MILAN with NEIL YOUNG AND TOURING WITH E-BIKE SHARE

There’s not a lot of music options in Slovenia, so going to Milan to see a concert is a must, if you want live music.  Neil Young is 70 and I’m 60, it’s probably our last time together.  Milan was the closest that Neil Young got to Slovenia, so I bought an online ticket (39 euro just for shipping ($45)).  I meet some people on my weekly Lubnick bike ride,  who were going to see Neil Young at Piazzol Sul Brenta, about 2 hours away?  They added the show after I already bought the Milan ticket.  I was driving by the day after the show, so I decided to leave a day earlier and catch the show.  Yep 2 Neil Young shows.
I started using BLA BLA CAR,  a ride sharing service.  I arranged a ride to VICENZA, which seemed closest to the Piazzol/Neil  concert.   At first the driver wanted just 12 euro, I paid him 20, just the road toll in Italy was 16 euro.  I unloaded my stuff at the hostel and went straight to the bus station and took the last bus to the concert site. I bought the Golden Circle Pit ticket, I mean Golden Agers!  I figured I could hitchhike back, it’s like 35 km.  I stood by the concert exit, with my Vicenza sign, not one ride offered.  I was getting desperate.  I walked to the parking lot near where the bus dropped me off and tried  again.  The parking lot was nearly empty and  finally this older couple said they were going close to Vicenza, I’ll take it.  They spoke 2 more words of English than I spoke of Italian, near 0.  They told me about their tour of  America, I kept the conversation going until they dropped me 1 block from the hostel at 2 in the morning.

  HERE’S AN INTERESTING SET LIST AND VIDEOS OF THE WHOLE CONCERT

I took the train to Milan(o), and grabbed my first bike share to my AIR B&B apartment share.  They wanted to let me in at 8,  I said if I get a discount, fine.  No discount, they gave me directions for  getting the key(s!) earlier. 5 locked doors using 4 keys to get in, just a little security.
I didn’t know much about Milan, so I signed up for a bike tour that started at 2pm. My feet were killing me from standing the night before at the concert. Meanwhile  I grabbed an e-bike share, google maps and rode around Milan just looking.  Milan is trying to be the bike capital of Europe, along with London, Paris, Amsterdam, etc., so I wanted to see how they were doing.  I bought this Italy shirt in Ptuj last week.

I went to the train station to go meet my bike tour.  They decided to start a strike with my train, so no train.  The guides wife met me at the station and we took another train out of town.  I offered to do another date/time, they declined, but as it turns out I should have rescheduled.  We visited  a currently being refurbished estate, where they have concerts.  Who was playing?  Joan Baez and then Ian Anderson (playing all the Jethro Tull greatest hits), it was the same night as Neil or I would have gone.  Then we went by the Italian Designer Alfa Romeo’s museum.  Since the train wasn’t running. I didn’t have much time.  I had to literally run through the museum.  I’m not much of a car buff, but the cars are actually pretty cool.  We were too late for another one of our stops.  They had the tour timings so close, if one thing happens you miss stuff, that’s what happened.  I was a little disappointed with the  (no name) bike tour.  I think he felt bad too, he bought me several beers at several stops, maybe trying to make me forget what happened.

 

I was recommended to go see the Women in Design art exhibition  and an Interior Design exhibit.  One ticket allowed you to visit more than 10 other museums around town, super value.

I love riding around, if you use the metro, your underground and miss a lot of the sites. The “tour bus” cost 22 euro a day, my bike share is 9 euro for a week, first 1/2 hour free, then only 25 cents for a 1/2 hour.  I took photos of stuff I found interesting, I hope you like them too.  I found a  Farmers market where the products had to come < 40 km,  Oregon beer, funny art, green buildings and more.

I ruined my feet on a bike tour years ago, but it hasn’t stopped me from riding.  I’m using an e-bike here in Milan, because my feet are killing me now.  One time I  went to get an e-bike, but for the 1st time there were none.  I checked out a regular bike and rode to the next bike station and got me an e-bike, problem solved.  I couldn’t get my phone data to work (more on that later), so I couldn’t use the app to find the bike stations.  Milan has so many bike stations, they’re everywhere and easily found without a map.  After the Neil concert, my second bus had stopped running, I walked 2 blocks and there was a bike station SAVED! I must have checked out and dropped off bikes 20-25 times.  Italy loves the round pebbles in cement for walking, riding and the whole stadium at the Neil concert in Vicenza.  It would take awhile to learn all the safe and smooth bike routes around Milan.  If you ended up on one of the many different surfaces, you could lose a tooth filling.


I rode out to the concert site, for the sound check and to see if I could meet Neil.  I came in the back way, found the tour buses, then was asked if I was working? Nope, you gotta go.  I was out of view and saw a few people hanging by the buses, I tried, but no Neil.  I met someone who has worked on the tour for 8 months and hasn’t talked to Neil once, said he stood next to him, that’s it.  They said Neil likes his privacy and if you bring someone around to meet him, you may not have a job.
I met Roei on the way into the concert.  His wife surprised him a day before the concert with a plane & concert ticket, flying from Israel.  We had a great time hanging out, he was a sound engineer for work.  There were lots of bandit t-shirt sellers.  Willie Nelson showed up and played “On the Road Again” with Neil and the encore “homegrown”

HERE’S THE  SET LIST AND VIDEO OF THE WHOLE MILAN CONCERT
I had to take  pictures of all the locks &  keys required to get into the apartment.  I like to eat local food and always thought you had to go to a restaurant.  I was wrong, I bought fresh ravioli’s pumpkin, then asparagus/bacon, one with pesto and one with tomato, at the local store.  I made a great meal for 5 euro, not 15.  Milan has a serious parking problem, there are literally cars parked everywhere on sidewalks or just right on the street (next to a legally parked car).  I can see why they’re trying to get people to bike.

