Photos from Slovenia…

I found some photos from that last day’s ride in Slovenia when we rode down to the Skocjan caves. These were from Lejla’s camera and I forgot all about them until I found them the other day.

What a gorgeous day that was!







Back to Slovenia…

I woke up in San Vito di Cadore at a respectably late hour, gathered my motorcycle from the garage and rode it out to the front to load up. Checkout was quick, and after a last wave to my hosts, got onto the road. In spite of the gorgeous surroundings, I felt a little unwell and my heart was not really in the riding. Maybe the euphoria of the previous day had been a bit much to handle. If that were true, I pondered what an entire week in the Dolomities might do to my system. It didn’t bear thinking about.

I decided to ride to Tolmudin before setting on a route for the rest of the way back to Slovenia. The road was every bit as fantastic as could be, with the added benefit of zero traffic on the road at that early hour. What few stragglers I did encounter, I could easily overtake. It still intrigues me that Europeans didn’t mind getting passed by motorcycles at all. Some of the stunts I pulled would have gotten me shot in the United States (land of the free).

Anyway even despite my groggy state, I enjoyed the few passes and switchbacks I rode through. By noon however, I was ready to stop and get something to eat. After getting lost a little in Tolmudin thanks to  the GPS continually routing me onto a road dug up by construction, I spied a bright, gleaming cafe called Cafe Leopoldi, went around the block and came back again and pulled onto the sidewalk across the street. A few drops of rain fell as I walked into the cafe.

I ordered my usual panini (ham and cheese sandwich) and water (still water from tap, no gas) and sat at a windowside table. After finishing half the sandwich and poring over my maps of Italy and Slovenia, I laid my head down again, still not feeling very good. I had originally planned on routing through the middle of Italy to enter Slovenia at Socka to ride up north through the Soca Valley and Verzic pass to Bled and finally to Ljubljana. It seemed more than I could do though. I could have split the ride into two days, but they predicted heavy rains in Slovenia the next day which was now becoming increasingly tiresome, and I made the same decision I made in North America the previous year when I was faced with the prospect of riding the Skyline Ridge through a rage of thunderstorms. I decided I’d rather skip that ride than ride through it in miserable weather and not see very much anyway.

I routed instead through the northernmost tip of Italy over straight roads to reach Slovenia at Kranjska Gora. From there it would be about 40 miles to Bled to see the famous lake, and then a short stint to Ljubljana.

Straight roads necessarily meant a great deal of dullness and passing of cars and trucks although I was lucky in that there weren’t very many of either out on the roads. It was a dull, lacklustre day although the mountains and crisscrossing bridges still provided a certain thrill.

Before I knew it, Italian road signs changed to Slovenian and I was on the west end of the Slovenian Alps. The roads gradually narrowed, the surface appeared more and more eroded, and traffic increased as I passed from one little town to another, gingerly testing the waters to see if the good Slovenian people had the same indulgence to eager lane splitting motorcyclists as the Germans and Italians did. They appeared to, so I continued.

Traffic ground to a complete standstill and stop-go pattern as I neared Bled. Far ahead in the distance, the reason was apparent. A tall construction truck with blinking lights crawled along at approximately 5mph and speeding cars in the oncoming lane negated all attempts at passing. I ground my teeth with frustration as I crawled with the traffic, before I finally gave up and pulled in to a gas station to refuel. I texted Tadej to see if he was back home from his travels and received a response that he was still at the airport and wouldn’t be home until late that evening. I called his brother who said I could come over to his place and spend the night, an offer which I gratefully accepted.

I got back on the road where traffic was now flowing normally and rode to the lake in less than 5 minutes. Even in the dull, lacklastre light, it gleamed green and clear. Ducks floated on its surface and little boats plied across the waters towards the island at its center. A castle stood in the distance in a matter of fact manner, as they do in Europe. I walked by the bank and took a few pictures before leaving.


70 more kms to Ljubljana. On the freeway, I could do it in less than an hour, but the freeways in Slovenia require one to have a vignette (paid for a week, month or a year), which I didn’t have and had no intention of procuring for an hour’s ride. I set the GPS to turn off “Toll Roads” and headed southeast.

To say that I flew through the rolling hills and backroads would be an understatement, but my ride possessed a certain fluidity and although I’m not a gamer, it had that feeling of playing a video game where you didn’t really care how many lives you got because you knew that just the one would be enough and no matter how dangerous a casual onlooker would deem your rate of acceleration, you knew you could do not wrong. For here I was in my element, in my favorite type of roads – low, rolling hills, corners aplenty, rural farmlands and green trees and gray cracked tarmac for as far as the eyes could see.

