But what about money...? - Around Slovenia in Seven days
My most asked and least favourite question. I came across a tweet the other day that read, " Every millennial's favourite game: trying to figure out how their friends afford their lifestyle." It made me laugh, one of those how accurate kind of chuckles, so I took a screenshot and I sent it to half of the contacts in my phone.
And as much as I would like to have an easy answer for you - I don't, there isn't one (unless I am somehow really out of the loop in which case let me know). There have been many nights sitting up past dark in tents and days upon days on road trips talking about this topic - I am not immune to the curiosity. But what I have learned is that no two journeys are the same(just as no two destinations are), one outdoor woman I spoke to maintains a full-time administrative job and spends every weekend, long weekend and vacation day working on her outdoor photography, another switched careers to one that allows her flexibility to travel, you've read the story about the outdoor photographer who hit the road in his van with only $81.10 and an unstable part time photography gig to his name. There is an accountant who left his job with under $300 in his bank account to road trip across the continent, a couple who swapped corporate life, took a huge pay cut and found full time home-based jobs in their field and then turned their home into an airstream, there is a woman who supplements her photography career by writing articles such as "20 things you didn't know about Cheetos". My story no different I went to university, finished with a few degrees, found a job that I turned into my dream career, but my passions were always outside of the confines of four walls though. So I started spending my weekends in the mountains and when that was not enough I would show up to my office at 5am and leave just after lunch, catching sunset from a summit as often as somebody wanted to go! I posted photos of my adventures online and the more I did it the more that I learned about photography until one day (read my last post for my eureka moment) I looked in my bank account, crossed my fingers and handed in my resignation. That is not to say that I am not making some money currently - I have been really lucky and had some amazing companies believe in what I do and work with me. But the long and the short of it is that as nice as it would be to have an easy answer to this question, it's all (to me) about taking risks and working really hard to get where you want to be.
The day that an agency reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in working with the Slovenian Tourism Board alongside some of my good friends I was ecstatic. I finally felt as though I was on the right track - that hanging out in the mountains taking photos with my friends might actually turn into something real. A few months after that email showed up (and some serious back and forth sorting out our itineraries) Ben, Jess, Michael and I were on a plane out of Seattle on our way to Ljubljana, Slovenia! We had a week to see the country - knowing that there was a lot to see we decided to spend our first day together in the mountains, split up for a few days and then reconvene the last few nights in Triglav National Park - the home of their tallest mountain.
Krvavec and Logar Valley
We landed into Ljubljana at sunset and made our way up a winding mountain road under the cover of night. After staying up far too late eating a traditional Slovenian dinner made for us by the owner of Hotel Krvavec, morning came quickly, an hour before sunrise we left our beds and hiked up to the summit of the mountain. Krvavec is the second largest ski hill in Slovenia - but in the summer the lower part of the mountain is used for mountain biking, frisbee golf, archery, go-karting... you name it, leaving the higher alpine virtually deserted. We shared the mountain with a handful of gentle cows and heard the echoes of roosters waking up with the sun.
After lunch we made our way to the Logar Valley, an alpine glacial carved valley in the northeast part of the country. The Slovene name for the valley is of relatively recent coinage and is derived from the Logar Farm, which in turn is derived from log (literally, 'swampy meadow'). This was not on our itinerary but the detour was well worth it. My only regret is not bringing my road bike on this trip. The well maintained winding mountain roads just before the entrance to the valley had me add this spot to my "must return" list.
Kostanjevica na Krki
When researching our itinerary I am going to be honest - this was what I was least excited for, it is on the far east side of the country along the Croatian border - literally the furthest point from the mountains where I wanted to be. We arrived late after sneaking to Logar Valley into our trip and rushed to catch a beautiful sunset from the vineyards overlooking town, our host took us to his family home on the hill where we tasted wine from the region overlooking the countryside and I even had the opportunity to practise my (very broken) German our host Matija's father - this little island town will have a special place in my heart. After another short sleep we woke up for a row around the island (and after informing our wonderful host of my limited functionality sans caffeine he brought a tray of Turkish coffee and baked goods for me to snack on- and nothing for Michael). We then spent the morning paddle boarding and rope swinging with Matija from Landestrost before heading out of town in search of a hot spring river known only to locals.
