Day 17 - At Kamp Koren, Kobarid, Western Slovenia

Sunday 13th July 2014

It's cloudy when we wake up threatening more rain, but for now it's dry. We hang our wet riding gear in the trees on bungees and contemplate the day.

Drying out at Kamp Koren

Kamp Koren is built on a ledge a hundred feet above the Soca River just outside Kobarid. The rushing waters are full with alpine melt and water from yesterday's storm. It provides a constant sound track at the camping ground.

The Napoleon Bridge arches across the river just downstream from the site. Napoleon's army is reputed to have marched across this bridge during the Napoleonic Wars.

In 1917 a young lieutenant called Ernst Rommel won his spurs in the 12th battle of Kobarid, known in Italy as the Battle of Caparetto. In the Second World War Tito and his partisans held the high ground above the town from where they conducted a guerrilla war against the occupying Germans. There has been war in this corner of the Balkans for centuries.

We are having a day off the bikes today. The rain stopped in the night and now the sun is beginning to burn through the morning mist.

The camp shop provides bread rolls, butter, cheese, prosciutto and milk for breakfast. We eat and enjoy the views as the campsite awakens.

We stroll along the Soca into Kobarid. First task is to find a venue for tonight's World Cup final. We find a nice bar and restaurant in town. They assure us we can watch it here. Big plug for Bar Gotar, lovely people. Mission accomplished.

Outside the War Museum
Kobarid town square

Next we visit the Kobarid War Museum. There is a fine collection of photographs, maps, diaries and militaria on display, mainly from the First World War when the front line was entrenched in the mountains on either side of the river.

Ernest Hemingway served as a Red Cross volunteer here and documented his experiences in fictional form in his novel 'A Farewell To Arms' (which I studied for 'O' level Eng. Lit).

The Fighting between the Austro-Hungarians and the German Empire on one side and the Italians on the other was equally as savage and entrenched as the Western Front in France and Belgium that we all learn about at school.

The two sides had to contend with snow and ice and bitterly cold winters in the high peaks. After two years in the trenches the Battle of Caporetto saw 400,000 Italians lined up against 350,000 Austrians, Hungarians, Germans and other allies. The German side lost 70,000 dead or wounded, the Italians lost 10,000 dead and 30,000 wounded. But after losing heart when the German-led forces broke through, 265,000 Italian soldiers surrendered or were captured.

It is now recognised as the first example of 'Blitzkrieg' warfare. Planned in part by a young Ernst Rommel, who was decorated for his part in planning the Blitzkrieg, it saw the Italians pushed back deep into the Fruili region.

Unfortunately for the Germans the Austro-Hungarian empire was so economically devastated by war by this time that it collapsed shortly afterwards and the Italians finally proclaimed a great victory.

Rommel of course survived this war and went on to become one of the German army's greatest strategists as a Field Marshal in World War 2.

Watching the World Cup final
 After a few engrossing hours in the museum we head back to camp for pizza and siesta. Then it's World Cup time at Bar Gotar. There is only us two and a small kid in there watching it. The kid drifts off before half time.

Nil-nil at full-time, but in extra time and with a penalty shoot out looming ,Götze beats the last defender wide left and strikes a beautiful goal across the Argentinian goalkeeper into the right corner. A deserved win for the Germans and European football. 


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