Meadow flowers, mountain fishing, food from one of the best chefs in the world. All are on offer in Slovenia, though from the looks of my fellow passengers on the late-night flight, few will venture far from Ljubljana’s bars and throbbing club scene. My companion and I, however, are drawn by more pastoral daytime delights: the Julian Alps, aquamarine streams, the glacial lake of Bohinj (pronounced Bokhin), and particularly the appeal of the Bohinj International Wild Flower Festival.
I grew up reading Heidi aloud to my slightly scary grandmother, so alpine mountain meadows have long loomed in my imagination. I am armed with a signed Edwardian edition of Constance L Maynard’s An Alpine Meadow. It’s packed with her hand-tinted photographs, but I am still unprepared for the saturated colours and abundance. We join a guided wildflower tour, made up mostly of English people. Our group is a little bit Agatha Christie (they could happily be cast as extras in an updated version of The Lady Vanishes).
We are driven high to an abandoned ski resort of a few rusty towers, wires and slightly broken buildings. And acres of flower-strewn meadows. Farmers here cut the grass just once a year for hay that they stack in old-world, open-sided ricks dotted across the countryside. This allows any grass to grow wild with flowers, as if in a land the world forgot.
Orchids are everywhere, in varying shades of flecked pinks and whites and greens, in clusters or dotted singly throughout the mountain slopes and fields. I count seven new varieties in a happy half an hour before our guides inform us that there are 42 varieties growing here in the Julian Alps and 84 different wild orchid types in the country.
My companion is the photographer Howard Sooley, who knows the Latin names for flowers and has an eagle eye for identifying dianthus, gentian and campanula. I feel like rolling down the side of the mountain, but content myself with lying in the long grass, spotting astonishing butterflies and still more alpine flowers. It is near heaven here.
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