A short trip to Slovenia
I have just got back from a short visit to Slovenia, although the intended purpose of the visit was research, whilst there I managed to successfully combine work with a little bit of paddling and some sightseeing. I was in Maribor visiting a researcher at the university for a week before heading into Ljubljana for a day and then hiring a car and driving across to the Soča in the hope of getting a few days of paddling.
It is coming towards the end of the season on the Soča and so water levels were low but there was enough water that the popular stretches were never a scrape. I hired a boat for three days from the friendly chaps at Alpin Action and headed off to the river. It being a weekend there were a lot of paddlers around and it wasn’t hard to find someone to tag along with, in this case a friendly Slovenian chap named Peter who I paddled with on the Srpenica – Trnovo section, a wonderful section of grade three paddling.
The following day I decided to check out the stretch of river from Bunkerji to Zmuklica as I had seen some gorgeous photos of the river here and the (excellent) river notes promised grade III – IV. I didn’t find anyone to paddle with and so kayaked this stretch on my own and walked back up to the car. This was the first time I have paddled solo on an unfamiliar river and have to say I enjoyed the experience immensely. It feels pretty special to be paddling through the morning mist on your own, just ambling along at your own speed and enjoying your surroundings. My favourite moment had to be running a tight tricky rapid into a serene little gorge that was particularly enchanting with the mist that was covering the river.
My third day of paddling on the Soča was the highlight; I was lucky enough to hook up with some of the guides working for Alpin Action and paddle the river from the slalom site at Trnovo to Kobarid. The fast slalom course at Trnovo provides a great warm up to the tight and technical section below which has some nasty siphons in places if you miss a line. Paddling with these guys here was inspiring, they paddle the stretch pretty much everyday and for these guys style is all important on the river. On every drop there was a sweet boof, flare or grind to be had, this was some of the smoothest paddling I’ve seen for a while. So that was all the paddling I had time for this trip, I had time to head up over the mountains for a relaxing day in Bled before heading back into Ljubljana for my flight home.
The country is beautiful and with Easyjet now flying to Ljubljana the Soča is really no hassle to get to. As well as the paddling it is also well worth spending some time in Ljubljana, taking time to visit the very moving war museum in Kobarid (the Soča valley saw some of the most horrific fighting of WW1) and spending some time in the stunningly scenic town of Bled. I plan on returning next year earlier in the season to catch the higher water levels.