10 Random Observations About Slovenia

Slovenia
Sean McLachlan

Now that I’m wrapping up my series on Slovenia, there are a few bits and pieces that are worth sharing but didn’t fit in any articles. While these observations won’t be surprising to anyone familiar with the country, they were amusing to this first-time visitor.

1. As this photo shows, guys will always know where to go. Luckily the urinals are much more modern than the sign indicates, and you don’t have to be naked to use them.

2. When you buy a return bus ticket, it comes with a little schedule of the return buses for your route. Brilliant! Why don’t all countries do that?

3. Maypoles are popular in Slovenia. You see them in most of the smaller towns and villages.

4. Slovenia has the weirdest drug laws I’ve ever encountered. It’s illegal to buy, sell or possess marijuana. Pretty standard, you might say, but get this – it’s legal to smoke it. How you can smoke it without possessing it is anyone’s guess. Also, it’s legal to buy, sell or possess seeds but you can’t grow them into plants. Huh? Wait, let me rephrase that – HUH????

5. If you hike to the top of Triglev, Slovenia’s highest mountain, you are considered a “true Slovene,” but not before you are spanked by birch twigs to celebrate the occasion. It’s not clear if this is a real tradition or something invented by Slovenia’s S&M community.6. Slovenians love ketchup. It’s served with practically everything, even pizza. Apparently the tomato sauce on pizza doesn’t give it enough of a tomato flavor.

7. Slovenia’s national anthem was adapted from a poem about drinking wine. It’s perhaps unique among national anthems in that there’s no nationalistic chest thumping. Instead it calls for world harmony.

8. Don’t call it Slovakia, and don’t call the region the Baltics. I managed to avoid these common errors, but once when I was in Estonia I flubbed it and called the Baltics the Balkans. This slip of the tongue will get you razzed by the locals in either region.

9. If you’re going to have a food festival, why do something boring like celebrate wine or cheese? The Slovenians get creative with Bean Day, Chestnut Sunday and a Cabbage Festival.

10. As you can see below, if you’re entering the loading dock of a Slovenian supermarket, make sure you have some stuff.

Check out the rest of my series, “Slovenia: Hikes, History and Horseburgers.”

Slovenia
Sean McLachlan

Maoist Rebel Leader Opens ‘Guerrilla Trail’ In Nepal

Nepal, guerrilla
A former Maoist guerrilla leader in Nepal has started a new trail through the heart of what used to be rebel territory, the Indian Express reports.

Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) Chairman Prachanda created the trail to bring much-needed money to a poor region of Nepal that rarely sees tourists. Prachanda was the head of the guerrilla group that fought a bloody civil war in Nepal that left some 13,000 dead. The war ended in 2006 and started a tumultuous process in which the Maoists laid down their arms and the king abdicated in favor of a new multiparty democracy.

“As all know, Nepal has seen big political upheavals and the people’s revolution will be of no value unless the country goes through an economic transformation,” Prachanda said at a function organized by the Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu.

The guidebook for “The Guerrilla Trek” is already on sale on Amazon. The back cover blurb says, “The land is blessed with wide-ranging natural resources and biodiversity, exemplified by its wildlife … captivating waterfalls, rivers, caves, and delightful lakes as well the towering, sublime Himalaya to the north. Along the way visit many sites that figure prominently in recent history in an area of immense peace, beauty and hospitality that is open, ready and willing to host tourists. The trails outlined within are for the unique traveler seeking an experience that could long ago be had in Nepal’s well-established areas.”

The route begins west of Pokhara, a popular and well-equipped base for many treks, and winds its way through the mountains and valleys through Rukum and the Dhorpatan hunting reserve. This was the heartland of the Maoist insurgency and many villages still show the effects of war. The entire trek lasts four weeks although it’s possible to do shorter segments.

[Photo courtesy Jonathan Alpeyrie]

9 Climbers Killed In Nepal

Nepal
Nine climbers are dead after an avalanche on one of Nepal’s tallest mountains, the Guardian reports. At least five climbers were injured and have been evacuated to Kathmandu.

The avalanche hit the climbers’ camps at 7,000 meters (22,966 feet) on Mount Manaslu, a 8,163-meter (26,781-foot) peak and the eighth tallest in the world. More than 200 climbers and guides were on the mountain, but not all were in the area of the avalanche. The nationalities of only three of the dead are known at this time – German Spanish, and Nepali. The Toronto Star reports that seven climbers are missing – five French, a Canadian, and an Italian climber.

Mountain rescue crews, assisted by helicopters, are searching the area for bodies and survivors.

This is the beginning of the autumn mountaineering season in Nepal, a time right after the monsoon season when unstable weather makes avalanches more common.

This sobering news reminds me of my own trip to the Annapurna Base Camp, when a Japanese team lost some men in an avalanche on a nearby peak. It’s good to remember that adventure travel carries with it certain inherent risks.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Video: Annapurna Base Camp, Nepal


In 1994, I hiked to the Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal. It was one of the high points of a yearlong trip across the Middle East and Asia and my memories of that trek are still vivid today.

The Annapurna Circuit and Annapurna Base Camp treks were popular even back then and although I walked alone, I met several other hikers along the way. There were few guesthouses though, and mostly I stayed in spare rooms in local villages. Now I’ve heard that there are Internet cafes along the way. I haven’t confirmed this; I don’t want to know. I love adventure travel because it takes me away from my day-to-day life. The last thing I want to do while trekking in the Himalayas is to check Facebook.

Two memories stick out the strongest. The first happened three or four days into the hike. I was at a high altitude, puffing along with a forty-pound pack and all bundled up to stave of the bitter cold. I made steady but rather slow progress thanks to the high altitude. Then a Sherpa passes me wearing only thin trousers, a shirt and flip-flops. He was carrying a roof beam over his back, secured into place with a harness and forehead strap. The Nepalese are a tough people!

I got to the base camp and stayed in a stone hut that night. The next morning I went exploring. Pretty soon I came across some mysterious tracks in the snow. They looked for all the world like the footprints of a barefoot man, except very large and strangely rounded. I followed them for a few hundred feet until I reached a part of the slope shielded from the sun by an outcropping of rock. This part of the slope hadn’t received any sunlight, and so the snow hadn’t melted at all. The tracks suddenly became much smaller and were obviously animal in origin. To me they looked like a fox’s, although I can’t say for sure.

The explanation is simple: the sun warmed the snow on the exposed part of the trail and the tracks partially melted, becoming wider and rounder. The claws became “toes” and the pads of the feet joined into one oval mass. So. . .no yeti sighting for me!

Still, that did not dampen my excitement and awe of being at the breathtaking location surrounded by snow-capped Himalayan peaks. Put this video on full screen, sit back, and enjoy.

Wildlife refuge on island of Sanibel, Florida, introduces iNature Trail for smartphone users

The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge has introduced a new interactive smartphone capability for visitors. Called iNature Trail, the program utilizes QR (Quick Response) codes that are located around the refuge, which can be scanned by your smartphone using free downloadable applications like Neoscan and QR Scan. Once scanned, the codes will bring up YouTube videos and other informative resources for an enhanced experience in nature. For example, scanning a particular code could bring up a video of the refuge manager welcoming guests to the area, while another might teach users how to plant a mangrove tree.

According to Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland, out of the more than 550 national wildlife refuges, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is the first to put in place an interactive trail program like this one.

To get a better idea of how the app works, check out this video: