Lungo L’Isonzo March 30, 2014
Today we have changed to “ore legale” – Daylight savings time – and it is an early start for the Sunday camminata. We are headed to Slovenia past Nova Gorizia. As we get to Gorizia I start to recogonise the road and the amazing color of the river that it follows. It is the Isonzo and drove by there last May with the Commandante too. From Wiki pedia “Due to its emerald green water, the river is marketed as “The Emerald Beauty.” It is said to be one of the rare rivers in the world that retain such a colour throughout their length.”
“The Soča (in Slovene) or Isonzo (In Italian) is a 138 km (86 mi) long river that flows through western Slovenia (27 miles). An Alpine river in character, its source lies in theTrenta Valley in the Julian in northwestern Slovenia, at an elevation of 876 metres (2,874 ft).The river enters the Adriatic Sea close to the Italian town of Monfalcone“ (which I catch a glimpse of from by balcony!).
“The Soča valley was the stage of major military operations on the Italian Front in World War I between May 1915 and November 1917, in which over 300,000 Austro-Hungarian and Italian soldiers lost their lives.”
We keep driving and the pastoral Slovenian countryside is that spring green of the first leaves and grasses. Then I catch a glimpse of snow capped mountains rising above the green plains. I was told we needed an early start because of the longer drive (about 1h45min) to get there but the longer daytime hours would mean we could have a longer day. The walk was also described to me as an easy one without the steep climbs but seeing the snow capped mountains has put some doubts into my mind as to what I understood.
We go through a small town Tolmin neat, with tidy and beautifully maintained homes and businesses. Flowering fruit trees, nicely shaped yellow forsythias, pink and white flowering fruit trees, huge magnolia blossoms, weeping willows with their new spring buds. And even the rontodas (traffic circles) are planted with neat rows of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths all in colorful bloom. There are large trees lining one of the streets – large deep pink blossoms but no one recognizes what the tree might be.
We park the car at a signed parking area in Kobarid, don the hiking boots and back packs and head out. It is sunny and warm enough already at 10:15 in the morning that I do not put on my black hoodie. Undershirt and long sleeved shirt buttoned tight up to the collar, collar lifted to protect my neck, big floppy brimmed hat and I am ready with some trepidation to head out. The walk is stunning right from the start. The forests are filled with spring flowers of all kinds and colors. The light yellow primula are on their final stages of bloom and the crocuses and bucaneve are done flowering. In their place periwinkle blue flowers, may actually be periwinkles, white star shaped flowers, delicate acquilegia, forget me nots, mountain geraniums – same leaf form but more delicate than the flower box geraniums, deep yellow marsh marigold like flowers, hellebores, fuschia colored bell shaped flowers. Just everywhere flowers and flowers. And lots more that I cannot remember. Then a small three leafed plant -ortica-nettles is pointed out to me by one of the ladies who is very knowledgeable about the plants and trees. But she tells me that you only pick the young leaves in spring and usually with rubber gloves or else it hurts the skin. It makes a delicious risotto. The air in the beech forest is light and fresh, the spring birds are chirping. The vegetation is lush and green and quite unlike the arid carsic vegetation of previous walks. I feel euphoric with the spring air, spring flowers and mountain scenery.
High up in the leafless trees are Vischio – round green leafy balls that at first I think are squirrels nests. I am told it is used to decorate at Christmas and has a small white berry. I am also told you hang it over a door way to ask for a kiss! This is from the internet- “cum album is a species of mistletoe in the family Santalaceae, commonly known as European mistletoe, common mistletoe or simply as mistletoe”. There you go – I had no idea how mistletoe actually grew.
We are walking along this stunning emerald blue green ribbon of a river – the Isonzo. When it hits rocks the water forms snow white rapids. There are large boulders in the water, smooth and rounded by the erosion and stark white against the emerald water.
Then through the trees I see a suspended bridge over the river –We walk on the bridge, and look down and out over the river. Stunning color and views.
We continue the walk through beech forests.
We round the corner there is a stone staircase narrow and following the sides of a high rock wall. The rock face is full of purple flower. I stop to take a picture of purple flowers hanging form the rock face, take my sunglasses off to see the camera screen a little better, and off go the sunglasses into the stream below. Super Dario (the capogita) to the rescue. He has to head down about a metre and a half to the waters edge, step onto a moss covered stone that projects from the water while hand gripping the side of the rock wall with one hand. He reaches in and grabs my sunglasses just as the stream current pushes them out of reach. He repositions his hold on the rock face reaches into the water and this time retrieves my sunglasses, just as they are once again about to head downstream and out of reach.
I continue on down the small wooden walkway and first feel the air change to cool and breezy, there is a round metallic rope to hold on to, and then I see that we are at the Veliki Kozjak waterfall. The brochure I pick up later describes it as “a staggeringly beautiful 15 metre column of water that falls at the source of the lower channels of the Kozjak stream. Caught between the walls of a kind of underground chamber, it pours out into a wide green pool.” I see a small, cool, shady grotto-like opening and white water cascading down into this crystal clear blue green pool. It feels like the opening scenes of “Jurassic Park” where you see this high waterfall in the greenery of the jungle– though this is one only feels high and is spring green. The water flows rapidly out into the brook where I dropped my sunglasses!
