Apologies. Another late update. The good news is that I am in Italy. I feel that I am at home. Which is very bizarre as I am not Italian, have never lived in Italy and have merely been an occasional visitor to the country over the last twenty years. I did cycle through Italy back in 2010 from top to tail (read the book!) which has perhaps given me a sense of cycling familiarity about Italy but other than that there is no logic to my feeling of being at home. But I do. Perhaps it is simply that Italy is much more like Britain than any of the countries that I have been travelling through over the last four weeks. The language was alien (to me at least) & the culture very different. The people weren’t that different but they weren’t as familiar to me as the Italians, French or Spanish will be. Perhaps.
My ‘dehydration/fever’ (take your pick) had taken a small step backwards by the time I woke this morning. I’ll spare you the details but the leap was not sufficiently large to warrant a further day off the bike. So I packed up, drank my camomile tea provided by the ladies in charge, paid my 50€, explained to an inquisitive Austrian that yes, Reggie was an appropriate bike for the task (I’m not quite sure what he had in mind for the job) and cycled out of town.
I was hoping that the road to Rijeka, my final port of call along the eastern Adriatic would be fairly flat. And it was, fairly flat. The main climb involved a circumnavigation of a bay that was plugged by a headland upon which a large refinery had been built. But then a gentle descent into Rijeka itself was my reward. I arrived in the town centre and I sat to eat the remains of my high salt content crisps (just following instructions from the Twittersphere!) and rehydrate with an energy drink (give him a medal). The pigeons were annoying me however so I stood up to move somewhere else. I unlocked my phone to check my exact location – there was perhaps a pigeon free zone somewhere – only to notice that I had received a long text message and a couple of answer phone messages…
My flat back in the UK had flooded. The fire brigade had broken in at 4am to turn off the source of the leak but the damage had been done. The upshot was that the next two hours of my day were spent on the phone with various people trying to make sure that everything that needed to be done was being done. If you are one of those people, your help this morning was very much appreciated. Of particular assistance were Andy & Zoë. After the medical events of the previous 36 hours a flooded flat was all I needed and when I initially found out my heart sank but my worst fears have been assuaged somewhat. It was just one of those things.
The second stage of today’s cycling was to escape Croatia. It was a steady climb to the border at over 600m and a moment that I had been looking forward to for several days. Croatia is a very long country. Go on, don’t just sit there. Have a look at a map. I reckon (because I have just looked at a map – I bet you didn’t) it’s the same as the distance between London & Newcastle but with the Brecon Beacons strung out repeatedly along the length. That would have buggered up the building of the M1 wouldn’t it? Anyway, I digress… Reaching the border with Slovenia was a kilometre stone (if such things exist) in my journey.
Ironically, one of the longer countries was followed by the shortest. Slovenia. I crossed the rolling green hills in just a couple of hours. It’s a very pretty place and although culturally similar to Croatia it was physically closer to its northern neighbour Austria. But how would I know? Were you paying attention a few days ago when I mentioned having been but not having been to Austria? Determined to say that I had been to Slovenia by doing something there I… err… well, there wasn’t that much to do in that little corner of Slovenia apart from watch the field & forests go by and count the hay bails. I didn’t want a full-blown meal at one of the occasional restaurants along my route but could have done with a snack from a shop. But there weren’t any. Schools, yes. A pharmacy, yes. Places to stay, yes. What do Slovenians do when they fancy a box of Pringles? It wasn’t until within a kilometre of the Italian border that I found a supermarket where I bought a banana, some cheese, an energy drink (I’m getting addicted) and a Snickers bar (I already am). These purchases entitle me to say that I have indeed been to Slovenia.
The Italian border was deserted. As soon as I crossed over into the land of Dante Alighieri I started spurting my Italian in preparation of being back in a country where I can get by on a functional level with the language. To any passing pedestrians I must have sounded like a cycling Berlitz language tape.
It was a wonderful descent into Trieste. 500m in just 10km. The road brought me straight to the door of the Hotel Milano, a fading early 20th century place that has been selectively modernised. I had booked the room while back at the supermarket in Slovenia so once showered I had a little time to head off into the nearby city centre for a drink and something to eat. I’ll hopefully get the chance to explore more in the morning before heading off around the corner towards Venice. It will be a two-day journey so it’s back to camping tomorrow before meeting up with Simone who I first met back in 2010 en route to Brindisi. I’m expecting it to be flat!