My Bla Bla car worked great getting me here, back? Not so much.  My driver didn’t want to drive into Milan, so I offered to take the metro to the end of the line.  When I get off the train there are 4 exits, which one?  Since I couldn’t get my data to work on my phone, I guessed the wrong one and missed my ride.  I took the train back to the apartment to use the internet and find another way home.  All the rides that day were full, so I tried to ride an e-bike to the train station.  The battery was dead, shit, I put it back and got another e-bike. Then train to Venice, change to Trieste bus to Koper and within 1 minute I caught the last bus to Ljubljana.
SHARING ECONOMY
      Using Bla Bla Car to subletting  an unused apartment has really been great.  The world really has lots of unused resources: empty seats in cars, apartments that no one is using. Even free  WiFi is getting more common Milan had free hot spots all around town.  I think it says a lot, maybe there is enough for everyone in the world, if we learn to share.  I think the sharing economy can have a positive effect of reducing our carbon footprints on the planet by maximizing what we already have.

Thanks for reading
Jeff

NEXT?  We’re leaving tomorrow for a 2 week Romanian road trip, bringing our bikes with us, (of course)
Some quick Romanian facts, largest forest cover in Europe, largest wetlands in Europe, most wildlife.  And from what I heard, super cheap travel.  It will be a great trip (and blog story)..

DRAVA RIVER BICYCLE TRIP, THROUGH AUSTRIA/SLOVENIA

I spent this winter researching potential bike trips and discovered the Drava River Route.  It runs from Italy through Austria and ends in Slovenia. The train can be used to start or finish the trip. From Toblacher, Italy, for 400 km along the Drava  River, through East  Austria  to Ptuj in Slovenia.
I ride a lot, Natasa not so much (she has a job)  I offered to get her an e-bike to make the trip more fun.  She said “I want to ride my bike” (more later)
It was pouring down rain in Skofja Loka, so Natasa’s dad gave us a ride to Jezersko.  I called the Matija to see if we could stay with him, he said yes.    Matija is the “tea guy”, he grows and collects wild herbs, to make some awesome teas.  He offers hikes every Saturday starting at the 500 year old Senk Farm..

Natasa beat me to the top, at the Austrian border.  It’s now a huge downhill.

While riding through the Austrian countryside, Natasa was telling me how much fun she was having.  I told her I wanted to video her testimony in camp ( wish I had).

Crossing this bridge was super scary, I walked right next to the wall, the railing was just a meter high.  It’s the tallest railway bridge in Europe, at 95 meters (311 ft.).  A crazy person could throw you over in a second.  They do bungee jumping off this bridge, no thanks!  (google photos)
We stopped for lunch is this little village, the store keeper cleaned & offered his picnic table for us to have lunch on.  Maybe Natasa’s  favorite experience on the trip  Natasa wants to go back and have lunch there again.

We crossed into Slovenia and all the gravel roads and hills, we’d heard about, started.   Natasa wouldn’t talk to me, then she shouted “I’m an idiot” as we were walking our bikes up a step hill. I started riding alone, the negative attitude was too much,  kinda of put a damper on what was a great  trip,  Some other bikers, yelled “isn’t this great!” Natasa was like “yea right”.  I offered her an e-bike, she refused, I wish she would get one.  Half the bikes I saw on the trip were e-bikes.  I helped a “lost” couple on which direction they needed to go. He rode a regular bike and she had an e-bike and she was just laughing and smiling about being lost, love the e-bike.


We camped out every night and went swimming in lakes and rivers at every campground. We stayed at the Uni-Hostel in Maribor,which has a super breakfast buffet.  We had the time to ride the Drava River Route to  Ptuj.  I got the wrong directions from the tourist office, before I knew it we were on a grass path in the middle of nowhere. I thought Natasa was going to kill me.  Arriving in Ptuj, Natasa rode straight to the train station.  It was Friday and she was working on Sunday.   I decided to stay in Ptuj, I’m so glad I did.

I stayed at the Sava resort, Ptuj.  I was offered camping, swimming, breakfast & dinner buffets for only 29 euro a day Swimming pools, saunas, steam baths, jacuzzi’s, water slides, it was great fun.
It was so great I called Natasa and said I “needed” to stay another night.
My first night in Ptuj, I attended an Art Stays Show opening at the monastery, free wine and super deserts.

I rode my bike up to the Castle several times.


I thought the trip was awesome, Natasa,  not so much.  But later after thinking about the trip, I think she realized it was pretty great.  She wasn’t in quite good enough shape, to do the hills in Slovenia.  I said, “you made the whole trip”, she said “because of the S word”, stubborn. 

IMG_8755

NATASA SHOWING HER MOM THE PHOTOS FROM THE TRIP (my second favorite photo)

Thanks for reading
Jeff
VIDEO FROM THE BIKE TOUR

MEXT?  Milan: Neil Young, bike share and more.

SKOFJA LOKA IS A HAPPENING PLACE, NOW WITH CREATIVE TOURISM

I’ve lived in Skofja Loka for 2 years now, still speaking basically no Slovenian.  The question I get frequently is “do you speak any Slovenian?”  The language (if you can call it that), is difficult, to say the least, I think that’s why they keep asking me.   It’s split about 50/50 the young people tell me, “don’t bother.”  The older folks say I should learn some, easier said than done.  80-90% of the people I come in contact speak English with me and are fine with it.  I need to speak when there is a group of people, they may speak English, but there not going to just for me, so maybe learn some huh?  Most of the shows on TV are in English, not like in Italy where maybe 1 or 2 channels are in English.
Skofja Loka’s is changing, it’s become bike friendlier, tourist are discovering our town and many coming for return visits.  Our Air B&B is filling up, but we are still planning to close it in October.  I mostly did it so Natasa’s daughter Sara could have a summer job, that didn’t quite work out.  The local hotel’s tell me 1/2 their customers are repeats.  We have a full 5 star rating on Air B&B, but what I don’t have is years to start making it pay.  If you want to visit Skofja Loka and experience life right in the center of old town, BOOK SOON.

