In Varaždin: west along the Drava - Balkan Dreams - CycleBlaze

August 30, 2020

In Varaždin: west along the Drava

Today figures to be another hot one, so we strive to get out the door even earlier than yesterday.  We’re up at 5:30.  Rachael brews up a mean cup of Turkish coffee for me, and we’re on the road not long past seven.

It’s another of these models! It must be the standard coffee maker here. Fortunately, our hostess gave us a quick tutorial on how to brew a decent cup.
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We’re headed west today along the Drava, toward the Slovenian border.  We’re going this way because Rachael found a nice article on the Drava Cycle Route, and it had an enticing photograph of the river.  As I said earlier though, the Drava Cycle Route in this part of Croatia is just the main east-west highway, and doesn’t figure to be an attractive ride.  And, there are only one or two spots where it’s anywhere near the river, so the author of the article must have really stretched to find a river photo.

I point this out, and also point out that if we really want to see the river specifically, we should take the unpaved path that follows right on the bank of the river.  I take pains to clarify, several times, that it is unpaved.  She’ll like the river, but she may not care for the ride.  My fear of course is that if we go this route, I’ll be held to blame later when she doesn’t like it and wonders why I brought her here.

Finally, we settle on a plan.  We’ll bike on what looks like a nice series of very quiet roads that roughly parallel the Drava Cycle Path, and connect up with the river at least as often as the official route does.  And, we’ll ride it as an out and back, because one of us is getting a bit tired of waiting around for photos and would like to just ride for a change.

Our route starts directly west from the castle, on Hallerova Alley.  After a half mile we’re biking past Varaždin Cemetery, one of the premier attractions in the city and famous for its parklike topiary gardens  (designed by Herman Haller, who this road was supposedly named after).  A half mile later we’re completely out of town, cycling past corn fields with Mount Ivanšćica rising on the southern horizon.  

Amazing.  Only an easy mile from the apartment and we’re biking on an empty, very peasant country road.  I like this, especially after our experiences biking out of Zagreb last week.  As we cycle effortlessly along, I’m talking myself into the idea that if we ever did decide to establish a base overseas, Varaždin could be a very good choice.  Great cycling, an awesomely beautiful historical center, some nice restaurants, some culture, and English is commonly spoken.  What more could we ask for?

I’m not sure what this building is, but I think probably the entrance to Varazdin Cemetery, surprisingly one of the top attractions in the city. We’ll try to come back here to visit the cemetery itself before we move on.
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I’m not certain, but I think this majestic but emaciated animal is confined in this large pasture adjacent to the cemetery.
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Jacquie GaudetEmaciated, perhaps? Blame it on spell check!
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jacquie GaudetFunny! Needs to be emancipated though.
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3 weeks ago
Looking south to Ivanšćica, the mountain we skirted on our ride here from Krapina.
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Heading west, on the quiet road toward the Slovenian border. One mile from our apartment and we’re already in the country. Very nice.
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It’s not all corn, sunflowers and cabbages out here.
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Get your suckling pigs here.
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Andrea BrownGreat fence!
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Andrea BrownThey are great, and very characteristic of this region. I’ve been looking for a good excuse to include a shot of one.
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3 weeks ago
Bruce LellmanI'm so impressed with how your Croatian is coming along.
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3 weeks ago
Is this like leaving cookies for Santa Claus?
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About fifteen miles into the ride, we finally come to our first sighting of the Drava when we reach the border crossing at Ormoz.  There’s nobody guarding either end of the border that I can see, and I suspect that we could just keep going and make a short tour of Ormoz, a Slovenian town I’ve been curious to see.  They don’t want to see Croatians at the moment though, and they really don’t want to see Americans.  So, we just bike out onto the bridge far enough to get a look at the river and turn back.  No sense pushing our luck.

At the border, looking upstream along the Drava. On the right is Slovenia. The tower rising above the trees is from the town of Ormoz, another spot I’ve considered biking to for many years.
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Rebellious Rocky, a notorious scofflaw. I hope the border police don’t sweep her up.
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Looking south along the Drava, at the upstream end of the Ormoz reservoir. The river is dammed a few miles downstream.
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After that it’s just a few more miles west to another border crossing.  We continue on our route of small county roads until the final two miles, when we merge back on the highway and follow the Drava Cycle Route to the border.  There are a few places where you can just see the river through the trees, but mostly we have to just be inspired by knowing it’s really nearby.  Who knows where that photograph was taken in the article Rachael saw?

The hills rise up abruptly just south of the Drava as you approach the Slovenian border. I think that is Svetog Lovre chapel up on the ridge.
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Trophy squash.
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I don’t know. Somewhere near the Croatian/Slovenian border. Is that specific enough?
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At the end, we turn back toward Varaždin.  We follow the same route as we took coming out, with one exception.  There’s a tiny side lane and bridge across the river that we noticed on the way out, and we decide to take it for another look at the river.  It really doesn’t go anywhere at all - it’s odd that this bridge is here, really - but it’s well worth the detour.  We get our best look at the river for the day here.

