Carinthia: a perfect MTB gateway

I want this storybook to be about Slovenia or at least about its surroundings – but the second half of 2015 was mostly about wandering abroad: searching for the MTB trails in the Carnic Alps and the Dolomites, trekking in the Indian Himalayas and having a great time on single trails in Finale Ligure on Italian coast.

But there was one great MTB trip last summer I still haven't written about ;-): in Carinthia, the region that is becoming more and more MTB friendly. It's one of the Slovenian regions which is a bit ignored by both, Slovenians and foreign visitors. Located in the northern part of the country, surrounded by the hills and mountains and with no perfect road connections it seems a bit isolated; plus it doesn't have well advertised hot spots like the alpine lakes like Bled and Bohinj, the emerald Soča river, the best wine producers (Goriška Brda, for example), the seaside ... »Just« lots of nature, mountains and hills, small towns and villages. And a history of the heavy industry which had a big impact on the environment in the past but was luckily abandoned and transformed into the legacy to remember.

Doesn't sound attractive enough? Well, you'd be wrong to think it's not.

From underground biking to bike parks

Actually – for the nature lovers Carintihia has it all. Especially for those who enjoy spending their time in the countryside on the tourist farm, tasting home made food, enjoying the long walks in the forests and on the well maintained macadam roads with nice views. The cattle graze on the vast meadows, full of wild flowers that flourish in the spring and summer. And there are lots of villages and towns with unique past, heritage and culture. (Did you know, for example, that there is a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in one of the biggest towns in Carinthia – Slovenj Gradec? In 1989 Slovenj Gradec got the distinguished title of the Peace Messenger City!)

And last but not least – Carinthia is a perfect MTB getaway. Kilometers of well marked dirt roads through the meadows and the forests, passing by isolated farms at higher altitudes, small villages ... The trail park that is still being under construction and will surely become one of the most popular MTB spots in Slovenia. There is also one of the most unforgettable tourism experiences in Slovenia: underground biking along the abandoned and mysterious mining tunnels under Mt. Peca. Plus: on the other side of the border, in Austrian Carinthia, but very close to Slovenia, there is the longest flow trail in Europe. It flows from Mt. Peca, the border mountain, where the famous King Matjaž sleeps and waits for the right time to weak up and become a great ruler again ...

Ten kilometers of pure flow

We started our Carinthia MTB journey on the Austrian side to try the Petzen flow trail near Bleiburg. Ten kilometers, downhill over ramps, tables, S bends. No special technical knowledge needed. (Exactly what I've needed :-)!) No muss, no fuss. You use the cable car to lift yourself and your bike for around 1000 meters to the start of the trail. You don't have to be the most daring downhiller to make the flow; you just take it slow to get used to it. The second and the third flow were super fun! So super I almost flew from the S bend on several occasions :-). Well, the fourth one was the last one for me; my legs were like omelets. After 40 kilometers of descending it was time to finish the day – in one peace at least!

Get uphill and check the heritage

We drove back to Slovenia – to Ravne na Koroškem, the largest town and traditional capital of Slovenia's Carinthia region with a long tradition in steel industry. We booked two nights in Punkl, really nice youth hostel, designed as an architecturally unique low-energy building which exploits natural resources of the surrounding area. The room was bright and neat, there is a big kitchen in the ground floor where you can cook if you want (we didn't – we rather checked the local restaurants) and the stuff was nice and helpful. We decided to explore the marked MTB roads above Ravne the next day. Quite a lot of ascending (being fit helps :-)), though it was a nice ride passing the farms that enjoy the solitude in the middle of the meadows and the forests. We visited a bunch of small villages that rested in tranquility; Strojna was one of them – one of the most well known villages in the region that has kept its identity and the rural way of life over the centuries.

Single trail park Jamnica – so cool!

Real fun was planned for the next day: we visited Single Trail Park Jamnica, where trails run through forests and fields. You can either decide to take easy flowing trails or technically more demanding ones. Trails are connected with an easy uphill ride on the slopes of the hill. We stopped at the bike hotel Ekohotel Koroš in Jamnica where the trails begin. With a reason: the family that runs the hotel is the one that has been building the park and is also the most proactive in developing MTB tourism in the region for much more than the decade. We were lucky to get the youngest of the family team at home; he was kind and helpful with a map, information and suggestions. All for free, though they have a small box you can put some contribution for the park (and we did – the only right thing to do when someone makes a big effort that enables you to have a great experience). The day wasn't perfect – it was raining all morning and some trails were slippery and muddy; so we chose the ones that were dry enough and not too difficult. Beautiful! No stones, just soft ground with gentle ramps, tables and S bends. And blueberries :-).

It's a simple plan: you descend, then ascend, descend again, ascend again ... Although the ascents are not long, the sum can be quite impressive if you'd like to make as much descents as possible.

We skipped the other parts of the region this time. So – this year it's time to revisit :-)!

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