Early morning, Thu. 18th April 2019, I get up at 06:30. Still recovering from a cold; I have slept better before. Looking outside and seeing the perfect weather, the lack of energy is however immediately superseded by excitement of the upcoming adventure!
It has been a long way in terms of preparation; now everything should be set. I finish packing and head to the gas station to fill up the Husky before she gets loaded with the extensive gear I have to take along.
While heading off, I am a slightly anxious about the traffic around Easter, as usually everyone fancies heading abroad for an extended weekend, traffic jams of 10km or more are quite common. Starting off with some highway miles to get to less familiar territory as quickly as possible, I am pleasantly surprised by no traffic at all and dash through Liechtenstein and Italy (Brenner) to Austria.
Usually I avoid highways to the degree possible; a very monotone way of overland travel according to my view. Right now, I don’t mind though, as it gives me the opportunity of testing the ergonomics of my bike. I come to the conclusion that the bike is surprisingly comfy; the luggage also functioning as a plush backrest. I lean back as the Husky thumps through the vast and open countryside of Austria towards Lienz.
I find Pichlers Hotel / Chocolate Production to stay over night in Sillian. 400km; a good days work; I’ve earned myself a beer to enjoy the evening sun.
The plan is to get through Slovenia, close to the Croatian border today. I set off, again a perfect day, navigating back-roads towards Slovenia. Following a diversion, I end up on gravel paths in the middle of the woods and finally at a red light. After waiting for a few minutes, I decide to go back and read the sign, I had skillfully ignored. I realize I get to wait 40min; probably the longest red-light wait I’ve ever had…
I park the bike and enjoy the sun and peacefulness of the place a bit. After a while a car with a family from Graubünden shows up and we have a chat. Time flies by and I’m already on the fly again.
Jumping over to Slovenia directly into Triglavski National Park, I’m stunned by the natural beauty of the place. Great and curvy roads additionally enrich the experience, if only not every corner were made of cobblestone… Almost on top of the pass road I settle for lunch with a exceptional mountain view and Gulash.
Heading down the mountains I am already in long-distance travel cruising mode; not slow, not super fast, just a constant though snappy speed. Continuously keeping the momentum I am quite frequently overtaken on the straights, though always catch up again in the corners.
Slowly coming closer to flatter terrain again, the GPS directs me into the middle of a neighborhood and I end up turning my bike more or less in someones garden. An elderly couple comes out and we have a chat, laughing about the fact that I am planning on driving to Cape Town and am already lost in Slovenia. I turn the GPS off and go old-school; paper map and directions from locals.
I find a cosy place to stay at Farm House Na Meji in Pivka and am greeted by a supper playful, slightly crazy Golden Retriever. A very friendly couple runs the place and they show me around. Included in the price is a cellar full of self-distilled schnaps. It has been 350km today; I go for the usual after ride beer.
Time to hit the road to Croatia. As not marked clearly as a exit border post of Slovenia and me believing it is a toll booth, I try handing the officer a 50€ bill. Slightly confused he asks for my passport… In another place this could have been understood the wrong way…
A few minutes later standing at the actual toll station, the automate won’t give me a ticket and I’m stuck, causing quite a queue behind me. Getting off the bike, pressing every button, waving into the cameras and towards the main booth won’t help. A bus full of police officers pulls up behind me signaling that I should push the button… One officer gets out, tries to push the button, realizes that it won’t work, shrugs and they back away into the next lane; which works. I try the same; same story. After 10min a slightly sleepy looking man comes out of the main booth and comes over, saying that I should have taken the lane which I had initially taken…? He grabs a metal plate from behind the booth, puts it on the floor and pulls out a ticket. Apparently not enough metal on my bike; next time I’ll know what to look for!
I drive to Rijeka with a plan of cruising along the coast. After 5min I realize that I don’t feel like going through all these tourist places and would prefer some remoteness. The paper maps and also the GPS are not really eligible anymore for the type of track I am looking for. Nonetheless, I find something that could be interesting on the map and head to a smaller ski resort. On the way a man confirms that there is a stone / gravel track where I am heading and I end up on a logging track through an incredible forest. Quite a few junctions w/o signs; I am forced to guess.
I’ve spent hours going through the woods on rougher tracks and move back to tarmac towards Sibenik. Rocky though very green landscapes pass by and there are several road signs to small villages, most of which are totally deserted since the war.
Booking.com indicates me a place to stay, though the town is neither on the map nor available on the GPS. Two friendly elderly gentlemen give me instructions in German; seems the better asset than English around here. I finally find my way to Family Bacic in Drinovci and their Country House Peace. It has been 400km today.
Shortly after arrival I am unloading my bike and hear “Grüezi Zürcher” from behind my back. A retiree who lived around Zurich for 30 years and has then moved back to Croatia to this 10 house village for retirement welcomes me in Swiss German.
Later in the evening I am planning next days route and receive plenty of input incl. informative drawings from the Son who speaks perfect English. Myself planing on going to bed, I am asked if I would like to try some of their homemade schnaps. I agree on one. It being a Saturday plenty of people from the town show up, some in Easter garbs. I experience Croatian culture first hand and learn a lot about the history. A great experience.
A later than usual start today, I make my way to the coast and drive down South. Very scenic views and almost no traffic. It is truly a blessing to be traveling through here out of season. I target Neum, a town on the 20km stretch coast line of Bosnia Herzegovina, splitting Croatia. At the border going out of the EU, the vehicles in front and behind me are asked to show their papers; I’m just waved through. Once at Villa Obad I’m shown my room with a stunning view from the balcony and am brought some Easter pastries and a beer. What a welcome to BiH! Time to take a day off here…
btw: no worries; the length of my posts will shrink… 😉