Avgust 2019

DAY 1: From Rimske toplice to Celje

The starting point of our trip was a health resort with an exemplary history and a suitable name – Rimske toplice (Roman spa). Its “heart” is a thermal spa, after which the place was named. We unjustly did not devote enough time to it, but for all those who will return there sometime later, there is some factual information to encourage.

The participants arrived at the starting point by their own trasport, though the most “brave” and sustainably aware (unfortunately, only our e-courier Andreja can boast of this feat) set off by train (free for pensioners).

The beginning was very traditional – with a snack. Well, it must be admitted that some people came from far away, and we had a busy day full of adventures ahead of us, which is also a long tradition. Welcoming hugs and other “debauchers” were also exhausting, something that we should not even think about in the priod of COVID. That’s why it was necessary to strengthen ourselves with some snack!

To warm up the bikes and knees, we cycled first only a short trip of less than 10 km long through very slightly undulating terrain to the brewery metropolis of Laško. There we folded our bikes for the first rest and set off on foot, accompanied by a local guide, to explore the sights of the city. Among them is the Archdiocesan Church of St. Martin, which is a church with a long histor. It was there that he was ordained to the priesthood and preached for 5 years as vicar Primož Trubar. To warm up for later acquaintances with beer and its history, we visited the exhibition of Brewery Masters, and Laško Brewery did not want to open its doors to us in its secrets, so (without their beer) we went to the Savinja pub, in the shade of chestnuts to listen to the murmur of a nearby, equally named river.

In the pub, we were greeted by local delicacies in the form of delicious pretzels, which accompanied us to the first dedication to the secrets of brewing under the sommelier leadership of Domen Trkulja from the GreenGold brewery. On our tables was a set of beers of a more demanding level of “craft”, which, accompanied by a professional and interesting explanation, introduced us to higher levels of beer-loving. The tasting was crowned with a set of local grilled beer specialties, cooked with the use of beer, too.

From Laško, the path led us through one of the sights there – the Black Bridge, which rises over the tributary of the Savinja, the stream Žikovce, and then along the Savinja all the way to the “princely city” of Celje. As a rule, the hills of the flat Savinja Valley “showed us the horns” for the first time, but so far there has been nothing worse.

In Celje, we left our bikes in our accommodation, picturesque, with graffiti by young Celje artists, presenting local urban myths, legends  and history, enriched youth hotel MMC, as the guides of the Provincial Museum of Celje were already expecting us. Recently completely renovated museum hides quite a few sights in its bowels, especially attractive are the picturesque “city under the city” – the remains of a former Roman settlement, which are presented in the cellar, and the history of the Counts of Celje, local nobles who significantly intervened in royal courts from Bosphor to Baltic sea. For more, in the the Old County there is the famous Celje ceiling, the only preserved, tempera-painted canvas south of the Alps, which with its size of 142 square meters ranks among the largest similar creations in Europe. We were introduced to the history by enthusiastic and professional guides of the Celje Regional Museum, especially the charismatic Rada Hriberšek, who introduced us to the Celje ceiling and allowed us to drop the eye to the rest of the Old County with many interesting objects, paintings and furniture, too. On the walk back to our accommodation we took a photo with Alma Karlin, a bronze statue of a famous citizen of Celje, who travelled the world all alone in the early 20th century. She was as well a writer and very special and unique woman. 

We rounded off the evening with a dinner in the form of gypsy goulash, a visit to the local ice cream parlor in the city center and sitting and talking in a pleasant cafe and in charming open garden on the ground floor of the MMC.

DAY 2: From Celje to Velenje

The morning awaited us with a minor downpour, which “confused” our original plan for the morning ascent to Celje Castle, as it meant that the path we were going to climb could be muddy. So we parted, the “braves” jumped on their bikes and climbed the hill on the road, and the rest of us loaded into the caisson of our little “truck”. Well, and we got to the top almost at the same time.

We were received by a guide who introduced us to the history of the old castle, which has been intensively renovated for some time and has enriched the life of the princely city with regular events (until COVID, of course). Despite the threats of viruses, the castle was set up by enthusiasts to revive medieval customs from the local society, so that something “was happening”.

After returning to the valley, or as more frequently called – “basin”, we rode our two-wheeled horses again and went on a “farewell” parade tour of the city center, where we flew over the city sights for the last time and patched up some missing details. We finished on the “city beach” along the Savinja, from where we extended the path along a pleasant bike path in the direction of our next destination – Žalec. Our trail narrowed down to a single track, but we were not ready to give up the pleasure of driving through lush greenery along the Savinja embankments. Just before Žalec, we had the opportunity to see the picturesque Vrbje Pond Landscape Park, which is a popular excursion point for locals with a bird observatory and, above all, a convenient inn. The surroundings and access to the pond were further embellished with various carved wooden sculptures by Vinko Kovačec, an amateur sculptor and retired miner from Podvin near Žalec. From the pond to our next stop – the beer fountain Green Gold, was not far anymore..

