Part 2: Vršič Pass, Slovenia

Apr 16, 2016 | Europe, Europe Tour 2016

Yesterday I drove to Villach, an Austrian city just before the Slovenian border. Today, my adventure is finally starting. No highways anymore, only local roads. Preferably with a lot of turns, water and mountains.

The route I planned for today is quite long but with the possibility of shortening it when time (read: daylight) is running out. I read that the Vršič Pass would be quite interesting so that one is on my list. Plus I decided to cross the border via the Wüstenpass. I am not sure if that is interesting too but it will definitely be better than the alternarice: the highway. After I finish the route, it is already 11:00 and really time to leave.

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Around 11:30 I pass the Austrian-Slovenian border and not much later I pass this wonderful small lake. I decide to make a photo stop.

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A few minutes later another biker stops. I approach the biker to have a small conversation and maybe get some practical info. The biker has Polish license plates. Last year nobody in Poland turned out to speak English or German, therefore I was already prepared for a conversation that only involves gestures.

The biker took of his helmet and hey! It turned out to be a girl! I can’t remember to have met a female biker traveling solo through Europe before. Very cool! Luckily her English is perfect. She introduces herself as Alina, driving from Poland to Spain.

She tells me that the hotel where she stayed last night told her that the Vršič Pass is still closed and that she probably will turn around. Two Slovenian motorcyclists pass and we decide to approach them to ask if they have more information. The answer we get is: “Oh no! We are not going to drive through the mountains. That is way too cold for us!”

I tell Alina that I am going to drive through the mountains anyway. In worst case I will have to turn around. I am not sure if that convinced her but in the end we decided to drive together and see if the pass would be open or not. I usually always drive alone so this is an interesting new experience. Alina tells me to pass her when she is driving too slow for me. I don’t care. I’m not a racer either and I want to be able to enjoy the landscape as well.

We take off and the roads immediately shows some nice twists. Alina is not driving slow at all and this road is incredible. The road has cobblestones in the serpentines that still might be a bit slippery when they are wet. We could not have been luckier with the weather today.

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The road is almost empty and a pleasure to drive. There are only a few cars on the road but these are easy to overtake. I expected way more motorcyclists because it’s a – relatively – sunny Saturday and the Vršič Pass should be one of the best roads to drive in Slovenia. Maybe Vršič is closed and we are the only ones who don’t know?

After a while we get to see snow on the sides of the road. The roads are getting steeper and we keep climbing. The views are impressive as well. Just check this photo (I don’t like to use vertical photos on my blog but it was the only way to get this within one photo)

After more climbing we finally make it to Vršič. There is a lot of snow of the side of the road… but the road itself is clean. We make another photo stop and take the mandatory photos.

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The way down is even more incredible that the way up. After a while we pass something that looks like a view point. I stop and Alina does not understand what I want to do. I tell her that I have not seen a viewing point yet and that I find that quite remarkable for such an amazing road. Therefore I expect this viewpoint to be really amazing. Or the opposite. But I don’t tell her that that last part.

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I turned out to be the first option: the view is stunning and we also learn something.

“In order for the road to meet the needs of timber skidding and transport, it was first widened in 1909. When Italy entered the war and the Soča Front opened; the construction of the road was in full swing. Over 10.000 Russian prisoners of war were engaged in construction of the road. Aware of the avalanche threat, the prisoners worked under special anti-avalanche fences but unfortunately these were unable to withstand two severe avalanches in the spring of 1916. According to military archives data, the avalanche buried over 300 Russian prisoners and several Austrian guards. The construction of the road was completed in 1917.”

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We continue the twisty road and make a few extra photo stops. I already know that I will not be able to continue the full route that I planned for today but I don’t care. This road is really magnificent and totally worth it.

Some numbers about the road for those who are interested:

“The mountain road from Kranjska Gora (810m) accross Vršič (1611m) to Log v Trenti (620m) spans 24 kilometres of 50 hairpin bends, 24 on the Kranjska Gora side and 26 on the Trenta side of the pass. The road is open an average of seven months per year. In winter, it is normally closed to all traffic.”

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Around 14:00 we get some lunch in Trenta, exchange photos and contact details. Alina speaks Russian as well and says that I can call her in case of emergency when I get in trouble with Russian speaking people (for example in Ukraine, later on my trip)

We tell the owner of the restaurant how amazing this road is. He tells us that the road is open since… today! We just drove the Vršič Pass on the first day of the season, without any traffic! How awesome is that!? We have been very, very lucky!!

We separate our ways in Kobarid, where Alina heads to Italy and I will continue my way to Bled in Slovenia. I pass wonderful lakes between Kobarid and Tolmin and my motorcycle tells me that it’s 24 degrees Celcius and I know that this trip around Europe is going to be awesome.

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Road 403

Just after Tolmin I take road 403 to get spoiled by even more curves. This road has no serpentines but has way more curves than the mountain road through Vršič. For anyone who is near Slovenia: please drive this road. Preferably outside the motorcycle season. It’s pure joy and the views over the Teletubbies-landscape is not bad at all:

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I have some dinner because it’s already getting late. I would love to drive a bit more but it’s getting darker and darker. When I arrive at Lake Bohinj, the sun is already almost gone. The lake is very pretty but I don’t hang around for too long because I am running out of daylight.

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When I drive from Lake Bohinj to Bled it turns completely pitch black outside within 15 minutes. There are no street lanterns, only twisty roads that are really difficult to predict. I change my route and drive Road 209 to Bled, instead of the twisty country roads. They are just too dangerous at this moment and I also feel that I am losing my concentration after being on the road for almost 10 hours.

Now I only want to sleep and can’t wait to arrive at my accommodation for tonight: The Millhouse Bled

To be continued.

The route I drove today

Kilometers driven

Hours driven

Thank you for reading!

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