Monday, May 26, 2014

Mt. Pokljuka to Ribcez Laz

We met the representative from Cycling Slovenia at our hotel in Bled the evening before our trip began. She covered the general information we needed and gave us the route map in sections that would fit in a plastic sleeve on our handlebars. We also got a booklet of written directions with landmarks and mileage that will fit in the other sleeve. If Darrell and I work together with the map and directions we shouldn’t get lost! Each bike has an odometer so we can track what special things there are to see, or what turns will be coming up. The booklet also contains some common phrases and a pronunciation guide to help us with the language. I always think of the Car Talk guys wanting to do a “vowel drop” on the Slavic countries whenever I see a word with a lot of consonants together. For example, the Slovenian word for Trieste is Trst. Perfectly understandable if you can sling the consonants together without a lot of excess spitting.

The next morning, May 25th, was gorgeously sunny. Normally, we are on our own each day, but for the start of the route, a driver took us up to the top of Mt. Pokljuka. The first day involved a lot of downhill coasting and braking as we headed to the Bohinj Valley.

Looking down into the Bohinj Valley
Soon after this photo was taken, we began a 500 m descent in just 4 km distance. Phew!

Even with all the farming in Slovenia, there is still about 60% forest cover. This makes it the third most forested country in Europe after Finland and Sweden. While trees are used as a resource, they are also valued for their ecologic properties and aesthetic value, so protections are in place and the amount of forest is actually increasing.

Traditional hay racks, with long poles running horizontally between two posts, and covered by a small roof, are everywhere in this region. They had a very rainy spring (you may have heard of the horrible flooding in Bosnia-Herzogovina) and few of the hayracks have any hay on them.
Traditional Hayracks
After the quickest 20 km (12 miles) of braking I’ve ever done, we arrived at our destination in Ribcez Laz. We picnicked by the lake and then went to our hotel. Since today was a short ride, we had both energy and time for the suggested excursion to a waterfall. We biked another 20 km round trip along the lake and then upriver to Slap Savica, the most visited waterfall in Slovenia. We locked the bikes and hiked up 141 meters to reach the view. While the waterfall was the goal, I think the river, flowing over white limestone, was even prettier!

Savica River
The shelter at the top of the trail had wooden gutters held up by curved wood pieces. We’ve seen this around Slovenia and thought it deserved a picture!
Wooden gutter and supports
 Because the hike is a steep climb, aided by many stairs, there were benches along the way. This one had a price attached – 0.5 euros/minute!
Paying to rest!
 We biked, mostly downhill again, back to the village. It is very picturesque, with the stone bridge and the Church of St. John the Baptist, a patron saint to who many lakeside churches are often dedicated. It is a simple Gothic style seen on many churches here, but also has frescoes that date back to the 14th century.

Church of St. John the Baptist
Behind the church, in the clouds, you can see the tallest mountain in Slovenia at 2,864 m (9,396 ft.), This is the centerpiece of Triglav National Park, the largest park in Slovenia. This country has protected 36% of its land, the largest percentage of protected land in all EU countries.

Beside the lake is also a statue of an ibex, one of the largest mammals in Slovenia.

I always fall a little in love with each country we visit – but I’m falling a lot in love with Slovenia. The people, the landscape, and the efforts this country takes to preserve its culture and nature. We’ll see if I still love Slovenia after tomorrow’s big hill climb! 

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