If given a choice, I would choose to cross a border across a bridge rather than a ridge, but usually there is no choice. Today was another Ridge crossing, between Croatia and Slovenia. When I entered Croatia from Montenegro I had climbed to a ridge, and today was the same, up, up, up, and some more up. And it was cold. Bitterly cold. And snowing.
My body has its own built in thermometer. My sinuses run like a tap when it gets down to 5°C. The fingers on my left hand go numb, and then throb at 0°C. My left eye weeps at -5°C. My toes and nose freeze at -10°C. It all happened today. Yippee. And the locals, on the coast think it's cold when it's 10°C. They obviously don't come up here to the border, and wander around outside their warm cozy car.
Today I crossed two borders. The second was a non event, passing from Slovenia into Italy. No border guards. No Police. No ferocious dogs. No heavily armed military personal. No officials at all. And no stamp in my passport. Just two flags, and a sign. "Italia". Now that's a first on this trip, and unheard of further east. So I'm in the EEC, the "real" Europe, as distinguished in my Atlas at Primary School, and I don't even get a stamp......
I had spent the last two days resting, sleeping, eating (lots), and wandering the streets. I love the "old cities", the mazes of narrow streets, twisting and turning. I especially love the ones with multiple levels, with lots of steps. They would be amazing for "Street Orienteering " events. I'm sure it's been done. I really enjoy just following my nose, exploring. I discovered a Monastery, and a Castle, high above the old city, and then some cool, almost forgotten alleys and stairs, took me back down to the back end of the city. No cars. No buses. Not even motorbikes or bicycles. Just kids playing in the streets, really close to the top of the steps, mums hanging out washing, Grandpop walking the dog, Grannie struggling back up the steps with the groceries, a few young things dressed up and heading out, and some tough guys off to cause havoc, and me. Just the way I like it.
I needed the break. I can tell, when by about 2pm I'm yawning, and in need of a Nanna nap. So I took them, and today, it paid off. I climbed for 30kms. It was too cold to stop for more than a few seconds, and without the two day rest, I would have struggled. I started with only a couple of layers, but more were piled on as I got higher. Trouble is, when you climb you sweat. When you stop the sweat cools....no freezes you. And who would have thought I would not be looking forward to the downhill. Cycling downhill creates a windchill factor, as if it's not cold enough already. Down, down, down, down, into Trieste. I stop to check my map, and without the wind... wow its actually quite warm. A flashing neon sign tells me it's 10°C, but when cycling, my eye is weeping..... -5°C.
Yep, it's happened again. Even though I was only in Slovenia for 40km (sorry Slovenian friends..... I need warm....) it's very different from the Croatian coast, which is rocky and scrubby. Slovenian fields are well groomed, and rock free. The countryside is undulating, and many fields have been ploughed. And then, crossing into Italy...... forests, and then a huge downhill back to the coast and a big city. But all are similar as well. Suddenly big "Supermarkets" have appeared, where there is lots of choice. Graffiti, some of it very elaborate, is everywhere. The cars are all smaller, and most, a good deal more modern. Yep. I'm in the "real" Europe.
I find a hostel. This time I'm not alone. There are 30 Bangladeshi male students here, studying for three months. I'm the only European. They all want to ask me questions, but their English is poor, my Bangladeshi is non existent, and their Italian has an incredible strange accent, I've got no show of understanding. They are impressed by my cycling here from NZ, and I'm told Guptil is a great batsman. Dejevu India.....