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Thread: Mainly Croatia

  1. #1
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    Jul 2007
    Timișoara, Romania

    Mainly Croatia

    Before we start, let me introduce you to Gabi, my partner for the last six years, the love of my life, and the reason I'm now living in Romania. Gabi loves being on the bike, likes a beer and is a social smoker, so top girl:

    It's been several years since we managed to get out of Romania on the bike, primarily because Gabi has two school-age kids. However this year they were going on holiday with their father, so a trip became possible. While she was happy to go away on the bike, she also wanted some time by the sea. This suited me as we'd be going mid-August and, call me an soft old git if you like, but I now think that eight hours on the bike, when the temperature's in the mid-30's, is just miserable. So the following route was hatched, traveling anti-clockwise from Timișoara (on the extreme right):

    Spending two nights in Split, Zadar and Plitvička Jezera national park, together with one night in each of Banja Luka, Pula, Bled and Tihany (Lake Balaton) should provide a reasonable compromise. Anyway that was the plan, though things were to work out slightly differently...

    Day 1 Timișoara - Banja Luka

    Today was going to be a relatively long one. I'd deliberately planned a cross-country route in order to avoid a boring motorway journey - as a result we had a boring, and I mean BORING, cross-country journey. Flat agricultural countryside and straight roads, of variable quality. It became so bad that one of us would comment if a bend appeared. (Note to self: next time, take the motorway.)

    Eventually, after what seemed an age, came to a long queue over a bridge that turned out to be Croatia-Bosnia border. Gabi walked ahead to try to sort out insurance while I queued - no space to filter. After 45 minutes or so (plenty long enough, given the temperature) we were through. The difference in standard of living between Croatia and Bosnia was immediately obvious.

    Finally made it to Banja Luka and Hotel Jelena (EUR 54 for double room with breakfast) - recommended if you need, or want, to stay in the city:

    Though the view from the room could have been slightly better:

    Went for a stroll around the city, which was a little underwhelming, to say the least. A church/cathedral:

    As one would expect in Bosnia, there were also a few mosques. An unimaginatively restored "castle":

    ...with a minimalist approach to health and safety (walk along the top of the walls):

    Eventually we settled on some real local culture:

    Finally retired to bed around 10.30, at which point the town centre was decidedly more lively.

    Day 2 - Banja Luka - Podstrana (Split)

    I'd done some research beforehand which suggested that the road south from Banja Luka, through the Vrbas canyons, was something special. The road (M16/E661 - no apologies to you Brexiteers for the E route numbers) follows the route of the River Vrbas and, I'm sure, in decent weather, is a wonderful ride. It's clearly used (the river, not the road) for nighttime slalom canoeing:

    However on this occasion it was drizzling all morning and the visibility was crap:

    Eventually the skies cleared as we approached Croatia. There's still plenty of evidence of the recent war:

    Not sure whether the next few are in Bosnia or in Croatia (note the heavy traffic):

    I suppose you get scumbag peasants, who drop fucking litter, in most countries:

    This is definitely Croatia, descending to the coast:

    Once we hit the coast road, it was only around 15 km to our accommodation in Podstrana, just before Split. However this turned out to be a miserable 15 km - village after village packed with tourists and solid traffic with few opportunities to filter. We were soon at Villa Amigo (EUR 60 per night for double room with breakfast):

    Podstrana is OK if sitting by the sea is your thing, though there's room for improvement in a couple of spots:

    Enjoyed the sunset:

    The view from the breakfast terrace:

    ... and the horrible coastline (give me Bridlington any day):

    For me it was fine for a couple of nights, but that was enough. It lacked culture: there were no amusement arcades, no pubs blaring out loud music and I couldn't get candy floss. I didn't see a fight or, for that matter, a single act of aggression. Nobody was drunk (boring continental twats) and the footpaths had a conspicuous lack of vomit or thrown away fast food. And finally, the fish wasn't battered and there were no mushy peas (the menu had some crap about "fresh Adriatic fish"). The quicker we get out of the EU and distance ourselves from these God-forsaken countries, the better. Oh, and the stupid fascist thug checking passports at the border had had the cheek to wish me a "good journey" - why can't these ass holes show some respect to people from a civilised nation?

    Spent most of Day 3 drinking cold canned beer and reading Robert Harris's Conclave, which was OK, but by no means his best. In addition I was having serious doubts regarding the route I'd planned for tomorrow, which would see us following the coast road up to Zadar. Decided I couldn't face 150+ km in the sort of traffic we'd experienced on the coast road the previous day, so a new inland route was plotted.

