I’m from Portland Oregon, USA and I’m now living in Skofja Loka, Slovenia. I’ve been asked if I miss America? the answer has been, not as much as you might think I should. I never really bought into America’s values of bigger & bigger: grocery stores, Gigantic Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV), blatant corporate welfare, disregards for science (climate change), It’s insistence on living an unsustainable life while impoverishing the rest of the world. The view of endless consumption, with no consequences. Ok, I’m done, but I think you understand where I’m coming from.
The little village of Skofja Loka, is similar to Portland in many ways. Both have two rivers that join at the city. Skoja Loka has the Poljane Sora and the Selca Sora rivers,
Portland’s 2 rivers are the mighty Columbia River and the Willamette River, and they meet at Kelly Point Park.
What’s the difference? I bike by the rivers in Skofja Loka every time I go to the grocery store. The two big rivers in Portland? I’ve biked out there once in 20 years. Portland is currently studying the feasibility of putting a bike bath to Kelly Point Park. I’ve already got a great bike/pedestrian path over the river.
CONNECTED WITH NATURE? WINNER SKOFJA LOKA
With 2 rivers running through both towns, bridges are a must. This is where, again, America is big. Portland has 8 major bridges crossing the Willamette River, most designed for cars only. Several bridges have been retrofitted for bicycles and the new Tillikum Crossing is a train/bike/pedestrian only bridge.
Skofja Loka has more pedestrian only bridges than car bridges, and all the auto bridges are pedestrian friendly. i’m able to walk everywhere: post office,stores, galleries, restaurants, movie theater..
PEDESTRIAN FRIENDLY? WINNER SKOFJA LOKA
Farmers Markets are a big deal in Portland and Skofja Loka. In Portland my neighborhood farmers market , Montavilla, is about a 20 minute walk from my house. In the winter it’s only open every couple weeks. The year round market is a 20 minute bike ride from my house. The Skofja Loka Farmers market is a 4 minute walk from our apartment and is open 3 days a week, year round, Tuesday’s, Thursday;s and Saturday’s-which is the BIG market day.
I’m able to buy organic pears, apples, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce and more 3 days a week-YEAR ROUND!
FARMERS MARKETS? WINNER SKOFJA LOKA
The car is king in America and here in Slovenia too. We have one car that Natasa uses to go to work at 5:30 in the morning, about 16km (10 miles). Natasa use to put her bike away for the winter, no longer, we ride every week to somewhere.
We’ve had some snowy weather here in Skofja Loka lately. It might snow in Portland but it only last a couple of days.
One thing I don’t miss is the congested highways in Portland. Portland prides itself as a transportation hub for the import and export of goods. The only problem with that is that the roads are crowded with big diesel pollution spewing semi-trucks.
Don’t be mistaken, even with great bus and train service to and from Skofja Loka, there are still huge traffic problems. But here in Skofja Loka, we only have 2 lane roads, so it can only get so bad.
At the top of the road right before the one way, is where the locals hitchhike home from school & work.. This is one way to cut down on traffic and reduce C02 emissions from cars, “car-pooling”
It’s obvious that there’s going to be less traffic in a village of 12,000 people. I feel It’s more manageable with only 12,000 people than with a million people like in Portland.
TOLERABLE TRAFFIC? WINNER SKOFJA LOKA
I never thought I could survive in a small town. I always thought I needed multiple opportunities to have enough things to do: stores, museums, music,friends, comedy, nature, but I’m finding it easier than I thought to get use to, small town life. We road our bikes into Ljubljana a couple weeks ago, to see the “Painting in Normandy” art exhibit. When artist would escape industrialized society and seek refuge in nature, on the French coast of Normandy. It was called the “Dawn of Impressionism.” it was during the later half of the 19 century & the beginning of the 20th century.
Everyday I’m finding it easier to enjoy small town life, I really never thought I could. Here, I feel more connected by walking to the farmers market, grocery store, bakery, coffee shops, Natasa’s parents. I never liked to walk much, it was always faster by bike. But here everything is so close it’s faster to walk than to get out the bike. Use a car? never even crosses my mind as an option.
SIZE OF LIFESTYLE? WINNER SKOFJA LOKA (BIG TIME)
I’ve never really ridin my bike where there’s snow all around. Kranj was having a celebration event, PRESERNOV SMENJ and Natasa suggested we ride there. I was like heck ya, let’s go. On Sunday morning it was -4c (24 fahrenheit), cold but sunny. I would rather ride in cold sunny weather, than warm rainy weather, any day.
We were meeting some friends at the event, they were inside a restaurant, but first I wanted to walk around and look at everything.
Events that happen around Slovenia are mostly based on history and this part of Europe is old.
Portland was founded in 1851 with only 800 inhabitants, so it’s 164 years old. Skofja Loka was founded in 973 and is 1,042 years old. There’s lots of stories to be told with that much time gone by.
HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE? WINNER SKOFJA LOKA (by 878 years)
I’m concerned with food security, so in Portland I took my yard and planted an edible landscape, all fruit trees and garden beds. In America the average meal travels 2414 km (1500 miles), to reach your plate. America burns 10 calories of energy (oil etc) to produce 1 calorie of food, basically unsustainable. Here in Skofja Loka the Cheese plant is 2 blocks from our apartment, the local butcher is just 2 blocks away too (FYI no smell at all). There are small dairy farmers right in most towns with just a few cows. They grow the cow feed literally in their own backyards, so no transportation costs or carbon footprint.
Some of the farmers that provide produce at Portland’s Farmers markets drive 120 km (75 miles) each way to supply “local produce”. Olga brings her produce 11 km (7 miles),to Skofja Loka’s Farmers Market, now that’s local produce.
A new grocery store just opened in Skofja Loka that sells all Organic Slovenian Products.
FOOD SECURITY? WINNER SKOFJA LOKA (by kms/miles)
WHAT ABOUT BIKES?
The blog is called Jeffsbiketour for a reason, I try to focus most of my insights towards the role bicycles can play in everyone’s daily life. Portland has invested in lots of different biking opportunities and safety projects. Currently there is a huge pushback from auto owners to stop spending money on bike infrastructure and make bikers pay. Yet cars don’t even come close covering their cost of roads, bridges and safety projects. Skofja Loka curently doesn’t have any money to do any major bike infrastructure spending. I asked the Mayor of Skofja Loka to finish the last 50 meters of bike path to the local hardware store, his response? no money. There are numerous farmers roads and gravel paths that help you avoid riding on the major roads.
BIKING OPPORTUNITIES? TIE both have safe biking options (FYI it rains alot in Portland)
I hope you enjoyed reading Jeffsbiketour, it’s like my (our) journal. I’m 59 years old and trying to stay as active as I can till the end. I’m doing a mini-european tour starting March 5th.I’m traveling to Berlin, Paris,(Royan, Airvault, Poitiers), visiting past bike touring friends met on various travel adventures. Then I’m meeting Natasa in Lisbon for a 2 week tour of the Portugal and Spain. You can buy $50 airline tickets to nearly anywhere around Europe. I will be bringing my bike helmet for touring and then writing about it. So Jeffsbiketour will live on with the bike theme in mind.
A Portland newspaper did an article on Portland 27 REASON TO LOVE PORTLAND RIGHT NOW
NEXT? TILL DEATH DO US PART?
Portland is still a very popular place to move to, I haven’t sold my house yet, you never know. This video is part of a new culture to keep Portland from becoming big like Seattle or San Francisco. It’s called
STOP TELLING PEOPLE ABOUT PORTLAND