To Krapinske Toplice - Balkan Dreams - CycleBlaze

September 3, 2020

To Krapinske Toplice

Today is moving day.  We enjoy a last cup of Turkish coffee and start packing up for the road.  All of our panniers are bulging, because we’re carrying a lot of leftover groceries: half a box of my muesli, another of Rachael’s high fiber cereal, cheese, trail mix, raisins, some bread.  It all fits, barely, and we’re debating whose bags weigh the most.  Finally we’re ready, and Rachael starts taking her gear toward the door as I put my shoes on.

She comes back a second later, my Pendleton in hand, asking if I had a bit of room left for it too.  I’d forgotten it, hanging on a coat tree.  Phew - a narrow miss, but fifteen days into the trip we still haven’t forgotten or lost anything!

I struggle to find room for my shirt, and Rachael heads to the bikes to start loading up.  Half a minute later, she’s back.  Neither of us thought to check the weather this morning, and it’s lightly raining.  Might as well hang around until 10, when we have to check out so our host can prepare the apartment for new guests due to arrive today.

Finally, we’re outside, packed up and ready to go.  We’re happy to see that it’s not actually raining now, though the weather report says it is and will continue so for another hour.  We’re prepared though, with our panniers covered.  If it does resume raining we’ll just find a spot to hide out somewhere and wait it out.

We’re about to leave when Donata, our host, steps out to see us off.  She speaks nearly fluent English, and we enjoy an extended conversation.  She shocks me by informing us that she had browsed our names and discovered our blog - she spoke enthusiastically about our writing and photos, and had obviously read it carefully because she laughed about the agent back home who thought Zagreb was in Germany.

I don’t think either of us had mentioned to her that we kept a blog, so I think she just discovered this on her own initiative.  It gives us a warm glow inside that carries us for miles as we ride out of town, hoping to stay dry until the clouds move on. 

Chatting with our host Donata as we prepare to leave Apartman D&D for the last time. This was a perfect place to stay for us, and the location couldn’t be better. If you’re lucky enough to come to Varaždin yourself some day, you should definitely stay here.
Heart 4 Comment 1
Jen GrumbyWonderful that you got to talk with Donata before you left!

And how great that she's following the blog!
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2 weeks ago

We’re on our way back to Zagorje (and, as I’m sure you know by now, the j sounds like a y so it’s something like Zagoria, with the emphasis on the second syllable.  This will be your last reminder on this one, so hold that thought).  We’ll be staying the next two nights in Krapinske Toplice, a spa town about seven miles from Krapina.  Two tough words here.  Krapina sounds scatalogical, and somewhere I saw it described as the favorite Croatian name of English-speaking tourists because it sounds so funny to them.  And Toplice, a class word meaning spa or hot spring, is something like toplissa, with the accent on the first syllable.

There - that’s it for pronunciation, for awhile anyway.  Let’s get back to the road.  Today’s road begins with a flat 18 mile cruise southwest along the north face of Ivanšćica Mountain.  We generally follow the course of the tiny Plitvica River for about eight miles, cross a minimal divide, and then continue southwest along the Bednja, the river we biked beside a few days ago.  We’re on a two lane highway the whole way, traveling through suburbs and a string of small communities, on a broad, smooth shoulder that let’s us make good time.

As we bike west from Varaždin, we pass a few colorful small roadside produce stands in front of individual homes.  And then more, and more - we must pass fifty of them in the first five miles out of town, selling all manner of produce: potatoes,onions, eggplants, zucchini, peppers, garlic, cabbages, watermelons, you name it.  Very colorful.

For about four miles, the road west from Varaždin is lined with produce stands like this - some more stylish, some just a wheelbarrel or hand truck filled with bags of potatoes or peppers.
Heart 3 Comment 2
Jen GrumbyLove all those colors!!
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbySo did I. I could have taken a half dozen shots of different ones, but we wanted to make some miles in case it started raining.
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2 weeks ago
We’re riding west along the north face of Ivanšćica, generally following the course of the Bednja River upstream toward its source. We’re keeping an eye on the sky, which feels just on the edge of raining but is due to improve as the day goes on. We’ll see.
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Crossing the Bednja River.
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Prepared for rain but hoping for the best. It’s actually a very pleasant ride today, as long as it stays dry.
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Another example of a highway with a bike lane on only one side - in our case, the wrong one. Not the best, but definitely better than no lane at all.
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As I was just saying. Note though that the day is turning fair, right on schedule.
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A bit beyond Ivanec, the ride changes as we approach the gap in the range that we’ve seen coming for the last ten miles.  It’s our avenue through to the other side of Ivanšćica, a different gap in the range than the one we rode through when we biked here last week.  There’s a bit of a climb but it doesn’t look too taxing, even with our loaded bikes - a gradual rise for several miles that stiffens to perhaps 7-8% for the final mile.  Not bad, on paper.

And it isn’t bad, save for two things.  One, the shoulder disappears and the road becomes squiggly, reducing visibility for oncoming and trailing traffic.  And two, we pass by a huge, very actively mined quarry that is the source and destination for very frequent huge rock haulers, heading to and from Zagreb presumably.  The traffic on this road would be quite light actually if it weren’t for these damn trucks, which pass us every few minutes.  We keep a constant eye out for them, and frequently leave the road when one approaches from behind.

