On the Road to Slovenia

Zgornje Jezersko Travel Blog

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Looking at our bike route for the first part of the day down the Drava river valley.

Ride - Day 5, Lavamund, AT to Zgorjne Jezersko, SL

71 km (44.7 miles)

Tuesday morning dawned another gorgeous day.  Waking up to step out onto the balcony and look up the Drava river valley was just an amazing sight.  While I haven't mentioned it, previously most mornings we would enjoy a continental type breakfast in the hotel restaurant (bread, pastry, fruit, oatmeal, yogurt, breakfast meats, etc.).  Everyone sort of had their own schedule.  Steve was almost always the first one down to breakfast in the morning.  Jeff and Carrie, Chris, and myself were typically next usually in that order.  C.C. was the straggler if he even made it down to breakfast some mornings.  Klara and Renata would come in for breakfast at some point while the group was eating, typically having already been out shopping for our lunchtime meal.

After the 4 mile descent from Lavamund, looking back up towards the hotel.

Today would be our last day in Austria.  We would be cycling up the Drava valley for a while before turning off to the south and beginning our climb into Slovenia.  But first we would get to enjoy the long descent into the valley.  Our hotel sat at around 960m (3150ft) while the town of Lavamund itself sat about 600m (2000ft) lower in elevation.  And we made that ground up in around 6.4 km (4 miles) of biking.  The only problem with these descents were in not knowing the roads, so you had to be somewhat cautious in approaching some of the blind and hairpin turns as you never knew what could be right around the corner.  Still on our hybrid touring bikes it took us less than 10 minutes to glide down the descent.

Up through lunch the ride was pretty uneventful.

A typical lunchtime spread.

We rode through some more small Austrian towns. Traffic was a bit more of an issue today, being in the middle of the week, and we were on a mix of roads/trails/sidewalks on the early portion of the ride.  We made decent time and stopped for lunch at a small park with a lake shortly before noon.  I finally managed today to get a good picture of the lunchtime spread before it was consumed by hungry riders that (on this day) Renata had prepared for us at the park.  Lunch was always a time to sit back and just revel in our surroundings, whether it was along a lake, at an old wine press in the rain, or in a small park.

After lunch a few brave (or foolhardy) souls thought it would be a grand idea to take a dip in the lake that we were sitting around.

What were we thinking going for a swim in this lake at lunch?
  Jeff, Renata, and I swam out to the dock (Klara also swam a bit but didn't join us out into the center of the lake) that is shown in the picture and all I can say is what the hell was I thinking.  The water was still frigidly cold in mid-May and it just sucked the wind right out of me when I first fully entered the water.  But in some way it was refreshing to swim a bit and work the kinks out of some of the muscles from the four days of cycling that we had already completed.

After drying out a bit, proceded back onto the bikes for the second half of the days ride.  And it would prove to be a ride unlike any I had done before.  After the fast descent in the morning our ride up the valley had been an almost imperceptible uphill grade.

Riding towards Eisenkappel. The early climb towards Slovenia (1:52 PM) before we stopped to meet the van the final time.
  For a short while longer that would continue as we rode a short way into the town of Sittersdorf, about 500m (1640ft) above sea level.  This was already a 150m higher than our low point in Lavamund 35km or so back down the road.  Just outside Sittersdorf everyone took a quick ride on the zip line along the bike trail (see pic - nothing much, but a fun diversion), and as we got back on the bikes it became noticeable that the road was turning upwards.  We weren't really climbing a hill yet but I could notice the gentle incline of the road in my pedal stroke.

Everyone rode together through the town of Eisenkappel, at 555m (1820ft).  A kilometer or two outside the town we met Renata and the van for a quick break and some final food and fluid replenishment.

Probably 1/2 way up the pass (2:58 PM).
  Informed that the pass and the border crossing were about 10 km away.  And we were off and I would be biking an extended climb for the first time ever (I've never had an opportunity to ride much in the mountains being from Ohio).  While I wasn't going to race up the climb I went ahead and started my watch just to see how long it would take to get to the top. 

Initially the road was still pretty gentle (maybe a 3-5% grade).  It was a bit more work, but nothing hard.  The road had kilometer markings painted on the road and the first one we passed leaving the van was 55.0km.  The second one we passed was 55.2km and I turned to C.C. riding next to me and said, "9.8 km to go".  That's right every 200 meters up this road we would be informed of our progress and just how quickly (or slowly) we were going.

Everyone at the top (3:46 PM)
  On the road Jeff and Steve quickly rode ahead.  I lingered a bit behind, and Carrie, Klara, Chris, and C.C. were further back.  Stopped a couple of times to take some pictures (or was that to get a quick rest for my legs?).  The road took a while before it really turned steeper.  It probably never got any steeper than a 7-8% grade or so, but the last 5km were up a series of 15 or so switchbacks to the top of the pass.  Finally passed the 65.0 km mark on the road and started looking for the border crossing.  Unfortunately still saw some power lines passing over the road heading uphill so I knew there were still some additional switchbacks to go.   Finally as I passed the 66.2 km mark I saw Jeff and Steve sitting just shy of the station relaxing at the top of Seebergsattel (Aust)/Jezerski Vrh (Slov).
On into Slovenia and down the hill after our climb to the border
  Including my breaks it took me 58 minutes to ride the 11.2 km (7 miles).  I had climbed to 1218m (3996ft) above sea level meaning I had climbed about 2000 ft over the course of the 7 mile ride (and around 2900ft over the course of the entire day from Lavamund).

