I ended up in Slovenia kind of by chance. A budget tour that I was interested in filled a few other requirements: visiting Salzburg, visiting Prague, incorporating lots of adventure, guaranteeing I would spend my birthday somewhere awesome, and getting me back to Ireland in time to pack up my dorm room before they kicked me out. The fact that it also went to Slovenia was just gravy.
Thanks to a canceled flight, I missed out on the first leg of the tour (two stops in Croatia) and flew into Ljubljana (Slovenia’s capital city) all on my own, getting a taxi from there to Bled, where my tour was waiting for me. My driver was so friendly, telling me all about the history of Slovenia and all the lovely things that awaited me in Bled. Once I arrived, my tourmates were so welcoming. They said they had been getting periodic updates from the tour guide, Ben (“Emily’s flight was canceled!” “Emily booked her new flight!” “Emily’s flight has taken off!” “Emily’s flight has landed!”) So they already felt like they knew me and were so happy to finally have our group complete. We shared 2 Euro beers and potato croquets as we played foosball and got to know each other. Then we went to bed early to prepare for what ended up being the highlight of the trip for me- our Emerald River Adventure.It was still very early morning when our river guide picked us up and drove us to the Julian Alps. We followed him high into the hills of Triglav National Park, at first listening to his speech about the wildlife of the region, and then just enjoying the sights and sounds of nature around us. There was snow on the ground and more snow falling from the sky. I was shivering and pulling my light fleece jacket as tightly around me as I could. Even though it was June, it sure felt like winter. This is feeling was exacerbated when our guide pulled out some “sleds”, which very much resembled plastic beach shovels, and led us to the top of a steep hill. Never in a million years would I have thought I would ever go sledding in the month of June, while wearing Soffee shorts and a fleece jacket over a bathing suit, surrounded by a bunch of strangers. And man, was it fun.
After everyone took a turn sledding, our guide led us to another trail, this one much lower down the mountain but a bit more strenuous. We held tightly to the cable on the cliff face and watched our footing as we worked our way around the rocks. The snow was gone, replaced with what I might call apprehensive sunshine and light breezes. It now felt like spring. We wound our way into a dead end, laughing as we made an about-face and eventually found the main path, which led us back to the van. It was a short drive to our next destination.
The water of the Soca River was a powdery blue, the most unique color of water I had ever seen. I admired it as we pulled wetsuits and lifejackets on over our swimsuits. After a quick paddle practice on land, we hopped in the raft and headed down the river, the sun now out in full force and making me sweat. Spring had turned to summer. There were some rough patches of rapids, but our guide maneuvered us expertly. The speed was exhilarating, the splashes of water were refreshing, and the laughter of my tourmates was contagious. Once we were near our landing point, our guide encouraged us to jump off of the raft and swim the rest of the way. I was quickly caught up in the current and panicked a bit- until the guide called out a reminder that the water was fewer than four feet deep. I put my feet down and began my walk to shore, laughing with tourmates to my right and my left who had made the same mistake.
We went from there to Kozjak Waterfall, a lovely spot nestled inside a rock face. The thin but powerful waterfall emptied into a tranquil pool of freezing cold water, and most of us dove right into it, pins and needles taking over our bodies. We were quickly out, wrapped in towels and back in the van to hit our last stop of the day- a beautiful little lake. By that time, the hot sunshine was gone and replaced with a sweet chill. Autumn had come.
By the time we finished our day, it seemed we had experienced all four seasons. We celebrated with some Slovenian beer provided to us by our guide as we recounted the best moments from the day. There were a lot of wonderful things still to come on this trip- Salzburg, Prague, my 21st birthday… but the Emerald River day is still my favorite.