Sunset and Sunrise on Velika Planina
Velika Planina is otherworldly and utterly breathtaking. I just spent the night for the first time ever, with an old friend visiting from Australia.
This mountain plateau, where hundreds of cows graze during the summer months, supports a unique set of cultural traditions among the cowherds who summer along with them. From special homemade rain slickers (made of tree shavings) to wooden clogs, from a wooden peg game (Gozdar or the Forester) to homemade sour milk and schnapps made of spruce tips, this floating Middle Earth is probably (along with Lake Bled) the most-photographed and memorable site in Slovenia. The ability to sleep up there, to plow through the utter darkness at night, carving it out with a flashlight, seeing the sun set and then rise again...it makes a visit that much more special. I'll be making it an annual tradition.
I stayed at Koca Ojstrica (www.koca.si). It is the place to stay there. The hut combines traditional architecture with surprising luxury. One of the huts is a full three stories tall, with a generous master bedroom beneath, four twin beds above, and a living room with a bed, dining table, kitchen, full bathroom, pantry and even...wait for it...a sauna. It's perfectly located with an amazing view, of course, and just a few minutes' walk from the gondola and an inn, where you can get meals. Rok, the host, is kind and generous. He'll drive guests all the way up the mountain if they like, he offers huge locally-sourced breakfasts (think fruit, bread, hyper-local yogurt, honey), so big that they can qualify as lunch and a midnight snack. He hand-writes a welcome note for each guest, leaves a bottle of homemade schnapps as a welcome gift, and can cater to any needs--just let him know. When I stayed there, the gondola was down for repairs, so he drove me all the way up the mountain and picked me up the next day. This is also a brilliantly laid-out and equipped hut (many are lovely but far more spartan). Under floor heating, a wood fire stove and plenty of wood, unlimited use of water (which is in short supply on Velika Planina, as it has to be driven up the mountain), the sauna, and a pantry filled with enough supplies to survive a zombie apocalypse (this is key because there are no stores on the mountain top, so you need to bring up anything you'll want).
This was just the perfect place to stay and I'm eager to come back.