Destinations / JOURNEY
path. The lesser athlete of our duo, I gasped mouthfuls of air
while enjoying yet another break on yet another forgotten
stump. A young couple making their way down the trail eyed
me sympathetically. “How much farther to those lakes?”
I sputtered. An hour and a half, they casually replied, and
with that I threw in the proverbial towel — no amount of
“pacing myself” would propel my body up that mountain
with only strudel as fuel. Dejected, we turned back.
Fortunately, we are not trail-bound folk, and our downhill
energy empowered us to explore offshoots of the main route.
The first led us down a likely illegal path to the aforemen-
Savoring the Seashore
tioned waterfall. Tourists who had opted for the approved
route waved down from a viewpoint across the ravine,
restoring our identities as competent explorers. We rode this
prideful current back to the path and down a wooded hill and
were rewarded with an oasis of sorts — a flowing tributary of
Lake Bohinj, accompanied by a crystalline pond as clean and
cold as ice. Raindrops tumbled from the smattering of clouds
overhead, and in that moment, I really did “feel Slovenia.”
Back at the lake, a campsite canoe was the ideal vessel
for a quick trip across the water. We docked on a tiny beach,
enjoying s wigs from our ever-present bottle of Teran (a wine
made from a dark-skinned grape variety found primarily
in Slovenia, but available in Italy and Croatia as well) and
discussing the serendipitous events that led us to this idyllic
corner of the country. Nightfall returned us to the protection
of our tent, where I was lulled easily to sleep by a symphony of
toppling droplets made heavy by the branches overhead.
The sunrise reignited our need for transience. The now fully
realized storm had inspired my inner sun seeker, and we
hastily packed up camp between intermittent downpours.
A mere one-and-a-half hours of driving brought us to
unfiltered sunlight and a dreamy 80 degrees.
Slovenia’s 29-mile stretch of Adriatic coastline is reminiscent of neighboring Croatia: Slavic and Italian influences
intermingle while locals enjoy an unhurried, Old World
approach to life. Piran, a city playfully crammed into peninsula formation, a castle (of course) at its point, is the country’s
most popular seaside destination, and one I was eager to
visit. An accidental jaunt to nearby Portoroz, which I can
only describe as the Reno of Europe, made Piran all the more
appealing, and we happily parked outside the gates of the city,
a mandate to avoid excess automobile traffic in town.
We strolled along the cape, fast-melting gelato in hand,
while other visitors basked on man-made cement “beaches”
that jutted from the main drag, children splashing in the
briny sea. Anxious as we were to join them, our ultimate
Adriatic destination awaited around the corner in Izola,
Piran’s less-crowded little sister.
Another sunset, another swim — this time off the rocky
shores of Izola Beach. The waters of the Adriatic enveloped
me like a downy blanket, surprisingly warm and gentle
waves lapping against my skin, easing me into a state of
unfettered bliss. If I could have, I would have forgone a
bed in favor of a slumber in that sea. But one must eat, so
we waded back to shore, dried off and pulled up two seaside seats at Gostilina Sidro — a seafood restaurant with
Mediterranean influences, as is the norm in this region — for
a dinner of too much bread, mussels and a buttery pasta
loaded with more truffles than either of us had ever seen, let
alone eaten, all at once.
With bellies full, we followed a maze of meandering
alley ways to the Wine Bar Manziolini, positioned in a
charming square opposite a large white stucco church.
Regulars sat around an outdoor piano, crooning in various
languages, their jovial expressions brightened by candles
and muted light from within the bar. We succeeded in closing the place down — not so impressive considering it was
only open till midnight— and soon found that all of Izola
shared a Cinderella bedtime. We took our partially finished
bottle of Teran and wandered the empty maze for hours,
losing ourselves in quiet corners — laundry hanging on lines
overhead, alley cats skittering by pastel-colored buildings
squished in a whimsical, romantic layout reminiscent of
nearby Venice, a city that once ruled over Izola. The place
was ours for one night, making one night just enough.
This page, from top:
The ruins of Tolmin
Castle; The Blue House,
home to Valentini and
his antiques. Opposite:
Tolmin villages and
the Soca River as seen
from Kozlov rob.