The rest of the ride is uneventful, except for the usual sort of unpredictable surprises that make cycle touring such a delight.  Geese on the loose, a pumpkin harvester, and especially a small band of Romani cyclists returning to their settlement with a huge piece of furniture strapped to the back of one of the cyclists.  It looked like a moving wall going down the road ahead of us.

Also, there was one other noteworthy sight today, from earlier in the ride.  We were biking down a quiet lane through solid walls of cornstalks on either side, when we saw two very small deer in the road up ahead of us.  They can’t have been much larger than a midsized dog.  Before I could get the camera out they melted into the cornstalks.

We’re home by noon, with the afternoon all to ourselves.  We take turns napping (we got up awfully early today, you know); Rachael goes shopping (or tries to anyway; it’s Sunday afternoon, everything is closed, and she returns frustrated and empty handed) and I wander through town with the camera.  Afterwards we walk down to the Park Hotel to enjoy a fine outdoor meal, our table on a deck overlooking a park.  Pretty perfect.

I hope you appreciate this shot. I almost caused an accident stopping and pulling in front of Rachael for it.
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Jen GrumbyMy day wouldn't be complete without this chicken photo.

Thanks to Rachael and her speedy reflexes for allowing this shot to be taken injury-free!
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3 weeks ago
Crossing a small bridge across the Drava that appears to go nowhere. Provides a nice view of the river though.
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We haven’t seen much bird life here, beyond the ever present English sparrows, swallows, doves and jackdaws. Nice to see a few egrets here along the Drava.
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Drava mystery plant #1. Grows as a large, sprawling shrub. Attracts bees.
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Bill ShaneyfeltLooks a lot like Japanese knotweed (highly invasive).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reynoutria_japonica
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3 weeks ago
Jacquie GaudetBill beat me to it! A big problem in the Vancouver area.
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3 weeks ago
Drava mystery plant #2. Grows erect to a height of five or six feet. Attracts bees. I like the toothed margins on these leaves.
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Bill ShaneyfeltMight be Himalayan balsam. Invasive... Seems a lot of pretty wildflowers are invasives. Makes sense, I guess since they displace natives and have few if any natural control diseases or pests.

http://issg.org/database/species/ecology.asp?si=942&fr=1&sts=&lang=EN
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3 weeks ago
Jacquie GaudetAnother invasive, Himalayan Balsam (impatiens glandulifera), aka policeman's helmet, bobby tops, and gnome's hatstand.
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3 weeks ago
Bruce LellmanThose flowers have to be an impatiens.
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3 weeks ago
A view upriver. The Drava looks narrow because it splits around a sandbar here. We’re just seeing the south channel.
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Goose on the loose, in Virje Krizovjansko.
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Out for a midmorning stroll. What do you suppose those guys are doing to that poor pig back there?
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Jen GrumbyI'm glad the fence is blocking the view.

Probably not just a mid-morning belly scratch.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyHe does look like he’s getting his belly scratched! I think that’s a grin on his face.
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3 weeks ago

Video sound track: Hrabri se ne lome, by Radio Luksemburg

Hey, wait for me!
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Rachael tries to hang out with the Romani, but they tell her to keep to her own kind. Even an offer to help carry this piece of furniture doesn’t change their minds.
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At the restaurant of the Park Hotel, proudly showing that I STILL haven’t lost my glasses or shirt.
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Jacquie GaudetI don't think you've lost anything yet. Is this a record?
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jacquie GaudetAw, come on now. We aren’t THAT bad. Still, it’s better than average.
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3 weeks ago
Jen GrumbyExcellent!
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3 weeks ago
Bruce LellmanYou give us reasons to wager bets, Scott, and in the time of Covid you are helping to keep our lives interesting. Glasses? Shirt? Camera? Computer? So many reasons!
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3 weeks ago
Outdoor dining on the park.
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Ride stats today: 47 miles, 300’; for the tour: 377 miles, 8,700’

Today's ride: 47 miles (76 km)
Total: 377 miles (607 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 10
Comment on this entry Comment 3
Jen GrumbyI noticed one small car passing in the video .. what are some of the most common vehicles you've seen there?

Not that I care much about cars .. but I do like hearing about places where the roads aren't clogged up with bloated SUVs.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyI’d say light green and blue are the most common vehicle types here, in addition to an assortment of farm vehicles. On the backroads they’re generally small, but they won’t seem quite so because the road is small too. More importantly though, they’re generally courteous. It seems like they’re no stranger to bikes.
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3 weeks ago
Jen GrumbyGlad to hear the drivers are courteous and that bicycles are common!
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3 weeks ago