We were riding on a relatively unknown uphill alpine road, built by Russian prisoners during WWI. It had an incline that occasionally exceeded 25 % with a cobblestone surface. In 2018, the saddle passage was selected as part of the ultramarathon Transcontinental Race (TCR). Our climb started right after a short coffee break at Jasna Lake (Kranjska Gora). After conquering the saddle, we found a famous local souvenir shop. The area was surrounded by herds of alpine sheep whose bleating then guided us as we climbed towards Vršič at an irregular pace. After a quick refreshment, we decided on a hardcore downhill ride to the opposite side of the valley. Weaving through vehicles that were slowing down our ride, we unexpectedly pushed our ride to “contest” level, still leaving us lots of time until the evening. The leader of our small group took a turn and headed us towards the Soča river canyon. As dusk fell, we made it back to the base in small groups, still processing the unique alpine experience (Thank you, Tomas!).
The sky was dotted with stars, reminiscent of home-made pasta sprinkled with fresh Parmesan. On the horizon, we could see the peaks of some of the Alpine massifs, all in perfect resolution. What more could we ask for? From the apartment terrace we were enticed by the scent of dinner while the broadcast of the final stage of the Spanish Vuelta competition (Andorra, Escaldes-Engordany – Coll de la Gallina) provided the background for our conversation.
Mangart Saddle – TCR, Checkpoint No. 6
The Mangart saddle was one of the highlights of the Asphalt/Repete weekend. This astonishing route is on the highest alpine road in Slovenia. It is interwoven with tunnels in the mountains and numerous turns. At the snack bar, we had a perfect view of Mangart peak (2,679 meters above sea level) and an equally beautiful view of the two lakes; Lago di Fusine. There’s only one road leading to this spot, so we rode back the same way and later had a coffee break at Lago de Predil lake on the Italian side of the border.
We extended our weekend. On the main road, we descended through the Soča river valley for a brief visit to Kobarid, a small town that has a monument dedicated to WWI victims. The so-called “Italian ossuary” is now known as the Kobarid Museum (about 7000 Italian soldiers are buried there). After a tour, we continued down passing by the Kobarid gorge and finished the day with a short ascent towards Vrsno.
Between 1915 and 1917, several bloody battles took place aroung the Soča river area. One of the most well-known of them, the so-called “Kobarid Breakthrough”, is among the most remarkable events of WWI and among the greatest military operations in the history of Slovenia. The primary goal of the Italian army in the Soča river area was to conquer the Austro-Hungarian controlled Trieste. With an ingenious strategic plan, the Austro-Hungarian forces defeated the Italian troops and pushed the front deep into Italian territory, to the Piava river. At Soča, thousands of Czech soldiers fought alongside the Austro-Hungarian army. The battles had tremendous losses, with several hundred thousand soldiers counted among the casualties. Many war experiences, including these events, were documented in the novel Farewell to Arms by American writer Ernest Hemingway, who served in Kobarid as a volunteer in the Italian paramedical service.