24 April 2011

Crocuses on Velika planina

Mt. Velika planina is known for crocuses in the spring. The whole plateau is one big violet carpet. This year the spring arrived early and I feared I was too late to catch this wonderfully scenic sight, so I took one afternoon off to head up the mountain.

The hike through the woods revealed a green forest floor while the trees hadn't even started to bud.

As soon as we reached the plateau and the Mala planina village, my heart skipped a beat. There were still lots of crocuses! :)

This photo may not show how violet it really was.

We hike to Velika planina often, but we don't always climb to the top itself. This time we did.

1666 meters (5,460 feet). The Kamnik Alps in the background.

Famous European ski resorts are not that far away. :)

The light was becoming sweeter and softer.

The chapel just before the sun hid behind a mountain ridge.

Velika planina chapel.

There was very little water in the waterhole considering the time of the year.

On the way back I wanted to get a better photo of Kamnik, but the air was full of smog. I could nevertheless almost see my house. :)

Looking back we bid farewell to Velika planina knowing we'd be back soon.

Mt. Ojstrica and the chapel.

I waited for the sun to get very low before I started taking shots of crocuses. Yes, I was lying on the ground for these photos. :)

The last few seconds before the sunset... the crocuses were already closed up, and we hurried back to the valley.

More photos here.

Oh, and Happy Easter! :)

20 April 2011

Slovenia in a week

It's not every day that you show off your beautiful country to tourists when torrential rain floods the capital and make you use an umbrella in an underground cave! Well, as luck would have it, that’s exactly what happened last September when I took Jami, Margaret and Kim on a tour around Slovenia. Trampling around Ljubljana in heavy rain, not being able to take photos at all even though that’s what we were there for, made us a little wet and cold (OK, very wet and cold), but a hearty mushroom soup and some Slovenian wine for dinner at the and of the day made up for all the misery during the day.

To escape flooded streets of Ljubljana we decided to explore the underworld. Mistake! While the Postojna Cave was impressive and all, it rained inside! The soil was so saturated with water that it dripped from the cave ceilings everywhere. However, we didn’t let the elements spoil our mood as we delved into the secret chambers of the Predjama Castle and sampled some local schnapps. Especially the latter lifted our spirit!

The third day marked the beginning of some splendid early fall weather. With Bled as our destination we were thrilled to be finally able to leave the rain gear in the car, stroll around and soak up some sun. A visit to the Bled Island is a must, particularly if you can make Jami run up and down those steps to the church a few times. In the boat on the way back we admired the oarsman’s strong bicepses and I almost made everybody believe me we would be climbing the cliff to the Bled Castle.

Sadly, Jami had to leave the following morning (thanks for drinking all that wine and being such a great sport, Jami, hehe), while Margaret, Kim and I visited the Vintgar Gorge. The river, usually green and peaceful, now roared through the narrow canyon. Of course Kim and I played with our tripods to get the milky water effect, and in the mean time Margaret simply used the rail as the support for her compact camera. Then the road across the plateau of Pokljuka through forests and past pastures took us to Lake Bohinj. The water was so still we could take perfect reflection photos!

On the fifth morning we made our way into the heart of the Julian Alps. Alpine valleys, spraying waterfalls and mountains passes with sheep took most of the day. I was hoping for some golden larches at the Vršič pass but we were a few weeks too early. In Bovec Luka surprised us and joined us on the star-trail expedition to the Mangart saddle in the afternoon. Oh, how we enjoyed the sweet sunset light in the mountains! OK, the chill that followed while we were waiting during the long exposures wasn’t all that enjoyable, but with the moon rising we got some pretty cool pictures of star trails and the moonlit landscape.

The area around Bovec offers so many things to see and do we had a hard time cramming them all in one day. We saw yet another waterfall, Kozjak near Kobarid, Kim’s favorite subject and Margaret’s not so favorite subject (because it involves quite a bit of waiting if you don’t take photos!). The afternoon was dedicated to two gorgeous valleys. In the Lepena valley it was interesting, and sad, to see the many abandoned and dilapidating houses set in such beautiful but remote environment. Climbing the banks of the Soča River canyons proved to be exhilarating, especially when we were on the verge of falling in a couple of times!

Landscape photography is a funny thing – you are totally dependent on the weather and light, and there are times when it is impossible to take one decent photo in a few weeks. But then sometimes you simply get lucky. And boy did we get lucky with the early morning mists in Bovec! Kim and I scrambled around looking for the best vantage point as the sun rose from behind the mountains and heated the ground. Then the mists slowly dissipated, offering us magical twenty minutes of magnificent mood. A red tractor under a tree was just a bonus.

The drive across the Predel pass offered perfect views of Mt. Mangart and Strmec, a village on a ridge, and we made the effort to climb to an old fort towering above the road.

A stroll to the shore of the serene Rabelj Lake on the Italian side was pleasant as always, and then we bid our farewell to the Julian Alps as we headed back to Ljubljana. Seeing it in completely different light on a warm and sunny afternoon we enjoyed a cup of coffee while people-watching along the Ljubljanica River, we found Julija’s window across the square from Prešeren’s statue and looked for examples of architecture by Plečnik. Kim and Margaret became quite expert at distinguishing his work from the work of others! The love locks on the Butcher Bridge were another great photo subject. As the dusk settled upon the city, we had our last dinner together.

One week flew by too quickly. Jami, Margaret, Kim, I will never forget the fun times with you guys. My stomach hurt from all the laughing! I truly hope Slovenia stays in your hearts. :)

10 April 2011

Spring skiing on Rogla and Krvavec

The abnormal temperatures in the past week have caused for the last snowy slopes to melt. Up to 26 degrees C at lower altitudes! I still tried my luck skiing, first on Rogla, and on Krvavec a few days later. The skiing was quite good on Rogla until 11 a.m., but Krvavec was already disastrous at 8 a.m. The snow, what was left of it, was so soft and slushy it was impossible to ski. Well, at least we got some fresh air. :)

Sunny slopes of Rogla:

Going up with the T-bar was ridiculous. :)

Krvavec last Friday:

The mountain is covered with hellebores. Spring is definitely here.

Views of the Ljubljana basin from Ambrož:

The skiing season may not be completely over for me though. :)