Opatija - Balkan Dreams - CycleBlaze

September 15, 2020

Opatija

We were excited this morning to discover a new feature in RideWithGPS (yes, I know we get excited easily).  If you select one of the indexed climbs in a route, the climb is highlighted on the elevation profile and a pop-up window opens up with detailed information about it.  The window below details the primary climb in yesterday’s ride.  It shows the climb as being over 1,800’ rather than the measily 1,300’ I reported.  Also, it shows that it classifies as a Category 1 climb, and two of the warmer-uppers were Cat 4.  I feel better somehow.

Wow, a Category 1 climb! Maybe we’re not totally over the hill yet after all.
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Jacquie GaudetI had no idea you could do this! Thanks for enlightening me!
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6 days ago

We get an early start again for the usual reasons, but not as early as the domestic work crew.  When we bike off at shortly after 8, the stacking team (two middle aged women and a man) is loading heavy, fresh split firewood into wheelbarrows with their unprotected hands and wheeling them up into the huge open garage for stacking against the back wall.

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Our host in Delnice sees us off. Nice to get a chance to show you her hair that I mentioned yesterday.
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It is surprisingly chilly when we bike down the shaded lane toward town.  We travel about a hundred yards and then decide to stop and put on jackets.  A quarter mile later, out in the sun again, we stop again and remove them.  This high up it’s cool this morning, but we might as well enjoy it while we can.  At the end of the day we’ll be at the coast and the temperatures will be in the high eighties.

We’re quite high up when we start, at about 2,400’; but there’s still climbing ahead.  For the first thirteen miles we rise and fall but continue trending upward, doing more climbing than you’d think from looking at the ride profile.  When we finally reach the high point of the day at just over 3,000’, we’re surprised to see that we’ve added another 1,500’ to the elevation total for the tour.

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The roofs of Delnice make an attractive mosaic as we bike out of town.
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Looking down on Lokve, a village on the way.
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I want that house on the hill up there! Think what great shape we’d be in if we biked home every day.
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For three miles we’ve been biking close by Lovarsko Lake, a reservoir behind a large earthen dam on the Lovarska River. We saw the dam, but the lake itself was always out of sight until here, at the upper end.
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On the final 500’ climb to the high point of the day.
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We’ve put in more climbing than I expected this morning: about 1,500’ on a day that I’d been thinking of as basically flat and then down. At least we’re getting some views along the way.
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Finally, we’re at the high point.  And, for a nice change, there’s an actual summit marker in place - one with some character that looks like it’s been standing here enduring the elements for a long time.  Ravno Podolje.  Later, I’ll browse this name and discover that we’re riding the locally famous Louisiana Road.  Built in the Napoleonic Era between 1803 and 1812 (so, the same vintage as that arched bridge east of Ogulin), it was one of the most important roads in Croatia and one of the most modern roads in the French Empire at the time.  Named after Napoleon’s second wife Marie Louise, it connected Rijeka on the coast with Karlovac.

At Ravno Podolje, the high point on the historically important Louisiana Road that we hadn’t even known we were following. The sign declares we’re at an elevation 928 meters, 20 km from the beginning of the road in Rijeka and 108.5 from its end at Karlovac. I wonder how long this stone has stood here?
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Looking ahead from Ravno Podolje, we see that we have one more saddle to climb, a mile or two to the south still.
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We coast a bit, climb over a lower saddle, and then begin the descent.  It’s an incredible rush, dropping down the twisted road through beautiful, exposed grey limestone peaks with the Adriatic Sea and Rijeka gradually coming into focus.  I’ll never tire of this experience, as long as it continues to be available to me - it’s well worth the pain of laboring to the top.  We’re not in it for the thrill and the rush, but take it fairly slowly savoring the experience and soaking it all in.  I doubt that we top 20 mph the whole way down.

