Obcina Kobarid Things to Do Tips by mtncorg
Obcina Kobarid Things to Do: 12 reviews and 28 photos
Mountains and huts atop Vrsic Pass
At 1611 meters, this is Slovenia's highest road pass. The road leads from the upper Sava Dolinska valley around Kranska Gora to the Soca Valley. It is the best way for the non-hiker to experience the drama of the Julian Alps. The road is an adventure. Mountain walls tower above you, but you don't have much time to contemplate them as there are 50 hairpin turns requiring your attention - 24 on the Kranska Gora side (north) being cobblestoned on the curves themselves, adding more to the adventure. The grade is up to 14% - not the highest in Slovenia, but definitely steep. You are rarely out of second gear and many times, back down in first. This is not a great place for an automatic! Do the pass on a weekend and you will find what seems like half of Europe out on the road with you. Motorcyclists love the road and enjoy jockeying around the car traffic in emulation of video games they play at home.
The road over the pass was not completed until 1915 with the help of many Russian prisoners of war. Austrian commanders realized more roads were needed to keep their troops along the upper Soca/Isonzo supplied. Before the road was put in here only mule paths existed from Lake Bohinj to the east and the one lone road to the north over Predil Pass, subject to Italian artillery from time to time.
Some magnificent trails await you from the summit of the pass in the direction of either the Prisonjk or Mala Mojstrovka. Another option awaits off the south entrance to the pass where an easy path takes you to the turquoise source of the Soca/Isonzo river, deep in the heart of the Julian Alps.
Looking across Kobarid to Matajur from Krn
Here is where Erwin Rommel first made a big name for himself. He was a First Lieutenant with the Wurttemberg Mountain Battalion - he had served in France during the early parts of World War I in both the Argonne and the Vosges - which was given the task of pushing up from the Soca/Isonzo River at Tolmin to capture positions of the Italian third defensive line atop the Kolovrat. This was accomplished on 24-25 October 1917 during the opening phases of the Battle of Caporetto with help from other units. Rommel followed that up by leading a detachment of never more than battalion strength - he was down under a company by the time he got to the top of Matajur - which captured the entire ridgeline from Kolovrat to the peak of Matajur some 10 km away. In doing so his men also captured some 9,000 Italian prisoners - five Italian regiments were destroyed - at the cost of some 6 German dead and 30 wounded. Rommel would go on to more military adventures in the ensuing campaigns in Italy ensuring a place for himself in the postwar Weimar army.
You can reach the top of Matajur - 1642 meters - today either from a trail heading up from Kobarid that goes by the Sv. Andrej church - 1400 meter elevation gain - or you can drive up to Livek and walk the road up through Avsa and Planina Sleme, part of Rommel’s original route. There is also a more direct trail from Avsa that heads up the ridgeline leading to Matajur in a more resolute fashion. Alternately, you can drive over the border from Livek to Savogna and then turn north to Rifugio Gulielmo Pelizzo - 1320 meters high - where you can take a chairlift to the top of the mountain. From the top you have a panoramic view back over Kobarid towards the Krn group and in the other direction lie the plains of Friulia.
Krncica Ridge was the Italian front line
This ridge comes off the north side of Krn Peak. It is a beautiful ridge that was captured by Italian Alpini troops in late May and early June 1915. Up here, the Italians dug in and could dominate the Austro-Hungarians who took up positions lower down, a reverse of what was seen to the south at Mrzli vrh but with a significant difference - the Austrians were content to continue to defend, for the most part, while the Italians persistently died attacked up the steep exposed slops of Mrzli vrh to no avail.
The best way to approach the ridgeline is up old Italian mule tracks coming out of Planina Zaplec - drive up from Dreznica to a water trough at Drezniske Ravne where you will probably leave your car. Then walk up 6 km on a 4WD road to Zaplec. The ridgeline is popular with paragliders and the occasional chamois.
Batognica rising above Krnska srkbina
Batognica, at 2164 meters high, is slightly lower than Krn Peak’s 2244 meters which lies immediately to the northwest. They are separated by the small pass at Krnska skrbina - 2058 meters. The Italians captured Krn - renamed Monte Nero - on 16 June 1915, but failed to immediately follow up with Batognica - named Monte Rosso by the Italians - allowing the Austrians to recover somewhat. Eventually, the Italians would capture half of the peak and that is where the trenches still lie. Mine craters, tunnels, pillboxes, stone staircases, barbed wire all cover the top of the mountain - somewhat lower now due to the many mines that were exploded up here. Monuments are scattered about explaining some of the actions that took place up here - an open-air museum.
There is no easy way up here, just as there wasn’t for either the Austro-Hungarian or Italian troops back in 1915-17. I approached from Krnske jezero to the north, but more people come up from Dreznica to the west or from the Krn village to the south.
