So beautiful is the area around Divaca, we decided to stay another day and have a look around some of the sites.
In the 1850s a group of explorers were surveying the Raka river in order to provide a water source for the city of Trieste. They followed the Raka downstream only for it to disappear deep underground through a limestone gorge. This led to the discovery of a series of caves at Skocjan, now a world heritage site. We joined many others, of all nationalities, on a 2 km trek through the caverns. The oldest stalagmites and stalactites, formed over the past 250,000 years are huge and magnificent. Some have joined up to form vast columns. The many steps and levels were like taking a hike through an Indiana Jones film set.
A few miles further on we stopped to admire the beautiful lipizzaner horses at Lipca, which gave them their name back in the 1500s when the original stud farm was established. Although the horses can be bay in colour, the majority are grey once they have reached maturity. The foals are born black, with their coats fading into grey over the first 6 years of their lives. They are very sturdy strong horses standing between 15 and 16 hands high, with great longevity. They were famed as carriage horses for the Hapsburgs, and are the beautiful horses used by the Spanish riding school in Vienna.
Heading south west out of Divaca, this morning (Monday) had a long, fun, downhill followed by a 300 meter climb with gradients of 18%+ in places, gruelling! From the top, the glorious views down to the Adriatic sea, in the bay of Trieste, are amazing.
A good number of the minor roads, marked on maps of the area are not paved. Whilst it makes for safe peaceful cycling, as cars and lorries avoid these roads, it does make the going somewhat more difficult. The bonus is that you get to see local life, currently farmers are busy grape picking on the many vineyards in this region.
This afternoon we crossed back into Croatia to begin a mini tour around the beautiful Istrian peninsula. Tonight, we are staying in the hilltop town of Buje in an apartment annex of a private house overlooking olive groves and vineyards to the sea beyond. A spectacular sunset tonight. Our hosts are lovely, he speaks to us in Italian and his wife in Croatian, let’s just say sign language seems to work best! They are lovely people, we received coffee and cake on arrival and were later presented with a bunch of grapes straight from the vine.