Ljubljana, Capital of Slovenia
We started the trip with two days in Ljubljana. We stayed at the city center and walked everywhere (cars aren’t allowed in the city center). On the first day, we landed mid-morning and got situated at the hotel. Things went a bit slower than normal due to our exhaustion from the flight (no sleep for me). We visited the castle at the top of the hill, walked around, signed up for a 5k the following evening and watched an ITU (draft-legal) duathlon and triathlon. It was another sleepless night for me, so I ended up getting breakfast at 6AM and fell asleep on a full stomach.
On the second day, we took a “free” tour of the town (paid for by voluntary tips of the tour guide). We learned a lot about the different buildings and the multiple bridges that crossed the town. The older part of the town by the castle was protected by the river, and the bridges linked the old town to the new. We then had a heavy lunch at a traditional Slovenian place which included duck pate wrapped in prosciutto along with different cuts of game.
After putting my bike together, we had a brief tour meeting, and headed over to the race. The nighttime 5k (started at 9PM) does 2 laps of the city center and crosses two different bridges. The course was a bit confusing as I didn’t understand any Slovenian. However, I liked running through the lit up old buildings and right next to folks having dinner and going to the bars. Even better, when we were done, they fed us a massive plate of pasta with meat sauce. I had another nearly sleepless night.
Day 1 Cycling: Divaca, Slovenia to Motovun, Croatia
We started the morning off with a train ride from Ljubljana to Divaca. It was a nice train ride, with a pretty and varied country side. On the way to lunch, the roads were smooth with a nice shoulder. The climbs were reasonable with sweeping descents. After lunch, we biked across the border between Slovenia and Croatia. Strangely enough, there was at least a mile or two of road that was no-man’s land between the Slovenia exit and the Croatia entrance.
We decided to take the “high road” “with some climbing” (according to Bob, the tour leader) to Oprtalj where we would meet up with the group taking the less hilly “low road.” The high road started (and continued) with some steep climbs that skyrocketed my heart rate. I had to stop a few times to let my heart settle down before continuing. Looking at Strava data, it was a Category 3 climb that went on for 1.8 miles and averaged 10.2%.
As a reward for the climbs, we saw gorgeous sweeping views (common theme for the entire trip). Some of my favorite memories were watching two women pushing an older farming truck down a hill to get it started, climbing through a quaint town and hanging a right to continue past it, and looking left during the undulation section of the hills and seeing a castle on a hill in the middle of the valley. When we stopped at Oprtalj, we could see Motovun, our destination, across the valley. This meant was had a great descent from Oprtalj, and more hills up to Motovun. For some reason, I thought we were done by the time we hit the parking lot for Motovun, but we had over a mile of climbing before reaching the pave. At the pave, I had to walk up the steep and uneven road. I was tired and hungry.
We stayed at Kastel atop Motovun, which meant a cool room and great views of the valley. Even better, we were in truffle region, so I had a dinner of truffle cheese, cream of mushroom (truffle) soup, and white truffle risotto. I was happy after dinner (and I finally got some much needed sleep).