Waited for the rest of the group to get to the top before crossing over the border into Slovenia.  Quickly put on some extra gear as it was a bit chilly and exposed in the pass with the wind blowing through.  Everyone was up and to the top within 15 minutes or so of my arrival and we crossed over and added a stamp for Slovenia to the passport.  We zipped down the opposite side of the pass in a short quick descent to 880m (2890ft) that opened up into this absolutely picturesque valley.

In the valley surrounded by the Kamnik-Savinjske Alps
  The pass was back to our north and both the east and west sides there were some towering mountains, including some over 2500m (8000ft) high.  Klara knew of a small restaurant/bar on the Plansarsko Jezero (Herdsman's Lake) that was in the valley.  Unfortunately our first attempt to reach the location met with a bridge that was out.  Down the road we found a walking bridge that we could cross and return to the main road by a small gravel road/trail and reach the lake and restaurant.  At this elevation and in the middle of the mountains no one was foolish enough to jump into this lake (it was definitely colder than the lake from lunch).  Tried my first glass of Slovenian beer which was very enjoyable after the long day on the bike while everyone else enjoyed a beer/wine/fruit juice as well.
Enjoying a Slovenian beer at a little bar/restaurant outside Jezersko.
  We again had a local come up and spend some time talking asking about where we from, pointing out the names of the mountains that towered above us, and wishing us the best on our journey through Slovenia (again another person speaking English very well).

It was finally decided that we shouldn't keep Renata waiting much longer, so we payed our tabs, and made our way back down the road/trail and on to our hotel.  Renata was waiting with a welcoming committee to celebrate our journey into Slovenia.  We snapped a few pictures and took our luggage to our rooms, and prepped for dinner.  After another tasty meal, most of went out to walk around the small town of Zgorjne Jezersko.  We circled around back to the hotel, and sat out watching darkness descend over the mountains.

On arrival at the hotel in Jezersko.
  Low clouds were also moving in obscuring the mountain summits boding ill for tomorrows ride...

Random Observations:

  • Topo Info for all entries comes from some online maps I found when I got back to the States.  Info is as accurate as my reading ability and the maps accuracy.
  • I still can't believe how frigid the water at the lake was.  I'm definitely not up to be a member of a polar bear club. 
  • Introduction to "Pogey bait" for the ride to the pass 
  • (Google map of the climb from Sittersdorf to Seebergsattel/Jezerski Vrh)
  • Found some additional information on the climb at climbbybike.
    Taking a walk through town before dinner. Ominous clouds are rolling in.
    com.  From Eisenkappel to the summit of the Seebergsattel/Jezerski Vrh the climb averaged 4.3% over 15km (the longest sustained climb by bike that I have ridden).  This was a little misleading as the first 5km averaged about 2% and the last 10km averaged just under 6%.  I think I could have spent a week just wandering around these mountains and adventuring from our hotel in Jezersko.  And a day just sitting and relaxing out in the valley waiting for absolutely nothing to happen.
  • Sitting outside the hotel chatting in the evening darkness
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Looking at our bike route for the …
Looking at our bike route for the…
After the 4 mile descent from Lava…
After the 4 mile descent from Lav…
A typical lunchtime spread.
A typical lunchtime spread.
What were we thinking going for a …
What were we thinking going for a…
Riding towards Eisenkappel.  The e…
Riding towards Eisenkappel. The …
Probably 1/2 way up the pass (2:58…
Probably 1/2 way up the pass (2:5…
Everyone at the top (3:46 PM)
Everyone at the top (3:46 PM)
On into Slovenia and down the hill…
On into Slovenia and down the hil…
In the valley surrounded by the Ka…
In the valley surrounded by the K…
Enjoying a Slovenian beer at a lit…
Enjoying a Slovenian beer at a li…
On arrival at the hotel in Jezersk…
On arrival at the hotel in Jezers…
Taking a walk through town before …
Taking a walk through town before…
Picture looking out along the vall…
Picture looking out along the val…
Looking straight down at the same …
Looking straight down at the same…
Bridge where the two previous phot…
Bridge where the two previous pho…
Weve just recently left Aich on o…
We've just recently left Aich on …
Klara riding the zip line outside …
Klara riding the zip line outside…
Looking back towards the pass and …
Looking back towards the pass and…
Renatas little helpers and our we…
Renata's little helpers and our w…
Day 5 Route Map
Day 5 Route Map
Zgornje Jezersko
photo by: Kramerdude