I imagine this route is just fine on a weekend, but I don’t think I’d come this way again otherwise.

I guess this qualifies as a bike lane, or maybe it’s just a sidewalk. Squeezing past the hedge here reminds me of crossing the Deception Pass Bridge.
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Now we’re getting to it. The big climb of the day starts here. Shoulderless, but quiet enough - for the moment.
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This is a huge quarry ahead, but you’re not even seeing half of it. Unsightly, but the main thing is that all the way from the quarry to the summit we were passed by huge gravel haulers, coming from both directions and using up 98% of their lane. Unpleasant.
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See? 98%. Am I right? Not much room for a bike with panniers there. There must have been 40 or 50 of these monsters.
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Jen GrumbyAaaagh!

Brings back painful memories of the construction zone on Highway 12/Lolo Pass.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyNot fun, but not totally terrible either. At least they were pretty well spaced out and it was easy to hear them coming and slip off onto the grass. We’ve done worse.
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2 weeks ago
At the top, looking east. It looks so peaceful doesn’t it?
Heart 2 Comment 0
Dropping off the south side was much more fun. We were travelling fast enough that we stayed within the gaps in traffic and only had to leave the road once.
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After the descent we turned west and up yonder road. Looks beautiful, but the trucks pursued us in that direction also.
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Finally, we’re down the other side and come to a small lane that we can divert off to so we can quit obsessively looking over our shoulder for the next behemoth coming our way.  We can’t tell if it’s paved or not, but don’t care.  It’s going our way, and we’re ready for a change.

It’s not paved, but it’s fine.  A dirt/crushed rock surface that lasts for about a mile and a half and gives us probably the most enjoyable rideing of the day.  When we make it back to pavement again the trucks are thankfully gone, so they presumably either turned off onto a different highway somewhere or reached their destination.

Finally, we came to a small side road going our way and decided to check it out to avoid the traffic. It was paved at first but soon turned to this surface. Still, it was much better than the truck parade we left behind. The best mile of the day.
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I’m glad we came this way too because it brought us to this lovely, wooden-steepled chapel.
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The locked entrance to the chapel of Mary Magdalene.
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Above the entryway.
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Also along this road, we pass this touching mother and child pageant.
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Soon, we’re back in Zagorje, cutting across it east to west to the valley our village lies in. You’ll recall that this part of the county is cut through by a series of parallel valleys, separated by low, steep ridges.  We recognize the first and worst of these ridges when we come to it, and realize that we’re backtracking one of our day rides from Krapina.

We’re back in Zagorje now, only six miles and three hills from our new apartment.
Heart 2 Comment 0
In Zagorje. Nice to see this county again, hills and all.
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Oh, THIS hill! We came this way on one of our day rides from Krapina, going the other direction. It was hard enough even without the panniers.
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We have a bit of a scare when we reach town.  We can’t find our apartment, and our host doesn’t answer the phone.  We stop at a bar that must be just a building or so away from ours and regroup, trying to figure out what to do next.  We show our booking reservation to the waitress who brings our beverages, hoping she’ll recognize the address or the apartment.  She doesn’t know the apartment (and doesn’t speak English), but points at a building a hundred yards off.

While I finish my Karlovacko, Rachael walks over to the building, looks for the address without success, and comes back discouraged. I give it a try next, walk about forty feet, and stumble across a large sign behind a parked truck.  It’s the name of our apartment, with an arrow pointing to it.  Seems clear enough.

Our host works at a laundromat, where she’s been waiting for us.  She speaks no English either, but it all works out fine and soon we’re in another outstanding apartment: modern, clean, spacious, well appointed, it even comes with a washer and an espresso maker!  So far, we’re very impressed with the quality of the apartments we’ve stayed at.  For an average of about $55/night, all three have been very comfortable lodgings in an excellent location.

We’ll be here for two nights, and look forward to another exploration of lumpy Zagorje tomorrow.

Our home for the next two nights: Apartment Vendi, in Krapinske Toplice.
Heart 3 Comment 0
Looks like another fine place. So far, we’re very impressed by the quality of the apartments we’ve stayed in. This one is quite spacious, with a modern feel.
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In Apartment Vendi: a clean, well-lighted place.
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Jen GrumbyVery nice!

Is that high chair on a big platform with wheels? I haven't seen one like that before .. and am remembering the clunky and heavy metal one that my mom had.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyYup, and it is on wheels. The place is all set up for guests with youngsters - there’s a crib in the bedroom and a bassinet in the bath. If the Gumbys decide on a big new life plan, they’d be all set here.
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2 weeks ago
Heart 0 Comment 0

Ride stats today: 36 miles, 1,700’; for the tour: 548 miles, 14,900’

Today's ride: 36 miles (58 km)
Total: 548 miles (882 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 10
Comment on this entry Comment 3
Jen Grumby$55/night for a fully furnished apartment?! Croatia could be a good destination for a Grumby Tour.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyYup. That looks like about the norm here in the interior, or even on the high side if you avoid hotels. We are intentionally not trying to economize, since supporting their economy is our excuse for being here. I can’t tell if the prices are lower because of the pandemic, but I think you could have an economical trip even in a normal year.
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2 weeks ago
Bruce LellmanThank you for letting us know prices. I am always wondering in terms of our own budget.
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2 weeks ago