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Getting my bike stuck inside Lidls


sunny 38 °C

From Salzburg the plan was to cycle north to southern Poland, then turn south east and cycle more or less straight to Istanbul. But due to a few complications it wasn't to be. Back to the thinking board, and I soon decide on cycling the irresistible looking Eurovelo number 8, also known as the 'Mediterranean route'. I would join it in Rijeka, where it would take me south east along the coastline. Just south of Montenegro I would leave it, heading inland across a mountainous looking Albania, and with a quick skit though Macedonia, I'd rejoin the coastline in Greece, finishing in Istanbul. So that's the new plan! Let's see how it goes.

Having spent a week in Austria, with it's vast mountainous vistas, it's crisp clear rivers and overpriced supermarkets, I was happy to get going. But of course, not without another Austrian storm. Having learn't of my paranoia for camping in thunderstorms, I decided to look into this perilous combination. Following a little internet research it seemed that the code to go by was basically if it's stormy, head indoors (I assumed a tent did not constitute 'Indoors'). I asked a farmer if he had a shelter I could sleep in. He grinned, and after helping him fix his tractor, we headed up the hill and back to his house. We spent the evening drinking beer, sharing a few jokes and watching the terrific display of lightening, as it slowly crawled across the valley. He told me of a time when he was caught out hiking in a thunderstorm. He was following a ridge when a lightening bolt landed 50 meters away, spitting small bits of rock and apparently leaving a hole the size of a small car. This only increased my sense of comfort as I bunked down under the timber roof of his carpenters workshop.

For all the unpredictable events and variety of possibilities which makes traveling so enjoyable, there are always the more familiar and essential processes inbetween; eating, brushing teeth, cycling! And this monotony characterised the next few days. A couple of big climbs, a few denials for shelter following more thunderstorms, and many passed cows later, I collapsed on the Austrian-Slovenian boarder, suffering from post climb exhaustion (a bone grinding 24% in some places!). The only suitably flat piece of land I could find was a tarmac square behind the border office, where I shared my peripheral space with a few suspect looking tissues - YUCK! A quick up and out, and a tasty valley decent for breakfast.

Today would take me through Slovenia. I was interested to see what this country was like. No doubt partly due to it's recent inclusion in the EU (2004), transformation was all around; Large houses popping up. New, shiny, modern SUV's on the road, and the occasional, featureless concrete retail park, punctuated with the familiar marks of capitalism - McDonalds, Hennies, Lidl's........... 'But no Tescos', I noted. Yet whatever this may suggest, Slovenia had a captivating charm. It was environmental pristine, and small, quite villages would sit comfortably within the hills, surrounded by sensitively cultivated fields of crops. Old farming practices where evident everywhere. Farmers were tending to their fields with antiquated equipment, and old timber framed racks would be draped with drying hay. A few locals where more than happy to point me in the direction of Ljublijana.

Much like the surrounding countryside, Ljublijana had a charming modesty, and made me think of a smaller, less busy Venice. The main river, lined with cafes and restaurants, took tour boats up and down, passing under the many stone arch bridges. Heading out I cycled down a wide sunny street which had lots of interesting little shops, all meticulously dressed concerning their various fashions. Pavements, a gleaming river, heat, people, dogs, cats, pigeons, shadows, carrrrrrssss ...... The quiet suburbs where lulling me into to afternoon daze.............

BUSY ROAD!!! Move your arse and wake up..... Still many miles to make. Following an arduous and boring afternoon ride, I stop to camp in a quiet village. I have a chat to two young friendly locals who assure me that behind that hill is a perfect camp. What follows is the worst night sleep, or rather lack of, that I can ever remember. Firstly, I unravel my tent to discover the rank remnants of 3 squashed slugs - they literally smell of what I can only describe as garlic and poo! And look pretty similar too. Having done my best to remove the viscous sludge with grass, I fall asleep. BANG!! It's raining, and a blasted thunderstorm is more or less overhead. Choosing not sleep in a tent in the middle of a field I grab my sleeping bag, step out into the rain and head for the nearest shelter. Turning on my torch I realise it's actually a giant beehive shelter! Thoughts of being chased by angry bees through a thunderstorm prevail, so I pluck up the courage to ask my two young friends if I can stay in their garage. Having been reassured earlier that if there's anything I need, don't hesitate to ask, I knock briskly on their door. It's 2 AM. Very unfortunately their father answers the door. Clearly shocked at the sight of me, he stands their in his white briefs, and despite my best ability to communicate my immanent doom, to my amazement he refuses me shelter, and shuts the door. Frankly pissed off, though understanding of his reaction, I head down the road and find a half built house. This'll do. I fall asleep in my sleeping bag on a concrete floor, thankful I'm not in that tent.

