I had a couple hundred riding partners for a few hours leaving Villach. It seems there was some sort of event in which they closed off the road around a large lake, and we rolled for hours, the road to ourself! It was a lot of fun!
I was nervous to enter Slovenia. It is the beginning of a distinct cultural region which I am unfamiliar with. The language I nothing concerning, and can read nothing. I only spent three days in Slovenia, but I already feel comfortable, and will, I think, until I hit Turkey. I can say though, from the three phrases I have failed to remember, that it has something of Russian, Austrian, French, and Italian. Definitely Latin based, but in this case it is not helpful.
Climbing out of Austria into Slovenia was the hardest cycling, far and away, that I have ever done. The roads are not graded, really, so there was a lot of 15% or so, which I dragged my 100 pound bike up by some miracle. I must admit that I exceeded what I thought were my physical limitations without hurting myself. I would have been subject to pitying myself a lot more, but there was no one around to sympathize with me, and there was no getting around it, I needed to get through these mountains, there was nothing for it. I was dismayed as I rounded each corner though- the steep, winding curves just kept coming. That’s what I like about corners though- what is out of sight is out of mind, amd the journey is broken into little pieces, buffered by suspense. Good camping.
I have been climbing steep hills on the daily for the last four days, in fact. Slovenia and Croatia are hilly. Today I was gunning for Zagreb, and it was a long one. This was in part to my being turned away at the border. I rolled up, pulled my passport out, took off my glasses, and the guard asked me where I was from.
“United States,” I say.
“Where did you start?”
“You cannot cross here.”
“This point is for EU members only.”
At this point another guard, more amiable and with a better handle on English steps in. “This point is for EU members only. I would recommend that you go back into Dobova and take a train. It is the only way to get across with your bike.”
“So… can I ride my bike through Croatia?”
“But I can’t ride on this road.”
“No. The nearest point is North, but it would be two hours by bike at least. I would just take the train.”
I must have had a questioning look on my face. I have a very difficult time with rules that make no sense whatsoever. He implored me that what he was saying was true. “Go swim for two hours, then take the train.” Pipes in another guard.
Dismayed and a little upset, I turn around. Immediately I turn North. I fully intended, I will admit, to cross through a farm or something if I could. I found a road along the border, and soon realized that there was a river inbetween Slovenia and Croatia. There is also a wicked looking barbed wire fence…
There is a little village called Rakovec that has a border crossing about 5 kilometers North. Worth a shot! I roll up to this much smaller station and the gate raises. A police officer comes out of the booth.
“Can I cross here?”
The man laughs at my English and replies, “Probably not.” I hand him my passport and he rifles through it, as if searching for something. There is nothing but a Russian visa and an indiscernible Portuguese stamp.
“Where are you going?”
“No, next, Zagreb?”
“Yes.” I knew what he was asking, but I made sure he knew the scope of my trip. An older lady smoking a cigarette comes out and they rapidly converse in Slovak. They both re-enter the booth with my passport, bidding me wait. I sit there, patiently, trying to look charming. BOOM! I smile involuntarily. That, my friends, is the sound of a stamp. BOOM! Stamp number two. The man comes out with my passport and says that they weren’t supposed to let me through, but the next pointnis 20 kilometers away and up a big hill (I think this guy might cycle). I thank him profusely and cross the bridge, victorious! I couldn’t help smiling at the fortunate and very human interaction. What reasonable folks! I am grateful. I am glad to be inside tonight, for it is storming right now. This hostel has a bar, and is run by a very fun Australian chap. Bunch of partiers here, a lot of North Americans and English and Aussies. It was a nightmare getting into Zagreb, hopefully it will be easier getting out!
Tata for now