Metal Days trip: Day 7 (Kobarid by bike)

Don’t worry, you didn’t miss a day – I just didn’t do anything particularly touristy on day 6!

Soča River

Today I decided to remind myself why I hate cycling so much. It’s not the exercise, or the effort, it’s the bloody saddles. I write this several hours after I got back and even though I’m on a soft seat in the hostel I can feel the bruises on my bum! Regardless, for €10, the hostel rents bikes out and I decided to use one to explore places a little further afield.

The next large town along the Soča Valley is Kobarid, about 18km away. The route passes through a handful of smaller townships – the kind of places where the addresses don’t go as far as streets; you live at “number 6 in This Town”. Despite being up in the mountains, the road wasn’t too hilly with only a couple of stretches which were hard work.

Slap Kozjak

The villages and townships I passed through were gorgeous. Brightly painted houses, many in a modern version of traditional styling and all with the most stunning views of the mountains and the river which flows through the foot of the valley. I stopped at a couple of waterfalls for some photos, but my first major break was at Kobarid itself where I grabbed some lunch at a supermarket (and got talking to a guy in a Huddersfield Town t-shirt who, it turned out, follows Moshville Times on Twitter!).

I took a quick detour around nearby Idrsko before heading into Kobarid and back out again to pass a few sites. I stopped off for a brief look at the Kostnica s Cerkvijo Sv. Antona, a church up a steep hill which also plays host to a war memorial to Italian soldiers who fell in the area during WWI.

Slap Kozjak stones

I continued up the hill and onto a path through some woods, eventually (after many ups and downs) reached Kamp Lazar, a campsite with a large restaurant attached. A shame to waste a visit, I popped in and enjoyed a fruit pancake for €4 and a pint of Budvar for only €3. Surprisingly good value for somewhere which could easily charge more based on its location. The serving staff were excellent, also. I could see this as being a very nice place to stay if you’re in the area for a couple of nights.

Napoleon Bridge view

Further on from there, I visited the Slap Kozjak, a waterfall at the end of a gorge. Close to the waterfall, visitors have stacked countless rocks and pebble into little towers. A nice walk (not a cycle-able path) and worth the time spent. Back downhill I passed the impressive Napoleon Bridge and began the long cycle back to Tolmin, arrive back around 6pm – very sweaty and with a sore bottom!

The thing that struck me was how friendly the people in the area are. It’s not just the service staff at the various shops and restaurants, it’s everyone. From the people on the street who greet you with a smile, to the motorists who know how to deal with a bike in front of them on a narrow road. This is a very friendly part of the world, making it all the more pleasant to be here.

Metal Days trip: Day 5 (Tolmin Gorge)

With day five of the festival not kicking off until 5:30pm, I had plenty of time to explore the local area. Within a short walk of my hostel is Tolmin Gorge, a local beauty spot which was recommended by the lovely lady who sits at reception.

While there is a bus once an hour which goes there for 50c, it’s only a 2km walk so I made my own way there in the morning sunshine. There is an entrance fee, which gets you a map and a sense of knowing that you’re helping to maintain a lovely piece of the countryside. It’s usually €6, but with a festival wristband you get €1 discount which is nice.

The gorge is enormous in terms of height and scale, as any good gorge should be, and contains a couple of particular features to see on the circular path around it. Expect to spend an hour or so on the route if you come here, and beware the 300-or-so steps towards the end! There are rest spots, so don’t panic too much.

The first thing that struck me was the colour of the water. Other than a slight blue tinge, it’s so clean and clear it may as well be tap water. It is the main water source for Tolmin so this is perhaps a good thing!

I’d set off fairly early as the weather for after lunch was set to turn to more rain, but even then the air around the gorge was pleasantly cool due to the cold water. There is a spot with warmer water as there are some underwater thermals, but it doesn’t take the chill out of the air!

A couple of bridges have been put in place for crossing the water, all recently installed and maintained, and the path is generally wide enough for a couple of people, as long as anyone coming the opposite direction is polite. Or friendly enough to squeeze.

