Posts Tagged With: Slovenia

Photo Update

Here are some random photos that accidentally missed being put on their correct blog posts:

I had just come down the hills from Jeruzalem and there was this stall just sitting on the side of the road with this dummy behind it, and no one else was around so David took a photo

Since I have been in Spain I have been seeing these signs! Either it’s an interesting interpretation by the artist or they have really strange looking cows here

Ok so now I have seen a cow I don’t think it looks anything like the sign

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Day 41: Ozeljan to San Stino – 112k

3,334km down: 2,891km to go

Today started off reasonably cool but was blazing hot by the end of the ride – 38 degrees. We had a small hill at the start and then it was downhill to the border of Italy – only 7.5k from our camp. It was very exciting, as I have always wanted to come to Italy, and now I am here 🙂

Once again it was an open border, but least it was clear where the border was, and there was a sign so we could take photos.

Italia – I’m here!

There was an interesting town called Palmanova that you have to go through an arch to get in and out of, and the town is set out in the shape of a star. We stopped there for coffee and to have a look around.

The ride today had villages interspersed with long stretches of farm land and a bit of forest. The villages are still really pretty, but not nearly as many window boxes.

One of our instructions today was missing but luckily the first truck spotted this on its way to the next stop before any of us got to it, and they covered the turn with flags so it could not be missed.

After lunch there was a really long hot stretch of highway about 20k long, with a very slight up gradient, plus favorable wind (behind us). I should have been flying along it but my legs must have been tired from yesterday, even though they weren’t sore, and it was hard work.  I stopped for a cold drink thinking we had about 8k to go, but then 1k up the road we saw the flag to the place we are staying – Casa Mia. Yay, with the heat and tired legs today was certainly the day to have the kilometres wrong in our favour.

I have to say the tour guys come up with a range of places, last night was more the traditional sort of camp with a reception, ablution and cooking block, tenting area, cabins (well, bed boxes is what they were really called, and it was a good description). Today there is a house, no reception, two showers like in a guest house, and the campsite looks like a back yard, with a small kitchen for campers like a kitchen in a house.

There are rooms available – one with 1 bed, and one with 4 beds. I grabbed the one bedroom. The lady who owns the house sleeps every day from 1pm to 4pm. So she put me in charge of rooms for any of the riders who came later and wanted one.

Tonight is the last night camping for a number of the riders. Tomorrow we bike 60k then we catch a water taxi to Venice to our hotel. We are having a farewell dinner and then for them it’s all over. We move hotels the next morning to be closer to where we ride from Venice.

I am looking forward to the chance to get into Venice and look around. We have two rest days so I should see a bit of it.

Leaving the tour in Venice:
Gen – is meeting her boyfriend and looking around for a week
Rob – going to Florence for two nights then home
Daphne – meeting her husband who is Italian and staying here to visit with family for  a couple of weeks
Shirley – staying with Daphne in Italy for a week
Walli – staying one night then home
Brian – going home, he is stopping in London to see his granddaughter on the way
Louise and Gareth – going home
Plus Ciran one of the tour guys is leaving. He has done a fantastic job fixing all sorts of problems with the bikes.

We are getting a new rider on the 29th of August. Danya’s dad is going to join the tour for a couple of weeks. If he is anywhere as nice as his daughter he will be great addition to our group.

The place we are staying tonight has a small hall with a stage. Dayna, Jan and I think that as it is the last night this could be the night for Tour de Africa (TDA) Idol Contest, so we are trying to enlist other riders to participate! So far we have had a mixed reception and have plenty of slots left. We will do another recruitment drive after they have had a beer and/or a wine or two!

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Day 40: Ljubljana to Ozeljan – 85k

3,222km down: 3,003km to go

I had an interesting start to the day. I had organized a wakeup call, as I always worry about not waking up on time and keeping everyone waiting for the convoy (I could of course just set the alarm on the phone). I was awake at 5am but then I went back to sleep and then I woke up with the sound of banging. I lay in bed for a while and then worked out it was the sound of knocking on a door. I lay there wishing the person in the room would open their blimmin door! Next thing a man unlocks my door and walks in and politely says “Time to wake up” and walks out again. I had not realized it was my door, as my room – as I said yesterday – was huge!

