For some time now I have wanted to return to Slovenia, a beautiful and mountainous country in Central Europe, bordering Italy, Austria, Croatia and Hungary... so I was very happy to visit there for a few days earlier this month.
As with my previous Slovenia trip, I decided to concentrate on the north-west of the country, basing myself in the town of Bohinj, quite near to beautiful Lake Bled.
One defining characteristic of Slovenia is the multitude of churches all over the countryside, often located in the most beautiful (and most inconvenient) positions on the top of hills. My first stop on the way to Bohinj was at one of these, the church of St. Primoz in Jamnik. The conditions were not that good for photography so this visit was more to see the status of the location, I would return at a better time later in the trip.
The hot and humid summer was well under way in Slovenia which meant that all the flowers were blooming and all of nature's creatures were out in full force.
My arrival day was one of low activity... the early morning flight did not fit well with the schedule of the World Cup, especially as the previous night's final game between England and Columbia required extra time and penalties to decide the tie. Sleep was prioritised over sunset.
The next morning I was somewhat restored and drove to Bled to catch the sunrise at about 0430... and faced an unwelcome surprise. The Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Maria, on an island in the lake, is the primary subject in most of the best Lake Bled photographs... but on this occasion it was covered in scaffolding, which rather dented my hopes, and slightly wasted what would turn out to be the only beautiful sunrise of the week.
Scaffolding or not, Bled is a beautiful place, especially in the early morning before the inevitable multitudes arrive. I walked around the lake on the mostly flat 6km long trail, passing a number of fishermen and fisherwomen, while being lapped by the early morning joggers.
The calm beautiful waters of the lake provided some nice opportunities for reflections and started to ease my scaffolding related disappointment. I was also partly relieved to realise that (due to the scaffolding) I would no longer feel the need to make the steep and exhausting climb up to Mala Osojnica... the view from the top is fantastic, as long as you survive the climb. Luckily there are more things of interest to photograph at Bled.
Although the majority of Bled's occupants had not yet emerged from slumber it was clear that some people were already starting their adventures as a hot air balloon rose majestically from the far end of the lake. This was a stroke of luck for me, it was fascinating to watch and also made a nice element for my pictures.
As I drove back to Bohinj for breakfast a beautiful day was beginning. The sun and the morning mist were locked in battle, a fight that as a photographer you hope will be a long drawn out struggle with no clear winner. As I drove through the village of Bitnje the sun and the mist were in an optimal state and I stopped to photograph the church.
The lush green grass and the "wild flowers" (or weeds if you are feeling less charitable) made for a beautiful scene as the mist slowly burned away.
Overall this was a most satisfactory morning despite the scaffolding setback.
After breakfast I headed for Lake Bohinj where a rather longer hike (around 12km) awaited me around the lake.
This lake is a popular destination in the summer and there is a lot of canoeing, pedal boating, stand up paddling, swimming and hiking to be done. I did not find it to be particularly interesting for photography although the nearby attractions of the Savica Waterfall and the Mostnica Gorge which I visited last time I was in the area are certainly worth taking your camera to.
On all of my visits to Slovenia I have had the same feeling - it is something of a rough diamond. The scenery and natural attractions of the country are absolutely remarkable, but the visitor infrastructure and information is not yet on the level of other countries. I found one example of this when following the long route around the lake. I had covered about 10.5 of the 12 kilometre route and was rather running out of energy when I was suddenly faced with a sign saying that the path was closed up ahead... this was the first such indication despite being on the path for many hours already. The idea of taking the 10.5km route back to my car did not appeal so a little bit of "off-road" rambling was needed to get past the part which was out of order (they were treating an area for a bark beetle infestation apparently).
An afternoon rest was required before heading out again at sunset, hoping to see the church at Jamnik in better light. One welcome change since 2017 was the lighting of the church at night. Previously the lights were powerful and extremely warm in colour meaning that night pictures showed a very orange church... but these have been replaced with something a lot cooler and more gentle a leading to a much better looking white church. Unfortunately the sunset was very uneventful.
As the night grew fully dark I tried to find alternative angles closer to the church.
Unfortunately my visit coincided with some rather inconvenient (but presumably necessary) roadworks which impeded my journeys to many of the attractions I wished to visit. One road closure blocked the route through Radovljica which would have been by far my quickest route to Jamnik, another set of ongoing repairs introduced traffic lights and a "one way at a time" section on the road between Bohinj and Bled and a third set of repairs led to long delays approaching Kranjska Gora. The detour on my way home from Jamnik meant that it was after midnight before I got to bed and I decided not to set the alarm for 0330 to shoot the sunrise.
After a luxurious lie-in until 0700 I ate a lazy breakfast and set out in search of the waterfall at Grmečica.
The waterfall was easy to find, following a short trail after parking my car near to the railway station in Nomenj.
While considering the best angle to shoot the waterfall I became increasingly aware of noises coming from the cave-like opening above the waterfall, and sure enough some intrepid explorers soon started to emerge from the darkness, on a guided caving tour. They seemed to be having fun but their presence rather intruded upon my intended compositions as they abseiled or leapt down the rock face.
Despite these distractions this was one of my favourite places on the trip, the rich green colours of the vegetation made up for the unusually low water level and water flow. This waterfall was not particularly high or spectacular but the clear pool of water over a rocky floor at it's base made for a nice location.
This day was a bit more overcast and even threatened rain (still very hot however) and that made for ideal conditions for this kind of photography. Another group of cavers could be heard approaching and I took this as my cue to head back to the car.
At this point I realise that I have way too much material from my Slovenia trip to cram into one blog post, so I think I will call this "episode 1" and continue in another post to avoid testing your patience and also to increase the chances that someone actually gets to the end of each post.
Thanks for reading!
--- to be continued ---
Enter your email address to receive notifications of new blog posts