Our time in Europe was coming to an end. With only about a month left, we decided it would be best to finish our time here with a bang. Our version of a bang isn’t to go clubbing, stay at “party” hostels or eat at expensive restaurants. Our version is to explore a country slowly and take in views, food, and interact with locals. We were also kicking off our new project, mochilapp, and we wanted to find a way in which we could dedicate a part of every day to working on this exciting project.
The original idea for our year-long trip was to caravan around Australia but that got trumped by backpacking around the world. We decided it was time to taste the caravan life and see what we’re missing out on. Slovenia was our next destination and after a short search, we found the helpful team of Balkan Campers who had exactly what we needed – a 1983 VW T3 named Valter, the iconic camper! 30 something years ago my father had a similar one and here I was, with an opportunity for some fatherly nostalgia.
We got in touch with Nejc from Balkan Campers and in the lead up to the rental he told us everything we needed to know in order to prepare for the trip. We flew from Podgorica in Montenegro to Ljubljana airport and met Ziga, another Balkan Campers team member who brought the camper to the airport which was super convenient. He introduced us to Valter in the airport parking lot, showed us the ins-and-outs of the van, gave us some handy tips, and off we went!
Our first stop was one of Slovenia’s highlights – Lake Bled. We were there during the end of the high tourist season so the roads were very quiet and driving on the backroads was easy and beautiful. We were able to park right in the heart of town, something that would be impossible with a larger camper, and walked around town and the amazing lake. Cooking dinner in the small kitchen was easy. The van had everything you might need: two gas stoves, large-ish sink, foldable table and chairs and a comfy couch that turns into a huuuuge bed.
The next day we drove towards Lake Bohinj through amazing countryside scenes I didn’t know existed in Slovenia. Bohinj was recommended by Ziga as a must and he was right! There were barely any tourists there and it was as though we were in fairytale land. We had large sections of the lake all to ourselves. Soca Gorge was our next stop. We got there through winding mountainous forest roads, parked, grabbed a couple of beers and some food and set ourselves on a large rock on the bank of the river, watching the sun’s rays pass through the turquoise water. Once the sun set behind the mountains, we moved to a campsite right on the river-bend where we watched fly fishermen do their thing as we ate dinner.
The next day was a little challenging for Valter – It was time for our first real mountain pass. Zigzagging up the mountain, Valter wasn’t able to leave second gear and at one point he got a little hot. Ziga prepared us well for this event so we did as he instructed: we stopped on the side of the road, cracked open a couple cans of beer that were gifted to us by the Balkan Campers crew for this exact scenario, and painted on the ceiling of Valter as we waited for him to regain his senses. Once he was back with us, we continued up the pass and then straight down to the smaller but no less amazing Jasna lake. A little more touristy than Bohinj, but with a little cafe/bar right by the water, it was a chance for us to take in the views over a cup of hot chocolate.
It was around this time that we realised how close we were to the Italian border. We contacted Antonio, an Italian friend we had met about a year earlier in Peru. He told us he was in Ravenna, an Italian coast town south of Venice and as Italy allows for wild camping (free guys, free!), we took the opportunity to explore Italy. We crossed the border into Northern Italy and found a free parking lot in the mountains with free electricity and water. After a year of backpacking we were used to wet-towel showers and bush toilets so a night or two without a bathroom wasn’t an issue.
Venice was between us and our friend Antonio so we found a campsite right outside the city, parked Valter and jumped on a bus into the city. Walking around the canals, eating gelato and pizza and watching the sun set over this amazing city was never part of the plan for this trip, but travelling by caravan around this area of the world is so simple and easy that anything is possible.
The next morning we drove to Ravenna to meet our dear friend Antonio. Who would’ve thought! Meet someone at a cafe in Cuzco, spend Christmas together a month later in the Peruvian valley, and then a whole year later we get to meet them in Italy. All made possible by a simple van rental from Slovenia. Antonio showed us around historic Ravenna, introduced us to local grub, and found a convenient place for us to park the van for the night.
Our time with Valter was past the halfway mark, and it was time to make our way back to Slovenia for the final part. That meant two long-ish days of driving, with a night in Caorle, a random colourful beach town in Italy. The only reason we chose it – a nice photo that came up in Google. When we arrived, we discovered that it is a seasonal town and that in winter it simply shuts down! This worked in our favour as we were able to park right by the beach for the night. We cooked a simple dinner, polished off a bottle of wine and passed out.
We re-entered Slovenia and stopped at the beautiful coastal town of Piran to have lunch. We then spent three nights roaming around the rolling hills of Slovenia’s vineyards. As the season was ending, we shared campsites with only one or two other vans. Stepping into family-run vineyards as the only visitors was a humbling experience as we got the full attention of the owners, having all the details explained to us and being able to play with their children as they explain their unique wines.
It was then time to say goodbye to Valter. We drove into Ljubljana, parked outside our hostel and Ziga came to grab the keys. Again, this team know how to make things convenient! We told him about our adventure and farewelled Valter. Until next time!
P.S. Valter was draw-friendly, so @L.A.Sketch did an amazing job beautifying the driver door