Hiking as a Way of Life – Why Slovenians Love Hiking so Much
After living abroad I always found this love for hiking that Slovenians have ingrained in them fascinating.
You could say that Slovenes are a bit obsessed with hiking, in a good way of course. Hiking is such an important way to spend your free time in Slovenia that it has become an integral part of life – it’s a lifestyle.
Slovenes hike before work, after work, on weekends, they go on hiking holidays – it’s a national sport. And they start you off very young. I’ve been to so many hills and mountains and plateaus – too many to count or remember. During school years the school also takes you hiking, skiing, sledging and ice skating, it’s just a part of growing up to learn all the sports.
Why is Hiking so Popular in Slovenia
Slovenia is a hiking paradise. There’s more than 10,000 kilometres of marked hiking trails.
You can choose from 175 mountain huts or spend a night in hotels and camps for hikers. They spread from the Adriatic sea, through endless vineyards and green forests to the walls of Slovenia’s highest peaks.
Hiking is perfect for all ages and fitness levels. All you need is some weather-proof clothes, good shoes, sunscreen, water and some chocolate. There are also lots of groups and hikers’ associations, which you can join and then participate in weekly trips.
Hitting the mountain trails is a favourite hobby here in Slovenia. It’s one of the greenest countries in the world with incredible hiking opportunities everywhere you go.
We even have a saying that you are not a true Slovene if you don’t climb the highest mountain of Triglav. The mountain of Triglav is also a symbol of Slovenia and is featured on Slovenian flag.
How Hiking Can Change Your Life
For me, there is nothing better than to fill my lungs with fresh air while walking through forests and meadows. When you reach the top you are rewarded with great views, homemade food and mountain flower tea.
We hiked almost every weekend when I was growing up. And as a teenager I wasn’t too enthusiastic, of course I had other things on my mind.
But now I love it.
To me, forests always feel a bit mystical and magical. And up in the mountains you can find peace and quiet. It’s definitely a meditation as you have to focus on one step at a time.
They say hiking can actually improve your life in ways you may not have considered before, and science is now starting to find some correlations between hiking and your health. Here are just a few ways that getting outside for a hike will change your life:
Lower Stress Levels
Stress usually happens when we are worrying about the past or worrying about the future. It’s being fully in the present moment where we find peace. There’s a Japanese term — shirin-yoku — that translates as “bathing in the forest air”. It is widely accepted that this is a necessary part of maintaining a balanced, peaceful life.
When you go hiking, after a few miles, you’ll settle into an easy rhythm of thought. Your mind will relax, and you will focus on the natural world around you. The butterflies, a beautiful birdsong, a glimpse of deer running through the forest. Those colours on the trees and the smell of forest ground.
Step by step, your worries will dissolve while hiking in gorgeous landscapes.
Better Brain Performance
The more oxygen flows to your brain the clearer and faster are your thoughts. And after twenty minutes of hiking you will notice your brain fog disappear due to increased oxygen and physical activity. The trees act as a natural air filter, so when hiking the air you breathe in is more clean and pure.
Over time, the effects become longer lasting, and your brain will maintain that clarity for longer.
A study was recently done that showed evidence of telomeres lengthening up to 10% in people who spent time exercising outside. Telomeres are the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes that affect how quickly cells age, so the longer they are, the longer we live.
Hiking is just one way to lengthen telomeres – but research is showing that this is key to living a long, healthy life.
Check out the study here: http://www.ucsf.edu/news/2013/09/108886/lifestyle-changes-may-lengthen-telomeres-measure-cell-aging
Hiking Huts and Chalets
On the top of the mountain you usually have a chalet/mountain hut with a restaurant offering local traditional food.
If you set your heart on a more adventurous hiking expedition, hut-to-hut hiking is an absolute must. Cosy and warm, mountain huts are situated in the most ridiculously stunning alpine locations and present a great chance to meet other hikers.
Some mountain cabins offer rooms so you can stay the night. Nights in the mountains are really something special.
Staying in huts while discovering the hidden gems of Triglav National Park is truly a remarkable experience. They also make wonderful pitstops on longer hikes, like the one to the sublimely beautiful Seven Lakes.
Traditional Slovenian Food in Mountain Huts
Mountain huts or chalets offer a wide variety of traditional Slovenian foods.
One of my favourite traditional Slovenian foods is filled pastry – with cottage cheese, walnuts, or blueberries. It’s really delicious.
Other dishes include:
- Žganci with sour milk (Buckwheat with sour milk)
- Veal stew, Ričet (meat and barley stew)
- Jota (Bean and Sauerkraut hotpot)
When to go Hiking in Slovenia
The optimal hiking season runs from June till October when the majority of mountain huts, shelters and bivouacs are open for hikers.
The rest of the year the highest mountains are covered with snow and are ”reserved” for the experienced mountaineers.
But the rest of Slovenia offers plenty of nice and less demanding hiking options throughout the whole year. Almost every Slovenian will hike throughout the year.
Where to Go Hiking in Slovenia
The most spectacular Slovenian mountains are the Julian Alps – the home of the amazing Triglav national Park. It is located in the north-western part of Slovenia with Bohinj, Bled, Kranjska Gora and the Soča valley (Bovec & Kobarid) being the best starting points for your hiking adventures.
Here you’ll find Slovenia’s highest peaks, beautiful limestone walls, gorgeous views and numerous waterfalls.
Karawanke are a mountain range of the Southern Limestone Alps on the border between Slovenia to the south and Austria to the north. With a total length of 120 kilometres (75 mi) in an east-west direction, the Karawanks chain is one of the longest ranges in Europe.
Mt. Stol is the highest mountain of this range and there are many trails leading to the peak. You can take the trail that starts at the Valvasor Hut. This trail is not technically challenging but it does require decent physical preparedness as it over the distance of 11 kilometres ascends/descends for more than 1300 meters.
For adrenaline seekers, there’s a unique way of exploring the mountains: the via ferrata or “iron paths”. More climbing than hiking, these trails usually come equipped with pegs, carved steps, ladders and bridges, allowing relatively inexperienced hikers to tackle more demanding ascents and soak up the picturesque views.
Mojstrana is a great place to start. Some via ferrata routs in the Julian Alps date back to WWI, when soldiers used them to fight at the Soča Front.
Another excellent hiking location are the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, which start right at the northern tip of Ljubljana basin. Mount Grintovec is the highest peak of the region. Here you will also find Logar valley, one the most picturesque corners of Slovenia, and the fairytale herdsmen village on Velika Planina.
If you are looking for a place to get away from it all and enjoy amazing mountain views in this part of Slovenia.
The whole country has plenty to offer to all hikers who would like to enjoy the fresh air of lush forests and get to know the friendly countryside.
Do you like hiking? What does hiking mean to you? Have you been hiking in Slovenia?
Let me know of your favourite hill or mountain.
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