We spent a wonderful two nights in Ljubljana and grew very fond of the small city. We spent our ‘free’ day doing a walking tour and spending the afternoon with a lovely Canadian couple that were staying in our hostel. After wondering what to do with our last few hours in the city, we finally decided on one rather odd activity; a mind maze (a seemingly regular thing to do in Ljubljana). You are placed in a room with various objects, and the aim of the game is to escape the room in under an hour, piecing together the clues you find. We ended up leaving the room with 10 seconds to spare and we had such fun doing it. We were skeptical beforehand and we could hardly stop talking about it for the few hours after. Sadly, we left pretty little Ljubljana and set off for the caves and Castle of Postojna (which is between the Italian coast and Ljubljana). We cycled quickly and arrived at 12:15. At this point we pondered whether it might be best to see the caves and then head onwards to Trieste today instead of tomorrow. We spent an hour and a half in the caves and it was just indescribable. The caves were overwhelming beautiful and so enchanting. There was even a train inside the cave that drove around for 5 kilometres in a cave system that spans 21 kilometres! We left the caves in utter astonishment and cycled 10 kilometres onwards to the castle of Predjama. The castle was built into the cliff face and it was just as beautiful and impressive. Hidden away in the rock is the most amazingly intricate and well-maintained castle, and we felt so lucky to have been able to witness such astounding creations in one day. It was 15:30 now and we had two choices. Number 1: stay the night in the unexciting town of Postojna (which was what we had originally planned). Or, number 2: cycle 30 more miles to Italy!! We went with the latter and cycled straight to Trieste. The ride was fairly easy and we were bursting with excitement as we had our first glimpse of the Mediterranean. Making our way into Trieste was more challenging than we had expected, as we dodged the crazed Italian drivers and struggled to keep our balance on the cobbled roads which somehow always seemed to be going downhill. We had no accommodation booked here, and so frantically went in search of a cheap place to stay. Luckily, we found a small hotel near the centre of the city for only 20€ a night and dumped our bags in the room. All we could think about was delicious Italian food. In fact, we had been dreaming about it all day, and that was what had motivated us to carry on and reach Italy. After a day of 70 miles, up and down the hilly countryside, we treated ourselves to a delicious pizza and pasta dinner. ITALY, we love you already.
The alarm clock sounded, and after dreaming of a palm beach with mojitos in both hands, I quickly realised that I was not in fact in paradise, however, was in a peculiar hotel in the middle of Slovenia, and that another day of cycling followed. We had our daily stop at the supermarket and were on our bikes by 11am. We cycled very fast for about 20 miles with beautiful countryside all around us. However, the flat roads soon turned to hills and as we slowly ascended, we pictured beautiful Slovenian girls awaiting us at the very top. This was not the case, although we did enjoy a lovely descent. We stopped for lunch about 15 miles outside of Ljubljana and feasted on our sandwiches. Just as we sat down, it started to rain; typical. After taking some photos of the beautiful countryside and mountains that we had just climbed, we slowly made our way into the city. With a population of only 300 000, Ljubljana was a lot smaller than we had previously imagined and we arrived soon after at our hostel. We were in a 6 bed dorm with Mexicans, Irish and a Taiwanese girl. That is the great thing about hostels, meeting so many different people from all backgrounds. We tasted Mexican chili sweets and spoke about Taiwanese politics before going to visit the Ljubljana castle (2nd castle in two days). We enjoyed a lovely dinner on the riverfront and Sasha found out that he had passed his university year so we went for a celebratory drink and walk, when it then started to rain; again!
We had another short day today, cycling only 43 miles. After having a buffet breakfast and stocking up on bananas and jaffa cakes, we set off. We had travelled south up until now, but today we turned the compass on our bikes and started heading westward towards the centre of Slovenia, however not before one last breakfast stop at the famous maribor ice cream shop. Full up of ice cream, we left the city and turned on our trusted friend garmy. Sasha had in fact downloaded some maps onto his phone so we decided to follow that instead of garmy. This ended up being a foolish foolish mistake as we followed a path up a huge hill only to be faced with a dead end at the very top. I was extremely unhappy and this successfully put me into a grump. I rue the day that I went against garmy as he sneered and chuckled at us for our obstinate disobedience. Never again! Unfortunately we followed a main road for most of the day and so stopped for lunch at a roadside petrol station. Our usual ham and cheese sandwich followed. After a long downhill descent, we arrived in Celje, a city inbetween Maribor and Ljubljana. The city was very industrial and we were staying in a hotel that seemed like THE place to be in Celje. The hotel had a terrace bar, a sports pub, a nightclub and a marriage was taking place as we were checking in. Quite bizarre. Since we arrived fairly early in the day, we went to visit the Celje castle above the city which was fantastic. The castle was extremely impressive however after about 15 minutes, it started to pour with rain. We arrived back at the hotel absolutely soaked. Luckily a Slovenian pub dinner awaited us, and so feeling re-fuelled, we headed up to bed.
We had a very short day today and so woke up a leisurely 15 minutes later than normal. After our breakfast of bread and jam which we are becoming very accustomed to now, we set off, direction Slovenia. Crossing into another country is always exciting and so we hurriedly cycled to the border. We found a path only for pedestrians and cyclists to cross and were greeted by a big Slovenia sign. We spent the next 15 minutes putting on the self timer on my camera and trying to capture mid air jumping shots. We were very excited indeed to be in Slovenia. After jumping about like happy little children, we were back on our way. We followed the river for a while before making our way southward to Maribor – the second biggest city in Slovenia. After 35 miles of cycling, we arrived and were pleasantly surprised by the lovely city centre. We went straight onto trip advisor to see what the main attractions were, and the number one thing to do here is to go to an ice cream shop. We felt compelled to try the no.1 activity; and we were not disappointed. An enormous ice cream for only 1€!! It was so good in fact that we went back a couple of hours later to have another. We are even planning our breakfast there. After watching a beautiful sunset over Maribor, we slowly wandered back to the hotel where Sasha enjoyed the luxury of a double bed.