I thought to myself, after he had gone, what a quaint way to do a wakeup call, if I had known he was going to come up to my room maybe he could have bought me a cup of tea! I wondered if they had had problems with wakeup calls with people going back to sleep after they rang them. Haha, all was revealed when I went to unplug the iPad and found that I had unplugged the phone when I had plugged the iPad in to charge – doh! I had to rush around as by this stage as it was 5:55am and bags had to be down at 6am! Luckily I had packed last night.

So the good news today was that we were only riding 85k, the bad news was it was in 33+ degrees heat, and there were two significant hills – one was 5k and one was 10k, with some serious steep bits, one with a 15% gradient. I managed to get up the hills, although at one point I did hit my slowest speed ever without falling off.

The hills were up the Julian Alps which is the mountain range in between Slovenia and Italy. We stopped at 44k for lunch, this was at the steepest bit. It was the site of old Roman ruins. After another 10k we got to the peak but it was more rollers from lunch than steep hills.

Going down was great. It was about 15k, I still did not get over my top speed of 55 kilometres an hour but hit that three or four times. After the 55kmph mark I always start thinking about landing with face on the road, and then I start breaking!

We passed through some lovely little towns, one called Črniče looked really old, I googled it, and it is.

Ciran said to us that as soon as we got over the top of the ranges that we would be able to see how dry it was and he was right. Along with Ljubljana, this area is also suffering from lack of rain. It is so dry that the grass is brown.

I got to an intersection before the camp and there were two directions and no flag. “Damn,” I thought “Don’t tell me I have made a wrong turn again”. I took out my notes and spent a couple of minutes pondering, as it was about the right point to be near the camp. I decided I would ride another kilometre and otherwise I would go back to the last flag. Well would you believe it! I went another 100 metres and there was the camp. The ground here is so dry it’s cracked.

Camp Lijak (today’s camp)

Even with the hills we still got here by 1pm. It was 5 Euro for Wifi and 16 Euro for a wooden box called a room. Prices are starting to climb! The camp owner sells beer but not wine. Rob saw a sign for wine across the road and went over to buy some, he came back with a bottle that was like a fizzy drink 1.5 litre type bottle. We asked him what sort of wine it was, his answer was “red”. We all had a small glass, it was surprisingly good.

Is it a prison? Is it a toilet? No it’s my accommodation for tonight! Bit of a contrast from last night’s kingside bed.

Side view of accommodation. It is eco friendly (even has a straw mattress)

My accommodation for the night

There are a lot of flies here, Yarn spent a bit of time catching flies and setting up a fly farm, his aim was to have two flies under each glass.

Yarn with his fly farm

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Day 39: Rest day in Ljubljana

I was awake before I had to be, of course on a rest day, but was excited as I was planning on Skyping my children at 8:30am. I had breakfast and came back to the room to Skype, we chatted for over an hour, it was good to catch up! I am going to talk to them again soon but probably by phone instead of Skype, depending on what time we get to Venice.

I had arranged to go out straight away afterwards so that I would not get homesick. I met Walli and we headed off to sightsee. We spent ages (about 3 hours) at Ljubljana castle, we visited the museum up there, and went up and down on the funicular railway. We also had lunch up there.

View from Castle Ljubljana

Tourist train Ljubljana

We then went on a boat trip along the canal (or Kanal in Slovenia). There has been just about no rain this summer (usually they get lots of thunderstorms in summer) so everything is dry. The canal is lower than usual and quite stagnant. The highlight for me of the boat trip was seeing a musk rat – also called a nutria – they are really big and look a bit like otters. They can grow up to 10kg but the average is about 4kg. It was swimming along, and then just as we got our cameras ready it dived under the  water into a pipe. (Photos of these rats can be found here).