Towards the top is Dante’s Cave, apparently somewhere the famous poet visited which inspired his “Inferno” opus. Only the opening 20m or so are accessible, but you do get the feeling that they could lead to somewhere… unsavoury.

The views were fantastic and there are a few photos scattered here for you to look at. Obviously, they’re no substitute for the real thing.

A quick run back to the hostel and a visit to Hofer (Aldi) ensured I had some snacks for after the festival tonight, as well as a cheap dinner. Usually the shop closes at 3pm on a Sunday, but with Metal Days officially opening today, they’d extended the hours to 8pm. Given the size of the queues, this made sound business sense! The place was absolutely full of people in black t-shirts buying everything from cheap local beer to Haribo and barbecue supplies.

An alarm kept going off over by the tills. I assume this was a metal detector.

Sorry.

Metal Days trip: Day 4 (Trieste to Tolmin)

I decided to walk from Alessio’s flat into Trieste again, purely as I had about 2 1/2 hours before my transfer coach was due. I didn’t get to say goodbye to him as he was at work, but I passed the key over to his next guest, a guy from Peru who had arrived overnight.

The view from the garden

So another hot, sweaty couple of miles (via McDonalds) got me to the train station and then onto my little minibus with Walter, a financier from Austria who was also heading to Metal Days. As it happens, he’s friends with Fearancy, who are on stage tonight just before Ten Ton Slug – who I’m here to see! We picked up three ladies from the airport (one from Barcelona, two from Helsinki) and detoured through local roads as the “faster” toll road had a 30 minute queue… due to the toll collection!

The journey was through some astoundingly beautiful scenery and towns, ending at the bus station in Tolmin, only 250m from the Hostel Hildegarden where I’ll be for the next week. The hostel is fantastic. Quiet, clean and in a beautiful location. Check-in was quick and smooth and my hostess has given me a shortcut to the festival entrance.

The only downside is that a thunderstorm is rolling in (it hasn’t hit yet), due to peak around 6 or 7pm. Things should ease overnight with another one due to drop its watery load on us around 11am tomorrow. Thankfully after that, things should settle and be a little less extreme!

From this point, I’ll put the touristy stuff on this blog – any trips I do, things I see and so – until I get to Ljubljana next Saturday. All the music / festival reviews will be over on Moshville Times.

Metal Days trip: Day 3 (Trieste)

I got up nice and early to see my host this morning… then went back to bed as I was so tired and woke up again at 11am. Oops. Still, enough time to explore a little so I forewent the bus and decided to walk from his flat into the town – about 5km, I was told.

Risiera di San Sabba

Lidl was my first stop, to pick up the stuff I couldn’t put in my hand luggage. I have yet to see a documented case of a RyanAir flight being hijacked by someone wielding toothpaste but I guess they have to be cautious.

Next door to the supermarket is the Risiera di San Sabba. Originally a rice-husking factory, it became a military barracks in the early 20th century… and then was taken over by the Nazis as a waystation for “insurgents” before sending them off to other camps for “processing”. Numbers are hard to come by, but the reckoning is a few thousand were killed here (and cremated, their ashes scattered in the nearby port) and many thousands more sent by train to Germany and Poland.

As ever, I found this place deeply moving and upsetting. Despite its comparatively small size compared to, say, Auschwitz it does nothing to lessen the extent of the atrocities committed there. Quick to walk around, but the memories will last a lifetime.

When in Rome(ish)

From there I walked into Trieste itself, trying to stay as close to the coast as I could (not easy until you get very close to the town). I passed the local football teams’s ground – an impressive stadium – and picked up pizza for brunch from a small corner shop. Lunch later was grapes and a banana from another shop. I was behind another tourist in the queue who was paying for an ice lolly with a €500 note. FIVE. HUNDRED. EURO. The girl on the till had never even seen one before. My entire trip is costing less than this guy was handing her.

