Spring In Slovenia.

Trip Start Mar 16, 2004
Trip End Jun 13, 2004

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Sunday, April 4, 2004

I crossed into Slovenia at the border post near the little village of Sezana shortly after lunch time. The road was eerily quiet and I think i was kind of hoping for some short of exciting entry into Eastern Europe, but border formalities were straight forward. Not even a stamp on my passport.

I was in. A long straight deserted road ahead of me. The motorway a few hundred metres to my left probably explained the lack of traffic. I paused at the first petrol station I came across long enough to buy a bottle of water and a map of Slovenia. I have no currency yet so I used the credit card. I'm also not sure of the exchange rate.

The signposts are a bit vague, I can find the roads I don't want. Using my compass and a process of elimination I take the road I reckon heads north. I'm feeling really good now that the final long leg is underway.

Most of the land around me is forested and the first flush of green is appearing as the sap starts to rise in the trees. after a few km I stop at a junction by the sign post to check my bearings. The occupant of a lovely house across the road calls me over, He speaks pretty good English and helps me plan a route to Bled. During the conversation I notice his little vineyard. Ljubomir invites me in for a glass of some of the nicest wine I ever tasted. He called it Terran and its a speciality of the region. His wife came along with a little lemonade bottle and filled it with some for me. It is seriously good stuff. I'm barely in the country an hour and I love it already.

Only a bit further along the road I stopped to photograph an old church. When I was writing down the name of the village a woodpecker landed on the tree right in front of me. I scrambled for my binoculars and got an excellent view of my first Great Sotted Woodpecker. We don't have woodpeckers in Ireland so I was quite excited to see it. then I noticed there was an ostrich farm to my right. All a bit surreal. Maybe the wine was stronger than I thought.

Ljubomir suggested that I go into Stranjel for a look as it is an old hilltop town. I did a short detour and it was worth the visit. The old church with a mitre shaped spire looked quite unusual.

The road continued through forested mountain sides until I came to the valley where Ajdovscina was situated. A fairly large town, it even has an Irish pub. I spent the night in a little place near the town.

Monday morning and I was off to the bank to change a few bob. Now know that there are 238 tolars to the euro.

Today would be a day of climbing. I had to get over a 863m pass just past a little village called Col. Ajdovscina is at 100m. The climb began as soon as I left the town. Weather was fair, mild and cloudy. Initially the gradient was not to bad but the last 3km were 1 in 10.Being early in the day I was able for it. The forest around was alive with bird song and I passed many caterpillar trains squashed into the road. I got the photos of one twisting its way along the edge of the road, to cross, not to cross. There were 62 caterpillars in that train. (Counting them was an excuse to take a break from climbing without feeling it was beating me).

At the pass the cloud and mist came down very quickly and soon it was raining heavily. There was also some snow by the road. Waterproofs on and a wet descent. A rapid downhill descent around several hairpin bends. The rain was now sleet and I was quite cold.

At Idrija I decide I had had enough for the day and it was only early afternoon. Dipping wet I went into the tourist office to enquire about B&B. They booked one for me which was a few km from town. It looked very nice in the brochure and there was a little map on the back. No problem I thought.

Well, a word of advice to cyclists, in mountainous country check what altitude the B&B is at relative to you. It was only a few km, but at 700m, Idrija at 300m. I set out not realising how steep the climb would be and after missing the turn I ended up in Sp. Idrija. I was admiring the river I was following and forgot to cross over the bridge.

I retraced my pedals and up the hill I went. After the first km I gave up and pushed the bike up. The hairpin bends were stacked like giant steps above me. The view was spectacular though and the only snow visible was miles away on the high mountains. I kept telling myself that I had to climb out of this valley anyhow and it would save time in the morning.

The B&B was a large modern alpine house located in a little cluster of homes. It was obviously a restaurant during the day and the 8 tables each had a few used wine glasses on them. I was welcomed in and shown my room.Very spacious, TV and en suite bathroom, luxury. A hot shower thawed me out and as it was only 4.30pm I went for a walk in the alpine air.

It was real Heidi Country, mixed forest and pastures. Finches singing from the trees around me and smoke rising from a chimney over a ridge. Remnants of melting snow lay by the road and in heaps where it had been cleared from yards and gateways. Everything else was green. Returning to the B&B I found a salamander barely moving as it crossed the road. I rushed back for my camera and was able to get a few good shots of it. Another first for me.

Decadently I watched Robocop as I sat tucked up in bed writing my diary.

During the night there was a violent thunder storm, bomblike thunder and bright lightening. In the morning as I got up, between the louvres, I became aware of movement outside the shutters. It dawned on me that it was snowing. A look outside confirmed that it was snowing heavily.Hmm!

At breakfast, a huge spread of bread, meat, cheese etc, the owners assured me that there would be no snow lower down the mountain. As I paid Robert made up the rest of the breakfast into a huge sandwich for me, which was very nice of him.

Outside I retrieved the bike from the massive barn. It was snowing heavily, but it was very wet slushy snow.I got Robert to take a couple of photos of me setting off in the snow. It didn't seem unusual to him that I should set out. He just said take it easy.

The snow was reasonably easy to cycle in, although the slush built up around the gears and brakes. The snow got wetter as I got lower until it was barely lying and was falling as clinging sleet. I was also getting wetter and colder. My plastic bags around my socks were already leaking and my feet were freezing. I was wriggling my toes as much as possible to remind my body that they existed and would like some blood to circulate down there. I stopped at a bus shelter and changed into dry socks and put another layer of plastic back outside my shoes as well. That improved things a bit.

There was no wind, but I created my own little blizzard as I cycled into it. Snow flakes are quite painful when they hit you in the eye at 20km/hr.

I persevered through Skofja Loka, I felt pretty loco, and even went as far as Kranjs. The constant snow stopped and was replaced by heavy intermittent showers. I badly wanted to go to Bled and was looking for a road out of town bypassing the motorway. However Bled is about 300m higher up and I could see that every low hill around was blanketed with snow.

The weather won. I gave in to the sensible option and instead of going north, headed south to Ljubljana which was also about 25km away. Importantly it was slightly downhill.

I cycled on little quiet roads through small farming villages. The river was too my left much of the way and the greyness of everything couldn't hide the beauty of the landscape. The weather improved slightly and there were a few people around. I made good time and covered the last 15km into town on cycle paths.
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