Our first impression of Slovenia is kind of dreary. The high mountain pass we've chosen in order to see something a little more unusual (as well as to avoid the high cost of the toll road) deposits us in a narrow valley with dark old farms and barns and houses which seem a shabbier imitation of the chalets of Austria. The sky is dark and the hills covered with less abundant shrubs. A few older people are out tilling small patches of ground. Few flowers are evident. We continue on to ugly Jelenice, still in a narrow valley, with our first view of classic drab Communist apartment blocks and a sprawl of industrial structures.
Fortunately this is not our destination. We ride on to Bled, and Slovenia is immediately redeemed by the charming vision of its lake surrounded by high snowy mountains. A castle perches high above the waters and a small church sits beckoning tourists to a little island near the shore. A small corner of the lake has been built up with hotels but overall the mood is peaceful and low-key.
We find a great campsite where the receptionist gives us a quick lesson in Slovenian. Dinner is a large portion of tasty weiner schnitzel at a local pub recommended by our guidebook. Though we came equipped with a general guide to Eastern Europe we are lucky to befriend Alan and Ellen (visiting from London). They are on their way out of the country and give us their book on Slovenia. We are able to pawn off our campground guide to Western Europe in return.
Erika is just delighted to be able to walk around the lake in the morning, as she has been going through withdrawal of her morning saunter around Lake Merritt in Oakland since leaving California. In the afternoon we take a ride to Lake Bohinj and walk up its 500 steps to the top of a waterfall.
After a few vacation-like days in Bled (yes, this is all just one big vacation--but some places convey a holiday atmosphere better than others) we are off to Ljubljana, the capitol city of Slovenia.
Dave navigates bravely through the sprawl of its not-particularly-charming outskirts and we eventually locate the campsite. Compared to the immaculate marble bathrooms of the Bled campground, this one ranks low as its plumbing is being repaired and the tent sites are muddy. There is a Chinese restaurant nearby, however, which promises to appease us somewhat with its lure of something to eat other than bread and cheese. We have been so spoiled by the abundance of eating options in San Francisco.
Old town Ljubljana turns out to be a delight, with a canal running through art-deco and 19th century facaded cafes on both sides.
Many trendy-jeans-clad-under-20-somethings bear evidence to the fact that this is a college town. We learn later that one in six residents of the town is a college student. Dave tries to upload some photos onto the photo CD and is horrified moments later to find that his entire stash of Europe pictures has somehow been erased from his allegedly non-rewriteable CD-R. The young-and-slightly-bored cafe manager is of little help. Pictureless, we drive across town to seek out an internet cafe with someone more knowledgeable.
Like magic, Dale shows up. We are in a little dead-end street at the address the book promised would hold an internet cafe, no internet cafe in sight. "Need some help?" someone says. As soon as we explain our predicament, he says, "Come on up! You can use my internet! I have a phone where you can call the U.S. for free! Make yourselves at home!" It is too good to be true. Dale is from Southern California and has lived in Ljubljana for 8 years doing ministry work with college students. He has also lived in a lot of other places and shares all kinds of interesting and useful information with us.
We end up spending 3 nights at Dale's spacious apartment, enjoying home-cooked Mexican food, delicious Bulgarian wine, and great company. Dale's generosity is wonderful and we are sorry to leave (but figure that ultimately he would probably prefer not to have 2 new permanent housemates). Thanks for everything Dale! (note: sadly, Dave was never able to retrieve his pictures).
On a day trip from the capitol we head east through rolling hills and pleasant villages along the glossy Krka river.
Zuzemberk Castle sits intriguingly by the side of the road so we pull over but realize we can't get a good view unless we walk down the hill to the river. There are fly fisherman casting in the river and we stop to watch.
A wirey, sunbaked old man gestures to us in that timeworn mime, cupping his hand and pretending to toss back a drink. We step into his home on the river where he pours us one shotglass after another of "mineral water". It is fairly firey and plenty tasty. For the next hours we attempt to convey our trip by drawing little pictures of motorcycles and world maps and he attempts to tell us stories of, perhaps, the collapse of Yugoslavia and how he got the large scar on his stomach. He shows us the contents of a small treasure box which includes a few large bullets and proclaims "Tito, Tito" proudly as he bestows Dave with a small red communist star to pin on his shirt. We have to move on before Dave gets so plastered he can't drive straight. It has been a rewarding if indecipherable cultural experience.
