Up to Motovun - An Autumn by the Sea - CycleBlaze

September 17, 2018

Up to Motovun

Today’s ride was one of the best of the tour, up to a point.  We’ll come to that point shortly.  First though, we enjoyed a wonderful thirty mile ride through the Istrian interior.  We had a fairly easy ride out of Porec, and a mile from the apartment we were out in the country with the road to ourselves.  If you can piece together the right itinerary, Istria really does offer a delightful riding experience.  

Our ride today was to Motovun, a hill town regarded as one of Istria’s most desireable destinations.  It’s really not that far from the coast, so to get more ride into the day we took a long way getting there and circled it to the south and east before climbing its steep northern face - or tried to climb its steep northern face, but we’ll get to that point later.

Riding conditions were generally quite pleasant.  It’s still on the warm side of course, but a lot of our ride was in the shade.  Many of the interior roads here are tree lined, and the trees typically grow up to the edge of the road and arch over it.  Also, the days are beginning to shorten and the midday the sun isn’t as high in the sky as when we began this tour.  It really is starting to feel like we’re on the cusp of autumn.

The first twenty miles of the day climb gradually, eventually rising to 1,600 feet - the highest we’ve been in Croatia, if I remember correctly.  For most of the way the climb is quite gradual and doesn’t really tax us, but toward the top we come to the occasional steeper patch that slows us down.  Once up, we glide along on the level for a ways, enjoying fine views across northern Istria.

Today’s ride brought us to some of the best roads of the tour so far. A shame about the final four though.
Heart 2 Comment 0
What the Deutz? Is this a tractor or a table saw?
Heart 2 Comment 3
Bruce LellmanIt's an old diesel portable sawmill. Very cool.
Reply to this comment
2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanI don’t think I’ve ever heard of such a thing. Have you seen them before? Did they use them back in Minnesota?
Reply to this comment
2 months ago
Bruce LellmanThey are not common but are in every state usually way out in the country. There are a few guys who like to have a little business of milling logs, specialty woods, a hobby or someone who simply loves wood. They either take trees down themselves or work closely with those who do. Once they have the cut boards drying them is a trickier thing to do correctly.
Reply to this comment
2 months ago
So what are these anyway? Nothing seems exactly right. Red grouse? Black partridge?
Heart 0 Comment 0
Much of today’s ride looked like this. Hard to beat.
Heart 2 Comment 0
We’re on the wine route.
Heart 1 Comment 0
Harvest must be right around the corner.
Heart 2 Comment 0
Bumper crop this year
Heart 4 Comment 0
Everyone else is going right. Let’s go left.
Heart 2 Comment 0
Here you go, Steve. Something for you, something for me.
Heart 1 Comment 0
Approaching Visnjan. I really like how the trees overhang the road here, as they did for much of the day.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Visnjan, the big town for the day
Heart 1 Comment 0
After gradually gaining altitude for the last twenty miles, we near the high point of the ride.
Heart 1 Comment 0
At 1,600’ we finally top out the ride. We’ll enjoy some great views of northern Istria, and then plummet down a cliff.
Heart 1 Comment 0
Heart 1 Comment 0
I think this is Motovun, our day’s destination. It’s below us here, but first we have to drop fifteen hundred feet and circle around to the back side before clawing our way back up.
Heart 2 Comment 0

From the top, we drop steeply - make that very steeply - down nearly back to sea level in just a few miles.  The road surface is a bit rough and uneven, there are sharp switchbacks to negotiate, and an occasional car passes the other way on our very narrow road.  All this, on a road sloped at 10-15 degrees, makes for a challenging, somewhat stressful descent.  We’re of course grateful that we’re going the right way today, but we can’t really enjoy it.

Suddenly we’re at the bottom, cruising along at the base of a dam at an elevation of about 100’.  We enjoy about five miles of very easy riding, but in the distance Motovun and its hill soars above us.  It looks steep, and a bit scary.  It looks like we’re going to climb over eight hundred feet in under two miles to end our day.

