Three whirlwind days are in the books. It was an extremely frost free event, so we didn’t ride anything but shuttle buses and the light rail while we were here. We did see a ton of cool product, sat through some super informative seminars, amd we’re stoked to come home and put some of what we learned to use. We appreciate everyone that followed along on Instagram. Rather than blowing up your feed, we decided to just do a bit of a picture dump here on the blog.
Forgive me if I don’t caption everything, it’s been a tiring one. Enjoy the pics!
A Remolino Fatty on display in the lunch room.
Lazers new glasses are pretty sweet. Held on by magnets and helmet straps.
Much as we love bikes, this may have been my favorite two-wheeler on the show floor.
Whisky may have gotten the location for NAHBS confused…
Ti CX goodness from Foundry
The Twin Peaks theme song is still rattling around my brain. The Log Lady is pretty dang sweet though.
Big fat Minions.
We are super pumped on this new CrossCheck build. This may not be final spec but it’s dang close and it’ll be amazingly well priced. Keep your eyes on Surlys website for more details soon.
Rolhoff on a Wednesday in the Revelate booth
New 27.5+ from Heller. The Shagamaw has two builds, one sub-$2K and one mid-$2K. Cool stuff coming from this new brand.
Buy a Surly, make it your own.
CX, gravel, road, Foundry is doing some cool things with loopy barred bikes.
New frame bag from Surly, the StraggleCheck. There is also the Porteur House bag that works perfectly with the 24pack rack.
Yes, we went to Mall of America.
And that’s it. We saw it all and talked to reps about most of it. So, if you see something floating around the interwebs and want more details give us a call or stop in the shop. Thanks again for following along with us!
If you spend enough time in one country it is difficult to miss or even avoid state holidays. Mid February has a couple of important holidays in Slovenia. Really, any holiday in Slovenia is important. Slovenia has existed as an ethnicity and culture for more than a millennium, it is a history rich with and language and culture. Yet Slovenia as a country has only been existence since 1991. Given the recent addition of Slovenia as a sovereign state the celebration of Slovenian traditions and holidays take on greater relevance. They are an important celebration of Slovenian pride and identity. After two months here we understood the value of recognizing and participating in the national holidays. So participate we did.
At the beginning of February is a ten day rite of spring known as Kurentovanje. The celebration culminates on the final day, Shrove Sunday. On this day, in the city of Ptuj there is a massive parade and the highlight of the parade is the march of the Kurents! The Kurents are huge hairy beasts that embody unrestrained pleasure and the spirit of bacchanal. Most importantly though they are believed to chase away winter with their wooden clubs and waist belts laden with large noisy bells. They also live up to their reputation for seeking pleasure. As they march through the city they seek the attention of the young women lining the streets. The Kurents will reach out and grab a young girl and carry her into the parade. The only way to be released from the grasp of the Kurent is to give him your handkerchief. The noise of the bells, the color, the spectacle and the sheer number of Kurents was amazing. There were over a thousand Kurents in the parade. Solveig and her buddy Zoe were fortunate on a few occasions to escape the hairy grasp of a Kurent. The Kurents bear a striking resemblance to the Krampus by-the-way. No, not the bike.
The 8th of February is the annual Slovenian day of cultural celebration. This is one of the biggest holidays in Slovenia and is a true reflection of how deeply Slovenians value the importance of their art, literature and poetry. The official name of the holiday is Prešeren Day. France Prešeren was a Slovene poet. The holiday celebrates the anniversary of his death on 8, February 1849. The holiday is more than a memorial to his life. It is intended as a day to celebrate all of Slovenia’s art, history and culture. All of the museums are open and entrance is free to everyone. In Prešeren Trg (Square) people will show up and spontaneously recite Prešeren’s poetry from memory. This occurs all day long. It is truly an impressive experience.
The emphasis on culture is pervasive. Even the military abides by the recognition of Slovenian culture and it’s importance to Slovenian identity. The Slovenian military has its battalions and regiments but they are named after Slovenian poets and philosophers rather than tigers, bees, eagles, badgers or whatever animal would intimidate you more than a poet. Again, it is a testament to Slovene identity.
