In Varaždin: Eastern Međimurje - Balkan Dreams - CycleBlaze

August 29, 2020

In Varaždin: Eastern Međimurje

Varaždin has tempting cycling roads radiating out in all directions. We’ll try to strike out in a new direction every day while we’re here and get a balanced feel for the region.  Today we’re heading northeast, into Međimurje. 

Međimurje is a small, triangular shaped county, the northernmost part of Croatia. Tucked up against the Slovenian border, it occupies the wedge of land between the Mura and Drava Rivers (or the Mur and the Drau, If you’re more familiar with their Austrian names).  It’s predominantly rural, with no towns of any great size.  The largest, Čakovec, has a population of only 15,000.  

We’re surprised to learn that in spite of its rural character, Međimurje is the most densely populated county in the country outside of Zagreb.  Surprising, until you look at the map more closely.  The county is riddled with small settlements, and in between is a nearly solid matrix of tiny cultivated fields.  For example:

Eastern Medimurje, an aerial view.
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Jen GrumbyThat's beautiful! Love all those patterns.
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3 weeks ago

Actually, the little county is more complex than that.  The center is the agricultural expanse described above, and where nearly all the people are.  The western third is hillier, extending into the tapering eastern edge of the Alps.  And the far east is largely wooded and roadless, in the wedge at the confluence of the Mura and Drava.

Today we’re going on a loop through the agricultural heartland of the county.  You know pretty much everything you need to know about the terrain by looking at the photograph above and the elevation profile of our route.  We gained only 300’ of elevation on our 48 mile ride today, much of it crossing the bridge over the Drava, twice.

Also, you should know about the conditions.  Hot, with light winds.  We got an early start, leaving the room a bit after 8; but by the time we got home at 1 it was 88 degrees out, and felt warmer than that.  Tomorrow I think we’ll set the alarm even earlier.

Leaving Varaždin, we pass a small Saturday market.
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The Drava River. It’s a much mightier waterway here than the mountain stream I recall from far upriver in Austria. Here we’re near the end of its journey. It merges with the Mura about 30 miles downstream, and is absorbed into the Danube about 150 miles beyond that.
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For a very short distance, we tested our the Drava cycle path. It looks like this. Not bad, but not what we’re seeking today.
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Beating it back toward the pavement.
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We’ll be passing miles of scenery like this today. One ribbon field after another, predominantly planted in corn or sunflowers.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesExcept when it is planted in cabbages.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Steve Miller/GrampiesYes, I was aware this isn’t corn or sunflowers.
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3 weeks ago
I’m not sure about this crop. Carrots? Far in the distance you can see the hills of western Međimurje.
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And squash. Lots of squash.
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Corn cribs are everywhere, many of them with elegant designs like this one.
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Drying sunflower or squash seeds.
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Spoiled for choice.
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Corn, squash, sunflowers, and some other type of grass.
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Window boxes, in Otok.
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These outrageous blossoms are huge - easily 6-8” across.
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Bill ShaneyfeltSome mallow family bush . Much like rose of sharon or hibiscus.
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3 weeks ago
In Medimurje. This isn’t quite the typical look. Mostly it’s open farmland and straight roads, but here we’re following a small stream.
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It’s easy to spot the larger settlements from far off.
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Another crib, I assume. It looks like a giant wicker basket. I wonder if this was hand plaited?
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The typical look when you enter one of the villages. They’re quite closely spaced. We must have passed through fifteen or twenty of them today.
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The lighting is poor on this photo, but I wanted to show how every property along this street has a crib in front of it.
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Bike and milk jug.
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Jen GrumbyA man who rides with his milk
Is not a man of my ilk
He sings to his goat
Through the phlegm in his throat
And his trousers are made of fine silk!
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3 weeks ago
Sunflower seed spreaders.
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This is interesting. The larger roads often have a bike lane - a single one on one side of the road, for two way bike traffic.
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Entering the outskirts of Čakovec. Here, we see what the predominant housing style looks. The newer houses all have a very similar, boxy design differing primarily in whether they’re single or double storied.
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Looking across a mile of sunflowers to Čakovec.
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I wish I’d gotten a better photo here, but the light was wrong and I felt a bit self conscious. We passed fifteen or twenty bikers in the space of less than a mile, Romani from the looks of them, with every bike ridiculously laden down. I’m speculating, but it looks like they were all vendors returning from an event of some kind - maybe the market we saw earlier - returning home with their wares.
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Three more.
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Back at the Drava, looking upriver this time.
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Ride stats today: 48 miles, 300’; for the tour: 330 miles, 8,400’

Today's ride: 48 miles (77 km)
Total: 330 miles (531 km)

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