Difficulty: Hard – some very steep climbing
Attractions: Spectacular mountain scenery, wildflowers, delicious food, gelato, great people, some top notch bike trails, Ljubljana – Slovenia’s turquoise Soca River, waterfalls, fresh mountain air, Slovenia’s youthful and energetic capital city.
Best Time: Our experience cycling in May was great. Blue skies, snowy peaks, and no crazy summer traffic.
We pedaled higher and deeper into the mountains until the sweat trickling down our faces gave off an icy chill. Beside our bikes our two furry companions were trotting at full attention. Noses were twitching, tails were raised proudly, and their eyes were darting from side to side looking for the first glimpse of movement. Something juicy was lurking within the steep banks of pine forest either side of us.
It was May in the majestic peaks of the Italian Dolomites and a fresh one metre dump of snow was made all the more beautiful by a string of sunny days that had turned the sky into a deep blue canvas. It was cycling heaven, or at least our version of it. A tranquil mountain back-road, abundant nature and…
With a blur and a crackling of branches a family of deer were nimbly navigating through trunk and snow. Our wannabe hunting dog Paco let out a yelp and a trot burst into a sprint. Fortunately he was attached to the side of my overloaded bike via a harness and lead, and his exuberance was helping to propel me up the mountain.
As we climbed higher the snow thickened and the trees thinned. The road grades turned from unrelenting, to punishing, to downright masochistic. “Breath-taking? I’ll give you breath-taking”, the mountains sniggered.
During our time cycling through Italy, Jack, our fluffy Husky/Retriever/Collie/Grizzly Bear cross, had attained something of minor celebrity status. Narrow cobblestoned streets would often become congested with bottlenecks of admirers with the cries of “Ciao bello! Ciao bello!”
So it was no surprise that as we neared the top of the pass we heard someone whistling by the side of the road. Only this time there were no Italians in sight, just a lone marmot standing up on its hind legs letting his friends know that the circus had come to town. Our dogs had become used to boring old cows and had learned to tolerate sheep, but marmots!? This was too much…
Paco’s desperate sprint resumed while Jack quickened to a hurried lumber. With the help of the marmots we made it to the top of the 29 hairpin turns exhausted, exhilarated and ready for a catnap. But it was time for the dogs to put up their paws and enjoy the wind in their fur. It was time for gravity to do its thing.
Whooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!! The north face of the mountain was simply awe inspiring. As I flashed by a group of cross country skiers packing up their car I honked my rubber ducky style horn and waved. Before I knew it I was already past them bending around the next hairpin turn.
We stopped half way down the mountain to let our brakes cool down, when a car pulled over to the side of the road. It was the skiers wondering if we’d like to join them for lunch. Hmmm… a home cooked Italian feast with wine and fresh pasta? Let me think for a minute…
Part 2 through Austria & Slovenia coming soon…