I have wandered many a beautiful valley in countries around Europe; been entranced by floral carpets dancing on grassy meadows and silently awestruck at the imposing, saw-toothed mountains or lush forested slopes which enclose them.
None have been quite like the Logar Valley (Logarska Dolina).
There is something unique about this remote, yet easily accessible area which nestles in a natural cul-de sac-in the north of Slovenia. The glacial valley boasts immaculate pastures; conifer-clad hills on three sides; and at its head towering, granite peaks – the Kamnik-Savinja Alps. But there's more to the Logar Valley than a wealth of visual splendour. Spend any amount of time within its embrace and a feeling of well-being descends like a comforting arm around the shoulders. Locals call it “being in the nature.”
Travel trend reports predict 2020 will be another year when travellers increasingly want holidays which slow down the tempo, give them the chance to explore and absorb destinations at a relaxed pace, and make greater connections with locals, whilst reducing impact on the environment.
By simply doing what they've always done, the instinctively environmentally-friendly residents of the Logar Valley have been pioneering wellness, mindfulness, and Slow Travel for some time.
Protectors of nature
Nina Plesnik, manager of Hotel Plesnik, is representative of a younger generation of Logarska Dolina inhabitants, young Slovenians taking over the custodial reigns, passionate about maintaining the valley's traditions and keeping its natural assets unspoiled.
“Young people are proud of what they have here,” she tells me. “Nature survives because we have protected it, and we want to continue its story.”
Lorgarska Dolina's young environmental champions are eager for others to enjoy the Logar Valley, but in a way which doesn't impact negatively. They're all too aware they live in an exceptionally beautiful part of the world, and they don't want it exploited. Pragmatically, locals understand the need to attract people whilst avoiding overtourism. Visitors take lower billing to the valley's natural attributes and the deer, foxes, rabbits and other animals for which Logarska Dolina is also home.
Reclining on posterior-warming sheep fleeces in the hotel's ultra-cosy firepit set into a pond-like swimming pool as darkness falls is akin to having the soul gently massaged. As dusk's hazy light creeps across the valley, giving the ragged peaks at the head of the valley a softer focus, a million stars start to rouse themselves in the unpolluted sky above. Earlier in the day I walked along forest paths to a 90-metre-high waterfall where the valley floor ends and the rocky mountains begin. There, Logarska Dolina is gloriously untamed whereas the central valley, where Hotel Plesnik is located, is a gentle pastoral oasis. What both contemplative spots have in common is the unbridled feel-good factor they unleash.
“Our animals here are very happy,” Mojca smiles as we pass placid, grass-munching cattle, walking across her family's farmlands and into Robanov Kot, Logarska's neighbouring valley. Every so often she pauses tales of life in the valley, past and present, to point out wild oregano, marjoram, or the most eye-catching and elaborate beehives I've laid eyes upon. She's another of the area's latest generation of guardians. She has a degree in environmental management and a love of keeping age-old traditions alive. Her tales of the countryfolk who inhabited these valleys are poignant, fascinating and funny. Mojca's easy, amiable manner has me walking with a smile fixed to my face. However, it's a couple of days before I fully appreciate the 'happy animals' comment.
A walking route through Robanov Kot culminates at a serene beauty spot – a solitary little dairy farm hemmed in by the mountains. The farm is uninhabited, but there's a convenient log bench beside a tree-trunk trough on which I can sit and tuck into a picnic lunch of home-cured ham and creamy sheep's cheese. As I survey my surroundings there's an excited squeal from the forest behind me. I turn to see a trio of pigs burst from the undergrowth and race for a mud bath beside the trough. The pigs grunt and squeal as they squirm in the mire. I swear I've never seen happier-looking animals. After a couple of minutes there's another sound from the forest. This time a trio of palomino mares and their three foals appear. Neither pigs nor horses pay any attention to my presence. It's a delightfully surreal scene, as though I've wandered into a fairy tale. I guess this is what the locals mean when they speak of “being in the nature.”