April 30 – Portorož to Trieste
Yes, we have crossed another border…just like that… all of a sudden…we’re in yet another country!
We had no plans to return to Italy on this trip, but leaving Portorož, our route took us so close to the border that we thought we’d just pop across and investigate Trieste before we head back into Slovenia. We spent about six weeks riding through Italy on our last trip and…well…we didn’t bond with the place. We just didn’t feel the magic at all. So, we thought we might as well go back for a visit and give it another go, so over the border we went and…Buongiorno Italia!
We left Portorož on the fabulous Parenzana line, the old rail line that is now a dedicated traffic-free bike path and we were on this most of the way, with very little road riding until right at the end. The path weaved through trees and through old rail tunnels with some little hills just to keep the legs talking, but mostly flat.
We passed a lot of other cyclists, since this is a popular route and the entire route links Trieste with Poreč in Croatia. One group of cyclists rode past us and the man gave a cheery, “Bonjour!”
“Bonjour!” I returned. It was actually funny as we passed other cyclists because there were so many and obviously lots of different nationalities, so no one quite seemed to know how to greet each other. Many of us just exchanged smiles, waves and nods because I didn’t know what language the oncoming cyclists spoke and they obviously didn’t know ours, we were just random fellow touring cyclists breezing past one another. What made it funny, was sometimes we would greet each other and sort of mumble a hybrid mix of language greetings that sort of came out like, “Dobergutello” that we would sort of mumble with closed lips hoping it would be interpreted by the recipient with at least part of their language and we would each assume that we just hadn’t heard the other part of the greeting. We would assume the greeter was obviously using our own language and we must have just missed the complete word! Many of us seemed to instinctively do this, wave…smile…”Dobergutello” or something to that effect in a closed lip mumble. When we didn’t decide to create an entirely new version of Esperanto, we would just give big waves, big smiles and a nod for added effect. It is aptly named The Route of Health and Friendship because we were all very cheery and friendly along that path, stranger greeting stranger, as we were, in the shared pursuit of pedalling our legs off along a lovely path to places new.
The path passed by Izola so we decided to take a slight detour and duck in to take a look. It was another nice little town with cobbled streets and laneways, houses with shuttered windows and a nice harbour of boats. We walked the bikes around as much as we were able, to take it in and then we hit the path again.
This path was A1 fabulous. Right beside the Adriatic, exclusively for bikes and pedestrians, with our own lanes. This path even had a roundabout…a bike roundabout on a bike path, just for bikes. How cute is that! I am happy to say I was fearless in this roundabout my friends, fearless I tell you! Utterly cavalier and verging on cocky was I, as I spun my way into this dinky little traffic feature without a hint of traffic to concern myself with. What a breeze!
We stopped for elevenses beside the water, on a bench along a wide promenade on the outskirts of Koper. Lovely! We watched the passing parade of walkers, kids on scooters and a veritable Crufts of various dogs of all shapes and sizes. As we got up to leave, a family was walking towards us with the cutest little pup, a bit like a Silky Terrier pup, a little bundle of black and tan cuteness. “Aaaah”, I was thinking, “what a sweetheart,” and it came alongside us as we were putting foot to pedal. That did it. “Rararararrararrara,” that little teeny tiny pooch let forth with a spray of doggy invective in our direction. What is it about bikes! The mildest of canines can instantly become the wildest of beats as soon as the bike starts moving. This little pup had been the most angelic little thing until we actually moved on the bikes and then it was at us! It’s always the quiet ones!
On we went along the nice path and all of a sudden…border crossing. Just like that, under an arch we go and we are in Italy. Country number three!
We pedalled on, still on a traffic free path until our GPS decided to play games. We traded in our old GPS, ‘Dodgy Dave’, because on the last trip it would send us on all sorts of weird and unnecessary routes, like up goat tracks and through wheat fields and generally gave some very dodgy directions, hence its name. Our new GPS, that has been in action this trip, has been doing a top job, no Dodgy Dave this time, ‘Doin’ it Doug’ was indeed doing it for us…until today. Doug decided to channel a bit of Dave and took us to the end of the nice path and onto a road…a two lane road…a two lane one-way road…with us going the wrong way down said road. The two lanes of oncoming traffic and the ‘wrong way’ sign was a pretty big clue that Doug had done the dirty on us and sent us into a very dodgy situation indeed. A swift about turn and we were at least facing the right way and moving with the tide of traffic, so we high-tailed it back to the path, returned the way we had come and followed the signs to Trieste. Signs beat technology hands down!
Now we were in the traffic on very busy roads with real, fair-dinkum, traffic infested roundabouts to navigate and balance through, one handed, with signalling and lane changes. Hold on! Then Doug continued the dodginess by telling us we should haul the bikes up the two tiers of metal steps to the top of an overpass and walk the bikes across the road. Well that won’t be happening! We stayed on the road and we were in the thick of it, with on-ramps and off-ramps and slip lanes and lane changes and traffic heaving all around us, with some steep streets thrown in for good measure. It was full on! We even had a tunnel to go through and no lovely, old rail line tunnel this time, but a real traffic tunnel that was dark, with cars and trucks pulsing through it at a deafening rate. We looked down that dark barrel, it was 496m long and we gunned it. GO! The feet pushed the pedals and we haired through as fast as we could, choking down exhaust fumes, keeping our eyes on that glimmer of light at the end and making a beeline for it at a rate of knots. We made it!
We eventually made it into central Trieste and to the apartment where we’ll be staying, down by the water. Phew! The day started with a very peaceful ride and ended with an adrenalin rush!
Tomorrow we will roam and have a look around. It’s May Day holiday tomorrow so everything will be closed, but we will roam and stroll and saunter our way through the streets and rediscover a bit of Italy to see if we can feel the love. I’m up for it. Maybe we’ll bond this time. The mind is like a parachute…it works best when it’s open. My mind is indeed open, to see what I make of this city by the water. It looks lovely so far. Discoveries and learning abound tomorrow. Ciao!
Distance ridden: 44.71 km
Time in the saddle: 3 hours 27 minutes
Wrong turns: 5
Languages spoken: 2 (3 if you count one word of French and 4 if you count one word of invention)
Weather: sunny, mild, no wind, no rain!
Our route: (see that little dip out towards Muggia and back – wrong turn onto a one-way road, so back we go!)
That exclusive bike path must have been heaven! New word… I thought ‘cruft’ must have been a collective noun for cute puppies. I’ll try to slip it into my conversations over the next couple of days.
Yep, that path was a ripper! The passing parade of pooches just looked like Crufts dog show, with one very cute, very angry little participant!
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