Late in the day I met Ingo, a German cyclist who had started the day all the way back at the Croatian coast and was trying to make it to Ljubljana by night. Having some cycling companionship motivated us both to push on into the evening and we made the city before dark, leaving us time to find a hostel and drink a couple Slovenian beers. Ingo had started his trip in Corfu and followed the coastal route north destined for his home in DÃ¼sseldorf. He was going a fair bit faster than I was and headed on the next day while I hung out to see the city.
Ljubljana — and Slovenia in general — struck me as feeling more like Austria than Croatia or the other Balkan states. I started seeing a lot more cyclists and bicycle infrastructure, listened to chamber music played from a boat drifting down the river, and found coffee shops with tattooed hipsters — making me feel right at home.
After a couple days in the city I rolled on to Bled then into northeast Italy before doubling back up a mountain valley to Villach, Austria. Then doubled back again to follow a long valley up to the pass at Mallnitz. You can’t actually go over the pass this way; instead cars and cyclists are loaded onto a special train that runs through a 15km tunnel underneath it. The weather was colder and rainy on the north side of the pass and I camped near Bad Hofgastein where I ran into Lisa, another cycling tourist heading the opposite direction. I think she’s the first American cyclist I’ve encountered yet and apparently I was the first American cyclist she’d met since leaving Paris two months ago. Not sure why there aren’t more Americans in these parts. Lisa’s also the first cyclist I’ve met to be simultaneously writing a doctoral dissertation.
After waiting out another drizzly day I rode down the mountains into Salzburg where I spent a couple days seeing the city and watched the world cup final. Then it was a left turn to head west into Germany and look for the Bodensee-Konigsee cycle route.