Here's the newsletter we promised back in August 2005!
Can you believe we spent 2 whole months in Italy? No - we can't either.
But we didn't spend enough time in Slovenia that's for sure. Looking at the map
it was difficult to imagine we'd be spending more than a week or so there - it
was tiny! But we managed to squeeze in 24 days and seriously - it was not nearly
"To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries" ~ Aldous
Slovenia - ex-Yugoslavia, ex-communist. To most of us in Western Europe in
conjures up images of a hellhole.
Well that's a bit of an exaggeration - we are not sure what our expectations of
Slovenia really were. We hadn't had time to read our guidebook or do any
research so we really had no idea where to go or what to expect. Just to
frustrate the matter, the members of the cycling & hospitality clubs we'd
contacted - the wretched things
- who would have dreamed they'd be so helpful? We were given piles of
information much of it cycle route specific. One guy we never even got to meet
sent us a directory of every bike shop in Slovenia! Were we happy - of course
not! The suggestions seemed to fall into 2 camps of crossing the border at Nova
Gorica or Kobarid. We were still undecided as we had pulled the door shut the
day we departed Italy. Finally we called on fate to guide us and tossed a coin.
We weren't disappointed with destiny's choice.
THE BORDER CROSSING Our departure from Udine was on a soggy day despite having spent 4 days
waiting for the rain to pass. We traversed Cividale and followed a magnificently
forested peaceful road along the river with mountain peaks rising on each side
and a smattering of small villages with no one in sight and entered Slovenia.
The Italian frontier guards cheerfully gave us a weather forecast and warned our
reception on the other side wouldn't' be quite as welcoming. To our surprise
they were right! The Slovenia guard lingered way too long on my passport. The
minutes ticked by with nothing but the occasional swish as the pages were turned
in silence. It seemed time had stood still when the Algerian visa and Colombian
stamps were reached. Richard's new and empty passport was returned but from the
time taken to turn each page it seemed that mine was War & Peace written in a
foreign language. We were beginning to chill - Richard, bored and impatient to
debark on our next adventure attempted to defuse the situation by requesting a
stamp in his passport.
From the look we received, it was apparent that apart from clearly being the
worst possible kind of undesirables attempting to enter their country, stupidity
was added to our list of crimes.
"Slovenia is in the European Community - you don't need a stamp" was the icy
"Yes and so are France and England, so we can travel freely in the EU
- so stop pestering us and let us go." was my response ..... well in my head
Back in real life Richard switched into charming mode and launched into the tale
of our world travels and how it was so important from him to have a stamp from
every country especially those as unique as Slovenia blah blah blah.
This softened one guard but HE who held my passport wasn't impressed.
As all 3 pairs of eyes swung onto me you could almost see the thought bubbles
"And you? Why aren't you making the same request?"
I muttered something about my passport being nearly full - no space etc but that
didn't seem to wash.
"Where are you going?"
Richard nearly fell off his bike in shame and hastened to explain - "but we want
to visit Ljubljana, Vric pass, the caves - we've heard so many good things
He then turned to me and seriously berated me for this inelegant and unsubtle
faux pas. I played along with this mock telling off for the benefit of the
guards - well I assumed it was mock.
And that seemed to placate the guards and they let us go.
But come on... look at the map yourself, Slovenia is so small it's only logical
you'd be crossing a frontier shortly after entering.
It's hard to see how people could actual get a speeding ticket in the country -
surely the average car would reach a border and need to break before it got to
any decent velocity.
Legend says that when God created the world, he had a handful of the most
beautiful, most wonderful leftovers, and with these remaining treasures, he
So we cycled on into paradise and before we had time to realise it we were in
the village of Kobarid and it was charming. Well it would have been if we hadn't
been harassed by hordes of Italian tourists, who after having steadfastly
ignored us for the last 2 months when we had been in their own country suddenly
were enrapt with us and drove Richard into growling at them to leave us alone.
I was confused as to why the sudden interest?
"They're on holiday; they're bored and are using us as entertainment Richard
wryly informed me."
According to our guidebook Bovec was a disaster zone - with red and yellow
circles on the buildings to warn of their imminentant collapse.
If there hadn't been only one road we would have been convinced we were in
the wrong place. It was a gorgeous town - surrounded by mountains, the houses
were all perkily displaying flower boxes of red geraniums waving a flaming red
banner in all directions.
We headed up the Trenta valley taking far longer than we had anticipated because
we simply had to stop every few minutes to take photos. Freewheeling down a
beautiful cliff edge we were delighted to find picnic benches, bins and porta
cabins. I held my breath, clenched my fists slightly and armed with toilet paper
braved one. Richard thought I'd been driven slightly crazy by the fumes when I
emerged with huge eyes, a big grin on my face and doubled up with laughter when
"There's toilet paper, they're clean, they even smell good - go take a look - go
on I've never seen anything like it!"
