May 8 – Ptuj to Maribor
We set off from Ptuj, through the cobbled streets as the town was waking up and people were beginning to go about their daily work and errands. A group of children, who looked to be pre-kinder age were being led through the streets in their high-vis vests, on a preschool outing, chanting a phrase as they toddled along. We planned to follow the Drava River cycle route all the way to Maribor, just a short ride, which was welcome after the tough hills of yesterday. The legs had earned a gentler workout.
The ride began along lovely quiet roads, weaving past fields of wheat with houses dotted along the hillsides. Apart from a few small ups and downs, it was pretty flat and we could tootle along without too much exertion. The scenery was rural and again, lovely. There is something about the greens here that are just different to the greens at home; so vibrant and such a variety of shades.
We passed a friendly horse who came up to the fence to say hello, so we stopped for a while and had a chat.
Onward along the peaceful roads and through little villages, with people tending their gardens or working in the fields. We were following the signs directing us along the designated Drava River route and it was well signed along the way.
We come to a fairly busy town and turned off the road, following a sign to a park, where we thought we’d find somewhere for elevenses. It was a top spot beside a lake, with the sun shining and a lone swan paddling around the edge. We set up our chairs and sat back in the sunshine for a relaxed elevenses break.
“I wish all days were slow days, so we had time for this” said Steve, “it’s nice to just sit back and relax.”
It was nice, knowing it was a short ride, so we weren’t rushing elevenses, thinking we still had another 50km to go. We watched the swan paddle and preen and then have a few unsuccessful attempts at flying. It got up a good speed paddling on top of the water and flapping furiously, but couldn’t get airborne. We just hoped it wasn’t stranded, unable to get off the lake. We eventually began packing up, ready to cycle on and the swan had another go at liftoff. It paddled and got up on top the water, its wings beating madly and then…it got some lift…and its feet lifted above the water and then…its body got above the water.
“Yeaeaeh…GO…GO…You can do it! Go you good thing, GOOOOO! Whoooooo!” I shouted, running beside the lake as it began to get airborne out in the middle. Its flight lasted a few seconds and it didn’t get much height, but at least it got up. I hope it continues to get going and eventually gets up in the sky and can head to wherever it wants to be.
We made our way back out onto the road and then we don’t know what happened but we must have missed a sign or taken a wrong turn because we were on a busy, busy road all the rest of the way to Maribor, about 10km with traffic beside us.
“What happened to the river path,” Steve said, puzzled, “it shouldn’t be like this. I thought we were going to be following the river all the way.”
Whatever happened, we were on a busy road and took ourselves up onto the footpath whenever we could, to get away from the traffic.
We rode into the centre of Maribor and sat in a park for some lunch before walking across the road to check in to the hostel we’re staying in. It’s a terrific hostel and the young woman at the front desk was amazing, so friendly and so helpful. She gave us a storeroom for the bikes and talked to us about our trip. We were heading out for a roam and decided to do some washing before we left. The hostel’s information said they had a laundry room, so we took our washing down, expecting to find washing machines for us to use, but the nice young woman showed us the washing machine they use, told us to fill it with our washing and she would take care of it. So, while we went off to explore, this lovely lady did our load of washing and then said she would put it in dryers for us and it would be ready when we returned. We weren’t expecting that at all and sure didn’t expect it to be done for us. She was just so kind and helpful, a real star.
We hit the streets of Maribor to see what we could discover and learn. Maribor is Slovenia’s second largest city after Ljubljana and it certainly has a different feel. It seems to be the grittier, street-wise cousin to the more genteel Ljubljana. Maribor has an industrial past and just prior to the Second World War it had the largest number of industrial plants in Slovenia. During the war it was used by Germany for war production, with the Germans building aircraft parts factories and a hydroelectric power station. Immediately after the war, there was a growth in industry, but it didn’t last. Over the years industry declined, companies went bankrupt and then in the 1990’s after the Gulf War and the Slovenian Independence War, Maribor’s industries took a real blow and have never really recovered. It’s a city that’s seen some tough times and while it has a nice Old Town and some beautiful buildings, it does have a different edge to it, from some of the other places we’ve been.
We strolled into the lovely, big, open, cobbled square with the Plague Column, which was erected in 1681 to mark the end of the plague in the city.
Then into a peaceful park bordered by the Cathedral, built in the first half of the 12th century, the theatre and the grand and stately university building.
Up the street we strolled and saw the City Castle, which was built by the Emperor Frederick III between 1478 and 1483.
As we strolled beside the river we saw a bank of swans, just like the fella who had joined us for elevenses. “That’s where he’s supposed to be,” I said to Steve, “he’s trying to fly the 10km here to be with them.” I hope he gets up, he was close, a little bit more time and a few more tries and I reckon he’ll be in the air and soaring to join his mates. As we strolled by the river, we also saw two cycle tourists on the other side, riding along the path.
“They know where to go,” I said.
“That’s the path we were supposed to ride in on,” said Steve, “we’ll make sure we ride out on it one way or another!”
Then, apart from another unintentionally extended visit to another enormous supermarket, in which this time Steve had to call me on the phone twice to locate me in the maze of aisles, that was the day. When we returned to Hostel Pekarna, we found our clothes had been washed and dried for us and despite our attempts and efforts, the delightful young woman would take no payment for it. These wonderful people!
A slow day. A short ride. A day we enjoyed. We took things easy, we pedalled along through some more lovely scenery and even though something went a bit haywire with the route we were supposed to be on, it was another nice ride and a great time experiencing new places and a new part of Slovenia, this country we are enjoying so much. We also met another lovely person who added to the list of kind people who have been so friendly and helpful. They are everywhere and we’re so glad we get to meet them.
From here our time in Slovenia is nearing an end. We are very close to the Austrian border now and our next ride will most likely take us over the line and into another new country. For now though, we’ll continue to soak up every Slovenian moment in this quiet, unassuming, beautiful country that is giving us golden moments every day.
Distance ridden: 28.4 km
Time in the saddle: 2 hours 8 minutes
Time spent lost and confused in Interspar Hypermarket: 1 hour