On the historical crossroads, where different cultures meet, it's crucial to cooperate, tolerate, give, and forgive. Like in a big family, where the parents and the older kids must be wise enough to lead the younger ones towards a happy and secure future. When balance is lost, well, then everything goes to hell - as it did during the two world wars, the least among the big 'family issues' of Europe.

The WWI Soca River Front Line is considered one of the toughest battlefields in the history of mankind. more people died due to unbearable weather, famine, and health conditions than from fighting. soldiers had to carry the military equipment themselves and even fight on over 200m (7200ft) high mountain peaks; add the snow and freezing temperatures, consider this was about 100 years ago - I'm pretty sure you can imagine the chaos and doom awaiting those who participated in the senseless folly.

The Soca River (or Isonzo) Front opened in May 1915, when Italy joined the Entente Powers and declared war on the Austro - Hungarian Monarchy, one of its former allies of the Central Powers. The fighting broke out in a wonderful natural environment of the Alps, it 'spilled' through the Soca Valley, over the Karst Plateau, and ended on the coast of the Adriatic, where Soca River meets the sea. Formally, this was the border area between Italy and Austro - Hungarian Monarchy. Traditionally, in the villages and hamlets scattered around, the population was Slovenian. The war horror lasted until the end of October 1917, when the Italian soldiers were defeated in the infamous battle of Kobarid (Caporetto in Italian) and forced to retreat further down to the river Piave in today's Northern Italy.

More than 30 months of total carnage left behind over 300.000 victims of different nationalities, mostly buried in situ, i.e. in various places along the former battle line and its hinterland. Over 1.500.000 soldiers were either missing, or wounded, or captured, or poisoned. The conflict also severely affected the local Slovenian population. Men fought on both sides, and about 100.000 civilians were exiled. Post-war reconstruction had yet to be completed, when another, at least as deadly an event, was about to take place - WWII.

Slovenia is located at the only crossroad of the three biggest cultural and language groups in Europe: Germanic, Romance, and Slavic. Mostly, the relationships within the 'family' have been pretty good. In the last 200 years, things went a bit turbulent way, but hopefully, we are on the right track to establishing permanent peace. Because of this eternal hope, Slovenians have made a habit of turning all places of suffering and oppression of the past, into places with a message of peace for the future, The Walk Of Peace is a brilliant example of this kind of transformation.

The thematic hiking and cycling trail starts in the Alpine, northwestern part of Slovenia; but quite some sections of the trail and its historical sites are also accessible by car, bus, or train.

What to see on the Walk Of Peace?

Let us 'walk' our way from North to Sough, from the grand peaks of the Triglav National Park down to Trieste, today in Italy. We start our historical hike in the village of Log pod Mangrtom, more exactly at the entrance of the nearby Stoln tunnel, by the Chapel of St Barbara, the saint patron of the miners. Built at the end of the 19th century, this almost 5km (3,1mi) long underground corridor was the only connection with the Rabelj (Cave del Predil in Italian) mine on the other side of the mountains, today in Italy. It served as mine drainage, as well as a transportation vein for the workers from this side, today in Slovenia. The Slovenian people experienced many border changes in the last 100 years, so it's amusing to note that there was even a border checkpoint between former Yugoslavia and Italy in the middle of the tunnel from the end of WWII until the 1970s' when the workers started to be transported by the busses across the Alps and the tunnel was not utilized by them anymore.
Log pod Mangrtom is a linear settlement, stuck in the narrow Log - Koritnica Valley and surrounded by 15 peaks over 2000m (6560ft). It's the first village under the iconic Predil Pass, which, along with the Vrsic Pass, is one of the best-known Alpine passes in Slovenia. There is also a military cemetery in the vicinity. Log pod Mangrtom is located at the crucial strategic spot in one of the most important corridors between the Alps and the Adriatic, fascinating people since prehistoric times. Once a  predominantly farming and mining community is today mostly tourism- and farming-oriented. Unfortunately, the place is exposed to seismic hazards and adverse geological processes such as earthquakes and landslides, of which the latest happened in 1998 and 2000 respectively, even causing casualties among the locals.