The increasingly popular fountain was the next stop of our “small school” of beer tasting and, encouraged by the recently acquired knowledge from Laško, we enthusiastically threw ourselves into new beer experiences. Our mood suddenly rose a lot and we were just laughing and talking. It was quite difficult to separate from the attractive beer faucets, but the program was already calling for lunch at the Rotovnik farm in Gotovlje, just a stone’s throw away.

Fortified with veal stew and a delicious dessert, we continued our trip across the main road directly into the heart of the green gold – hop plantations. As a few days ago a severe storm devastated them, we unfortunately also saw scenes of damage it did to the more than 5-meter-high cables to which hop plants climb.

The trail led us to the town of Polzela, but along the way there was another attraction worth visiting – Petra Rehabilitation Center, a shelter for rescued horses that were not well cared for by their owners. We were received by the president of the association and animal caretaker Natalija Nedeljko, who taught us about their duties and took us through the stables to see their protégés.

From the shelter to our next vantage point – Komenda Castle in Polzela was only a good kilometer. There we were already waiting for the friendly host Manuela, who is the “soul” of the local tourist center. We learned that “Komenda” is the expression for the smallest administrative unit of the Knights, or formerly the estate of the wealthy Maltese Knights. Similar units – komeda’s – are in some other locations in Slovenia, too, but their former content was the same everywhere. Komenda in Polzela is a perfectly arranged castle, which hosts a variety of content, from the wedding hall to the library and exhibition center, lecture rooms, a restaurant with buffet and a room with personal belongings of the local poet Neža Maurer. Slovenian extreme cyclist Dejan Glavnik, the first Slovenian who cycled around the world in five years and covered 112,000 kilometers, also won his corner. Komendo was also often visited by slovenian biggest poet dr. France Prešeren, visiting his uncle Anton Muhavec, the parish priest in Polzela, who lived there.

We could stay in Polzela much longer, as there is another interesting castle Šenek, but we were short in time so we had to continue our trip towards Velenje. On the way, we were caught by a short shower, so we came to this former mining town like furies, each in his own way and as quickly as possible, directly to our accommodation at the Youth Hotel Velenje.

There was still enough time until dinner at the Fisherman’s Home, the fishermen’s club by the green Škalsko Lake, to take a shower and change into fresh, dry clothes. The traditional fish feast in a pleasant inn right by the lake was enlivened by the president of the local fishing family Jože Šumah with his lecture on fish life in the lake.

DAY 3:  From Velenje to Zreče

That day we had a slightly more varied terrain, so in the morning we hurried to cross over Vinska gora to the first attraction as soon as possible. The path was “suitable decorated” with quite a few steep ascents, but at the same time with many beautiful views, the most beautiful one from the monumental church of St. Janez.

The first stop of the day was a real “attraction” for cyclists, as the owner of the Blažiš homestead, Mr. Peter Habe, is the largest Slovenian bicycle collector. In his “exhibition spaces”, which are otherwise barns, granaries and garages of his homestead. he has all sorts of bicycles, from the oldest one with huge front wheel, to “specialized” craft bikes for tailors, butchers, grinders, soldiers and a number of other professions (many of which no longer exist today), etc. In addition, there are especially collections of various bicycle lights, bells, seats… For more, when Peter opens a small square window of the adjacent barn, you can se plenty of uncleaned bicycles. A whole bunch of bikes… At the end Peter takes us to the attic of his house, where he has collections of swords, weapons, helmets, hats, old paintings,… antiques in short, not to count them in three days!

But there was no mercy, the next experiences were already waiting for us just a few kilometers away, in Dobrna, where the picturesque spa park has just completed its venerable 200th anniversary. Therefore, the local tourist association made a special effort to shine in all its glory – in addition to many exotic trees and flower beds, it offers 5 healing energy points and facilities that are usually found in parks – pavilion, playground, etc. A member of the local tourist association, Irena Žagavec, introduced us to the secrets of the park.

As the weathermen did not promise us anything nice, we soon set off for our next visit, to the nearby town of Vitanje, where a “real” center of space technologies has been set up. It was named after the pioneer of astronautics Herman Potočnik – Noordung, a visionary of Slovenian descent who enriched the field of astronautics with many discoveries and insights. In order not to be hungry, the nearby inn Kuzman took care of us, where they refreshed us with lunch, part of which was also a local specialty “Vitanjska” sausage.

