Cycling through the mountains

Surprises I learnt on a Cycling holiday

If you follow The Faraway Bug, you will have seen our previous pieces about a crazy cycling tour we were gifted with to Slovenia. In spite of not having ridden a bike for a decade or so, I decided to embrace the challenge and headed out for an adventure in the stunning Slovenian mountains with the add-on of a night in Venice afterwards. Recovery time, hello! We had some good times (unbelievable alpine views) and a few bad ones (getting completely lost in the snow and pouring rain), it was definitely an experience and one I don’t regret a second of. What I didn’t expect was to learn a few surprising things along the way. These seem too good not to share, so here are some surprises I learnt on a cycling tour.  

Bicycles by the Slovenian Alps

Brushing up on road safety is a must (otherwise entitled ‘I know squat about cycling road safety’).

The only requirements for a cycling tour in Europe seems to be the ability to ride a bike and to read a map. At least to sort of be able to read a map. I guess most people have done some kind of proficiency test at school, but honestly do you remember a thing about it now? If you are thinking of embarking on a two-wheeled journey, I would absolutely recommend swatting up a bit on the route you are taking. If nothing else it will spare you the surprise of unexpectedly finding yourself on a high speed main road. Trust me when I say that busy roads of Europe are scary of the hairy kind.

I adore Venice.

Having visited Venice a couple of times before, I felt I had already overcome the awe of seeing the city with first-time eyes. How wrong I was! From the moment I stepped onto Venetian land, I realised how much I enjoyed being in Venice and spent the entire day wandering the narrow streets, photographing anything and everything in my path. It is a great place to travel solo. Other people are too busy looking at their maps to notice a tourist on their own, and this awards a fantastic freedom. The next day I took a trip into the Doge’s palace and enjoyed it so much I came back again a few months later to show my family. This city just does not get old. Venice I will be back again….

Cycles in Ljubljana

Venetians believe that tourists are partly to blame for its sinking buildings.

I admit this was not wholly unexpected to hear considering the number of people navigating the narrow city streets, but it still struck me as a little disappointing to hear from so many that I spoke to. It is not just the footfall that is responsible for the gradual descent of the city structures, but the public transport that brings them in to the area.

Slovenians are amazing and talented chefs     

Ignorance of this country meant I went wandering in with an clean slate when it came to discovering Slovenia. As with most east European countries I expected hearty, meaty, warming dishes. What we got that was hearty and warming in gourmet mode. The culture in Slovenia is to use what is locally available and due to the changing micro-climates throughout the country, you will find a variety of different dishes to try in each region. Another tip for EVERYONE is to try the Slovenian liqueurs. After a cold day of cycling or snow sports if you fancy that, a cosy jumper and warming tipple of Slovenian honey liqueur is the perfect counterbalance. Our favourites included Pear and Fig & honey liqueurs.

There is such a thing as too much cheese

But only if you come across that extremely rare thing – a cheese you aren’t keen on eating! Bohinj cheese while smooth and creamy, turned out to be a rare unlikable cheese for me taste-wise, sob! Saying this, even the locals say that it is an acquired taste and my travel buddy really liked it, so I recommend trying it for yourself. I’d love to know what you think!

Lake Bled - 1st cycling sunset

Not all continental Europeans like each other

One of the benefits as a solo traveller is that people seem drawn to engage in conversation with you, particularly on hot topics such as *cough* Brexit. I have found it a really great way to find out about everyday life and opinions in different locations. Something that came through from conversation and amazed me was the dislike some European people have for each other on the continent. In my happy little mind, all countries like their neighbours so this was a bit of a shock. Perhaps it was just me not in the know, but my lesson learned was how much there is going on out there that we may not know about until we are exposed to it. The benefits of education through travel huh?

No trip is a bad trip    

Yes we got lost. Yes we got drenched and grumpy with each other. Yes one of us completely under-packed and froze because they refused to buy thermals. But you know what else? We got to go on a real adventure, through the Alps in the thickest snow I have ever seen. How awesome is that! Everyday was like a snowy wonderland and I just loved being outdoors amongst the mountain scenery. Every trip has its good points!   

The Venetian Basilica overlooking San Marco Square

Read more about my cycling adventures in Slovenia Part 1 – Bled

Gifted trip won through Whereabouts Holidays – check out their range of active holidays here!

Many people in Slovenia do not speak English, (especially in the more remote villages) and I would not have got very far without my trusted Berlitz Eastern Europe Phrase book and Berlitz Slovenia Pocket Guide book. Click on the links to shop these handy pocket books from Amazon.


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