To the uninitiated it is quite difficult to get across the difference between the mountainous regions of Austria and Slovenia, many being of the opinion that mountains are mountains wherever in Europe you happen to be. Slovenia is in many senses what Austria was 20-30 years ago but I don’t say that pejoratively, rather, it can be refreshing to venture to Bohinj and not feel your whole experience is geared towards how quickly your tourist euros(€) can be extracted from your pockets. Austrian tourism is a leviathan, an unstoppable juggernaut extremely adept at giving tourists what they want whilst ensuring money slips almost imperceptibly through their fingers. Again, I don’t view this critically but am increasingly weary of the restless, insatiable appetite of many resorts who are unable or unwilling to rest on their laurels, to be happy with what they have. Granted, all tourism centres every so often need to refresh their offering, to update aging cableways and so on but the continued pursuit of extra ski runs at the expense of the forest that dares to stand in the way of ‘progress’ has begun to betray a certain level of indifference towards the environment and, is starting to become more noticeable. Another subject for another blog post but from impressions from a recent trip to the Saalbach Hinterglemm region the local tourism association is allowing mountain-bikers to predominate over hikers, the unacceptable bending of the knee to the biking fraternity has, in my opinion, very much come at the expense of walkers and the environment, if the gouged out mountainside bike courses are anything to go by.
At this time of year, infrastructure projects within Austria are being built as quickly as can be safely done so, ensuring completion before the height of the county’s tourism season begins in earnest at the end of November. Whilst the Ski Circus officially becomes the largest winter-sports region in Europe once the link with Fieberbrunn has been completed, Slovenian tourism gets…a new bus. Remarkably, the Municipality of Kranjska Gora has spent the not inconsiderable sum of €40,000 on a reconditioned Dutch bus, tasked with ferrying tourists to outlying areas not currently serviced by public transport. Predicated on making Ratece, Planica and Pericnik more accessible to tourists, these areas are undoubtedly worthy of a detour from even the most detailed Slovenian itinerary and offer some outstanding, panoramic vistas of the Karavanke range. The Netherlands though isn’t known as a Low Country for no good reason, its highest point topping out at a rather modest 1.059 feet above sea level. Therefore, its vehicles aren’t generally constructed with mountains, or even hills, in mind.This unfortunately will continue to place many of the highlights around Kranjska Gora out of reach for those reliant on public transport as quite simply, the Dutch bus cannot cope with the steep inclines that form the basis of visits to the Vrsic Pass and, the Russian Chapel dedicated to St. Vladimir and constructed by countless Soviet prisoners of war who never survived to admire their efforts.
It will be interesting to see the metrics by which the success of Kranjska Gora’s new bus are gauged. A significant outlay of public finance demands that value for money is not just seen as an optional extra but a major factor when deciding if such an expense can be justified. Whilst the bus route does undoubtedly serve some beautiful areas of Slovenia’s north-west, it seems crazy that nobody prior to the purchase of the bus saw fit to question its suitability for the very roads its acquisition was intended.
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