View from canal trip in Ljublijana

Canal trip Ljubljana

Church in Ljubljana (forgot the name of it)

Afterwards we looked around town, and watched a few street performers and buskers. I had dinner with Daphne, Shirley and Walli. We went to a Pizzeria called Ljubljanski Dvor – it had 102 different kinds of pizza, and we had some nice red wine with it. I had a mixture of sardines, cheese, pepperoni, tomato and onion. It was really nice but even though it was the small one, it was too big for one person.

Then it was back to hotel to pack up again, it is an early day tomorrow, with our bags out by 6am.

I have really enjoyed being in Slovenia, and Ljubljana is a beautiful city. The people are friendly, and the city is not too big and not too expensive. Slovenia has t-shirts and all sorts of other tourist stuff that says “Slovenia the only county with LOVE in its name”. A lot of people from neighbouring countries come here for honeymoons, stag dos and hen parties.

There is a large student population; the total city population is 280,000 of which 60,000 are students. Readers Digest 2008 called this the world’s most honest city. I must look up what that was based on. The national symbol is a dragon (green). Anyway, it is 10:30pm so I better go to bed.

Here are some links:

Dragon Bridge (Zmajski Most)
Old Town
Julian Alps, Slovenia
Butcher’s Bridge
Ljubljana Castle (Grad)
Copyu
Črniče
Landkarte – ÖAI EN

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Day 38: Prebold to Ljubljana – 60k

3,137km down: 3,088km to go (just over half way!!)

The ride was only 60k again today and not very many hills. We had a slight up gradient for first 15k than a bit of a climb, but at 21k there was a big downhill for about 15k. Overall we only climbed 500 meters today.

At Trojane (at about 21k) we stopped for donuts as we had been told they were really great. They were really big – and otherwise average – but we all got one.

In line for the World Famous in Slovenia donuts

In Slovenia the donuts are as big as your head

After this we rode for another 15k and then it was the lunch stop – and it was only 9:30am! Seeing as I had eaten breakfast at 7am then had a donut 30 minutes before lunch, I was not really able to muster up an appetite, but I ate a couple of nectarines.

I rode with John again today, it’s always helpful to have another pair of eyes when coming into a city. We got here by 11:30am, check in was not until 2pm, but I used the time to go to the laundry, the post office and chemist. Tomorrow is a national holiday so no shops will be open, so it was great to get all this stuff done today. The hotel assures us all the tourist stuff is still open tomorrow, so we will have the usual to see – a castle, churches, the Old town, a river etc. There is not so much need to rest, as after we leave here we only have three riding days until we get to Venice, where we have another two rest days.

We are staying at the City Hotel in Ljubljana. It is a nice hotel, I have a huge room, with a queen sized bed, chair, desk, and plenty of floor space – enough for about 10 tents. It has a nice ensuite plus Wifi.

I went out for dinner with Gen, Louise, Gareth and Walli to a place in the old town called “Marley and Me”. Gen found it in Trip Advisor, it was very nice. I ordered the lamb, and Walli ordered the gnocchi which I had thought about. My lamb was great but her gnocchi was amazing, it had truffle and beef shavings. We all had dessert, I had a chocolate and pear tart which was totally delicious.

Delicious chocolate and pear tart

Afterwards Walli and I walked around the old town, watched the street performers, had another red wine, listened to some music, and then headed home at 10pm. This was a late night, usually I am in bed by 8pm on a riding day but I am trying to change it around so that the first rest night I stay up late and then the second night (before riding again) I go to bed early. We have planned a sleep-in in the morning, so hopefully I will not be wide awake at 5am.

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Photo Update

Bags by the van by 6:30am each morning

The ever present problem of laundry

Old woman in Hungary

Danya, me and John at the Slovenian border

Danya and Yarn at the Slovenia border

John engaged in one of the favourite rest day activities

And Walli too

A tractor (seriously, that’s the caption Kaye gave me)

Interesting sky photo

One of our bikes by a field of sunflowers

I saw this flyer and got all excited as I thought it was in Bratislava (where I was staying) and I thought I would be able to ring my daughter Michelle (who loves pandas) while looking at a panda! But sadly this was advertising the zoo in Vienna.

