Category Archives: Croatia

Dalmatia

2009/10/16: Ston 57 km
Travelling north from Dubrovnik, we saw signs that said “arboretum”, so to satisfy my botanical curiosity we went to the Trsteno Arboretum. We spent several relaxed hours exploring the fabulous grounds of an old family villa, which are now managed by the Croatian Academy of Sciences. Besides formal gardens, a fountain, and labelled native and exotic trees, there was a serene stone pavilion overlooking the Adriatic. An outbuilding held an old wooden olive oil press.

Olive Oil Press
Cillian & Margo

Further along, we met an Irish lad named Cillian. He was a bit of an accidental bike traveller, having left Ireland for what was planned to be a two week excursion. His plans had expanded, and he’d now been on the road several months, adding gear as his requirements grew. We chatted with him at length, and sent our remaining anti-malarial medications south with him.

A little later, we met Knut, a Norwegian who’d left North Cape (northernmost Norway) and was headed to Capetown, South Africa, planning to join the Tour d’Afrique in Cairo. He was close to our vintage, but moving faster averaging 120 km per day. He’d ridden the breadth of Asia the year before with The Silk Roads.

We arrived in Ston after a sociable low-mileage day, walked the newly restored walls in the evening, and ate an enormous platter of mussels and shrimps.

2009/10/17: Sucuraj, Hvar 83 km
We’d been planning to ride out along the Peljesac Peninsula as part of our route up the Dalmatian Coast, but had rethought our plans after meeting Knut. He’s deemed it a tough ride. Coming from an extremely fit Norwegian, we took his appraisal seriously. Instead, we rode north to catch the ferry to Hvar at Drvenik. The road passes through Bosnia and Herzegovina for nine kilometres. The Croatians haven’t bothered with border facilities, but the Bosnians have. All they did was wave us through, so we didn’t collect another passport stamp. The only comment we’re able to make about Bosnia is that they have excellent cherry strudel.

We arrived at Drvenik at 2:30, but there wasn’t a ferry till 5:00 on Sundays. This meant several relaxed cups of coffee in a wireless hotspot. Wireless is literally everywhere here! We arrived on Hvar in the dark, and soon found we had wireless in the tiny apartment we stayed in – possibly a shared town network.

2009/10/18: Stari Grad, Hvar, and Ferry to Rijeka 64 km
The ride along the spine of Hvar was pretty. Olive trees were strategically protected from strong winds by stone walls. In higher places forest and vineyards gave way to open heathland of juniper, sage, blueberries, and heather. In places we’d see a man standing by the road, shotgun in hand, looking out over the heath and whistling. Memories of my father led me to recognize that they were whistling commands to well-trained bird dogs who were working through the heather for upland game such as pheasants.

After a wait in the ferry port at Stari Grad, we boarded the vessel Marko Polo bound for Rijeka. We were really pleased to be charged a modest fee for the bikes and to be given safe and sensible place to secure them – a place where suitcases wouldn’t be carelessly flung at them like on Greek ferries.

M

Dubrovnik

2009/10/15
George Bernard Shaw said, “Those who look for paradise on earth should come and see Dubrovnik.”

I’m not quite as prone to hyperbole as GBS, and we’re notoriously bad at doing cities, but of cities this is certainly one to be seen.

We walked the walls with rented audio sets in hand. It worked well. Rather than try to use words, and since a picture is meant to be worth a thousand words, we give you a slide show. We feel that even the pictures fail to do Dubrovnik justice.

2009 10 Dubrovnik

Click on image to see Dubrovnik album.

