The seemingly endless proliferation of travel guides and competitions that seek to rank areas of the world or indeed individual resorts as the best of their genre, have undoubtedly made the world a smaller place, allowing ‘armchair’ travellers a greater insight into countries they otherwise of which would know little. As though the world becomes more connected, and with cross-border mobility increasingly becoming a formality, those regions of the world that have gained the most publicity for the positive traits by which they are best known but for many would like to be kept under wraps, are now losing their ‘best kept secret’ tags – more often than not to their detriment.
Venice and the Croatian city of Dubrovnik have long since been violated by unchecked tourism, and are battling against being ruined by ‘smash and grab’ daytrippers who arrive on the many cruise ships that dock at the city’s respective ports. These historic cities are not being drip-fed tourists but metaphorically have the city gates smashed down by the massed hordes that arrive en bloc, leaving a trail of litter and examples of disrespect to the architecture they’ve come to be photographed with. Whilst ignorance rather than maliciousness is the ultimate driver of many visitors’ actions, seemingly a fight that cannot be won is being waged by embattled city workers employed, or in many cases purely on a voluntary basis, to gentle explain the do’s, but more especially the don’ts, that etiquette demands in two such increasingly fragile destinations.
A recent ranking in Europe’s top ten destinations to visit during 2018 has far-reaching implications for Slovenia’s Lake Bohinj. Already bursting at the seams during the height of summer, 2017 saw a marked increase in illegal parking and increasingly blatant acts of disrespect against the environment – often in the form of wild camping and littering. Occupying a central position in continental Europe makes Bohinj an easy-to-reach target for many journeying overland; the frequent boiling hot days of July and August, in a similar vein to Dubrovnik and Venice, ensure a stampede of day visitors arriving from first light to secure a legal parking spot, and a prime lakeside position. Lake Bohinj’s northern aspect is an obvious antidote to the worst excesses of mass tourism, and whilst not equipped to deal with any form of motorised and wheeled transportation, there are many examples of this ordinance being flouted. This inevitably leads to deterioration of the walking paths and increased littering. It is vital that more of the €340,000 collected from parking fees during 2017 is used to employ, and empower, additional Triglav National Park wardens that are a conspicuous, visible presence.
Increased efforts have been made to take traffic off the at times unbearable busy road between Bled and Bohinj, with a raft of initiatives that include plans to create additional parking away from Ribcev Laz – allowing buses to transport the occupants of private vehicles to the lakeside. That of course is fine for those visiting for the day, but far less convenient for a multi-day stay. There are of course issues of a predominantly rural area losing land to parked cars, although it is hoped that this can be managed in a respectful manner, and to some degree in keeping with the extraordinary surroundings.
Neighbouring Lake Bled has appealed, perhaps somewhat motivated by hope over expectation, that the huge influx of visitors it experiences during the summer months can be spread more evenly throughout the year. Bohinj’s tourism chiefs are pleased that autumnal visits are on the increase, although the fact that potentially 500 million Europeans simultaneously start their summer vacations makes requests for tourists to be more discerning when they travel to be somewhat futile. Slovenians themselves have not taken kindly to suggestions that they should forsake their summer travel plans within the country, to in effect accommodate bigger spending foreign tourists. There are it seems few solutions for two vastly different but enduringly popular lake resorts, other than to heavily enforce bylaws that demand respect towards nature and a zero tolerance of illegal parking.
Those dismayed at the thought of Bohinj’s inclusion in a European hot-spot list for 2018 can perhaps be comforted that a tangible lack of overnight options in the area will perhaps to some extent keep away those who have suddenly become alerted to the area’s very existence. On drilling down into Bohinj’s accommodational choices it will soon become clear that the ongoing closure of both the Zlatorog and Bellevue hotels has left a large gap in the quality overnight accommodation that the area should be able to provide, and rooms of equal standard elsewhere in the municipality being in such demand that securing a reservation is by no means a certainty. Anyone though with Bohinj at heart would not want to see the recently acquired but still closed Bellevue and the near-derelict Zlatorog out of commission and not contributing to the area’s economy. That the famous Zlatorog has itself become a mawkish tourist attraction due its decaying facade is of course a scandal of not only local, but national proportions.
Bohinj’s popularity and sterling attempts to remain a sustainable destination will present many challenges and consequences when such a delicate balance is to be struck between maintaining a thriving, diverse local economy but not forsaking its fragile ecology and unsullied backdrop which without would not make it what it is. The reasons for its inclusion in Europe’s latest ‘must see’ list must not be sacrificed in a specious pursuit of a landmark one million overnight stays, as if such a figure suggests the area would be better thought of or that nature can continually absorb, without consequences, such a terrifying obsession with statistics.
“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
Source material and further information:
The Slovenia Times: http://www.sloveniatimes.com/bohinj-among-top-european-destinations