    Day 4 - Podstrana - Zadar

    After a confused start, with the Zumo directing us along one side of a motorway and then back along the opposite side (I should have done the route planning without the aid of the local beer), we climbed away from the coast. It immediately became apparent how badly the area had been affected by fires, and how close those fires had come to the villages:

    To borrow a phrase from Mike O, "any guesses for the make/model/year?":

    Fires were still visible in the distance:

    The decision to travel inland rather than along the coast certainly paid off; the roads were excellent and deserted. The north-eastern edge of the Krka national park:

    After an ab fab day's riding we made it to Villa Hresc in Zadar. Villa Hresc, at EUR 120 per night, was our treat to ourselves for two nights. Absolutely superb, we both loved it. Decided to go for a stroll into the old town, to see the sights and enjoy a meal. Saw some crappy Croatian cars:

    and some poxy little boats in the harbour:

    The historic part of Zadar received some "attention" in the early '90s:

    To be honest I was a little disappointed in Zadar - too many stalls selling tat and too many people. The damage from the war is still evident:

    However the best views generally involved the water, as opposed to the town:

    As we walked to a recommended restaurant there was a welcome breeze which which made the water a little choppy:

    Nature was being kind to us:

    ... and we were both content:

    Tried an "arty" shot with the umbrellas at the restaurant:

    Finally walking back to base:

    A very civilised spot for breakfast:

    ...with some unexpected company:

    ...and a curious cat:

    Decided to spend the day by hotel pool, reading and relaxing. I went out on the bike (shorts, tee shirt, sandals and no helmet - bliss) to get some beers, which were duly consumed through the afternoon, though ten cans between the two of us was, I admit, a little over the top. The pool was crowded:

    One happy Romanian:

    ...who knows how to relax:

    Walked (staggered) to a local restaurant for dinner that evening. A thoroughly relaxing day.

    Day 6 Zadar - Plitvička Jezera

    I'd ridden the coast road north from Zadar back in 2009. In my ride report on that trip I'd said that the run up the Adriatic coast had been the best day's riding on a trip that had taken in both the Transfăgărășan and the Stelvio Pass. Today I was going to experience it again - well at least the 90 km up to Karlobag, where we'd turn inland. I was a little apprehensive that there would be much heavier traffic (in 2009 I did it in mid-September, when the tourist season was all but over). I needn't have worried. Once we cleared Split it was simply magical; Gabi enjoying the incredible scenery and I the bends on the beautifully surfaced road. There was little traffic and overtaking was easy, provided I crossed the solid white line. I actually enjoyed it more this second time, probably because I had someone with whom to share it.

    A different sort of bridge pic - this is Paški Most which links the island of Pag to the mainland:

    Kilometre after kilometre of this sort of thing:

    At Karlobag we turned inland and began a superb climb on the D25 which, according to the Zumo trip log, took us from almost sea level to an elevation of 958 m over a distance of 20 km. But this wasn't a series of technical first gear hairpins such as you find on the Stelvio, but mainly reasonably fast sweeping bends; the few 180 degree bends that there were had a wide radius and could be taken in second.

    The climb up:

    Spot the coast road:

    Stopped to admire the views:

    And what views:

    From the summit the road descended around 300 m through forest:

    At last we came into relatively open country and stopped for a coffee in Podoštra. The route from Karlobag to Podoštra (with the summit shown at Kubus) - simply fabulous:

    I said something along the lines of, "God, that was fantastic, I could do it again". "Why don't you. I'll sit and read my book." So John le Carre was retrieved from the pannier (God only knows how I ever got him in there in the first place) and I set off back to summit sans pillion. Once there I did some gentle off-roading:

    ...and took a few photographs:

    A road to be worshiped - the D25:

    From Podoštra we rode the remaining 65 km to Plitvička Jezera. While not as exhilarating as what had preceded, and no further pics, it was, almost without exception, superb. After reflecting on it after a cold beer, I said to Gabi that I thought it might be my most enjoyable day's riding ever. It certainly wasn't the longest or most adventurous, but it certainly was one of those days that make you remember why you have a bike.

