Epic European Cycle

2015-09-07 : Rest/recovery day in Ogulin
Brent has told me before about ORT - Oral Rehydration Therapy. When he was hiking in Africa, they didn't have anything like Gatorade. Everyone had ORT, which you mix in water and drink, like Gatorade, but instead of evil koolade, ORT has the taste and consistency of spit. So, you're drinking spit. But your brain knows it's not YOUR spit, so it interprets it as SOMEONE ELSE'S SPIT! Gross! When we took him to the doctor yesterday, they recommended some kind of hydration therapy. Today we went to the pharmacy to get that, and some probiotics for him. And guess what... the hydration therapy is ORT. Brent has offered to let me try some, but I've declined. I shouldn't be laughing about it because someday my turn will come, I'm sure, but I'm so happy it's not me drinking SOMEONE ELSE'S SPIT.

2015-09-08 : Rest/recovery day in Ogulin
Brent and I are seriously running out of patience for sitting in our tiny room doing Sudoku and watching the Kuna Bin.
The room we're staying in is tiny. And when I say tiny, I mean... well... tiny. The toilet is half broken and the television is nearly kaput, which normally wouldn't be an issue, but when you're sick, you really need your Kuna Bin! The folks who run this place are completely fantastic, though. The staff are so nice and helpful, and the owners are amazing. Between the husband trying to heal Brent with Slivovica, and the wife feeding us crepes and apple pie, we feel like members of the family. Members of the family with the teeniest room in the house.

2015-09-09 : Rest/recovery day in Ogulin
Today Brent was finally feeling well enough to try eating normally, and going for a bit of a bike ride. We took a ride out to the local Campingplatz (a small patch of fenced green outside of town... very inferior compared to the Belavici place), then into town. We had a look at the canyon - Ogulin sits on top of an enormous cave system - and the Frankopan Kastle. We walked around town, through the street market (where I bought a pair of sweatpants to replace my old yoga pants, which are falling apart and give me hives), and then had a pancake at Hotel Frankopan. This area, or maybe all of Croatia, specializes in "pancakes", which we would call crepes, with yummy fillings. Yum! Brent is holding up ok, but tomorrow we're going to stop in to see the doctor again before we leave town as some of his symptoms aren't easing off as much as we think they should.
An interesting thing about Croatia - whenever you order a coffee, it always comes with an accompanying glass of water. I'm not sure why, but it's nice.

2015-09-10 : Train to Rijeka
Sooooo... the 2:10 train from Ogulin to Rijeka is... a bus. There's construction today on the train line. The next available train is at 6:30 tonight so we have a whole 'nother day to use up in Ogulin. I'm feeling vaguely Twilight Zone-ish.
It was a slow day in Ogulin, just spending time until it was time for an actual "train". We got to witness, up close, the local excitement for the day - a couple of firemen installing a banner on the front of the church. Good times.
We rode the train from Ogulin to Rijeka today. The train was like one from the movies, with the fancy little compartments like in Murder on the Orient Express. As soon as we got on the train we were greeted by Pierre and his wife, Ruth - a couple of cycle-touring Montrealers. We spent the whole voyage talking with them - it was great to swap stories and tips!

2015-09-11 : Day in Rijeka
There's a lot to see and do in Rijeka. Brent and I chose to spend our morning walking on the water break pier which was disappointing. The ocean side had such high rocks built up for the water break that we couldn't see out to the sea or the islands. All we could see was back towards the city, and Rijeka is not an attractive city from the ocean side. It's pretty much a big industrial harbour. In the afternoon we climbed the 561 stairs up to Trsat Fortress, a really cool castle that sits on a hill above the city. That was NOT disappointing. The castle was beautiful, the ruin-ey bits of it were interesting, and the views from the top were breathtaking.
One thing I've been bummed about being away from home is missing Concord Grape season. Today, in the Rijeka market, we found some! Yay! I get my yearly Concord Grape fix!
When we were in Regensburg, Laura and I found this AMAZING map store. I was enthralled with the two walls full of cycle tour books and maps from all over Europe. Most of what they had covered Schengen countries, though, so I knew there wasn't much there that I should bother with. They did have a couple of things for Croatia, though - an Istria map (which shows cycle routes) and a set of three maps for the Dalmatian Coast. At that point, it wasn't certain that Brent and I would be coming to Croatia, so it was kind of premature for me to spend the money on maps that we'd have to add to the weight of what we were carrying, but I bought them anyway. Am I ever glad that I did because... the same kind of maps are NOWHERE to be found in Croatia! Every book store I've inquired in (and I've inquired in a lot), pretty much all they have is a high-level map of Croatia (practically useless for cycle touring) and detailed maps of the large cities. Big kisses to Kompass (the map company) and to Germany (for being such a cycle-crazy country) for these maps. I'm SO glad we have them!

2015-09-12 : Rijeka to Preluk via Opatija
My favorite thing about this trip has been that everyone is just so darned happy we showed up. It reminds me of this scene from Austin Powers:
Hey, there you are!

The flags on our bikes have really facilitated that - so many people have stopped to greet us, and to ask if we really came from Canada to cycle here. In most of my vacation experiences, people have been nice, but they really don't give a rip that we're there. I've heard of people going places and getting a "cool" reception or worse. This trip has just been so great for people being happy to see us.
We rode from Rijeka to the first campsite out of town today. It was a short trip, only 10km or so. We were going to go for an out-and-back ride, but after pondering the hills around, and the elevation profiles from our map, we decided to go into Opatija, which is just down the road. OMG is it ever touristy! It is a resort town that is just crawling with tourists. I'm already missing the laid-back quiet community feel of the inland areas we visited.

