Mark Twain and Tine Mihelic. On the face of it the American literary giant and a Slovenian climber would seem to have little in common. Both though were touched in their own ways by the Alps, a common-thread which brings together people of all persuasions and walks of life.
Twain’s experiences of the mountains were in all truthfulness somewhat prosaic and unambitious, but, in espousing that all one needed was a good veranda, telescope and an agreeable bottle of whisky to fully enjoy the vistas in front of him, we must remember that in his era the mountains were only accessible to the fittest, usually men, and without the modern-day cableways and funiculars that we today take for granted. It is hard though for me to imagine how anybody could be satisfied with his version of communing with the mountains.
So where does this bring in the little known Tine Mihelic? With such a surprising lack of information available on the internet regarding this late, great explorer of the Alps, it is somewhat strange that in this modern era enthusiasts such as myself have to rely upon acroamatical stories(in the factual sense) of his life, albeit accompanied by his seminal literary work: Mountaineering in Slovenia. It is unfortunate but not uncommon that the lives of Mihelic and Tomasz Humar, another Slovenian great albeit better known, have posthumously gained greater prominence since their untimely demises, taken by the very mountains that ironically provided the oxygen to their very existences. A mountaineer, even those of national or world-renown knows that his or her very choice of a playground is perhaps the most deadly of all. In common with Twain, Tine Mihelic acknowledged his love of the mountains through his literary work, albeit on a scale that went far beyond on how to enjoy the Alps from afar. This was a man who not only communed and interacted with his beloved Julian Alps but also transmitted this affection through his penmanship to create a terrific guidebook of not only the “Julians” but also the Kamnik & Savinja Alps, as well as the Karavanke range. The main thing that strikes me from this travelogue is the unadulterated passion Mihelic had for his own backyard, despite his andinism having taken him around the globe. Being originally from Bohinj, I can imagine Mihelic being perfectly at ease if somebody had told him he could never leave the Julian Alps.
To read a guidebook authored by somebody so enamoured with their topic is surely the best way to learn about the subject in question. Too often, a vade mecum is penned by an author ostensibly happy to present you with the facts but all too often missing the essence of an area, the very marrow of what encapsulates a region’s uniqueness. Even in the adapted version for the English language, Mihelic is able to achieve this in a beautifully simplistic way, thanks in no small part to translator Margaret Davis.
I purchased my copy of Mountaineering in Slovenia in Bohinj, at the Ribcev Laz tourist-office. Whilst it is not a cheap tome, it has become one of my prized possessions where price-paid is greatly overshadowed by the value gained from the quality of its contents. Strangely for a country so embarrassed by its riches of wood, printed-matter in Slovenia is invariably more expensive than you would expect. It is though worth shopping around for this title; perhaps you could make it an excuse, if ever one was needed, to journey to Bohinjsko Jezero where I found the price paid, whilst to reiterate wasn’t cheap, was lower than anywhere online that I have subsequently seen, links to which can be found below:
Twain himself surely would’ve been pleased to read this book, albeit of course from the comfort of his veranda.