Breakfast in the hotel’s cheery dining room was excellent…..eggs, meats, cheeses, breads, fruits, yogurts, and a piping hot pot of coffee.
After breakfast, we headed out of Lake Bled for a drive through Triglav National Park and the Julian Alps….the alpine mountain range that borders Italy. We passed farmlands and pastures, puzzled by skinny little structures with roofs that seemed to shelter ladder-like constructions…..tickled when we finally saw them in use….hayracks! A uniquely Slovenian creation!
With my susceptibility to motion-queasiness, I wasn’t looking forward to the twists and turns that are obligatory on mountain roads, but I needn’t have worried. These winding roads were so steep, with such tight hairpin turns, that our speed was just above a snail’s pace. In fact, to help with traction, the pavement changed to cobblestone at every turn.
As we inched up the mountains, bicyclists (who I’ve always thought must harbor a secret death-wish) flew by us on their downward trek. Sheep, rightly claiming this as their own territory, sauntered across the roads and sheltered in the shade of parked cars.
For me, the mountains were more impressive from below so I was thrilled when we started our descent. With the mountains now dominating the landscape behind us, we entered the lush, green fields of the Soča Valley. We were surprised to learn that this serene landscape was the scene of twelve major battles during World War I and even more surprised to discover that this was the area the Red Cross Ambulance Corps sent a young Ernest Hemingway. We stopped in the little town of Kobarid to tour it’s museum….in just a few rooms of exhibits, photographs and explanations of the wartime events that occurred here (and killed over 600,000 soldiers), it strongly conveyed the futility of war.
On a hill outside town, the Church of Saint Anton (dating back to the 1600’s) is encircled by a three-level mausoleum built by Mussolini in the 1930’s (when this countryside was Italian) as the final resting place for more than 7,000 Italian soldiers who’s remains were buried throughout the valley.
Somberly, we continued our drive back to Lake Bled, driving for hours along small, twisting, stomach-churning roads.
“Brave helpless soldiers; blundering obstinate generals; nothing achieved.” ~ Historian A.J.P. Taylor in his book, “The First World War”