Thurs 8th Aug.
Croatia, minor border control. Horrible roads and Zagreb.
Thursday the eight, is my sister’s birthday. Happy birthday Tash. I wanted so much to get her something on this particular day and cycle it all the way home, but in this instance, I wasn’t quite able to. I gave her a call a few days later though.
Having not quite made the distance I hoped to make yesterday, I had a bit more to do today. But Zagreb was close to the border, so there wasn’t much to worry about. I left the woods and joined some big roads I shouldn’t have been on. Once I found a way out of those, I passed through a quiet town that lead to the city, Novo Mesto where I stocked up on some yogurt and mouthwash, before checking in at my favourite fast-food chain to confirm a host for Zagreb.
Back on the road and there were plenty more beautiful woods to cycle through. It’s funny the things we seem to like deep down. I wasn’t sure why, but cycling through woods, or a wooden area always satisfied me a great deal. Perhaps it was the hunter, gatherer from thousands of years ago in our DNA that could find refuge and things to hunt here. Of perhaps it was knowing that a house could be made from trees. I’ll put it down to shade and the rich colours in this instance.
I stopped at midday in another small town and treated myself to a sit-down pizza. I hadn’t planned to, as I felt guilty spending money, but once I walked in the door and was seated, I couldn’t really walk out for no reason. It wasn’t expensive either. It was well worth it, although coke was a bad choice.
I left at one to the Gothic chimes of church bells from the nearby tower. If I had to choose two sounds to define this trip, it would be the wholesome chimes of Christianity reminding everyone within a few miles that it’s just struck a new hour and the constant, malevolent, repetitive, hashing, aggressive sound of people’s dogs, barking at a strange man going past their house on a bike. Or at night, when you’re sneaking through fields and a dog a mile away picks up the scent of sweat from a smelly traveller man and that sets him off for the next hour. I’d this to look out for on a majority of the night I camped.
I had some problems finding the border and was beginning to give up hope and curse the cruel, ill-planned world. When I found the border two minutes later, I went through and for the first time in a hundred and thirteen days, I had my passport checked going into Croatia. It was fine and the man mentioned I must be stupid to be out cycling in this heat. I didn’t argue with him.
Every time I entered a new country, no matter how many times it was, I always had the inherent fear of something unknown, alien and different to the pleasant land I had just created a pleasant bond with. I don’t know why this was and maybe after your 25th country, you stop caring and see no difference from border to border, but for now I still felt a minor anxiety, entwined with excitement about entering a new country.
I’d feared for a long time about the lower quality roads of poorer European countries. I had a horrible gut feeling that Italy was going to be bad, which it wasn’t. Then I though Slovenia would surely have bad roads. It had a few, but most were fine. Then I got to Croatia. The roads here weren’t exactly gravel pits with the occasional pothole, but they were bad. Low quality concrete and stones with the occasional gap you need to swerve hoping not to hit a car while doing so. Drivers were more wreck-less and less considerate, and all in all I hadn’t had a great start to Croatia.
I kept following my Google maps and soon was nearing the capital. I was excited about Zagreb. I liked the sound of the name and a few friends of mine on holiday in Croatia and whenever I saw the name I always thought it sounded cool and futuristic. Little did I know.
The suburbs I came into looked and felt quite run-down. I was by any means above it, as I slept in a tent, but it was nothing like the haven of Ljubljana I had just come from (that felt a bit like Berlin to me). I had some difficult finding my host, but got there eventually. He was barely wearing anything when he answered the door and apologised, but said he wouldn’t have it any other way in the heat.
He was Hrvoja and he lived there with his girlfriend Zizek. There were a wonderful couple who loved cycling. They had planned to take me in for a night, but given they had to cancel their weekend plans to cycle to Italy for a holiday, they offered to put me up for much longer.
I was again able to relax, in the comfort of hosts and a bed for a few nights.