May 9 – Maribor to Leibnitz
How many songs have been written about rain I wonder?
Here comes the rain again, falling on my head like a memory…
Raindrops keep falling on my head…
It’s raining again…
I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain…
I can’t stand the rain, against my window…
I’m siiiingin’ in the rain, just siiiingin’ in the rain…
Well, a few were going through my head today, an entire music festival’s worth of rain themed songs were being performed between my ears, a musical tribute to our nemesis. As cycle tourists, we really can’t take a trick with the weather, it’s just out to haunt us and mess with our heads no matter what. Rain dogged us for most of our last, year long, tour and it seems it’s going to do it all over again for this one. We spent last night consulting no fewer than five different weather apps each of which were giving different forecasts but they all said some sort of wet was heading our way. We’d had our allotted two days without rain, so on the cycle we seem to be on with fine days and wet days, we were due to get wet. Sure enough, this morning it rained. What a surprise. We’d decided to wait and see what met us out the window this morning before deciding what to do. It was cloudy but not actually raining.
“Let’s ride on,” I said.
“Mmmm,” replied Steve with zero enthusiasm, “it’s going to rain.”
Sure enough, within half an hour, down came the rain.
“It’s not heavy though, and it’s not a storm, so let’s make some forward progress at least.”
“Mmmmmm,” came Steve’s reply, trying to contain his unbridled enthusiasm.
This went on for some time, with us both umming and aah-ing about what to do and in the end we decided to ride, even if it was a short one. There were weather forecasts for tomorrow that said fine and others that said thunderstorms, so better make a bit of progress today while the rain at least isn’t bucketing down.
“I’m not looking forward to this,” said Steve as we headed out the door.
“Neither am I,“ I said, “neither of us likes riding in the cold and wet, but it’s only short so let’s knock it out.”
Steve took the lead, with stellar navigation again to get us out of the city and onto a cycle route. The original route he’d planned seemed to be taking us in a direction we hadn’t expected, so he used the GPS and a couple of maps and apps and got us going in the right direction. The rain had thankfully stopped and it wasn’t too cold, so we set off on a path beside the busy traffic and eventually onto a quiet road beside the motorway. Well, I say quiet as in not much traffic, but it sure wasn’t a quiet ride with the motorway right beside us. Still, it was good to be tootling along without traffic and seeing some greenery around us.
We got about 10km in before the rain started again and while it wasn’t bucketing heavy, it wasn’t drizzle either and it was wet riding for sure. Then there was a final sting of a tough hill to get up. We had a few hills and the final one was a real kicker. Steve’s knee was starting to hurt, so we found a little shelter at the top of the hill and paused for a breather and to take some shelter from all that dastardly water falling on our heads.
On we went, down a hill and then beside another really busy road. We had a little bit of road riding but for the most part, we could get up on a path beside the road and out of the way of traffic. Then, there it was in front of us…the sign…the border…just like that we had left Slovenia and entered Austria. The wheels had turned into another new country. We saw what looked like a border crossing, with crossing guards in booths, but when we rode through, the man just waved us on and there it was, we were now officially in Austria, with another language to attempt.
After a little bit of time on the road, we then made it onto the Mur River Cycle Path and had a lovely pedal along a wide path, beside the river and under overhanging trees. Lovely. The rain was still coming down and it was chilly, but the path was wonderful. We passed our first person in Austria, a man walking his dog and he looked up and gave a cheery, “Hello” as we pedalled past. The path was signed with lots of cycle signs for different routes in different directions, so we’d obviously hit cycling territory.
We saw a small, path-side cafe that looked set up for cyclists using that particular path. It was closed but we made use of their outside tables under a roof, to have a quick elevenses under some shelter.
On we pedalled with the river beside us, trees above us and we passed some more people who again smiled and gave a greeting. We were having a very friendly welcome into this new country.
“I think it’s brightening!” I said to Steve. A phrase we learned from watching BBC weather and use whenever we think there might be an easing of the rain. It had seemed to ease a bit, although it didn’t last and we were soon at the mercy of the weather gremlins again, as the rain came down in earnest.
When our river path ended, we still managed to stay on cycle paths or lanes all the way into Leibnitz, our pit stop for the day. We hadn’t done a long ride, which was welcome in the weather and Steve’s knee was causing a bit of grief, so just as well.
So here we are in Austria. We’ve had a great introduction so far, despite the unfriendly weather. Now we get to explore another country, learn a bit of new language, learn new ways of doing things and soak up new experiences. Absolutely fab!
We loved our time in Slovenia and there are some memories, observations and thoughts about that country I will take with me. Here are a few:
- It is very green, both visually and ecologically.
- It has beautiful countryside and some beautiful, historic towns, villages and cities.
- The people are very kind and helpful.
- It’s a country of ice-cream lovers. There are ice-cream vendors everywhere and no matter what the weather, people are enjoying a cup or cone of their favourite creamy treat.
- The drivers are very patient and “bike savvy”, knowing what to do with bikes on the road and being very careful and kind. We were very grateful.
- It’s set up really well for cycling with lots of cycle paths and cycle lanes in towns and cities and lots of “watch out for cyclists” signs on the roads.
- Despite being a country with an obvious love of ice-cream, cheese, yoghurt, all manner of dairy and meat, usually pork, with these in abundance in shops, on menus and hotel buffets, it is a very vegan friendly country, with many places advertising vegan options, quite a few specifically vegan cafes and the supermarkets having large all vegan sections on their shelves. Far, far more than anything we see at home.
- Dogs are everywhere, looking very happy, healthy and very much a part of the family with the people they’re with. Many shops have water bowls and “wait areas” for dogs that are set up for canine comfort, if any of the pooches have to wait for their owners somewhere. Many places allow dogs inside though and they just trot right on in or are carried in with their people companions, including in hotels, something we don’t see at home, but is lovely to see here.
- There are quite a few hills and some of them are very long and some of them are very steep and many of them are very tiring to pedal up, but the Slovenian hills have absolutely magic views at the top of them.
- It is very diverse, with a different look and feel in different parts of the country. Further south felt and looked very Italian, while as we travelled north, there was a definite Austrian look to towns and buildings.
- Slovenia may fly under the radar a bit, tourism wise, but we would highly recommend it as a travel destination if anyone is looking for somewhere new or different to visit or explore. It’s a lovely country, with beautiful countryside and coastal towns, warm and helpful people and we loved every minute of our time there. Thanks Slovenia. Hvala.
Distance ridden: 36.2 km
Time in the saddle: 2 hours 52 minutes
Sogginess score (10 being like we just jumped into a swimming pool and 0 being bone dry): 6
Steve has been having lots of fun with his GoPro and making videos. He’s made one of today’s ride, so if you want to take a look, here it is: