That was what Friedel wanted to know as we pushed and sweated our way up a gruelling hill.
“Because we like it,” came the answer from Andrew, not entirely convincingly.
Ah. Of course we like it…. this is what we gave up our jobs for, right?!?
We’d heard that crossings into Slovenia could be mountainous, but we hadn’t envisioned going up at an angle so steep that even the racing cyclists had given up trying to pedal up the slope. The official grade on the road sign said 12% over four kilometers but it felt like at least 15% or maybe even more. In all the passes we covered going over the Alps we never reached a road as steep as this one. We huffed and we puffed and after nearly four hours of pushing – making for a mighty speed of 1km an hour – we reached the top at over 1,000m and began the glide down to the border crossing.
Although the road was going downhill we really had to pay attention and put our brakes on at every twist and turn because the route was so narrow there was no room for error and we had to be ready to stop on a dime if a car came along. The scenery was stunning over the mountains but our eyes were almost always on the road, which was not much wider than many bicycle paths.
After several kilometers of coasting along we reached the border, showed our passports to the Italian guard (we thought this was part of Europe now??) and then nearly turned around when we saw another hill looming in front of us. Thankfully this one was not as steep as the last one and we were able to make slow progress until finally the descent began again, this time into the Slovenian town of Zaga.
As we passed a pizzeria the four racing cyclists who passed us hours ago cheered our arrival and we chatted for a few minutes with them about their trip (one week from Munich to Ljublianja) and life back in their home country of Britain. We hit the road again and after a few rolling hills we set up camp in the pretty town of Kobarid, celebrating our arrival in a new country with a bottle of locally made Chardonnay.
Our first impressions of Slovenia are very good. Towns filled with neat, flower-covered houses. Mountains in the background. Emerald coloured rivers. It looks like one month in Eastern Europe may not be enough!