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Cycling Around Slovenian Lakes

Manca Korelc has dedicated her life to her three passions: digital marketing, searching for and talking about lakes, and sports. She’s energetic, independently-minded and always with a smile on her face. One could say she lives her life to the fullest, as she’s always on the move, reading, writing or doing 1500 sit-ups at once. She really loves lakes and likes to visit them on her bicycle. She’s cycled to 1,024 lakes in Slovenia and writes a blog about her cycling tours, plus there’s a book of hers coming out this year in both Slovenian and English, titled The Slovenian Lakes.

It all began on 15 March 2016. That date is engraved in her memory, as her bike turned her world upside down. She dedicated many years to jogging, but as soon as she achieved her goals, she bought herself a bike. “I cycled a lot during the first season and, after 4,500km, I wanted to make a home for all these kilometres. That’s when I came up with the idea of visiting all the lakes in Slovenia in December of the same year. Since I work in the world of digital marketing, a website popped into my mind first. I planned out my own website, found an agency that breathed life into it, and then I also prepared the content. The website saw the light of day on 21 March 2017.”

Manca visited most of the lakes in Slovenia – Lake Godovič, Lake Račeva, Lake Žirovče, Lake Žirovčeva Luža, Lake Erikov Ribnik, Lake Viševski Biser, Lake Sleme, Lake Bloke and 1,015 others.

How did you start cycling across Slovenia? How many lakes are there in Slovenia and do you plan on cycling to all of them?

I started even before all the lakes by mapping out the route using Google Maps. My motivation at the time was to cycle as many kilometres per day as possible, so my tours got longer each time. My greatest achievement is the 368km route from Hodoš to Piran which I accomplished in less than 24 hours. All by myself. There are officially between 900 and 1,300 bodies of water, 300 of them lakes. I received unofficial figures one year after the project, listing almost 10,000 bodies of water. Of course, I’m not going to cycle to all of them, but I’ll definitely include all the official lakes in my list, and I’ll visit other bodies of water when time allows.

What does your typical cycling trip look like?

Planning the route is, along with the actual cycling, the largest part of the whole process. First, I pick the region I want to visit for the weekend. Then I choose the point of departure and use Google Maps and a program that shows 10,000 bodies of water to prepare a list of coordinates for each lake. Route optimisation is the most time-consuming, but it helps me minimise the distance between the lakes. I take several photos of each lake, write something about it, name it (if it doesn’t already have a name, I name it after the place) and write down the coordinates.

The duration of the trip depends on the season and the distance between the lakes. I usually take a whole day off because I get to the starting point by car (Maribor, for example) and then cycle to the final lake of the planned route (Rače, for example). In the summer, cycling usually takes around 12 hours. The number of the lakes I visit in a day, though, can range from 1 (the lake on Veliki Zvoh, for example) to 55, which is my personal record. I rarely use accommodation during my trips due to the costs. And I don’t keep track of how much money I spend on my trips. Though I spend most of it on car fuel and lunch. A friend of mine often joins me, so I don’t have to plan round trips with which I’d achieve less in a day.

I often make a stop at a castle or a waterfall. It depends on the number of lakes I’ve included in my plan, really. I usually don’t have enough time to go around and do much sightseeing. I like to say that managing the Moja jezera (My Lakes) project is field work not going out on excursions.

Have you ever found yourself in an uncomfortable situation or had a funny adventure on your trips?

The most uncomfortable situation I got into was on my birthday last year when I marked my 1000th lake with a tour from my first lake (Lake Kočevje) to my thousandth lake (Lake Hodoš). The 250km tour really took a toll on me, so now I rarely cycle such a long distance. It just so happened along the way that I almost got hit by a car... The driver took a last-minute turn and I didn’t even blink, that’s how tired I was. My heart didn’t even skip a beat. How dangerous cycling can be when you’re tired was really a lesson learned for me. Other than that, I don’t really have any bad experiences. People are very friendly, even when I want to visit the pond on their private property. I always approach with kindness, and that pays off.

There are also many funny adventures. I often have to push my bike alongside me on rugged terrain, such as forest paths and fields, and I’ve even had to cross a stream because I made a mistake when planning a route to a lake, and I often also run away from arrogant swans... There’s also a beautiful story from one of the lakes where the owners, husband and wife, served me lunch.

Your book The Slovenian Lakes is coming out this year and will be available in Slovenian and English. How did you embark on the adventure of writing the book, have you included all 1,017 lakes you’ve visited or are there more waiting to be written out in the next book? What can readers discover in your book?

We planned the book to be released in late March, but then Corona happened. The project itself, though, was quite an adventure because writing was a real challenge for me. I was just spinning in circles in my mind, thinking how to go about it. I was familiar with the overall structure of the book (it’s part of a series of similar books from The Slovenia publisher), and yet it was different because it was personal work. I found the writing style – the ratio between factual descriptions and my personal touch – and the selection of 101 lakes to be the most difficult. Of course, I didn’t include all the lakes because not every of the 1,024 lakes (that’s how many there are currently) is suited for visitors.

The book is a wonderful mixture of learning about different types of bodies of water and discovering the legends surrounding the lakes, while the main part consists of descriptions of 101 lakes where I also wrote down why I chose each one. Readers can also read ideas for nine day trips to the lakes as well as three cycling tours between the lakes. Of course, there are other chapters, too, but I can’t reveal everything. There was a lot of work choosing photos. Most of them I made myself, but I also included numerous photographers and organisations in my project. The book as it is, though, most likely won’t have any follow-ups. I am, however, already preparing texts for my other book... But that one will be a very personal autobiography and the lakes will play an even bigger role.

You can follow Manca on her adventures in her blog where you can also order your very own copy of The Slovenian Lakes: mojajezera.si.

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