Words and photos: Jennifer Kivinen and Natalie Uljas
When the thought of a cycling adventure crossed my mind, it took me two whole days to shake off the thought. So I knew I had to do it.
I invited Natalie to join me on a summer adventure in Slovenia. To reconnect ourselves with nature. It was about embracing the monotone movement of pedalling - which is as obvious as breathing. It was about finding that inner peace we often tend to lose in this hectic mess called life.
It was about experiencing new places. It was about inspiring more women to do the same. To prioritise ourselves. To recharge using cycling as a form of meditation.
The views change so fast. From seeing a massive mountain on the horizon to staring into the green walls of a valley with sheep – and even more sheep around the corner. To suddenly ride next to a crispy blue river. The variation helps your mind flow.
All Slovenian roads seem to lead to cold and clear blue rivers. Modern bicycle production has a great feature that goes well with that fact: downtube storage compartments. Perfectly suited for carrying a swimsuit.
We had a magical 3-country route from the Julian Alps in Slovenia, through Italy and finally passing the mountains of Austria mapped out in our heads. While staying at a lovely mountain bed and breakfast the owner of the place - who also was an old cyclist - showed us some pictures from the Austrian “wall” that we had planned to climb. Basically a 1km long 18% steep very trafficked road with no views. Instead, he recommended we climb another mountain on the Italian border called Mangart. After giving it a real thought - we really wanted to do our planned route - we decided to trust him and change our plans. When we reached the top of Mangart by the golden hour we understood what he was talking about.
Swedes and Danes have pølse as our go-to fast food - the Slovenians have burek. It’s basically a butter dough filled with spinach and cheese and it’s the perfect lunch to take on the go. You’ll find it in every corner and bakery for under 2 euros. At one point we ate it three days in a row - and even one evening for dinner in bed when we were exhausted from riding, wet from the rain and didn't want to spend another 15 euros on an average restaurant. Burek in the bed. The thunderstorm outside.
The Vipava Valley is one of Slovenia’s prime wine districts. Beautiful valleys surrounded by mountains and the optional tasting here and there. We recommend Burja, where the tasting might include ABBA blasting on the speakers as well as an introduction to their winemaking philosophy courtesy of the owners Primoz and Mateja. Their bottles will fit in most regular-sized bottle cages. Tried and tested.
Slovenia has a lot going for it. Mountains. Coastal roads. Backcountry. And close to both Italy, Croatia and Austria. It lends quite a fair bit of comfort knowing you are never more than a bike ride away from decent pizza.
We know there are a lot of women who would love to try road cycling but they might be afraid because it can be a hell of a jungle with millions of questions and decisions. It was our love for cycling that brought us together two years ago and it’s a great way of finding new friends that share the same interests. We always help each other when we struggle (read: mount the bike into the bike bag for the first time at 11 pm the day before the departure, and other things that can be frustrating) and together we make the perfect team. We hope to bring more ladies into cycling. In Slovenia, Sweden, anywhere. Until next time.