I Feel Slovenia

After our crazy night of camping, we woke up to a cold, rainy day. Nonetheless, we hopped on our bikes and started pedaling (uphill, on gravel, into the wind). There were a few grueling bike paths, but we eventually made it back to pavement. Mike found us a host in Nova Vas for the night, so we had a destination in mind.

On the way, we decided to stop to see Postojna Cave, the largest tourist cave in Europe. It was nothing like Crystal Cave in Arizona, which I visited with friends in February.

For starters, we rode a train into the cave. It was a little bit like a Disney World ride. We whooshed along through giant caverns and nearly knocked our heads on low-ceiling passageways. After a 5 minute ride (at least), we stopped at a platform within the cave. There, the walking tour began.

We saw lots of beautiful cave formations, and I was really blown away by the size of everything. We visited room after giant room. Including the train rides in and out of the tunnel, the tour was over an hour and a half. We also saw an aquarium full of human fish. This is the weird name for some blind, salamander-type things that live in the depth of the cave. They’re light pink and maybe 6-12 inches long. All the gift shops sell plush toy versions. The  cave tour was definitely overly touristy, and yet I enjoyed it quite a lot.

When we exited the cave, it was nearly 6:00, and we had some serious biking to do to reach our destination. We set off in the direction of Nova Vas. Unfortunately, it soon became apparent we weren’t going to make it before dark. There were hills, but the biggest issue soon became heavy rainfall and moderate headwinds. We were cold, soaked, and still far from our destination a half an hour before dark. 

We contacted our host to say we weren’t going to make it and that we were looking for accommodation in Cerknica. Our search was unsuccessful. The one place we found was booked up. We decided we’d just have to bike in the cold rain in the dark. However, just as we were leaving town, Mike received a message from our Nova Vas host saying that he had found us a host in Cerknica. A friend of his lived nearby and would rescue us.

And so we met Miha at a gas station on the edge of town. He led us back to his place in the dark. We were so happy to be out of the rain.

Miha, his wife Anja, and his daughter Emma (20 mos.) live in a lovely flat. I especially liked their sleek white kitchen since the fridge and dishwasher were hidden away in regular-looking cupboards. Emma had just gone to bed when we arrived, but Miha and Anja gave us towels for showering, sleeping pads to lay on, and many food and drink options despite having about 10 minutes’ notice that we’d be crashing with them. Anna’s fresh-baked bread was still warm and absolutely lovely.

We chatted quite a bit before bed. I learned that Miha teaches Slovenian as a foreign language to clients who want to learn “mostly for love,” according to Anja. (I have his contact info if you want to learn!) Anja teaches small children. Miha has done a bit of bicycle touring in the past, and since they sometimes host people through couchsurfing, our sudden imposition wasn’t too crazy.

We slept well, and in the morning we biked with Miha (and Emma in tow) around Lake Cerknica to start our route for the day. The lake is pretty unique. It drains and fills up with the levels of precipitation in the area. The lake is situated on a karst plateau, which means that there are many underground caverns and reservoirs. When the rainfall is low (often related to seasonal norms), most of the water of the lake drains below the surface. Other times of year, the lake is high and the largest in Slovenia. We caught it in an in-between stage. Miha explained that sometimes the water recedes so fast that people have to help relocate fish (though I read that some simply go underground with the water). It’s a pretty cool landscape with the mountainous pine forests surrounding the lake.

 

Biking buddies Miha and Emma

 
After our goodbyes, Mike and I belatedly headed toward Nova Vas. Our potential host of the night before said we could still stop by, so we did. I’m so glad we did. Simon is one of the nicest, most generous people I have ever met.

We showed up midday as he was finishing lunch, but he quickly warmed up some gnocchi with meat sauce and placed a salad in front of us. Since I had some work to do, we decided to have a short day of biking, and we decided to stay with Simon. He let us do laundry, use the wifi, and relax in the afternoon. In the evening he made us asparagus soup, and then we went out for a beer. All the while, we had great conversations. Simon has done quite a lot of bike touring, including a trip in the States. He told us so much about the region, too. For instance, we now know to be on the lookout for crazy Yugoslavian monuments that look like they’re from the future or created by aliens.

The next morning we were treated to homemade bread; fresh eggs (from their chickens); rich butter (that Simon’s father makes with milk from local cows); homemade jam; and an assortment of meats, cheeses, and veggies. We spent the morning making arrangements for Mike to head back to New York for a few days (long story, I’ll tell you later). When we were ready to leave, Simon made us sandwiches for the road, and his dad gave us this amazing rhubarb pudding with berries in it. Their hospitality was so wonderful that I almost welled up with tears as we left.

I have to say, Slovenia and the people I’ve met here have left the best possible impression so far. I feel Slovenia (as all the travel brochures say)!

Comments
4 Responses to “I Feel Slovenia”
  1. JM Simpson says:

    Whoa! Quite the journey so far!

  2. miha says:

    It was nice to having you over! Have a pleasant trip.

  3. miha says:

    It was nice hosting you! Have a safe trip.

  4. miha says:

    Seems I have logged in twice …

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