So the walking began / continued. Similarly to my 2-day stay in Rome, I just… walked. I had a few things I wanted to see and I just used my legs to get between them all. The weather was hot and humid (as I type this at 8pm, it’s not got any less oppressive), but in typically Italian fashion there are plenty of water fountains for when you run out of sports drinks.

I found the yacht club, the Piazza Unitá d’Italia and its gorgeous view out over the sea and the Teatro Romano. Unfortunately the Piazza was a little non-photogenic as it features a concert by Talking Heads’ David Byrne tomorrow, and the stage / seats currently fill the area.

Teatro Romano

I walked uphill to see various churches, cathedrals and the liberation monument, as well as enjoying the wonderful view this high point offered me.

And then I caved and got a Burger King for dinner. At least I had a beer (a Slovenian one) with my meal, something you can’t do in the UK because… erm… I don’t know. Just because.

Right now, I’m back in the Hop & Rock, supping a staggeringly delicious and tart sour mango beer that I need to get the name of. I’ll give it a little while then head back to Alessio’s where I think another guest may be staying.

Tomorrow I have a fair bit of free time before my bus to Tolmin. I may spend it asleep!

Metal Days trip: Day 2 (London to Trieste)

Not a hugely eventful day today. Up at a reasonable hour to thank my kind hosts Katie and Nick for putting me up (and putting up with me) for an evening, and then Nick escorted me to Liverpool Street Station before the trains got too busy.

Better photos tomorrow, hopefully

I was an hour early for my coach to Stansted, but as it was almost empty, the nice man from National Express told me to jump on the earlier one rather than sit on the pavement for sixty minutes. A short journey later and I was at the airport and going through security. Belt off, shoes off, waving my arms in some scanner things… the usual.

There then followed three hours of sitting on my arse wondering why the airport put about twelve plug sockets on little seating things outside Burger King when not a single one of them works. I’m just glad I have an additional battery pack for my phone.

Then there was the usual stampede for the gate when it was announced. Followed by people standing and queuing for ages when everyone has an allotted seat anyway. It’s not like getting on first makes any difference at all. I sat until the queue vanished and pretty much just walked straight to my seat.

As we were taxiing I noticed that the chap next to me was just a little bit nervous. Well, very nervous. He was gripping the (cheap plastic – this is RyanAir) headrest in front of him so tightly I thought he was going to leave handprints. It turns out he doesn’t fly well, and when most of us are making our ears pop, he gets incredibly dizzy and feels like he’s falling. Very much not a pleasant way to travel.

He also was heading for Slovenia, to play at a rockabilly festival. We talked for the entire flight, keeping his mind off things, and I hope I made the ninety minutes or so slightly more bearable for him!

On arrival at Trieste, the passport queue took an age to get through, and my phone data wasn’t working. This was an issue as my only means of communicating with my couchsurfing host and navigating to his flat required internet access… With the help of my lovely wife (because the phone bill’s in her name, so BT wouldn’t speak to me), we managed to get it sorted and normal business was resumed.

The train into the city was less of an issue, only €4 for the half hour journey.

Of course, I was flustered to had to stop for a drink at the very nice Hop & Rock café, where I chilled for a bit as the sun began to set over the ocean to the west. Lovely. Trieste at first glance, is typically Italian. That is to say, gorgeous and full of too many nice places to drink outside when the weather’s this nice.

I made it to Alessio’s at around 8:30pm, only 2 1/2 hours late. Like many before him, he’s proven to be a wonderful host and – after a pasta (of course) dinner – we sat up to the early hours talking about… well… stuff!

So, after keying around 350 combinations into my luggage lock to open it (it changed combinations – the one that eventually opened it was one digit out on each of the wheels in various directions, so I’m not impressed with that) I was able to get my phone charging and rattle this off.

Tomorrow I will mainly be walking. A lot. I’ve got a handful of sites I want to see and a lot of local food and drink I want to sample!