Natasa’s work puts together a work trip visiting different parts of Slovenia.  I was in America or somewhere  for the last 2 tours.  I’ve done 2 cave tours, this cave  was different, it’s an old mine tour in PODZEMLJE PECE.  I could still have a great life without going down in the mine, but here we go.  They first mined lead in 1665, then Zinc.  They had over 2000 workers at one time working the 800 km of tunnels.  They extracted 19 million tons of Lead & Zinc over the 3 centuries until it closed in 1994. The tour guide said recycling of  batteries that contained Lead & Zinc helped lead to the closure They stopped pumping out the water so 400 km of tunnels have filled with water, which you can now Kayak through.  They also offer biking through the numerous tunnels, the photos didn’t look that enticing. We had to ride the train in and by mining regulations, close the doors on the train.  It’s not for anyone who is claustrophobic.
We also visited the village of Libelice.  The museum had a huge collection of historical farming implements, I found that super interesting.  The views from the church were the best of the whole days tour.  It’s so close to the Austrian border that my phone kept asking if I wanted to join the Austrian mobile network.

Creative Skofja Loka is officially happening , we rented  a storefront, painted it and agreed on the name.  It’s a little more complicated than I anticipated, but it’s exciting at the same time.
Creative Skojfa Loka’s short history:  I was in the crafts business for 10 years, starting when I was 18.  I traveled around America selling my crafts in different cities and at the Portland Saturday Market.  I’ve always had an affection for quality handmade & unique goods.  While living here in Skofja Loka I learned it’s history is handmade goods.  I took 4 different workshops and noticed there were no tourist in them.  Most tourist who visit us, do the 20 minute loop, back onto the bus and gone.  We wanted them to stay longer so we needed something for them to do, .
We organized the restaurant, hotel, craftspeople, concerned citizens & tourist providers and talked about how we could use Skofja Loka’s history and sell it to tourist.   We invited our local tourist officials to join us several times, they never even came to listen to what our ideas were.  We felt pretty confident we had something.  We finally realized, if we wanted to do it, it was going to be without the  “officials of tourism” supporting us.  I’ve mentioned before that the governments arm of the tourism industry is beyond broken, it is.  Our plan is basically 3 parts:  Craft workshops lasting from 1 hour to 3 days focusing on local & historical crafts,  Demonstrations is our store,  Workshop tours of local craftspeople,  Tours of unique historical parts of Skofja Loka (no church tours).  We want to expand our offers to include: traditional cooking classes, bike tours,  music and  possibly Slovenian language classes (sign me up).
We rented the perfect location, right in the center of town.  We have only  opened our doors once, during Historical Skofja Loka last Saturday.  There’s a rumor that a tour company wants us to put together a 5 hour tour of Skofja Loka.  We think we have something people really want.
So here’s a few photos.(sorry for the bad photo Anja & Lilla but it’s got the champagne)

As advertised, It’s a  Jeffs Bike Tour-bike story.
You have 2 kinds of bike riders here:  the Lycra road rider and the fat tire mt. biker.  They ride then go home get in their cars and drive to the store usually just a few kilometers away.  I try to do most everything by bike, touring, transportation, shopping and exercise.  I get to see so much-up close: wildlife, architecture and most of all it helps you connect with people.  You can reduce your carbon footprint at the same time too!  I rode to Kranj trying to find Tito’s summer retreat lake.  I didn’t find it but it was still a great ride.  Living in Portland I can never remember riding my bike near where my food is grown.  Biking here I ride by wheat, peas, lots of corn &  potatoes.  This is great food security, America’s average plate of food travels ( 2400 km.(1500 miles).
We’ve had a lot of rain and the river was up.  The local coffee shop owner who’s outside seating is empty when it rains was complaining.  I explained the droughts in South Africa have made it impossible to even make coffee, he just smiled.  I welcome the extra water, you never know what the future holds.

Thanks for reading, We are taking a week bike tour following the Drava River across Slovenia and Austria.  If you’ve never bike toured, try a weekend trip near your house, once you get the fever, the world is yours.
take care,

Jeff

LJUBLJANA & OTHER TALES

I love Skofja Loka, but sometimes I get a case of small town fever. So I’ve been riding my bike weekly and sometimes twice weekly to Ljubljana, round trip about 52 km. The new spring  leaves were on most of the trees, then it  snowed  10 centimeters on April 27th.   Well the heavy snow broke tree branches on nearly every tree I saw.
When I meet the young local people in Ljubljana, they say it’s too small a city but it’s enough for me.   I discovered a new coffee shop called Ziferblat.  It’s based on a Russian business model that’s being tried here.  You basically pay 5 cents a minute to be inside & all the coffee/tea you can drink. You can  learn to make your own cappuccino’s or work on an Art project.   I’ve meet some interesting locals, travelers and expats from all around the world. Your group can rent a private space, for a meeting or even a wedding celebration.
An artist was sculpting a head with clay, I was going to come back and get a photo, he wrapped it up before I could.  Be sure to  visit Ziferblat for a true Ljubljana experience.