The visit to the museum was just long enough to drop all the drops from the sky, which no longer had a place to stay there, so we could continue our journey without capes. The section to Zreče via the hill Loška Gora turned out to be non-mountainous, so cycling in the pleasant forested gorge did not exhausted us. We arrived at our pleasant hotel Pod Roglo early enough to have time to take a shower before dinner.  

Zreče lies at the foot of Pohorje, so a local stew pot “Pohorje pot” was offered for dinner. The evening was rounded off by a guided tasting of top wines from the nearby Zlati grič wine cellar from Škalce near Slovenske Konjice. Wine knowledge and secrets were given to us in the right relationship between popularity and professionalism by the chief oenologist of the cellar Sašo Topolšek, and we had a hard time deciding whether it was a better oenologist lecture or wine tasting…

DAY 4: From Zreče to Celjska hut


We started the fourth day of our trip again with a very short route – only to the Zlati Grič wine cellar in the already mentioned Škalce near Slovenske Konjice. The new business premises with a cellar were created completely new only a few years ago, and their main feature is that they “shyly” hide their large dimensions in the underground and incorporated them almost imperceptibly into a beautiful panorama of wine hills under the dark Pohorje forests. Since we “finished” the tasting the day before, this time we were able to focus more on admiring the beautiful architectural solutions and the technology of the advanced wine cellar.

Continuing the route, we cycled around the outskirts of Slovenske Konjice and headed directly to the famous Žička Carthusian Monastery, hidden in a basin near the village Špitalič. In the Carthusian Monastery, which has been very lively and influential for many years, renovation works are being carried out recently, after even longer years of its decline. Under the guidance of the guide, we learned about the history of the complex as well as current activities and plans for the future.

Until lunch at the tourist farm Jager we had to climb a little more ascent, which, given the freshly laid asphalt of the just widened road, was not so very tiring. Housewife Urška treated us to delicious minestrone and a delicious dessert, and after lunch there was still some time for a pleasant rest on the grass in front of the house and enjoying the views.

On the way to the valley along the road that leads from Celje to Štore, Šentjur and Šmarje pri Jelšah, raindrops started to scare us again. This time, however, they did not stop at a short shower, but developed into a “furious” storm, before which we ran to the shelter of Celjska koča on the hills above the town. Some of us proved to be fearless and, despite the whipping of the rain and the pouring of water, sand and gravel across the road, made their way to the hut on their own. Others were rescued by our little truck . We were all soaked to the skin and bones, but the “winners of the ascent” were infinitely proud of their achievement, at which they thoroughly tested the limits of their own abilities.

However, since this was our last night, the traditional “performances” still had to be prepared. Due to the absence of ballet flats, there was no “artificial” dance this time, but there were “traditional” sketches that, as always, made us laugh! The dance was also quite a few at the end of the program… in short, the evening, as befits the our sycling club…

DAY 5: Back to Rimske toplice

In the morning, the wounds from the previous day’s evacuation had to be “healed”. However, after breakfast we were on our bikes again, ready to go. The first path led us to the grave of the famous Celje traveller Alma Karlin in nearby Svetina. In the meantime, we stopped at the Holy Church and sang “one melodious” in honor of Alma and of course all of us.

The path to our next destination, the second Carthusian monastery on our route, called Jurklošter , led us through varied hills and through places we had never heard of before. A good hour and a little more and the destination, hidden in a narrow valley by the stream Gračnica, appeared before us. There we were first served refreshments in the form of warm tarragon “potica” by Mrs. Milena Kozmos from the Kozmos farm. She warmed us up with the warm Tea of ​​the Traveling Monk, also a product of her farm.

The guide Magda Stopinšek took us through premises of the abandoned monastery, many of which were unfortunately destroyed by the storms of war and time, of course, to the most famous corner of the monastery – the place where Veronika Deseniška, wife of count of Celje Friderik is supposed to be buried. Today, the members of the ODON Institute, who also helped us organize a visit to this remote but very picturesque place, are advocating for the revival of the Carthusian Monastery.

The descent to our starting point led us through the mysterious valley of the Gračnica stream, from where we could observe farms scattered on all the surrounding hills. Quite a few of them would still be worth a visit because they offer healthy, natural and good home-made products.

But the schedule drove us to the last point of our journey (and at the same time the starting point ) Rimske Toplice. Before the farewell, we ate lunch together at Danijel Hochkraut’s home inn. The last hugs followed and we scattered back to our homes.

What would I say for the end? The members of our club are cycling together for 25 years already and there are not a lot of places we haven’t visit yet. Nevertheless, at the end of our journey we agreed that a whole bunch of interesting things and beauties remained undiscovered here, which could be summed up in at least one equally interesting cycling, trip more.