Seduced by Slovenia

The Loibl Pass

Our escape route from Austria into Slovenia was the Loibl Pass. This is a one mile tunnel that has been carved into Karavanke chain of the Southern Limestone Alps 1,067 meters above sea level. Our Austrian adventure finished with us climbing this steep pass in a race against the clock. We needed to make it up before darkness fell and left us stranded for the night but this mighty opponent was not going to let us go without a fight.

It was our second mountain pass of the day but it is the gradient not the height of the climb that is the greatest challenge. There are several long stretches between 7% and 12% and if this does not mean anything to you take my word for it this makes it a tough climb. We made it to the top drenched in sweat, breathing heavily but pleased with out efforts. We walked through the tunnel (I told you the lesson was learnt in Zell am See) and found the border marked in the middle. By the time we reached the other side the light was fading. As we put on our jackets for the descent it began to pour with rain. Andy sensibly suggested we stay put and not risk a mountain descent in the dark and wet. The rain continued and after a large, well deserved dinner we scouted the area for a camp spot. With severely limited options we decided to pitch up on the terrace of a restaurant hidden from view of the road with views down over the mountains. A room with a view indeed.

We rose early and enjoyed the fruits of the previous days climb. As the morning progressed we were immensely pleased to find that the quiet Slovenian roads followed the valleys and we were able to admire the mountains without having to climb them. We soon found ourselves in Ljubljana. At the campsite we were elated to discover they had a pool! They solemnly informed us that it was closed. Slightly confused given that it was mid-day we inquired when it would open. ‘May’ was the retort, apparently despite it being early September and 30 degrees it was the off season so the pool was closed for winter. You could have filled that pool twice with our anguished tears.

We spent the next few days getting acquainted with the city, enjoying the ‘sights’ and relaxing with a few beers. We were lucky to have Stuart Sinclar-Smith a local expat to show us around and introduce us to some very
interesting people. Slovenia is a small country with a population of around 2

million and is today the richest Slavic nation-state per capita. In sharp contrast to the other former Yugoslavian states it is largely secular and its transition to independence was marked with only a ten day war while the rest of the region suffered with war for years and this is where the charity War Child was born.

During our stay we met a local called Ben who was a keen cyclist and instructor. We discovered that he was a friend of Marko Baloh a world record

holding cyclist and serial competitor in the ‘Race Across America‘ where you are required to cycle 3,000 miles in under 10 days. Think about that for a minute. The film ‘Bicycle Dreams’ shows the events of the 2006 race and is mind blowing. I highly recommend you watch it, it certainly inspired Andy and I during our preparation for this expedition. Ben put us in to touch with Marko and he invited us to his house to talk to him. We spent three hours talking with Marko and his wife Irma, they were incredibly friendly and humble, it was an honour to spend time with them.

Our time in Ljubljana had come to an end and we were sad to say goodbye. It was evident in Slovenia that we had begun to move away from Western Europe, only small differences but they were visible. It was exciting to be heading to the Adriatic sea and our progress through Europe was tangible. We needed to move on though as a rendezvous with my brother Dan had been made for the Croatian island of Krk….

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