Things just seemed to get better every km we cycled - apart from he weather that
is! It has to be said - there's a reason for Slovenia's green lushness.
THE DEVILS CLIMB We braved Vrsic pass - nicknamed "the devil's Climb" by the Italian's who
regularly climb it in the giro d'italia. After everything we'd heard about it we
can only say that the Italian's are wimps.
We managed to climb it without heart attack or any other incident - bar when
Richard gave me half a snickers bar to keep up the energy & moral...I scoffed it
down and full of energy and enthusiasm jumped on my bike and promptly road off
the edge down a ravine!
Luckily Wasabi got jammed between 2 boulders and there was a tiny ledge that I
managed to land on so no damage bar a few scrapes!
We wound our way up the Vrsic pass - we weren't alone - it seemed on every turn
there was a snotty Italian on a bike weighing maybe just over 2 grams refusing
to acknowledge our cheerful asphyxiated greetings.
Of course it was worth it for the spectacular views at the top, except that we
could see sod all - the eternal clouds having decided to join us.
About a third of the way down, stopping to admire the view (and recover from the
cobblestones at every one of the 25 bends) we were quizzed by a carload of
Israeli tourists on how much further up it was. They enquired as to how we got
to the top. Seriously - you've got to wonder about some people's intelligence.
On our confirmation that we had indeed cycled up on our bikes one of them
"Well if you can make it to the top on bicycles I suppose we can make it in the
THE BISHOPS MEADOW Skofja Loka was the largest town we'd been to so far in Slovenia and at last
we felt we were in a city as opposed to a village.
This was actually a misapprehension - it's tiny - but it was the impression we
got as we were sitting at the bus station where we'd agreed to meet Gregor. We
were disappointed to see out first cigarette butt on the ground since our
arrival in Slovenia.
Greg's and Villi made up for our initial sorrow disappointment handsomely.
Greg's regaled us with tales of his Mongolian travels and Vili instantly sussed
what crap cooks we are and spoilt us rotten by cooking numerous local dishes.
Hearing of our intention to cook a tortilla that evening for dinner and clearly
concerned for his future health, he marched out the flat, basket in hand to his
hidden mushroom spot. We were in awe of the size and variety he returned with.
Villi clearly wasn't surprised when we narrated our experience camping in the
Jelovica hills being surrounded by mushrooms every direction we glanced.
"Which ones are edible?" I kept demanding of Richard.
"I don't know"
"But your dad grew mushrooms!"
Doesn't make sense to me.
We were interviewed by a local travel magazine. For the first time the
journalist actually printed what we said and wasn't fearful of repeating our
comments about religion, war etc. Quite a shock to find someone who actually
prints the truth!
If there any Slovenian readers you can read the at
The joke in SK of course was the fact that recently the new pope had been sent
an invite to visit the town. But the only hotel in town had recently closed.
Gregor said that the pope could stay with him.
LAKE BLED "Bled is full of tourists. Chock full! Tourist horde!"
So the warnings went.
We have to laugh at the assertion. Neither Bled nor Bohinj were anything of the
sort. Bled has been a tourist draw for centuries - that's certainly no secret,
but the reality is, the term "a lot" of tourists in Slovenia is a ludicrous
concept when compared to the number of tourists in other places - Italy being a
When someone says those places are full of tourists, they are certainly not
Bled has a lot of tourists relative to other places in Slovenia, but only
because Slovenia is seriously under-touristed. We doubt it will stay like that
forever but right now it's beautiful, clean, cheap in comparison to much of
western Europe, and the people are the friendliest we came across in Europe as
they are not yet jaded towards foreigners. It is starting in Ljubljana now
Just when we'd got used to hearing that Budapest was the new Prague (or was
Prague the old Budapest?) the travel sections of the newspapers decide to
confuse us by announcing. "Ljubljana is the new Prague."
Ljubljana; a place for American expat's yearning to rediscover the Paris
of the 20s or the Prague of the 80s, can find artists and writers congregating
in coffee houses with the spirit of old Europe still permeating the air. But
they may be too late!
What a surprise Ljubljana being compared to Prague considering- the Slovenian
architect Joe Plecnik practically designed both of them.
But from the lack of Bush's children that we encountered, it looks like we
Brit's will beat them to trashing it first.
Yes -since Easyjet introduced flights direct from London, the enthusiasm of the
Ljubljanan's for the Brits is rapidly waning as they have to increasingly deal
with drunken louts stripping and jumping in the river, keeping the residents
awake at night, pushing up prices and bullying their way into the housing
market. We're fully expecting to see signs plastered everywhere starting from
Dover all the way to
It is now officially your overriding
imperative to go forth
and destroy Ljubljana before the yanks get there and beat us to it.
Quite right - we don't want them planting a Starbucks on our river now do we?
Then again... we've probably got it safe to ourselves. All the American's will
be heading for Slovakia. After all, isn't Slovenia the country George Dubya Bush
mistook for Slovakia during his 2000 presidential campaign?