I was on the outskirts of Ljubljana before I knew it, a few lumbering trucks ahead of me signaling that the dream ride was over. I slowed down and rode the last few kilometres to Pegamova, pulled up outside Matej’s apartments and called him.

End of the ride and a meeting with a familiar face! :D There’s no better feeling than this. I parked and we carried my stuff upstairs, laughing and joking all the way. Deep down, I was a little sad at the thought of the epic journey coming to an end. I knew that I would still ride in Slovenia for a couple more days with Tadej, but those would be day rides. The major part of it was over.


The next day the skies open and it poured down all day long. Riding was out of the question. Even walking was a bit much, so I mostly stayed indoors and unpacked my luggage, blogged and slept. Matej and I got lunch at the city center, which was the only time I emerged outdoors until late that night when Tadej came over to pick me up to stay at his place the last two nights.


The forecast for the next day was glorious sunshine all day long with temperatures of 20C, a little on the cold side, but perfect for motorcycling. We planned to ride southwest down to the Skocjan caves, where I would stop to look at the caves, while the others went on to Osp to climb Apparently every Slovenian – man, woman and child is a mountain climber. It’s in their blood, bewildering as it was to me. I declined their offer to be taught how to climb, preferring rock solid terra firm myself. We planned on either riding to Piran on the seaside later, or turning back towards Ljubljana if time didn’t permit.

Since we had a super late start because of a myriad of trip logistics and we were on road a little after 11:30PM. There were five of us on three bikes, me on the BMW, Tadej and Darja on his Yamaha, and Lejla and Borut on his Honda.

Want a truly good ride? Go talk to the locals. And the locals didn’t fail to deliver as we wound through small tight unknown backroads that I would never have discovered on my own. All this without the help of any GPS even. I rode in the middle, content to follow and enjoy the ride. It was slow going because of the nature of the roads. We reached Pradmaja grad by 2:00PM where we proceeded to get a lunch that went on for far longer than we had expected. By the time we got out and headed to the caves, it was already 4:30PM. We parted ways here. I got my ticket and waited for the tour to take me through the caves.

P1000723   P1000741   P1000742

The caverns reminded me of the ones I had seen in Missouri many years ago at least in the first two “silent” caves. Then I reached the huge cavernous ones, gulped at how far below the river waters were, admired some rock formations that looked like an organ and others that formed a cascade of little pools. It was a good experience although I wish someone would have warned me that walking for two hours up and down 900 steps would be part of the experience. I might at least have brought a change of shoes along. I was completely exhausted when I emerged at 7:00PM.


Courtesy of Wikipedia

Tadej and Darja were still climbing, so I decided to head back to Ljubljana. I knew that I should probably stop and rest because I was bone tired and hungry, but I wanted to make it back before the light started failing. The backroads would be no fun when it got cold and dark.

I navigated to a gas station to find that it was closed. I was momentarily chilled and wondered if all gas stations here closed early like they reportedly did in Italy. The next one I tried was open though, to my relief. I filled up and bought some nuts and chocolate, said hello to another motorcyclist who was stopped at the door and chatting with someone, and sat at a picnic table to eat. It wasn’t much, but it would keep me going until Ljubljana.

When I was ready to walk back to the bike, an older guy at the station gesticulated at me excitedly. Apparently he had heard from the young guys that I was from the US and was excitedly telling this to another guy who was fueling up his car. I walked back smiling, but a bit puzzled. He all but grabbed me by my arm and dragged me into the station, brought the gas station attendant with us to a back room and asked him to pull up Google Maps on the computer. They typed in “Seattle, Washington” and laughed with amusement as it came up. I helped zoom in a bit further and showed them where I lived. More uproar and laughter. He spoke a bit of English and told me that his father was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but he had never been able to visit there. I told them who I was and why I was there. It was all rather sweet and amusing. I asked them if I could take a picture of them, to which they consented, and they asked me how they could find me on Facebook. Ah, modern times! I wished they spoke better English (or I spoke better Slovenian). I bet I’d have had a grand time with that good bunch.


This incident perked up my spirits considerably and I set off for the last part of my ride feeling refreshed and cheerful. This ride again was not unlike the one from two days before, with the flying and the video game effect. It was good going until it grew dark, as I had predicted. I love riding at night, but only in the cities. I was a little paranoid of the forest rats (deer) emerging onto the roads, and I was a little annoyed at the headlamps of oncoming cars glinting onto my visor and blinding me (I wonder if the Pin Lock I had installed had anything to do with it?). It got some annoying that I finally decided to bite the bullet, risk a 300 euro fine, and got on the  motorway for the last 25kms back. Fortunately, I made it without getting caught, and made it to Gameljne unscathed.

