Sunday, 7 August 2016

Sun 7 Aug 2016. Skocjan (Slovenia) through Bolzac to Brixen (Italy)

Sun 7 Aug 2016. Skocjan (Slovenia) through Bolzac to Brixen (Italy)
Strong winds continued through night. Off to border with Italy this morning, with a brief stop at Divica to look at the ancient church dedicated to St Anthony the Hermit. There was no desire to find the supposedly attractive Snake Cave, once we had heard it was the site of a mass grave from WWII, but more importantly because it was still inhabited by snakes!! 
Goodbye Slovenia - you certainly surprised us! What's not to "love"?? 

Crossed border at Gorizia into our 18th country for this trek - immediately green neat crops, corn, tomatoes, small "plantations" of tall thin stemmed trees, somewhat like poplars. 

Tolls again (missing our vignette already) first one gave out ticket, then paid by card down road OK, second did not produce a ticket, after pressing button numerous times for assistance with no answer or no one arriving, and sign saying do not get out of vehicle, barrier finally opened by itself, so we drove out. Sign on some lanes say "telepass", so will have to find out if it is like a vignette, and how to buy. Churches now have stand-alone bell towers/ carillons, mostly in red brick. Orange tiled roofs on houses. Rivers flowing, clean and green. Came to next toll without ticket, man would not listen to our explanation of no ticket, or take 20 euro note, or our credit card, GirlRob went to get out of car closer to explain, but he said "no get out", "no get out", he looked up computer and finally gave me a receipt/invoice (?) that said we had 15 days to pay 70 fine! GirlRob said no, no, and went to get out again, and he waved her away furiously, shut his window and turned his back. Damn - will have to find out how to follow up. Drove away with dampener on day. Fortunately beautiful scenery soon took over, stopped at lay-by for lunch of canned tuna and bread roll. The mountains became increasingly more beautiful. 

First tantalising glimpse of Dolomite mountains

And finally - snow!!!!!

Arrived Bolzano, in South Tyrol, after 300+kms today. We were turned away from two campgrounds, fully booked. Tried a “pay by ticket” EuroSpar carpark, with 15 motorhomes already parked, but no one home at any of campers and couldn't see any sign indicating Stellplatz (what if they are only off on tour today and using pay by hour carparking?) Found another carpark on edge of town with one well-shut mobile home, but same problem - where would you go in dark if someone moved you on? Or how get out if locked up at night? In the end we booked ahead over phone for campground at top of Dolomites highway - 60kms more than we wanted to do today. We’ll have to do Dolomites loop road backwards tomorrow. On arrival at campgrounds we booked for second night to prevent going through same search tomorrow. Bought a Bristol card for free public transport and cable car ride, discount off museum entries. Made creamy tuna pasta "surprise" for dinner, listening to rushing water in channel right behind our site.


Saturday, 6 August 2016

Sat 6 Aug 2016. Around Skocjan Caves

Sat 6 Aug 2016. Around Skocjan Caves
Toast and baked beans for breakfast. BoyRob’s hip needs a full day’s rest so GirlRob will take the camera for company today on the cave tour, and canyon rim trek. UNESCO listed, and on the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance, Skocjan Caves and canyon are protected in a National Park. Gouged out by the Reka River, the system comprises numerous caves and passages, collapse dolines, natural bridges, and sinkholes. 
It’s the largest underground canyon in Europe, 100 metres deep, with a constant temperature of 12 degrees. Formal tour included 3km of steep, slippery trails, and over 500 steps. Highlights:
·         Tina Jama - silent cave, collapse chamber, gi-normous cavern on incline down.
Stalactites (Ceiling down - hollow), stalagmites (Ground up - solid), joined to make columns, pipe organs/ curtains to ground.
·         Great Chamber, hosting The Giant, an ugly bulbous monolith.
·         Great Hall, high up could see Silent Twins, stalagmites whose growth is keeping pace with each other.
·         Amazing wall hugging line high above ground around sheer edges marked by lights, surreal sight.
·         Sumeca Jama - water murmuring cave, stood on Cerkvenik bridge over Hankes Canal, a ravine water 540 mts below, water 30mts deep! A real vertigo hit!!
·         Flow stone pools, remarkably travertine in appearance, no longer active.
·         As neared Velika Dolina (collapsed doline marking the exit) couple of bats moved higher away.

Cerkvenik bridge over Hankes Canal

Flow stone pools

The cavernous  doline

GirlRob had rarely worn her Goretex hiking boots in the last two years until today – a bad move, her feet were on fire by end of tour! Hobbled up past Tominc Cave (where finds were unearthed of a prehistoric settlement) and the Big Collapse Doline and its view of cascading waterfall into pools far below.

Finally trod the last 200mtrs over a walkway near Natural Bridge to a cable elevator, where whizzed back to top for a well-deserved rest over lunch. The Karst Roll (prosciutto, olives and cheese) and hot chocolate revived her enough to tackle the final trail, the education walk along the sinkhole rim. 

The  164m deep Velika Dolina

Rising mist led to belief this was entrance to Hades

There was internet at info centre, took opportunity to look up availability of tickets for Zeppelin flight over Friedrichstrafen around our dates. Mostly single seats left, so booked double tickets immediately. BoyRob picked up his footsore but enthusiastic partner after her trek to the final viewpoint over sinkhole, village, and church. Wind picked up in arvo, very strong on open campground. GirlRob unearthed the knitting she is doing for grandson Fletcher’s first birthday.

Catching the afternoon sunshine


Replaced water in Ozzie's tanks at guesthouse, guessing its purer here from limestone karsts then some of our fill stops in recent months. Sat in our host’s charming courtyard for dinner. The son said they were hamstrung in their expansion plans – the government set number of pitches at each campground, and that the clerks who inspected the properties obviously weren't from the tourist industry. His mother was the cook, the spinach and polenta pinwheels were cute (but bland) with salad. The elderberry juice was colourless and tasteless - given the strong purple dye on the roadway from the berries we had expected something stronger. Furious wind still blowing, the cool outdoors sent us to bed early.