In a wide-ranging interview with Radio Television Slovenija Bohinj Mayor Franc Kramar expressed his many frustrations with and hopes for the area, including a wish for the hotels controlled by Victor Pacnik to be expeditiously sold to more caring and focused owners – following the recent sale of Japec Jakopin’s Hotel Bellevue and Pacnik’s own Camp Zlatorog.
Whilst nothing new or revelatory in the interview with Tina Hacler caught my eye, I was appalled that Kramar wishes to “edit” the northern coast of Lake Bohinj to accommodate cyclists. At the moment it is possible to cycle on the road hugging the lake’s southern flank all the way to Ukanc and in an anti-clockwise direction as far as the northern extremes. From here, and quite rightly, the path changes into a rocky, uneven track and is in places unkempt, but offers a challenging and ultimately rewarding hike, accessing Ukanc from a completely different perspective. On reaching the lake’s western side a continuation of the path takes walkers on a long-winded but pleasing hike to Savica Waterfall – Bohinj’s tourist honeypot. The northern side of Lake Bohinj is also a wonderful antithesis to the busy road opposite, which although having a raised footpath and optional route through the forest starting at Pod Skalco feels at times anything but ‘away from it all’. The northern path is also susceptible to extremes of weather with which the wider area is synonymous, activating natural rainwater and boulder chutes into overflowing torrents that can at times block the way with knee deep(or higher) levels of water. A blissful sense of the wild is rarely interrupted by an illegally used bicycle, although on my last visit I was alarmed by an increased disregard for rules governing the use of bikes, dogs on leashes and of course, littering. A personal favourite spot of mine is almost opposite the Church of the Holy Spirit, a tiny frescoed chapel set back from the southern highway.
In any other area of outstanding natural beauty the sight of an abandoned trout farm would cause outrage, but its neglected buildings and concrete-cylinders previously used during the fishes various stages of maturity fascinate, especially now that nature itself has taken the controls and rewilded the only man-made structures on the lake’s northern side. Should one be able to complete a hike during times of extreme precipitation the reward of the intermittent Govic waterfall pouring into Lake Bohinj from a complex network of porous limestone caves and sinkholes more than compensates for the likely drenching. Even the local cattle can at times be found on this path; how therefore can there be any justification for making Bohinj into just another lake resort, where commercial ‘need’ is seen to outweigh the obvious harm such a scheme would cause to the area’s fragile ecology?
My cynical side does though wonder from where Mayor Kramar’s motivation for a Lake Bohinj circular cycle track stems. His family-controlled cafe/refreshment stop adjacent to both the wooded area on the eastern side of the lake – close to the volleyball court – and approaches to the northern coast would undoubtedly benefit from an increase in cyclists, although it would be a bridge too far for me to suggest this was his prime rationale. Once though an alpine resort allows off-road cyclists to get a foothold, the danger of it becoming another Saalbach is very real. In some areas of the Glemm Valley pedestrians have to spend more time looking over their shoulders for oncoming bikes than at the scenery; elsewhere around Saalbach and Hinterglemm the ugly bike tracks gouged into many of its mountainsides do nothing for an area already in thrall to skiing – to a point where much of the tree cover has gone. Although there is nothing to suggest such apocalyptic scenarios are relevant in Slovenia, it is important that the Triglav National Park authority does not yield to such a fanciful but irresponsible idea that serves no purpose other than to deflect attention away from the real issues affecting Bohinj.
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