We start to climb and I am told it is not a steep climb and not long. I am not sure how long it is but it is manageable but by this time I am feeling quite warm. We reach a mountain pasture. There is an old wooden structure with some caffe au lait colored cows inside and a few outside too. They look at us, less than curious, and continue with their feeding. I wonder if the new grass and warm spring day is as pleasing to them as it is to me. The birds are chirping all around. A man with a golden colored dog walks by and say – Dober Dan. Underfoot everywhere are forget me nots and flower, flowers, flowers.
The climb ends and we have reached a tiny village – Magozd. To me the houses look quite new. The capogita explains that there had been an earthquake in the area about ten years ago and in fact the house have been rebuilt. We walk through the tiny village, dogs barking at us, and a closer look shows, the traditional three storied Slovenian houses, neatly stuccoed but these have modern big windows and tall window-doors. We pass a house with a brand new wooden stairway leading to the second level balcony and then by a house a bit higher off the road with a long perfectly trimmed hedge of boxwoods about a metre high. Flowers and flowering trees are in all the yards. At the edge of town, we stop for lunch in a clearing that has cord and cords of neatly stacked firewood. Two pieces of firewood make a nice little stool, the beech wood sawdust is sweet and fresh. I happily down my panin and carrot sticks and orange slices. I can hear the cowbells ringing from the small pasture below. As beautiful as these marked trails are, there is no attempt to provide facilities of any kind so the tall stacks of wood as screens have to do. We walk down the hill and there is a brand new basketball court, and a small playground, with its brightly colored swings and slides.
We continue on alongside the river, rich beech forests all around. We are above the river and we come to a spot where we can see further down stream. There are some kayakers, white water rafters? on their way down. They have to maneuver, one by one, past the rock outcroppings, maybe 3 m high – I can’t tell from this distance, though the rapids are actually right below us. Yellow and navy blue kayaks against the emerald water and white rocks. We keep going and then I see another suspended bridge. We are headed there to cross over to the other side of the river and do the return portion of the trail. At the bridge are several wooden benches. I take my pack off to go and see the goats. They have a large fenced area that runs straight up the hill. There are big rocks to climb on and two shy baby goats are perched on one side of a rock. Another goat is lying down on top of a rock. There is a small weathered barn and other goats are in there and chewing contently on the hay.
We cross the bridge and walk through the town of Trnovo. It has the traditional Slovenian church with the onion bulb top. The church is set against the mountain tops in the background – snow covered M t.e Kanin and M.te Krn – Monte Nero in Italian. M t.e Krn is easily recognizable because it has a sheer, sharp crag from the summit.
We walk through the town and again, well tended – to houses with pansies, daffodils blooming in the yards, neat gardens with rows on onions and lettuce leaves. This part of the trail is on the asphalt road for about 1 km but even thought there is car and motor cycle traffic coming towards us, the scenery is still stunning. I can see the snow capped mountains, the trail is on the road because it is straight down to the river about 50 feet or so – no way to have a trail there. We come across another waterfall, all full of the spring melt from the mountains and so with an impressive roar of falling water. Then we are back on the trail above the river and through some forest again. We reach a clearing and across from us on the other side of the Isonzo is a kind of hollowed out grotto, smooth and with the play of green water moving across its surface. We are near the end of the walk now and come to a bridge that spans the river with arches and a road. The road leads back to the parking lot. It is still early – 15 km completed at about 4.2 km/h with about 1h and 20 minutes for stopping for lunch and for gawking at the spectacular scenery. Everyone comments on how unexpectedly beautiful the scenery was, how nicely tired we are and we thank the capogita for having selected this trail on much a magnificent spring day. The hiking boots are replaced by lighter shoes and the sweaty shirts with dry shirts. Luckily for me there were no steep, steep hills and everything about this walk was perfect.
It is still early 3:30 so the capogita suggests a quick detour to the Hudicev Most (Devil’s Bridge) which stretches 60 m above the Tolminka river. The area is part of the Triglav National Park and you can walk to and through the gorges and caves. But we just went for a look see before dinner. The road is narrow and so is the bridge but it leads to a few small towns further up. I cannot imagine driving that narrow, slippery road and bridge in the winter time.
Dinner is at a Pensione in Most na Soci. It overlooks a lake formed by the Isonzo (Soca), and it has a lakeside terrace. But we are bit chilled from the walk and choose to eat indoors. The village and its campanile are below us, white geese swim happily in the lake surrounded by neat, pastel houses and gardens. This is a place to eat lake trout – not my favorite and I have instead a Lubjanska – breaded pork schnitzel with a ham and cheese filling. I am ravenous and the fried meat and French Fries are perfectly satisfying if not a little bit unhealthy! For dessert traditional struki – ravioli like pastry filled with finely ground nuts, sprinkled with cinnamon and icing sugar and a little melted chocolate. Perfect ending to a perfect day!