Posts Tagged ‘Koper’


Croatia is the country of smells. Intense, varied and beautiful. It started at the border. Croatia is the country of challenging cycle paths. I pushed my bike for the first time. And now, in October, it is the country of closed camping grounds. 馃檪

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It was amazing. At the border the cycle path left the car road and rose into the hills. Then it started. The smells. Fragrances that could be used in saunas. Beautiful exotic plants that I don’t recognize. Then pine. Then fennel. Burning wood. Every 100m it changed – the smell.
At first I meandered along breathing in deeply. It was a dirt path but fine to cycle along.

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Then the rocks on the road got more numerous. Big rocks in ruts to be avoided, and small rocks that slip under the wheel. Try to accelerate on them and the wheel skids. And then it got steep. Drahtesel slid out from beneath me as I slid into a rut. Then uphill I had no chance. Drahesel was pushed just as some strollers walked past. My failure was witnessed. And this was on the official istria tourist cycle path. I’m not tough enough apparently. Once I saw the asphalt road, I stuck to it.

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Istria is clearly the tourist drag. Villages bursting with places to eat and places to stay. Lots of ‘apps’ – not for smart phones but for staying overnight. 馃檪 And, of course, the villages are cute.

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I read a blog of a young cyclist that has cycled around the world. He listed some things that he learnt in his trip. He said how he learnt to sleep anywhere. A park, a field, a forest, wherever. I haven’t learnt that lesson yet. As it gets later in the afternoon I feel the stress increase. Where am I going to stay? Camping ground? If there’s none, a cheap hotel. I am now at the only open camping ground on the Istrian peninsula. Everything is closing or already closed. The day is approaching where I will sleep out there somewhere. It will be exciting and scary. And after a while, it’ll be nothing. But that day is in the future. Today I’m sitting in a restaurant with people who are staying in apps, drinking wine as they watch the sea lap on the shore.

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I don’t look like the other diners here. Hairy and unkept, with sharp tan lines. I am leaving civilization as the winter falls. I feel alive!

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White horses, science fiction underground river caverns, Trieste in sailing regatta fever, 50kg heave – no gym required, climb into Slovenia. All in beautiful sunshine. Thanks Marko for the tips!

Sunset in Koper

Sunset in Koper

A gushing river has etched out a massive cavern over millions of years. Perched on the side looking down, the river was far far below. The path I followed twisted and turned behind me, upwards to the silent cavern. Ahead was a bridge crossing the yawning depths, still far below the cavern roof. This gorge was massive. Without the man/woman-made path, lit up for my group, I would be in complete darkness. From above and below – rock. This gorge was underground.

The lit up path in the massive cavern

The lit up path in the massive cavern

The eery walls of white calcium carbonate, white pillars hanging from above and rising from below. A glisten would form on the bottom of a stalactite. The bulge of water would grow. And then, drip. And so they form, over thousands of years.
Different people see different shapes, said the guide. I see the ‘silence’ – a science fiction alien from ‘Doctor Who’. Or maybe one of the aliens from the film ‘Alien’ with Sigourney Weaver. Whatever I saw, it felt like I was in another world. Amazing.

Leaving the cavern

Leaving the cavern

But before, preparing me for my science fiction adjourn, I passed through the fields of Lothl贸rien from Lord of the Rings. Green, lush fields, with white horses frolicking in the sun. Legolas was just around the corner.

White horses in Lothl贸rien

White horses in Lothl贸rien

White horses in Lothl贸rien

White horses in Lothl贸rien

A fellow long-distance cyclist. Meet Samuel from France. Travelling a circuitous route from France to South America (via Greece). He didn’t join me into the caverns, and had gone by the time I emerged. We did go, together with Marko, to the cavern lookout. I guess our paths may cross on the way to Greece.

Canyon lookout

Canyon lookout

Me and Samuel

Me and Samuel

Me and Marko

Me and Marko

I wanted to see Trieste, which made my route today very convoluted. Marko had a brilliant tip of following an abandoned train track that went downhill all the way into the centre of Trieste. Fantastic!

Descent into Trieste

Descent into Trieste

Descent into Trieste

Descent into Trieste

Trieste was in sailing regatta fever. I made my way down to the shore, took the necessary ‘I was here’ picture, and then tried to find my way back. Not too easy.. OK. I don’t have a problem with going the wrong way up one way streets (otherwise I would still be there now). However, Trieste being so steep, at one point, the only way forward was up – and almost vertically up. No gym today, but a 50kg (bike and luggage) heave.

Piazza Unita in Trieste

Piazza Unita in Trieste

Gym training

Gym training

Once out of the centre, finding the way out of the city without freeways is also a challenge. Thanks to my little friends (that I discovered on the way from Venezia eastwards) – the black sticker with the red arrow.

My friend the cycling sticker

My friend the cycling sticker

Around and around, in and out, up and down, and then ‘Hello Slovenia’ (after a short steep uphill grunt).

Made it into Slovenia again

Made it into Slovenia again

Tonight is hostel night – in the seaside town of Koper in Slovenia. Tomorrow the Istrian peninsula in Croatia.

The alley with my hostel

The alley with my hostel