The Magic Roads of Slovenia

By Jane Mountain | May 2, 2013

1170 km so far.

We started the morning in Generalski Stol, which incidentally may be the best town name ever. Our incredibly generous host had breakfast all ready for us, even though we’d thought he’d said “No breakfast” the night before when we’d negotiated a lower rate for the room. Since we’d already eaten breakfast number one in our room, we were eating second breakfast before we even left the hotel. We gorged on the bread and various dairy products laid out for us: yogurt, cheese, and butter, plus honey, making this the least vegan meal we have eaten so far.

We both loved the honey, but the yogurt and cheese was a little too fatty and creamy for our mostly vegan taste buds.

A multitude of bags, packed and ready to go.

A multitude of bags, packed and ready to go.

Luxuriating In The Spa

To burn off the calories from our two breakfasts we cycled almost 3 whole kilometres before stopping at the big local attraction, hot springs just north of town. The building in which they were housed looked like an old country town hall and, since there was almost no information on the internet about the place, besides that it existed, we weren’t sure what to expect. Fortunately, the exceptionally friendly receptionist spoke perfect English and explained everything there was to know.

The building had a very old-world feel about it. The walls and floors were creaky and the halls were lined with slightly strange pieces of spa equipment, like foot massagers and weigh scales. At the end of the long hall was a door that led to the change rooms, which were as much of a throwback as the rest of the building. It was all very charming and as un-spa-like as you could possibly get.

The local spa.

The local spa.

We decided we should go in the pool anyway, if not to luxuriate, then at least for the authentic local experience.

A few minutes later we were in our swimming suits and descending into a dimly lit pool filled with the local elderly population: there were about 10 other people there, the youngest in their late 70s. The pool was the size of a large hot tub, with no “deck” area around the edges. So the walls went up straight from the pool to the low ceiling, which was, inexplicably, decorated with glow-in-the-dark stars and a black light.

The water wasn’t exactly what you’d call hot. At first we thought it must be coming from a lukewarm spring. Then we decided it must be a slightly-cooler-than-bathwater spring. We spent a while on our ride coming up with a few other names for it. The proper-temperature-for-red-wine spring was my favourite.

We sat for about 40 minutes, observing the pool customs, which included nattering to your friends, shooting suspicious looks at the two young foreigners in the pool, taking the hose at the end of the pool and spraying it across the pool, doing the stretching exercises illustrated on the walls, and skimming the water with your hands to (presumably) move some of the pool scum towards the drains.

One man did a series of leg lifts while holding on to the pool rail that were very impressive. His muscles were tight and strong, even at his advanced age.

This was enough to entertain us until it was time for my massage. At 50KN (approximately $8) there was no way I could say no.

The massage was a lot more impressive than the pool. The masseur seemed to know what he was doing, and found all of the tough and tight spots in my shoulders and neck. For a while afterwards, my shoulder didn’t even hurt a little.

After sitting in mildly warm water for an hour, we weren’t in any hurry when we got back on our bikes. Like snakes who have sat too long in the sun, we languidly made our way towards the Slovenian border.

We stopped several times for pictures and once for coffee and a snack.

stephen at a cafe in croatia

Stephen at our last Croatian caffe.

By the time we crossed the border (a non-event with our British passports) and reached the campsite within spitting distance of the border crossing, it was already 2pm.

A little rain storm passed by just after we set up the tent, so we prepared and ate lunch inside. Then, rain all gone away, we decided to venture out and see if we could find some Euros and some food for dinner. Euros were easy – there’s an ATM at the gas station in town. Food was more difficult, since the two markets both seemed to be closed, even though it was the middle of the day.

Oh well, we decided, we’ll just cycle up to Crnomejl, 20 km away. Surely in the big city there will be some food.

Downhill All The Way

Under the overcast sky, we pedalled through the Slovenian countryside, which looks exactly as it does in pictures. Impossibly bright green fields roll between chocolate box villages that would be totally at home in Switzerland. We were struck by the density of the population – the entire 20 km of road was lined with village after village, all bigger than any lone town we’d seen since leaving Zadar.

We met this guy on our way to town.

We met this guy on our way to town.

The road seemed to point persistently downhill and we remarked that it was going to be hell coming back the other way. But we decided to press on, because what else was there to do?

It became clear pretty quickly that everything in the big city was closed as well. We finally figured out that (maybe) May Day is an even bigger celebration here than in Croatia and that shops are closed for the entire week because of it. All we know for sure is that Spar, the biggest supermarket in town, is only open 8-12 all week.

Disappointed in our lack of food options, we thought we’d better at least make the best of coming into town by stopping for ice cream and cake. Stephen is still not enjoying the fatty dairy mouthfeel of ice cream, so he opted for a Nutella and banana cake, which is every bit as good as it sounds. I went for Straciatella and Cokolado ice cream. Also delicious.

We left town about 6pm, planning to eat dinner at a restaurant about half way back to the campsite. We managed to get a pizza there, that was cooked on a strange spongy dough, not unlike Ethiopian flat bread. Not the best pizza in the world, but it filled us up at least. We finished dinner about a half hour before it got dark, so switched on our lights and hit the road.

We’d been expecting to face an uphill battle all the way home, since the incline had been so obviously down on the way there, but so far the hills had failed to materialise. We figured they would be coming up soon. But as we pedalled, we realised we were still going fast, no real hills to be found. At first we thought this must be the magic of Slovenian roads – they all face downhill, no matter which direction you’re going.

Then we realised that this must be what it feels like to cycle somewhere flat!

As we zipped through the picturesque towns, the sun set and a thunder and lightning storm materialised in the distance. The sky flashed with colour and boomed out its messages as we wound through the countryside. The awesome power of it all had me laughing with a giddy joy. We sped into Vinica where our campsite is and just as we rounded the corner by the church, sky flashing and booming, the church bells began to ring.

The high-drama church.

The high-drama church.

This was novelesque high drama (think Wuthering Heights) at its best. By the end of the ride I was super-charged with energy from being out in the elements as they showed their power. We arrived in a damp campsite and it was clear that we’d been right on the tail of the rain the entire way, while avoiding getting a drop on ourselves.

Incredibly lucky once again.  

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  1. Comment by Diane

    Diane May 5, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    Terrific blog. I am addicted.

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