It is an unusually hot day and we pull over by the river to cool off and eat Slovenia's gas station's finest gourmet treat, a can of tuna with bread sticks. Continuing on the road we are surprised to see a flock of ostriches.
The final destination is a castle which Erika thinks is the foremost tourist attraction of Slovenia and turns out to be just another guest hotel with golf course. Okay, fine, so that tourist desitnation was some OTHER castle. You can't be right about EVERYTHING.
After bidding farewell to Dale, we arrive at Piran. This corner of Slovenia is on the coast right next to Italy and looks nothing like anything we have seen so far. It is a Venetian-style town on a harbor with very steep narrow streets on which Dave gets his first lesson on the difficulty of getting a grip on the bike on cobblestones. He is able to maneuver out of the dead-end we find ourselves in and get us back onto the scenic highway. We find another great campsite with a restaurant overlooking the coastline where we relax with a drink before dinner at a rustic Italian place nearby.
A rainy day is a good day to check out caves. So seeing as how the next day is once again wet and frigid we venture underground to the Skocjan Caves. This is a UNESCO heritage site and impresses us greatly with its VAST gaping slanted caverns and thundering underground river. Erika is tempted to join the evil photo-takers who are defying the guide and gathering memorable mementos right and left, but Dave does not want her reprimanded by the guide of the pack of school children behind us who snaps at someone in our group that "my kids are better behaved than you people". After the cave, we explore a few rainy towns (Piran, Koper, Izola) before returning back to camp and preparing for our next day's journey on to Croatia.
HUGE, 11.5 x 16.5 inches, beautifully printed in Germany on top quality stock! Photos are the winning images from over 600 entries in the 9th Annual HU Photo Contest!
"The calendar is magnificent!"
"I just wanted to say how much I'm loving the new, larger calendar!"
We share the profit with the winning photographers. YOU could be in the HU Calendar too - enter here!
Next HU Events
- Germany Autumn: Oct 23-26
- Aus VIC: Oct 24-26
- Aus NSW: Oct 31-Nov 2
- South Africa: Nov 13-16
- NEW! USA Virginia: Apr 9-12, 2015
- NEW! HUMM Morocco: May 13-16, 2015
- Canada West: Aug 20-23, 2015
- USA California: Sep 24-27, 2015
- Aus Queensland: Sep 24-27, 2015
- USA North Carolina: Oct 8-11, 2015
- Aus Perth: Oct 9-11, 2015
Take 40% off Road Heroes Part 1 until October 31 only!
Road Heroes features tales of adventure, joy and sheer terror by veteran travellers Peter and Kay Forwood (193 countries two-up on a Harley); Dr. Greg Frazier (5 times RTW); Tiffany Coates (RTW solo female); and Rene Cormier (University of Gravel Roads).
"Inspiring and hilarious!"
"I loved watching this DVD!"
"Lots of amazing stories and even more amazing photographs, it's great fun and very inspirational."
Check it out at the HU Store! Remember to use Coupon Code 'HEROES' on your order when you checkout.
What others say about HU...
"I just wanted to say thanks for doing this and sharing so much with the rest of us." Dave, USA
"Your website is a mecca of valuable information and the DVD series is informative, entertaining, and inspiring! The new look of the website is very impressive, updated and catchy. Thank you so very much!" Jennifer, Canada
"...Great site. Keep up the good work." Murray and Carmen, Australia
"We just finished a 7 month 22,000+ mile scouting trip from Alaska to the bottom of Chile and I can't tell you how many times we referred to your site for help. From how to adjust your valves, to where to stay in the back country of Peru. Horizons Unlimited was a key player in our success. Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world are in debt to your services." Alaska Riders
10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!
NEW! HU 2014 Adventure Travel T-shirts! are now available in several colors! Be the first kid on your block to have them! New lower prices on synths!
Check out the new Gildan Performance cotton-feel t-shirt - 100% poly, feels like soft cotton!
What turns you on to motorcycle travel?
Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!
New to Horizons Unlimited?
New to motorcycle travelling? New to the HU site? Confused? Too many options? It's really very simple - just 4 easy steps!
Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.Read more about Grant & Susan's story
Membership - help keep us going!
Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.
You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.
Books & DVDs
All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.
MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!
Story and photos copyright © All Rights Reserved.
Contact the author:
Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.
Hosted by: Horizons
Unlimited, the motorcycle travellers' website!
You can have your story here too - click for details!