Lost in translation Sign 2

You can’t quite read it in the photo but the above sign from Szomathely camp site says:

Dear Guests
We ask please, keep a look out your things better.
We can’t take a responsibility on your thing.
But you have a possibility to leave your jewel, camera, laptop, cash in a reception.
Thank you for your understanding!
Topart Kemping

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Day 37: Gorišnica to Prebold – 106k

3,077km down: 3,148km to go

Well was meant to be 106k but when I wrote down the directions last night I somehow managed to not write down the very first instruction “Go right at 0.4 km”.

I woke up late this morning, I have got out of the habit of setting my alarm as a number of the riders get up well before I need to, so I have got used to being woken up by them. However of course we were in a room so this did not work this time. I woke Walli up at 6:30, so not too much panic as breakfast was at 7 but we had missed getting the bags down to the van by 6:30. So we rushed around getting ready, I took the first bag down to where the bags had been left the day before, but there were no tents, no riders, no van – I had a moment of “Oh my god it must be much much later and I must have read the time wrong!”. My main concern was how the hell we were going to carry a large day bag each!

Anyway I thought “Ok, take a deep breath, walk right around the complex” and phew found everyone on the other side. We had to gulp down breakfast, so only had time for one cup of tea.

So due to being in a hurry and missing a vital part of the instructions I did not see the flag at 0.4k because I was not looking for it. So 18k later I arrived back at the hotel where I reset my speedometer and looked for flags. I saw the one at 0.4k – though it was not obvious, it was on a wall, not in the line of sight – and of course all the rest of the instructions made sense after that.

However to put it in context, I have only got lost for more than a couple of kilometres twice and there have been 30 riding days so far. With the amount of kilometres that we do and the small side roads, dirt roads, and twists and turns, it’s not bad. We stay at campsites where we don’t have access to a printer, and the side roads and dirt roads are not on our paper maps. So we rely on written instructions, flags (which a couple of times have been removed by street cleaners). I don’t carry my iPad on my bike as it needs Wifi to be able to get directions, and I don’t have 3G internet on it.

Anyway it was perfect weather for getting lost today. Once I got about 20k into the correct ride, I rang one of the tour guides to let them know that although I would be late to lunch I was ok. Anyway I got to the right place in the end (and was not the last rider to camp) and we got a room. Tomorrow night and the next night are at the rest spot in Ljubljana (I am still practicing how to pronounce this).

It was beautiful countryside today, lots of flowers, every house is ablaze with a palate of colour. There are flowers at every window, geraniums in mostly red but some had a mixture of a number of colours, all were very pretty. It’s pretty much how I imagine the country side in Italy will look. You can tell we are further south as there are flower beds as well as flower boxes.

We went through a lot of small villages and one really old town called Ptuj, the oldest city in Slovenia. There is evidence that it was settled in the Stone Age. By the 1st century BC the city was controlled by ancient Rome, by 103 AD the city had 40,000 inhabitants. It is a very beautiful old city, it’s hard to believe that I have been in somewhere that is that old!

Ptuj as seen by Kaye’s blurry camera

Ptuj as per the photo from Wikipedia

I rode by myself today for most of the way and thought about a lot of the stuff we had seen. When I originally signed up for the ride I had signed up for the Amber route which finishes on the 18th August in Venice, but then the ride was extended to Lisbon and renamed the Trans-Europe route which I then signed up to. I wondered if I would regret this decision but I have to say that although I miss my family and friends I am not yet ready to come home. I am looking forward to riding through Italy, France, Spain and Portugal. I think the best sites are yet to come: the wine, the food, and if today is anything to go by, the colour! I consider myself to be very privileged to be here, not only to have the time, the money, and the opportunity, but also the physical ability to do this.

A number of houses have pizza ovens outside. The pizza here of course is nothing like you get in New Zealand. When we ordered a pizza in Bratislava we ordered the small one each, and it was bigger than an extra large back home. We were pleased we had not ordered the large, but were interested so we asked how big the big one was – well just at that moment another waitperson walked past with one – it was like 48 inches!