    On returning home I played around with the data from the Zumo trip log (sad, I know), and I give you:

    They show elevation against distance traveled. The first one is the complete journey and includes my return to the summit from Podoštra and then the return from the summit to Podoštra. So the attentive (sad) among you will notice that the descent from the summit (from ~110 km - 125 km) is repeated (~155 km - 170km). The second does not include this return journey. What surprised me is that later is the afternoon we crossed a higher summit (988 m) which I really don't remember.

    Anyway, I like them - they remind me of a wonderful day.

    Day 7 Plitvička Jezera

    I know this is supposed to be a ride report, and this was a day off the bike, but bear with me. Plitvička Jezera (Plitvice Lakes) is a national park in Croatia, close to the border with Bosnia. Perhaps not surprisingly, it contains some lakes:

    I'd left it rather late in booking accommodation and the only place I could find was the two-star Hotel Bellevue. Despite clearly being a communist-era hotel it was OK and the staff were good, though breakfast was pretty naff. Cost was EUR 76 per night for double room with "breakfast" - accommodation is relatively expensive here.

    Just read this thread - must try to improve my style of writing. The opening sentence reads:

    Quote Originally Posted by Omobono View Post
    Hi all, I am a Moto Guzzi fan actually also owning a BMW for when I want peace of mind.
    ...which tempts me to write "Hi all, I am BMW owner, but thinking of buying a Moto Guzzi for greater peace of mind" - read on!

    So, back to Plitvička Jezera. Stayed here:

    Close by was another communist-era monstrosity that had clearly seen better days:

    However, derelict hotels from the Tito dynasty are, however hard it may be to believe, not the main attraction. Pinched from Wikipedia:

    The national park is world-famous for its lakes arranged in cascades. Currently, 16 lakes can be seen from the surface. These lakes are a result of the confluence of several small rivers and subterranean karst rivers. The lakes are all interconnected and follow the water flow. They are separated by natural dams of travertine, which is deposited by the action of moss, algae, and bacteria. The particularly sensitive travertine barriers are the result of an interplay between water, air and plants. The encrusted plants and bacteria accumulate on top of each other, forming travertine barriers which grow at the rate of about 1 cm (0.4 in) per year.

    So now you know!

    Also from the same Wikpedia article:

    By Raffaello - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

    I don't possess the language skills to describe the beauty of the place - hopefully the photographs will give you some idea:

    The water is the clearest I have ever seen in a lake or river - note the fish in the foreground:

    I'd asked the hotel receptionist for advice on how best to see the park in one day. She told us to take the park "train" (actually a Unimog type thing pulling a series of trailers) to the highest lake and walk downhill to the imaginatively named Veliki slap (Big Waterfall) at the end of the lower lakes. This worked well, particularly as I'm a lazy bastard who would much rather walk downhill than uphill. We'd started around 9.00 am and it was fine. Sure there were plenty of other visitors, but by no means too many. However, by the time we reached Big Waterfall around five hours later, things had changed. Here's Big Waterfall, at 78 m it's not Niagara, but pleasant enough:

    However it was getting FAR too busy for me - this is the waterfall viewing area from where I managed to take the previous photo:

    Definitely time to go. As we made the long, hot, uphill climb back to the road, the path was full of people just starting, in the opposite direction, the trek we were just finishing. Looking back across the valley, this was the queue to the base of the waterfall - I would have a had a major sense of humour failure had I been down there at that time:

    Last views as we climbed away:

    By the time we caught the Unimog type thing back to the hotel we were both shattered. By now the temperature was in the mid-thirties and we'd been walking for close on six hours. I'm convinced the first beer didn't even touch the sides of my throat...

    Day 8 Plitvička Jezera - Pula

    Let's get the childish stuff out of the way first. In Romanian, "pula" is a vulgar term for penis. I'll let Wiktionary explain:

    So the fact that we were to visit Pula was the cause of much sniggering when I was planning the route. Naturally I was keen to demonstrate that I was above such pathetic behaviour and that I was a serious and mature biker.

    OK, glad that's out of the way. So, Day 8 and destination Prick , I mean Pula.

    The day did not start well. Loaded up the bike, went to select the Plitvička - Prick Pula route on the Zumo and - no fucking route. CE PULA MEA! I'd created the route in Google Maps but obviously not in Basecamp. Now, I would like to assure you that I have absolutely no OCD tendencies, none, not all, zero, nada. But my trip was now in ruins - how could we possibly continue? How would we ever get back to Romania? Somehow, with Gabi's consolation and encouragement, I managed to summon the will to carry on. However when I entered Prick into the Zumo it could find nowhere in Central Europe. After much cursing and hysterics ended up with Pula set as a destination. Told it to avoid Interstates and Highways and after what seemed like a veeery long time it came up with a route, and off we set.