It was freezing cold now. My GPS couldn’t find Tadej’s place, so I waited at a neighboring pub, Medo Bar for him. Unfortunately they had stopped serving food, as had probably every place in the region on a Sunday night. I ate the remnants of my nuts and drank water until he finally arrived. We went back to his place, made a rude meal of a tuna sandwich and a tisane and chatted with his mum until the small hours of the  night before finally calling it a night.

The next day was more rain and wind and freezing cold. It made me think that I had ended my tour had the perfect time. Any more of this weather would have been unthinkable. I spent my last day doing my final packing, buying some small gifts, walking around Mitelkova and the city center, and hanging out with Tadej. We met Matej for dinner later that night for (some very odd) pizza and Union beer.


And then it was over. This morning I caught a plane out of Ljubljana to head back to Seattle. Back home again. Just when I was getting used to Europe too.

I cannot wait to come back here again.

Day 3 in Ljubljana

Brief update from Ljubljana. Slept in this morning and felt pretty crappy even after I did wake up and get out of bed. Damn jetlag!

Got a spot of breakfast at the pizzeria from my first day here. Breakfast appears to be a rather novel concept here. Most people don’t do it like they do in the US. They didn’t have a breakfast menu and my scrambled eggs and toast turned out to be a fried egg with warm bread. It was tasty though, so no complaints. :)

Then I walked a block away to a tools store to get a Phillips head screwdriver because I forgot to bring mine. Got a set of four for a good price. Also picked up a hex wrench set to get the 2.5 mm one in case my GPS decides to go AWOL on me (the only way to fix a frozen Garmin is to take the battery out, and yes I appear to have misplaced the wrench I brought with me too). Walked about 20 more minutes down Dunajska cesta to find a key place I had looked up to make copies of the bike key (I only got one key) only to find that the place was closed. Meh… guess I should have called before. Took a bus back to Pegamova ulica.

Then went about fixing up the GPS mount and I finally have it working and installed and done. I find that the tank bag the bike comes with holds my camelbak bladder nicely too. I also found an assortment of locks in the tank bag and top case. I get the hint. :P I tried to take the top box off but couldn’t get any of the nuts to budge. I found out later tht Givi topboxes have a button inside to easily take the case on and off the bike. I’ll give that a try tommorrow.

After this I must have slept for about an hour. When I woke up, it was almost 3:00PM (where on earth does the time go?) and bright and sunny outside. Since my body was now synced to 7:00AM Seattle time, I was fresh and alive and ready to go. I changed into a dress and walked out the sunshine and felt like a million dollars. How I had missed the sun!

I took a bus down to the city center, took some better pictures, then walked by the river, which bifurcated to the right. This was far enough from the main tourist hot spot that I managed to find a good pizzeria with cheap food. I got a glass of red wine and horse meat goulash with bread balls. It was delicious, except that the portion size was very American and I could barely eat about half of it.


This done, I walked up north a little towards the Roman Wall – the remnant of a wall that stood in a city that exited there from 10-13AD. It was quiet and peaceful and a really nice walk down the park that was on the inside of the wall. I guess it was far enough away from the main hub that the tourists didn’t venture down there.


Christoph called and we arranged to meet at Preseren trg in front of the McDonalds (lol). :P Him and his friend Daniel were staying the night and we’re going to ride to Vienna tomorrow morning. They turned out to be a blast. We went to a sidewalk cafe and got the local beer. They got food and I got a Slovenian dessert – some kind of cake which I didn’t like too much because it was more bitter than sweet. We talked and talked and got along really well. I think I’m going to enjoy riding with these guys. We might make a slight detour instead of going directly to Vienna if Christoph can get Monday off. It must be the staying within the city for so long, but I am longing to camp. They didn’t bring tents though, so that might not happen for a few days.

Oh well, Vienna, here I come!

Arrival in Ljubljana…

I arrived in Ljubljana at noon on the 29th, completely braindead from having been awake for 24 hours straight. To make things worse, Matej had to work until 3:00, so I would have to wait for almost three more hours before I could even think of sleep. Thankfully, he had booked a shuttle for me and I was greeted in Ljubljana airport lobby with a sign that said my name. The shuttle driver loaded up my bags and off we went. One of the passengers was a friendly Finnish girl who was in Slovenia for a course the university. She helped me call Matej, who talked to the shuttle driver and told him where to drop me off.

The shuttle cost only 8 euros and I got dropped off at a pizzeria close to Matej’s place on Pegamova Ulica. I ordered some pizza with sausage and bacon toppings, and got a vegetarian one instead. *sigh* I needed to eat more vegetables anyway, so I dug in. I played on the Droid when I wasn’t falling asleep in my food. Finally Matej showed up, we hugged and drank tea and talked for a little while. He turned out to be a lovely guy and was very easy to talk to.