Looking past the village of Ukotici to Lake Butonica, the primary water source for much of Istria.
Heart 1 Comment 0
Lake abutonica and its dam. Our road bottoms out just below the dam on the road to its left.
Heart 1 Comment 0
Yes, it really was this steep.
Heart 2 Comment 0
Beyond the dam we enjoyed about five miles of flat, quiet riding. We’ve lost it all, and are down at around sea level again.
Heart 1 Comment 0
Very nice, Scott. A fine idea to spend three nights up there, and drop down for day rides. Thanks!
Heart 3 Comment 0

But then, we don’t.  As luck would have it, the road we planned to climb is closed for about a half year for extensive maintenance.  We could bike around to the south side to climb its more gradual approach, but that would add about ten miles to the day.  It’s lunch time, and we’re both quite hungry.  Instead, we resign ourselves to the detour route, the Paranzana Trail.

I was aware of the Paranzana Trail from my pre-tour research.  It’s a fairly recent rail trail conversion that runs generally along the coast for about a hundred miles, from Trieste to Porec.  It isn’t paved though, so we didn’t really consider riding it - until now.  It’s rough, but really isn’t that bad.  It’s a gentler slope of course, since it’s an old rail right of way; but it definitely slows us down and adds about two miles and a half hour to our ride.

Finally we reach the lower gate to the city, look up, and both want to cry just a bit.  Steep.  Awful cobblestones.  For about a quarter mile.  We’re pushing of course, but even that is pretty awful  We’re both quite wasted when we finally reach the top, and immediately fall in at the nearest cafe for lunch, beverages, and shelter from the sun.

An hour later we feel recovered enough to continue, and go out to find our apartment.  It’s a frustration to find out that it’s not up here on the top, where it was marked on the booking website, but instead it is halfway back down the cobblestones we just pushed up.  Neither of us was looking for our room on the way up, so we didn’t notice and walked right by.  We were too focused on survival and reaching the top.

We hadn’t planned on riding the unpaved Paranzana Trail, a rail trail conversion that runs from Porec to Trieste. Here though we’re forced onto it because the road we planned to ride to Motovun is closed for redevelopment,
Heart 0 Comment 0
The Paranzana Trail would feel more like the Route of Health and Friendship if the surface were a bit friendlier,
Heart 1 Comment 0
The surface of the Paranzana Trail was gentler here, more clay than gravel. Very dusty though, because we are also sharing it with cars - this is part of the detour route to skirt the road construction.
Heart 1 Comment 0
Motovun. We’re nearly up there already!
Heart 0 Comment 0
As I passed her by, she muttered something about never letting me pick our lodgings again.
Heart 3 Comment 0

Now that we’re here though, it looks like a great place to stay.  We’re in an excellent apartment - great WiFi, good layout, A/C, a fridge, and breakfast on the veranda.  The town itself is quite scenic, quiet, and has knockout views all around.  We’ll be here for three nights, so we’ll get a good look at it later.  Today though, we just crash in the room until dinner and then walk back up to the top and have pizza at a table overlooking the valley.  Afterwards we take a brief walk through the upper town (within a second set of walls), take a walk along the walls, and are enchanted by how quiet it all is.

And then back down to our room, walking carefully on the uneven surface in the semidarkness.  And then we come to our apartment building, turn into its back yard where our room is, and it’s black.  Tomorrow night, we’ll remember to take a flashlight.

We’re looking back down here at the route we biked on the way in. It’s the counterpart to the photo above where the town rises above the long, straight road. The waterway beside the road is the channelized Mirna River, the longest river in Istria.
Heart 3 Comment 0
This cute mooch is one of a clowder of five that scavenged and begged beneath the tables on restaurant row.
Heart 3 Comment 0
After dinner we walked through the gate of the inner wall for a first look around. It was dark, so we didn’t see much. We’ve got three nights here though, so we’ve got more chances coming.
Heart 2 Comment 0
The bell tower (XIII century),and Saint Stephens Church
Heart 0 Comment 0
Walking carefully back to our apartment. The point of this shot though is to give you a sense of what it was like wrestling our loaded bikes up this steep, uneven slope when we arrived earlier today.
Heart 3 Comment 1
Jen GrumbyUgh! That looks brutal. Glad it wasn't raining!
Reply to this comment
2 months ago
Heart 0 Comment 0

Ride stats today: 36 miles, 3,200’; for the tour: 632 miles, 45,900’

Today's ride: 36 miles (58 km)
Total: 637 miles (1,025 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 6
Comment on this entry Comment 0