2015-09-13 : Hike to Lovranska Draga
We hiked today from our camp site in Medveja to Lovranska Draga (village) and then on to Hotel Draga Di Lovrana, which is about 400 meters up on Mount Učka. The hike up to Lovranska Draga was great! It was fascinating to learn about the terraced agriculture that went all the way up to the village from the ocean at one time. There is still some terraced agriculture up at the remaining village, but the slope up doesn't have agriculture on it anymore - just the remains of old terraces. After hiking up to Lovranska Draga, which is a crazy little village clinging to the side of a mountain in what looks like the middle of nowwhere, we continued on the road to Hotel Draga Di Lovrana.

Before we set out, our campground host had told us we could walk all the way up to the hotel, which we could see up on the hill from the campground. He said it was a restaurant, so we made it our destination for the day, thinking that we'd have a pivo when we got there. As soon as we walked in, the staff clearly decided we were completely unsavory and unwelcome Riff-Raff, not fit to sit near their well-coiffed, Beamer-driving, Rolex-wearing clientelle, and we then became victims of their rampant Raff-ism. They put us in the least appealing seating area, even though there were several tables near the spectacular view, and then ignored us for about 20 minutes before finally serving us our pivo. I was quite peeved, but I decided to be the bigger Riff-Raff and just be pleasant about the whole thing. Very disappointing... according to Trip Advisor, everyone else who goes there has a wonderful time. I guess they didn't show up looking like hiking Riff-Raff.
After our hike today, we walked around Medveja a little bit, and we saw this crazy "Rotel" (rolling hotel) bus trying to pull into our campground. It has seating in the front, and then, it looks like sleeping cabins in the back. It's ENORMOUS! www.rotel.de.
This morning, at our kava stop, I asked our server about tipping. I have not been able to get consistent information about what people do, or expect, here. He confirmed that that is because tipping here is completely inconsistent. Zero percent is normal. Round-up is normal. Ten percent is normal. Twenty percent is normal. GAH! The only thing worse than conventions that I don't like is a complete LACK of conventions!
I've decided that France and Croatia are my two favorite places from this trip. I've been doing a LOT of smiling lately, and it's largely because the people here make me want to smile at them. France was the same. Although, I have to admit that the Croatian coast is LESS friendly and welcoming than inland. I think they get inundated with so many tourists here (and probably a lot of them are rude and/or demanding) so it's not as exciting for them when people show up. I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with the people inland who don't have tourist burn-out.

2015-09-14 : Rain Day in Medveja

2015-09-15 : Lovran and Kittens
The weather was supposed to be nice today, with rain only in the evening and overnight, so we thought we might hike to Mt. Učka, but this morning it was pretty questionable, so we opted instead to walk to Lovran - about 3.2km back up the highway. It was a good decision. We got rained on a couple of times and the mountains were pretty socked in all day, so not a great day for a hike, but a great day to be in Lovran, and we got to meet kitties! We really enjoyed walking around Lovran's Stari Grad (old town) and walking along the oceanfront. The Lovran oceanfront is really interesting... endless layers and coves and coves and layers.
On the way into town, we got to a gated yard where a couple of seriously skinny kittens greeted us - a calico and a tabby. We were giving them pets and remarking about how thin they were when a third kitten - a black and white - showed up. I was sure it wasn't a littermate because it was twice the size of the others.

After we visited the kitties we proceeded into Lovran and I said something about stopping at the Konzum in town to buy some kitten food to feed them on our way back. It seemed pretty clear that their mother was gone and they were fending for themselves. The calico even tried to nurse on Brent's wool sweater. After spending a few hours in Lovran, and buying two packages of expensive kitten food, we headed back and called the kitties. Only the black and white showed up so finally we opened one package and fed the kitty, who was ravenous.

After the first package was done, we pondered what to do with the second package because we hadn't seen the other kitties yet. I suggested that we give the second package to the black and white kitty because there was no sense in hanging onto the food, and if the kitty ate so much that it yakked, it wouldn't be wasted anyway since kitties have no trouble eating kitty yak.

Just as the black and white was halfway through wolfing down the second package, guess who showed up but the other two kitties. We tried to pull the black and white off of the food to give the other two a chance at it, but it was very fast and aggressive and wouldn't give the other two kitties a chance to eat, so they barely got any. We felt terrible! The poor skinny kitties! Annnnd... changed our minds - we're pretty sure the black and white is a littermate... it's just really aggressive compared to the other two.

After a couple of minutes of deliberation, we decided to walk BACK into Lovran to buy more kitty food. Back we went, and bought three more packages of food.

Walking back again in the direction of the campingplatz (and the kitties), we first encountered the calico and fed her a package of food. We could see the other kitties further down the fence, but we thought we'd give her a chance to eat in peace and then go to the others. When she was nearly done, the tabby came running over and we fed him a package of food. When he was done, we lured them down the fence to where the black and white was and we fed the third package of food to the three of them. I'm pretty sure that by the time they were finished five packages of kitten food they were all full.

Yay for full kitties!

2015-09-16 : To Labin
OMG hardest 46km ever with a cumulative gain of approximately 1100m or 1200m plus headwind. Highlights (aside from the climbing and headwind) included the crazy tall smoke stack at Plomin, and the Kršan castle.
A while back Brent had talked with some Kiwis who had been touring in Croatia earlier in the summer. They said Istria was great cycling (it is) and they said camping here is hideously expensive (it is). We may end up doing less camping than I would like simply because of the cost difference. Camping in our tent averages about $60CAD. Tonight and tomorrow we're staying in an enormous studio apartment for $52CAD per night. Craziness.

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