Predjama Castle, Kobarid and the Soča Valley

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October 2nd 2019
Published: October 4th 2019
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On our way from Ljubljana to Kobarid we planned a small detour to visit Predjama Castle. After about an hours drive (on the wrong side of the road) through beautiful scenery we arrived at the castle.

Predjama Castle is a medieval castle built inside a large cave approximately 123m above the valley below. The first mention of the castle in historical records is from around 1274, but it has been rebuilt / extended multiple times since then. The castle has had numerous owners over the years, but the most famous / infamous was knight Erazem of Predjama who was described as a Robin Hood type figure who ultimately met his end following a year long siege after a servant informed the enemy that the weakest point of the castle was the toilet. The servant signalled to the enemy that Erazem was using the bathroom and they promptly catapulted a large stone ball and took him out.

Our entry ticket bought us an audio guide which told us about the history of the castle and what the various rooms were used for. We discovered that Erazem was a bit of a joker who liked to mess with the enemy by delivering them fresh fruit and roast meat during the year long siege. The castle was in wonderful condition and well presented, though it sounds like it was a fairly miserable, damp and dark place to live before electricity. The views from the castle were lovely as well.

On our way out of the castle we ran in to Sam and Amy from our food tour who were on a day trip from Ljubljana. After stopping for a chat we headed off in search of some food.

Lunch was at one of the small restaurants near the castle. I ordered pasta with a tomato based sauce while Scott opted for a weiner schnitzel. While we were waiting for our meal I practiced my Spanish by helping three women from a Colombian tour group to order their meal.

After our acceptable but unremarkable lunch we set off towards Kobarid, our base for the next three nights. The drive was absolutely gorgeous; green fields, impressive mountains and the occasional glimpse of the aqua Soča River.

Kobarid is a small town of approximately 1000 people in the Municipality of Kobarid. It has become known as a foodie destination as well as a base for hiking, including along the Soča River, and exploring the surrounding area.

We arrived in Kobarid just under two hours after leaving Predjama Castle. We checked into our hotel and then visited the information centre nearby to get some information about hikes in the area. We then visited one of the supermarkets, which is opposite a cheese factory, to check out what was on offer. Unfortunately there wasn't any good quality / normal tea, just herbal and strange fruit flavoured ones.

That night for dinner we visited Hisa Polonka which is the sister restaurant to the renowned Hisa Franko (which doesn't accommodate dietary requirements so we had to give it a miss). I ordered frika, a local dish of cheese and sliced potatoes cooked in a disk until the outside is crispy, and Scott ordered pork with a side of potatoes. We also shared a salad. The food was delicious, though the frika was way too big to finish (my arteries were clogging up...). Fortunately we were able to take the leftovers home.

The following morning we had breakfast at the hotel (cheese, meats, yoghurt, crepes, homemade jam and more delicious bread) and then set off to do the Kobarid historical trail walk combined with a section of the Soča Trail and a section of the Alpe-Adria trail.

The walk left from Kobarid and began with a climb up the mountain to Sacrario dei Caduti di Caporettoon which houses the remains of 7014 Italian casualties from World War I. We walked around the shrine which displays the names of those that were killed on the outside before continuing our hike.

The next stage of the walk took us along an obvious, though not all that well signed, track towards Tonovcov grad. Tonovcov grad is an archaeological site on top of a hill. The site is home to the remains of houses and churches built in the 5th century and artefacts from earlier than that. The remains of the buildings weren't that impressive to look at, but the view from the top of the hill was worth the climb.

From Tonovcov grad we headed back down the hill past the remains of World War I and II infrastructure, through the forest and on towards the Soča River following the signs to Slap (waterfall) Kosjak.

When we reached the Soča River we crossed across a cute little bridge (which we stopped on to take some photos of the gorgeous river) and then turned left onto the Soča Trail to follow the signs to Soska Pot. The Soča Trail followed the river but ascended to several view points and then descended back down again after each.

Eventually we reached a fork in the trail; the left continued on the Soča Trail whereas the right, the path we took, joined the Alpe-Adria Trail heading towards Magozd and Drežniške. At about this point in time it started raining. Fortunately the heavy rain didn’t last too long, though the drizzle continued for a while.

Once we joined the Alpe-Adria Trail, the path widened out and also began to climb up the side of the hill. We walked through the forest for a while before the scenery opened up a bit so that we were walking alongside small farms.

Eventually we reached the pretty town of Magozd. We made our way down the hill, now following the signs to Slap Kosjak again. After a lot of down and, thankfully, not too much up, we reached Slap Kosjak.

We paid the entry fee for Slap Kosjak to a woman who has a fairly boring job sitting in a tiny little hut taking money from tourists. From the ticket booth it was a fairly short walk before we reached the waterfall. The waterfall is 15m high and falls into a beautiful blue pool of water. The walk in to the waterfall was almost as beautiful as the waterfall itself.

