To Karlovac - Balkan Dreams - CycleBlaze

September 6, 2020

To Karlovac

Today’s ride

The weather forecast has been peculiar for three mornings running.  Both mornings in Krapinske Toplice we awoke to a dense fog, even though the report claimed it was sunny.  Today is just the opposite: we awake to a blue sky, but the report says it’s foggy.  Very strange.

Our room here in Samobor faces in the same direction as our previous room did. In both, we awoke to the sight of the full moon setting.
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Checking out of our hotel, I enjoy a brief chat with the young woman who registered us yesterday - the day manager on weekends, perhaps.  Her English is quite good, which she claims she sharpened her skills on by growing up watching TV.  She lives in the western outskirts of Zagreb and commutes here by bus.  She talks a bit about this town and it’s past, and how it’s long been a holiday escape for folks coming out from Zagreb.  In the past, they came out primarily by a train that apparently no longer runs.

We have an easy ride today, and much easier than we expected when we set out.  There’s only one real hill, and it comes almost right away as we cross over the steep ridge that rises on the south side of Samobor.  After that it’s downhill or essentially flat for the remaining 35 miles to Karlovac.  At the end we’re traversing the broad, flat agricultural plain that borders the Kupa River as it slowly flows west toward its junction with the Sava River at Sisak.

The countryside and even the culture feels different here: a broad, clean expanse filled with old, hand built wooden homes and stork nests.   I don’t know about it at the time, but we’re biking through a cultural transitional zone that was traumatized nearly 30 years ago by the Balkan Wars.  Much of this land was claimed by the short-lived breakaway entity that called itself Srpska Krajina.  A land of bitterness, bloodshead and ethnic cleansing that almost completely divided Croatia’s coastal lands from its interior.  It is hard to imagine now, looking around at this apparently peaceful countryside, but it’s a region largely homogenized by the wars: It’s populated now largely by Croatians fleeing or forcibly relocated from the east, and the Serbs have mostly moved or been moved out.

Leaving Samobor, a town we’d be happy to see again some day.
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Two miles into the ride we come to the day’s only real challenge as we cross ridge ahead.
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Pretty, but steep toward the top. We’re happy to be doing this first thing in the morning and not under the hot midday sun.
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If she can do it, I can do it. If she can do it, I can do it. If she . . .
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Jen GrumbyI hope Ron doesn't look too closely at this photo. He might get Calf Envy!
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2 weeks ago
At the top, looking back at Samobor.
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The prettiest vistas of the ride come in these first few miles.
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We’ll see plenty of cyclists like this all day long as we head south. Most of the day we’re on a marked cycling route, and we’re only ten or fifteen miles from Zagreb’s suburbs. I’m sure many day riders cycle out this direction.
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That conical little hill there is so cute! Is it abnormal to find geological formations cute?
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Jacquie GaudetNo. At least, I hope not.
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2 weeks ago
It took some work getting up that ridge, but it’s had its reward. We drop gradually for about nine miles on its south side until the country starts flattening out again.
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Is this really the first cow photo we’ve seen in this journal?
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At Pisarovina we turn to the southwest. Most of the rest of the way looks like this - generally flat and open as we bike downwind along the Kupa River. Easy miles.
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An ethnographic museum in Donja Kupčina.
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Donja Kupčina Is proud of its storks.
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Donja Kupčina Is sometimes known as the village of the storks, and is one of the top spots in Croatia for these birds. We see three nests here, one on the pole and two on the roofline. They’re all gone south for the winter now, but it would be great to come back here in season.
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This is the manmade Kupa Canal, a twenty mile long slice that drains water from the Kupa River west of here and empties back into it again to the east. It was opened in 1979 as a flood control measure. I don’t see any storks out there today, but there are more than a few egrets, herons and swans.
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With a bit of a tailwind, we enjoy a fast, easy ride for the final 20 miles to Karlovac, arriving over an hour earlier than we’d expected.
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Video sound track: Air, by Jesse Cook


Karlovac

I’m a bit uncertain about our new lodging when we bike up to a neighborhood of rather drab and dingy high-rise apartments.  Later in the early evening I look up at our yellow block and see what I’d missed before.  It’s battle-scarred, its east wall still pockmarked from shelling or bullet holes from the war nearly three decades ago.  Karlovac was a frontier city in the war then, right on the border between Srpska Krajina and Croatia, and was extensively damaged.

