From Podgrad to the bottom
Let's go ... First to the bottom. From below the castle or rather Podgrad (i.e. below castle). The castle is the yellow house on the top of the hill which can be noticed on the way to the starting point. If you did not see it, you will learn about it just now. It is not really a castle, more a country villa. In 1791, a nobleman from Dolsko, Jožef Kalasanc Erberg, had it built on the ruins of the old castle from the 14th century. The later owner was Franc Povše, a provincial delegate and nobleman, and it is thus also called Povše Castle. He later sold it to the Kansky family, namely, to the female owner of the chemical factory in Podgrad who enlarged the villa and gave it its present image. The castle is somehow above and behind you and if you wish to approach it, you have to take the priority road below the railroad through Podgrad, then continue past the former chemical factory and turn right to the forest path that will take you to the castle. If you are primarily interested in geography, continue ahead along the road towards Laze and do not mind the underpasses, at least for now. Do not overlook the priority road. Below the railroad you may overlook a car which is on the priority road, so be careful.
Asphalted road runs between the railroad on the right and the Ljubljanica River on the left. At the first right turning, where the river approaches the road, there is an information board on the left that notifies about the confluence of the Ljubljanica and Sava Rivers . It is worth a look for it is really something special. Namely, three rivers flow into one: Ljubljanica, Sava and Kamniška Bistrica Rivers. A forth one, the Besnica Stream, used to flow in as well, but the confluence was then more to the south. Present location is the consequence of regulation interventions due to the arrangement of the navigable route on the Ljubljanica River. Hereon the waters of Sava, Ljubljanica and Kamniška Bistrica Rivers, are simply called the Sava.
Water runs downwards and it is logical to expect to find the lowest point of MOL somewhere where a river leaves its territory. There are but few such places. Actually, only one exists, not far from where you are positioned. Go visit it. Cycle along the road through Gradovlje (this name also originates from the root word grad - castle) and Gostinca settlements where the Sava River starts to move away from the road, leaving a space for the plain called Gostinško polje Field . This is the field which defines the boarder between the Municipalities of Ljubljana and Dol and is also your place of visit. At the solitary homestead (Kalman), located just behind the railway line, turn left to a cart track and continue towards the Sava River. Cycle along the road (if it's not bad) or on the grass past the exposed tree amid the field, still straight to the embankment. The route is not appropriate for every bike, so it is best to proceed on foot for some time. A small gravelly sand dune can be seen at the embankment and this is also the point you looked for – the lowest surface point in the Municipality of Ljubljana. It lies 255.4 m above sea level. The municipal border is some 120 m downstream, but the bank of the Sava River is steeper there and thus impassable, making it hard to find the levelling and even harder to define the surface point.
Return back to the road and continue towards Laze. You are soon at the crossroads with a left junction of the road from Dolsko. The bridge over the Sava River is only few steps away, so make it there and see what is below. All the surface water flows below, leaving the Municipality of Ljubljana behind. Excluded is the water that evaporates and the one that does not come to the surface at all – both are almost invisible and will be paid no more attention to. MOL has a relatively vast surface (275 km2), so a person would expect large quantities of water, but an average reader definitely does not expect the ones that are about to be revealed in the next chapter.
The middle flow rate of the Sava River under the bridge is 160 m3/s; moreover, if a cubic metre weights one tonne, this means that 160 tonnes of water run below your feet every second. Assuming that the flow rate is average, of course. Depending on the luck and more on the weather, the flow rate below your feet could be smaller or even bigger . It is easier to calculate the average so let's pretend it is an average day. Everybody knows that 60 seconds means a minute and 60 minutes means an hour and 24 hours a day. A day has 60 x 60 x 24 = 86,400 seconds (just to illustrate: before you multiplied this, about 1,000 to 2,000 tonnes of water flowed away). If you stayed here for a day you would witness the flow rate of 13,824,000 tonnes of water. Try to imagine capturing this amount of water and freezing it into an ice cube. Would you care to guess its side? The answer is 240 m. Were you right or wrong? Whatever the answer, the quantity is enormous. If you were in Scotland, where the locals known for their thrift, they would perhaps think of using the ice cube in whiskey on the rocks. How many whiskeys on the rocks could be prepared from the ice cube? The word many cannot describe it at all. Even many, many, many does not suffice, because the number would be 1,000 billion whiskeys on rocks. In other words, 20 billion bottles of whiskey or almost the entire one hundred years' production of whiskey in Scotland. And the Sava River is not even a really big river.
