventually we reached the village of Santa Barbara, where we left the streets and started hiking on the Traversata Muggesana trail through the countryside, with vineyards and olive trees.
It was easy following that, it was when we left that trail that it became tricky following the waymarks. We got lost every time the trail came out on a road, because there were no markings at the junction to tell us which way to go.
After a flat bit through a forest, we came to a trail which was supposed to go below Monte Carso. It turned out that “below” meant “almost to the summit but not quite”. It was a hot day and we had run out of water quite a bit earlier. And the trail was steep, both going up and going down.
By the time we got down, we decided we couldn’t go any more that day. So we walked down the road to a bar in the nearest village and with some difficulty arranged for a taxi to come up from Trieste and take us over to our final destination, Pesek near the Slovenian border.
September 5, 2010: The Hotel Pesek was expensive, but it was the only place we could find in the area. It was very elaborate and we didn’t fit in well with our backpacks. We had breakfast in their restaurant with an Italian tour group, then headed on down the road.
It wasn’t far to the Slovenian border, and shortly after that we turned off the main road and started to follow the forest road up Kokos. At the beginning of this road there were orange trail signs with various destinations and also estimated times to get to those places. This was proper hiking now.
It wasn’t nearly as hot as yesterday, and there was a bit of wind to cool us down too. The road zigzagged uphill right next to the Italian border at an easy grade, and there were a lot of flowers out in the fields beside the road, surprising for September. There were thistles and shooting stars and a lot of others we didn’t recognize.
Near the top of the hill we came across the ruined church of Saint Thomas. The roof had caved in, and we guessed that might have happened in World War Two. There were still flowers on the altar even though there was a “Keep Out” sign blocking the entry.
At the top of Kokos there was a mountain hut, the first one we had come to. We bought bottles of peach iced tea and sat outside to drink them. Yesterday we had been short of liquids and today we wanted to avoid that. And the iced tea was delicious, much better than plain water.
It was too early for lunch, so we carried on down the other side of Kokos. Unfortunately the path there was another steep one where you had to continually be careful not to slip on the loose limestone rocks. We found that very hard on our legs.
At the bottom we found the road which the Via Alpina web site said to follow to the town of Lipica, but it was blocked by a locked gate. So we had to walk along the highway for a while, which isn’t nice because the highways in Slovenia don’t have shoulders to walk on. But eventually we got to the entrance of the town.
Lipica is famous for being the original home of the Viennese Lipizzaner stallions, and they have been bred here for over 400 years now. But unfortunately our trail led us away from the town, so we didn’t get to see any white stallions grazing in the fields.
We followed the Via Alpina waymarks along a cart track through the woods. After a while we stopped seeing the waymarks. Oh, we thought, they must have run out of paint or something. But no, we found we had missed a turning and taken a shortcut as a result. That wasn’t a bad thing, there probably wasn’t anything much to see on the part of the trail we skipped.
We had lunch outside the fire hall in Lokev, and for the rest of the afternoon the trail was straight and flat and easy to follow.
At about 4 pm we arrived at our destination, the small village of Matavun. It was easy to find our accommodation, Domačija Pr’vncki, since there are only about 20 houses in Matavun. The owners greeted us and showed us up to our room, which was small but looked very comfortable. At one end of the house was the original kitchen, with the cauldron hanging over the fireplace and the well at one side of the room.
Since the last tour at the Škocjan Caves was at 5 pm, we sorted out our things and then went up to the caves.
The tour consisted of a 2.5 kilometre walk through the cave, with 500 stairs. This wasn’t very welcome because we had already walked 23 kilometres today. But it was all worth it. The cave was immense, and there was an amazing variety of rock formations beyond just stalactites and stalagmites. It was really quite fantastic and it isn’t surprising that it’s a Unesco World Heritage site. Definitely worth 14 euros each.
By then it was after 6:30 pm (the cave tour is an hour and a half). We headed back to Pr’vncki to get some dinner. It was a wonderful dinner. Rosemary had a glass of the local Teran wine and although she usually doesn’t like red wine, this one won her approval. And Paul’s Laško beer was rated as better than Union beer, the other Slovenian brand. Rosemary had gnocchi with a delicious cheese sauce and grated truffles, and Paul had a boletus mushroom omelette, both of which were fantastic.
After dinner we finally got around to having showers, then relaxed before going to bed.
September 6, 2010: Our legs were sore, and our feet were really sore, but we put on our packs and headed north past the caves. It was a little colder today and a little more windy.
One of the stops on the caves’ educational trail was a working collection of beehives in the traditional Slovenian style. We couldn’t read the signs but we had heard about these.
After that the trail ran north towards the town of Senozece. We passed the airport at Divaca at the end of the runways (the signs there almost certainly said “Unauthorized persons prohibited” but that’s where the waymarks went) and then out into the windy Gabrk meadows.
Then we crawled through the tunnel under the railway tracks and headed up into the forest. After a while we noticed the lack of waymarks and again carried on. When we saw we were coming back to the airport we about-faced and went back to the place where we had missed turning on the power-line right of way.
The trail had been going up and down hill, but now it finally went downhill into Senozece. We found a sheltered spot out of the wind behind a shed and ate our lunch.
Then we set off on the final leg of the day, over the next hill to Razdrto. Without the Via Alpina waymarks we would have been completely lost, since the area was a maze of forest roads and the Via Alpina didn’t always choose the largest of them.
Finally we plunged down through a meadow into Razdrto’s main street. However we weren’t home yet. We had to go about 1.5 kilometres further, to the Hudicevec Tourist Farm. The motorway was to the north of us, but consulting our maps it appeared there was a back road going over to Hudicevec where we wouldn’t have to pass under the motorway. So we headed for that.
The “back road” turned out to be the strip at the edge of a farmer’s field, but we carried on anyway, since it was the right direction. After about a kilometre we started to approach a fence. There was a farm hand cutting hay there in a tractor, and as we got up to the fence he stopped and pretended to be adjusting his machine. We went over and explained where we were going, and he pushed down the electric fence so we could get across.
Hudicevec had the “closed” sign out but after a few minutes a girl came out and let us into our room. Dinner wasn’t until 7 pm so we spent the time cleaning up.
Tonight’s dinner was much different than last night’s. More of a country-style dinner: stuffed peppers and polenta. We both had Teran wine with our dinner, but unfortunately it was served cold instead of at room temperature.