We arrived in Jesenice after dark, pleased to finally be off the train! We had an hour to wait for the regional train that would take us to Bohinjska Bistrica (it is as hard to pronounce as it looks) so we found a table in the cozy pub across the road from the station and ordered two enormous, cheap pizzas and some beer from the cheerful bar tender. After dinner it was another half an hour on a slow train stopping at tiny, deserted stations until we reached Bistrica. The conductor came to check on us and make sure we got off in the right spot and we jumped out into the middle of the tracks. Wali had decided on the guesthouse which was 4km out of Bistrica and the plan was to just get a taxi up to the place. The only flaw in that plan is that Bohinjska Bistrica is about the size of Clinton, and we couldn’t find any other people let alone a taxi. Luckily Bryony’s phone worked in Slovenia and we called the guest house who drove down to pick us up, crammed us into the childrens seats and took us home.
We were the only guests at hostel Mama Minka and Kit and her husband were super friendly, lighting the fire for us, giving us some homemade pine schnapps and telling us about the area. They also arranged the one taxi driver in the area to come and pick us up in the morning and take us to the cable car to the ski field.
We were up bright and early and driven along narrow roads through the tiny villages to the Vogel car park near Ukanc. The whole valley was covered in a low, cold cloud and everything was layered in a hoar frost. In the cable car we slowly rose up above the clouds an outstanding blue sky day. We had booked into a ski package holiday where we had 3 nights of accommodation, dinner, breakfast and 4 days of skiing included. Unfortunately there wasn’t any snow, but we got a discount on the package and our accommodation was upgraded so that we could stay in the same lodge as the only other 2 people on the mountain.
The learners slope and a short chair with man-made snow was open, so we hired gear at a very discounted rate and spent a few hours skiing each day and the rest of the time we enjoyed exploring. One afternoon we walked to to very top of the ski field and enjoyed views all the way to Ljubljana, Italy and the Mediterranean Sea. It took us a couple of hours to get there and felt a bit like hiking above the tree line in New Zealand. We only saw a few other people up there all day.
The clouds in the valley cleared after our first night so we took the cable car down and walked to the Savica waterfall. It was a chilly walk through the winter forest along some beautiful, clear creeks. Bryony was taken with the hellebores growing everywhere on the forest floor, although none of them were flowering. On the way back we stopped and filled our bottles from a pipe of spring water flowing out the side of the mountain.
We really enjoyed our time on the ski field. The staff were all so friendly to us, perhaps because we were pretty much the only people there. The man who served us dinner and breakfast each night was always genuinely friendly to us and helped us learn some snippets of Slovenian. In the other restaurant and bar at the top of the cable car we met some younger Slovenians who live in the valley. One was 23, so he was one of the first kids born in Slovenia as a country. On our last night there was a concert to raise funds for children who couldn’t afford to go to school. Bryony chatted with the french horn player who had travelled from Ljubljana to play. We couldn’t really understand much, but the kids were cute and the atmosphere really cozy. We all bought tickets in the raffle and won some interesting prizes. Bryony now has an enormous but beautiful calendar of the region.
We left the mountain on Christmas eve and caught the bus back to Bohinjska Bistrica, and unlike to the train conductor on our first night we were able to convey where we wanted to go, so our Slovenian must have improved a little. With the clouds all gone the valley was beautiful and green in the sun, but still white and frosty in the shade. In town Wali caught a ride with our friendly taxi driver up to Jereka to meet the 9 other New Zealanders who flew in from London that morning. We were late additions to the party, so we were too many for the rental cars so we spent the afternoon in Bistrica instead of heading to lake Bled with the others. After a beer in town we set off across the hill. The road is very narrow without a shoulder so we decided to take the walking track marked on our maps which would take us straight to Bohinjska Cesnika, and the house was only another kilometer from there. The track was a little difficult to follow in places, but we were treated to a beautiful sunset from the top and could hear the bells from all the village churches ringing. We stopped in at Hostel Mama Minka to pick up a Christmas package Bryony’s Mum had sent then just as it was getting too dark to see arrived in Jereka to a huge warm house full of Kiwi’s.