Wednesday, 19 October 2011

War and Peace

Started the day using McDonnald’s free internet- I find it very disturbing that I now feel a rush of excitement I never had before whenever I see those golden arches but at least it’s not because I’m eating the food, We then headed for the Slovenian boarder. Just before we hit it, at the top of Wurzen Pass, south of Villach we found a ‘bunker museum’ so decided to investigate. We were greeted in person by the museum’s sole founder and staff member: an intelligent, personable, witty and passionate man who was a fount of knowledge having been the last Station Commander at these bunkers. Since then he had made it to Head of Military Communications in government and managed to gather extra bunkers, (moved and rebuilt here), big guns and equipment that had become surplus to requirements that were also used in the region in the same era as his pet project. He gave a detailed and entertaining talk first about all the instillations on the site (in very good English) then sent us off to explore the site, map in hand. The area was left from the cold war era, created in 1955 and in active service until 2002, ever alert against the threat of soldiers streaming out from the Soviet Union into Europe. Thankfully, it’s strength was never tested- Alex’s assessment is that everyone there would have been ‘toast’ if put to the test- the shelters were very basic, the guns and equipment out of date and despite other precautions like mining and blocking the road through the pass they overlooked they would have done little more than delay an army. It was incredibly sobering to actually walk in the footsteps of such recent soldiers, (mainly emergency volunteers undergoing annual refresher training) and have the free run of the place; walking through bunkers and trenches and climbing up into the tank gun turrets now mounted, tank free on the tops of bunkers all over the site. I found it an incredibly intense and life adding to experience and left, hoping more than ever, never to be involved in any such conflict.

We headed, onwards into Slovenia, distinguished from Austria apparently by the threatening clouds hanging over the mountains. We headed first for the absolutely gorgeous resort of Bled and got to take lots of photos, like this one but found the campsite shut, We had a good look with all the technical gubbins at our disposal (including the wifi of the campsite that had been left on) and found a worryingly high proportion of sites had closed for the winter that week. Thankfully we found one not too far away and on arrival found it to be brilliant- clean, hot showers, great views and a nice, onsite bar where we drank tasty, inexpensive beer while we played Statego which I had brought with us.

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