Down to Italy today, spending the afternoon in the port of Trieste. But before I do I stop at Lidls for some goodies. I always park my bike inside the entrance porch area; there's always lots of room and the bike is more secure there. Having enjoyed surveying the now familiar items in the air conditioning, I purchase my things and exit the building. I walk up to the entrance to retrieve my bike, but the doors don't open. I realise what has happened with a sort of stupid inevitability. Today is Sunday, and the shop closes at 3 - it is now 5 past. An Italian lady comes out and declares many words to me in a displeased tone, then walks off. I stand there, hoping one of the staff will realise what I've done. 10 minutes later, once the shop is emptied a member of staff retrieves my bike, opens the door and passes it to me. We share amused smiles.

Boasting the largest square that opens onto a seafront in Europe, Trieste, with it's tight back streets and sea breeze was a refreshing change from the hills. After enjoying a lengthy bathe in the sea, I head south east, across some hilly farmland and my second border of the day, into Croatia. After a brief search and a few questions by the border police, I sail down a winding road, into the most serene, quite and almost heavenly town I've ever been to. With it's slight breeze in the afternoon sun I couldn't help but stop, cook up some pasta on one of it's many park benches and muse on nothing in particular.....Buzet was situated a long way from anywhere, amongst rolling countryside, and it was simply a place and time that was utterly fantastic.

Next day is spent cycling towards the Croatian coasts where it is met, after passing the most impressively high chimney I've ever seen. Not something I usually get excited about, I couldn't help myself, so I stopped, and took a photo. Round the corner and there lay the Adriatic sea, with the hills of the Croatian coastline on the far side. My first post Chilled (my tea loving friend who joined me through Italy) brew and a few croissants later, I whizzed through Rijeka, looking for the much anticipated Eurovelo 8 cycle route. Sadly it didn't materialise, so I found the number 8 road instead, and headed south east towards Split, with what felt like half of Europe.

After an OK sleep in a town I rejoined the road, and after not very long slowed down to say hello to an Asian man with a backpack. Turns out he's walking from Istanbul to Spain, carrying everything he needs. He was 110 days in, and about half way. Awsome! He was both inspiring and encouraging in his originality, and after exchanging some photo's and undergoing the usual travellers conduct of offering water, we said farewell. When I was cycling in the Alps I also saw a Frenchman walking to Alaska, pushing a pram full of his belongings. I wonder where he is now....

2 days of being on this road and the constant drone of ostentatious German cars is getting a bit much. I head inland for some respite, and come across a hill top town. The main street is enjoying the morning sun, with stalls selling lush, fresh colored fruit and veg, and a few cafe's cater for relaxing locals, quietly conversing amongst themselves. A scene of simple pleasures ..... A lady offers me a few tomatoes to enjoy for my lunch. As I wonder down I notice a sign on the wall proclaiming a 'tourist free zone'; a sentiment I fully appreciate, especially as I'm writing this in the very popular tourist destination of Split. I can't help but think that once somewhere becomes a popular tourist destination, it's spirit is somewhat lost. The old, functional purpose goes, displaced by a mere aesthetic appreciation - like an outdoor museum, the droves circulate to take in the walls and towers, where they now exist for the cameras. From a locals perspective this seems as sad as it is inevitable, but I suppose the changing of the season provides some relief. I am of course, guilty of all of this. So may the hills remain!

Dubrovnik is next. Lots of swimming and cycling to be done, and pray, no more blasted thunderstorms.

Really looking forward to Albania - I hear good things.

BTW apologies for all mistaques and bad grammer - my laptop doesn't given me longish, so it'sa rush!

Posted by Banana Spokes 06:36 Archived in Slovenia

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