Across the bank from the church stands the slender, dark bronze statue of the Zlatorog, or Golden Horn – the magical stag believed to guard the ridges around the lake. In the glint of the afternoon light, it almost looks real. A 20-minute cycle ride from the church, “Devil’s Bridge” spans over a furious gorge. According to legend, the devil built it in exchange for the soul of the first one to cross; however, clever villagers tricked a dog into making the trip. This is a land of stories. It’s the sort of place where one’s imagination might run wild.
We continued to cycle through villages, alpine fields dotted with wildflowers and forests where the branches trellised above our heads. The white of the clouds, soft against the blue of the sky, faded into the snow on the mountaintops. It was the sort of place, I thought, where you can forget any other places exist.
“Agatha Christie used to come here,” Silc told me proudly. “But she never set any of her works here. She said it was too beautiful a place to set any murders.”
And Christie wasn’t the only writer to fall for Bohinj’s charms. Existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre was a regular visitor to Ukanc. “An existentialist going to the town of the end of the world,” Silc acknowledged. “Makes sense.”
We stopped at the bottom of Mount Vogel, a seasonal ski resort, where a cable car took us to the top. A sign compared the current wait time – 15 minutes – to the six hours or more it took during the days of communist Yugoslavia, when facilities were limited and people queued up at dawn in the hope of a single trip up and down the slope.
As the car pulled us upward, forests gave way to bare cliffs. Silc pointed out a goat-like chamoix leaping across the snowdrifts. Spring – or summer – does not exist at the top of Mount Vogel. While people are swimming in the lake, up here, snow shrouds the horizon. Without even the changing seasons to mark the passage of months, time felt slower still.
We sat in the chalet at the top of the cable car, huddled over cabbage stew that had been sharpened with sausage and thickened with beans. Silc ran into two friends – also tour guides – napping against the wood-slat walls while their guests wandered the mountainside.
“A hard life”, one of them winked at me. “I quit. I am going back to the factory – first thing tomorrow.”
The Bohinj region is barely one hour from Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, but we hardly noticed. We were in the middle of nowhere, out of season and time – and it was wonderful.