As we drive near the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, heavy raindrops slowly dwindle and thick black clouds tear aside providing a peek of the mountains. Velika Planina, a excessive Alpine plateau on the Alps’ southern rim simply 30 kilometers from Ljubljana, had simply began to point out some greenish hues in its huge brown fields after a protracted winter, but in lower than two months cows from the neighboring villages can be already grazing in these highland pastures. In April, nonetheless, because the snow melts away, Velika Planina is well-known for one thing else. Carpets of purple crocuses escape yearly, turning Velika Planina right into a blooming place straight out of a fairy story!
We had booked a wood hut with Alpine Resorts and have been exhilarated to spend the following three days within the mountains. Though it didn’t seem to be it, the timing couldn’t be extra good. Three weeks earlier than the fields have been nonetheless beneath snow, then the nice and cozy spring solar lastly arrived melting it shortly. Not even every week later an enormous snowfall coated Planina with yet one more half a meter. At this level I had given up all hopes of seeing crocuses! As an alternative, out of serendipity, the temperatures rose above 20 levels every week earlier than our departure and the primary images of crocuses began to seem on Instagram simply as we have been packing! (hey, take a look at Exploring Slovenia’s Instagram account!)
We drove to the very best parking zone, Mačkin Kot, placed on heavy backpacks loaded with water, meals and garments for 3 days, and headed in direction of our hut. The mists have been dancing within the wind and darkish clouds often sprinkled the land with fluffy snowflakes. Closed up, protected against the chilly, the crocuses adorned the fields, humbly including some colour to an in any other case grey day.
Alongside the best way I considered our ancestors and the limitless effort they put into shifting the cows from decrease within the valley to the excessive Alpine meadows. As soon as up there, they wanted to guard them from wild animals similar to bears and wolves, provide water, which was a troublesome process on this karst limestone land the place the rain often sips proper by the earth into the underground, and supply the fundamental consolation for themselves. Locals, in any case, have been utilizing these highland pastures and their nutritious grass for 1000’s of years. Archeological proof exhibits indicators of people, most likely herdsmen, on Velika Planina as early because the prehistoric instances!
At this time, Velika Planina is taken into account an enormous Alpine pasture with considered one of Europe’s final remaining excessive mountain shepherds’ villages nonetheless producing dairy merchandise by following the outdated custom.
The frequent apply these days is to rent a particular shepherd and milkman for all of the cows of the realm, on Velika Planina as an alternative every shepherd nonetheless manages their very own cows and prepares their very own dairy merchandise. Due to this fact, each summer time, from June to September, shepherds from the encircling villages return to their mountain houses to steer a easy life taking their herds to a pasture each morning and making ready dairy merchandise for the remainder of the day.
Whereas there are literally three settlements on Velika Planina – Gojška Planina, Mala Planina and Velika Planina, the realm bought its identify after the largest and most developed one. The shepherds’ settlement of Velika Planina consists of 64 enchanting oval wood huts, which have stored a singular Alpine structure following an entire reconstruction after the entire settlement burnt to the bottom in WWII. Each hut additionally has a wood fence, inside which the cows relaxation after they’re not out grazing. There are a couple of ponds for the animals alongside the pastures and one properly for the shepherds. Again within the days throughout the dry intervals when water was scarce, the shepherds needed to climb into the colder Veternica Cave close by, identified for retaining the snow even within the hottest summer time months, and acquire sufficient snow for water for the animals and themselves.
Snowflakes gathered evenly on our jackets as we marveled on the outdated shepherds’ settlement and the dense patches of crocuses all wrapped up and searching small. The chilly slowly crept up making us decide up our tempo to the newer a part of Velika Planina with wood huts principally meant for guests like ourselves. We lastly reached our cozy little hut named Koča Tisa: our house for the following three days with two bedrooms, a kitchen, toilet and a eating room with a sofa and TV. On prime of the whole lot this place additionally had a sauna and an outside jacuzzi! We lit the fireside and loved a great home-cooked dinner because the dance of tiny snowflakes continued outdoors the home windows.
The next morning we woke as much as a surprisingly sunny day. The solar lured us all outdoors and shortly my son and I have been each absorbed into delicate trying crocuses in entrance of the home, which opened as much as the heat of the brand new day.
It’s straightforward to neglect which century you’re in while you stroll by these open meadows, the purple wild flowers shimmering within the morning breeze and conventional wood huts scattered alongside the path. After a loop hike to the highest of Velika Planina at 1,666 m and its pastures, we watched because the eerie clouds, which had fashioned across the highest peaks of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, began approaching us quick with the rising wind. A snowstorm despatched us again into the hut, the place we lit the fireside, ready the sauna and jacuzzi, and loved the remainder of the afternoon cozily inside. (A touch for the clever: the close by restaurant Zeleni Rob additionally prepares take-aways which you’ll be able to eat within the consolation of your personal hut!)
The climate for our third day was forecasted sunny however chilly and windy. Not perfect however nice for seeing the dawn in Velika Planina throughout crocus season.
My alarm went off at 5.30, when everybody else was nonetheless drowsing. I crept out of the home, put our excited canine on the leash and raced in direction of the outdated shepherds’ settlement.
A number of photographers have been already gathered on the Kapelica Marije Snežne (Chapel of Our Woman of the Snows) in heat winter jackets, gloves and their hoodies pulled over the hats. It was -4 levels and ferociously windy. Having ran into my buddy Jaka, I made a decision to affix him on his visits to the beautiful viewpoints for the dawn pictures on Velika Planina. The clouds obscured the primary daylight, however when the solar lastly did peek out, we gasped on the otherworldly views of the sunlit purple carpets of untamed flowers amongst small wood huts, scattered across the brilliant inexperienced pastures. All arrange towards a picturesque backdrop of the awakening Kamnik-Savinja Alps.
An hour and a half later I used to be already again within the heat mattress comforting my half-frozen limbs and pondering of the dreamy sights I had simply witnessed. Certain, Velika Planina is attractive at any time of the day, but there’s nothing like watching the solar peek over the horizon to announce a brand new day, particularly with the bottom coated with limitless fields of crocuses.
We left within the afternoon that day after having stated goodbye to our cozy hut and with a sizeable portion of cottage cheese štruklji safely packed within the backpack as a candy reminder of the beautiful mountain life. Whereas these are already gone, we’re all positive we’ll be coming again for extra magic and candy moments many instances sooner or later.
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