Touched by the Alps – we arrived to Slovenia
We're getting used to being a nomad
In the moment I climbed onto my bike heavy with luggage and we started riding through the streets of Budapest, it didn’t feel real that I’m completely free and the world is mine. The first few days were rainy and a heavy headwind wanted to stall us, but it couldn’t take the smile off our face, only we had a bit of slower pace than originally anticipated. As we have all the time in the world, there was nothing to worry about. So instead of the planned 3-4 days, we reached the Slovenian border in a week, even having a rest day at Révfülöp as we rolled along lake Balaton. The Hungarian sea, as we locals refer to it sometimes, is the biggest lake in Central Europe and one of my favourite places to be in my country, so I really enjoyed spending some time there, especially with Alan.
Since we try to be on a tight budget during the tour, we don’t even plan to use mobile data, unless it’s absolutely necessary. So we use an offline OSM based map on the phone called maps.me, to which we download the areas wherever we have internet (also using the offline feature of google maps). We also use the opportunity for couchsurfing/warmshowers request, which we mainly use when arriving to bigger cities, where wild camping is not really possible.
Although these are a really cool tool to connect with people and have some rest, we spend the majority of our time in the wild, finding secluded spots in forests and national parks. We don’t have to stick to a time schedule, and anyway this is much more exciting 🙂 In Hungary we didn’t even use hosting once, although only tried to send out some request to one town.
We arrive to the country of forests
We crossed the border at Bajánsenye, after exactly one week of leaving Budapest, and headed towards Maribor, crossing a small corner in Austria. Instead of riding on a flat terrain all day, we started experiencing some hills, but I could still live through them 🙂
We arrived to our first host on Monday, to Peter, who lived a bit north of Maribor, in the top of a hill in a small village. They were awaiting us with dinner, and the next day the whole house was ours. We spent the day to relax and fix our leaking sleeping mattresses.
After he arrived home, Peter took us into Maribor and was our impeccable tour guide. The city is the second biggest in Slovenia, around a 100 thousand people live here. One interesting fact about it that is hosts the world oldest vineyard. Quiet and clean, you can see the effect of the Slovenian waste collection system here, which we already encountered in small villages. Peter also told us that the country consists of 80% forests, which is quite a impressive number, and truly makes it the country of forests.
There is for instance no communal waste in his household. He has one for packaging, one for paper and one for organic waste. Glass is collected at big bins around the village – even the smallest one has recycling bins around. Every not recyclable thing goes into packaging, which is then handpicked at the waste facility. If you put anything in the wrong bin, a huge fine can follow. I really like this system because doesn’t leave recycling in the hands of the user, it is mandatory for everyone.
After we returned from the city, cooked dinner for our host and went to sleep quite early, as our circadian rhythm shifted considerably and we get sleepy not long after it gets dark. The next we could choose when to leave, because Peter went to work early and the house was self-closing. Despite this, we didn’t spend too much time preparing, since we faced the first day where we had to climb some real mountains.
Finally in the Alps - sight worth suffering for
Leaving Maribor we saw we will indulge in quite a scenery. Cycling along the Drava river we first chose the main road, but later switched sides for a quieter but more hillier area, which provided a beautiful view of the river. We spent the night on a bigger hill up on 600m, next to Trbonje.
The plan for the next day was to climb a 1300m high mountain pass, and spend a rest day at the next sight. It was raining all day, and we had to do the ascent on a dirt road, which was steeper than expected, sometimes reaching 10%. I don’t have to elaborate for bikers, how the muddy road 10% climb pairing in pouring rain can make your life miserable. I was so tired by the end, that all I could do was push the bike for the last few hundred meters. A car driver even stopped and asked if I can manage, I must have looked terrible. 😀
Finally reaching the top, we were both totally soaking wet and cold. On top of that, I was stupid enough not to take on the shoe covers on a previous stop, and my other shoes got wet too. Luckily we found some shelter from the rain to change into some dry clothes. And here I would thank again for my previous self for buying that expensive down jacket 🙂 Since it was getting late, we quickly started again, and a surreal sight awaited us on the downhill. It looked like the whole mountain was covered in clouds, the end of the road lost in a milky mist. We woke to a sunny morning and made our way to Logarska Dolina, which is a long, narrow valley (dolina means valley in Slovenian), which is surrounded by the peaks of Slovenia, aka the Kamnik-Savinja Alps.
As soon as we strolled from the entrance we were amazed by the view. The valley is famous for its many-many streams and waterfalls which are mainly spectacular after huge rainy day, so we arrived in the perfect time. Since my only dry shoes were the sandals, I must have looked funny as I tried to make my way through the snow for the biggest waterfall at the end of the road, called Rinka. It can only be reached on a small hiking trail, which although open, still covered in a lot of snow. As we arrived before the season, most of the mountain houses were closed and we spotted only a handful of tourists. But anyway it seems like a place which was still mostly untouched by the harmful effects of consumerism, and you can enjoy pure nature itself.
For the next day the main course was no less than conquering the Alps, more precisely climbing Pavlicenko Sedlo, or the saddle mountain pass through Austria. It is on 1338 meter and the road leading up to it can be pretty steep at some points. We were a bit afraid after our experience two days ago, but the smooth asphalt and sunshine made things much easier, and we got through even some 12% sections with ease. Rolling down from the top was time for some jaw dropping, breathtaking view, which proves that all this climbing is worth every drop of sweat. Let the pictures speak for themselves.
At the end of the day we were riding in a narrow chasm valley, along the rived Kokra, towards Ljubljana, where we planned to have a few days rest. But that will be the topic of another blogpost.