Vintgar Gorge is magnificent even when seen at a race-walker’s pace. Speeding through the gorge wasn’t what we’d planned but it was the only option we had if we didn’t want to bypass the gorge altogether. In the morning we’d visited Bled Island then enjoyed a deliciously long lunch at the Bled Castle. So we were running a bit late with the day’s planned activities. But we were assured by our guide that the natural beauty of Vintgar Gorge should not be missed.
Even though man had a hand in creating access to the gorge, the deep narrow passage between the hills of Hom and Borst occurred naturally over millions of years as the Radnovna River carved its river-bed in the limestone rock and slowly wore a deep gorge between the cliffs. The surrounding forest was unyielding and grew into a thick ravine that was all but impenetrable.
Then in the summer of 1891 Jakob Zumer, the Major of nearby Gorje, and Benedikt Lergetporer, a cartographer and photographer were navigating north on the Radovna River and discovered the gorge by accident after they made it through the nearly impassable ravine on their way to Blejska Dobrava. They were so amazed by the gorge’s natural beauty that they decided to establish a construction committee. Soon thereafter in 1893 the gorge was opened to the public from nearby Bled so they could share what Zumer and Lergetporer had seen.
In Vintgar Gorge the lush foliage stands in stark contrast to the steep granite walls. It was those 50 – 100 meter granite cliffs and the raging Radovna River that made constructing the 1,600 meter long (about a mile) wooden footpath a dangerous undertaking. In some places, the path seems to cling to the side of the cliff above the fast flowing river.
Because of Zumer and Lergetporer’s vision and the risks taken by early construction personnel, today’s visitors can take a leisurely stroll on an elevated boardwalk through the verdure gorge. Along the way, several bridges take them from one side of the Radovna River to the other. The amazingly clear emerald green waters of the river create foaming rapids, whirling eddies, gentle ripples and quiet pools. Along the narrow channel there are also small waterfalls.
But the gorge ends at the 16 meter (about 52 foot) Šum waterfall, one of over 300 permanent waterfalls in Slovenia and the highest fluvial waterfall in the country. Towering above the Šum is a massive stone arch bridge.
The natural beauty of Vintgar Gorge has resulted in its designation as one of the more important tourist sights in Slovenia. Zumer and Lergetporer no doubt would be pleased to know that visitors still come to see the gorge and the number increases every year.
Vintgar Gorge, I’m sure, is more enjoyable if seen at a leisurely pace. So plan accordingly and expect to spend at least a couple of hours there so you’ll have time to stop and soak in the magnificence of the place. In my case though, it is better to have seen it quickly than not to have seen it at all.