Epic European Cycle

2015-08-28 : Day in Krapina
One thing that I find myself struggling with is tipping. For each country we visit, we look up what the conventions are, and try out best to follow them. It's hard for me. I seem to be extremely conditioned to leave 15%-20% regardless of convention. A lot of the time when it's time to pay the bill at a restaurant, I walk away while Brent deals with it so that I don't have to witness the tipping process a la local convention.
We visited the Neandertal museum today, which was really interesting, and had English signage, so we were able to understand the information. We weren't allowed to take photos, though, so there are none of those. After the Neandertals, we climbed the hill to the Stari Grad (old town / castle), which was a steep walk. Brent had thought that the castle had a museum in it, but it didn't, so we just had a look around and Brent went into a couple of caves.

2015-08-29 : To Zaprešić
A cool thing happened on our way to Zaprešić today. We chose a route using mostly secondary roads, and sometimes the "small highway" which often parallels the autobahn. As usual, there were a couple of confusing intersections along the way. At one point we came to a roundabout that had a LOT of traffic backed up on it, and four possible outputs, one of which was the autobahn, which of course we never want to go on (I don't even think we're allowed). We were consulting the map, trying to figure out which output we wanted to take when an old fella came past on his bike and asked if we needed help. Brent showed him on the map where we wanted to go, and in mostly sign-language, the guy indicated that he was going that way too, and we should follow him. We followed him through the roundabout and off at the correct output, down the road a small way, then up an exit ramp to get onto the secondary road we wanted. We chatted a little bit - he speaks German, and we know a few words, so we were mostly speaking German with a smattering of Croatian and English thrown in. A short way down the secondary road, he indicated his house to the left, so we were saying farewell, but he wasn't ready to let us go yet. He has a huge house that he was currently in by himself, and a bunch of fruit trees. His kids are grown and gone and his wife is sick (we assume maybe in a hospital). He insisted on giving us a bunch of pears and apples that he picked from his trees - insisting that if we didn't take them, they'd end up kaput! We took more pears and apples than we could reasonably eat (or carry), washing them under the pump that he has in his yard, as Nero the hund watched. As we were fixing to leave for real, a group of about six cyclists came down the road from the other direction. They spotted the Canadian flags on our bikes and stopped to chat - most of them spoke at least some English, so we had a good visit. Then, some of the cyclists loaded up on some water and fruit from the old fella too. We took a group photo, and then everyone continued on their way.
We've ventured back into Air BnB land. The area of Croatia we've been in doesn't have any/many campgrounds, and we've been staying in small towns that may or may not have accommodation, so I've been booking ahead. I was having trouble finding good accommodation a reasonable distance from Krapina on booking.com, so I had a quick look at Air BnB. I saw a listing for a two-story house that includes a washing machine. A washing machine! I'm in heaven! We've been making do with "laundry wine" for a while, and it's just not cutting it anymore... we need to do a proper wash. So, I booked in to the place. The hostess only had one review because she's new to Air BnB, but the review was positive, so we thought we'd go for it. The place is a half-duplex that used to be her family home (ie. with her parents), but is now sort of the weekend home for her and her own family who live closer to Zagreb. We have the place to ourselves. It is beautiful - seriously. The home is beautiful and the yard is amazing! Price tag through Air BnB: $79/CAD. Unbelievable.

2015-08-30 : To Jastrebarsko
Hills and hills and heat and heat. The heat wave seems to be following us around. High of 32 today, and temps above 30 expected for the next few days as well. Oy. The good news is that we rode quite a bit on a secondary highway today and neither of us was too perturbed by it. Brent is vexed by a lack of a decent shoulder (this road has either no shoulder or a sidewalk, so alternating between vexatious and fine), and I am vexed by traffic zooming past. There is some of that, to be sure, but Croatian drivers seem singularly disinterested in running us down. They tend to give us lots of space, and they often slow down and proceed past with caution. A lot of them give us "hello honks", unlike the "get off my f*&#ing road or I'll kill you" honks we get from Alberta drivers.

2015-08-31 : To Belavići
I've been poking my brain out with a stick for the last few riding days. Dewey's rear brake started squealing non-stop. It has been making little noises on the whole trip, mostly little cricket chirpy noises, but the non-stop squealing has been really bad. Brent has tried a number of times to adjust the brake and do something about it, but nothing has had any lasting effect. When we pulled into Karlovac today, we saw a small bicycle repair shop and stopped in to see if the guy could do anything. A few squirts of "disc brake silencer" and all is right with the world again. Yay!
Our first several days in Croatia have been completely wonderful, make no mistake, but one thing that has been missing is... campgrounds! We've been missing camping, and it's kind of a pain in the arse to worry about pre-arranging accommodation in the small towns we've been staying in as we go. It's so much easier to just roll up to the next campingplatz and set up housekeeping. Tonight we finally made it to Campsite „Slapić“ in Belavići. It's a GREAT campground. It's not too heavily populated, it has great facilities including washing machines and free WiFi, and the zeltplatz is beside the most lovely little patch of river that reminds me of the Louisiana bayou. I'm in heaven! We may stay here for a few days if we enjoy the day trips in the area. Once we leave it should only take us two or three more days of riding to make it to the coast, which is littered with campingplatzes. Yay!
Since we reached Croatia we haven't seen any other cycle tourists. We ran into the group from Zagreb who were doing a weekend trip to Varaždin, but I mean real cycle tourists - folks fully laden with what they need to ride for at least a week. Today we ran into a guy in Karlovac who is from Austria and riding to Bosnia and back. In the campingplatz, a couple showed up late at night and they were clearly touring although we didn't have a chance to talk to them.

