Delnice - Balkan Dreams - CycleBlaze

September 14, 2020

Delnice

We’re somewhat apprehensive when we start riding this morning.  It’s short, only about 30 miles, but it includes more climbing than any other day of the tour.  There’s one four mile climb that looks like it holds a steady 7%; but before that there are three small lumps on the profile that look painful too.  They’re roughly equivalent to each other - climb 300’ in about a mile, drop the other side, then repeat; then repeat again.  It looks like a kiddie roller coaster.

We get an early start because it’s due to get warm again today.  Also, as we nervously chuckle the thought to each other, we could be doing a fair bit of walking today.  We might need the extra time.

It’s cool now though, as I shoo a pair of chickens out of the way to retrieve our bikes from the back yard.  While we’re loading our bikes to leave, the host’s mother comes out to see us out.  This is the same woman who greeted us yesterday, whom our host had warned us about.  She’s out of town, but her mom speaks no English at all.  Just collect the keys and show her our passports, and it will be fine.

It’s not true that the lady speaks no English though.  She’s about like me with Croatian and does a credible job with hello, thank you, and goodbye.  This morning she just stands and watches silently for several minutes while we awkwardly rush through getting ready to leave, and then finally uses up half her English vocabulary and walks off the stage.

Before leaving town we stopped by the cave entrance to see if it showed better in the morning light. I didn’t mention before that this ravine is also the point where the Dobra River goes underground, not to resurface until several miles north of Ogulin.
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The first four miles are relaxing as we bike west, riding alongside the Dobra River - the same river we had such a glorious ride alongside on a day ride from Karlovac last week.  It’s a crystal clear morning, the air is fresh, and Klek Mountain rises ahead to inspire us as we leave Ogulin.

Leaving town,with Klek Mountain dead ahead.
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We’re following the Dobra River upriver for the first few miles after leaving town.
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Looking across the Dobra Valley, we get a last clear look at Klek Mountain.
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Well, I was wrong. Here’s one more view.
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Along the Dobra.
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Along the Dobra.
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I stopped to admire these two large geese, especially enchanted by the one standing in a wading pool. A minute later, neither one had moved at all and I had about concluded that they were very lifelike decoys when one slowly turned its head toward me.
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Then, comes the pain.  The first 300’ ridge we cross slows us down but passes easily enough.  The next is worse, with a 12% gradient warning at the base that thankfully feels overstated.  Two down, and not walking yet!

The third feels the worst of the three - 400’, plus another hundred to make up for the annoying drop partway to the summit.  None is bad by itself, but they’re adding up.  The old legs feel a bit rubbery, and I’m reminded that I forgot to feed them their ibuprofen before we left this morning.

Starting the first of three warmer-uppers to prime us for the main event. All three are enough to get your attention.
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The start of the second climb. Not shown are two orange-vests off to the left who were interested in us and walked over to talk, breaking my momentum. The first man spoke only Croatian, so he called over the other to translate. The other spoke only Croatian also.
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Cresting the second warmer-upper. It’s worked. We’re warm now, and don’t need a third one, thanks.
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The Serbian Orthodox Gomirje Monastery has a tormented history. It was founded in about the early 1600’s for Serbian refugees from lands controlled by the Ottoman Turks. It burned down in 1789 and was rebuilt two years later. In the First World War it was used as a concentration camp for Serbian Orthodox priests. In the Second World War, the Ustase killed the monks before razing and burning the structure. It was reopened in 1967.
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After the second climb we drop back to river level, once again following the Dobra River.
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Along the Dobra River, again.
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Descending from the third climb, and resting up for the main event: the four mile, 1,300’ climb to Veliki Vodenjak Pass.
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At the end of the third climb, we drop one last time to the Dobra. 13 miles, 1,200’ of climbing, and we’re back at the same river and essentially the same elevation as we started at. Why didn’t we just follow the river, I’m sure you’re wondering. We’ll let you know when we hear back from the Croatian highway department.
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The last climb, the big one to the summit of Veliki Vodenjak Pass, is thankfully just a steady 6-7% grade.  Just a slog, but on a shade less road in the now warm sun.  For a change it seems worse for Rachael than me, because she’s laboring with her breathing.  We haven’t mentioned it before, but her allergies have been worsening over the last few years and this season seem to be the worst.  Struggling for breath really hurts her on climbs, especially on a hot and humid day like today.