Walking down the Kal - Koritnica Valley, at the breathtaking point above the Koritnica Canyon, we can stop at Fort Kluže and the nearby Fort Hermann. The first was built on the site of an observation point dating back to the times of Ottoman Invasions (15th - 17th century), while the second was built as a backing fort to the first one at the end of the 19th century. Both were abandoned by the army of the Austro - Hungarian Monarchy during WWI. Just Fort Kluže has been renovated and turned into an open-air museum. Today it also serves as a conference hall and event venue.

The WWI cemetery at the junction of the Vrsic Pass road, just before Bovec, indicates there are two mini sections of the Walk Of Peace there. The open-air museums Ravelnik on the small hill near the main road, and the nearby Čelo on the slope of Mt Svinjak, both offer a great view of the Austro - Hungarian strategically positioned military camps. Circular paths around the hills reveal well-conserved artillery lines, bunkers, camp kitchen, fort, residences, shacks, and shelters. There is even a crater on the top of Ravelnik. Because the elevation of this particular hill forms a natural blockade, this was the only successful grenade hit of the whole WWI.
Today Bovec is known as the Slovenian capital of extreme sports, but for WWI history lovers there are three private collections in and around the tiny little town. Feel free to contact me for their details.

If we hike, we don't take the road towards Kobarid, but a marvelous path across the hills towards the next open-air museum on Mt Zaprikraj. The distance from Bovec is about 10km (6,2mi) - consider about 3 - 4 hours of semi-difficult to difficult hiking. Mt Zaprikraj was the first line of the Italian defense. A circular path leads through caves, caverns, and trenches. It passes by other remains of the defense line, such as cabins and memorial plaques, all telling the story of the events that took place here.

We are slowly getting to the Kobarid area. First, we enter the hamlet of Drežniške Ravne (a famous carnival in the month of February there), a bit further on to the village of Drežnica, both also great options for a soothing overnight. In Drežnica, the Walk Of Peace splits into two directions - one SW towards Kobarid, the other SE towards Tolmin.
We can descend to Kobarid in two easy ways. By turning right we can access the magical Kozjak Waterfall and the archeological site of Tonovcov Grad (about a 1,5-hour hike), while by turning left we can visit the military chapel in the village of Ladra (about 2 hours hike). Kobarid is the most important town on the entire Walk OF Peace. It even inspired Ernest Hemingway to write the timeless novel Farewell to Arms. The area deserves at least a full day for a detailed visit. Visiting the Italian ossuary, the private collections, and the WWI Museum can keep history buffs busy for hours; if we add the options of water and adrenaline sports, famous local cuisine, perhaps the cheese museum, or the Napoleon Bridge - the day just flies by.
The way from Drežnica to Tolmin is much longer but stunning. The majestic Mt Krn completely dominates the scenery of the about 30km (18,6mi) semi-difficult path across meadows and pastures. The area was one of the crucial mountain battlegrounds of the Isonzo Front. Along the way, one after another, like pages of a history book: the Italian military chapel Bes between Mt Pleče and Mt Planica with trenches and a watchtower, the open-air museum Mrzli Vrh with a superb view to the Soca Valley, and, before getting to Tolmin, the architectural gem, Javorca Church.  Especially the latter is well worth a visit as a brilliant example of early 20th century Secession and eclectic architecture, with many colorful elements that mesmerize the visitor. Erected by the soldiers, maters of various arts, in time of war it expressed the only wish of its builders - peace. This message is clearly conveyed by the inscription on the bell tower - PAX. From Javorca we get down to the area of the Tolmin Gorges, and to the town of Tolmin thereafter. Tolmin is famous for its vibrant summer festivals on the confluence of the Tolminka and Soča Rivers, particularly Metaldays, Overjam Reggae, and Punk Rock ones. But the military cemetery of Loče with roughly 3300 soldiers resting there tells the tale of its vivid past, while down at the Soča River there is another German ossuary. You can learn more about its history, including the famous Tolmin Rebellion of 1713, in the informative Tolmin Museum. If you extend the visit to the area for a day, I suggest seeing the open-air museum at Mengore Hill, the spot where the joint German and Austro-Hungarian army launched the last, decisive 12. battle of the Isonzo Front. In the nearby village of Gabrje, an Italian military chapel 'Torneranno' foretells the reconciliation comeback of those who lost their lives in the battles of Mrzli Vrh and Mt Vodel in 1915 and 1916.

