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The Crow's Flight - Discover Yourself in Slovenia -
How The Crow’s Flight changed me and why you need to do it! In August, I said yes to a trip I had no idea would change me so dramatically. Aside from the gorgeous scenery through Slovenia, the incredibly friendly people, fun and interesting customs, delicious food and rich history, this trip had something else. For me, The Crow’s Flight showed me how far I have come in my life, my health and that our lives are what we make it. For context, the past few years have been rough and this year I decided was The Year Of Me. I started the year stressed, unhealthy and lost. My sense of self had been eroded, my past haunted me (I was still in court over custody and had just applied for another protection order, which I was granted) and I had no idea how much this year would change me. On this trip, while hiking and walking through Slovenia, I got the best news of my life about my kids. I also discovered I am fitter, stronger and healthier than I thought and learnt more about my own past. This is a trip I will do again but next time with my daughters. What is The Crow’s Flight? An incredible trip encompassing the best of what Slovenia has to offer. Combining food, villages, fun and the 280km trail through Slovenia which was done by 100 prisoners of war, 75 years ago. The Greatest Escape of World War II, The Crow’s Flight is now available for anyone to discover and experience. I was extremely fortunate to be part of the 75th-anniversary trip, with the son (Neil Churches) and granddaughter (Lucy), of the man who led the escape, Ralph Churches. The history is one small element, the wilderness, food and people make it so much more. I love history, so naturally, this trip appealed. However, little did I know how amazing the rest of the trip would be. The everchanging hillsides from high ski slopes to small farms to baroque churches. People with so much personality, warmth and enthusiasm for their country, they make you feel as if everyone should live here. Delicious meals expertly prepared by jovial chefs using fresh, local ingredients from either their own farms or ones surrounding them. This trip was more than I ever imagined. My Personal Connection While none of my family was part of The Crow’s Flight, I do have personal connections to this part of the world. When I first looked at the trip, I realised I’d be flying into Vienna and could stay there a few days which is where my stepmother (Joanne/Mum) and Oma (step-grandmother) are from. My beautiful, strong, amazing Oma lived through the war, so when I was offered this trip, I immediately said yes. I can never truly understand what Oma experienced but this trip gave me a greater appreciation and understanding of my stepfamily. Belvedere Palace, my step mother’s favourite from where she grew up in Vienna This was an opportunity to see where they were from, understand their history and having that connection with WWII, it set the tone for the rest of the trip for me. Before heading to Maribor, I went to places such as Schonbrunn Palace and Belvedere Palace in Vienna. Messaging Mum as I was there, only to discover, Schonnbrunn is in the area she grew up and they visited it frequently! To start a trip with the capacity to connect with my family on such a level was amazing. What I Learnt About Myself Halfway through our trip, I posted this on Facebook: It’s no secret I love to travel. Many of my recent trips have been quite active with diving, hiking, surfing, swimming and other watersports. This trip was one I knew would push me. Was This Really Something I Could do? One of the things I do, which might not be recommended, is if I see something and I have no idea how I will accomplish it, I say yes anyway. Looking over the itinerary for The Crow’s Flight, I quickly realised we were doing a lot of walking. I live in Melbourne, my kids and I walk everywhere. City walking is quite different from hiking up the hills of Slovenia though. So what did I do? Ignored it. I closed the itinerary and didn’t read it properly other than a quick scan. I figure this way, I can’t talk myself out of it as easily. If I go in blind, every day is a surprise. That said, most of it was surprisingly doable for anyone. A few parts were steep but our guides ensured we went at a pace that was comfortable for everyone. We stopped as needed, drank a lot of water (and schnapps because it’s a tradition!) plus had snacks. There is also a van available should you need a break or want to go back to the hotel. I am Stronger Than I Think Despite my reservations, I was amazed at how well I kept up. In fact, I was usually up the front with the guides, talking constantly. Since I was able to hold a conversation while hiking, without losing my breath much, I began to realise I am fitter than I thought. When I expressed this to Matej, one of our guides, he responded with “Ja, you like Heidi from the hills!” which I took as a great compliment. I was also called “a little pocket rocket”. Which I loved! Matej, Igor and Dare, our guides, are all super fit and experienced, so getting a compliment like that meant a lot. Knowledge is Power Having the opportunity to walk with them, ask them anything, learn about Slovenia both past and present, was amazing. I don’t think they expected someone so talkative on their trip or who asks so many questions. Forever curious, I don’t always filter my thoughts or questions. But they were so sweet and