I was selected to be a part of an amazing experience put together by the Slovenian Tourist Board to highlight the diversity of Slovenia. Six cycling enthusiasts from six different countries (Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, UK and Australia) were joined together to share this unforgettable journey to feel, taste, smell, hear and truly see Slovenia.
I was picked up from my apartment in Žaga and was taken through Italy and Austria to eventually arrive in the gorgeous capital city of Ljubljana. We got straight into cycling and were taken on the classic city tour by Anze, an official city guide. He was super friendly and very informative. We cycled through the old town to where the river splits into the canal, met the cute nutrias, visited the ghetto of Metelkova then took the funicular up to Ljubljana castle for dinner. We arrived as the sun was setting and it had a spectacular view across the city rooftops looking out to the mountains.
Dinner at restaurant Gostlina na Gradu was exceptional. It boasts traditional Slovenian cuisine and it really delivered. The vegetarian options were superb with an obvious menu of fresh, local and seasonal produce. Appetizers consisted of soft cheese stuffed courgette flowers served on asparagus puree followed by a gorgeous wild asparagus soup. My vegetarian main was flavoured polenta, topped with asparagus (again!) and Tolmin cheese sauce. Tolmin is a small town close to where I live in the Soča Valley so it was nice to taste something from this region. The dessert was called ‘castle cake’ which was white chocolate set mousse with a strawberry gel centre on a chocolate cake base with strawberry crisps and strawberry puree. It was light and delicious. With the meal we drank local Slovenian white wine, it had a slight amber colour with an intense flavour. I don’t usually opt for white wine but this was something special and partnered perfectly with my main.
Check out the video below which shows what we got up to on our cycle tour of Ljubljana:
Our second day started with a 2 hour drive to the village of Mežica to the Peca underground, an abandoned iron ore mine that closed in 1994. We met with our awesome guide Lara and she kitted us up with helmets and mountain bikes. We entered the mine and I soon realised I was wearing completely inappropriate clothing. The mine was 10°C and I was wearing shorts and no gloves. When we cycled fast through the mine you really felt the cold and wind on your hands and I could hardly brake as my fingers were so numb! We stopped off at various places in the mine, the most interesting part being the mould that grows on the wood down there. The air is 90% humidity which is perfect growing conditions for it and it is actually edible, it looks a bit like cotton wool. Safe to say I didn’t try it, but I was tempted.
As we exited the mine the outside temperature of 23°C was a welcoming change. A further 2km cycle ride took us back to where we started and we enjoyed a fabulous buffet lunch of local specialties. I got to try skuta, a traditional Slovenian curd cheese which was served with rye bread and pumpkin oil washed down with a chilled Lasko beer.
A quick change of attire (mainly adding layers) then we jumped on the carriage train that used to transport the miners to work. What an experience! The carriages were tiny wooden boxes that rattled along the rusting train tracks. It was pitch black and it felt like you were being thrown down the mine, hurtling along at 100 km/h. In fact, we were only travelling 10 km/h and only went about 2km in distance into the mine but it felt a lot longer. We then had to walk down 472 rusting metal steps to pick up our kayaking gear. This consisted of huge waterproof dungarees and wellies.
Kayaking 700m beneath the surface was a really cool experience. The water was 10.8°C and drinkable. This water has seeped in through Mount Peca that was sitting above us. The kayaking consisted of travelling through small tunnels and finding big caverns with deep water. Petra, from Germany, loves ice swimming and decided to take a dip! A hike back up the steps and a trip back on the train led us out of the mine, and I felt great respect for the miners who used to work there.
We spent the evening in an eco hotel which was a beautiful homely bed and breakfast, specialising in mountain bike trips. We had a rustic evening meal that was served by the owners with 70% of the produce coming from their vegetable garden. We had vegetable broth, a main of roasted vegetables and finished with dried pear dumplings with homemade plum jam.
Check out the video below which shows what I got up to on day 2:
Mariah and I started our day in Krško city and explored the Posavje region together with a professional triathlete called Jaro and a city tour guide Ksenja. Ten minutes into cycling towards Brestanica castle, Jaro got a puncture but after a quick change of bikes we carried on up the steep hill to reach the castle entrance where we got a fantastic tour. We then cycled towards the House of the Chocolate Kunej where we sampled some delightful chocolate wine. They had white wine infused with white chocolate and red wine infused with dark chocolate. The red wine smelt just like dark chocolate and the taste had a hint of sweet chocolate. It was a lovely dessert wine.
We also stopped by beautiful vineyards near Raka village and sampled the local spritzer drink. After, we visited an island on the river Kostanjevica na Krki and the gallery of Božidar Jakac, one of the most famous Slovenian painters.
Check out the day 3 video here: