Some of you already know the woeful tale of our bumbled arrival to the Motherland (aka Europe). If not, you can revisit the horrors here: https://thesylvalining.wordpress.com/2016/09/13/oneworld-problems/. We finally touched down on Italian soil on September 7, one day late. On September 8, we had one much-needed day to recuperate, hit up the local COOP grocery store and christen our vacation with our respective cup (copetto) and cone (cono) of delectable gelato from Puro & Bio in charming Faenza, Italy. And we made the move to Lisa’s swanky new apartment within used-gelato-spoon-throwing-distance.
On September 9, just after lunchtime, as I grinned happily at the sound the espresso machine makes just before it shoots out gallons of caffeine, ExperiencePlus’ own John Giebler walks up and asks, “So Sylva… do you want to go on tour to Austria and Slovenia? In five minutes?”
Of course, I said yes! My main duty would be to ride with the customers each day and make sure they made it to the hotel alive (also called sweeping), sans falling in lakes or getting devoured by Slovenian dragons. Of course, that wasn’t all I’d do but largely, give me a broom and call me Cinderella.
In all reality, Slovenian tour leader Blaz (prounounced “Blosh”) Pogacnik and I shoved off about an hour or so later. First, we had to gather all the necessary equipment at the Farm (jerseys and first aid kit for me, etc and most importantly a van). Then, a Fortune 5000 style lap through Lisa’s apartment where I literally emptied Tyler’s smaller suitcase, shoved both arms like a forklift underneath everything in my larger suitcase, turned 180 degrees, dropped all my clothes in, zipped it up and slammed it down the stairs. Then it was a 6-hour European pop “ear candy” session/let’s-chat-for-hours-about-random-stuff-like-dental-work-in-Croatia journey up to Klagenfurt, Austria. After unloading 14 bikes from the van’s precarious roof and having a victory drink at a nearby bar (where Blaz took up his quest for a “giant” Austrian beer), we called it a night.
At 6 a.m., a bear wearing a backpack crashed into the room and yanked us out of sleep like two salmon out of a stream. Blearily, I realized it was Cristina Taoili, our lead tour leader. She had an unenviable last couple days, coming straight off leading another tour in Spain, sleeping overnight on a train (but, due to an honest mistake at the office, not in a sleeping car but in a seat) and arriving exhausted in Klagenfurt in the wee hours. At the hotel, reception informed her she didn’t have a room yet — they were told I would be arriving later (and that Cristina and Blaz would be sharing the room Blaz and I stared confusedly at her from). The receptionist took her to a possible room; when they opened the door, there was a man snoring on one of the beds.
“I need to sleep,” she said, throwing her bag down on the floor after the failed attempt at finding her a room. Nobody argued. Half an hour later, on the cusp of sleep, a roll-away bed arrived, which barely fit in the gap at the end of Blaz and my twin beds and the crap-filled desk.
Several hours later (largely rested?), we marked a route to Lake Wothersee for the nervous clients to get to know their two-wheeled steeds.
Around 2, we greeted the clients outside the hotel, slapped pedals on, made adjustments to seats and stems and sent them on a their test run to Lake Wothersee.
Afterwards, a walking tour of Klagenfurt on the way to our first group dinner courtesy of Blaz, the Walking Encyclopedia.
Thus began the 10-day tour, a last-minute but thoroughly enjoyable journey from Klagenfurt, Austria to Ljubljana, Slovenia…
Day Two: Klagenfurt Austria to Lake Ossiach, Austria
Today it’s all about clean, picture perfect Austrian scenery: from colorful Klagenfurt to the swan-infested shores of Lake Ossiach. I only had to chase four clients down once as they sped past the hotel – we’ll call that a sweeping success!
Day Three: Lake Ossiach to Faaker See (aka Lake Faak — let the jokes begin!)
Another glorious sunny day on tour — bike paths would guide us almost all the way to our destination, which happens to be another lake with a far better name. Plenty of coffee stops and an obligatory cake break would be some of the many highlights.
Day Four:Taking a Faaking Break (a.k.a. a rest day at Lake Faak also known as the day without pictures/I forgot to charge my camera/rookie move)
Day Five: Lake Faak to Podkoren, Slovenia
Amidst trips to the expansive cheese and bread bar at Inselhotel and happy sips on strong coffee, the morning marched along nicely. It was one of those not-a-cloud-in-sight varieties — perfect setting for a traverse across not one but three countries (from Austria, through a molto piccolo (very small) swatch of Italy into Slovenia.
Highlights would be a pastoral start among tall mountains, morphing into a long section on a Rails to Trails bike path. Tie that into a lengthy lunch in Austria-meets-Italy-meets-shopping Tarvisio and it all equals one awesome day.
Except that one time I got a flat on the Rails to Trails section, only to realize:
- The spare tire in my patch kit is way too small.
- My Austrian POS phone isn’t working because we’ve crossed into Italy and it’s forgotten it’s a phone.
Damsel in distress! Three Italian mountain bikers stop to suss out the situation. All three of them stoop over my tire, trying to stretch the unusable spare tube over my wheel like a very small piece of tagliatelle. With sheepish shrugs and too much eye contact, they bid me farewell.
Meanwhile, I shove the old tube back under the tire and inflate it sufficiently with 1 million spurts of air from the tiny handpump on my frame, which is slightly larger than a generous cannolo.
I limp along the bike path towards Tarvisio, stopping every 15 minutes or so to resume pumping. My forearms begin to tire; the same pair of bike tourists, loaded down with panniers and pulling a trailer, pass me several times casting pitiful looks in my direction.
By the time I pop out at the old train station in Tarvisio, I’m ready to throw my bike off an Austrian, Italian or Slovenian mountain. Blaz to the rescue; I venture forth with the skinny front tire off his bike (stashed behind the driver’s seat for the day). A lengthy sojourn in Tarvisio and before I know it, we’ve crossed into Slovenia and settled into the quaint hotel at Podkoren…
On the next Sylva Lining: the troupe embraces Slovenia, from majestic alpine lakes to the bright, happening streets of dragon-bedecked Ljubljana. Stay tuned!