Arriving in Bovec at the tail end of a rainstorm, we caught barely a glimpse of the stunning Soča River, but even that glimpse left us at a loss for words. The water, a ghostly grey on a foggy day, turns an ethereal shade of teal when it is lit up by the sun. With the exception of a tiny portion of the Rio Celeste River in Costa Rica, we had not seen anything like it, and beautiful though the Rio Celeste is, it is a poor comparison to the Soča, which runs for miles, starting as an underground spring in the Julian Alps before emptying out into the Adriatic Sea.
From the moment he was born, we have speculated what Munchkin’s first word would be and whether it would be in English or Russian. S thought it might be some variation on “Emmie,” the name of our dog, who is Munchkin’s constant companion. For his part, D tried his utmost to work the word “papa” into his conversations with the little man, recognizing all the while that this was a losing battle. Munchkin has been babbling up a storm for quite some time, but has yet to make anything even remotely resembling the “pa” sound, the letter p being especially difficult for babies.
How small is Slovenia? The internet puts its relative size as slightly smaller than the U.S. state of New Jersey, but that’s not all that descriptive. Far more illustrative is the fact that little more than half an hour after catching the freeway from Lake Bled, we inadvertently drove across a barely-marked border and, much to our chagrin, found ourselves in Italy.
Slovenia is so small and its capital so centrally located that many visitors simply stay in Ljubljana and take day trips to a handful of the country’s top tourist destinations. Without a young child, we might have done the same, but with Munchkin in tow not only did we want to minimize drive times but we also wanted to be on our own schedule. We rented a car, mapped out a one-week loop that hit pretty much all of Slovenia’s highlights, and headed for the Julian Alps.
We arrived late, the dusk catching up to us on the outskirts of Ljubljana an hour or so after we had crossed the Croatia-Slovenia border. Although our first impressions of Slovenia were based entirely on the drive to its capital and the five-minute walk we took from our hotel to get take-out dinner, we saw enough to realize that there were major differences between these two neighboring countries that for half a century had been yoked together under the Yugoslav flag.
After two weeks on the coast, we headed inland to Plitvice National Park for our last bit of sightseeing in Croatia. The park, which extends over almost 300 square kilometers, encompasses sixteen lakes that form a vast natural staircase, cascading one into another in a myriad waterfalls. What’s more, algae in the lakes make their waters unbelievably limpid at the same time that minerals tint the surface various shades of blue and green.