A Little Gem of Europe: Slovenia

Lake Bohinj, Slovenia
Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

Slovenia is a tiny gem of  Central Europe, bordered by Italy, Austria, Hungary, Croatia and the Adriatic Sea. Its versatile landscapes are what photographers dream about. As I always wanted to improve my skills on that field, I asked one of Slovenia’s greatest landscape photographers, Ana Pogačar to show me around and teach me a few tricks. She immediately said yes and I will be always grateful for her tips and time.

First, I drove from Hungary to Kamnik, where Ana lives and we were on the road pretty much every day, way before dawn and getting home after sunset. The very first thing I learnt about landscape photography is that you have to be extremely dedicated. This field of photography is all about self control. You don’t only need the skills, but the actual willpower to physically pull yourself out of your warm and comfy bed at 4 or 5am. Have a quick coffee, drive to the location, find the right spot before sunrise and be fast taking photos once the magic started, to catch the right light. You can take landscape photos during daylight as well of course, but once you experienced that short period of magic, that’s happening before the sun would come up or once it goes down, as a landscape photographer, you will chase that light forever. The best light is not during the sunrise/sunset itself, it is way too harsh by that time, but when the sky is slowly turning into pink, purple, orange, the colours are just amazing and as Ana always says: you feel like yodelling from joy. That short period of time is the gift of gods, the magic breath of nature, so I can understand why people choose to get up before roosters to catch it. Unfortunately, we did not have those magic sunrises/sunsets while I was in Slovenia, but nevertheless, I loved sitting around the mountain tops and just enjoy the moment to realise how damn lucky I am to be able to be there.

Enjoying the sunrise on the frosty ground.

On the first day, Ana took me to the Vrata valley, a short climb to reach the grandiose Peričnik waterfall. You need a waterproof gear, otherwise you will get seriously wet. We walked behind it and I was truly impressed by the force of nature. If you would like to get an idea about the ratios, click here to see me while taking a picture of it. We were lucky with the weather all day, it was sunny and warm considering it was October. We stayed in the Vrata valley and had a nice walk to a clearing, where the sun rays created an interesting pattern through the woods, later we ended the day on the slopes above Kranjska Gora, hoping for a colourful sunset, but it was not about to happen.

The second day we started at Lake Bled, but there was no sunrise, really. The sky had a terrible grey cast and the best I could do is take this picture in that five minutes when we suspected to be blue hour. We met a similarly disappointed Basque photographer, who was already packing his gear when we got there.

I am posting a panoramic photo as well, which I took only a few minutes later and it shows how colourless that morning was. It was also rather cold and all I wanted is three espressos in one cup to wake myself up.

As there was nothing we could do on the ground, we headed to Lake Bohinj and took the cable car to the Vogel mountain. It made all the difference to elevate to 1922m, the Sun was shining brightly above those ugly grey clouds.

We enjoyed the sunshine, walked around and we were quickly off to the next stop, Slemenova špica. I have an awful vertigo, so when Ana suggested to hike up to the peak, I was hesitant, but excited. She took me up on the “easy” way. We met several other hikers, even grandparents with kids running around, while I was struggling with my vertigo all the way, on the icy path. Another thing I learnt about Slovenians while spending a few days there is they are born with hiking shoes, snowboards and skis on their feet. The entire country is full of beautiful mountains, so they learn mountaineering at an early age. They must have had a blast looking at my worried face during the climb – I admit, there were a few spots where I was considering turning back, shame or no shame. Thanks to Ana, I managed to the top, but was scared to look down, so I crawled all the way up to the peak and sat down on a stone, holding it desperately. Still, I was proud of myself making it to the top and beat my vertigo. It was all worth it, as you can see:

This is the view from the peak and the rock that gave me comfort.

We even had a bit of pink sky while descending.

The third and last day was my favourite, we started early again above Kranjska Gora with views over Mt. Jalovec and headed over to Zelenci, the source of Sava Dolinka river. This was my absolute favourite spot during my stay, I felt like Frodo in Lord of the Rings when arriving to the land of elves.

Zelenci, the source of Sava Dolinka river

We took a half an hour drive to cross the Italian border and check out the Mangart Lakes, then back to end the day shooting the sunset at Lake Bohinj.

Mangart Lakes in Italy
Lake Bohinj in the afternoon

I am still behind processing the photos from this trip, even a year later, but every time I revisit my gallery I feel the urge to go back. There are so many beautiful places in the world and Slovenia is definitely one of them! It is so close and yet, so few people are aware of its beauty – if you plan a trip in Europe, I would highly recommend you to schedule a trip to Slovenia as well.

Written By

A Hungarian photographer living in Amsterdam.

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