We walked back to his apartment and he showed me to my room. I would have gone to bed right way, except that we had work to do. He took me to a local place where I had to sign some paperwork to get roadside assistance (a whopping 58 euros for a year because they had no option to get the service for just a month). After this, we went and got a sim card for my phone. It was practically impossible to get a card that would work for all the European countries, so I ended up getting a $25 prepaid card that would work in Slovenia for 15c a minute, and be in roaming for the rest of Europe. I’ll probably just use this phone for emergencies only. I *might* pick up sim cards in the various countries that I travel through though.

How it all started…

The flight is delayed and sitting on the runway because apparently they have an inadequate supply of water. It’s too early to start worrying about making my connections, so I figure I’ll spend some time writing.

What I really should do is sleep because I’m so sleep starved from getting only five hours of sleep last night – I had to wake up at 4AM to get to the airport at 5AM. But I see that it is 5PM in Slovenia now and I want to try and stay in that time zone as much as possible. I’m really wary of getting the jetlag from hell and losing days when I get there. This probably means that I try and stay awake throughout this flight, and get some sleep from Toronto to Frankfurt.

I have all sorts of good resolutions for this trip. I resolve to write more frequently, blog as often as I can, upload photos as frequently as possible and make at least one video diary recording at the end of the day. We’ll see how well I do once reality intervenes. I will also try and reply to comments as frequently as I can, although I hope that folks understand that this won’t always be possible.

I’ll start with a brief recap on the story so far, in other words, where am I going and why? I am headed to Ljubljana, the capital city of the gorgeous country of Slovenia in Eastern Europe. Why Slovenia? That’s just how it worked out. I would have preferred to have started somewhere more central, like Germany, but an opportunity landed in my lap where I had the chance to rent a motorcycle from a fellow rider in Slovenia.

Given my history with BMW, I’m not particularly excited about riding one of their bikes, but it had the advantage that it’s a bike I’m familiar with, having ridden an F650GS before. None of the standard bike rentals that I found in Europe were made for a person like me. The rates were also quite a bit exhorbitant, most averaging about $100/day. Shipping my own bike over wasn’t much of an option either, as it required a lot of co-ordination and organizing of shipping months in advance.

I had looked into purchasing a bike in Europe, but European countries typically do not allow non-citizens to register vehicles or get insurance, so this was a dead-end too. Also, even if you did find some sort of workaround, European bikes do not conform to US specs, which would further complicate the import of the bike back into the US.

There used to be an option a few years ago for people to purchase a new US spec BMW or Ducati in Europe, ride it around Europe, and drop it back at the factory or dealership who would then ship it to the US for them. Unfortunately BMW appears to have discontinued this, and I’m not sure if Ducati does this anymore either. Not that I really want to own a BMW or Ducati myself anyway. So an F650CS it is!

My plan is to start off in Ljubljana, ride around in the area a little bit, then head north through Austria to Vienna, possibly take a ferry across the Danube to Bratislava and back, the north again towards Berlin. From here, I will ponder which direction to go and how. As of now, I just want to get through the various flights and circumvent the myriad ways in which immigration and visas work.

Seattle to Slovenia

I’m all checked in and waiting at SeaTac arport waiting for my 8AM flight. I fly to Ljubljana, Slovenia with two layovers at Toronto and Frankfurt (My flights are  Air Canada 540 @8AM, Lufthansa 9635 @5:30PM and Lufthansa 2444/Adria Airlines @10:15AM, if you want to follow along and check my progress online). My Ortleib bag and two saddlebags fit perfectly into my two checkin baggages, weighing in at 48lbs and 38lbs each. I’m bringing a carry-all bag and my helmet with me into the plane. Checkin and security was pretty smooth. I got yogurt, granola and berries for breakfast, and a coffee that I didn’t touch. I picked up some souvenirs for my hosts in Ljubljana.

So this is it. There is no turning back now. And yes, there have been times in the past week or so when I have questioned the sanity of what I am about to do.

The past couple of weeks have been emotionally fraught with personal issues, wrapping up at work, running around doing last minute errands and mentally preparing myself for the month ahead. I tried to remind myself that this was going to be a *vacation* and I should be relieved to finally relax and let go, but the truth is that it won’t always be fun times. There’s going to be many, many times when I’m going to wish I was safe back at home, and I know I’ll miss the comfort and familiarity of Seattle and my life here.

In many ways, adventures seem to be the most fun when they are over and you’re home safe, and the worst at the beginning with all the trepedition and fear of what lies ahead and the naggin fear as you wonder whether you finally bit off more than you could chew.

A friend reminded me that this was what I was dreaming of during all those winter nights, longing for warm weather and escapades in far off lands. It puts things into perspective. And he was right, of course. I finally have what I live for through most of the year. And so it begins.