Slovenia feels like a living postcard; everywhere you turn the natural surroundings are magnificent. The Slovenia Mountain Trail (SMT) is the oldest long-distance trail in Slovenia and of the whole of Europe. The trail consists of 617.km, 80 checkpoints, 43 stages, at least 35 summits (21 official route peaks), over 55 mountain huts (koćas), and an estimated time of up to 37 days to complete. I had a pretty aggressive timeline in mind due to work commitments, so I ventured into this challenge with an open mind, an open heart, and an intention to enjoy the outdoors and climb my heart out. Unlike my time in the Dolomiti, this portion of the adventure had an objective and the route was set to be followed.
There would be unknowns around the weather, how my body would hold up, what the route would be like, and who I might encounter along the way, but there was a plan to get me from point A to B.
The trail begins in Maribor, home to The Old Vine (the oldest known vine to produce wine in the world) and ends by the sea in Ankaran. In between the two, you get to climb across some of the most gorgeous and challenging mountains, including Slovenia’s highest peak, Triglav (2864m). This is hardly a thru-hike, but more of a thru-climb! For a solo hiker, it poses some challenges and put all of my previous mountaineering and endurance skills to the test. It’s recommended for people with significant climbing and hiking experience and I would definitely agree.
While the nature I got to witness and experience was truly phenomenal, so was the kindness of the people. Despite my Slovenian being limited to about five words, kindness transcends language barriers and can be instead felt and shared. The people I met at the huts were extremely generous with sharing information on the route, weather info, and helping contact other huts to ensure I would have a place to sleep the following night. While hiking/climbing sections of the trail is popular, completing the entire thing in one push? Not so much. It was kindness that left the greatest impression on this journey and what carried me through this solo hiking and climbing adventure. Solo hiking comes with a lot of vulnerability, as with any adventure solo really, it teaches you when to know to reach out and accept the kindness of those you meet along the way, and equally when to extend your kindness to others.