The two described separate sections of the Walk Of Peace come back together at the Kolovrat Ridge, on the right side of the Soca River. This hill between Kobarid and Tolmin was particularly important for the Italian army because it offered a strategic vantage point of the surroundings, either up to Mt Krn or down to the Friuli lowland and the Adriatic Sea, especially from its Globočak section. They built the third line of defense - a vast system of trenches, observation posts, artillery positions, all still very well-preserved. The Kolovrat Ridge represents the border between the upper, Soca Valley part of the Walk Of Peace and the lower one, which includes Brda wine hills, the Karst Plateau, and the Adriatic Sea with the multicultural city of Trieste.
Coming down from the Kolovrat Ridge, we get to the once Italian strategic peak Korada hill with the renovated church of St Gertrude, where the Walk Of Peace splits into two sections again. Keeping the right side of the Soca Valley, we enter one of the hottest wine destinations of Europe, the Brda Wine Region. Due to its homey feel and stunning natural scenery, in 2021 the Brda Wine Region even hosted a portion of the prestigious cycling competition Giro d'Italia. The atmosphere was fantastic, the locals were 100% engaged in either technical support or cheering. Some of the cyclists joked about how they almost abandoned the race after seeing all those inviting wine cellars and courtyards. I would recommend spending at least a night (maybe two or three, or - why not more?) in this area, especially for its palatable wines, such as the indigenous Rebula, and exquisite homemade delicacies. If you'll be in Slovenia just for a day or two, you didn't plan to go around but stay in Ljubljana and you are reading this because you are tired of the daily news: I also prepared a combined day tour of the Brda Wine Region and the Vipava Valley. The latter is a rising star on the European wine horizon with splendid indigenous varieties, such as Pinela or Zelen.

The last proper hill before getting back down to the Soca River is Mt Sabotin. Today, its Park Of Peace with caverns and trenches is a popular attraction even for cycling enthusiasts and adrenaline lovers. After fierce battles, the Italian army took over Mt Sabotin in 1916, which made the conquest of the nearby town of Gorizia possible. Its location overlooking the town provided the tactical advantage needed for the operation to succeed. But you don't see just Gorizia, which is now in Italy. You also see the city of New Gorizia, in Slovenian Nova Gorica, which was Tito's answer to the, in his opinion, unfairly drawn borderline between Yugoslavia and Italy after WWII. He claimed that Gorizia should be integrated into Yugoslavia. Nova Gorica was built from scratch. They simply erected a colossal concrete jungle - a brand new city, with factories and an industrial park. Later on, they added casinos. Today Nova Gorica is one of the gambling capitals of Europe.
Coming back to the Walk Of Peace theme, there is the other above-mentioned section ending in Nova Gorica and the village of Solkan close to it. If we took this one, we would descend from Korada Hill to the Soca River, where on its left bank, in the village of Plave, starts the 'Italian' part of the circular trail to Prižnica Memorial Park, or Hill 383. After the top of Prižnica Hill, the strategic summit both sides fiercely fought for. The descend towards the church of St Quirinus, a bit out of the hamlet of Paljevo, is already on the side of Austro - Hungarian strategic sites and cemeteries, and also the beginning of the 'Austrian' path back down to Plave.
But, instead of returning to Plave, we walk on towards the open-air museum of Vodice, boasting a monument dedicated to the Italian general Maurizio Ferrante Gonzaga. He wanted to be buried where his soldiers lost their lives, but because the mausoleum was not finished until WWII, he was laid to rest in Rome, where he had spent the last period of his life until his death in 1938.
Not far away is Mt Sveta Gora, a Slovenian pilgrimage site located on a picture-perfect panoramic spot, and from there you have just some 2 hours walk to the already mentioned city of Nova Gorica. We can extend the hike and stop by Škabrijel Hill, another astonishing viewpoint of Nova Gorica. Around the city area, the memorials are mostly dedicated to the soldiers of the Austro - Hungarian army, including the monument to Slovenian soldiers in the village of Ravnica.

