Day 65 – Wednesday 28th of August – Ljubljana to Cortina d’Ampezzo (296km)
I was very excited to be riding back to Alps and the prospect of spending a bit longer there riding some of the best roads in Europe, since my first taste on the way east had been all too short, but I felt a pang of regret as we rode out of Ljubljana. Slovenia is a beautiful country and there are lots of things we were leaving behind undiscovered – Predjama castle and its cave, the Triglav mountains, Ljubljana itself, where I could easily have spent a couple more days… It is definitely a place where I could spend my entire holidays. My biggest regret, however, was not having had the chance to meet Metka and Franci again, my hosts on my first visit to the city. Our improvised travel schedule meant that we were not sure when we would be in the there, and it had been very difficult to find and internet connection on the days leading up to our arrival in the city, so I could not get in touch in time to confirm whether they would be there or on holidays, and on top of that we only spent a night before moving on.
On the way to the border we stopped to visit Bled castle, built on a cliff overlooking the lake that bears the same name. It was a wonderful place, it is a shame that we lost too much time trying to get in and out of the town because of the traffic jams caused by the huge trucks trying to make their way through the old center.
My first language is Catalan, and as Nat and I had been following a route that took us away from Europe’s main tourist centers, we had grown used to being able to have conversations about pretty much anything without having to worry about the people around us understanding what we were talking about, since there was very little chance of bumping into fellow countrymen. However, walking down the path that lead from the castle door back to the car park, we were having a lively chat over a, let’s call it “interesting topic”, when we came across a group of tourists on their way up. Right in the climax of the conversation, one of them said ‘bon dia!’ in a jokingly tone and we both stopped talking abruptly before bursting into laughter. Well, it goes to show that we are everywhere indeed.
We rejoined the motorway for a while before turning left into a smaller road following the Belca river in order to avoid paying again to use Austrian roads. It would take a little longer to get to the Italian border, but it was worth it – we rode around the north face of the Triglav mountains and the scenery was breathtaking. Unfortunately the rain caught up with us right on the border, so we had to make an emergency stop to put on the waterproof gear.
Once in Italy though, the rain stopped quickly, so we decided to take the chance to stop for a lunch and a rest just in case the weather turned nasty again later.
Fortunately, it did not, and we enjoyed the ride along the river Fella; there was a motorway, but we had time to spare and decided to take the SS13, which was much nicer. As we got closer to Tolmezzo things turned rather boring, we went through an industrial area and then took a stretch of rather dull road, but soon enough we got to the Dolomiti area and took much nicer roads leading to Cortina.
The scenery in this area was simply breathtaking. I could have spent weeks just riding this roads again and again, not to mention climbing on the numerous via ferrata there are everywhere here or just hiking. It is a wonderful place and I am a hundred per cent sure that sometime in the future I will be back here.
We got to Cortina and started looking for a place to sleep. Since hotels were horribly expensive and there were no hostels, we decided to look for a campsite. However, I was rather tired – the last bit on the mountain roads had been fun but exhausting- the whole trying to find a place to sleep was getting frustrating and on top of that I suddenly had a bad case of hay fever that left me sneezing like crazy and unable to think clearly.
We found a couple of campsites, but they were not exactly cheap, I needed a good rest and a hot shower and Nat was feeling quite cold after crossing the mountains. In the end, given the small difference in price between getting a plot to set up the tent and renting the small room in the reception building and enjoying a proper bed and a shower, we decided to go for the second option. Once we had already paid for it and were waiting to get the keys, the guy told us that his sister had already rented the room and had not updated that into the system, so he made a couple of phone calls and pointed us in the direction of a nice little house halfway up a grassy hill where an old lady rented a room, and told us he had arranged for us to stay there for the same price.
Once we had settled down at Ms. Maria’s place, I had a quick shower and we went out to finish the day with a Spritz in a nice bar in the center of Cortina.