I always try to learn something new about Ljubljana during my many visits.  I started staying at the Vrba Hostel , so I can do some evening events.  A friendly & clean hostel in a quiet neighborhood with good food and bars, a few steps away.  I was out all day and when I came back to my room I opened the door to 2  women (girls).  I went back out and checked my key and the door number, yep right room.  They were from Paris, I told the I went to Disneyland Paris 21 years ago, they said they weren’t born yet.  I went to the front desk, Merci Beaucoup, we laughed.
I took the food tour of Ljubljana, probably one of the worst tours I’ve ever done and I’ve done a few.  I ate enough  sausage & meat to last me a lifetime.  There’s so much more interesting food here, like the deer goulash, buckwheat polenta,  turkey (Ljubljana style!), ham & cheese stuffed calamari, Turkey medallions with pumpkin seed cream sauce.  There’s always a huge vegetarian page on every menu. The tour guide talked about olive oil, which is found in every country around us.  The real Slovenian treat is Pumpkin Oil which is a flavorful oil that can be added to salads. I make pesto using pumpkin oil and pumpkin seed.   I’ve also used it to make delicious popcorn too, the tour guide never even mentioned it.  We walked right past Ziferblat, I asked him why he didn’t talk about it?  He said they are not suppose to talk about business’s.  The tourism industry is so broken here.  We walked by the City Museum, I started telling everyone about Sebastiao Salgado’s photo exhibit called Genesis.  They replanted 17,000 acres in Brazil and remade the jungle, it’s a great story about how all the wildlife & streams returned.  The tour guide finally offered me a job to be a guide, I gracefully declined.
Every time I visit Ljubljana something is going on, like the Hemp Festival, Vegan Festival and of course I try to stop by the botanical garden to see what’s newly bloomed.  I wanted to talk to the women who was making the fiber, I went back 3 times the guy in the red shirt wouldn’t shut-up and leave, I finally gave up.

Yep I got a bike story, surprised?  As you know I bought several bikes for some Afghan refugee women.  I took a picture of by favorite bike when I first delivered the bikes.  Well no one wanted the bike, I was WTF?  So they had another event at Metelkova, I had to go to see if my bike went for a ride.  When I was showing someone my photos from the first event, they asked why I didn’t take video?  Well this time I took some video.

HERE’S THE COUPLE OF VIDEO’S I TOOK

I thought I could tell all with one post, no way.  I have a lot of photos, stories and adventures from Skofja Loka that I didn’t include, I’m going to work on that next.

Enjoy the post and be sure to ride your bike-it’s summer, there’s no excuse.
Jeff

If you go to America you must visit Portland Oregon.  Home of the worlds largest Naked Bike Ride.

U.S.A. & Portland vs EU & SLOVENIA? (vote Bernie Sanders)

I have lived & worked in America for 57 years.  I had a few jobs as a teenager, but mostly I’ve been self-employed running several different business’s.  I feel my experience in business and life in America, gives me some insights to the opportunities & struggles of living in America.   I’m asked all the time if I miss America.  So I thought it could make an interesting post, both for me & you.  3 years of living in Europe has given me a  first hand experience  of living a more social agenda.

usa-europeThe 
                                              EU                                                     USA
SIZE                          4,422,733 SQ. KM.                           9, 857,306 SQ. KM
POPULATION             508,191,116                                         320,000,000
GDP                                $19 trillion                                           $18 trillion
GDP per person            $32,000                                               $53,000

America  exports to the EU totaled $262 billion  & imports from EU totaled $387 billion
The imbalance is, America consuming more than it produces. (equals larger carbon-footprint & more)
Trade with Slovenia is similar: Slovenia imported $305 million in goods & exported $700 million worth of goods, to America.

eumap
EU visa free Schengen region allows for the free and unrestricted movement of people, goods, services, and capital, between it’s 26 members. 

I don’t claim to be an expert economist or a social scientist, or any expert for that matter.  But I do know  what I need to feel safe & secure. I’m going to share a little of what I’ve seen and experienced in both countries.
                                                                EDUCATION

      I feel education offers the best opportunity to empower people to seek their destiny in life.  America use to be #1 as a percentage of the population that graduates from college,  due to college cost they’ve fallen to #12. There are many forms of financial aid, grants or loans available for students. The average college student in America graduates with $33,000 worth of debt. It’s hard to get started with that size of debt ball & chain..  Some students have resorted to the “Sugar Daddy” method of paying for college,  read HERE.
Slovenian college is free, yes there’s high taxes, but an educated society is good for everyone.  The government sponsors a program with local restaurants offering students “discounted” meals, they’re nearly 1/2 price off the regular menu.  Most kids attending college live at home, so no room & board cost.
USA has a graduation rate at 42%  of the population and  for Slovenia it’s 37%.  I’m surprised more people in Slovenia don’t go on to higher education.  A Slovenian friend thinks because it’s free people don’t value or appreciate it.

Michael Moore’s movie “Where to Invade Next” documents the Slovenian education system.

