Travel of the right kind is what opens our hearts and minds. It’s what makes us better versions of ourselves if we simply slow down and consider the positive impact of our adventures. By slowing down we can better connect with our surroundings and create more meaningful connections with the local communities along the way. If you believe that travel can be a force for good, you’re in the perfect place my friend.
Pre-warning: If you love rushing from place to place – ticking off the must-see hot spots – all to get the perfect Instagram story – good for you my love. But this might not be your kind of story.
Duration: 2 months
The Colour Green…
Slovenia. Declared a ‘Green Destination’ and named a ‘sustainable country’, it’s the most pristine and wild part of Europe I’ve ever seen (up until this point anyway).
So, what do these fancy titles mean in a practical sense? I’m still a little unclear myself.
Putting the title argument aside for a moment, one thing is for certain Slovenia is green – very green.
Between 50-60% of the land is covered in beautiful forests. Despite the country being 12 times smaller than the UK, it still plays host to wolves, lynx, and brown bears. Striking, isn’t it? When the UK is still slow to get beavers in our rivers and shows no signs of welcoming back the wolf, a keystone species needed to restore balance.
Although the land surface of Slovenia represents less than 0.004% of the total Earth’s surface, it’s home to as much as 1% of all known living species on Earth. This makes it among the most biodiverse areas of Europe.
From the magical rivers, lakes, and waterfalls, with some of the clearest water we’ve ever seen, to the traffic-free, incredibly beautiful, and green city of Ljubljana – to say Slovenia surpassed our expectations would be putting it mildly.
A place so often called ‘a hidden gem’, this tiny country nestled between the Alps and the Adriatic felt like a paradise that somehow still remained ‘hidden’ – we’d never felt anything quite like it.
The diversity of wildflowers Slovenia plays host to (whether in the meadows, on the hillside, or across the forest floor) stood out above any country I’ve been lucky enough to visit. I captured some of these wildflowers so I can remember their beauty – here are just a few…
What did slow travel in Slovenia teach me?
1. We Must Defend the Dandelion. It’s Not A Weed.
Growing up amongst these incredible wildflowers – known as the ‘tooth of the lion’- it’s odd to think that I had never given them a second thought. That was until Slovenia.
Was it seeing them in such an abundance that sparked this change? Or was it the local restaurants celebrating them in a freshly tossed salad? Or maybe it was simply being in the presence of a community that respected and valued them so. Possibly a combination of all the above.
Dismissed as a weed by many – this humble plant has fed and healed humanity for thousands of years – yet it is still eradicated by any means possible and cursed at by many a gardener. As I write these words, countless hectares of dandelion habitat are being destroyed under the blades of lawn mowers.
I’m forever grateful that Slovenia ignited my curiosity and love for this bright yellow flower.
Moved by their magic, boldness, damn right stubbornness to prevail against the odds, and their incredible holistic value from soil health to our own health – I’m getting one tattooed on my arm to remind me of the beauty in the small things and the beautiful pursuit of always learning new things.
I once heard in a sleep story by Calm…
‘The dandelion holds the sun (the golden head), the moon (the puffy white seeds), and the stars (when they blow to the winds).’
Stumbling across all this exciting knowledge (that my school teachers failed to share with me and my classmates) I’m sharing it here in the hope you might share it with everyone you know.
Below are 6 incredible facts which I hope create a little more love for these heroes on the ground.
1. Dandelions save lives.
We have a rich history with these amazing wildflowers. Used in world war efforts and praised by our ancestors for their food and medicinal properties, these bright yellow flowers are our allies, not enemies.
2. Dandelions are critical food.
Did you know? These guys are one of the most important sources of pollen and nectar for bees. Dandelion seeds are also an important food source for beautiful birds.
3. Dandelions are great for your lawn and garden.
Their clever roots loosen hard-packed soil, help reduce erosion and fertilise the grass. By pulling up nutrients from the soil they make them available to other plants in your garden – clever flowers.
4. Dandelions are edible and healthy.
Every part of a flowered dandelion is edible. The flowers can be used on salads for added colour. The more mature leaves too, and the root can be skinned and eaten like a turnip. Packed with goodness including vitamins A, B, C, and D, as well as minerals, such as iron, potassium, and zinc – it’s a totally free source of goodness.
