After two days and nights in Slovenia, Austria’s southern neighbour, we cycled back over the (no longer existing) border this morning. We are largely following the Drau river upstream. Running for 439 miles from its source in the Italian Tyrol, the Drau flows through Southern Austria, Northern Slovenia and forms most of the border between Croatia and Hungary, finally joining the Danube and draining in to the Black Sea.
Northern Slovenia is very picturesque, with steeply wooded hillsides and sleepy villages, not having been involved in the Balkan war in the 1990’s, Slovenia was the first of the former Yugoslavian States to gain independence and join the EU. Our first night was spent in Maribor, Slovenia’s second largest city, which sits on the banks of the Drava (Slovenian name for the Drau). Yesterday, Friday, was a graphic demonstration of why Slovenia is so verdant; it rained all day, good farmers rain; persistent, penetrating and positively wet! Consequently we chose to cycle on the road to Dravograd, our next stop, as opposed to facing unknown surfaces on the, much longer, bike route through the hills. The road was very busy, without much shoulder, for most of the way, so we were very relieved to get to Dravograd looking and feeling like a pair of drowned rats.
Today was at least dry, if a bit on the cold side, with low clouds unfortunately obscuring the higher views for much of the morning. The Drau bike route is a mix of quiet lanes and gravelled paths, either right by the river or through adjacent countryside, which we both enjoy for the more open vista and variety. Again there are vast acreages of maize in this region, interspersed with pumpkins, sunflowers, lupins and millet.
Our pit stop tonight, 690 miles into our trip, is the village of Ferlach in the southern Austrian province of Carinthia. Unfortunately for Gavin his welcome was a bite on the foot from a sleepy wasp!