 

                                                                     ENVIRONMENT

     My home state of Oregon is covered in forest land and when logging companies come in they clear cut the entire hillside and replant trees like corn rows. As the new trees grow, helicopters are used to spray herbicides to prevent anything else from growing & competing with the trees. This method invariably  sprays people and poison streams. This is an example of capitalism  for short term profits without consideration of the long-term environmental costs, poisoned land, water and people.
I’ve been to all parts of Slovenia and have never once seen a clear cut forest  They selective harvest.  I see lots of logging trucks, logs on  trains, but have never noticed where they were cut from.  I’m not a logging expert, but in the big picture it seems that wildlife, people and streams are protected with this approach.
Recycling is big in Oregon, it had the first deposit on soda & beer bottles. Oregon is the leader compared to most U.S. states.  Portland instituted weekly food waste recycling and switched to every other week garbage service. From my view, that was Mayor Sam Adams biggest accomplishment  while in office.  It may not seem like such a big deal but, it is.  Portland’s garbage is driven 150 miles to eastern Oregon.  In the first 6 months.it reduced garbage volume by 44% and eliminated 1800 truck loads being driven 150 miles.
They recycle here in Slovenia too, even more than Oregon.  I mean everything, food waste, paper, glass, metal, ALL plastic even plastic bottle caps are separated and recycled.  In a country as small as Slovenia, there’s really is no place to “hide” a garbage dump.  I remember being in Austria 20 years ago and after a painting project I was able to walk to a supervised waste drop-off point. One of the requirements for becoming part of the EU is that you must provide garbage service to every household.  A small village in Hungary solved the “We can’t afford to do that” by using a horse & wagon, check it out HERE Portland does have a state of the art paint recycling facility.
What is more typical is what’s going on in other parts of America. Citizens claim it’s to “inconvenient” to recycle, till you run out of places to put the garbage, now they must recycle.
Not everything in America is done better, check out this video HERE
One thing that’s not talked about in Slovenia is the burning of wood for heat. Nearly everyone has a huge pile off firewood outside their house.    The wood  smoke can be  too much in the winter. When I wash my windows in the spring, the cloth turns brown.  In Oregon when they sell a house,  a non-certified wood stove must be removed.  Certified stoves capture the fine particulate air borne matter.

                                                                  HEALTH CARE

                                             
      In America, a study done at Harvard University indicates medical expenses are the biggest cause of bankruptcy, representing 62% of all personal bankruptcies. One of the interesting caveats of this study shows that 78% of filers had some form of health insurance, thus bucking the myth that medical bills affect only the uninsured.  The Republicans want to end Obama care, but have no alternative plan.  This is where Bernie Sanders single payer health care system becomes the best option.  In America, I had a $600 per month health insurance plan.   I still had to pay $130 just to visit the doctor.  I had to pay nearly all of the first $3000 of medical expenses before I could then get the insurance company to pay 80% over the $3000.  I still had to pay the 20% balance.  I needed some surgery, the hospital was trying to get me to pay $5000 up front-before the surgery.  My insurance company said I overpaid, so I called the hospital to ask for my money back, a year later the claim still isn’t settled with the insurance company, it wasn’t worth fighting over.  In America, the hospital emergency room has become the physician visit of first choice for many.
The Slovenian Health care system has it’s problems too.  I married Natasa and was able to join her health care plan.  An affordable  25 euro a month, no cost for doctor visits, no cost for prescriptions. The downside,  MRI’s can take months to get, you can pay 50 euro and get one sooner.  The Slovenian system isn’t perfect, but everyone has access to health.

                           STARTING IN A BUSINESS IN AMERICA vs SLOVENIA  
My first business at 14 was selling Christmas cards door to door.  I did landscaping work for my neighbors, I started selling oranges at lunch at my High School (till they stopped me),  at 18 I started a crafts business.  Back to college, with my business degree I started Yard Tamers Landscaping which I had for 25 years. I had a few failures too, which aren’t really failures, but learning experience to grow from. It has never been that complicated for me to be self-employed and independent.
        One way to get Slovenian residency is to open a business.  I had to hire a “consultant” to navigate me through the government bureaucracy  After spending lots of money, filling out endless forms, I gave up.  Entrepreneurship seems almost non-existent here, it’s like the government discourages you from being somewhat independent.  They seem more concerned about getting their tax money than you being  successful.
                              

                              AMERICAN CAPITALISM OR SOCIALISM via CAPITALISM

         Capitalism could be a great system if everyone has an equal opportunity.  Maybe it works in the textbooks, but on the streets of America  just the homeless problem says it doesn’t work.  When I traveled across Europe, by bike for 7 months, I could count the homeless I saw on one hand.
America’s continually borrowing  trillions of dollars trying to make it’s form of capitalism work. I knew wish I knew what the perfect economic system was, I could be president.
The US economy is huge for sure, the EU with nearly twice the population has a slightly larger economy overall.  But with that said, what is done with the money is what really matters.
But wealth is merely a tool. The question at hand is how that wealth is used. When one looks under the surface of this question, and examines how this wealth is transformed into well being, then Europe’s economic success begins to take form and shape. A study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group on economic well being around the world assesses how wealth is translated across three elements and 10 dimensions: economics (income, economic stability, employment); investments (health, education, infrastructure); and sustainability (income equality, civil society, governance and environment).
From 2006 to 2013 Germany and the U.S. both recorded an average GDP per capita growth rate of 1.1%. Germany’s ability to convert growth into economic well being was equivalent to an economy growing at an average rate of 6.2%, while the U.S. managed a measly average rate of just 0.5%. Improvements in health services, affordable education and good public transportation have immediate benefits for citizens’ lives.  The price of guarding U.S. interest around the world has a huge price. U.S. military spending is only 3.3% of GDP but it’s $597 billion (Slovenia $550 million), money that could be used for education, health care , housing and environmental protection.  To me it seems the money could be directed at international aid which could help reduce some of the conflicts. Humanitarian aid not military aid.  Slovenia spend 1% of GDP on the military, Nato countries are requested to spend 2%.

military

Top five countries by military expenditure in 2016. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Slovenia has some  public & private debt.  Slovenia’s public debt to GDP is 81%, in America it’s 71% for the EU it’s 92%.  GDP is a measure of goods produced, not happiness or quality of life for ALL of it’s citizens.   Americas debt per person is $62,500 (56, 056 euro). Slovenia’s debt per person is $17,289 (15,500 euro).  When I look around Slovenia I can see some benefits of the debt: free education, infrastructure, affordable healthcare, great public transportation.  When I think of America’s debt I think: un-affordable education,  crumbling infrastructure, un-affordable healthcare, shit public transportation (except for Portland!).   America has some kickass weapons, but there still not winning any of the many conflicts, were just making messes around the world.

