A Magnificent Back Road in Slovenia

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August 25th 2012
Published: November 7th 2012
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We chugged through the outer suburbs of the industrial end of Verona following the Garmin’s instructions to the motorway. The Italian motorway has a speed limit of 130kph so we were soon whisking our way towards Ljubljana in Slovenia. Motorway driving was fairly boring but efficient so we covered 220kms in quick time.

We chose to enter Slovenia via the adventure town of Soča so this meant getting off the motorway. The Garmin led us onto increasingly narrow roads and through little Italian villages. We stopped on the edge of a pretty village by a stream to eat the lunch Eileen had prepared earlier. I was wondering if this was really the road to Slovenia and would we be able to enter or be turned back by a dead end! We continued on the road, virtually deserted just the odd car and quite a few motorcyclists out for a blast on the twisty back roads. We reached the border post to find it deserted – no opportunity to ask for an interesting stamp in the passport.

The Soča area is very pretty and almost has a Swiss feel to it. We stopped briefly by a pretty mountain stream, as had many other travellers. Eileen decided that the rickety swing bridge was not for her, so we clambered down the rocks to the stream. We both had a short paddle in the crystal clear stream. The water was very cold so we did not linger, unlike many Slovenian families enjoying the perfect and hot day.

We carried on across the Vršič pass (1611 m), gaining then dropping about 1000 metres of height in the process. The Russian Road, as it was renamed in 2006, was constructed during World War 1 by 10,000 Russian prisoners of war, many dying in the process. During 1916 two springtime avalanches buried 300 Russian POWs and several Austrian guards. There is a chapel on the Kranjska Gora side built by the prisoners in memory of their suffering and sacrifice.

It is a feat of engineering rising up and then down the mountainside very quickly in a series of 50 hairpin bends over 24 km distance. The views of the grey granite peaks surrounding the road are stunning. You stare up at them in amazement from the bottom and then only a few minutes later you are up amongst them. The road is closed for about 5 months of the year due to snow and extreme weather conditions.

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