2015-09-01 : Karlovac Ruta 6
I have two things to say: (1) You have to like hills to cycle tour in Croatia. (2) Cycle (or hike) route information that lists elevation, but only mentions the difference between the high point and the low point without accounting for cumulative elevation is useless. All that being said, we have a lovely ride today through some really beautiful countryside.
We talked to a guy from Canada/USA/Britain today who is traveling and also ran out of time in Schengen. We had a good chat with him, and one thing he mentioned that I didn't know before is that, as of January 1st, Croatia will be in Schengen. Thank goodness they didn't join before we came here!
Something I find interesting about Croatia is that there are a LOT of coffee/bar establishments that don't serve any kind of food. Folks bring their own food. Brent and I have done that a couple of times and it feels kind of weird... but hey... when in Croatia...

2015-09-02 : Karlovac Ruta Brent
Today we rode a route through the countryside that Brent invented. And when I say "countryside" I mean hills and hills and hills and hills. It was awesome. And hilly. We went directly (through the hills) to Barilović (where we were yesterday with the castle), then went SE through the countryside (hills) to Krnjak. We then headed north along the D1 highway for a while, then left the highway to go NW through Ladvenjak, then Belajske Poljice and back to the campsite. On the outskirts of Ladvenjak I had a brief encounter with an amazing spider... and then immediately following the encounter it started to spit. We high-tailed it back to the campground to put the fly on our tent, and got here just in time, basically, to prevent the contents of the tent getting soaked. Yay!

2015-09-03 : To Ogulin
We rode from Belavici to Ogulin today. About 2/3 of the way through the ride Brent started feeling ill. Hopefully he recovers quickly. We have a couple of days in Ogulin and then the tough slog up over the mountain range before heading down to the coast. If the weather is going to be persistently bad, or if Brent isn't feeling up to it, we can take a train from Ogulin to Rejika. We'll just have to see what happens.

2015-09-04 : Rain/rest day in Ogulin
We are having a quiet rest day in Ogulin. Brent is still not feeling 100%, so we're sticking close to the room for now. We may venture out later to take a look around.
We have been watching the refugee crisis in Europe, particularly the horror that is the Keleti train station in Budapest right now. The Keleti train station is very close to the hostel we stayed in just a couple weeks ago. The plight of the Syrian refugees is horrifying and we really feel for them, but I'm really glad and relieved we left Budapest before the situation reached this critical point.

2015-09-05 : Rain/rest day in Ogulin
I'd been assuming that what was ailing Brent was some kind of viral thing, but after talking with him this morning it sound more like it's an upper GI blockage of some kind. We did some research to compare his symptoms, and that is what it sounds like. Maybe he's got some scar tissue from having his gallbladder removed? He wanted to wait until tomorrow to phone our health insurance to ask about procedure for going to a doctor, but I asked him to call today. Good thing because we wasted most of the day just trying to make a phone call. I have Skype on the Surface, but the speaker is so quiet that it's almost impossible to make a call with it. We have been unable to place calls with our France number for most of our trip. Brent tried it, though, and he did get through briefly but then the call was dropped and we didn't have enough credit on the SIM to try again. We walked down to the Konzum (about 1 or 2 km down the road) to buy a Croatian SIM. We spent a bunch of time trying to understand the Croatian instructions on the papers, and on their web site, so that we could add a plan or some credit to the SIM. Turned out there isn't a way with this provider (tele2) like there was with Lebarra to top up through their web site. So, back to Konzum we went to buy some credit. Brent called them and got far enough to ask them to call back since we can't place a collect call. It cost over 20kn just for that, and our credit was only 120kn to start with so if we called them back, it was unlikely we'd get all of our business done before we were out of money. They never did call back, so at the end of the day, we found as quiet of a place as possible (in the public area of the BnB, where the WiFi works) to use Skype to place the call. Tomorrow we'll actually take him in to see a doctor.

2015-09-06 : Doctor visit for Brent
The doctors say Brent's bloodwork is normal and the XRay shows no blockage. YAY!! They think that he probably picked up a bug from walking through sewage in the Budapest flash flood. BOO!! I thought it was odd that he would get it and I wouldn't, but maybe it was because he was the one who washed our flood clothing - not me. They put him on a restricted diet for a few days and said we just have to wait for his system to flush it out. I'm guessing we don't have to worry about our health insurance saying that "poisened by Budapest flash flood sewage" was a pre-existing condition.

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