Facing east – village of Zajelšje, Slovenia

Taking to the Hills – Brkini Bike Route I

As I mentioned in this post a few days ago, I’ll be spending some time in the Brkini Hills of south western Slovenia over the next couple of months to unwind from my recent seven-month overland trip through South America. It’s a beautiful if relatively unknown region of the country, with a fairly light English language web presence. So, through a series of almost-daily bike rides, I’m hoping to change that.

I have roots in the area –my mother was born and grew up in the village of Pregarje, more or less the geographic center of the region, and where I’m staying— so I have watched the region’s evolution, first during occasional visits in my youth and again since moving to Slovenia permanently nearly a decade ago.  It’ll be fantastic to finally explore it, at a more deliberate pace, by bike.

Tatre, Slovenia

Early afternoon in Tatre, Slovenia


According to wiki, the Brkini Hills border “on the north on the Reka River, on the southwest on the Materija Valley (Matarsko podolje), on the northwest on the Karst Plateau (Kras), and on the southeast on the Jelšane Valley (Jelšansko podolje).” I’ll add more specifics about the geography and history in future posts.

This first route descends from Pregarje to Obrov, then just beyond Markovščina, back up through the villages of Slivje and Tatre before turning back to Pregarje.  It’s just under thirty kilometers with just enough vertical climb to break a sweat or two.  Note: the section between the villages of Obrov and Markovščina, about six kilometers is on highway E61, a busy two-lane that connects the Italian port city of Trieste and Croatia’s Istrian port town of Rijeka, which means lots of truck and trailer traffic. I’ve only been on it a few times by bike and despite its inviting scenery, in each case was eager to get on another road.



The numbers:
Distance: Just under 29 km (18mi)
Cumulative vertical climb: 460m (1509ft)
Total riding time: 1hr 43min
Avg. speed: 17.25 kph (10.71mph)
Max speed: 55.78 kph (34.6mph)

And a few more photos. Any questions? Don’t hesitate!

Village of Slivje, Slovenia

Slivje, Slovenia

Village of Orehek, Slovenia

Village of Orehek, Slovenia

Local church, Tatre, Slovenia

Local church, Tatre, Slovenia

From Obrov, pick a port: The Croatian port at Rijeka, Slovenia's primary hub at Koper, or Italy's northeast port at Trieste

From Obrov, pick a port: The Croatian port at Rijeka, Slovenia’s primary hub at Koper, or Italy’s northeast port at Trieste

Local church, Obrov, Slovenia

Local church, Obrov, Slovenia

Common in the Slovenian karst - sink holes

Common in the karst – sink holes



These snaps are this week’s contribution for Travel Photo Thursday (#TPThursday on twitter) hosted by Nancie on her website, Budget Travelers Sandbox. When you have few minutes to browse, check out Nancie’s photos and those of others who take part. You’ll see some great photos and visit some wonderful places. The direct link for this week’s post is here.

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European Cyclists’ Federation Launches Inaugural EU wide Cycling Barometer

European Cyclists’ Federation Launches Inaugural EU wide Cycling Barometer

This study by the European Cyclists’ Federation, released yesterday in the run up to next week’s Velo-City 2013 international conference, served as a strong reminder of how far ahead the old continent is in terms of bicycling culture, at least in comparison with South America, and presumably, Central and North America.

While traveling through South America over the past 19 weeks, I’ve only seen dedicated bike lanes in a few areas of Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Quito, Popayan and Medellin, and none in Bolivia or Peru (Cusco and Lima).

By the way – Slovenia ranked #12 among the 27 EU countries, pretty much where I expected it would fall in such a study.

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Ljubljana 0483

European Mobility Week in Ljubljana

Ljubljana was one of 1,995 cities that took part in European Mobility Week, which came to an official close at midnight last night. Here, a large chunk of Slovenska Cesta, one of the principal boulevards in the center of town, was closed to traffic for the past seven days with only buses, delivery, emergency and official vehicles granted access. And bikes. It was fun to ride down the center of a street which is usually crammed with cars. The reduction in noise and cleaner air were palpable.

These photos were taken yesterday where Slovenska Cesta meets Cankarjeva and Copova. Some people seemed a bit confused by the car-less streets. Others, particularly the younger set, adapted quite easily.

No cars doesn’t mean not looking both ways before crossing.

The aim of the mobility campaign is to encourage local authorities to introduce and promote sustainable transport measures, i.e. alternatives to cars. Following that theme, this closure wasn’t just symbolic. By this time next year the same stretch between Šubičeva Street and Gosposvetska Road will be closed permanently, adding another layer of a (largely) traffic-free area in the center of the Slovenian capital. This fits nicely into my simple sustainability formula: fewer cars = progress.

