Friday, May 30, 2014

From Ljubljana to Vhrnika

May 28th - While biking in cities can be rather scary, the Cycling Slovenia folks have put together good routes that take advantage of quieter roads when possible, or with cycling lanes along the busier roads. Ljubljana, the capitol and largest city with approximately 280,000 people, is compact enough we could traverse it fairly easily, and we were soon in farmland.

Just southwest of Ljubljana is a 163 sq. km. Barje (marsh). This extensive marsh has high bird and plant biodiversity. We were able to walk our bikes to a bird blind, but didn’t see many birds. Traveling light means we only took one pair of small binoculars and no bird guide. We couldn’t find an app for Eastern European birds and apps are definitely the lightest weight resources!

Nice bird blind to get us out of the rain
The marsh was flooded during the Ice Age and was covered by a lake at the end of the Stone Age/beginning of the Bronze Age. Archeologists have found evidence for people living in pile houses (on stilts) and they also found the oldest wheel with an axle near here. The wheel and axle remnants are in the National Museum in Ljubljana and are dated at 5,200 years old!

We biked along the base of a mountain front with fields to our right, going through occasional villages. At the head of the Borovniščica Valley was a 569 m long and 48 m high viaduct that had been built in 1857 to carry two tracks of the railway. The viaduct was bombed 22 times during WWII and finally destroyed in 1944.

A little farther along we came to the Technical Museum of Slovenia in the town of Bistra. The entire castle by the Bistra Springs has been turned into a showcase collection of human industry. There are sections devoted to cars, from the Model T to a modern bus, with a lot of interesting cars in between. There is another part with bicycles of every kind, and a series of brake styles you can test. Check out the front wheel of the bike below. Those springs must have been the first suspension system!

Early suspension system on a bike
There is a large section on forestry and all the ingenious devices for cutting, hauling, and then milling the wood, and fine woodworking. One area has a giant blacksmith forge and the myriad tools that blacksmiths use. There is an entire section on printing, including many devices for early print-making. The first book in Slovenia was printed in 1550! There is also a large section on natural history, with stuffed ibex and all. And an area devoted to textiles from early spinning and weaving, to manmade fabrics. It was a huge and fascinating museum in the beautiful setting of an old castle!

Carpentry tools
This chair reminded me of the Carol Burnett Show, when Lily Tomlin did the little girl skit and swung her feet. I had to try it!

For those two people that requested a photo of me!
 Soon after Bistra, we entered Vhrnika, the town where we stayed. Vrhnika is the birthplace of Ivan Cankar (1876-1918), a Slovene writer, playwright, essayist, poet and political activist. He is regarded as the greatest writer in the Slovene language, with some comparisons to Franz Kafka and James Joyce. I took a picture of the hosue where he was born, but he moved around Vhrnika a lot and there is an entire tour you can take of all the places he lived.

Birth home of Ivan Cankar
I walked about 20 minutes south of town to Močilnik spring. This spring is interesting because it just looks like a very still, almost stagnant pool, and then it begins flowing vigorously and becomes a clear creek.

Greek myth: The Goddess Athena instructs the shipbuilder Argus to build a ship and name it Argo. The ship carries Jason and his Argonauts on their quest to find the Golden Fleece. King Aeëtus tries to stop Jason, but his daughter Medea falls in love with him. She gives him a magic potion, causing the dragon guarding the fleece to sleep. With the Golden Fleece in tow, the Argonauts start heading home, but end up traveling upriver to Močilnik where the river ends. Jason is so mad he beats his fist against the cliff face and makes a hole with his fist. The symbol for the town of Vhrnika is the ship Argo, and they celebrate Argonaut Days in mid-June each year.

Where Jason's hand hit the wall!
After seeing the quiet spring, this writing from Ivan Cankar makes more sense:


“Wrapped in cold darkness Močilnik has kept his ancient secrets on the bottom of his deepest depths; no one has ever asked him for them and he has never offered them to anyone. From under the huge grey rocks and their dark silence the pale green waters of Močilnik wrest themselves free to halt and spread in the hollow, to recover from their long journey through underground realms, full of wonders, in the shadow of the willows. Its tranquil surface looks like a wide open eye, not awake yet, but staring out of the red sunset of dreams barely eloped. Only when they are fully recovered and finish dreaming, the waters of Močilnik enter the narrow river bed and slowly set out toward the flat field and bright sun.”