Postojna Caves and Piran
With Kostanjevica na Krki hugging the border of Croatia and Piran (our next overnight stop) on the western coast of Slovenia we broke up the road trip with a stop at the Postojna Caves and the Predjama Castle - the cave systems in Slovenia are massive and absolutely breathtaking. The Predjama Castle is even built into a cave and there is a hilarious story about a knight turned criminal named Erazem Lueger who barricaded himself in this impenetrable castle for many years before being killed while going to the washroom (the castle's only weak point). The emphasis of the story when told is that for decades they didn't know how he was receiving supplies - it is now generally accepted that he was using and exit in the cave systems that would include a 20 meter repel down to sneak in/out of the castle. In typical fashion we made it to Piran under the cover of night and subsequently woke up for sunrise, we walked around town before eating breakfast on a terrance overlooking the coast. As the temperatures in summer are between 22°C and 30°C I could not resist joining the local children for a dive (or two or ten) into the ocean.
Our last stop before heading to the mountains was Goriška Brda. This region is Slovenia's largest wine country sits along the Italian boarder. Our host in the region is a fifth generation wine maker, during a post-dinner tasting (it was deemed far too warm to spend the day wine-tasting so we opted to tour the countryside), told us that the particular vineyard we were at, in the lifetime of his grandmother, had held four different citizenships. After the first world war the region was part of the Austrio-Hungarian Empire, it then shifted into Italian occupancy, then Yugoslavian and currently it's inhabitants possess Slovenian passports. I can't say for certain why that is the only thing that stuck with me... but there may be a video of me playing the drums on the wine barrels after a few tastings.
Triglav National Park
This was what we were most excited for in the trip and I am glad we saved it for last because to be honest I don't think we would have ever left. Triglav National Park is the only national park in Slovenia, it is located in the Julian Alps of north-western Slovenia. The national park was named after the highest mountain in Slovenia, Mt. Triglav, which rises to an elevation of 2864 metres(9396 feet) - on clear days the summit of Mt.Triglav can be seen from everywhere in the country. This dynamic mountain terrain features picturesque mountain peaks and valleys as well as numerous natural and cultural attractions and is ideal for activities in nature and for spending your leisure time actively(okay that sentence I just borrowed from their tourism board - bit it's not untrue). It is over 838 square kilometres (4% of the entire country) and tucked in the northwestern corner of Slovenia on the boarders of both Italy to the west and Austria to the north. It features beautiful places such as the teal blue waters of the Soča Valley, cream cake at the castle overlooking Lake Bled and the largest lake in Slovenia, Lake Bohinj. I think the images of it speak for themselves...
Fun Facts and useful links:
- Slovenia’s War of Independence in 1991, also known as the Ten-Day War claimed 76 lives. It was also the first war in Europe since World War II.
- Ljubljana is the green capital of Europe (Ljubljana also translates to The Loved One, it is located in the centre of the country and the city's official symbol is a DRAGON)
- There is one vineyard or winery for every 70 citizens.
- There are over 400 brown bears in Slovenia (and zero Grizzlies)
- If a couple is to get married at the church on the island in Lake Bled - the groom must carry his bride up the 99 steps
- The first married couple to summit Everest together were from Slovenia
- Half of Slovenia's total surface area is covered in forest
- There is over 7,000km of market trails in Slovenia and 165 alpine huts and shelters
- The Chronicles of Narnia was filed in Slovenia's Soča Valley
- There are 90,000 beekeepers in a population of just two million - you will see bee hives nearly everywhere you look
- Kranjska Gora is the cheapest ski resort in Europe. A report compared the cost of equipment hire, lift passes, ski lesson and lunches for a family of four staying for six days. The total bill was £1,071 in Kranjska Gora, compared to more than £2,000 in Swiss resorts. Kranjska Gora is also home to Slovenia's only Men's World Cup race (the women ski at Maribor)
- Hostel Celica in Ljubljana occupies a converted jail so if you want you can spend the night in jail.
my Packing List:
I used to travel a lot and for a year out of university I lived out of a suitcase but have never considered myself a "good packer" - this trip was no different. I tried to pack everything but the kitchen sink in my carry-on luggage. Although I wish I had a few more colour variations I think I did okay.
Camera (with extra memory cards and batteries)
Full length tights