I once said I would never tell anybody about Bovec, Slovenia. This was entirely out of selfishness. I wanted to preserve the mountains, rivers, forests, canyons I was amazed that there could still be such pristine places. I’m breaking that promise to myself now, because I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes people happy, and there is no better place to look for happiness than Bovec. Bovec features towering mountains and sweeping valleys of such incomprehensible beauty, as to accrue a sizeable fee, and yet where are the five star hotels? Where are the packed tour groups? They aren’t there, they haven’t found it yet. Bovec’s encompasses the beauty and sporting prestige of places like Colorado’s Boulder, or Switzerland’s Interlaken, without the exorbitant cost.
Bovec is unspoiled. A five-minute stroll from gloriously cheap yet comfortable accommodation (£7 per night anyone?) brings you to the centre of a small and thriving town. You are spoilt for choice with gelaterias, cafés and bars. After ultimately and inevitably settling on the insurmountable kebap, followed gianduia ice-cream, you may walk to the river and take in the panorama. Standing on the banks of the river Soca, if you can ignore the kayakers paddling past, you could imagine that you were witnessing the earth in a time before man. This might not be the garden of Eden, I remember thinking to myself, but you could be forgiven for thinking so.
Bovec isn’t all beauty and cheap ice cream. The literary inclined among you may recall the first half Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. It revolves around the adventures and romance of Lieutant Frederic Henry, who fought on the Italian Front on the Isonzo, which is now named the Soca Valley which is home to Bovec. Walking around the hills, you will notice the ruins of barracks and fotresses. Whilst cycling around the area, I stumbled upon a hole in the ground, perfectly round, around half a meter deep. A small sign at the far end of the pit declared the blemish to be a grenade hole. The land has forgotten this however. The trees, entirely demolished in the Great War, are today strong and verdant. Memorials stand, but are subdued, respectful but not overbearing, inviting the traveller to take a moment’s quiet contemplation before returning to their sport, travel, and admiration of what the town has to offer.
Beauty, history and ice cream aside, sport is the reason people come to Bovec. If you enjoy the outdoors and its sports, it is the place for you. Available to you are rivers which meander from serene, rush through the turbulent and barrel out of torrential, for kayakers or rafters of all standards. Hiking can vary from a jaunt which can be made without breaking a sweat to serious mountaineering. Mountain biking can be undertaken on smooth, new roads or fallen trees. You can call through caves and scramble up cliff faces. The sport Bovec offers experiences and challenges perfect to suit anyone with the slightest interested in the adventure sports.
Flicking through the battered Moleskine which served as my explorer’s journal on this trip, I opened to the entry of my last day in Slovenia. It reads like this:
Lunch today was possibly the happiest I have ever been. We had been kayaking all morning and it was insane amounts of fun, the sun was shining, I had a delicious mint and gianduja ice cream and I was content. I so rarely feel that degree of contented happiness that I simply burst out laughing. For a little while, all seemed well with the world and I was loving every minute, every blessed second of it.
If you want to find happiness, and enjoy beautiful scenery and the great outdoors on a student’s budget, it would be almost unreasonable not to consider the pristine and unspoilt Bovec.