BALKAN CAMPERS - 15 TIPS FOR MORE ECO FRIENDLY ROAD TRIP
If I would have to describe this road trip with one word it would be: Green. From the endless green views, to deep green forests, rivers, to my green companion Valter and my green actions I tried to implement as much as possible throughout this trip. Wanna know where I went and how I did that, keep on reading.
I picked up Valter in Tržič and took an old road to Kobarid. I took it easy, got used to Valter, stopped on the way, enjoyed the views, even though it was raining the whole way.
ECO TIP #1:Saving fuel and driving in the right gear up those roads was one way to make this trip more eco friendly. I know Valter is on older gentleman, but he has a diesel engine and enough power to get you anywhere.
My first stop was Kobarid and Reinkarmika vintage clothing shop. The shop is located in the centre of Kobarid in the most beautiful Soča valley. The shop owner Karmen is a passionate collector of vintage clothes, especially those made in Slovenia and Yugoslavia. Her shop is a dream for all vintage lovers and a if you visit take your time, you are in for a treat and a true treasure hunt. Karmen and Balkan Campers share similar passion of keeping vintage items alive and in use. Production of both new clothes as well as cars is very polluting and unnecessary in the quantities that they are produced today. Plus vintage items are just gorgeous if you ask me and full of history and stories to tell.
ECO TIP #2: So buy vintage/2nd hand clothes and give them a new life. Those items are in most cases also of a better quality, after-all they survived all these years of wear already. I found a perfect blue jacket that was my companion for the rest of the trip and many years to come.
After a long day and heavy rain I decided to stay and sleep in Kobarid so I drove to Kamp Koren, located just few minutes from the centre. The camp was almost empty, it was just me and another family there. The camp is situated on the left bank of the emerald green river Soča. Koren Campsite was the first Slovene campsite that in 2011 fulfilled the required criteria for the acquirement of the European Ecolabel for the environment-friendly campsite.
“We make sure that we use as many reusable containers as possible. For heating the water, we use the energy from renewable energy sources (solar cells), we save water, use rainwater for watering the plants, instead of environmentally harmful detergents we use natural, degradable cleaning agents (i.e. vinegar), we recycle and expect the same from our guests.”
ECO TIP #3: Use the reusable water bottle, if you don not have one - there is a glass bottle waiting for you in the car. You can drink tap water anywhere in Slovenia and Croatia (except if it´s marked differently - in some mountain huts..).
ECO TIP #4: There is a reusable cotton bag for shopping or going to the beach.
ECO TIP #5: Please recycle, you will find containers for paper, plastic, compost and glass in the camps and all over Slovenia. There are also biodegradable bags in the van. And when you go shopping, try to avoid single use plastic packaging and go for package-free, aluminium or glass instead (especially glass bottles that can be returned and refilled). You can also reuse jars and bottles for food or water on your trip.
ECO TIP #6: If you travel with a doggie like I did, bring compostable dog poop bags, some camps even have doggie stations with bags available. You can also use old newspaper, or just take the dog to nature to do the business :) Just remember to not put those bags in the container for food compost, they don not belong there. You will have to put them in special trash for dog poop or in a mixed waste one.
I love coffee and I made one first thing in the morning before hitting the road. The whole van smelled amazing as well. If you can buy Fair Trade and Organic coffee, since coffee has a pretty big impact on the environment and people.
ECO TIP #7: There are coffee mugs in the van that you can also use as a take-away coffee mug in case you want to get your coffee on a petrol station.
On my second day I was driving from Slovenia to Istria region in Croatia, more specifically to a village next to Pazin where my friend has a small hut and a big field where all her friends can camp.
I never explored this area and I was really impressed. The crazy greenery and woods continued all the way to Istria. And in some places I really didn´t believe this is Croatia. Just another proof that there is so much to see close to our home.
Oh what a day it was. But first coffee and …
ECO TIP #8: Take care of you food to avoid food waste. I turned off the fridge as I eat plant-based diet (an extra eco tip) I didn´t have anything with me that needs to be refrigerated (except maybe soy milk but even that one survived). So if you don´t need it you can do the same and save on gas or electricity (depends on your settings). But if you travel in summer, it´s best to have the fridge running so it´s cold enough to keep your food fresh and avoid unnecessary food waste. Taking care of your food is going to save you some money as well.
My friend Ana planned the best daily trip for us. We visited Pazin and it´s crazy green oasis aka Pazin Cave. Yes that´s a zipline above it, go for it!
Istria is full of hidden gems that are still waiting to be discovered. But if you ask me the fact that they're not well-known is what makes them even more special.Zarečki krov is definetelly one of unexplored beauties of Istria, a cave reminiscent of a roof, which is why it got a name “krov”, meaning roof in Croatian.
ECO TIP #9: Leave nothing behind, and do a little (or big) clean up. I've noticed lots of cigaret buds at the Zarečki krov and did a 10 min clean up. This bag got full by the end of the day. Hopefully if people don´t see any trash there, it will make them think twice before they throw that can or a cigaret on the floor.
