Cycling in Dolenjska

Ljuben bike trail

I am heading to Dolenjska at the invitation of my two cycling friends Jože and Luka. We met years ago when we all went to see a stage of the Giro d’Italia on the Slovenian-Italian border. Ever since I have begun cycling, I have had the impression that all cycling enthusiasts are connected in a way, and if you combine beautiful nature, sports and good food, great memories are guaranteed.

The land of cviček is pretty cloudy today, but unfortunately this is what all summer has been like. We set off on a bike route, which, partly concrete and partly gravel, with narrow paths through the forest and along the Krka River and a few wooden bridges, ends in Novo mesto. The route is 50 km long with approximately 500 meters of elevation. Thanks to several flatter sections, the ascents are not too demanding for the average cyclist.  The route takes three to four hours, depending on the stops you make.

We start in the parking lot of the Ravbar bike hotel, where they are happy to tend to cyclists. For the most part we cycle on the bike route, but at the end we turn into the forest and start ascending on gravel.  The route takes us all along the foot of the Ljuben hill. The terrain is not demanding and there are quite a few beautiful paths along the main gravel one, which can spice up the ride.

We make our first stop at Jože’s vineyard cottage. Nicely decorated, carefully restored, it sits in amidst vineyards. The owner (Jože Ravbar from Novo mesto) works in tourism and loves to take cyclists and groups around his native Dolenjska, inviting them to a glass of top-quality blue frankincense. If I could, I would stay here forever, but I have to get back on the bike.  We make stops along the ride, which takes us past endless vineyards, cottages and hills.  Gradually, the ascent turns into a descent as we head towards Dolenjske toplice.  This is one of the oldest villages in our region, well known for its offer of spa and wellness services.

We ride through fields from Meniška vas all the way to Soteska. Unfortunately, not much remains of the fort except for its walls overgrown with greenery, but the Devil’s Tower is well preserved. It is said that this is where the Auersperg princes held very special parties.  You can get the key to this landmark in the neighboring Turn Bar and have a look inside. The paintings inside are of course female figures that instill love and hope. The energy of this place is mystical.

We carry on riding along the remains of the old railway, which once led to the state reserves, with the Krka River continuously sparkling in the background. These days, the herds of visitors come here as this is where a popular Slovenian series was recently filmed. I have to admit that this is not something I am particularly moved by, but tastes differ. However, it is not difficult to understand why the Dolenjska region has fascinated and inspired so many poets. As the water always calms me down, the last part of the ride was somewhat of a meditation, even though it offered several opportunities to stop for a quick sip of cviček.  And even though there are renovation works currently taking place in the city center, we managed to end our ride with a visit to the wooden Ragovski bridge before returning to our starting point at the Ravbar bike hotel.

I’m sure I will return here again soon.

Tit Košir