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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Switzerland (Fiesch & Poschiavo) & into Slovenia – Aug. 13-16, 2012

We knew Europe would be crowded in August which is why we planned on being in the Alps, assuming most people would prefer the beaches of the Mediterranean for their vacation.  None the less, it started to get crowded at our lovely spot in Poschiavo (Camping Boomerang) to the point where I thought they were about to ask us to share our pitch (crowded has since taken on a new meaning.)   So we decided it was time to go even further afield and try out the Julian Alps in Slovenia via a quick drive through northern Italy. 

But first to describe our remaining time in Switzerland:  We accomplished two more hikes, a long one starting at the Alp Grum train station and winding through a valley to the base of a glacier and a much shorter one that started at the top of the Bernina Diavolo gondola, where after only a very short hike, we were above 10,000’ and doing our best to breath. 

If we needed any further impetus to leave Switzerland we received it with the cost of those two hikes:  Over $300 (eight round-trip train tickets and four gondola tickets) this, for something that we are used to enjoying for free. 

Eager to get to a less-expensive country, we drove out of Switzerland and into Italy where we almost fainted pulling Salt over Abrica Pass.  Every mountain road we have been on in Italy has been under construction and this was no different.  Add August traffic to the construction and you have quite a mess and definitely more than we would try to deal with again.  We vowed to stick to the multi-lane highways and save the mountain roads for Pepper alone.  Big words for two people who have no experience driving in most of these countries.

After the slow, harrowing drive through the pass, we knew we wouldn’t make it to Slovenia in one day so we opted to leave the highway and head to Caorole, a small town on the Adriatic sea, which had at least three tent signs on our map indicating camping.  Unfortunately, we did not notice the map also included an umbrella sign; the universal symbol for “beach”. 

The temperature had reached above 30/90 as we pulled into town and proceeded to get turned away from every campground.  They were full, and I mean full; even if they had found a spot for us, I wouldn’t have stayed.  You simply would not believe how crammed together everyone was (unless, of course, you have camped on the Italian coast during August).  You could barely walk between the rigs. 

So we had a quick dinner (pizza!) along the sea before hitting the road.  As it was late, we decided to forgo a campground and just stop at a motel off the highway.  Ha!  This is not the US, you don’t see many glowing Holiday Inn signs as you cruise down the road.  So Simon (GPS) directed us to a hotel outside of Udine where we grabbed a small room for €70 and slept like two logs (the separate beds helped!)

Still not having any reservations (do not attempt to camp in Europe in August without reservations!) we headed early to Slovenia, starting our pitch search in Kobarid and garnering our first rejection before noon.  Luckily, by that time, a campground further north had written that they had room for us so we headed to Bovic.

And just like that we were back on mountain roads.

Not having any options for a highway (or, worse, maybe Route 203 from Kobarid to Bovec is considered a highway in Slovenia) we had another white-knuckle and close to Salt-scraping experience getting to Kamp Polovnik.  However, true to their word, they did have a place for us. 

This is where you can find us now:  Crammed into a pitch (one of the few that are even slightly defined by trees—most of the camp is just open fields and therefore a free for all for space) and hoping for enough Aventura spirit to get through the heat and crowds of August.