Slap Sopot - my my favourite place from this trip. The waterfall is around 30-meters high, which forms the green pond habitat for fishes and now mostly frogs. Over the stream that flows into a waterfall, there is a centuries-old bridge that was once the main link between all the villages. Most visitors are opting for sightseeing from the top, but it is possible to go down to the foot “although the track is a little dangerous” as hey write it on the official webpage. We were basically sliding down since it rained a lot few days before that. On two spots there are ropes that help you climb down the rocks. Ana, me, my camera and Ella (the dog) were up for adventure. And it was sooo worth it. We were completely alone there, jumped in perfectly cold water and enjoyed the sun.
ECO TIP #10: Support local businesses and farmers markets. Go for coffee to a local bar and grab a snack from the local bakery.
We visited a cute small town called Gračišće with one of the most beautiful views extending over the undulating landscape of Istria, merging into the peaks of the lofty Učka Mountain.
ECO TIP #11: Don´t share all your locations. :) Lots of beautiful locations in nature get destroyed by 1. influencers sharing locations and 2. other people coming there not respecting nature. Not tagging the location is sometimes best you can do to protect the nature and secret places. For instance we found this beautiful waterfall and river with a small cave in the woods that should stay for those who are lucky enough to know where it is.
ECO TIP #12: Use eco-friendly shampoo, body wash, toothpaste and any other products you might use in nature.
ECO TIP #13: Travel by local bus, train or shared ride to you pick-up and drop-off location. If you do that you will get a special gift from Balkan Campers.
ECO TIP #14: Walk or bike around once you arrive to your destination. Many camp sites offer bike and e-bike rentals as well. Or bring your skateboard or longboard with you.
ECO TIP #15: Be careful with fire, especially in summer. Read what fire restrictions are in the area you are. Don´t cut down trees or branches for you fire, find old dry wood. I know you are smart and know that already, but don´t burn plastic or anything else then wood. Make sure you put plenty of water on the fire before you leave, double check that all fire is out and there is no heat coming from it anymore.
I slowly drove back to Slovenia to visit my friend in Zaplana. On the way I stopped in Postojna where I saw a small skate park that seamed like a good place to stop. I general I met lots of lovely people on the way, took lots of stops and talked to locals. Some just wanted to say Hi, others have the same van and some were just happy to se, it or say Hi to Ella.
My friend Neža lives in a cool little house in a small village Zaplana on top of the hill. She is a real wizard when it comes to repairing outdoor gear and making new one from old materials. She is a founder of creative studio for all things outdoor called What Happened. She is here to make repairs cool again, runs workshops and DIY tutorials to teach us all how to take care of our clothes and equipment. Neža is also a part of Patagonia's Worn Wear Program and a cool new project for kids Secret Protectors Club Box that introduces a new way to make 4-8 year old children fall in love with the magic of nature (visit their Kickstarter campaign).
“I’ve seen in the past how trades are dying – because people didn’t want to share their knowledge, because they were too afraid to lose their job or get replaced by younger generations. It is extremely important for me to share my knowledge with other people – and by sharing, other people are open to share something back with you. We have lost the sense of collaboration in this society, and everything is too focused on just taking care of yourself.
We will only ‘save’ this planet if we’ll step together and this includes our children!“
Neža for Secret Protectors Club Box
ECO TIP #16: As Patagonia would say “If it´s broke, fix it!” and “Repair is a radical act.”
Same as Balkan Campers fix and maintain their vehicles, we need to fix our clothes, equipment and everything else that's fixable. :) First of all we need to take care of our clothes and outdoor equipment. Also stay away from fire with your polyester clothes and let them dry and properly air out so you don't need to wash them that often. And when something breaks, fix it or upcycle it into something else. You can take a small sewing kit into your trip in case you need to fix something on the go. If you have a bigger project or need a custom made outdoor gear Neža is here to help.
And just like that my trip came to the end. I said goodbye to Valter in Ljubljana where me and Ella hopped on a city bus that took us to the main bus/train station from where we continued with a bus to Villach and with a train to direction Vienna. Austrian railways for instance tell you how much lower your CO2 emissions were by choosing to travel by train instead of a car. For instance for my trip that was 55,6kg lower. And I love trains as much as anything vintage that is teaching me to take it slow and enjoy the ride.
You can find my whole trip on Google maps.
ECO TIP #17: Reduce your CO2 footprint.By ticking "YES I want to plant a tree", while booking one of the camper vans you are supporting their mission to reduce CO2 footprint and helping our forest to revive at the same time.
Balkan Campers will sum all the trees donations from you at the end of the season and donate the collected money to a project called "Drevo za Cerje" (A tree for the town of Cerje):
In August of 2019, a big fire expanded through the beautiful Carst region in SW Slovenia, destroying important and beautiful forests of their authentic trees.Miraculously fire didn't damage "pomnik miru" - a beautiful monument in the middle of the forest which symbolises peace, friendship and tolerance.Besides significant ecological impact, your donations will have a historical and peaceful meaning too.
I calculated I made around 500 km in 4 days:
One native tree could apparently fix around 0.2 tonnes of CO2. So I bought a tree on Drevo za Cerje to offset my 4 day trip.
Click here for more Eco roadtrip tips.
Thank you, Mateja