Gordon:  Today we had a ride through the Hobbit Shire that was probably the best outing of our journey (so far).  

We started the day at our pension at the 1000 metre level in the foothills of the Carpathians.  Other than the caretaker and her husband, we were the only residents of the gorgeous three-storey Swiss style house.  The tourist season, and summer, are winding to a close.  We frequently find ourselves rattling about in accommodations and restaurants designed to serve a much larger clientele.  The trees are also starting to change colours, and we have seen some beautiful displays of wild fall crocuses.

Because we are trying to linger in this stunning area, I was able to persuade Ruth to do an 18 km side trip that passed through a number of small villages.  What a gorgeous outing!  It took us a couple of hours to complete the loop, since we had to stop so frequently to take pictures.  The light was perfect, the air was cool (another recent change) and the landscape was endlessly compelling.  Like the Swiss Alps, the area has that mixture of wild nature and human cultivation that can be so attractive.  Also notable were a number of Victorian era houses in various states of repair.  The region has an air of comparative prosperity, and that state apparently also prevailed a century ago.
We climbed up to about 1200 metres, before making a rapid descent to 600 metres.  The end of the ride had one more scenic surprise, in the form of a limestone canyon that narrowed to the width of the road.  
It will be hard to top this morning’s ride, but every day presents a new opportunity.

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