    After 20 minutes or so I was surprised to see signs to Plitvička Jezera. Then more signs, with the distance decreasing. Then we were back at the Park entrance that we'd left around half an hour ago. Fuck! Ce pula mea! Trip Log:

    My desire to avoid interstates and highways was outweighed by a mutual desire not to ride around in fucking circles all day, so the route avoidance options were canceled and the Zumo produced a new route almost instantly. Perhaps not surprisingly much of this turned out to be motorway. However no complaints as most of the Croatian motorways provide some interesting riding - long tunnels, big viaducts, lots of bends, nice scenery and relatively little traffic. Made it to Prick without incident and checked into the Hotel Scaletta (EUR 98.00), which was more than adequate.

    OK - no more pathetic linguistic jokes.

    Pula boasts a Colosseum:

    Though Rome it is not:

    We asked the hotel receptionist to recommend a pizza restaurant. Followed his advice and the pizzas were superb. Suitably fed and beered we wandered towards the old centre, along some well-trodden streets:

    Found the main square, which was very pleasant. As it happened there was to be a classical music concert in the square that evening. Chairs were set out directly in front of the stage but we opted for somewhere that offered refreshment:

    I'm no classical music fan (give me The Clash any time) but it turned out to be a very relaxing evening.

    ... and I came to appreciate piano music:

    Passed the Colosseum on the walk back to the hotel:

    Day 8 Pula - Trieste

    The plan:

    The reality:

    The plan was to travel into Slovenia, ride through the Kranjsksa Gora national park, and spend the night in Bled. Shortly after crossing border into Slovenia I started to suspect all was not right with the bike, but I just couldn't put my finger on it. A short while later I was sure there was something wrong with the drivetrain somewhere. Stopped and checked the wheels. The front seemed fine but on the rear there was side-to-side play and, more worryingly, the wheel did not rotate at all smoothly. Given our location at the time I decided to head for the nearest civilisation, which happened to be Trieste. Rode there very slowly, avoiding the motorway and found some accommodation. However it was Sunday and there was no chance of having anyone look at the bike. Posted an appeal for advice on this very forum and had some helpful responses (thanks fishy23, Bendy toy and Santa-2512). Nothing to do but wait for Monday. Eventually walked into the centre - there are worse places to be stranded than Trieste:

    Day 8 Trieste - Timișoara

    First thing Monday morning I rode the bike (very slowly) to the main dealer in Trieste. When I say "in Trieste" it was 15 km from the centre and for the whole journey I could hear and feel the rear end bearings. Despite me arriving completely unannounced, within 15 minutes the bike was on a ramp and the rear wheel was removed. Their advice - we can replace the bearings and hope it will be OK, but we recommend replacing the whole final drive. Given that Trieste is a long way from Timișoara, and that main dealers aren't exactly thick on the ground here, I decided to bite the bullet. An additional factor was that it was obvious that the guys clearly knew what they were talking about. However when they went online to locate the parts they discovered that there wasn't a set of final drive gears in Italy, or even in Germany. Nevertheless, very impressed with the service from Autostar in Trieste - really helpful, and nice blokes. They told me to expect a bill of EUR 2,200 plus around two hours' labour. So left the bike with them and am waiting for it to be fixed. Taxi back to the hotel, where the people kindly agreed to store our bike gear. Managed to identify a Wizzair flight from Venice to Timișoara leaving that evening, so train to Venice and we flew home.

    With hindsight we were lucky that the rear end failed relatively close to a major city - had it happened earlier in the journey we would have been in real trouble...

    Will return to Trieste to collect the bike and ride home when it's fixed - God knows when that will be. But, if it happens before winter sets in, at least we'll get the opportunity for a long weekend on the bike (if winter has arrived, I guess I'll get the opportunity...)

    And so that was it. Despite the unfortunate ending we had a wonderful time. I know we didn't do the TAT or cross the Sahara, but for the two of us they were a very happy eight days. I had a transient ischemic attack (mini-stroke) last November and only a couple of months ago the neurologist had said we must not do this trip on the bike due to the heat and what that would do to my blood pressure. Gabi was understandably concerned and kept suggesting that we should do the journey by car. I stubbornly refused, and we're both glad that I did. Not only did we rediscover the joys of being away on the bike, we were able to reconnect with each other, in a way that's only possible through spending time alone together.

