Leaving Zagreb for Slovenia, was pretty hard this morning. We’ve been couch surfing for three days with Annie, a French lady who moved to Croatia during the communist period. The stories of her life have been so intriguing. We learnt what it was like to be a foreigner during the regime and what life was like during the breakup of Yugoslavia. At breakfast we lingered over a coffee whilst we chatted until finally I started getting the show on the road by packing the bike.
We could easily have stayed a few more days as we really got on like a house on fire.
Heading out of Zagreb we ended up on the motorway and missed the turnoff to our first destination. By the time we discovered our mistake we were 30 km’s past the turnoff. Our plan was to explore the border area to the west of Zagreb.
Instead of heading back we decided to take the next turn off at Krapina and head towards Veliki Tabor.
Around Krapina the area is quite hilly with lots of small farms amongst the hills and valleys. The architecture is a little different from elsewhere in Croatia and reflects their proximity to Austria. Two-storey brick houses with wooden balconies at the front lined with flower boxes. Many of the outbuildings are built in red brick with a checkered work of missing bricks around the upper walls to allow for wind flow.
At a few farms, corn cobs were hung around the exterior of the barn drying which looked quite unusual. The road wound through some picturesque countryside with tree-lined hills and patches of corn, wheat, potatoes, beans and cucumbers growing on the flatland.
Veliki Tabor is one of two old Austrian castles built in the area whose name translates to big Tabor. Its surrounding town was once bigger than Mali Tabor, Little Tabor. These days the population has declined and now Mali Tabor is the bigger of the two towns. We stopped off at the town for a coffee before heading towards the border.
It was a nice ride through the border country as the road wound through forested hills with lots of hairpin bends leading up over the hills. As we’d reach the top of the hills we’d be greeted with views of hills stretching as far as the eye could see.
Near Rogatec we arrived at the border crossing which consisted of two huts close to each other. The border guards seemed surprised because we’re sure the Slovenian officer was asking the Croatian officer if they could process us. They also looked a little surprised as they searched through our passports trying to find a blank page to put their stamp.
Once we’d crossed the border it became apparent that Slovenia has a little more money than their neighbours. As we rode around the border region we could see the Austrian influences in architecture and organisation.
The hills along the border area soon gave way to flatlands with large tracts of wheat and corn surrounding the small towns. Trying to avoid the pay road to Maribor became a challenge as the road was poorly signposted so we had to rely on the satnav.
Eventually, we reached Maribor and crossed over one of the many bridges into the city. The city is a mixture of old and new with old 19th-century Austrian buildings around much of the centre but lots of new buildings in between. The centre has a large pedestrian area and as our hostel was situated in the heart of it we had no choice but to ride through it. Michele seemed like the only person concerned about us riding through the area and after a few turns, we arrived at our hostel.
After check-in, we grabbed a map and took a walk around the city. Stopping for lunch in a local Kellar, we soon realised that we were back in Western Europe, as the prices were sky high. We’d been told that Slovenia was trying to aim their tourism at richer travellers and trying to discourage “Tomato Tourists” from visiting. It’s a term they coined for budget tourists who buy their lunch at the local supermarket and sit in the park to eat. With the price to eat out it seems we may have to become “Tomato Tourists” ourselves.
The rest of the day we spent wandering around the Maribor trying to come to grips with the change in lifestyle which now confronts us. Gone are the carefree days of eating and drinking. Now we have to carefully watch our pennies again so dinner was rolls in the local park lol.