So for what it’s worth, these are some of the differences I see between America & Portland the EU and Slovenia.

I hope I’m not boring you?  I know it’s called Jeff’s bike tour.  So here’s a bike story.  I got involved with some local activist.  An email circulated & several people sent it to me again.  They were collecting bikes for Afghan refugee women.  I went to the local flea market and bought 2 bikes. I got 2 more super nice used bikes from a shop that I saw when were visiting a Coffee festival.  I feel so lucky to be able to help those who are in need, especially if they want to start biking.  I asked if I could get a photo of the women with their new bikes.  She said their husbands don’t want their wives photos on Facebook or anywhere else.  I told her, they can turn their backs to the camera.  She informed me that 3 of the 4 women had never ridden a bicycle.  I showed up Friday to see how it was going.

     The women came over after and thanked me for the bikes.  I reached out to shake her hand, she backed off and said she was Muslim.  The teenage girl did give me a fist bump, that was all worth it.

Thanks for reading, we’ve got some great things going on here in Skofja Loka.  Planning several bike tours, Romania and following the Drava river across Slovenia.

Next, I’ve been going to Ljubljana almost weekly.

Jeff

MISC. FUN STUFF IN SLOVENIA-PHOTOS

It’s so weird having so much free time, called retirement.  I’m able to pick things that interest me, whether it’s visiting museums, biking, or proposing new ideas for active tourism here in Skofja Loka.  When I was working, I was lucky to go to one movie during Film Festivals in Portland.  Ljubljana had a documentary film festival,   I picked 10 movies, 2 alternates  to see, Natasa could only find 2 (different ones).  Some things are frustrating.
The many Islamic groups like Boko Haram, ISIS, ISIL, Al-Shabaab, Taliban, al-Qaeda  & Saudi Arabia all treat women like 2nd class citizens.  Banning education, no driving, arranged marriages, the male power structure is morally wrong.  I’ve used my tax refund to buy school supply kits for girls in Afghanistan.  Whenever I have extra money I support groups that offer education opportunities for oppressed people.  So when I read about the movie Sonita, I knew I had to see it.  It was GREAT,  I happily cried all the way through it.  It actually puts America in a positive light.  Anyway go see it.

Some other movies I liked:
1.  How to Save the World is the story about the formation of Greenpeace, contains original film footage from the 70’s and interviews with the original members today, inspirational.
2.  NOAM CHOMSKY in “Requiem for an American Dream.”talks politics, what’s interesting it was the only “sold out” movie.
3.  Chuck Norris vs Communism  How American movies are thought to have influenced the over throw of the government  Romania.  Who’s leaders were eventually executed.
4.  Among the Believers, exposes the Red Mosques in Afghanistan and the reprisals.
5.  Fog of Srebrenica  Inside look at the war in Bosnia.

I’m trying to bring Sonita to Skofja Loka’s movie theater, KinoSora.  I offered to pay to bring it to town, I hope they take me up on the offer.

I attended the “Home Show” in Ljubljana, I’m was looking for a patio awning.  I found 2 things I like, tiny houses and electric bikes. The electric bike by Spring. was awesome.   The tiny solar house had everything you need, quiet the bomb.

IMG_7664

WOODEN ELECTRIC BIKE

IMG_7675

SOLAR WINE BARREL TINY HOUSE

During the film festival, I went to Ljubljana nearly everyday. Some days I had hours in between movies.   I had never really visited the Castle in Ljubljana, so I took 3 hours & the audio guide and went corner to corner in the castle.  There was a historical exhibition about the transportation history in Ljubljana. Bikes were and are still;popular options for getting around town.   I love the bike share except when there’s no bikes left.  I ran up as the last bike was being checked out, I walked.

The tourist office in Ljubljana suggested I visit the Botanical Garden.  I rode a bike share bike there and walked to the garden.  It was still kinda winter, so there wasn’t a lot to see.  I went inside the greenhouse, that was great.  There were bananas, flowers, I felt like I took a 20 minute vacation in SE Asia.  The only think missing were jungle sounds, I suggested they put in some speakers and turn it up.  I  waited a month and revisited the botanical garden, it’s in bloom now.

Even during the winter,  Skofja Loka has a lot going on.   There was a eating healthy local foods festival.  I bought the pear brandy that has a pear inside.  They tie a bottle up in the tree, with a pear allowed to grow inside.  The famous Skofja Loka bicycle gang visited the festival too.  The local bike shop had e-bike testing for 5 days. I took Dan on the Super 8 ride.  I called him and told him to take his girlfriend, he told me “I already did”-she liked it.  There was the suicide fire last year, they finally finished the roof and “topped” it off by adding a copper tower.  Why? I have no idea.

We drove by the Postojna Caves last fall, but Natasa  wouldn’t pay the $25 to go in.  So I took the bus there by myself.  It was great.  Everyone says it’s a big tourist trap with the train and all.  But that was the awesome part (besides the caves themselves), it allowed families with kids and the elderly to experience the caves.  The train goes underground for 7 minutes, your in there way deep.  It takes the stalagmites a 100 years to grow 1 cm (less than 1/2 an inch).  There were formations that were 500,000  years old.  The walkways had railings and slip proof walkways through out.  Definitely a great day trip thing to do in Slovenia.