5. Dandelions are great for biodiversity.
Bumblebees, solitary bees and honeybees all visit dandelions. Along with hoverflies, beetles, and butterflies. Goldfinches and house sparrows eat the seed too. Most of us miss seeing this local wildlife (that needs our help) feast on these delicious wildlflowers, because we’ve already waged war on them.
The Urban Pollinators Project in Bristol, found that dandelions are the most visited urban plant by important pollinators out of all plants!
6. Dandelions make you feel good.
These wildflowers are symbols of happiness, simple joys, and good companions, and their presence can bring out our inner child or playful side.
2. Climate Change Is Great For Bark Beetles But Terrible For Trees
It was the perfect afternoon. Strolling along the path which hugs Lake Bohinj’s shores, the warm sun was on my face and the subtle sound of lapping waves was distracting me from my usual busy thoughts. I was surrounded by the cleanest alpine air and views that belonged in a fairytale book.
Round the next corner and there it was. Staring at me like something from a scary movie.
No trees. No life. Just devastation.
Large tractors churned up the soil and chainsaws sliced hungrily through the once pristine alpine forest. The buzzing insects, tweeting birds, natural cool shade, and healthy undisturbed soils are no more.
When you hear those two words – much (much) scarier than the V word which evoked spine-tiggling fear in the wizarding world of Harry Potter – ‘Climate Change’ doesn’t tend to conjure up the image of losing millions upon millions of trees by insects.
In fact, Climate Change has been sending beetles into overdrive. Its consequences were as clear as day, even here in Slovenia’s world-famous and pristine-looking National Park.
What I was seeing was ‘sanitation cutting’ a technique used to prevent the beetle from spreading to other areas. The forests that have suffered the most extensive damage are in the areas of Bled, Kočevje, and Slovenj Gradec.
Upon further research, the ‘eight-toothed small spruce bark beetle’ is the main species here and these outbreaks are linked to the increase in extreme weather events, from droughts to ice storms.
One of my favourite nature authors, Peter Wohlleben (part of 101 books to save the planet) shares his thoughts in his book ‘The Secret Network of Nature’.
“Higher winter temparatures allows more eggs and larvae to survive, and so the beetles extend their range further north. Warming also weakens trees so they have less energy to defend themselves against their attackers.”Peter Wohlleben
He believes that these insects are not the species to condemn as ‘pests’. The problem comes from another species. Us.
“The mass reproduction events that allow the beetles to overcome healthy trees only happen when people have changed the natural rules so much that the insects can gain the upper hand. Be it through creating plantations or emitting polluntants that lead to climate change, ultimately it is us, not the beetles, who are to blame for upsetting the carefully calibrated balance of nature.”Peter Wohlleben
Next up I’m so excited to share these special recommendations – which may inspire your own trip to Slovenia. The below is based on memorable moments that inspired, moved, or changed us.
5 Unique Travel Recommendations: Slovenia
1. Hike Mostnica Gorge and Voje Waterfall
We loved hiking the Mostnica Gorge and the Voje Valley in Bohinj. On the way through the Gorge, you’ll witness crystal-clear waterfalls, rapids, mystically shaped rocks, and alpine forests. We saw our first-ever fire salamander here, deep black with yellow spots, it was an amazing sight to witness this striking amphibian strolling across the damp forest floor after the recent rain had fallen.
Starting in Stara Fuzina, this 12.9-km trail is considered a moderately challenging route and takes around 3-4 hours depending on breaks and fitness levels. The changing landscapes from wild meadows, to the alpine forest, with a rewarding waterfall at the end, make it a really special hike.
There’s a cute alpine restaurant on the way through, which serves an epic, wild blueberry pie. Be prepared though these guys only take cash!
Top tip: We didn’t have to pay to enter the trail during the week, but at the weekend this naturally changes. Early morning or late afternoon is much quieter and you’ll get to enjoy it far more.
2. Hike The Hell Gorge!!! (Soteska Pekel)
You might not know what to expect from a hike nicknamed ‘Hell Gorge’. With a ‘Devil’s Tooth’ along the path.
The truth is before embarking on such a hike I didn’t know of this nickname (or perhaps my hubby had failed to mention it). Either way, I had walked blissfully past a sizeable statue depicting hell, and a wolf, all without a 2nd thought. Yes, there are wolves in these forests.
If only I had known what lay ahead…
I can safely say this was one of the most challenging hikes we’ve completed to date. Despite this, I’m so glad we did it! It was a truly memorable experience, that pushed us both way out of our comfort zone.