answered everything. Plus, they each have such a unique background with various sports, upbringings, views and families. It was fascinating to learn their thoughts on so many topics and the views of Slovenians in general. Learning about other cultures and countries is something I am passionate about and keen to expose my children to. I feel it opens our minds and makes us more understanding, compassionate and peaceful. Connecting with locals anywhere I visit is essential to me. Highlights of The Crow’s Flight It is so hard to scale such a magnificent trip down to a few key areas. I loved every day and there was so much to see and do. Hiking the Pohorjes Standing on one side, looking across to see where we are supposed to go, seeing the magnificent beauty but thinking “There is no way I will get that far today.” Then, before you know it, you’re on the other side, looking back from where you came. The scenery is stunning and the heights give incredible views. Schnapps with Locals Aussies might think they can drink but they have nothing on Slovenians! Wow! I have never had such strong liquor of all different flavours, offered to me so proudly. It was beautiful how this tradition is still so strong. As you hike through the hills, when you come over the top, you have schnapps. Many of the farmhouses we passed quickly got us schnapps and shared produce with us. Everyone was so friendly, welcoming and interested in us. Each shot was different from plum to herb varieties and everything in between. They make it themselves and love to tell you about their home, their history and lives. Slovenians are strong, passionate and friendly. Reaching the Dakota Plane After trekking almost 280km, you come around the corner and there it is, an old Dakota Plane, their freedom. Since the trip is based on the Greatest Escape, you finish right where they took their flight to freedom. Feelings overwhelmed us at this point. I could never fully comprehend how that would have felt, being able to experience the walk then see the plane as you approach and know this was their point of freedom, was the perfect finish. The snippet below was posted on my personal profile. The Food As someone living with coeliac disease, travel and food can be difficult. I was catered for perfectly on the trip. Whenever I was concerned, someone would double-check for me, they made sure I had a lot of options and was always well fed. On top of that, the food everywhere we went was so fresh. Fish which had just been caught, produce from their gardens and local farms, preserves and lots of wine! This had just been caught and was delicious I made so many noises over this dessert, it was so good from Fruit salad with a rum sugar syrup My own little gluten-free canapes Risotto All these preserved are made here A wine for every occasion… Or one dinner! Cheesecake and chocolate is always a winner Portions here are huge Sadly, not gluten-free so I couldn’t eat it but the size is big enough to feed 4! Working Remotely My life has been structured so I can work remotely but rarely do I work in locations as gorgeous as this! We stopped here so I could write an article. It was gorgeous! As well as the perfect place for lunch later. Another time, I was able to quickly jump up on some hay bales to edit an article for 20 minuted then be taken to rejoin the group! I love being able to work remotely and this trip was extremely flexible with that. If I needed to work, one of the guides could take me back to the hotel or hang out with the van so I could do what I needed then rejoin as needed. I only did this a few times but it was wonderful to be part of such a flexible and understanding trip. The whole way along on The Crow’s Flight, there is a van available to take you to the hotel or a cafe or something if you need a break or the hiking is too much. Exploring Castles Castles! Being Australian, this was a thing of dreams to me. We don’t have the incredible castles everywhere like they do here. And you can buy one if you want! Being able to walk around both touristy ones such as Ljubljana Castle and around abandoned ones on the route was such a treat. Each one is unique with their architecture, gardens, history and how they appear today. (This one was my favourite and it was for sale!) The WWII History History, in general, fascinates me and while this trip started because it is based on WWII, it isn’t all about that. Snippets here and there are shared, the impact of the war is evident as you explore different areas and our guides had so much knowledge. Starting at Stalag XVIIID, I was overcome with emotion there but attempted to hold it together. Having visited numerous memorials and historical sites, each has a definite energy and all of them make me emotional. Here, the air is heavy which is a stark contrast to the green fields and sunshine experienced on the day for us. Despite the emotions, it was fascinating to learn how the escape happened and get a small insight into how clever and cheeky Ralph Churches, the man who made the escape happen, was. Throughout the whole trip, there are highlights which I enjoyed and I don’t feel it was a WWII heavy trip at all. Just tidbits here and there. The focus is clearly Slovenia, food, wine, schnapps, people and culture. This is a huge part of their history though. What did I Really Think? I updated my personal Facebook page through the trip. So what did I really think of the trip? Check it out, in order below! I rarely share from my personal page but as you...