I have to admit, I was eager to experience these Slovenian holidays but the reason I actually did experience them was because at the beginning of February the skiing in Slovenia and nearby Austria was marginal at best. It is really hard to justify a 90 min drive to ski on beautifully groomed runs all day in the bright sunshine. We have been waiting two months for some real snow and deep powder…
With no snow falling the riding in Slovenia has been great. There are so many great rides to do starting here in Ljubljana. Ljubljana is situated in a low lying basin but is surrounded by hills and mountains. It provides an opportunity for a wide variety of rides. All of which I have taken advantage of as long as the roads are dry. This time of year they are usually unrideable.
Hedging is usually what you find Vegas gamblers or Wall Street investors doing. In our case we have hedged against the weather, If the sun shines and the roads are dry it is great for getting out and exploring the country by bike. If the snow falls and the powder is deep it is time to step into the skis. After waiting for almost two months the snow began falling. At first Mother Nature was a tease. The mountains received a couple of centimeters here and there. Definitely nothing to get excited about. Then suddenly and in spite of the grim forecasts the snow began to fall. Loads of it fell in Slovenia, Italy, Austria and all the countries with high alpine mountain ranges. Finally. My bike is going to be dormant for a while but my skis will get a lot of use. I consider it cross-training.
Skiing in Austria (and I have heard Italy) is like skiing nowhere else. The facilities and infrastructure are something to behold. The eight person lifts, the gondolas that span broad valleys, the full service restaurants and lodges that are perched high on alpine ridges apparently well beyond vehicle service, all are exemplary and stunning to behold.
One thing I would have never expected was to take a lift to the top of a mountain by travelling under the mountain. Snow had been falling, the powder was deep and we decided to try out a place called Mölltaler Gletscher. High in the Austrian Alps are a series of glaciers (gletschers). They were hit hard with loads of snow and we went up to enjoy the fruits of Mother Nature’s generosity. In order to get up to the ski area you have to hop on a train from the base. This is not apparent when you arrive in the parking lot. At least for us it was not. All we saw was a mountain, free of any snow, rising in front of us.
We followed the gaggle of skiers walking into the mountain. We followed but were completely perplexed by the scene. No lifts, no gondolas anywhere insight. Only a cave set well into the mountain and everyone was headed that direction. Not sure what else to do we followed. Deep into the mountain we made our way on to a funicular. The train cars were not flat but rather a series of steps. Get in, hang on to your skis and enjoy the ride. With a sudden lurch the train began moving uphill quickly. There was nothing to see. The whole ride was underground. Everyone in the train car kind of awkwardly looking at one another, some folks making small talk – how much did you hear it snowed up there? 20cm? Not bad. Are you staying in the village down below tonight? Oh that place. I hear they serve a great breakfast.
Once we emerged from the tunnel we were greeted with warm bright sunshine. The train traveled underground and uphill for over four kilometers. We gained well over 1200 meters along the way. We disembarked from the train in a basin high up in the treeless alpine. All around us we saw mountains white with fresh fallen snow. This was this first big snowfall in a long time. Coverage was good but it was the first snowfall in weeks and two meters of snow high up in the mountains meant we still had to watch for the occasional protrusions of rocks here and there. Still that much snow also meant that we could ski just about anywhere we saw snow. It is a very rewarding treat to see a bowl that drops 600 meters with nothing obstructing your run. If I cannot be on my bike then being on the skis is a great alternative.
Getting around has been pretty easy. We have a car that has a cargo box on top. It holds all five pairs of skis and our ski poles. I really appreciate having a car, but wow, our car is pretty gutless. Fill the car with five people, our skis and our gear and you have a car that is not eager to climb up over steep mountain passes. The highway speed limit here in Slovenia and Austria is 130 km/hr. Our car, if pushed can manage 140 km/hr. Not fast enough to keep up with the cars that give us fair warning and a couple of flashes of the high beams letting us know they are approaching fast in the same lane and we should move over. It is not uncommon to have a car sit on your bumper moving at 140km/hr or better. Really, that situation should not even arise. When those lights flash in the rear view mirror you do what you can to move into the lane to the right. We try to keep the tempo of traffic but the only time I can hit 140+ km/hr is when the car is empty and the cargo box is removed. It is kinda fun to go over 160km/hr. This time of year it is hard to tell if the road are safe to drive fast. Just like Montana black ice is always a concern.
Maybe the Kurents will do their job and scare away winter. Maybe winter will hang around for a couple more weeks. Who knows. If there is fresh powder in the mountains I will be happy for the purchase winter has on the mountains. If the sun re-affirms it’s dominance I will be eager to get on my bike and continue exploring the marvelous land that Slovenia has to discover.
