Archive for the 'Croatia' Category

Momma I’m Coming Home!

Friday, September 28th, 2007

Exciting news – we purchased our airline tickets home! On November 21st, after 368 days on the road, we will fly from Istanbul, Turkey to Wilmington, North Carolina, USA. It’s hard to believe we have less than 60 days of bicycle touring left. Our rough plan is to cycle through Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Bulgaria on our way to Turkey. If we arrive in Turkey ahead of schedule, we’ll cycle down the Aegean coast before heading back to Istanbul to fly home.

We also said goodbye to Sean today. After spending two days hanging out in Split, Sean headed north towards Zagreb and we headed east, away from the Adriatic and towards the mountainous interior. It was a little strange to be back on the bikes after close to two weeks of taking it easy. I found myself worrying about all the same things I agonized over at the beginning of the trip: flat tires, mechanical failures, getting hit by a car, and the like.


The beautiful scenery helped to ease my mind though. After about 10 kilometers on the busy coastal road, we turned inland and headed through some gorgeous mountain scenery towards Bosnia and Herzegovina.


We’ll cross the border tomorrow and check out Mostar and Sarajevo. The weather today was great: sunny but with nice crisp fall air to keep us from overheating on the climbs. We are hoping the weather holds out until we get across the mountains.

Island Hopping

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

We left Dubrovnik via ferry, headed towards the island of Korcula where we planned to begin traveling north through some of Croatia’s most beautiful islands. We were really surprised to find that the cost to bring our two bicycles on the ferry was almost the same as one car – $45!


The ferry ride was beautiful. At one of the ports along the way some of the crew fished off the side of the boat. They used only a piece of fishing line (no pole) which they’d rigged to end in two small hooks, side by side, baited with pieces of bread or old mussels. They’d throw a slice of bread into the water to whip the fish into a feeding frenzy, then toss their line into the fray. They’d almost immediately hook at least one fish, sometimes two!


We’d originally planned to ride from the east end of Korcula to the western-most port, then catch a ferry north to the next island. Upon arrival we found that this wasn’t possible – the ferry that carried cars and bicycles only departed from the eastern city. After a quick brainstorm we decided to spend one day riding west across the island, spend the night on the west end, and then ride back the next morning in time to catch the ferry to the next island.

The ride was breathtakingly beautiful – Croatia is definitely one of the most beautiful spots of our trip so far. The island of Korcula was only 46km long but very hilly – we climbed a total of 800 meters to get across the island!



We took a detour off the main road to avoid traffic but were surprised to find our chosen road was in the process of being rebuilt. It was 11km of loose gravel along the steep coastal cliffs, which made for some hair descents!



Along the way we passed pomegranate trees, sampled fresh figs from trees growing beside the road, and passed many olive groves and vineyards.





We spent the night in the sleepy town of Vela Luka. It was a pretty town with, as our guidebook put it “an embryonic tourist industry.” They weren’t kidding around – we had a tough time finding a place to eat dinner! It was fun to hang out for a day in a pretty little town that wasn’t full of tourists.

The next morning we rode the 46km and climbed the 800 meters back east to catch our next ferry to the island of Hvar. We arrived on the island at 4:30 in the afternoon but quickly realized that we hadn’t been dropped off in the island’s main city of Hvar, but instead a small port city called Stari Grad. Hvar city was 15km away so Jamie and I had to get back on our bikes and started pedaling again. The 15km ride was stunningly beautiful – we rode up and down along a cliff that soared straight out of the ocean.


We reached Hvar city one hour later and after checking our altimeter found that we’d broken our record for vertical meters climbed in one day since we started tracking this stat in Germany – 1,100m!

Hvar is almost as beautiful as Dubrovnik, but less busy and crowded. The harbor is chock full of multi million dollar yachts and the city is brimming with cute cafes, bars, and restaurants. We’ve been hanging out here for the past few days and tomorrow plan to take one last ferry ride to the town of Split where we’ll stay for a day or two and then part ways with our friend Sean.




I can’t forget to mention that in a Dubrovnik bookstore I picked up a copy of the 2008 Guinness Book of World Records and found the entry for my dad and brother’s record setting “largest free floating soap bubble”!


Paradise on Earth

Friday, September 21st, 2007

Dubrovnik, Croatia truly has it all. Sparkling, clear waters. An ancient walled city. Beautiful people. And of course exorbitant prices.


We arrived here on the 17th after three days of transit by train and bus. Never fun, but we made the best of it. We spent four hours on an outdoor train platform near Vienna in the wee hours of the morning, but with our camping gear at hand we passed the time by making coffee and chatting with our new Swiss friend Stephanie.


After the 10 hour train ride we rested for one day in a campsite in Zagreb, Croatia before taking an 11 hour overnight bus to reach Dubrovnik. We pulled into the Dubrovnik station at 6am, loaded our bikes, brushed past the aggressive hotel touts and taxi drivers, and rode off into the sunrise toward the city’s campground. We set up our tent and slept for a few hours before cleaning ourselves up and riding into town to meet our friend Sean. Finding each other in the city at an undetermined time and in an unspecific place seemed daunting, but just as we locked up our bikes and began walking into the old walled town we walked right into Sean! We spent the next couple of days exploring the city, sampling the fresh seafood, and relaxing on the beaches.




The old town of Dubrovnik is eye-poppingly beautiful. Gorgeous ancient buildings and streets that are actually made of marble. It really is one of the most magical places we have seen in Europe.




Tiny cafes are perched on the walls of the city overlooking the Adriatic Sea.


Sean rented a car so one day we made a day trip down the coast to another ancient walled city: Kotor, Montenegro. Kotor sits at the end of a massive fjord.


A crumbling fortress overlooks the city and of course we had to climb to the top.


Before leaving Montenegro we took advantage of the more reasonable prices and went on a shopping spree to stock up on important things like 2-liter bottles of beer and the famous local cherry brandy

The next day we made another day trip, this time to the tip of a peninsula north of Dubrovnik that’s known for its beaches. The roads were narrow and windy and the drive took longer than expected. I felt sick during the whole drive and just 10 km shy of our goal city lost my battle with motion sickness and demanded Sean pull over at the closest possible opportunity. He did, I barfed, and then we carried on to the beautiful city of Orebic where we lounged on the beach reading for a few hours.

On the way home we stopped for dinner at a popular looking restaurant where we all ordered the house specialty: veal fillets. They were delicious! Sean ordered the herbal brandy which tasted like rubbing alcohol and herbal perfume. We each took a sip and then abandoned the rest. For dessert we were intrigued by the local specialty called “Macaroni Cake”. We couldn’t imagine what this was going to be like – a cake actually made from pasta seemed far fetched. Turns out the dessert was very faithful to its name – it was pie crust filled with cooked macaroni noodles that had been tossed in a chocolate sauce, then compressed into a pie shape and chilled. Sean said it reminded him of a million little fish mouths gaping up at him. As soon as he said that I realized he was exactly right and I lost my appetite for the strange dessert. It was definitely a very entertaining meal.

Now for the sticker shock. A campsite in Dubrovnik runs about 140 kuna (~$US28). A 0.25L beer at a seaside cafe is 28 kuna (~$US5.60) and internet access is 25 kuna (~$US5) per hour! A dramatic step up from the rest of Eastern Europe. The crowds here are also amazing. The city feels at least as crowded as Prague. If it really is busier here in July and August, I think it would be unbearable.

Tomorrow we head north along the coastal islands via a combination of ferry and bicycle.