Written by Sandra Jurišić. Continued from Following the Soča River.
Our next stop was the Italian Ossuary located above Kobarid, where we would eventually go as well. The ossuary serves as a monument to the Italian soldiers killed during WWI, and it is the only such monument in Slovenia. The ossuary, alongside the church of St Anthony, is visually incredibly impressive, reminiscent more of a fortress than a memorial. It is a powerful statement to bravery and the tragedy of war, and climbing up to the church can be quite a meditative experience. There weren’t many people around during our visit, so taking in the view from the walls was peaceful and calming.
Somewhat more exciting than the ossuary is a small, but very interesting museum nearby, dedicated to WWI as well. Most of the items shown in the museum were found by its owner in the field, or dragged from the river. These include all sorts of WWI weaponry, from small pistols to enormous shells, bottles, medals, and a slew of soldiers’ personal items. There is even a foldable bicycle, something I found to be particularly interesting. The stories of discovering these items as told by the museum’s owners are incredibly interesting and, even though it is very small, the museum is definitely worth a visit.
It is from the museum that we made our way to Kobarid, and as the afternoon had grown longer, we opted to have a coffee there and get the energy needed for the final leg of our journey. Kobarid is quite a pretty small town, fairly typical fare for the Julian Alps, peaceful and serene. It wasn’t always so, however, as it was part of a WWI conflict immortalized by Ernest Hemingway in A Farewell to Arms. An award-winning museum in the centre of Kobarid documents the minutiae of the battle; we, however, did not have the time to see it this time around.
Only a short way away from the Kobarid lies the unsung hero among Slovene waterfalls, hidden away just well enough to seem almost a secret. It doesn’t take much to get to it, at first, only a short walk through the woods and a cross over a seemingly precarious suspended bridge which shakes when too many people move on it, but every step seems to lead further and further into a mysterious fairy tale. There are peeks of the turquoise of the Kozjak stream as it purls here and there, and flora that seems to become lusher and more wondrous as you near that piece de resistance waiting at the end.
The last bit of reaching it is a bout of adventure, a trip into wherever it is fantasies are born, as you skip from stone to stone, reach one rock from another, then climb a wooden boardwalk that seems to have sprung from the rocks on its own. And then there it is. Veliki Kozjak.
It’s difficult to take it in all at once. Should you wonder first at the cave you seem to have found yourself in all of a sudden? Or at the astonishing green of the pool beneath you? Or the waterfall there, coming from the cave wall, rumbling deafeningly, beckoning your eye? At 15 meters of height, it’s not the tallest in the world. Its white stream isn’t even the most impressive you’ll ever see. But there has never been a sight more worth the trek.
Take a moment there, just to watch, to experience. There is no need for talking, and the waterfall makes it too difficult anyway. So let yourself be taken away by what’s before you: the green, the white, the water, the noise, the echo. The cave walls, covered with moss. The pool of spectacularly green water, murmuring beneath you. The audacity of the waterfall that created all of it. The great hall of the Veliki Kozjak waterfall is nature in all its royalty, all its splendour, hidden away where it’s difficult to find, but brazen in its sheer beauty.
It is difficult to tear yourself away from such a sight, but unfortunately we couldn’t stay there forever, despite all the waterfall’s allure. With one last glance we left, making our way back, away from the mystery, across the suspended bridge again, and then back on the road.
Our road trip took us to the next wonderful sight to see, the Kluže Fortress. We stopped near it only for a little while, just enough to take some pictures and hear about its history of being rebuilt over and over again, but we never made it inside. A visit to the Kluže Fortress might be worth it, however, as re-enactments of WWI battles are performed regularly within, with soldiers with period-appropriate uniforms and equipment.
Then it was time to take a quick trip into Italy, across Predil pass, where we made a short stop at Laghi di Fusine, near the town of Tarvisio. This lake is another wonder of the Alps and well worth seeing, particularly as we did, in the late afternoon with the sun hanging low and the weather cooling down. The lake’s water shone dimly, clear and green and beautiful, as we took a moment to take some pictures and enjoy the serenity of the near abandoned place.
Our final stop on what proved to be an amazing day trip was the source of the Sava Dolinka River, or, Zelenci Springs. The springs are aptly named, as Zelenci, translated literally, means ‘the green ones’ in Slovene, and they do have a consistent, particular green, different from any other waters in the region, but still fitting with the mountains in the backdrop. There is a short wooden boardwalk crisscrossing the springs, allowing for many an amazing view, and peering into the water a little more attentively may well be worth your while, as the lake bed sometimes stirs with tiny water jets. It’s quite a quirky and unexpected phenomenon to see, and it is fairly unique.
It was in this peaceful haven that we spent the final moments of the daylight. The sun was setting, and it would soon be time to travel back to Ljubljana, and this final gem on our trip was just as mesmerizing as the others.
And all that in one day. All those sights, all those stories, all those memories, just in one day. Ending a trip is always a bit of a melancholy experience, and it became even more so when we’d seen so many things in such a short span of time. But that’s Slovenia. Small, perhaps, but with unending wonders in its every corner, sitting there, just waiting to be discovered.