Not, admittedly, what I expected this morning when I hurried away from a patch of forest near Murska Sobota, attacked from all sides by mosquitoes. Even my pungent iron-laced washing water from last night was not enough to dissuade them from my (apparently) sweet skin.
My morning’s ride took me through more or less what I had expected of backcountry Slovenia: narrower roads with less provision for bikes; small villages furnished with large, but functional, houses with the appearance that money was saved for size, not ornamentation (the exception being the churches which were occasionally painted with biblical scenes); a slightly more industrial feel – railway lines and chimney stacks less hidden. As I left the town of Ljutomer, I expected more of the same, but with a few hills thrown in.
As I climbed a loose dirt road, losing traction with my back wheel, I thought that I was entering another era of stony tracks, water pumps in gardens and wooden houses. I was wrong. I was entering another world.
The dirt track re-established itself as metalled tarmac and as I climbed further, I realised I had entered a land festooned with vines. Not vines laid out on either side of a valley. Not vines spread across a lush flat plain. But vines set amongst rolling hills, soft and content, with villages dotting each rounded mound. Clunking wind vanes clunked. I had never seen such contraptions before and I couldn’t work out their purpose and yet they filled each valley with an evocative backing track, calling out the passing of the day: not by measured time, but by the caprices of the weather that swelled over and through bobbling greenery.
It took me a while to realise the beauty of what I was seeing. No one had primed me with the words “it’s like Italy”, “vineyards” or even “picturesque”. But this is exactly what it was. I had entered an area of stunning, unprepossessing and unannounced but unmistakable beauty.
Welcome to Brebrovnik, perhaps the most underrated part of Slovenia.