The northern shores of Slovenia’s Lake Bohinj are not only diametrically opposed to its southern flank dominated by an interminably busy road connecting Ribcev Laz with Ukanc and the Vogel cableway, but by contrast affords walkers a fairly rough path only suitable for pedestrians and not bicycles, or any other form of mechanised transportation. This has allowed for its limestone cliffs that abut the water’s edge and surrounding deep forest to more than lay claim to a relative and actual primeval environment as different as can be imagined from the often bustling but depressingly busy southern and eastern reaches of the Triglav National Park’s brightest, but perhaps most vulnerable jewel.

Where east meets north is in effect a boundary between a playground for tourists who mostly visit with the best of intentions, and a rocky, comparatively inhospitable habitat where only the curious and responsible should set foot. Indeed, the signs are there for all to see that dogs should be on a leash, and that cycling is not only prohibited so to protect footpaths from greater erosion, but is also a futile pastime to undertake on wholly unsuitable terrain. Even arguments for mountain bikers to be allowed to complete a circuit of Lake Bohinj on two wheels fall at the first hurdle, simply because impromptu flooding during and after heavy rain can render the path completely impassable; a scenario often only found out on reaching the halfway point.

This does not though mean that those who cannot read or believe that the rules are not applicable to them do not try to cycle along the lake’s northern section. The several walks I have completed around the lake have met the occasional flouter of Triglav National Park(TNP) and local municipality ordinances, but at the time litter was the greater threat to the lake’s shoreline and water quality, along with chemically-rich sun cream serving as a pollutant having leached from swimmers and sunbathers. Whilst these issues remain some of the many large challenges in the in trays of both the Bohinj and TNP authorities, the rise of dog ownership and the apparent need to take pets everywhere is arguably now one of the biggest threats to harmonious relations with vacationers, and if it can be bracketed together, the lakes and mountains ecosystem.

Slovenia is situated in the middle of Europe, and is of course easily reached by most of the continent. As the vast majority of its holidaymakers will arrive in their own vehicles, it is easy to bring along their pets – invariable dogs. Ownership has exponentially increased, even at a geometric rate, and as freedom of movement within Europe has made cross-border travel far easier, one of the knock on effects is that where once taking the plane was the preferred and often only option to travel within the continent, now loading up the car with family, luggage, and pets is the obvious and logical choice for many.

On that basis it is moot as to whether dog ownership has increased, or that it is simply easier to travel abroad with one’s pet than it once was but either way, dogs on and off leads are now a large cause for concern within areas such as Lake Bohinj and its near neighbour, Lake Bled.

When a dog is off its lead there is far less chance of its owner locating where it may have defecated, with attacks on humans, livestock, wildlife, and other dogs more likely. I would like to say that travellers’ dogs are limited to flatter paths but I have even encountered a large dog off its lead on the route to Pengelstein above Kitzbuehel and the Hahnenkamm, with a similar scenario close to the summit of Saalbach Hinterglemm’s remote Reichkendlkopf peak.

The issue has now come to a head in both Bled and Bohinj, with law enforcement officers politely but firmly ‘reminding’ dog owners that their charges must be kept under control, otherwise a fine will be enforced. That it has to come to such measures is a leitmotif for the age in which we live, but the incredulity on the faces of many of those challenged does speak volumes as to how it is taken as a given that personal boundaries and consideration for others and the environment are now often conspicuous by their respective absences.

There is a fine line for tourist associations, municipalities, and in this case the Triglav National Park authority to walk that could alienate visitors who erroneously presume that the Bled and Bohinj are dog-unfriendly. However, such conclusions are surely only drawn by the blinkered and the prideful, and the type of people who have to be reminded of their responsibilities instead of automatically adhering to them.

Lake Bohinj is self-styled as ‘a green oasis for responsible tourism’. Its popularity may in the end result in it severely restricting the number of people who can visit, with use of the lake limited to pleasure cruises operated by its environmentally friendly tour boats. If it isn’t going to become another Dubrovnik or Venice, Bohinj will have to make some stark, even controversial choices. Failing to do so in an age of selfishness and where attitudes of ‘nobody tells me what to do’ are increasingly undermining society will see authorities continually chasing their tails to futilely find solutions that are ‘environment first’.

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Featured image: Taken from Lake Bohinj’s northern shore looking towards its southern flank, with the Ski Hotel Vogel clearly visible above the dense forest.

All images are the copyright of Charles Bowman, and may not be reproduced without permission from and acknowledgement of the rights holder.


2 thoughts on “Lake Bohinj: Dogs, pollution, and being a victim of its own popularity

  1. Great little post and an incredibly fascinating story Charlie, thanks for sharing this with us!

    Reminds me of wonderful time I had with my wife in a teeny tiny South Asian hidden gem of a country, Sri Lanka.

    It was an incredible experience from people to places to architecture to all the experiences that we’ve gathered, such a magnificent place to be and it was an one for the memory vaults.

    You can read the full story here,


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