Cycling in Slovenia: Murska Sobota to Rogaška Slatina (147kms)

After meeting Roz for a coffee across the Hungarian border, I continued my journey for another 20 kilometres or more before returning to Slovenia. A lone figure cycling effortlessly along a flat stretch of road, I passed through a number of small hamlets. Most looked more tired and dreary than those on the Slovenian side of the border but surrounded by verdant forest it was as tranquil as you could wish for – a bit like walking through remote bushland on a sunny spring afternoon.

The Slovenian-Hungarian border.
 Heading south-west I again crossed the Mura River which also forms the border between Croatia and Hungary. Rising in the Austrian Alps, it travels 480 kilometres through three countries –mostly through Austria, as well as Slovenia and Croatia - until it eventually flows into the Drava River in Croatia’s north-west.

In between the Mura River to the east and the Drava to the west, lies the Slovenske Gorice (Slovenian Hills) which is an ideal place for cycling. Abundant in green, undulating rises with terraced vineyards, cascading waterways and higher mountains in the distance, you couldn’t ask for a more stress-free place to escape to.

A flat stretch of Hungarian road.

Passing through many small villages along the way, I soon reached Ptuj, reputedly Slovenia’s oldest town and home to approximately 20,000 inhabitants. Boasting a large castle, colourful flags and an influx of traffic, it takes no time at all to realise you’ve reached a place of some significance. Beginning life as a Roman military outpost along the Drava River, the town has a decided medieval flavour about it, and rivals Ljubljana in historical importance.

Nevertheless, as scenic and culturally rich as it is today, Ptuj didn’t always have it so good; certainly for Slovenians anyway. Despite a Slovenian majority in the surrounding villages, the town comprised of predominantly German-speaking people until World War I. While their number gradually declined, steadily replaced by Slovenians until early 1941, the invasion of Yugoslavia by Nazi Germany changed things dramatically. With the town’s occupation, the Slovenian population was dispossessed and deported. It wasn’t until the war’s end in 1945 that stability was restored.

Ironically, and most would say justly, Ptuj today is populated almost completely by Slovenians.

A local's solution to accidents on a very steep switchback.

Leaving the 432 from Ptuj, it was little more than a two-hour ride to our accommodation at Rogaška Slatina, which is only a handful of kilometres from the Croatian border. With Slovenia being so small in area – less than 21,000 square kilometres – it’s a matter of time before you find yourself along the border of one country or another.

Residing in the foothills of the Macelj range, Rogaška Slatina is Slovenia’s oldest and largest spa town. According to lonely planet, its mineral water contains the largest amount of magnesium found in the world. It supposedly eliminates stress, aids digestion and encourages weight loss. Then again, so does riding a bike, though I guess drinking a glass of the local brew each day doesn’t leave you with a dose of sore buttocks or saddle rash.

Our accommodation at Tourist Farm Marjanca.

Rogaška Slatina will also be remembered for our excellent accommodation at Tourist Farm Marjanca. Though adding an additional few hundred vertical metres to my day’s journey, the views were magnificent, the rooms spacious, and as for the food, it was a gastronomic delight. Very reasonably priced, our meals were all made from home-grown produce and abundant in proportion; an added bonus when you have another hundred or so kilometres of riding the next day.

Books by Mark Krieger:

‘High Spain Drifter’ is available on Amazon , Barnes and Noble, Booktopia  and other online bookstores. 

‘Lycra, Lattes and the Long Way Round’ is available on Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble, Kobo Books

Both books are also available at local bookshops on the Mornington Peninsula: @ Rosebud Bookbarn and @ La Brocante

“The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.”

                        English author Iris Murdoch