It is often overlooked that bijou Slovenia has an astonishing 178 mountain huts that come in all shapes, sizes and guises. By Midsummer Day ninety percent of all alpine refuges are open, the remaining higher-altitude lodges welcoming hikers and hut to hut trekkers by the end of June.

One of the most accessible huts more akin to a mass-tourism restaurant than primitive shelter, Koca Merjasec, positioned adjacent to Vogel above Bohinj’s cableway’s pinnacle at Rjava Skala is an ideal pit stop for those wanting to say they’ve ridden the cable-car from the Ukanc valley station without exploring much further than the 1535 metres above sea-level top station. The friendly custodian and staff do though offer an equally warm welcome to unambitious sightseers and hardened hikers returning from strenuous day or multi-day hikes, the eponymous house speciality of Wild Boar stew proffered to all visitors being something of an acquired taste but one that has remained a hut staple for many years. What the Wild Boar have to say about it hasn’t as of yet been chronicled.

Guess what is on the menu at this hut? © Charles Bowman 2013
More spectacularly situated and considered to be one for the purists Koca pod Bogatinim(under Bogatin), the Komna Plateau-based hut is equipped to receive day walkers but more especially serves as an overnight staging post for the many alpinists undertaking a tour of the Seven Lakes or embarking on an assault on Triglav, Slovenia’s highest peak. Bogatinim’s close proximity to another hut Dom na Komni might seem like an over-concentration in the immediate area of lodge accommodation but both serve a unilateral purpose depending on what route is being followed, the rewarding views of Lake Bohinj afforded to Dom na Komni’s patrons adequately offsetting the building’s stark design more in keeping with the Ski Hotel Vogel than a sympathetically designed Tirolean-style alpine refuge.

Traditional Slovenian dishes styled along basic but nutritional lines form a uniform pattern to hut menus but a monotonous bill of fare to some is easily counterbalanced by draught or bottled Slovenian beer, Radler-style shandy, hot tea, fruit juices and rib-sticking desserts. Expect to pay a premium for the privilege of dining at altitude but the uncertainty of the elements and the effort involved in bringing supplies to many of the huts not serviced by motorised tracks inevitably adds an acceptable increment to prices.

The Slovenian Mountain Association(PZS) offers a comprehensive portal detailing all accredited huts and maintained hiking routes although, vastly differing states of repair have been increasingly noted on the trails that highlights the influence of the Alps’ twin enemies: financial cutbacks and progressively volatile weather. For those experienced in Slovenia’s Alps or visitors new to the country’s uplands the PZS website is a necessary first port(al) of call, not only giving an overarching perspective on the nation’s mountain culture but also complementing equally detailed information found on many regional sites such as www.vogel.si/ and www.bohinj.si/.

For Slovenia’s residents the call of the wild is particularly strong, meaning hikers are just as likely to encounter locals on the trails as the many Germans and Britons who visit the Julian Alps and Pohorje regions. Scaling Triglav at least once in an average Slovenian’s lifetime is writ large in the national psyche, emblematic of the constant reminder of Triglav’s presence found on the country’s flag and everything from radio stations and insurance providers. Despite Slovenia negotiating an uncertain course through a minefield of denationalisation the constant of the country’s affection for its mountains and care for the environment endures, providing solace for those suffering the prolonged austerity measures implemented by a succession of incumbent administrations. Although the country is bordered by several nations who provide a steady stream of day and weekend traffic it is Slovenia’s population who ensure that this vast network of alpine lodgings lives on, for all of us to enjoy and be thankful for.

Further reading on this subject can be viewed at:

Siol.net: majority of Slovenian alpine refuges now open for business

Planinska zveza Slovenije(Mountain Association of Slovenia) website