    Looking forward to next year

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Leeds, England
    Great info think I will need a few hours to digest. Hope to be doing this area soon Well done

  3. #3
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    Feb 2014
    Great interesting and revealing report, some really good photos too! Thanks for sharing

  4. #4
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    Feb 2006
    Unfortunate end to the trip Dave but as you say could have been far worse, and glad you're getting it sorted.

    Thanks for writing up- some grand pictures. Great part of the world to be on two wheels

  5. #5
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    Feb 2011
    North Ayrshire
    Enjoyed the report, thanks.

  6. #6
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    Jul 2004
    Great read,and pictures,I wish you health and happiness for future trips

    Sent from my HTC One_M8 using Tapatalk

  7. #7
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    Nov 2005
    ellesmere port
    Enjoyed that thanks, we rode to Rovinj this year but stopped there for a week, looks like there is a lot more to see further south

  8. #8
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    Jan 2005
    Kildare, Ireland
    Having been in Croatia two weeks ago this report is little late for me Dave

    Thoroughly enjoyed the visit, short as it was, and will have to return for a longer visit

    Great RR & pics though
    Particularly liked your Plitvicka explanation. We were there on a really hot day (we had 3 weeks of mid 30's to 43c ) and when we saw the hundreds queueing for the bus we decided to give it a miss & enjoy the great roads instead.

    Funnily enough I had a final drive failure near Bled a couple of years ago. On a red GSA...
    Just 'cos you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you !

    Remember, experience only means that you screw-up less often.

  9. #9
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    Jul 2007
    Timișoara, Romania
    Quote Originally Posted by Jockser View Post
    Funnily enough I had a final drive failure near Bled a couple of years ago. On a red GSA...
    My sympathies - out of interest, what did you do?

  10. #10
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    May 2004
    Cardiff, Wales
    Very enjoyable and humerous report!
    Been to Croatia Bosnia and Slovenia this year and its safe to say they are very very special places to ride a bike!

    Trouble is, to see everything means taking an even longer trip mext time......................

  11. #11
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    Jan 2005
    Kildare, Ireland
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Ford View Post
    My sympathies - out of interest, what did you do?
    It started wobbling while we (my youngest son & I) were on Grossglockner but it was a weekend & I had very little phone coverage to google a dealer so I carried on, slowly, hoping it wasn't actually the FD or that it would fix itself , to Lake Bled. The following morning I rode, slowly, to the BMW dealer in Villach who didn't have the part & were booked up anyway so couldn't do it until nearer the end of the week. But I was supposed to be dropping off my bike in Geneva by the weekend & flying home so I set off towards the Dolomites. Within 30km the ABS light came on as all the FD oil had been dumped on the wheel so that was the end of our forward progress

    I was eventually recovered to the BMW dealer who was closed by then so I locked up the bike & found lodgings not too far away. I walked down to them the following morning and you can imagine how sympathetic they were Anyway, I got a hire car for 4 days off the breakdown insurance & went to tour the Dolomites while they carried our a suitably expensive repair. By the time I got the bike back, a day later than they'd originally said, it was too late for our Geneva drop so we rode back to Cherbourg & sailed home, gaining a few extra days away in the process

    Not an ideal last week of our trip but it definitely made it more of an 'adventure' than a 'holiday'
    Just 'cos you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you !

    Remember, experience only means that you screw-up less often.

  12. #12
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    Jul 2015
    Kettering, England
    Went to Plitvice last year on our way down to Dubrovnik, have to agree the place is stunning! Amazed at how they actually built the wooden walkways around the various lakes, must of taken years

  13. #13
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    Sep 2013
    York - formely Carrickfergus
    nice write up Dave.Some great memories stirring. I served with the UN for 9 months followed by a 7month tour of the mountain tops in northern Bosnia a month later. Although at the time the country was at war the scenery and roads were excellent. I am planning a trip to the Sipovo /Kupres mountain range in 2 years time. I hope to put some demons to sleep... great ride man

  14. #14
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    Nov 2008
    N Ireland
    I enjoyed that! Some really nice photos.

    Thanks for posting.

  15. #15
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    Jan 2016
    Excellent ride report and some cracking photos, Dave.... sorry you had to abort the trip early but glad you managed to get it home in the end.

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