Wow! Once over that saddle, spectacular views open up to the mountains ahead as we begin the long descent to the sea.
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Out there in the haze is the Adriatic Sea. Ahead of us is a 17 mile, 3,000’ descent. Yee, haw!
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On the thrilling descent to the sea. Stunning views greet us around every bend.
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Descending to Rijeka on the Louisiana Road.
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Descending to Rijeka on the Louisiana Road.
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Descending to Rijeka on the Louisiana Road.
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Descending to Rijeka on the Louisiana Road.
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Approaching Rijeka, we pass the Monument to the Victims of Fascism. Erected in 1970, it commemorates the men of military age from the village of Podum who were all slaughtered by the Italian occupiers during the Second World War.
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Video sound track: Shambala, by Three Dog Night

In Rijeka we have an errand to run: replacing Rachael’s bra, which she left behind in Ogulin somehow.   This appears to be a theme with her, a continuation of the time she left her sweat soaked sports bra drying out on a space heater at the top of Col de Madeleine five years ago.

Rachael has located an H&M store just a block off route, so we pull up at a park and I watch the bikes while she goes off shopping, handing me her Garmin and camera for safekeeping as she leaves.  My attention is focused on an odd street act, a man playing a rack of water-filled wine bottles like a xylophone; otherwise, I might have suggested she keep her GPS with her so she can find her way back.

45 minutes and too many tunes on the bottle rack later, the phone rings.  She’s lost.  She noted the name of the bakery next to me before she left, but it’s a chain and there are three of them nearby.  She’s picked the wrong one and is a quarter mile away somewhere.  I look around for a landmark she can fix on, and finally find the name of the square I’m waiting at.

We stopped here in Rijeka so Rachael could rush off to an H&M store about two blocks away for an essential errand. Unfortunately, she forgot to take her GPS with her or register where we were parked.
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While I waited and watched the bikes I was entertained by the bottle man. A unique and interesting sound, but one that loses some of its charm after 45 minutes. He does a thrilling rendition of the 1812 overture though.
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Ten minutes later, we’re finally on the road for the remaining ten miles to Opatija.  I was worried about this stretch, but it’s better than I expected.  Traffic isn’t too bad, it’s generally flat, and if it weren’t for the heat it would be just fine.

We’re staying in Opatija at a grand, elite resort hotel.  Not the sort of place we would have chosen on our own, but we were swapped into this pile because our chosen hotel is remaining closed for the pandemic.

So, we’re at the sea at last.  Only briefly though.  Opitija is on the coast of the Istrian Peninsula, and in the morning we head inland again, for a week long loop through Istria.   It looks to be a hot, hilly circuit.

On our way through Rijeka we passed beneath the impressive Capuchin Church of Our lady of Lourdes. We should have stopped for a look, but it’s quite warm and we’re tired and hungry. Maybe if I hadn’t just spent the last 45 minutes listening to the bottle man.
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Hotel Gardenja, our intended stay in Opatija, looks like an attractive traditional hotel. Unfortunately they’re closed for the Covid season, so we were rebooked and upgraded into a newer but rather sterile 4 star waterfront hotel.
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In the Grand Hotel, which admittedly has a grand view across the bay.
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The view across the bay. Rijeka is sprawled along the waterfront on the far right, and the highlands above it are the limestone mountains we biked past on our descent.
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After dinner, we walked down along the waterfront on the way back to our hotel.
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Looking down from the balcony of our fourth floor room, wondering if a pair of my underwear is down there. Rachael hung them out to dry on the balcony, but one pair blew away. Fortunately we found it around the corner on our own balcony, trapped by the railing.
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Ride stats today: 40 miles, 2,100’; for the tour: 967 miles, 38,200’

Today's ride: 40 miles (64 km)
Total: 968 miles (1,558 km)

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Jen GrumbyBottle Man is quite talented!

I can see, though, maybe listening for 23 minutes or less. Nice that it was a good spot for people watching, too.
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6 days ago