Tumbling down the slopes of the Julian Alps, the Soca River is milky green-blue color, fast-moving down the mountain and cuts a mean slot canyon through the rock. Our road follows along the river and passes through small villages. The active wear company, North Face, filmed on location here. The ad on Vimeo is worth watching to really get an idea of the spectacular beauty of the area. http://vimeo.com/97101261 This beautiful, gentle valley was the location of some of the worst fighting and conditions during World War I.
It is only fitting so near to Veteran’s Day that this blog post describes our visit to the Soca River Valley also known as the Italian Front (part of the Eastern Front) during World War I. The Julian Alps and the valley have reminders of the war especially the many cemeteries—nicknamed the “Valley of Cemeteries”—thousands of graves dot the hillsides. One devastating war after another, you would think the human race would remember and learn from our mistakes.
Ernest Hemingway’s novel, A Farewell To Arms, was set here and tells a story of his time spent as an ambulance driver during World War I. I had good intentions of reading the book before the trip; but frankly I struggled to get through The Old Man and The Sea, as required reading in school. Since I have visited, maybe I will give it another go. The area likes to link to Papa Hemingway, especially the village where we spent the night, Kobarid. (The village is known by its Italian name, Caporetto, in the novel.)
In Kobarid we visited the small, but very well-done museum of the Soca Front and World War I. Pictures of the common people (locals, soldiers, nurses) from all sides of the war. Their daily lives, the war strategies/weapons, and the casualties and results of the fighting—over one million died. The museum docent asked that we not take photos of the displays, especially the ones containing pictures of the people.
Had to stop short of completing the museum tour; just too overwhelmingly horrible. Medical attention during the war was minimal and the medical advancements we have today for our soldiers were non-existent in the early 1900s. Those who survived were severely disfigured or suffered internally from chemicals. Photos showing the injuries were displayed and I can understand why we were asked to refrain from taking pictures.
A learning experience, but a tough pill to swallow.