Like the rest of Europe, café culture is strong in Ljubljana. There are usually several cafes on each block, and remarkably they are always busy. Regardless of the weather and chilly temperatures, you will find folks sitting outside chatting over a coffee and a smoke. As for me, I would rather seek out a warm seat inside. Maybe in the spring when the sun is out and the air is warmer, I will find my place in front of the café. We live in an apartment near the center of the Old City. We are located just north of Trubarjeva cesta (street). Trubarjeva is known as a hipster, bohemian section of town. It is a cobbled lane set up just above the Ljubljanica River. It is a bike and pedestrian-only zone that was recently closed to cars. Years ago Trubarjeva cesta was a street where many of the local artisans plied their trade. Remnants of the blacksmiths’ or wood workers’ or textile workers’ shops still remain. These days the ground-level spaces are filled with cafes, spice shops, salons, wine stores, book sellers and of course small local boutiques. Trubarjeva is also home to a wide diversity of small restaurants. You can find Indian tandoor, Lebanese, Palestinian falafel, Chinese, Mediterranean and local fare. All of it is quite good. We have definitely taken advantage of the options and sampled most. Trubarjeva cesta is also home to our favorite café: The Trubar Café. Their coffee and croissants are great. They also make the best vroče čocolada – Slovenian-style hot chocolate. When I say hot chocolate, I mean hot chocolate pudding, only thicker. Our kids discovered this on accident. They ordered hot chocolate and were pleasantly surprised to discover that what they ordered was not hot cocoa but a hot, thick, rich chocolate pudding topped with a generous serving of whipped cream. Our kids would enjoy one everyday if we let them.
While waiting for winter to finally arrive here in Slovenia, I have passed the time exploring the countryside by bike. If there is no snow at least the dry warm weather has made for some great riding this past month. The area around Ljubljana is very hilly and is defined by karst topography. The result is that most of the hills around here are steep and the roads that take you up those hills are equally steep. It is common to see signs indicating anything from 9-14% grades. I find myself in my easiest gear quite often. I am also really glad that I have a 28-tooth cog in the rear. It may be worn out by the time I leave here next summer. The saving grace is that the scenery and hilltop villages are all so remarkable that it makes every challenge worth the effort.
We are constantly seeking out new places to enjoy coffee and sample dessert treats. A couple of days ago we found a very comfortable sidewalk café that served what the proprietress called “The Ljubljana Cake.” She told us it was the “official” Ljubljana Cake. She said it was the most delicious cake in Slovenia, inspired by ingredients from all four cardinal directions, and that this café where we were was the only place that served it. The Ljubljana cake sounded intriguing. How could we pass it up? The lovely cake was served, and we asked the proprietress the story of the cake. She said, “Well, as a matter-of-fact there is a folk story.” Wow, cool a real story behind the cake. She handed us a small pamphlet. On it was a short cliché story about a king and his daughter who lived in the Ljubljana Castle. The princess loved sweet cakes. The princess agreed to marry the baker that made the best cake in the land. Apparently, as the story goes, if the princess did not like the cake the chef had his head cut off. Can’t figure that one out… Eventually, one young and very handsome baker made the best cake the princess ever tasted. Married, happily ever after, yada yada. I am not an expert on Ljubljana history, but I had not heard anything about this king and his daughter. I had absolutely no intention of being disrespectful and neither did Sarah. We had to ask, “Was this story true?” It turns out that no, the story was a work of fiction, a marketing ploy created by the proprietress. She opened this café about three years ago, found a chef who lived out of town who made a gourmet cake that used a lot of interesting and traditional Slovenian ingredients. She pitched the story to the Ljubljana tourism board knowing for sure that the story of this cake was one thing that was missing from local lore. She felt very strongly that her cake should be a part of any greeting or meeting that took place in Ljubljana. It was, as she had ordained it, the original Ljubljana Cake. Unfortunately, it sounds like the tourism board was not going to go for a completely fictional tale of a king, his daughter and a slice of cake. I thought it quite unfortunate that the café owner, who had previously made a career in marketing it turns out, felt it necessary to put forth such extraordinary effort to promote her cake on falsehood rather than allow the cake to stand on its own merits.
