I volunteered to set up an Electric-Bike (E-Bike) testing area., during the European Mobility Week. I love to bicycle, but for transportation the E-Bike can replace your car, in lots of situations. We had 30 people test ride the E-Bike, all came back with huge smiles. One of the other participants also had an E-bike for testing. I talked with him and he said he was from Velenje (where?). He told me there are 60 km of separated bike paths in Velenje & you can get an E-Bike too!, I’m in.
I first planned to just go for the day, but it was 3 train transfers and about 3 hours of travel. I contacted the hostel and reserved, what turned out to be a super room. So to make the train-time work I had to get up at 4:30 in the morning, to catch the bus, to the train station to get the 5:20 train, I wasn’t alone. You can actually order a coffee at 5 in the morning, “who knew?.”
There were lots of students on the trains. I walked to the tourist office and got my bike-card so I could use Velenja’s free bike share system. You have to sign that you will only use the bike for 14 hours a week. I also got all the tourist attractions information I needed: Coal mine tour, mineral museum, thermal pools, castles, bike paths, African Art exhibit, the largest statue of Tito & whatever else I can discover. I headed to the hostel to drop-off my backpack. I love Slovenia because of all the Car-Free pedestrian areas all towns seem to have. The hostel called the Coal museum and signed me up for the 12 o-clock , english tour.I rode around town a little then headed up to where the tour started.
They have mined coal here since 1875. The power plant normally provides 30% of Slovenia’s electricity but can provide up to 50%, if needed. It’ one of the largest coal deposits in the world. It took 60 million years to form this thick band of coal. Removing the coal has caused the land to sink and 2 lakes were formed. They are super clean and the lakes were awarded best beach in Slovenia. They test the water every week to insure it’s cleanliness. The equipment to mine the coal was amazing, after chewing out the coal they used these hydraulic lifts to prevent the tunnel from collapsing.
The next day I contacted Igor about getting an E-Bike. He’s the guy I met in Skofja Loka. I rode Velenje’s free local bus, to go pick up my E-Bike. While I taking the photo of the bus, the driver closes the door and starts to drive off, I got him to stop and let me on. Igor works at Solski Center, an EU sponsored training school for welding, auto mechanics, solar power, information technology, mechanical engineering and more. They designed and built the bike share system I was using. They also built the “solar trees” you see all around town. He set me up with an E-Bike. I rode the bike path to the thermal pools at TERME TOPOSICA. I tied to “borrow” a lost and found swimsuit, no luck. They sold swimsuits for 29 euro,, maybe get a massage? fully booked, popular place.
No matter where you are in town you can see the coal power plant. Hot water from the power plant is piped around the city to heat people’s homes.
Most towns in Slovenia have a castle, Velenje is no different. It wasn’t a huge castle, but it contained an amazing African art collection. A Czech professor and artist, Frantisek Foit went to Africa to study African art and ended up staying for 24 years. In 1971, when he tried to return to Czech, there was a revolution going on, so he was unable to go home. Yugoslavia granted him citizenship and allowed him to stay in Velenje. So Velenje was the fortunate recipient of an amazing collection of African art. I liked some of the “other” art in the museum too.
One of my “hobbies” is collecting rocks. So i had to visit the House of Minerals. I told the host I was a collector, he called the owner to come & meet with me. I had never seen such a great variety of Slovenian gems and minerals. I asked if I could buy a few pieces, he said I could only buy some, if I wasn’t going to re-sale them. I easily agreed to just add to my collection. I did 2 “buying” trips, I bought a 5kg rock of petrified wood, that I carried home on the train. On my last day I dropped off my bike share bike at the tourist office. At the pub next door I saw Jože Rihtar (rock shop owner) in the pub, he bought me a beer (with my name on it). The pub was really beautiful too.
I found this great bakery that made chocolate filled whole wheat croissants, to order. If you smile and leave a tip, Kristin might give you a “double” dose of chocolate. I met the hostel host working on an art space, I gave him my croissant. Now I get to go back and get another one! When I went back she requested a selfie with me, you know it’s all good. I hiked to the remnants of an old castle. Then went for pizza, surrounded by “Made in America” products. Tito square had a great modern building. The “worlds smallest cafe” was an E-Bike coffee stand.
I love to visit places I know nothing about. Travellers sometimes like to name drop, “I went to Venice, Barcelona, Paris.” Those are all interesting places, but there’s a lot to experience in out of the way places too. You get free bus & bike transportation, affordable accommodation, reasonably priced tours, uncrowded sidewalks I plan to go back to Velenje next summer for the”best beach” in Slovenia, buy a few more rocks, swim at the thermal pools, visit the African art exhibit and of course have the best chocolate stuffed croissants ever.
Thanks for reading
Next: I test ride Slovenians new bike path Ljubljana to Italy (110km) and Ljubljana History Museum desk exhibit (super photos).