Couple of fairly big cycling days as I bid arrivederci to Italy, spent a night in Slovenia, and then pedalled over some significant hills into Croatia. Routes and stats below.
- 27 August: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/879558667
- 28 August: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/881514570
–> 27 August – to Trieste and into Slovenia
Today was long day; 134km km pedalled in about 8 hours, so pretty quick for me. After a good night’s sleep at Altanea Camping in Duna Verde, I was ready to try to pedal to Slovenia, albeit with potential campsites identified before the border should I be delayed for any reason; ice-cream stops, beer, beaches etc.
I was a bit slow packing up, but got on the road by 09.00 and cycled to Caorle. I’ll have to think about starting earlier again soon as the daylight hours get shorter, especially on my way back to the UK post Istanbul. After Caorle I had to head North to circumvent an estuary. I ignored some signs for the Eurovelo route, which hasn’t really been very helpful for the tour so far. In this case I think it would have taken me down to the coast and then back up again, adding miles on to the day’s ride. The EV routes will be great once they’re properly realised, but they stop and start too much, and for the most part I don’t see signs for them at all. I’m finding it easier just to make my own way, choosing routes that are efficient, and diverting when tempted by something.
I joined the SP42, then the SS14 which would take me all the way to Slovenia, with a few quieter country roads thrown in for good measure, just to keep things interesting and avoid the traffic for a bit. Thankfully, although the roads are busy, Italian drivers are for the most part polite and considerate around cyclists, with a few exceptions; one van driver did nearly clip me going through a town, however that can happen in any country, and is probably more likely in the UK.
After passing through low-lying marsh and farmland, I made it to Cervignano del Friuli for lunch, and managed to find a Tarte du Jour equivalent. It looks like the ‘Tarte du Jour’ feature might become an infrequent one, depending on availability, however I shall attempt to persevere; need the calories!
Today’s tarte was more go a sponge cake, loaded with cream, and alcohol of some description, but lacking a bit in flavour. The alcohol did do wondrous things for easing aching limbs, and made for a relaxed start to the afternoon’s ride.
On my approach to Trieste I passed another cycle tourer, emerging from I assume a siesta amongst the grapevines. I’m sure I’ve seen him before, near Nice; he’s pedalling in jeans without a lot of stuff, but making good progress. If I see him again I’ll have to stop for a chat; we waved at each other in any case. Always interesting to hear other people’s stories.
As I got closer to Trieste I started to encounter hills again, which actually made for a nice change after the route being flat for the last few days. I started up a big climb and noticed two wolf-like creatures standing guard at the top of a cut through beside the road; they had me going for a few seconds but turned out just to be wolf statues near a war memorial. I’m still worried about danger from dogs when I get into Albania, Macedonia, Greece and Turkey, but have been told by loads of people that as soon as you get off your bike they stop chasing you – think that’ll be pretty hard to do the first time, rather than just pedal faster, might get a big stick just in case!
After a nice long descent into Trieste I paused for a break, stopping in the Piazza Unita d’Italia where a webcam opportunity presented itself; I waved to the stalkers at home who duly spotted me. Trieste is a bustling city and port, and there were loads of tourists wandering about, randomly walking out in front of me. I’m sure there’s a lot I could say about the city, however you’ll have to look it up on Wikipedia for more info. One thing – think Trieste used to be part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and some might still feel it shouldn’t be part of Italy at all, not sure.
After cooling down a bit, and drinking lots of water (it was very hot), I pedalled to the Slovenian border tackling a very steep 150m climb over from Muggia in the process. There was no official border crossing building, but I did find a sign to tell me I’d left Italy and entered Slovenia.
For some reason I immediately felt more relaxed in Slovenia. I’m not sure why, maybe the roads were quieter, or the atmosphere a bit sleepier, or perhaps it was because I’d made good progress and passed another milestone. The scenery was certainly picturesque, with the hills very much continuing, lots of grapevines, and a pretty coastline.
I stopped for the night at Adria camping (Ankaran), at the bottom of the descent over from Muggia. It’s a big campsite but was very welcoming, and relatively cheap too at €15; long may that continue. After setting up I had dinner a the campsite restaurant, feeling in need of a big meal and a sit down somewhere comfortable; the mixed grill was excellent, as was the sunset.
I also met up with a Hungarian family spending a few days in Slovenia; Árpád spoke great English, and had recently returned from working in Ireland. I loved his bright red German van, converted for touring purposes, and it was great to have chat. He mentioned how much he enjoys watching programmes like Coast, Country File, and other BBC productions; made me realise the BBC must do very well out of selling programmes aboard – I guess Top Gear is a great example of that.
