The green capital and the city of canals

The green capital and the city of canals

Arriving to Ljubljana

As we rolled down from the mountains, the landscape changed considerably, but the Alps still loomed in the background. A few hours before arriving to Ljubljana, we had no definite place to stay for as long as we wanted to, but everything worked out at the end. 

On our first day, we went on a free walking tour around the city. As we were just starting it, we noticed a bike traveler girl, who had the same Alpkit rollbag as me as seemed to be on a long bike tour too. We decided to stick with the tour, where we learned a lot about Slovenian history and checked out all the famous sites. It was a bit too long though and not that interesting, so we regretted not saying at least hi to her. 

Ljubljana has a really nice layout, with the river Ljubljanica cutting it in the middle, cafés on one side, farmers market on the other,with lots of bridges connecting it all. Watching over it all the castle sits on top of a hill in the background. This area is a big car free zone with an abundance of trees and free electric mini taxis roaming around. No wonder it was chosen as the green capital of Europe two years ago.

Meeting interesting people

We’ve met with a really big bike friendly infrastructure, with bike paths leading everywhere, as we went to the outskirts in the afternoon to our second place to stay. We couldn’t have asked for a better host than Ajda and George for our second and third night. They told us awesome stories about their travels in South East Asia, gave us tips for our upcoming route, and George brought us to a bike shop to fix some mechanical problems with Alan’s rear brake. We went up to the castle on the second day and had an amazing sunset, with the Alps clear in the background. In the night, we used the opportunity of a real kitchen to cook a nice dinner for them. 
Before leaving the city, we topped up our stash with some bulk items in a big Mercator, and as we just started, we’ve met with another cycling couple from Belgium, going in the opposite direction. It turned out they’ve just been in the Balkans and even gave up a map for Croatia. They were heading to Budapest and then all the way up to Nordkapp in Norway, which is the northernmost town in Europe. So of course we exchanged lots of tips and gave our contacts to each other. They are quite awesome, doing volunteering and raising money to plant a forest. You can check them out  here.
As for us, our next step was to get to the Italian coastline, and check out the city of canals.

Starting out in Italy

Before arriving to Italy, we checked out Stanjel, which is a pretty ancient town in Slovenia, with a big castle and some ruins on the top. We had to climb quite a bit to get there, but it was really worth it. 

After we crossed the border, we planned to go to Venice. We were in a tricky situation even before getting there, as there are not so many hiding spots for wild camping along the coast. One night we were even forced to sleep in a car park, which was only possible by some friendly Italian’s help. 

Getting into Venice with the bikes proved to be even a bigger challenge, because we were quite unlucky with warmshowers and couchsurfing requests, and we received conflicting info whether you could even push the bikes inside the city. Of course we went in, since we are stubborn as hell and we chose this route only because of Venice. But we had to realize at the entrance that we either pay 20 euros to store the bikes in a garage, or find a really good hiding place for them nearby, since it was really impossible to get them inside, not just because we didn’t want to risk a fine.

After we agreed that we don’t pay for storage, we started heading back and decided to stay only if we can find something nearby, otherwise pass on seeing the city. In the last possible moment we found a really close spot out in the marina, which was kinda sketchy, because it seemed to be frequented by some homeless guy. Still, it was the perfect hiding place, where we could even put up the tent for the night, and went in by foot for an afternoon stroll. Venice is beautiful, but in reality it was not the highlight of the tour so far, partly because it’s too touristy. There were expensive modern shops all over the place, even in the smallest alleys, and you could either see tourists or workers serving them. We checked out the Grande Canal and Saint Mark’s Square, got amazed by the cathedral and the gondolas, and had a nice picnic along the coast. In the end, we stayed a day and even slept there for only 10 euros (spent in a supermarket), which I’m guessing not many people can say. 🙂
Next time, I’ll share how our luck turned with warmshowers, and how we discovered that Padova and Verona is stunning.