Upon seeing Lake Bohinj (pronounced baw-heen), Agatha Christie once famously said that it was far too beautiful for a murder. This might not sound like high praise, but admittedly Agatha Christie was making a fair point.
Take a visit at any time to Lake Bled, or mention the two lakes to Slovenians, and the age-old debate will ignite over which one is more beautiful. Admittedly, Lake Bohinj does not have the fairytale charm of Lake Bled, with its cliff-top castle and island churches in the lake, but instead it possesses a more natural, peaceful beauty that is breathtaking in its own right.
I guess the best way to compare is to see Lake Bohinj for yourself.
In the summer, the area is awash with swimmers, canoes, kayaks and standup paddleboarders, but come the end of high season, and the area is free to explore in relative peace and quiet.
wHiking trails and winding roads abound in the area, making it relatively simple for travellers to explore the region’s natural sites. Undoubtedly the hike to Savica waterfall is one of Lake Bohinj’s most popular trails. After getting dropped off by the bus stop on the western side of Lake Bohinj, follow the number three hiking trail signs for Ukanc to Savica. The trail is a long, white pebbly trail totalling one hour, 20 minutes walking time in total, and takes in several quaint villages and natural forests in the region.
Warning: walking on this trail may give you cabin fever (the kind that makes you want to pack-up and move into a quaint log house in the mountains, not the other kind).
Driving to Savica waterfall, or even walking along the road, is equally scenic, and offers several surprises along the road.
Lake Bohinj, and the surrounding area, was once an important stop-gap along the way to the Isonzo Front in WWI. Railway stations and trains were constructed by prisoners of war (POW) to allow the Austrians to stop for supplies before continuing their journey to the Isonzo Front. Today remains of this history, including a POW cemetery, and pieces of the disused railway, can be found in pockets of the forest along the side of the road. In fact, parts are still being recovered today. As recently as 2010 more than 130 unexploded WWI mines were found in the bottom Lake Bohinj, after an Austrian train derailed and drove into the lake – the train still rests there!
Not to worry though, as Lake Bohinj continues to be a safe place to swim.
Both trail and road eventually lead to the Savica hut, with the waterfall a 20–minute walk up a mere 500 steps from that point – make sure to wear comfortable shoes! Cutting into a gorge 60m below, its turquoise waters originate from melted glaciers high in the mountains, and heavy rains in the area.
The beauty of Savica waterfall has inspired numerous writers, royal and governmental officials, and historical figures from Slovenian history, but none more so than Slovenian Romantic poet France Prešeren. Upon witnessing Savica falls, Preseren used it as the setting in his epic, Baptism on the Savica, describing it as:
The falls next morning thunder in his ears.
Our hero ponders as the lazy waters
Below him roar and shake the river banks.
Above him towering cliffs and mountain heights,
These with their trees the river undermines,
As in its wrath its foam flies to the skies!
So hastens youth and then it spends itself,
Thus Črtomir reflects upon this scene.
Likewise, Slovenian priest and national poet Valentin Vodnik described Savica Waterfall in several of his writings, the most popular being:
I march to drink the Savica
The cold source of enchanting songs;
To toast the master of songsters
May I enjoy in this drink!
During the low season the Savica waterfall is fairly tame, but come spring and visitors will be soaked by the spray from the sheer amount of water thundering from its mouth. At the end of the long hike back to Lake Bohinj, relax and dip your hot feet into the lake’s cool waters. Be warned though, the water is freezing come low season!