(Driving from 10 to 13 to 14 on the map.)
Bled was cloudy in the morning as I got ready to hit the road for the Julian Alps drive. I hoped the clouds wouldn’t stick with me up there – this was supposed to be the most scenic part of my trip! Please, could it not be cloudy on this day? Fortunately, the clouds burned off as I climbed in elevation up to the Vrsic Pass, and I soon forgot about the clouds.
Forty-eight “hairpin turns” through the mountains? (each turn is numbered.) Sounds like a scary drive! But it really wasn’t so bad. The windy drive from Skofja Loka to Bled was probably just as challenging and in parts nearly as scenic. In September, during my visit, most of the snow in the Vrsic Pass on the mountains was gone; I imagine it’s much prettier in the winter and spring with snow covering everything.
In some ways, as a solo driver, I had trouble keeping track of which sites were at which turns, as I had to watch the road too with all of those turns! One of the more memorable – unscheduled! – sights driving up the pass was a flock of sheep coming down the road toward me!
As you drive up through the pass, mostly through dense trees, each turn is numbered. At clearings you can see Mt. Triglav, the largest mountain in Slovenia. There are various stops and little attractions to see as you drive – like the Russian Chapel, built in memory of thousands of Russian prisoners of war who died building this very road during World War I.
After you reach the summit of the pass, you descend into the Soca Valley, an area where brutal fighting took place during World War I between the Italians and the Austrians. (Famously documented by Ernest Hemingway in his novel “A Farewell to Arms”.) There are World War I sights, cemeteries, and old buildings left over from the war, but mostly you see beautiful views into the valley.
The Soca River at the bottom is a turquoise color; there are various hiking detours including one I took down to the source of the river. It’s a favorite of kayakers.
One of my stops was in the town of Soca at the Church of St. Joseph, a famous church that was damaged by an earthquake a few years back, still under renovation. Behind the church is a famous Austrian cemetery. I didn’t expect to get inside the church itself, as it was being repaired, but a workman saw me walk by and graciously offered to let me see the inside.