Skoja Slovenija!

It was difficult to leave Budapest. A comfortable flat, with a comfortable friend, comfort foods, and a big mirror to admire myself in. I’ve been warm and happy here for nearly two weeks, anxious to get back on the saddle and give these legs what they deserve. Leaving the city at 8am, it’s 5C outside and sunny. There’s a strangeness in that every city seems more a pain in the ass to leave then to enter. Likely there is less to look forward to than in leaving. The objective for the first day was to make it to the north shore of lake Belaton, 120km or so. Seen as the forecast has been calling for sun, I want to put down the distance before it decides to pour on me. Midday, I noticed an off feeling in my knee, but hadn’t given it much thought. I ended up wild camping near the lake, not quite the lake shore that I had anticipated.

Balaton cycle route
At the very least, I was right on the cycle trail.

Kiraly Torony (King Tower)
The second day along the lake had a nice surprise. I happened upon a castle, and spent quite a few of my now critical daylight hours up there. Kiraly Torony (or Kings Tower)

Castle from a distance
It’s amazing, I think that this is one of the best things that makes cycle touring. Riding down the road, and surprised by something that looks like this. I can get used to these surprises.

Lake Belaton is the largest lake in Eastern Europe, and is about 100km, east-west. There is a Hungarian cycle route around the lake, which makes it a pleasure. Unfortunately, I found that a lot of the lake side property is private, and the cycle route doesn’t follow the lake shore directly. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I mind having my own cycle path.
Along lake Balaton

There were a couple places with nice lake side parks, where I often stopped to soak up the sun. Despite the blue sky, it was pretty cold. The sun struggled to bring it up above 10C.
Lake park

On the third day, I was en route from Belaton to Maribor, in Slovenia. My knee went from a strange feeling to a full blown pain. I had a place to stay in Maribor, so I thought I might as well make it there and take a break. This week is the first time in four months my body imposed restriction on my adventure. At this point, I realized that I would have to take a break for more than one day to ensure my knee would heal. Hanging out by myself for 2 or 3 days seems dry, so I hit up the couchsurfing community for someone to stay with. I got a response from a girl who lives 25km south of the city. Why not, this seems reasonable. Ride 25km on a bum knee, to a small town, to stay with someone you’ve never met. With all of this surety, I decided to hang out in Maribor for the day, and take it all in.

Maribor, Sl
The city did not disappoint.

Maribor, Sl
I was advised to take a stroll up to the Piramida, which was well worth it.

I rode south to small town destination, get to town center, and wait for my host to arrive. An hour later, no one had come looking for me. Fail. Well, at least I have this fancy new tent. Finding a place in a field out of the wind, I pitch the tent, and lay out the bedding. It’s only 19:00H, too early to go to sleep. There are two bars in this small town, both of which were playing horrible 90’s euro pop. What the hell, I’ll get a beer and read/write in my books. Sitting there for a couple minutes, in rushes a tall young woman, who I immediately recognize as my host.

Marcella
Success! Marcella, we find each other.

The following day, we take her car, and go on a leisurely ride through the countryside. We stop first at Ptuj, the oldest city in Slovenia, and then continue east to her parents vineyard. The family vineyard is located in Jerusalem. Meeting the parents is interesting, as they don’t speak any English. Upon learning I’m from Canada, her father, Stomko, tries a couple of English words, but I think the only common word him and I understand is Spritzer. Over lunch, he pours me 6 of them. As Marcella and I are getting ready to leave, he then asks if I should help him disassemble a Kloptotec. It’s more or less a windmill with wooden hammers made to keep the birds at bay. Why not, this sounds like it will be fun.

Taking apart a Klopotec
Standing at the top of this windmill, he’s yelling instructions at me, none of which I understand. Upon realizing that I don’t have the proper tools to get the job done, he decides to throw up a wrench and a pipe…. why not throw me my camera too, I’ll take a picture.

To the man, and his daughter
So I did. Stomko and Marcella.

Cutest baby ever
Marcellas older brother also has a baby. Babysitting occurs in the living room, where the crib is located. I had to put this up here, as it’s just that … badass.

This is where the baby sleeps
Notice the wallpaper, and the stuffed hawk above the baby’s bed. I’m sure there’s some symbolism here…anyone?

The following rest days were all amazing, I had a great time in Pongrce with Marcella and family. I suspect that it would have been a long couple days if I had to wait it out myself. Everything happens for a reason.

-jb