The camp we are staying at tonight is the closest to the perfect campsite we’ve come across so far – though there are always some suggestions for added improvements, today’s is wake up calls even if you didn’t order one, with a tray with two cups of tea. The guest brochure here says “This camp is distinguished by unmutilated nature, unpolluted air, and peace”. Though maybe not once the riders arrived, as the peace was shattered of course. The website is www.Dolina.si

We have a new rider who joined us the day we left Bratislava. Lucy is 23, and from Melbourne. Lucy will be with us until Lisbon. Lucy did the Tour De Africa this year – this tour is four months long and goes from Cairo to Cape Town, a total of 12,000 kilometres. What I am doing is a walk in the park compared to the African tour – they mainly bush camp (no facilities, and certainly no rooms!). Lucy is classed as an EFI from the rider – someone who rides Every Freaking Inch of the ride, something not achieved by the majority of riders.

Dan was telling us (he did the tour last year) that every few days a guy turns up in the middle of the desert with a donkey and two large containers of water, you buy a bucket full and that’s your shower! The tour is very rugged and this year they had four riders injured to the extent that they had to leave the tour and go home. But get this, the injured included one guy who had an accident in the same town he had had an accident in the year before on the trip, and he broke his hip both times! This was the other hip this time. Apparently the insurance company were highly suspicious but of course they had to pay as nobody would deliberately do this twice. I imagine though that if he tries to do the tour again they may try and slip in a clause that he is covered for everything bar broken hips!

Gen and Lucy

One thing that has amused me is the nightclubs here. I have not actually been to one, but they are either on the outskirts of town or a couple of kilometres out of town and there will be a sign saying “Night Club”. They are usually quite a small building and totally shut up during the day but are just small little buildings. I will take a photo of one tomorrow if I see one. It does raise the question of drinking and driving but I guess it is in walking distance. Certainly unlike Poland there are not signs everywhere advertising 24 hour akohole! So perhaps it is not such the drinking culture. Although saying that, the owner of the camp has been passing around elderberry schnapps!

The ride yesterday had a couple of quite challenging hills, one was quite short but very steep, I had one foot unclipped just in case but managed to get up it and as said yesterday, the views were fantastic! Walli is not a strong rider up hills and last night at dinner she was telling us that she was going up the hill, and at first it was hard work but then all of a sudden it was easy and she flew up it. “Hmm,” I thought “She has had a couple of red wines”, then she started laughing and saying she “had the force”. Once she stopped laughing enough to talk, it turns out that Geergo – who was the sweep – came up behind her and pushed her up the hill. So now we have nicknamed Geergo the force.

There is a spread of riding ability, and depending on the distance, the arrival times to camp can vary up to four hours. This means that a group of us riding can see the same sight but at a different time, two examples of these:
1. Coming into Bratisava there was a man pushing a bath attached to a bike. As it was on the main road in busy traffic none of us got a photo, but I saw him as the traffic was careering around him trying to avoid him, he was right out on the road. One of the other riders saw him having a rest, sitting in the bath at the side of the road. It’s more like something I would have expected to see in maybe India or somewhere like that.
2. Sitting at camp a number of us commented on a cat we had seen standing as still as a statue by a ditch. Over the space of about 2 hours we all saw this cat, but Walli who was last rider got to see it with a mouse in his mouth.
All over the countryside there are cats standing like statues patiently waiting to catch their prey.

So we do not know how long the ride is tomorrow, by the motorway it is 62k, but of course we won’t be going on the motorway. Jan has looked on his google maps and says that anywhere we go there will be hills.

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Day 36: Moravče to Gorišnica – 59k

2,971km down: 3,254km to go

During the night it got quite cold. I had to get into both my sleeping bag and my sleeping bag inner for the first time, it was still a bit chilly this morning. Only 59k today, 480 up and 477 down. Only thing is that the up and the down were all at the same time. It was flat then it was up and up and up, followed by a big down hill and then back to flat. The view was fantastic; vineyards stretching for miles, a field of sunflowers, a monastery and a village at the top called Jeruzalem with a church and a vineyard. I rode the first part by myself but rode from the top of the hills with David.

