17th September 2012

Into Slovenia and Croatia!

last Wednesday I woke up the morning after a very loud thunderstorm to find that the air was still rather heavy and humid, but never one to be put off by some ominous weather patterns, I packed up and headed off in the direction of Belzano. Regrettably within the hour the heavens had opened and what could only be described as Scottish rain fell from the skies in enormous drops that bounced off the Tarmac and seemed to leap another foot or two back into the air. Recognising this as being A Bad Thing, I pulled into a petrol station bar area to sit it out. Regrettably it was still going full pelt 2 hours later, so with a very heavy heart I decided to call the day a write- off and head into Belzano in search of a hotel. I don’t know whether it was just the effect of it being a grey, miserable day, but there was more than a hint of Dodge about this city - the streets just didn’t have that welcoming, undiscovered city-break type feel to them, all in all rather more Swindon meets Detroit than Venice meets Barcelona. My gut told me this didn’t feel good so I headed right back out of town and found a cosy little Gasthof in one of the orchard-covered villages nearby with a safe dry garage for Suzi and a warm shower and bed for me.

Next day the rain had cleared off so I set off for lake carezza, a beautiful rainbow coloured lake some 1500m up the Dolomites. Truly a beautiful lake set against the harsh soaring rocky backdrop of the dolomite mountain peaks. Regrettably however it was very cold up there (minus degrees c), which seemed to kill off my garmin sat nav completely. Without a doubt it was as dead as a dodo. Not excellent. After an appeal for wisdom was issued to my friends the answer came back quite unanimously that I needed to remove the battery for 10mins, reinsert and watch it burst back into life. The problem was that the battery casing required a teeny tiny hex key to open it, which of course I didn’t have.

In any case once I’d bought a properly decent map of the area (should have done that in the beginning really!) I was off on my way towards castelrotto, where I found the right hex key in a strange supermarket that sold not only high-end deli produce but also collared cow-bells in a range of sizes and all manner of DIY equipment. Curious.

Next day I did some more exploring across the stunningly scenic passes of the Dolomites and eventually on Saturday night, I had ridden far enough east to arrive into Slovenia! Another beautiful country - placid scenes of pastoral perfection in the valleys with crystal clear babbling rivers and lush rolling fields contrasted against terrifyingly steep mountain switchbacks and rocky summits. Rather curiously on one particular descent towards kransjska gora some bright spark had decided to cobble the hairpin bends in the road, presumably thinking this looked pretty rather than enhancing any grip on the road. Truly odd.

Eventually I arrived at Lake Bled and happened across a fantastic campsite right there on the lakeside. A slightly surreal surprise came when I found that I was pitching my tent amongst a small group of British campervans! I hadn’t met a Brit in over a week but before I knew it, the lovely Hugh and Jenny had offered me a cup of tea and then, treat of treats, a home-cooked dinner with them later! Incredibly kind of them to take pity on me and we had a very entertaining evening. I can definitely recommend Jenny’s carbonara.

Next day I was tipped off by another British couple that today (Sunday) was the annual cow festival at lake Bohinj in celebration of the cows coming down from the mountains for the winter. As a Wiltshire girl originally this bovine temptation was too great to resist, so I made my way over there and spent a very happy hour or so savouring the sights (a few cows of course, lots of farming equipment, all standard issue stuff), the smells (dung, naturally, mixed lightly with the unique pong of sauerkraut and sausages) and sounds (a few ladies clad in traditional Brunhilde type garb warbling in harmonious unison to some kind of stringed instrument). Deep joy. On my exit I indulged in a small gift for suzi in celebration of passing 4000 miles on the clock and bought her a genuine article slovenian sheepskin for the seat. Smashing.

After spending the night at a slightly scary, soviet inspired campsite near Postojna last night, I headed on this morning down into Croatia. Furnished with an excellent Michelin map of the country that was very kindly given to me this morning by another brilliant British couple, Dave and Dawn, who I met at the campsite, I set off on my way south. The number 8 road tracks the coastline all the way south down to Dubrovnik so if today’s little pootle is anything to go by, it should be a beautiful ride…