Note to reader: At this point my old camera started to fail me so forgive the inconsistent quality. I have many friends in Slovenia but these two fellows seem to like hanging out with an old man like me and “hanging out” is what we did. They didn’t advise me ahead of time regarding footwear and it wouldn’t have mattered anyway as I only have one pair of shoes for all occasions. I squeezed into the Toyota Yaris and out of the city we went toward a popular destination called Velika Panina. Since I didn’t have to pay for this excursion I didn’t ask too many questions.
It was a warm day when we arrived but they assured me that things would be more pleasant in a short while. Neither of the following have I ever done before. First, I boarded a gondola that seemed to go for a mile straight up over a deep valley that we drove through only an
half an hour earlier. Then once at the disembarking point I learned that we were far from finished and must now take a ski lift some distance higher. I kept thinking of the lyrics by the eighties band, Boston, “What goes up, must come down, spinning wheel ya, gotta go round.” At some point I’ll have walk back down this thing. I was wrong. The truth is, I didn’t have to walk down, I had to walk back up the mountain. On our way to the apex, we flew over herds of cattle grazing on the slopes as well as, what appeared to be well-equipped hikers – Germans and Austrians (Germans and Austrians are always well-equipped). They were marching along in special everything, special hiking shorts, sticks, boots, socks, hats and so forth. I thought at any moment someone would break out in a yodel or a rendition of, “The hills are alive with the sound of mooing…”. Below us, the Germans, Austrians and Slovenskis were completely decked out for the occasion and here I was in my street shoes without so much as a baseball cap.
It was explained to me that the cattle (mostly Simmental) were driven here in the spring and overseen by drovers until the fall when they were taken back down to the valley floor and their various farms. Though rain has been in short supply everywhere in this region, the cows looked fat and content.
Now, one might think that only a few people come up this far on an afternoon excursion but not so. At the top people were everywhere and I was surprised that some enterprising capitalists had not thought of installing such things as a roller-coaster and ferris-wheel. It appeared to me that with all of these people milling about, money was to be made.
As my eyes stretched down the side of the mountain I saw a sundry of assorted buildings that I later learned were summer cottages that served as ski huts in the winter. Whatever they were, it was an interesting array of wooden buildings constructed of local, natural materials.
The guys were interested in feeding me the local cuisine a plate of cheese, salami, hard bread and a sour milk porage that Mitijah actually seemed to enjoy. Igor and I took a couple of spoonfuls which immensely lifted our spirits and gave us confidence that we could now have the energy to make our way back. Actually, many were gathered round the food hut taking in this local fare. The incentive for eating this was undoubtedly more cultural than any desire to indulge. If offered in a restaurant in Ljubljana, I doubt if it would turn-out to be a “hot” menu item.
While eating at one of the long communal tables one older gentleman inquired about my origins and learning I was “Amer-adian” he began to tell me of the atrocities committed by the Nazi’s in this village some sixty years ago. Apparently, coming through they found partisans hiding here so they killed them all and burned the settlement to the ground leaving nothing behind. This is only one of the thousands of brutal tragedies that occurred throughout this region during the Second World War.