After a few kilometers (miles) down South, after the village of Miren and the Cerje mighty memorial to the Slovenian defenders, there is the last division of the Walk Of Peace. One section leads eastward and makes a loop around the Karst Plateau, the other turns westward to Italy.
The Karst Plateau hides several peculiar spots. Besides the vast array of monuments, I would mention the role of the Karst caves as shelters. The Karst region in Slovenia is a limestone area full of underground phenomena, among them, the caves, in particular, are the best-known example.
Did you know that the Postojna Cave was the first cave to be opened for organized groups back in 1819 and that Skocjan Caves are on the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites?
Even the exploration, and consequently the science of studying the underground world of karst formations worldwide, derive from the Karst area in Slovenia - hence the name Karstology.
During WWI, the Austro - Hungarian army deployed a unit of about 500 men to turn the caves into strategic military storage and shelter facilities. Some of the best examples of this 'underground architecture' are the Pečinka Cave (also an intriguing archeological site with ruins similar to those of the prehistoric Castellieri Culture found in the region of Istria, southward), the Russian Cave (named after the Russian prisoners who settled it), Lojzova Jama Cave (named after Alois Peter Bock, the chief of mentioned 'underground' military unit), Klobasja or Sausage Cave (named after its natural air-conditioning characteristics, which also happen to be great for drying sausages), and the Potato Cave (as the name explains, this cave was important storage of food and especially potatoes due to its micro-climatic conditions). In the close vicinity to the Pečinka Cave, there is a monument dedicated to general Svetozar Borojevic. Borojevic was of Serbian origin, which made him the only non-Germanic FM within the Austro-Hungarian army. As a great general of the former empire, he was forgotten due to the new political circumstances after WWI. The last period of his life was also marked by the loss of his son.
The hike to Italy will get you onto the Brestovec historical trail, which explains the WWI period in a didactic way. The area was in the hands of the Austro - Hungarian army until the 6th Isonzo Battle. It served as a surveillance spot and although it was not directly affected by the combat, there are still caverns, observation points, and tunnels built by both armies to surveil the Doberdo Plateau, the site of fierce fights. The latter is known as 'Doberdob, Slovenskih fantov grob' - grave of Slovenian men since thousands of young soldiers lost their lives here. Along the trail, the metal silhouettes symbolize the military positions underground, including the inscriptions 'Pace' and 'Vogliamo la Pace' ('Peace' and 'We want Peace') that were originally written into the walls by opponent soldiers above the two separate entrances.
The next possible stop on this section is Monte San Michele Hill, which was a crucial strategic defense point for the town of Gorizia from the southwest side. A vast system of caverns, gunboats, shelters, and trenches was built by the Austro - Hungarian army and improved by the Italians after the 6th Isonzo Battle when they conquered it. The line between the San Michele Hill and the seaside town of Monfalcone was the defense on the southernmost part of the front.
Hiking down the Isonzo Front line, we reach a majestic ossuary in the village of Fogliano - Redipuglia. The remains of over 100.000 Italian soldiers are buried in the 22 terraces, gradually ascending towards the top of the Monte Sei Busi hill where the sarcophaguses of the 3rd Italian Army commander and his five generals were built; in the cemetery on the other side of the road, over 15.000 victims of several nationalities who fought on the Austro - Hungarian side lay.

We are almost at the seaside. We just have to cross the trenches of the 'Doline of 500', the valley where about that number of Italian Bersaglieri were setting up a First Aid zone, and we are in Monfalcone, at the end of the Isonzo Front line. Around this area, a strong Austro - Hungarian defense line system was created in order to provide maximum protection for the biggest port of the empire and one of the Mediterranean capitals of the time - the city of Trieste. Today Monfalcone is home to the Fincantieri Naval Company, assembling the biggest cruise ships in the world.
On the way from Monfalcone to Trieste, there is the village of Duino, known for its 14th-century castle perched on the rock above the Adriatic Sea. For centuries it has been owned by the Thurn und Taxis family, the one that introduced the post service. From there, a breathtaking cliff-side Rilke Trail takes you to the village of Sistiana. Next is Prosecco, where the famous sparkling wine is made out of the indigenous grapevine (ok, this is a wine story to discuss). In both villages, there are cemeteries with the remains of soldiers, brought over from different parts of the Isonzo Front.

Here we go, the Walk Of Peace is about to end. Just a few steps down the cliffy slope, and we are in the cosmopolitan city of Trieste. This is where the story for another blog entry begins.