We left Hungary on a rainy day heading into Croatia. It is always interesting trying to spot the differences when you cross a border. The villages were more alive. There were cafes in even the smallest village, and the cafes were pretty busy. It was great to see pensioners sitting in cafes socializing rather sitting in their homes alone.
The concentration of cafes increased as we neared Zagreb. The roads also got busier and soon we were fighting for space on pavements. We stayed in Zagreb a few days.We had booked an apartment through airbnb.com and as usual it was excellent. We spent the days exploring Zagreb and tuning in to the culture. What’s the rush, the sun is out let’s sit down and enjoy a drink.
We enjoyed Zagreb, it has a relatively compact centre, with a great market just in the old town. The city has a buzz to it. The trams and the traffic make cycling on the roads off putting.
Getting out of Zagreb was relatively easy, we followed a cycle route south and headed south west towards Istria. This took us through the mountainous region of Gorski Kator. The road steadily climbed and unfortunately the clouds started coming down so we cycled through rain and mist. When the mist cleared we were treated to spectacular views. The roads were good and quiet and the drivers gave us plenty of space.
We started dropping down from the mountains to Rijeka on the coast. The landscape changed abruptly from tree clad mountains to rock and scrub. The temperature also shot up as we enjoyed the 1000 metre descent to the sea and temperatures in the mid 20s.
We celebrated arriving at the Adriatic with a pizza at a restaurant with a plaque on the wall denoting that the inventor of Valium lived there as a child. There even was a pizza Valium on the menu.
We were heading to see friends in Momjan a tiny village near the border with Slovenia in the north west of Istria. We crossed Istria which was very beautiful and hard cycling, with rarely a flat piece of road. We spent most of the time going up, climbing more than 1300 metres in a day.
We stayed a few days with Michael and Marijana, keen tandem riders. We borrowed one of their tandems and had a great ride with them to Porto Rosso in Slovenia, celebrating with some excellent ice cream.
We also checked out the Auto e Moto D’epoca in Padova as Michael has a lovely 750 Zastava and wanted to go to the autojumble. It was a fun day with about 10 halls full of classic old cars, a lot of them for sale. I was very tempted but had nowhere to keep one!
It was tempting to stay longer in Istria but we had been lucky with the weather and needed to keep heading south. Reluctantly we bade farewell to our friends and made our way back across the roller coaster that was Istria, past beautiful hill top villages with bell towers, olive groves and vineyards.
From Istria we caught the ferry to the island of Cres, our plan was to make our way through the islands heading south. We had been told that the coastal road although beautiful was also very busy despite a motorway running parallel to it. The tolls on the motorway were so high that most traffic stuck to the road.
Cres was beautiful and incredibly quiet, once we had let the 20 cars on the ferry go we had no traffic on the long climb across the island until the next ferry which was 2 hours away. It was bliss, an empty road, sunshine and gorgeous scenery. We passed the 45th parallel on Cres, we had cycled up past the 60th when in Helsinki.
We stayed a couple of nights in Cres town which is a small medieval town with a very pretty harbour. The streets are too narrow for cars and there were very few tourists around. It was obviously popular in summer but had retained it’s character despite that. It had not been prettified or bought up for second homes.