My phone camera isn’t the best  inside the cave.  Here’more  professional pictures

Here’s some misc photos that I want to share. Signs, Art, Sports, Nature, Celebrations, Logging, Farming, Bee Door. There are many small dairy operations here, some with just a few cows. I caught a small producer bringing his milk to the Cheese Plant, by car. There was a National Geographic photo exhibition in Tivoli Park.  There were photos of Triglav National Park on one side and photos of National parks of America on the other side.  I took a couple photos of the photos.

Slovenia  celebrates it’s writers and poets with numerous holidays, statues and monuments.  Public art exhibit in Ljubljana had a quote by Ivan Canker from a book called My Life, 1914.

“AT THIS SCHOOL WE WERE BARE-HEADED AND BARE ARMED AND WE ROLLED OUR TROUSERS RIGHT UP ON OUR THINGS.  ONCE IN THE HEAT OF MY LONGING FOR FURTHER WISDOM, I WENT AJUST A LITTLE TOO DEEP IN THE WATER.
SUDDENLY I FELT AS THOUGH I WERE RIDING A HUGE GREEN HORSE, STRAIGHT TOWARDS THE SPLENDID SUN.
INCOMPARABLE BLISS SWEPT OVER ME & I FELT LIKE AN EMPEROR.  AT THE MOMENT A PITILESS GRABBED ME BY THE HAIR & FLUNG ME HARSHLY ON THE PEBBLES.  
THERE I SHUDDERED & BURST INTO TEARS WITHOUT KNOWING WHY.  IT WAS JURCA’S FARM-HAND WHO PULLED ME OUT OF THE WATER.
IF ANYONE HAS ANY OBJECTION TO ANYTHING I HAVE DONE LATER IN LIFE, HE SHOULD TAKE IT UP WITH THAT FARM-HAND, NOT WITH ME.”

Ljubljana is the Green Capital of Europe 2016, I try to visit the special monthly exhibits.  There was a  water exhibit that I really wanted to visit. Droughts in Thailand, India, Syria, Vietnam are effecting both people and the economy.   They say the next (or current) wars are going to be over water. A Documentary movie by Slovenian’s, Tomo Križnar and Maja Weiss, 2008 called “Darfur- War for Water” was on a poster.  It’s a 7 part series in 15 minute segments. Little Slovenia was trying to help broker a peace deal, kinda makes me proud to be here.  This is part one:


I’ve been working on the Go Skofja Loka business plan for promoting arts & crafts tourism.  Most of the pieces are already in place.  Trying to get everyone on the same page by working together, that’s the real task at hand.  Skofja Loka has all 3 attractions that make an Adventure Travel Destination: : physical activity, natural environment and cultural immersion.  The biking, hiking, fishing, swimming, arts & crafts, traditional food and farming make Skofja Loka a perfect un-crowded traveler/tourist destination.  Here’s 150 things to do in Skofja Loka.

I hope this blog post finds you  coming back in the future.  Living in a new country away from America, has been eye opening.  I feel lucky this month that I was able to donate, to my favorite charities. ROOM TO READ,   SOLAR LIGHTS IN AFRICA,   AVAAZ,  350.ORG

 

Till next time
Jeff

Next: Who knows?

VENICE, ITALY-TOGETHER & ALONE

I like to write about being a tourist/traveler using a bicycle. But biking is illegal in Venice, regardless, it’s impossible to actually ride there. I visited Venice in 2013, but at that time I was pretty road weary after 4.5 months biking on the road.  I hid in my room, worked on the blog and enjoyed the air conditioning.  When I left I took the train, to Slovenia, and the rest is history.
It’s only a 2.5 hr drive to Venice from Ljubljana, we used GO-OPTI, by the time you pay gas and parking, it’s about the same and we didn’t have to drive!

SOME QUICK VENICE HISTORY

Venice is in a lagoon, that early settlers used for safety from the many invasions, the first time being in 421 AD.  Venice consists of 117 islands with 150 canals and 438 bridges.  It was built on 10 million trees logged in Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro.  The trees were stuck into the mud and built up from there.    The logs are totally immersed in the salt water, that’s why they don’t rot (no oxygen), the logs actually get harder by petrifying. Marco Polo was a Venetian merchant from 1271-1295. Attila the Hun  or Attila the Destroyer, of whom it was said that where he stepped grass never grew again; Attila the Scourge of God, who declared that he would cross over into Italy to hunt, and when they asked him what he would hunt, said with a brutal laugh, “Hunt? What should I hunt, but Romans?”. Frenchman Napoleon Bonaparte invaded the region between 1796-97.  It’s so interesting to visit the actual places that I read about in history class growing up.

                                                   VENICE WITH NATASA
I suggested to Natasa that we celebrate our 1 year anniversary in Venice, Valentines Weekend!  We waited until after the Venice Carnival.  I made a reservation at the Hotel I stayed at last time,( because I was too old for the Hostel part of the building}.  Natasha’s friends accuse her of being with a hippy and that she’s becoming one too.  We brought our hot water pot and made coffee in our room, coffee it turns out is 4 euro & no free re-fills.  We brought homemade granola and shopped for some yogurt and fruit.   We used our window ledge  as the refrigerator.  The internet was timed for a 1/2 hour, then you had to log in again.  Made watching the Blazer game a little frustrating.
Last time I was here, I never figured out the boat system (because I was hiding in my room).   This time I wanted to go to Murano Island, where the famous glass blowing workshops are.  You can buy a 24 hour boat (bus) pass for 20 euro.

I find the tourist information people, train tickets, boat tickets whatever., short and not very helpful.  We ended up taking the long way around to Murano, down the Grand Canal, then out through the Lagoon.  It was beautiful, but we ended up at Murano at lunch time so there were no glass demonstrations. There’s a boat a 2 minute walk from our hotel where you can catch a non-stop boat to Murano (next time😉.  We went to Burano Island too, with it’s Pastel painted buildings.  The best photo was one that Natasha took on the boat ride back.

