Passes are (of course) must do’s when in Central Europe. You cannot leave without at least riding a few. So mountain passes was on the menu for July 3rd.
Passes, from Austria to Slovenia
Woke up to partial blue sky, with low hanging clouds up along the mountain sides. No rain in the forecast until late afternoon or evening. Went down for breakfast, a little later my English friends David Coleman and Mick Bond showed up. They were going to Italy, and by ferry over to Greece.
I decided, pretty much on a whim, to stay another night at Loncium beer hotel. My room was vacant for another night, the deal was great, and I had no train to catch.
The plan was to ride over to Italy, and then into Slovenia. As Dave & Mick departed I got myself ready to hop on the mighty “pirate ship“. You can read about David & Mick’s adventure here.
Passes (1): Nassfeld Straße (B 90)
Started by taking the 111 from Kötschach-Mauthen to Jenig, then off from the main road and onto small ways, across farmlands and through woods down to Rattendorf. A few minor stretches with gravel and dirt offered themselves up, and I could not resist the temptation.
Right above Tröpolach I came in on Nassfeld Straße and continued up towards the mountain pass.
Nassfeld Pass is perhaps not the most scenic or exciting pass you can ride across. With its 1510 meters it’s a forest crossing, but the road is awesome, with sharp turns and steep inclines or declines.
The road winds itself down from the pass, towards Italy and Pontebba, through a v-shaped valley. I found it excellent and would recommend it to any rider. Good fun!
Shortly after I was in Pontebba, where I stopped for a quick coffee before continuing towards Slovenia.
When you are out and about in countries or regions not previously explored, impulse riding makes up half the fun. Sometimes ad-hoc, improvised detouring will result in both awesome and surprising experiences.
In the municipality Chiusaforte I took off from SS23, went down the SP76. It was down along that road I spotted something interesting and took off the main road.
My intuition (plus some aid from the GPS) proved me right. A marvel of a road, literally carved into and through the mountain slopes.
Tunnels along the road up to Patocco and Chiout Michel was indeed something else. A detailed description you may find on this page. Google street view confirm they’ve also been up this road.
A narrow, winded experience
The road had tunnels with sharp bends inside the mountain. Never ridden any such before, at least not like this! I wondered about the mind-boggling effort and intense labour that had gone into creating this road, ending further up in a small village.
Without knowing local history (at all) I assume the road might (also) have had military purposes. From the vantage points further up one would have complete control and overview of activity in the valley. I don’t know, maybe it was purely built to serve villagers and farmers.
What I do know is that it was an awesome experience to ride that road. My curiosity had paid dividends!
Down and east to Slovenia
Went down the road I came up, there were no other alternatives. Didn’t mind that the least bit, quite the contrary. A road isn’t properly ridden until you’ve done it in both directions!
Back on SP76 I continued east towards and along the border to Slovenia.
Further east I made a short stop by a Lago del Predil, the scenery was simply stunning. A fellow biker had stopped for a bite, he ate his lunch, admired the scenery and appeared not to have any interest in conversing with strangers. It could also be he spoke nada English.
We exchanged nods, and I left.
At the end of the lake I took Strada Statale 54 towards the Italian Slovenian border. Shortly after I found myself in Slovenia for the first time.
Not long after the border you can take a road to the left up towards Mangart. Since I’d had so much fun in Italy with detours decided it would take too much time to go there. I’ll be back one day, maybe in 2019.
If you want to know why you should go there, read my friend David’s blog post.
I’d been on the road for a few hours so in Bovec it was time for lunch. Found a nice inviting place along the road. Settled in and on recommendation from the innkeeper’s daughter I went for a plate of local specialties.
Full and content I departed for Vršič Pass.
Passes (2) – Vršič in Triglav National Park
Less than half an hour east of Bovec I passed through Trenta and went up the road towards Vršič Pass in Triglav National Park. It makes up approx 3% of the country’s areas, and spectacles exists in abundance here.
The road itself was built by Russian war prisoners during the 1st world war. It’s rougher than the polished Austrian & Italian alpine roads. Twists and turns are largely made of cobblestones, the in an older, traditional style. Pertinent to stress that its’ slippery when wet!
If you ride an adventure motorcycle there’s little to worry about but mind the potholes, and cobblestones.
There’s one other thing I would like to point out. Stay on the right side, far into your lane especially in left curves. Slovenians cut corners, and wander frequently across the center line. Much more so than Austrians.
Quite a bit of construction was ongoing, the road was busy so I kept on all the way till past the highest point.
Stacked Stones & return
Further down the road, in a sharp turn you find lots of stacked stones. Don’t know the origin or story behind these, or why this particular spot was picked. But the view of the mountains is pretty spectacular!
But there they sit, an impressive if somewhat eerie sight.
I continued down to Kranjska Gora, turned west and went back across the border, over to Italy, through Pontebba and did the Nassfeld Straße & Pass the other direction.
The weather forecast had changed, things did not look as good as it did in the morning. Things can change quickly in the Alps. There was a chance I’d make it across Nassfeld pass before the rain set in.
Lucky me, just as I came down into Tröpolach it started to pour down. From here it’s only 25-30 minutes along the 111 back to Kötschach Mauthen.
Just as I parked the bike in the hotel’s bike garage (did I somehow fail to mention they have a motorcycle garage?) the sky went black and water literally fell from the sky in buckets.
I’ve had my share of torrential rain experiences while on a motorcycle in the Alps, very happy been spared this year!