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Passo del Predil

The Jullian alps present a very rugged picture - everywhere - especially here on the Slovenian side. But this road is probably always going to get second billing to its famous neighbor Vrsic Pass. Comparing Vrsic and Predil, there are not as many varying high mountain scenes as along Vrsic Pass, but more lakes. Near the top of Predil is the junction with the highest paved road in Slovenia: the out and back climb to Cesta na Mantgart(ow)

1.START-END SOUTH:turn off to Bovec
2.road leaves valley at Log Pod Mangartom
3.TOP: Passo del Predil, 1156m
4.road crosses Rio Lago at outlet of Lago del Predil
5.Cave del Predil
6.START-END NORTH:low point in Tarvisio at bridge over river Gallitz

Approaches

From South.
For the first section the road rolls along near the bottom of the valley and the peaks appear intermittently as a wall behind the v shaped green curtain of trees.

The village Log lies in a great amphiteater of mountains. The road will hardly try to climb to the top of that topological cup. Instead the road climbs a greener landscape with long switchbacks to the west of this amphitheater. Later, slowly the grade lets up and a number of green saddles seem to present themselves as a way to get across to Italy. Then all of a sudden comes a sign Predel, accompanied by dramatic bridge and a turnoff to a high one-way summit : M Mangart. But here "Predel" is not the pass, but the name of the bridge and the river below it.


During the last few gentle meanders through the slightly sloping forest, the road goes right through the middle of what looks like an old fortification. While inside of it, for 20 meters or so, the road narrows in order to lead by a sculpture of a reposing lion, with inscription of a war engineer. I had encountered barely any traffic on the (relatively) wide road on the way up. But during those 20 narrow meters a bus came the opposite direction. In order for it to be able pass through, I had to turn my bicycle around and wait at the entrance. This is the kind of thing I sometimes dream and then wake up, thinking: that's bizarre and so unrealistic.

But maybe this fort was far ahead of its time. Especially in large European cities, all kinds of structures are erected to impede the flow of motorized traffic and discourage the use of automobiles, by making their use as cumbersome as possible. This short stretch of road, passing the sleeping lion, serves this function very well. There is more about the bloody history of this fortification in the lower part of this page.

A few more meanders are necessary to reach a small pullout, from where the mountains to the south present a dramatic wall. The top is the border station between Slovenia and Italy.


From North. (described downwards). This side is benign on the brakes, compared to the slopes of nearby Vrsic Pass. Large radius curves reach through a tunnel, so that the road seems to land along the shore of Lake Predel like an airplane. The glistens sliver in the late afternoon light. But during morning light, the mountains on its end are dramatically lit. From here on it helps to actually pedal to speed through the old mining town Cave del Predil and back down to Tarvisio. Cave del Predil has a small grocery and an intertesting industrial look to the handful of streets that gather around the historic mining operation.

cLiCk on image , arrows , or thumbnails to advance slideshow


A Dayride with this point as intermediate summit is on page: Vrsic Pass

History

When this pass was built, in 1319, it served as a trade route between lands of Austrian dominated heritage with lands of Italian dominated heritage. On the Italian side this was the town of Cividale and a patriarchate named Aquilela, and on the Austrian side the "duchy of Carintihia". The border ran right along the ridge crossed by Predil Pass. It may seem counterintuitive, that the lands with Austrian heritage were actually on the south side of the pass.

But taking a giant step in history, both sides eventually become part of the Austro Hungarian empire and the importance as a trade route diminished.

After the French revolution, Napoleon's troops were in this part of (what is now) Italy. The Austro-Hungarian emperor Franz 2nd, feared the unrest that Napoleon's revolutionary ideas could have on his multi ethnic empire, where no two ethnic groups were created equal. It was one of the few instances where Napoleon himself was attacked - by troops sent across Predil by Franz 2nd (officially named the "War of the Fifth Coalition" - but with so many European wars, who can really keep track of them all ? ). Things did not go well for the Austrian side in general, and a month later they were back on their way to Vienna, crossing Predel a second time. They took up defensive positions on top of the pass in order to cover the withdrawal of the rest of the troops. The fort near the top, which causes these surrealistic traffic jams today, was just a construction of wooden barricades.

The Austrians were badly outnumbered in this conflict. The commander refused all offers of surrender for him and his Croation troops, and so they all died after the long "battle of Predil". This is the kind of thing that needs to be officialy honored, so that the next generation of soldiers will "recognize the bravery of it all", and the result is today's stone fortress and the artistically beautiful depiction of a sleeping lion, in immediate vicintiy of today's occasional traffic jam. Franz 2nd and Napoleon had a different idea on how to settle their hostilities. Napoleon married Franz's daughter.

Skipping forward any number of European conflicts, Slovenia became Slovenia in 1945, formerly part of Yugoslavia. It did not become an actual country until 1991. For a long time it was the one truly spectacular alpine vacation destination, that citizens of the European east block countries under Soviet rule, could visit.



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