After Slap Kosjak we headed back towards Kobarid. We reached Kobarid about 5 hours after we left. The lady at the tourist information centre said that the walk should take between 4 – 5 hours, but we thought 5 – 6 hours was probably a more appropriate guide given we didn’t stop much.

On the way back to our hotel we stopped at the supermarket to pick up some bread, cheese, sausage, butter, yoghurt and fruit for breakfast the following morning.

That night for dinner we tried one of the highly rated pizza restaurants in Kobarid. Unfortunately the pizza didn’t live up to expectations; we thought we’d be in for some pretty delicious pizza given we were only about 12kms from Italy! It was edible, but nothing special. Not long after we got back to our hotel after dinner it started raining quite heavily.

The following morning we awoke to the sound of heavy rain; it certainly seemed like it had set in for the day. We checked the weather forecast, which seems to be fairly unreliable in Slovenia, and discovered that anywhere between 20 – 100mm of rain was forecast for the day. Probably not the best weather for hiking!

First stop of the day was the Kobarid Museum. The Kobarid Museum is almost entirely dedicated to the exhibits about the Isonzo (Soča) Front from the First World War, focusing on the Twelfth Battle of the Isonzo, which is also known as the Battle of Kobarid. The battle, between the Italians and Austro-Hungarian (including Slovenian as it was under Austro-Hungarian rule at the time) forces was one of the most violent in the history of the mountains around Kobarid. It was later documented by Hemingway in A Farewell to Arms.

We checked out all the rooms, which include lots of photographs and stories from the battles, while avoiding the school tour groups and German tour groups. We also watched a short 20 minute video which gave an overview of the battle and the events that followed. It seemed like an incredibly tough battle fought in horribly cold conditions.

For lunch we picked up another loaf of delicious bread from the supermarket (Slovenia does good bread!) as well as some tomatoes. After lunch we read our books for a while hoping for a break in the weather.

Eventually it looked like it was starting to clear a bit so we decided to drive to Tolmin in the hope that we could do the short hike around Tolmin Gorges. Fortunately the weather was still fairly clear when we arrived at the entry point for the walk so we decided to risk it.

After purchasing our tickets we set off along the trail to the first point of interest, the thermal springs. The water from the springs is between 18.8 and 20.8 degrees Celsius, which might sound cold but in comparison to the temperature of the Tolminka River into which it flows, a chilly 5 to 9 degrees Celsius, it’s fairly warm!

At about this point it started raining, but we decided to continue walking anyway as Scott had an umbrella and I had a decent rain jacket. The next point of interest was the confluence of the Tolminka and Zadlaščica rivers. We didn’t stop to admire the view here for too long as it was raining quite heavily.

The next stop was at Medvedova glava (The Bear’s Head) and Skakalce. Medvedova glava is a natural ‘bridge’ created when a (very) large rock got wedged between the walls of the Zadlaščica canyon. The photos don’t really capture just how large the rock is. The canyon was really beautiful and the strange rock wedged in the walls made it even more attractive.

From Medvedova glava we set off uphill. We decided to skip Dante’s Cave as neither of us are that into caves and you can’t go that far into it without a guide (and it was uphill). So we continued on our way to the Devil’s Bridge which is on the road leading to a small village. The bridge was commissioned in 1907, but was later upgraded. This replaced a small wooden bridge which had been used by the villagers previously.

The view from the Devil’s Bridge was wonderful. Fortunately the weather had cleared by this point so we were able to get some nice photos of the river and canyon below. From the bridge it was an easy walk downhill back to the starting point. The whole walk took us about an hour.

After the walk we considered visiting a small church nearby, but part way along the very narrow road that hugged the side of the mountain we decided to turn back as neither of us are that interested in churches and we didn’t fancy having to deal with encountering a car coming in the other direction when there weren’t many placed to pull over.

After returning to our hotel we spent the afternoon playing the Settlers of Catan card game and reading books. We went for a short walk through the town to take some photos and check out dinner options (unfortunately Hisa Polonka was closed so we sadly couldn’t go back there).

That night for dinner we tried out a ‘local’ restaurant at one of the camp grounds. The food was quite simple (frika for me, small minced meat kebabs served with bread for Scott and a shared salad), but tasty enough. The waiter was rather amusing because he didn’t appear to have much of an interest in food or drinks. When people asked what wines were available he replied “white or red” and volunteered nothing further.

Kobarid was a great little place to spend a few days. We enjoyed our longer walk and the war history was quite interesting. It was also a good to explore Tolmin Gorge from. The Soča River is absolutely stunning.

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8th October 2019
Predjama Castle

This is a part of the world we look forward to exploring. Thank you for the blog which will give us great ideas.

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