Forgive the lack of pictures. We were too busy scrambling onto rocks and roots. I admittedly also cried from pure relief at the end.
The first higher waterfall is ‘Drugi Slap’ (16 m), which can be reached by crossing a small bridge. On the same side of the gorge, you can ascend to ‘Tretji Slap’ (18 m) above which the path continues on extremely steep stairs, that look like something out of the Lord of the Rings.
The best description for this trail, if you plan to take it is here.
Top tip: The path is very steep in places with sheer face drops, there are secure stemples and steel cables to hold onto though. The trail to all 5 waterfalls is suitable only for more experienced hikers. The beginning part has some great waterfalls which would be great for a picnic or chilled day, you don’t have to descend into hell 😉
3. White Water Raft, Wild Swim or Row Across A Lake
I just love wild water, don’t you?
Whether it be a lake, river, rapid, or waterfall, there is something magical and spiritual that makes me feel much lighter and happier when I’m in it, around it, or simply hearing it.
And this isn’t your average wild water. Slovenia had the cleanest, clearest water, alive with an incredible abundance of flora and fauna missing in most parts of Europe.
From swimming alongside fish to witnessing a small water snake gracefully slither onto the wild beach and hide amongst the dead wood in the mid-morning sun – I was captivated by the feeling of ‘wild’ at Lake Bohinj.
We did also visit Lake Bled – the more commonly visited lake – whilst it was still beautiful it was naturally more crowded and had less space for nature.
I must say White water rafting down the Soca River was nothing short of spectacular and you’re spoilt for choice with operators here. We recommend these guys below at Terramystica Adventures as they also serve a delicious plant-based breakfast!
We were hoping for bigger rapids and more of a challenge on the Soca River, but that didn’t detract from how stunning the natural beauty was. The river was between a grade 2-3 – perfect for beginners.
Top tip: At the far end of Lake Bohinj is a white and wild beach (Don’t expect ice cream or sunbeds ;)). Head on down in the early evening as the sun drops off, it’s the perfect place for wild swimming, surrounded by majestic mountains. We were there in April-May time I suspect June-August is a different story).
4. Dine at a 100% Organic Restaurant & Experience a Natural Sauna
Not your typical restaurant, Trnulja bio apartments don’t just play to host a truly delicious organic restaurant but also a natural Finnish sauna. Having been lucky enough to visit many wonderful more traditional spas around the world, this natural, intimate experience felt like it was in another league.
From herbal tea with 15 organic herbs, to organic wine, homegrown hemp oils, and soups; surrounded by natural wood, upcycled materials, and warmth of service which stays with you long after you leave, Trnulja bio apartments is a fantastic place to visit.
Meet the host, and explore the highlights of our stay at Trnulja bio apartments all here.
Top tip: Just 5 miles from here is the centre of the green city of Ljubljana. A traffic-free, green city with beautiful architecture. Whether strolling around, enjoying a blueberry vegan cake, or visiting the castle it’s a wonderful place to let time pass. Despite being a city, it’s a place we felt we could slow down.
5. Grab a Homemade Iced Tea at Majerche (preferably peach) & Enjoy The Views
Iced tea will never be the same again once you’ve tried Majerche’s homemade blend.
On a warm sunny day, it’s the perfect drink to quench your thirst. A delicious beverage that guided us perfectly into a lazy afternoon, whilst cleansing our body with all the goodness of green tea.
Grabbing a deck chair in Majerche’s garden, a good book, and sitting back to enjoy the wildflowers and buzzing insects… The majestic mountain views ahead of us made this one of our favorite things to do near Lake Bohinj.
The peach iced tea was our favorite by far, with bobbing dried fruit and glass straws.
Top Tip: If you stick around until sundown, walk down to the Bohinj lake edge. On a clear night, the stargazing here is absolutely incredible as there is very little light pollution, if any. The dark night sky, surrounding mountains, and sounds are a unique chance to rewild our hearts and mind, reconnect with something we’ve lost, and find peace.
Written by Rebecca Woolford
If you enjoyed these recommendations and lessons from nature, great! Why not explore Madeira here, a paradise for hikers and nature lovers. Or head on over to my channel: 101 Books to Save the Planet.
Do you have a sustainable or regenerative retreat in Slovenia? Then we’d love to hear from you. Click here to take the first step.