M & C

Vienna to the Black Sea

Cycling a variant of the Danube Cycle Route

Train from Geneva, Switzerland to Vienna, Austria

Cycling from Vienna

15th Sept Sopron, Hungary 98.7 km
16th Sept Celldömölk, Hungary 95.0 km
17th Sept Balatonberény, Hungary 87.o km (camp)
18th Sept Kaposvár, Hungary 83.0 km
19th Sept Harkány, Hungary 110.2 km
20th Sept Osijek, Croatia 77.9 km
21st Sept Futog, Serbia 120.6 km
22nd Sept Belgrade, Serbia 26.5 km plus bus from Novi Sad
23rd Sept Belgrade, Serbia 0.0 km sightseeing
24th Sept Stara Palanka, Serbia 102.8 km
25th Sept Lepenski Vir, Serbia 87.9 km (camp)
26th Sept Kladovo, Serbia 84.0 km
27th Sept Calafat, Romania 109.1 km via Bulgaria
28th Sept Bechet, Romania 105.4 km
29th Sept Galati, Romania 52.7 km plus train from Carabia
30th Sept Galati, Romania 0.0 km Margo not well
1st Oct Crisan, Romania 91.2 km (camp)
2nd Oct Crisan, Romania 0.0 km birdwatching (camp)
3rd Oct Jurilovca, Romania 75.1 km
4th Oct Constanta, Romania 104.1 km
5th Oct On the train 0.0 km
6th Oct Geneva, Switzerland 11.8 km to CERN

Train from Constanta, Romania, to Geneva, Switzerland

Final Odometer Reading: 1524 km

For comparison, the direct Vienna-Constanta route by car –that we did not take– is 1356 km, including 651 km on motorways.

C&M

Serbia and a Very Long Day

Just beyond the Serbian customs post, we met a young Australian couple who’d set out from England in March and who’d cycled to Turkey and back. We talked for a while. Each of these encounters inspires us to bigger dreams.

The spoken languages of Serbian and Croatian are similar enough to be considered dialects rather than separate languages (according to my learned reference: Lonely Planet Phrasebook Eastern Europe). However, the written form is in the cyrillic alphabet here in Serbia, adding a new layer of difficulty to navigating and finding shops. Book in hand, I managed to ask for a bank machine in Backa Palanka, the first Serbian town, and we took out some dinars.

Accommodation choices were few as we pedalled on into the evening. Ad hoc camping is frowned upon by Serbian authorities, we’d been told, and you are meant to have every night documented with payment that shows your passport number. After various failed attempts to find a room, we pulled onto a tiny side road to the river, where accommodation was shown on our Danube route map. We had done 120 km, and it was our seventh day’s cycling–670 km. The floating terrace restaurant was delightful, and we tucked into grilled fish as swans glided by. As far as accommodation, we were first told there was no room, but that we could camp. Later we were told to wait while a small bungalow was prepared for us. The men-in-black –who we’d thought were Novi Sad businessmen– were musicians who began to play traditional music. Once the room was ready, we collapsed into bed, with our bikes stowed under our riverside cabin.


M

Croatia in 24 hrs

For a pacifist, Croatia is not easy … you see the results of a European war in our lifetimes! Greeted within 100 metres of the border by warning signs of land mines, one became aware it was safer not to picnic beside the road. By the time we got to Vukovar I guess we were ready to see gutted buildings and bullet damage at the level of tens of bullet marks per metre square. Reconstruction is taking place fast, but evidently all needs replacing…. restoration only makes sense on a few historic buildings. I guess they are leaving the town’s heavily damaged water tower as a monument. We stopped in Sotin, a town of about 3000, for lunch. As we left I (Chris)looked in an army tent in the middle of town, long enough to see pictures and memorials to about 40 people. Such a small town, so many dead. What a failure of diplomacy.

At Vukovar, we found our way to a small Danube ferry, since we hoped to cross to Serbia for quieter roads on the far side. This was a locals only ferry, with no real customs facility for dealing with Canadians or even Europeans.

Shortly beyond Vukovar is an obelisk, and a new cemetery that seems to stretch on forever. Old women in black bustle about with flowers. With all this sadness in the background, people in shops and cafes seem so happy to see us. I guess having tourists travel through is a hopeful sign of recovery. Perhaps we were subsidizing that recovery with an unexpectedly expensive hotel for the night we stayed in Osijek, a small city with a very Western feel.

Just before Ilok, we met German cyclist travelling the other way. He’d started in Sofia, Bulgaria, and was headed for Zagreb, then to Slovenia and the Adriatic Coast. In Ilok, we spent our last kruna on beer (Chris) and Coke (Margo) in a café, and on chocolate bars in a small shop, just before crossing the Danube to enter Serbia over a rusting bridge.


C