Our apartment building is still battle-scarred, three decades later. I imagine that’s the case for many of the regions citizens as well.
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We call our host as soon as we arrive, and she says she’ll meet us in five minutes.  Right on time, Sonja shows up on her bicycle.  After locking it up she pulls on her mask, gives us each elbow bumps, and shows us in.

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Looking around, we’re in another clean, modern, spacious, well equipped unit.  A place we could comfortably live in if Karlovac were our home.  This town looks like an excellent base for a few day rides, so we’ll be staying for three nights.

And, looking around again, I think I missed the mark comparing the citizens and these scarred buildings.  Some of them are logical opposites, I imagine: the buildings scarred on the outside but beautiful inside; the people the other way around.

In Apartman Anya (Anja is Sonja’s daughter). Relax, the wall says; so we obey.
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Another lovely place. Comfortable, with plenty of room to spread out and give each other space.
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In the evening we walk down to Lana Korana, the only interesting sounding restaurant open on Sunday night.  It’s a fine place beside a large park on the bank of the Korana River, another waterway flowing in from the west that merges into the Kupa just east of town.  It’s pleasant sitting outdoors, the food is fine, the setting is even finer. I imagine we’ll be back for seconds before we leave town.

After dinner we take a short walk along the waterfront, crossing the river on a low pontoon footbridge and returning over a characterful pedestrianized trestle bridge.  I’m a bit nonplussed over what a charming place Karlovac is - it’s much more attractive than I’d been led to expect from the guidebooks.  There’s a cascading weir crossing the river, swans and ducks are on the water, and people are taking their leisure everywhere.  And lots of bicyclists, of all ages.  The trees immediately around our restaurant have bikes leaning against them from people who biked to dinner.

We’re going to like it here.  Three days will go fast, more might have been better.

Celebrating our first 1,000 kilometers of the tour with a glass of Graševina, one of Croatia’s most popular varieties.
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Jen GrumbyWoohoooooo! Congrats on 1000 km!
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2 weeks ago
After a delicious salmon salad, we had the same mains for a change: a plate of pasta with Gorgonzola, spinach and walnuts.
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Just adjacent to our restaurant is a wier across the Korana River.
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From a distance I was drawn to the immense trunk of this huge willow. When we got closer, we focused in on the fungi.
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This man focused in on the fungi also. After assuring us in German that they were good to eat he reached up to snap off a few to toss in his bicycle basket.
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On the trestle bridge across the Korana.
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Jen GrumbyLove these photos that capture the spirit of the subjects.

These people make me want to visit Karlovac!
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyI loved this scene too. It’s all so peaceably animated.
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2 weeks ago
The Korana River is very lazy, almost lake-like here. The confluence with the Kuna is just downstream from here.
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The distinctive trestle bridge across the Korana. We’ll try to get out here a bit earlier next time, while the sun is still up.
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Jacquie GaudetThat is really distinctive! I've never seen a wooden bridge built quite like it.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jacquie GaudetIsn’t it great though? I’ll definitely need to go by again when the light is better. I tried to find out more about it but haven’t yet. On the map it’s just labeled as Deveni Most (wooden bridge).
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2 weeks ago
Swans and cygnets slowly sail to shore.
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A daring way to end the day. It makes Karlovac look like a great place to grow up.
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Ride stats today: 42 miles, 1,100’; for the tour: 662 miles, 19,600’

Today's ride: 42 miles (68 km)
Total: 662 miles (1,065 km)

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Jen GrumbyAlways love videos that show a bunch of bicycles and very few cars (only one here, I believe). And the beautiful scenery!
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2 weeks ago
Gregory GarceauWell, I've been reading like crazy trying to catch up on your tour. I've finally done it. Good stuff.

I probably should have posted this comment a couple of pages ago, but I got a personal chuckle when you wrote "Samobor sounds like an attractive place." I suppose that is true after visiting places with names like Krapina and Krapinski Toplice. Is it just me, or has anybody else commented about visions of excrement and parasitic insects?
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Gregory GarceauHey, Greg. No, it’s just you. No one else would find humor in such things.
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2 weeks ago