At first glance it was an unusual sight, a boat that looked more accustomed to plying the Amsterdam canal network was berthed in that most unusual of dry docks: on the back of a truck heading for Lake Bohinj. In the year 2000 I was staying at the Rozic Pension, only a short stroll from the Ribcev Laz epicenter that services the everyday needs of tourists visiting Bohinj, or, more specifically, its lakeside. One evening I observed the boat that was to become a mainstay on Lake Bohinj being delivered, soon to be complemented by a second craft that would work in tandem ferrying guests between Ribcev Laz and Ukanc, close to the now defunct Hotel Zlatorog.
For many years Bohinj’s Municipality and the Triglav National Park(TNP) authority – whose jurisdiction controls roughly two-thirds of Bohinj’s territory – had resisted repeated requests for mass market pleasure trips to be operated on the lake, fearing pollution of its fragile ecosystem by carelessly used fuel and overboard littering by passengers. Eventually a suitable design of boat that operated on the strict environmentally-friendly guidelines necessary for such a project to be granted a Royal Assent by the municipality and TNP was sourced, the previous life of both vessels having started in the equally idyllic surroundings of Bavaria’s Lake Koenig. Bohinj could finally offer an infinitely more pleasurable alternative to the omnipresent rowing boats and canoes that until both boats’ arrivals had been the extent of the alternatives available to fisherman and would-be oarsman. Whilst there are obvious benefits to being able to dawdle on the lake with relatively few time constraints, the thought of getting into difficulty where Lake Bohinj shelves to its 150 feet deepest point is not an edifying thought, nor is finding the lake a lot longer and subsequently tougher on ones rowing arms than first thought. For the last fifteen years the acquisition of both boats has been a boon for tourists, without the hackneyed visions associated with Lake Bled of extortionately priced gondola-style Pletna boats continually shuttling wide-eyed foreign guests back and forth between the shoreline and Bled Island.
I had always assumed both tourist boats – named Zlatorog and Bohinj – were owned by the local authority who invited tenders from the private sector for their operation. Recent events would suggest this not to be the case but whilst my source material has been difficult to translate and hasn’t enabled me to gain a completely accurate picture of the issues at hand, it seems that a petty quarrel between the boats’ operators and Bohinj’s Municipal Council has resulted in a party of Swiss tourists being unable to enter the city hall governed landing-stages, resulting in potential passengers scaling fences and gates to gain access to the Zlatorog boat. Bizarrely, it seems this boat has long since been operated by a private enterprise whilst the smaller ‘Bohinj’ vessel remains state-owned.
The municipality argues a lack of alignment of standards on both boats has brought about the standoff between it and the Zlatorog’s owner, Igor Dornik. For two parties to operate ostensibly the same service on Lake Bohinj in isolation from each other is astonishing and only serves to compound an already embarrassing situation the area’s tourism sector finds itself in. It is to be hoped that a swift resolution – how many times have I said that recently? – can be brokered between the two warring camps before the peak summer season gets into full swing; otherwise, the Bohinj region will add the tourist boat saga to a rogues gallery already containing the interminable and shameful ruin of hotels Zlatorog and Bellevue.
Further reading on this article can be viewed at:
24ur: Bohinj Municipality and tourist boat operator at odds(good luck with the translation)