Forest cows and Alpine pastures
As said before, Bled is beautiful but very touristy and therefore busy. Pokljuka however, a beautiful nature reserve on the edge of the Triglav National Park, is only about 20 kilometers outside Bled. In the early years of my relationship with Bine often came during our holidays to Slovenia. At that time we lived in the Netherlands and went to Slovenia twice a year, in the summer and in the winter. Pokljuka is located at an altitude ranging from 1000 to 1400 meters and is dotted with forests. A 20-kilometer long road runs through it which ends in Bohinj. There are many so-called »planinas«, alpine pastures where farmers from the surrounding villages graze their livestock in the summer.
The cows are led up the hill to the pasture in the spring, where they then stay for several months. Each planina has a shepherd’s hut that is occupied during those months by a man/woman/couple from one of the villages. This person, the shepherd, watches and takes care of the cattle. He is paid for this with money that every farmer pays per cow. On the planinas there are pools of water everywhere where the cattle can drink and of course, they can graze to their heart’s content.
The cows are walking around freely and so it can happen that you driving around the area and suddenly a couple of cows come walking out of the forest and cross the road. My parents thought this was so funny to see and they have been talking about »forest cows« ever since :).
When I first met Bine, I once went along when the villagers walked their cows to the pasture. A very special experience! We gathered early in the morning on a field in the village. All farmers came there with their cows and from there we left, up the mountain towards the planina. The cows are so used to it and the young cattle follow the example of the elderly. Every now and then one strayed a bit and the farmer used a small branch to get Mrs. Cow back in the right direction. It was a good three hours walk and once on the pasture, we could rest and eat the food and drinks we brought with us.
In my brother-in-law’s village, the cows are brought to the planina by tractor/trailer because it is too far to do on foot. They come down on foot after the summer, however, because going down is less strenuous. I strongly recommend everyone to visit such a planina sometime! It’s an ideal place for a nice picnic and you can have a stroll around and enjoy the scenery. Often you can get there (at least the most bit) by car, so take that well-stocked picnic basket and cooler with you!
Most shepherds also like to have visitors, because they are of course alone a lot. The surroundings are always beautiful, wherever you go. The planina of my brother-in-law’s village is one of the most beautiful ones I have seen so far. This planina is called »Pungrat« and is located above »Tržič«, at an altitude of 1400 meters, on the border with Austria. When you walk all the way up from the planina to the highest point, you have a great view!
In autumn, when the cows come back down to go to the stable, there is often a village festival (yes, again;)), the so-called »Cow ball« (Kravji ball). It is very nice to see how all those cows walk into the villages and find their own stable again, of course under the guidance of their owner. Probably less fun for the cows though because I can imagine that they would much rather stay on the planina than being on a short chain in a small stable again for months :(.