If the king and his daughter actually did live, I think they would have chosen well. I dare say the slice of this Ljubljana Cake, (adorned with a small Ljubljana dragon which is actually part of authentic lore) that I enjoyed was probably the best cake I have ever had.
Ljubjana is your quitessential bike, walk, bus city. Bus service throughout the city and the surrounding municipalities is amazingly efficient. Despite being a large-ish city you can reach most of your destinations in town on foot within 20 minutes or less. If your walk is longer than 20 minutes there will most definitely be a bus that can get you there sooner. If you decide to commute by bike, which we quite often do here, you are very well served by an extensive network of well marked and very well protected bike lanes. These bike lanes are not just indicated by a white line painted along the side of a busy thoroughfare. More often than not it is a wholly separated lane specifically designated for bikes.
We all have town bikes here. One of our first objectives upon arriving in Ljubljana was making sure we each had bikes to get us around town. We visited numerous shops. There are over 15 bikes shops in town. Many bikes were deeply discounted for the winter (sounds familiar) and we found a couple of second hand shops. In the end we each found ourselves a town bike for very little cost. We have already made good use of the bikes and it is only January. Spring time is still a ways off so our bikes are sure to get plenty of use.
We have also taken advantage of the excellent bus service Ljubljana has to offer. All you need is your Urbana card. In fact, the buses do not accept cash, they only accept your Urbana card. You can purchase an Urbana card at any local kiosk – the ones where you by the daily paper, cigarettes and gossip magazines. Load the card up with a few Euros and you are ready to explore town. Hop the bus, press your card against the card reader and you are good to go.
The Urbana card is good for far more than bus rides. You can use it to pay for parking, use it to get into museums and I am now using it to get into my local gym. I signed up for a gym membership in the hopes of maintaining a bit of fitness through the winter. With a little bit of will power I manage to get into the gym about three days a week. My Urbana card also locks and unlocks my locker in the gym. That little card is pretty handy around here.
One note about the gym. The locker rooms are co-ed. Boys and girls changing in to their workout clothes or swim suits side by side with all the banter and chatter you find in any other locker room. It has been a few weeks since I joined and I am still feeling a bit prudish and trying to find my comfort zone. At least the showers are not co-ed. Am I just an uptight American? Perhaps.
Folks that live in Ljubljana are exceedingly fashionable. Everywhere you go people are always well dressed. The city is not huge but it is a national capitol. Being fashionable and well dressed is clearly important to folks in the city. This time of year fashion incorporates shades of black on black, and yet while I walk around town I still feel like a pauper dressed in old faded jeans and a random synthetic fleece pull-over. I definitely do not fit the latest motif.
If I do stand out on occasion I can take a bit of solace in my anonymity. Ljubljana is a big city by my standards and I am a visitor here; another transient face amongst the crowd. On a crowded bus or walking through a bustling and busy downtown plaza people will rarely make eye contact. Occasionally I see people talk to each other on the bus or stop each other on the street for a quick chat. They live here, this is their home, not mine. They have something in common. Where they went to school perhaps, mutual friends, or maybe their grand parents grew up together in a nearby village when Slovenia was still part of Yugoslavia. Me, I am a visitor. I am just passing through. I will be gone by the beginning of summer.
I have found some comfort in the anonymity. There is something serene about walking through a crowed market virtually unnoticed. But the best part is being able to walk away from an awkward situation. Mostly it has been something as un-remarkable as having everyone in line behind me at the grocery store looking at me quizzically while the cashier gives me a stern look. I have absolutely no idea what I may have done wrong but my faux paus earned me a long line of frustrated stares as well as a few disapproving shakes of the head. Was I supposed to weigh those lemons and get a price print out before I went to pay? Geez. I’m not sure.
I am not accustomed to the anonymity that I have here in Ljubljana. It is another adjustment. There was period, shortly after I arrived, where I was nearly certain that I saw someone in town whom I was almost sure was someone from Missoula. The doppelganger. For about two weeks I continually saw someone that reminded me of someone from home. I don’t know what to attribute it to but perhaps it is just an unconscious way for my mind to find something familiar in a vast and crowded place that is still so unfamiliar. Quite in contrast, the wonderful thing about Missoula is that nearly everywhere I go in town I a sure to be greeted by a friendly and familiar face. Anonimity has its benefits but familiarity is a much better reward.