Ruined interior of Fort Hermann
For many years the only road north out of the upper Soca/Isonzo valley was over Predil Pass. A short way up the southern approach below Log pod Mangartom is the site of the Kluze fortress. A fort was first established here in the 15th century by Venetians who were defending the pass against Turkish incursions. By 1509, the fortress came into Austrian possession and served as a local stronghold along the western border of Carinthia. During the Napoleonic Wars, the fort was destroyed by the French - 1797 - but the fort was totally rebuilt in 1882 serving as a major garrison center for Austro-Hungarian troops. Across the road from the Kluze fortress - renovated in recent years with a small admittance fee - is a trail that will take you up to the ruins of Fort Hermann which was a outlying fort built to support Kluze - Fort Flitscher Klause. Fort Hermann was built about 1900 and was named for the commander of the Predil fort seen higher up the road at the pass. Captain Johann Hermann von Hermannsdorf died there defending the pass with his men May 1809. Unlike the main fort at Kluze, Fort Hermann was destroyed by Italian artillery fire in the opening stages of World War I. The walk up here takes about 20-30 minutes and a headlamp is recommended for the long tunnel that the trail heads through on the approach to the fort.
The Lion monument at Predil remembers the fallen
North from Bovec, the Predil Pass gives direct access to the Italian city of Tarvisio and southern Austria beyond. At the time of World War I, this route was the only way north out of the upper Soca/Isonzo valley before the road was built over Vrsic. Many use this pass to get into the upper Sava valley around Kranjska Gora from the south as well, rather than the more intense Vrsic Pass. There is only one hairpin turn on the Slovene side and 6 on the Italian side, as opposed to Vrsic's 50. The pass is also 450 meters lower - 1156 meters. Just near the top, lie the remains of an old Austrian fort built during the Napoleonic times. For all of their efforts, French troops overcame the defenders - May 1809 - and the dead are buried together in a common grave just off the highway on the south side of the road, which drives directly through parts of the old fort. The magnificent mountain peak of Mangart rises high above the pass to the east. Far below, is the small town of Log pod Mangartom, with its planinas and an old WWI cemetery. In a canyon between there an Bovec is the old Austrian fortress of Kluze rom which a 20 minute walk to Fort Hermann can be made - the trail going through a 100 meter section of a old darkened military tunnel. Along the road, back at Fort Predil, a large lion monument stands in memory to the defenders of the fort, put there by the Hapsburg Emperor Leopold in 1849. On the Italian side of the pass is an old artillery battery and the Lago di Predil far below.
Krn Peak and its western wall
Krn Peak dominates the eastern skyline from Kobarid. At only 2244 meters high, the peak seems much taller standing as grandly as it does. Early in the beginning moves of the Italian invasion in May-June 1915 Krn Peak was seen as a prime strongpoint by Italian commanders from which they could dominate the Austrians from. A series of attacks had won them most of the Krncica ridge coming north off of the main Krn Peak. On 16 June 1915 men of the Exilles Alpini battalion were able to surprise an unprepared Hungarian company and capture the summit - which was promptly renamed Monte Nero. The Italian commander, Captain Vicenzo Arabarello, requested reinforcements so that he could drive the Austrians off the summit of Batognica, the mountain just to the southwest of Krn, but was denied permission to do so. This would be regretted in the future as the Italians and Austrians would face off against each other on the very summit for the better part of the next two years. In the near term, the capture of Monte Nero was publicized in all parts of Italy and medals galore were handed out both to show that the Alpini units were indeed first rate soldiers capable of the impossible but also to take away from events further south along the Isonzo where thousands of Italians were dying for little purpose. The Italians immediately dug in atop Krn Peak with trenches and underground shelters hiding cannons and machine guns. The mountains was known as “Picco delle folgori” - Peak of Lightning - among the Italian soldiers who served up here due to constant heavy Austrian bombardment and the many lightning storms that would come down in storms.
This is a beautiful peak with high cliffs on the north, west and eastern sides. 'Trails' reach the peak from most directions, but you have to use ladders bolted into the cliff faces on some of these 'trails'. From the Kobarid side, the trip is a long 5-7 hour plod up hot exposed slopes that you make you feel exactly the the way Italian soldiers felt as they approached their front lines along the very crest of the peak in the First World War. From the north, you ascend from Krn Lake/Krnsko Jezero, first through a beautiful meadow/alp/plannina and then more slowly and more steeply up through the rocks. The rock mountain to the SE is Batagonica, the site of very hard fighting in WWI.
Atop Krn, you find bunkers, old barbed wire and wonderous views. The entire Julian chain is there - actually much of Slovenia! the hill country to the south, extending to the Croatian border; the Soca valley; most of the Italian plains of Friulia; Italian Dolomites tower far off on the western skyline while Austrian glacial peaks glint to the northwest - including Gross Glockner; the entire Gulf of Trieste on the Adriatic Sea can be seen, along with the Koper Peninsula. Just below the peak top is the Gomisckovo Zavetisce na Krnu (2182 meters), hut from which you can sleep, eat, drink or all of the above. It is open from June til September. It is about 2 1/2 hours from Krn Lake.
The Kobarid Museum
Kobarid was at the heart of the fighting and the town hosts a very fine museum devoted to the fighting - a European Museum of the Year in the '90's. You can get a better understanding of life along the Soca/Isonzo front, the men who fought there and the battle itself. The museum is set up to show you the progression of events as they transpired here: first, the occupation of Kobarid and the capture of Krn Peak in 1915; second, the long period of attrition that followed when the frontlines were static, but the men suffered just the same; and third, the Twelfth Battle of the Soca/Isonzo, which was the Austro-German counterattack which pushed the war far to the west. The museum was the site of Italian military courts during WWI.
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