To Črnomelj - Skipping About the Continent - CycleBlaze

June 24, 2022

To Črnomelj

Last night’s rain brought clear skies and brilliant sunshine, with temperatures predicted to stay in the 80s. Before leaving town, I had a quick look around Kočevje. I didn’t get too far as most of the streets seemed to be undergoing construction so I returned to the Bearlog hostel and had a nice chat with staff member Daniel about the likelihood of running into bears, and what to do in case of a bear encounter. Those who read my previous journal might recall that I am pretty terrified of bears, be they grizzly or Slovenian. So I was not encouraged by Daniel's advice to “turn around and cycle away as fast as you can." I did feel a bit better after showing him my planned route, which he assured me did not take me through heavy bear country of the Kočevje Rog karst plateau. But what about lynx? I forgot to ask.

In Kočevje
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In Kočevje
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The Bearlog Hostel
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Daniel, trying to reassure me that I won't be attacked by bears
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The Bearlog Hostel had a number of maps of the area's hiking and biking trails, complete with topological features, road surface and level of difficulty. This greatly facilitated my route planning for today, which would take me southeast toward the Kolpa River before curving back up to Črnomelj. Although the day would be spent mostly on lightly traveled regional highways or local roads, the first three miles were on the busy Hwy 106. Major road construction at my turnoff to Hwy 217 in Livold caused some delay and a traffic clot, but soon I was cycling though narrow meadows and forested hillsides.

There were a couple of small settlements along the way, but mostly just long stretches with few cars and the occasional road cyclist. I was near the top of the first big climb of the day when I spotted two touring cyclists slowing down as they approached me from the opposite direction. We exchanged some pleasantries from across the road, then they came on over. Finn and Mika are both German but did not know each other when they each set out on their first long-distance bike tour – they met on a ferry in Croatia and since then had been traveling together back toward home. Their enthusiasm for touring was clearly evident, from stories of sleeping in farm fields and waking with cows, to wondering how it will feel to sit in a chair again. Finn was taken with my mirror, so I gave him one of my spares – Mika, who had no glasses, was clearly jealous. We spent about twenty very entertaining minutes standing in the sun on the side of the road, joking, laughing, and being silly. Finally, we had to move on, with hand-shakes and good will all around.

Once past the construction zone, the traffic cleared and it was wonderful cycling on open roads
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The fields and forest of the Kočevje Rog
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Finn and Mika, German biking buddies
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Finn insisted on taking his helmet off for the selfie
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Finn so liked my mirror that he gave me one of his mother's pressed and laminated flowers - gifts that he had brought to share with those he met on the road
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Sandra LawnWhat a nice lad
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1 month ago

Shortly after bidding Auf Wiedersehen to my new friends, I reached the top of the climb where there was a waypoint on the Trail of the Unknown Spaha, a 35 km hiking trail through the forests of the Spaha plateau that links prehistoric archeological sites of human activity dating back to 4500 BC. Then it was downhill to Predgrad where I stopped to consider my options. I was not far from the Kolpa River, which marks the border between Slovenia and Croatia. I had included a ride down to the river in planning my tour of Slovenia, but after experiencing the country’s challenging terrain I was questioning the rationale of a “quick trip down to the river”, for certainly the trip back up would not be quick. Given that the steepest climb was yet to come, I opted to save the Kolpa for another day.

Before reaching Črnomelj, there was one more karst plateau to conquer, a 2.7 mile climb with gradients of 14% and 13% - I cried uncle on the first but made it up the second. For some, the climb up is the price you pay for a glorious descent. Me, I’m not so keen on fast descents, so the that reward is only partial compensation for the climb. I must admit that views are another reward for climbing, and I did stop on the way down to appreciate views of the Črnomelj valley. Unfortunately I was attacked by bees during my photo shoot and sped away with a stinger buried in my thumb. By the time I hit town, my only thought was ice cream – I found a nice little shop and enjoyed a double scoop with a coke. Refreshed, I went searching for my lodging, which for some reason I had booked outside of town. Not only outside of town, but up a hill and down a long gravel road that was not safe for riding. I began to wonder why I had chosen to overnight in Črnomelj, but remembered it was to see the International Folk Festival that was being held over this weekend. Maybe that was the reason I couldn’t find lodging in town.

Church of the Holy Trinity, located at the top of the Spaha plateau
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In Predgrad
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Church of Saint Sebastian in Predgrad
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I'd seen many of these small towers in and near towns, not realizing until today that they are electricity hubs, mini-electric towers, or in this case, electric minions. Though not all of them come with an adjacent shrine.
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Keith AdamsMinions! I love the mental image...
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1 month ago
Heading down to the Črnomelj valley. I was amazed at the number of homes that are spread up and down the surrounding hillsides.
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A closer look
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The Črnomelj valley
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On the way to Črnomelj
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Črnomelj ice cream store
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Refreshing in Črnomelj
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Rich FrasierLooks like a lot more fun than being attacked by bees!
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1 month ago

After a long shower and a short rest, I headed back into town for  Jurenicka, the International Folk Festival held each year in Črnomelj. I really wasn’t sure what to expect, maybe a parade or dancing in the streets. I’d noticed posters for festival while having my ice cream earlier that day and had asked when/where the festival was – up main street was the reply. But when I returned that evening, I couldn’t find the main street – it wasn’t down by the river as one might expect. After walking around a bit and seeing no signage for the event, I asked for directions from Tino, a tourist from Estonia who was traveling around Slovenia by train. I followed Tino’s general directions, as well a few folks who seemed to be heading the same way, and after a long walk came to a large park on the edge of town. There were tents, a large performance stage, and a stream of traditionally-clad people heading up the hill and away from the stage. I had arrived at a break in the folk festivities.

I wandered over to the food and beverage tent and got some Slovenian fair fare – grilled pieces of pork with raw onions and a cola. On stage was a large band ensemble playing American favorites, sometime accompanied by a singer. I was a bit astonished when the band broke out “When the Saints Come Marching In” and the crowd started singing along – in English. The band was leaving the stage as I finished eating and, after sorting out which of the five different trash containers took what objects I was discarding, I moseyed over to the line of costumed “folks” who were waiting to take the stage. And we all waited, and waited, and waited. I finally left, knowing I it was more than two miles back and not wanting to venture down the gravel road in the dark. I left without seeing folk dancing, or hearing folk music – my raison d’être for visiting Črnomelj. As I crossed the river for the final half mile to home, the air filled with traditional song and music from an impromptu quartet who likely had enjoyed a few too many beers. These were the real Slovenian folk, and their music.

Posters promoting Jurenicka - the only promotion of the festival I saw while in Črnomelj
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As I arrived at the festival site, I could see a large group of performers heading off away from the performance stage
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As I finished dinner, large number of costumed performers began lining up to go back on stage
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As the wait continued, friends and family stopped by to chat
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Waiting to go on
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I just wanna polka
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An impromptu jam
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Today's ride: 30 miles (48 km)
Total: 1,538 miles (2,475 km)

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