From Ljubljana my journey took me north, on the advice of the hostel staff, to see the real Slovenian countryside. A gently sloping back-road broke from the forestry surrounding Ljubljana to reveal the vast plains of the Sava Valley, a huge glacial valley leading directly into the Julian Alps. My journey was far from isolated though, with Lidl providing me the option of cheap grub every 10km. I stopped at Bled for the night, a popular tourist destination with a picturesque castle and the surrounding mountains ripping the clouds from the sky like candyfloss and into the valley below.
A short cycle took me to the Vintgar Gorge, where the Radovna river has carved a deep and beautiful passage through the beech forest above, with trees clinging to the cliffs and rapids thrashing against the rocks below. It was surprisingly colourful and has an elevated wooden path leading through the best parts, ending at the Šum waterfall.
From here I continued following the Sava river, the same river I passed in Zagreb, to it’s source deep into the mountains. No easy task. But I was told that this road, the Vršič Pass, was one of the most scenic in Slovenia. Built as a supply road in World War 1 by Russian prisoners, it is now known as the Russian Road. Several people died during it’s construction. It rises from about 600m up to 1611m, almost 300m higher than the highest mountain in Scotland. It was a tough climb but absolutely worth it.
Aside from being able to essentially climb over a mountain without leaving my saddle, I was offered some of the best views of the surrounding peaks towering above me. Not to mention the epic descent that followed – in fact I’ve hardly climbed a hill since, and won’t all the way to Venice.
The road dropped me into the deep Trenta Valley, now I really was isolated. The ever-present mountains conceal the sun and leave just a narrow strip of blue sky above. Here lies nothing but the odd farm house, one smooth, meandering road and undisturbed nature. I followed the river Soča down and down, from valley to valley, seemingly endlessly until the mountains became hills and the hills became plains and wound up at the border town of Nova Gorica, my last destination in Slovenia before I enter Italy (for real this time!).