Murder she wrote: But even Agatha Christie fell for the rugged charms of Slovenia
Chalkmarks Slovenia

MY heart is pounding.

I’m in the middle of a forest wanting to run for my life.

It could be a scene from an Agatha Christie novel – except Slovenia is too beautiful for murder the crime writer famously said.

And she was right. This tiny country touches the snowcapped Alps in the north and the shores of the Adriatic to the south west.

In the middle it’s filled with lakes, forests and mountain views offering, at every turn, glimpses of castles perched on jagged peaks.

Above the lake on a steep cliff, I meet my first drunken monk!

But at the moment there’s no time to admire the scenery, I can only focus on a now-or-never jump down a waterfall. I’m trying my hand at the daring pursuit of canyoning.

For an hour we have been following the course of a gorge from top to the bottom by wading into streams, abseiling down rocky cliffs and now free-falling into a pool of water.

I’d never done anything like this before. Plus, I’m not made for a dry suit but I’ve got all the equipment including a helmet. It’s not that I’m afraid of heights but of hitting any hidden boulders.

The guide Rok Jensterle asks if I want to jump first.

I decide to watch the others in my group make their leap before taking my turn on the edge.

The instructor is patient while I study the four-metre (13ft) fall. I don’t move for a while but then I pray, step forward and plunge. Suddenly I bob up, open my eyes, hear the others clapping and I get my picture taken. The freezing water is only bearable because I’m so excited.

After that triumph another jump comes and goes. No longer terrified, my next hour of slides, abseils and a zipline were easy.

I’m in the heart of the Julian Alps in the Triglav National Park – just an hour from the airport in the capital Ljubljana.

Adventure tourism is huge and everything’s on offer including rafting, kayaking, fishing, hot air ballooning, paragliding, hiking, horse riding, cycling and skiing in the winter.

If you’re not crazy enough to get wet there are more gentle activities in these protected landscapes and natural parks.

Agatha Christie holidayed in Lake Bohinj in 1967 staying in the now run down and closed Bellevue. It was when asked if she was plotting a novel in the valley that she described it as “too beautiful for murder”.

The colour of the water is a pristine bottle green yet crystal clear at the shore.

Ducks swim across the water and play with the fish. There are people strolling around taking photographs and families paddling in the water. There are no motorised boats allowed so it’s very tranquil.

Back in 1850, a Swiss named Arnold Rikli, set up a shed where guests would stay, have massages, spas and saunas in a bid to improve their health. But they would also hike naked through the forests for a treatment known as sun tanning.

The hotel’s claim to fame today is that it serves the best dinner in town with chef Simon Bertoncelj.

Above the lake on a steep cliff, I meet my first drunken monk.

I’m not frightened though because he hands me a glass of red wine. Plus I’m in Bled Castle and this funny man offers visitors a taste from an oak barrel from the cellars. His tactics are good though as he really wants to tell us the history of this fortress which is more than 1,000 years old.

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Slovenia: Central Europe’s hidden gem

It’s a perfect method as he brings the history alive before I head into the museum and then the print works.

The plan was to spend some time looking at the medieval treasures but what really happened was that I sat in the courtyard cafe staring at the view.

I ordered a slice of Bled’s legendary Cream Cake – vanilla cream, topped with whipped cream and then a thin layer of crispy pastry on top dusted in icing sugar.

I eat every bite as I’m glamping in the wild woods at Camp Bled. I thought the food would be basic but they serve up smoothies and at breakfast they deliver picnic baskets filled with croissants, bread, fruit, coffee and sausage meats and cheese.

They have space for tents, campervans and eco lodges. I had a sleek, triangular wooden hut that comes decked out with a double bed, wifi, plug sockets, light bulbs and heating. And outside they offer massages and each hi-tech den comes with its own hot tub.

Just as I’m about to get in, I can hear a rustle behind me.

It makes me jump.

It may not have inspired a Christie mystery but I could murder a cocktail.

Book it

Flights are available to Maribor from Southend with Adria Airways. Prices can cost from around £70 return
For best prices on airport transfers use GoOpti
Rooms at Bohinj Park Hotel start from £65 a night including breakfast
Glamping at Camp Bled with a hut and hot tub costs from around £52

For canyoning with Sport4Fun costs £36
A tour around the Laško brewery with a three beer tasting costs £4.40
Vogel cable car costs £10
(September 2015 prices)

Published in the Daily Express
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