About 5k into the ride we went past a house where there were a lot of models of houses and churches including one we had ridden past about 5k before. We went past a couple of really small churches, it took until the third one for me to realize that these where a new type of shrine. They have a wee altar etc.

Small shrine that looks like a church

Instead of just having the Pope or Jesus, the shrines here also have the Virgin Mary statue with the bright colourful ribbon of Poland. Certainly God is much more a part of people’s lives in the countries I have visited than at home. Every kilometre there is at least one shine.

Shrines with colourful ribbons

In every village there is at least one church and some have three or more. Being Sunday most of the churches ring their bells at 6am. This morning the church by the campsite started with about 30 bells.

Talking about 30, Yarn is 30 at the end of the month and we are trying to come up with the best one word to put before it so suggestions please. “Like fabulous at 50” but for 30. The best I have come up with so far is “dirty at 30” but it’s not really appropriate as he is a happily married man.

As it was a short ride kilometre wise today, we were at the lunch stop by 10am and at the campsite before midday. The campsite also has a hotel attached and YAY they had rooms. They have very nice rooms at a reasonable price, ensuite, balcony etc. The balcony was very handy for drying clothes but as it was facing the main road I thought they would not be pleased see to see all my clothes hanging over the railing so I put them on the ground of the balcony. It was really hot so they dried well.

I spent a nice afternoon having a lazy Sunday, I went for a walk around the town, it was very small so it did not take long. Because it was a Sunday everything was closed, including the small supermarket.

We had dinner at the hotel which was quite nice. We are only a couple of kilometres off the 3,000k so we had Slovenian red wine (a merlot) to celebrate. It was quite drinkable.

Tomorrow we are back to the usual distances – 106K with hills. Two more riding days until the next rest day then three more riding days till we arrive in Venice.

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Day 35: Szomathely to Moravče – 90k

2,912km down: 3,313km to go.

There were only three hills of note today, one was a 12% gradient with a stop sign down the bottom of the start of it, that which I couldn’t get a run up it.

Today started off with nice cool weather, with a threat of rain during the day. Luckily the group I was riding with managed to stay just in the middle of it and avoid getting wet – some of the riders got soaked. We could tell it had been raining as the road was soaked. One of the tour guides comes from Hungary so was able to tell us some of the key sites to look out for.

In Jak there was a beautiful old church built in the 12th century usual style, in that the outside and the inside are all stone.

The church, all made of stone.

There was a 12th century bell tower in Pankasz on a little hill in a village. It had a thatched roof and an old bell.

Bell Tower

Thatched roof of the bell tower

We crossed the boarder into Slovenia just at the end of the ride. We are staying at a huge camp site tonight, and we are tenting again. We could have gotten a room but it would have been 100 euros just for the night so I decided not to. I might have reconsidered this if it had been pouring with rain when I got here, like it was for some of the other riders. I got to the camp site at about 1pm; I then put up my tent, and also put up Walli’s tent, as Walli gets in at least a couple of hours after me. I went to have a shower and when I came out it was pouring with rain.

I was feeling a bit tired, and thought I may be coming down with the cold that is going though the riders but was hopeful that I wasn’t. I decided to have a nap, and slept on and off for the afternoon. When Walli got in it was pouring, so it was lucky I had already put up her tent. While writing this the weather is fine, but it looks like it could rain again.

A topic you don’t usually discuss on blogs is toilets, but given the ones here they deserve a mention. In the past two countries (Hungary and Slovakia) the toilets all have pull cords instead of flushing buttons. There is also no soap, although this has been common to all of the camp sites as well until now. The toilets have been dark and not very clean looking, but the most unusual part is there is no toilet paper in the stalls. It is kept in one central place outside the toilet. It is questionable whether the toilets are ever cleaned as they are full of spiders etc. Also often there are no separate showers so you have to shower in a line. Well today we have separate showers, hot water, toilets with paper, soap, toilet seat covers and music. Plus a board where it noted that it had been cleaned every two hours.

We only have 60k to ride tomorrow, I am highly suspicious that there will be big hills.

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