Finally though we’re up, heartened by finding a summit sign, inspired by a splendid view of the real mountains to the north.  After that it’s generally flattish for the remaining miles to Delnice.  And, the air turns surprisingly refreshing on this side of the summit - noticeably cooler, and there’s a broken cloud cover.

We arrive in town about 1 and pull into a bar near our room that Rachael had scoped out in advance for lunch, enjoying a beer from the bar and our leftover cold pizza while sitting at an open air table in the cool shade.  Rachael walks over to the nearby grocery for milk and cookies while I finish my beer, and then at 2 we bike a few hundred yards along a rural lane to our apartment.

This lady, a bright personality with bright and frizzy red hair to match, speaks almost no English either.  But she pantomimes well and gets across all the essentials.  It’s a really nice place, as we’re getting used to by now.  Every apartment we’ve stayed at here has been roomy, clean, well furnished, and with a modern feel.

Near the summit of the final climb of the day we bike past Stara Sušica Castle.
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Opposite the castle is the Church of Saint Anthony of Padua, built in 1874 to replace an older one destroyed during the Ottoman invasion.
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We made it!
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Video sound track: May I Suggest, by Susan Werner

The view from the top, looking north toward Risnjak National Park.
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Kvarner Apartment, in Delnice. We’re looking at about a fourth of it here. Comes with a complete kitchen and a washing machine. 36 euros.
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The wood splitters have been hard at it outside our apartment for most of the afternoon.
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We didn’t expect much of Delnice, frankly.  We’re here because we don’t like too long a ride any more and Opitija on the coast looks like a hill or more too far.  We were a bit frightened of the terrain really, having just read the younger and more intrepid McLeods’ ride to Opatija from a few years back.  I’m afraid that we’re past the time when a ride like that would feel like fun or even achievable.  Sad to say, Team Anderson seems to have passed its prime sometime in the last few years.  Which is fine - we’ve been saying for decades that we need to get the mountains in early.

But back to Delnice.  You won’t find much of anything about the town in the literature, but it’s quite a nice place high up in the Gorski Kator.  We’re up at around 2,700’, the air feels great, it’s pleasantly cool as we walk back from dinner - this is the first time time of the trip that I’ve been glad I had my Pendleton along to ward off the chill.

And surprisingly to us, there’s a fine restaurant here at Bistro Tron.  We’d been expecting a restricted choice, maybe mediocre pizza or grilled chicken like we had back in Krapina; but this surprises us by being probably our favorite meal of the tour. 

Looking across Delnice as we walk to dinner.
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Our dinner at Kron Bistro May have been our favorite meal of the tour. We both had these skewers with turkey breast, bacon, zucchini and peppers, and shared an amazing blackberry strudel for dessert. That, plus two glasses of Graševina set us back 228 kuna (about $36). The least expensive stop of the tour.
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Main Street, Delnice.
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Ride stats today: 32 miles, 3,700’; for the tour: 927 miles, 36,100’

Today's ride: 32 miles (51 km)
Total: 928 miles (1,493 km)

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Jen GrumbyWay to go with all that climbing!

Interesting you should mention that you're past 'Team Anderson Prime'. I would guess that the physical condition you're in now is past most people's lifetime prime.

Youse are Rockstars!
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyWell, I’m 73 and Rocky is 61; so technically we are both still in our primes. We should quit whining so much.
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1 week ago
Jen GrumbyDouble Prime! Now that's something that doesn't happen very often. Next one is 2030, right?

Our next double prime will be in October, 2023 (53 & 61).
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2 days ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyNo, we have another one coming right up, in 2026: 67 and 79. Still, that’s a ways off. We’d better make the most of these next two months.
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2 days ago