(written by Nancy)
We said goodbye to our Warmshowers hosts this morning, stopping by Matej’s café on the way out of town to have one final cup of coffee and say goodbye to him. We really had a great time getting to know him and his family – perhaps we will meet again someday. We would certainly highly recommend a stop at their house to other Warmshowers participants.
Today we rode up a valley on the other side of a mountain range from the valley we rode in to Skofja Loka. The first valley was a relatively wide valley, with farms and villages along the valley floor. Today’s valley was much more narrow – really just the road snaking its way through it, with the small villages clustered near the road and the occasional house or church sitting high up on the hillside. It’s amazing that they seem to farm up the sides of the hills – mostly grass of some kind, but it would be quite a chore to cut. We saw lots of the hay drying racks (called kozolec in Slovenian) today, many filled with hay though some people have clearly moved to the more modern method of rolls covered in plastic.
Our route today took us up a very gradual climb upriver to the town of Zelezniki. From there we had a bit steeper climb (though still very manageable) to the top of a small pass at Petrovo Brdo. We saw lots of cyclists out and at the top of the pass a big group of hikers came out of the woods, stopping at the small café that sits at the top. Slovenians are very sporty people – we have seen more people on bikes here than we have seen for a long time. And not just cyclists out for a ride but people using bicycles as transport around town.
From the pass we had a nice downhill for probably 10k, with quite a few more k’s of very gradual descent. The ride would definitely be steeper coming the other way so we were glad to be going the way we were. The whole day was very scenic – really green, tons of trees, beautiful churches and villages. I am sure our pictures don’t really capture it but I think it is the most scenic place we have been on this ride – we just kept saying “wow, wow.” Perhaps it is just that the lush green foliage feels and looks so nice after the more arid landscapes of the last few months but the beautiful traditional houses, bright flowers in all the window boxes and steep hillsides really are something.
We stopped at Tolmin for a quick break and to get some supplies at the Mercator there – Mercartor is the biggest supermarket chain in Slovenia and shops of various sizes appear in almost all of the towns we go through now. The bigger ones have everything we need, which makes shopping a bit easier. Just after Tolmin we got our first views of the Soca River. It is as blue as the pictures – a pretty amazing colour. Actually, the literature on the river calls it an emerald colour and that is probably more accurate. The river is an alpine river that originates in the Julian Alps – where we will ride in the next couple of days.
As we got down to the valley floor it was much warmer. We got our first glimpse of the Julian Alps, a mountain range that stretches from northeastern Italy to Slovenia. The highest point is Mt Triglav at 2864m, located in the Triglav National Park that we will enter tomorrow. We made our way to the smaller town of Kobarid and after searching a bit finally found Camp Koren, which sits right on the river a bit out of town. It is a nice campground, not too big, with some nice spots for tents. We set up the tent in a spot that looked okay (after dragging the bikes up some steep little hills to get to the spot) but as per our usual luck the space just below us is now filled with 3 tents. Hopefully no one will get too noisy tonight, though it is Friday night so you never know.
Kobarid is known for the Battle of Caporetto, where the Italian retreat was documented by Ernest Hemingway in his novel A Farewell to Arms. There is a museum in the center of the small town that is supposed to be quite good but unfortunately we did not have time to go in and see it – perhaps we can take a look in the morning before we leave. The town was subject to a violent Fascist regime by the Italians during occupation, causing many locals to try to emigrant to neighboring countries. It was liberated in September 1943 but was then taken over by the Nazi German forces, who ruled it until 1945, when the town was liberated by the Yugoslav army. A lot of violent history for such a small and beautiful place.
Tomorrow we are planning just a short day to the small village of Trenta, which puts us at the base of Vrsic Pass, the highest pass in Slovenia and a supposedly very beautiful pass that will take us over the Julian Alps. It will be a hard climb, much harder than we have done on this trip so far. We will have another pass to climb that same day, Wurzenpass, to get us into Austria so we are trying to give ourselves the best conditions to get both climbs done. But, I am trying not to think too much about that now – will leave that worrying for tomorrow afternoon once we reach the next campground!
Off to cook some dinner before it gets too dark.