One year from now: no through traffic

I quite likely won’t be in town for the official closing ceremony next year, so here’s a quick video tour of that stretch of road for the Ljubljana-curious among you. It was a very quiet Saturday afternoon, with the streets almost ominously deserted. The music? A lovely ditty, Ganimedes de vuelta otra vez de nuevo, by the Argentine band Lanark, whose Free Music Archive page is here. And yes, the second half is slightly sped up.

And who seems to be best at promoting mobility? Of those 1,995 cities taking part, a whopping 606 are in Spain and 548 in Austria.

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Clipped Wings and Anti-Fascists – Twelve Pics From my First (!) 100km Bike Ride

I biked over 100 kilometers yesterday for the first time. That may not be a big deal for some people, but for a recovering former chain smoker like me, it is.

The bulk of it was from the city of Cerknica back to Ljubljana via Rakitna. Which meant lots of hills, too. Which meant plenty of stops to take photos. Above is the view from village of Gorenja Brezovica, which is southwest of Ljubljana, to the northwest. I would have missed this view if I hadn’t been on my bike.

To the geographically curious, here’s a route map of the Cerknica to Ljubljana part. When I descended from the hills to the Ljubljana Moors, I felt remarkably good so I just kept pedaling around. 100km became a quest. And I haven’t even felt too bad today. :)

A few more shots:

I didn’t clip his wings. I swear.

Memorial in Cerknica – Engraving reads: For the Victims of Fascism

In Begunje pri Cerknici

Barn, village of Kržišče

Near Gorenja Brezovica

Near Gorenja Brezovica

‘Death to Fascism’ – Rakitna

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Shooting in the Rain

It was a rainy day and a Monday too, but that didn’t bring me down. At all. A post in a FB group reminded me that I hadn’t yet finished Traces of a Friendship: Alberto Giacometti, a biography of the sculptor that I bought more than two years ago. And I made time for that. I’m nearly done.

And I also made time to watch and enjoy Neil Gaiman’s 10 tips for working in the arts to graduates of The University of the Arts in Philadelphia. It’s an amazingly entertaining 19 minutes. Maybe because Gaiman never went to college makes this one of the finest commencement addresses I’ve ever heard.

And I also made some time to go out and shoot a bit in the rain. The one above was shoot from the roof – even in the rain, cyclists in Ljubljana are ridiculously law-abiding, aren’t they? This one is from the roof as well and the third at Ljubljana’s central Preseren Square. I wasn’t on my bike. I prefer long rainy walks. Don’t you?

Bicycle Diaries Audio Book excerpt

Just a few days after Christmas last year, I was slowly worming my way through the security line at Montreal’s airport reading through the last pages of David Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries. The first security guard stopped me to ask just one question:

“So, you’re reading a little Che Guevara?”

I smiled. “No, that was Motorcycle Diaries. This is the self-powered version.”

He laughed, but made me step aside anyway before asking me to empty my entire backpack.

Mostly travelogue, Bicycle Diaries is an interesting, entertaining and snappy read by the former Talking Heads lead man who has, for more than two decades, travelled the world with his own folding bike.  He muses about art, music, fashion, urban design and architecture, and dabbles in some history, religion and politics as well. The chapters on Buenos Aires, Manila and American cities particularly stand out a year later.

There’s a terrific excerpt from the audiobook version of the book on Boing Boing. Even if you’ve read the book, check it out!

Coming Soon (LJ Pic of the Day)

Is there a better way to restart the LJ Pic of the Day project –as well as re-open the café– than with this, a promise that unparalleled pleasures of the mind, body, spirit and soul lie in wait just around the corner? I think not.

This was taken yesterday, near an entrance to Cankarjev Dom, Ljubljana’s (and Slovenia’s) premiere cultural center [home][eng].

About a year ago, LJ Pic of the Day reached a record 38 straight daily posts. With the typically busy summer now fading to memory, surpassing that with this daily chore is the immediate goal.

For the LJ Pic of the Day Archive, go here. If you feel a Ljubljana image overdose is in order, go here.

Ljubljana 0163, originally uploaded by pirano.

Oslo (and other) city bikes

I see quite a few offerings like this for municipally-run bicycle rentals. Pick up the bike at a typical station, like this one in Oslo, and drop it off at another. Any idea that really needs to spread. Everywhere.

Rates in the Norwegian capital – NOK 80 (EUR 8.85/USD 12.37) per day, with a three hour limit per bike. For Oslo residents, same rate for a full year.

More Oslo info here. For elsewhere, try here.