Tomorrow it’s off to Croatia; I think there might be a few hills in the way first though.
–> 28 August – to Croatia and Selce
I rode 115km today, and whilst the total distance was less than yesterday it felt like more, due to the hills; over 1,500m ascent, which is like climbing Ben Nevis.
I left Adria Camping in Ankaran in good time, after saying goodbye to Árpád and family; they were off to see a castle and caves before travelling to Lublianja. Árpád reckons Slovenia beats Croatia from a scenery point of view, however I’ll have to check for myself. I’ve been skiing in Kranjska Gora and it’s definitely a stunning country, and the people very friendly; good for cycling in too as the hobby is very popular, and excellent cycle lane coverage. After a chat about genealogy and how closely related we all are, and about the origins of the Hungarian people (gonna have to read more on that one – they were nomadic originally but settled in what is now Hungary, in the Carpathian basin, as it was the land of Attila the Hun), I pedalled off and up into the hills. Hope the rest of your holiday goes well Árpád, and maybe see you in Hungary!
It was a slightly complicated route to get to the right road to the Croatian border, avoiding motorways and the busier roads. After an initial warm up climb, and saying hello to a lot of road cyclists, I made it to the route up into the mountains, and to a climb that rose to about 800m over perghaps 30km, with a few flat bits providing some respite. It was tough going, however the scenery was amazing. I pedalled up to the border surrounded by mountains, valleys and forest, with hardly any traffic on the road. I think encountered about 4 cars before the border; there were more birds of prey than vehicles.
At the border I had to show my passport to get out of Slovenia, the first time I’ve used it for border crossing purposes since Gibraltar, however there was no-one stationed at the Croatian post and I pedalled straight into country number 13 (I think it’s number 13 anyway). The climb continued for several more kilometres, through more thick forest, however there were more villages to look at, plus slightly more in the way of people around and farming activity. At one point I passed what looks like a war memorial from the Soviet era, reminding me that this all used to be behind the iron curtain.
I finally started to descend down towards the coast again, albeit with the occasional upwards jaunt over more hills as I followed narrow twisty roads, avoiding the main roads. At one point I was slightly startled by the approach of a very noisy engine, as a large and slightly antiquated farm truck appeared and roared past; looked like it might be soviet era itself.
I made it to Rijeka and immediately sought at ATM to get hold of some Croatian Kuna; they don’t use the Euro here. Getting cash out was easy as there is no shortage of ATMs, however it’s a shame I had to use my Lloyds debit card rather than my Caxton FX prepaid card; this is the first country I’ve passed through where the currency isn’t available to load onto the card, however they’ll a few more like it shortly. I’m going to withdraw some back up Euro in Montenegro, before entering Albania and Macedonia, just so I have something to exchange or use in case I can’t find a handy ATM. Hopefully the cash machines will be working in Greece!
After grabbing a sandwich and a brief chat with 2 German cycle tourers going the other way, I continued down the coast to Crikvenica, through various small towns and ports, and the occasional beach with people enjoying a cooling swim; the water looked very inviting. The hills weren’t done with me yet, with the road continuously rising or falling, hence the 1,500 metres worth of climbing today, and sore legs.
I stopped for the day in Selce, just past Crikvenica, at the town’s campsite. Selce is a small and pretty town, and another tourist hotspot, but tastefully put together. The campsite is decent, with free wifi near reception, and a small supermarket that sufficed for dinner. There’s an on-site bar and restaurant too however all I really wanted to do was lie in my hammock.
I could have walked down to the beach for a swim, but there was a risk I might not make it back up again, so I relaxed, read my book, and ate a simple dinner of bread, cheese, ham and fruit with a few beers and some biscuits. It was still hot, reminding me of the conditions in Spain, however the hammock and shade helps a lot; you get a nice draft underneath you in a hammock, which is good when it’s hot, but won’t be so good when cold.
Tomorrow’s plan is to continue down the coast and hop on a ferry for the short crossing to the island of Pag, which runs parallel to the mainland and should be interesting. I also need to find a new charging cable for my iPhone, as the my backup cable is now fracturing; the first one went in France somewhere. iPhone charging cables definitely aren’t built to last, however I guess I do stress them a bit when charging my phone from my dynamo; moves cable around a bit.
Got to get into the sea tomorrow too!