Saturday, July 12, 2008

August 12 Florence to Trieste by Train, Trieste ITALY to Izola SLOVENIA

Man, I caught the train out of Florence at 4:35 A.M. I stayed up all night at the hostel so I wouldn't miss getting to the station on time. First, I watched Braveheart (in English) with a crowd of hostelers, then I used the computer to catch up on all the world news I've been missing. The world keeps twirling even when I go biking.

The Italian train system is pretty friendly to cyclists. Alot of the regional trains have a designated car for bikes. You must buy a bike pass, about $5.00 for the day, along with your ticket. I took the train from Florence (Firenze) to Bologna, then Bologna to Venice (Venezia), the Venice to Trieste.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

August 13 Izola SLOVENIA to Vranja CROATIA 115 K / 72 Miles

Today was one of those days. It was very cool to be in Slovenia and then Croatia. But I began the day on the coast and therefore the tourist traffic. On top of this Slovenia has a minimalist approach to oad signs. They don't bother with numbers. Then the maps turned out to be miserable. There were times the road turned to gravel. So I turn around because it was not passable. I'd ask directions and they would tell me to take a road, a paved road, that was not on the map. I would head backwards turn onto a road that was not on the map, and Voila, I was okay. But this added miles and slowed me considerbly. Next thing, about 2:00 P.M. I notice it is getting hotter than h-e-double L. It became deathly hot. The hottest of the entire tour so far. There were many, many, steep climbs. I did stop in some nifty villages; Korte Slovenia, Sterna, Oprtalj, and Vrh Croatia. I was crossing the Istrian Peninsula in August, cruising past wine vineyards and not much else, and it was H-O-T. When I reached the border between the two countries I faced my first border crossing check-point. Leaving Slovenia they looked at my passport and stamped it. A few hundred meters later I just showed my passport and was in Croatia. The line of traffic coming from Croatia was very long. Lots of Italian tourists I am told.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

August 14 Vranja CROATIA to Rijeka CROATIA via Vela Učka

Today wasn't the longest of days but it contained a monumental climb, Vela Učka, The big Učka. I began cycling at 6:38 from my tent site in a farmers field in Vranja. Yesterday I ran out of daylight and couldn't reach my desired destination in Rijeka due to the miserable maps I had purchased. Thus I had no choice but to coast down into Vranja and ask the first folks I spotted about tenting. Good fortune smiled. The college-aged girl, I assume the farmer's daughter, spoke perfect English and I was pointed to the field across from there home. Anyway, after 200 meters the climb began, about 4K to where the Big Učka kicked in. I thought my legs were a little toasted from yesterday's roller coaster up and down 14% hills, but not this toasted. Then I thought this is really steep. Then I was comparing it to climbing Mont Ventoux with panniers. A few kilometers there was a sign (photo) proving the steepness. And it was even steeper before the sign. WOW, Whoa!!! Thankfully it was ONLY 5K. I guess a little fitness helps. All totaled the climb was 9K. Then a terrific downhill all the way into Rijeka where I holed up at the Hostel International. On the way down I stopped at a small market in Matulji where I met a cyclist, David, by asking him directions. He was about to the climb the Vela Učka. He spoke enough English to have a good conversation. He is Italian with a Croatian girlfriend. He asked me if I spoke French or Croatian or Italian before he talked to me in English. Since 1:00 this afternoon I've been strolling around City Center, gathering info from the tourism office and eating and figuring out my next moves..

Sunday, July 6, 2008

August 15 Rijeka Croatia Rest Day - Pilgrimage to the Monastery Tsart

Zero miles on the bike but I happened to be near Tsart, a kind of suburb of Rijeka, where there is a 700 year old Franciscan Monastery and a famous Roman Catholic Pilgrimage destination (Pope John Paul II himself came there a few years back). And since August 15th is a National Religious Holiday, The Assumption of Mary, I decided rather than to bike to take in this Croatian cultural and religious experience. Photos will becoming shortly I hope. (I dropped my camera the other day and hope to get it repaired tomorrow In Ljubljana. I am in Kočevje Slovenia today.) There were thousands of pilgrims at the monastery throughout the morning. Services were outdoors and there was one Mass after another. So people continually flowed in and out of the outdoor worship area, then they would slowly stroll through the church to pray in front of the shrines. It was quite interesting.