Girls mountain biking adventure Slovenia
Girls mountain biking adventure Slovenia the lowdown from Catherine
It’s extremely rare that I get the opportunity to ride with an all-girl group, which is part of the reason that my recent girls mountain biking adventure in Slovenia was particularly special.
Our group of six ladies – three from the Highlands of Scotland and three from Southern England – met up at Stansted airport on Thursday morning, ready to jet off to Slovenia, where we’d be mountain biking for three full days with our expert local guide Danijel.
We arrived at Ljubljana airport late in the afternoon, and as we made our way out of the airport and into the sunshine we were met by the most amazing view of the surrounding mountains, still partly covered by a dusting of snow. All of our luggage, including three bikes, made it safely to Slovenia and we were very quickly on our way to a local bike shop to unpack our steeds, ready to hit the trails the following day. Nikki, Alison and Anita had their bikes built in no time (with very little help from guides, I might add!) and we were soon on the road again, heading for Lake Bled where we stopped to sample some ‘Bled Cake’, a cream cake famous in these parts, and take some photos of the iconic lake in the evening sunlight.
Our destination this evening was a lovely small hotel in Bovec, again, surrounded by towering mountains, and we enjoyed a delicious dinner in a traditional Slovenian restaurant, specialising in game and fish.
The next day we made an early start to get riding as quickly as possible. We stocked up on trail snacks in a local shop before leaving, then loaded up the van to make the short journey to the trail head, right on the border with Italy.
The three of us who had travelled from the north of Scotland had opted to rent bikes, given the change of planes and the short time we had in Slovenia, so when we arrived at the trail head, we spent some time adjusting suspension, saddle heights and brake positions, ready to start the long climb ahead.
We were riding on old military roads and, as we climbed, Danijel recounted some of the rich and dark history of the area, which saw more than 500,000 Italians killed – the single largest loss of life – in the biggest battles of the First and Second World Wars. Slovenians are generally quite in touch with their history, both ancient and recent, with the country that we know today having been through many changes of regime to get to this point.
When we finally reached the top of our climb we were surrounded by wild, purple and white crocuses, some of which we felt pretty bad about riding over to get to our lunch spot! It was quite windy at the top so we hunkered down behind a hill to enjoy our lunch before starting the short, rustic singletrack descent to the start of our descent proper. After tweaking brake positions on the rental bikes, we dropped saddles and started our long, winding descent back to the van.
This is probably the longest descent I’d ever experienced in one go. Since we were the first to ride this trail this year, the singletrack descent through the woods was covered in a thick carpet of leaves from the winter. The trail was steep and tight in parts, with a few switchbacks thrown in for good measure, so it definitely challenged our biking skills! This would normally be the fourth day of riding on our full, week-long adventure, with previous days’ trails designed to build riders up to this more technical descent.
We continued to a little village where we stopped to have a ‘Cockta’, the Slovenian version of Coca Cola, before pedalling on some more great wooded singletrack, all the way to our beautiful accommodation at Casa Franko, where we would be spoiled by some sensational cooking by local award-winning, ‘celebrity’ chef Ana Rosa.
After a welcome shower we headed down for dinner, which we preceded with a little glass of Prosecco to celebrate our first successful day of riding in Slovenia! Our incredible dinner consisted of four courses of deliciously surprising dishes, created from the freshest seasonal ingredients, and accompanied by local wines recommended by our waiter. We were in food heaven!
Suitably well-fed from dinner and a wonderful breakfast, we rolled out to ride some ‘secret’ local trails around Kobarid. The weather this early in the season wasn’t kind enough to allow us to do the scheduled ride from our itinerary, over Monte Maggiore, so we stayed lower and Danijel showed us some lovely singletrack through villages, meadows and forests that gave us a taste of local life and plenty of interesting trails to keep us on our toes. We passed fields of cows with huge bells around their necks and farmers in ancient tractors.
We arrived back at the van just as the heavens were opening, and Danijel and Marco very kindly loaded our bikes in the rain as we sheltered inside waiting to start the drive to wine country. By the time we arrived at our next accommodation, in a valley full of vines, the rain had disappeared and we were able to have a glass of locally-produced, organic wine on the terrace! (You can see a theme emerging: ride bikes, drink wine…!)
The restaurant was busy with locals and we were forced to open another bottle of wine while we waited for our host Simona to tell us all about our menu for the evening, which was, again, lovingly crafted from the freshest local ingredients, such as asparagus, cheeses, pork, beef, mushrooms and berries. It’s a good thing that Danijel worked us hard on the bike because there’s no shortage of great food and wine on this trip!
For our last day of riding we headed towards the coast and embarked upon a long climb, in a lovely gale-force headwind. Thankfully, when we finally reached the summit we were met with the welcome sight of a restaurant serving hot soup and gnocchi, which definitely helped ease the pain of the climb. Warmed-up and well-fed we started our descent from the top, which involved being blown off the bike a bit until we reached the tree line again. Another great wooded singletrack trail, morphed into a more rocky, technical descent, which re-focussed our minds and dropped us back to the van, just as the rain started in earnest. It was an excellent final day of biking, which we rounded off with a hot chocolate before loading the van and heading for a look round the Venetian town of Piran on our way back to Ljubljana.
As we sat in the departures lounge of Ljubljana airport, looking out at the incredible mountain view that had welcomed us on our arrival just a few days ago, we were all sad but satisfied to have had such an amazing time together riding in Slovenia, and determined to come again for the full week to experience everything (including riding in Italy and Austria) that this exceptional country has to offer. Hvala Slovenia!
By Catherine Shearer, H+I Adventures Co-Founder