Voyages round my Father

July 12th, 2007

I recently did something that I should have done years ago – went on holiday with my dad. Circumstances have been against us of course – my work (and at one point the lack of it) and his full-time caring for mum who had a severe stroke seven years ago. But thank heavens we managed it before old age (he’s 83) got in the way.

On the rare occasions that he gets respite care he usually goes to Normandy with some veteran friends but it’s not really a holiday due to the various obligations to visit people from the French Resistance and attend commemorative ceremonies. However despite this he insisted that we went somewhere that I wanted to go rather than anywhere he could think of. We went to my beloved Slovenia, and it was also much too long since I’d been there.

I was rather afraid that it might have changed, gone too commercial, or become over developed since they joined the EU and recently adopted the Euro, and I really wanted dad to see the country as I knew it and enjoy the sights so familiar to me because I knew that, being so much alike in many ways, he would love them as much as I do. I needn’t have worried; though their economy is forging ahead the Slovenes are mostly very aware of the value of their wild country areas and the peace and serenity they provide. Only in the international skiing centre of Kranjska Gora did there appear to be some regrettable developments of hotels being turned into casinos. In my favourite area of Lake Bohinj everything was much the same as my last visit 8 years ago.

St Janus church and the bridge at Lake BohinjHaving arrived late at night after a tiring journey it was with delight and relief that I took dad down to the bridge on the lake just 2 minutes walk from the hotel and watched him take in the surrounding mountains, the marvellous colours, and most of all the deep sense of peace and harmony that the area enshrines. A man who is not given to superlatives, he was enthusing about the place for the rest of the week and I was wishing we had booked in there for the whole fortnight. Although the weather could have been kinder, the changing appearance of the crystal clear lake as the mists rose and fell, the colours varying from pale pastel, to deep blues and greens gave hints of how wonderful a place it can be throughout the year.

Despite his advanced years he coped with everything I suggested in walking to the many waterfalls and gorges that provide such a varied set of attractions. The wild flowers were at their peak of profusion and we revelled in the colours and scents that washed over our senses. In the evenings we indulged our other sense of taste with the superb foods and wines that I remembered so well. And as we relaxed we talked in a way that we had never had a chance to do at home – of past generations of family members and their stories, and of wartime exploits which had been kept secret in the way that old soldiers often need to do to avoid burdening their loved ones.

We were both sad to leave Bohinj as we got the car-train through the tunnel that cuts out a long trip over the mountains and connects the Bohinjska valley to the roads towards the west. We were heading down to Kobarid in the Socha valley near to the Italian border. I was unsure of what lay in store for us as I had travelled through but not stayed in the area, but we had been promised that our hotel had one of the best restaurants in Slovenia and we weren’t disappointed. Wonderfully fresh produce superbly combined and cooked and matched with marvellous wines had us both purring with appreciation every night. Rich soups of wild mushrooms or the finest tomatoes with local herbs. Melt-in-the-mouth Sea Bass. Steaks which simply parted for the knife and oozed flavour, and soft fruits that exploded in the mouth with luscious tastes.

During the days we explored the area. Kobarid is a small town but has perhaps the finest war museum in the world, commemorating the alpine battle between the Italians and the Austro-Hungarians during World War I. The carnage of this episode was appalling and must have devastated this peaceful agricultural area. There is a massive memorial to the soldiers on a hill overlooking the town and the river with a view right down the the valley. The area is rich in Roman remains with a fort on top of a nearby hill and terraces visible on the road up to the memorial.
However the really impressive trip is to drive up towards the narrow Trenta valley which leads to the Vrsic Pass. Surrounded by mountains which become ever more vertical and with the bright blue-white river ever present at your side you climb at first steadily and then dramatically until you find yourself in an alpine world of breathtaking beauty and inspiring views. Dad called it invigorating and told me he never imagined he would be walking in such mountains at 83.

It was a trip we both badly needed but more importantly it was one that brought us together in a way that exceeded all my hopes. I dearly hope we can do it again while his health remains good enough.

Entry Filed under: Friends and family,Photography,Slovenia

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