The next day Natasa thought we would like to walk the entire Eastside of Venice.  My friend Emily from Portland, thought I should see the Biennale part of Venice, the extreme southeast.  By the time we got there, I could hardly walk.  We took the boat back to San Marcos.  When I think Italy I always think Mafia (movies like the Godfather).  There’s the Gondola mafia,  80 euro for 25 minutes, I read they make $150,000 a year.  The rights to be a gondola provider are handed down through generations.

The last day we just walked to San Marco Square, up the tower, ate some awesome street pizza.

After our time in Venice I really felt like there was more I wanted to see.  When we got back I told Natasa that I wanted to go back.  Her response “maybe we can go back in a year” I said I was thinking like next week.  So I found a window of 4 days and headed back.

EXPLORING VENICE BY MYSELF

I headed towards my familiar hotel from last time, but I thought how much I disliked the 1/2 hour internet, so I walked up the stairs to HOTEL ADUA.  That turned out to be a great decision.  I got a nice room for 30 euro a night (winter rates).  Unlimited & password free internet, just that is worth it.  They had a small kitchen where you can have a 5 euro breakfast, I had my french press coffee cup, they had hot water & coffee!.    It’s also just a five minute walk from the train station.
Now that I’m familiar with the boats, I grabbed the non-stop boat to Murano. I get off at the first stop, Colonna.   In 1291 the they moved the glass foundries to Murano, because of the fear of fire burning down wooden Venice.  Winter travel can be the best.  The first gallery CAM VERTI D ARTE sr 1   I was the only one in the store, so the salesman walked me a talked me through 3 floors with probably 4 rooms on each floor, FULL of amazing glass work.  They had some tourist priced pieces, but the real art was there too, in abundance.  The pieces ranged in price from 5,000 to 150,000 euro.  I asked who famous has shopped here?  Mick Jagger, Leonardo DiCaprio I thought so.   Your not allowed to take photos inside the glass shops.  I took a few photos of pieces from the sidewalk.  One shop owner told me the Asians come in, take photos, go home “Made in China”!    I went to 4 different workshops, 2 were for tourist and 2 seemed like actual working shops.

 I wanted to see where the James Bond Movie, “CASINO ROYALE” was filmed. A few failed attempts, but soon I found it, across the Grand Canal, from the Rialto Farmers Market. Something that’s very Venice is called bacari, A wine bar with  french bread appetizers called,  cicheto.  The first time with Natasa she wouldn’t have any, since she (nor I ) drink eating was really our only option.  It’s the best Venice experience.  She stood and watched me eat, it wasn’t that fun.  So I went alone and stayed and enjoyed multiple places & many cichero’s. I really liked vini Al Bottegton, seems like the local hangout.  I come upon a funeral in progress, by boat.   I went to the glass museum for the “free” tour, no free tours in the winter, sometimes winter travel has drawbacks. I looked into taking a mask making workshop, next time (like next winter), Leonardo Di Caprio took a mask making class, then so should I.

Having an old building here in Skofja Loka I have sympathy for “historical” town owners. There is always maintenance, but here you have to contend with the water.
I had 4 great days here, the weather was awesome.  The last day it was the rainy and windy winter weather I had been told about.  I sat in a coffee shop and watched people come around a corner and their umbrellas would turn inside out.  One after another, I sat inside with the souvenir  guys from Bangladesh just laughing and  laughing.  Every garbage can in Venice had broken umbrellas in them.

IS VENICE SINKING?

Yes, but it’s also being swamped by a rising ocean. The sinking was caused by the pumping of fresh water, which they stopped in the 60’s. The boat’s waves also wash away the salt mashes that are supporting the trees, that support the city.   On top of the wood pilings, are marble building foundations.  The marble  resist the salt water and on top of that is brick.  They used brick because it’s lighter, but it is also porous and absorbs the salt water during storm surges and high tides.  Which can occur as many as 100 times a year.   The salt eats the brick, they are repairing the results of Climate Change, but not the causes.  There are plans for inflatable barriers to block dangerous tides at the 3 ocean inlets to the lagoon. There are problems  with that too.  Some older buildings use the canals as the sewer system, that is cleaned out twice a day with the tides.  If they block that natural flow, Venice might start to stink some.  They better do something soon, here’s a few PHOTOS of San Marco Square during the flooding and a video.

That was my 2 trips to Venice in February.   I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. Go see Venice, I loved it and “I’ll be back”
Take Care and Ride Your Bike while you can.
Jeff

Next, The plans to make Skojfa Loka an Active Tourist Destination, visiting Postojna Caves

Going somewhere? Try one of the 10 places named as most ethical travel destinations from Salon.

The ethics of air travel

One thing to consider is the ethical dilemma of air travel itself; for many of us, getting on a plane is likely our most serious ecological offense. “One roundtrip flight from New York to Europe or to San Francisco creates a warming effect equivalent to 2 or 3 tons of carbon dioxide per person,” writes New York Times environment reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal. “The average American generates about 19 tons of carbon dioxide a year; the average European, 10.”

Nearly a decade ago, New York Times writer John Tierney put the impact of flying in terms of recycling plastic bottles. “To offset the greenhouse impact of one passenger roundtrip flight between New York and London, you’d have to recycle roughly 40,000 plastic bottles” in coach (or up to 100,000 for business or first-class seats, adjusting for the additional space pricier seats take up). So if you’ve permitted yourself the significant upsizing of your carbon footprint that air travel will bring, choose coach. Your impact will be less than twice that of someone in business or first class.