Paul, who heads home each evening after leading us to our hotel, arrived while we were having breakfast. All the accommodations provide a big enough spread for breakfast that we can easily make enough for lunch too – sandwiches, fruit, and sweets. We headed out at 9:35, greeted by a chilly wind and light rain. It didn’t take us long to warm up when Paul headed into the hills. First a few rollers, then a long 9% climb that brought the sweat out even with the chill in the air. Our bikes are generally in good shape (except for Al’s, who had sticky disk brake problems for the first 2 days), with 24 gears, but it was a struggle to make it up to the top. I’m usually pretty good on hills but I found this one a lot of work. A few more low gears would have helped. On reflection, this would prove to be one of the “friendlier” hills over the course of the week! We stopped beside a small cemetery at the top of a hill to catch our breath and take in the wonderful view. It seems like all the cemeteries are purposely situated to have great views of the valleys and the graves are very lovingly kept.
After 26 km and another long 13% climb, we stopped at an inn that was supposed to be our abode for the previous night but we were too big a group – more likely the requirement for 2 rooms with twin beds – for them to accommodate us. Too bad because it would have been a lovely place to stay. Kind of a country cottage atmosphere with numerous flower arrangements, many of them vegetable in nature. The owner, consistent with Slovenian hospitality, even offered us drinks of her cherry liquor as well as apple juice, both homemade. We stayed – admiring the view, taking photos, playing on the swing (Lucille and Chris), drinking her liquor – for at least half an hour. Then we headed to a bar across the street, with a tree growing through the middle of it, for a coffee and a bathroom break.
We rode on to Grad and wandered around the castle. It is Saturday and they had sort of a farmer’s market set up in the courtyard with crafts, food stuffs and homemade liquors for sale and activities for the kids. Chris, unfortunately, bought a bottle of William’s pear liquor. It later proved to be almost undrinkable, though we tried hard to mask it’s terrible taste.
Many of the houses here are brightly coloured stucco, mostly in pastel shades, with well-trimmed trees and clean yards. I found it quite different from Italy, where I found the small town colours more bland and the houses scuzzier, though a lot of the architecture was more interesting.
After lunch (the sandwiches we made in the morning) at a little park, we finally did a lot of flat riding, eventually entering Austria.
Paul had been told that the border was being controlled, i.e that they were checking passports because of the migrants passing through the country. This was a problem because Chris left his in his luggage. Steve and Julie retreived it but it turned out that no one was there and we rode right through. Shortly, we arrived in Bad Radkersburg, our destination for the night. Shades of the sewer problem that sent Lucille and JoAnn off the barge for a night, our hotel had a similar problem. This time it was Al and I who had to relocate, shunted off to a hotel in another town a 20-minute walk away. There is some sort of do in town and everything in Bad Radkersburg was booked up so it was the only arrangement that could be made on short notice. Paul drove us over to our hotel and, after showering, Al and I walked back to meet up with the group. We found a nearby bar, had a beer and Chris looked for a decent restaurant review on TripAdvisor. The top review was for Gasthof zum Lindenhof in Laafeld. Wait – what? That was where Al and I were staying! So we all walked back to OUR hotel and had another enormous supper. Learning from the past, 3 people shared a dinner for 2 and Stan and Gwen split their 1 order. There were still leftovers.
Al and I returned to our room while the rest walked back. And forth. Chris forgot his backpack in the restaurant, containing both his and Lucille’s room keys, so the 2 of them returned to retrieve it. At least they got to wear off a little of the supper.
Distance for the day was 56 km, with some decidedly unfriendly hills.