“I’m sorry, but the City Night Line doesn’t stop in Utrecht Central Station tonight. You need to get to Arnhem quickly!”
It sounded so much more convenient: an overnight train to Vienna, Austria and no hassle with packing our bicycles safely for a flight. But our short bicycle adventure near the Alps starts with quite some stress…
We rush to the platform to catch the train to Arnhem, so we can make it in time. The train is packed, but I manage to squeeze us and our loaded rigs inside. Looking at some angry faces, I guess not everyone appreciates my efforts. Well, we have a train to catch! About an hour later we fall down on our beds for the night and we pop a bottle of wine. (You see, for us Dutchies 50 kilometers further is ‘the other side of the country!’) But, all’s well, so let our trip begin!
The next afternoon we arrive in pretty Vienna and we decide to start riding immediately. We leave the busy city behind us and soon we find ourselves on quiet and narrow roads towards Neusiedler See. The landscape is hilly and with one last larger climb we reach the lake and find a campsite to pitch our tent. The office is already closed, so we don’t have a key for the washrooms. I politely follow another woman inside and pretend it’s perfectly normal that I’m stalking her… Elmar isn’t that lucky so he is doomed to take a cold shower on the beach, butt-naked in the moonlight. Isn’t it romantic? 😉
Totally refreshed, we eat our famous pasta-pesto meal and we finish the day with freshly brewed coffee. It’s a great feeling to be on the road again and to sleep in our own little home.
It rained all night, but we soon leave the rain in Austria and ride through sunny Hungary on an actual bicycle route through vineyards. The track sometimes hits a 10+% climb, but is mostly car-free. The blue grapes look ready to pick and turn into nice wines. We pass small villages with names I cannot pronounce and tiny pictoresque churches dot the landscape. Unfortunately dark clouds return and the planned track through the forest has turned into a mudpool, which makes us decide to take the normal road towards the border and into Slovenia. It has been a quick and dirty inspection of Hungary, we leave the rest of the country for another adventure.
As we cycle through Maribor on the Drava River we decide to stay here an extra day and stroll through the streets of this lovely town. With the sun shining again it’s pretty warm, which means: we desperately need some icecream. And what do you know: they sell excellent icecream here! Oh, and did I mention the espresso and cappuccinos? Wow! What else do you need? I fell in love with this country instantly! It’s charming teletubby landscape, cute tiny churches and tourist-free farmroads all add up to a positive experience. All we need is some spectacular mountain scenery and I’m happy. 😉
We do find that a couple of days later as we reach Triglav National Park. Just after Kranj we pick up an offroad bikepacking route and cycle passed Bled into the hills. We start the climb towards Vrsic Pass, no more than 1611 meter high. The total distance from Kransjka Gora to the pass is 11 kilometers and we have a little more than 600 meters to gain. My nerdy brain starts calculating and I figure it’s a nice 5% climb (more or less). WRONG. With the nearly lever first few kilometers, the percentages start to rise and soon we find ourselves puffing up 15+% hairpins… cobblestone hairpins.
Triglav National Park is named after the highest peak in Slovenia, which looms over the valley at 2864 meters. The road up to Vrsic Pass is rewarding with the rough tree-less peaks watching over us. After about 24 hairpins we reach the top and enjoy our lunch, while middleaged Germans in Porsches rush by. We follow this old military road down to Trenta through the Soca Valley accompanied by the emerald waters of the Soca River, before we pitch our tent at a campsite. Our short adventure in Slovenia has come to an end, tomorrow we will leave for Italy. Slovenia has pleasantly surprised us and next time we’ll finish the whole bikepacking route!