From Bled to the dead, the WW1 sites of the Julian Alps
Leaving Bled we headed north, the plan to spend a bit of time touring the memorials and open air museums left over from the first world war - there are loads of old trenches hacked into the coarse rock of the Alps in the area around Kobarid. But before all of that, on our way out from the perfectly relaxing town of Bled, we stopped to take a hike through Vintgar Gorge.
Walking in through the gorge is just as relaxing as the photos show, it really is a stunning walk - and when we were there (late October) the crowds were minimal. The walkways are narrow and we can imagine that during the high season they are just a nightmare to walk along if you want to stop and enjoy the scenery.
From the relaxing walk through the gorge we got in the car and drove up towards Kobarid, it's not too long before you're driving up and right into the heights of the Julian Alps. It is stunning to drive up and into the mountains, and luckily we had perfect weather to enjoy our drive.
And from there we get into the war fun, our first stop was at Fort Kluze which happened to be closed. No worries, we could walk around and be astonished by the iron ladder that was pounded into the cliff opposite that would be used by troops to get up to Fort Hermann. We, although there was also a walking path, did not make the trek to Fort Hermann.
We had driven up and around, briefly entering Italy as we crossed around the top of Slovenia and then drove back down into Kobarid. There are far too many sites too see in the area, at least if your planning a short WW1 Italian Front weekend, or week - you'll need some time to see them all. We didn't do the exact math on this, but their is a 230 km walking tour, the walk of peace, we figure it's a 3-4 month trip. If we were younger, maybe - now it's a drive from site to site and the realization that we can't get to the peaks and some of the more remote fighting sites.
The beautiful thing, outside of the horrors of these all being war sites, is that they are what Slovenia calls outdoor museums, old sites of trenches that have basically been left alone for a hundred years. There is some upkeep to some sites, others you're sure nobody's visited in months. The upper ones we didn't visit I'm sure are more impressive in that fully abandoned sort of way.
The above photos are from the valley, a lot of the fighting took place there, but the real hard part was put on the soldiers that were up in the mountains defending their homeland - there is a reason why this mountain range is still the border between Slovenia and Italy. The following photos are some of the maintained trenches up in the mountains.
As a quick break. or as needed by driving between these war sites, we stopped to admire the Solkan Bridge, the worlds largest stone arch bridge. We wish we had timed it to see a train crossing the bridge, but it was impressive none the less.
From there, back to Kobarid and to see the Italian memorial.
We did have a good time touring around, as we said some of the sites are a bit of a hike from the main road and are overgrown and slowly being overtaken by nature.
One of the more moving sites is the Church of the Holy Spirit on Javorca plateau, an impressive site built by the Austro-Hungarians and with wooden panels that document the names of over 2,500 soldiers that lost their lives in the battles in the mountains nearby.
It's not all sad memories though, as we crossed from Slovenia into Italy we stopped in the town of Prosecco to enjoy a glass of the bubbles that the town is known for. It also had a German cemetery that we stopped to visit.
This was just an entry into our WW1 touring, the run up to the centenary of the armistice on November 11th will bring in a lot of sites in France and Belgium, but this bit of touring of the Italian and Austro-Hungarian front in the Julian Alps was new to us and really lets you see a different aspect of the war that most everyone only knows from the stories of the battles on the western front.