From Laze to the pass
Just ahead is Laze pri Dolskem . Some call it Lazi instead of Laze, but no matter which one is more correct, you should be observant of the traffic and the right turn from the main road. Cycle past the extended settlement along the railway station, which seems to have no end, until you see the underpass below the railway line. Turn right there, although more comfortable road downside might tempt you to change your mind. You reach the northern side of the track, where the road is somewhat worse and continues along the edge of the forest. Although still in the settlement, houses soon become scarce. When you drive in the forest, continue along the road that turns rectangular behind you – this is direction to Janče. The road is marked with a street sign "Laze od 41 do 46" . The road is asphalted, but steep. The beginning or the first turns are the most demanding , later the steepness lessens. Cycle through the forest without any views and continue up the more or less steep slope to the first farms where the asphalt ends. Hereon you ascend up a good macadam road. The ascent continues to the board marking the border of the Municipality of Ljubljana. The border has been here for a long time, as an old boundary stone next to the board testifies. Somewhat further on, the road bends and starts descending quite steeply. It seems as if you were at a pass, but you will soon discover that it is not so (unfortunately). After a short steep descent, even a steeper ascent follows, but really short and with 25% inclination. When you overcome this obstacle, you come to the ridge which leads to Janče. The forest gets thinner; heaths appear , which are most beautiful early in the spring when everything is pink from heather (Erica carnea). Houses (and dogs) appear too, the views are, however, still not worth mentioning. You have cycled to Lepa draga Plain (Lovely dale) with Hribovec and Vavš Homesteads. Even if the name draga (dale) marks the plain, this is a hill, 642 m above sea level. The worst part is already behind. The path from the valley took 3.5 km with the average inclination of 18%, which means that with each cycled kilometre you have conquered 180 m of altitude. Take a short break. The path from hereon runs slightly downwards, then more or less steeply upwards. At the crossroads with the road from Jevnica, go straightforward and in the second crossroads (asphalted road) to the right. You have arrived to Lanišče which means a field of flax as well as a pass or a saddle. At last. The belfry of the Church of St. Nicholas in Janče can be seen southwest where you are headed to.
The Janče Hills is the westernmost branch of the Posavje Hills. For many tourists and visitors, Janče have become a synonym for the wider area between Ljubljana and Litija, known for their lovely views and interesting cultural landscape. The present name allegedly originates from the former Janjčje selo and only the word Janče was preserved. Right in this hamlet is the highest point in the Municipality of Ljubljana. It is of great interest that mass population of the Janče Hills occurred only between 500 and 700 m above sea level while the valleys are less populated. Also the peak itself is populated, mostly with tourists though, but there are also some homesteads nevertheless.
Your second goal is just a small spurt away. Turn right at the church towards the Mountain hut . It was built in 1959, 792 m high, just below the highest top of the Janče Hills. The hut, well-frequented by the tourists, is encompassed by the circular road, so you can cycle counter-clockwise. The absolute height of MOL is at the meadow behind the playground, south from the hut. If you want to reach it, you have to go on foot. When this demanding ascent is over, you are at the height of 793.5 m . You cannot go higher in MOL, except if you climb a tree. In comparison: Šmarna gora Hill is 669.9 m high and its higher twin neighbour, Grmada, only 675.8 m, full 115 m below you. If looking at them from the distance (from Janče), you do not get the same feeling.
Downward is easier
Take a break to refresh in the mountain hut, then hit the bike again and head down. Turn right to the main road and descend down the meadows towards the solitary Chapel of Mother of God of the Rosary along the road. It is recommended to stop for the views as they are unique and even more beautiful than from the top. If the weather is nice Karavanke, the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, Kum, Gorjanci, Snežnik, Krim, Nanos, Triglav and even Bled Castle can be seen. You need telescopic eyes for the latter, whether your own or artificial. Most beautiful is the view of Ljubljana , especially at night when the lights start to turn on in the valley before the shadows of the Polhov Gradec Dolomites and Julian Alps.
When you are done with the views, start descending to the valley quite steeply (20%), past the school to the village of Gabrje where you turn right to Vnajnarje at first houses. The road flattens and you continue along the ridge that offers unforgettable views on both sides of the hilly landscape on the south and east or the Alps on the north. Cycle between individual houses and numerous orchards , where fruit, by which the Janče hills are most known for, is being grown: cherries, strawberries, pears, apples and plums. Signposts along the route invite to tourist farms which offer home-made produce (mostly fruit and other fruit products) and to snack bars. Descending is quite steep (sometimes 20% inclination) which is a sign that you're approaching the Besnica Valley. When you cycle through the more populated area, you are almost in the valley. Below is crossroads where you turn right to Podgrad. Did your breaks handle that?
In the dell by Besnica
You are in Spodnja Besnica. The Besnica Valley is the widest here and so is the road. The further you cycle along the river towards Podgrad, the more the valley narrows. At the meadow by the road, you can notice a thin red pillar . This is the memorial monument of the site where the armed fight against the occupying forces in the area of the Municipality of Moste-Polje started. Grassy plain ends and forest encompasses you from both sides, the valley itself narrows so much that there is only enough space for the road and the river. It is getting narrow so the old name of Besnica on the maps, Tesniz – German for Tesnica (dell), does not come as a surprise. The valley closes more and more. When it seems there is no exit, the river turns right, passes a hill in a curve and through the other side. The road follows suit as do you. This section is quite dangerous, because the road is dewy and slippery at times and in the evening, it gets dark quickly. The hill you passed in the narrowest part is the very same hill where the famous Ostrovrhar Castle, one of the first in Slovenia, used to be located. High in the slope is an abandoned millstone mine. This is, however, another story.
You arrive to Podgrad from the back side. Only through the village, under the railway line and you will reach the end. However, this should not mislead you. Be careful, especially at the narrow crossing at Arbo factory , because it is inappropriate for traffic, and again at the underpass under the railroad where there's the crossroads with illogical priority road. The precedence is yours, but one can never be too cautious. Even if you have precedence, look to your left and right, just in case. It is only few metres to Pri Peclju Inn.
What do you say? It was only a single tour and you have reached the record in height difference of the Municipality of Ljubljana. Even if you sweated to the top, downhill was that much nicer. The victory is yours.