To Rastoke - Balkan Dreams - CycleBlaze

September 9, 2020

To Rastoke

Catching up, here’s a photo I omitted from yesterday’s entry and the video from the day before that we couldn’t upload earlier:

A shot I failed to unload from the camera yesterday, so we’ll include it here because I like it. A hooded crow, which I see that I’ve been mistakenly thinking this was a jackdaw.
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Jacquie GaudetAnd here I thought crows only came in all-black!
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Scott AndersonTo Jacquie GaudetThey do on our continent. There are a few different species, but they’re all uniformly black. The family is more diverse in Europe.
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The day gets off to a warmhearted start as enjoy an extended conversation with our host Sonja as we prepare to leave her apartment.  She has to come over to meet us, because she held a damage deposit she collected when we arrived, and needs to check the place out before returning it.

As before, she arrives by bicycle.  It really does look like the preferred way to get around in the town for short runs in the town’s core, which is virtually flat.   The inspection is a formality.  She steps into the apartment, glances around briefly and sees that we haven’t trashed it, and hands over our 400 kuna she’s been retaining.

Our interaction with Sonja was fairly brief when we arrived.  We were tired, her command of English is just a bit limited, and our interaction was friendly but perfunctory.   This time is different though.  She’s interested in our loaded bikes, and checks them out to see if there’s a motor attached somewhere.  Rachael slaps her thighs to show where the motor is, and now she’s impressed.  She asks about our travel plans, where we’re going today, and is startled to learn we plan to bike all the way to Slunj.  She starts to say something, then struggles to think of the word: there’s a word in Croatian, she says, then smiles when she remembers the English equivalent: Respect!

She talks a bit about the town, and her life here.  She lived in Karlovac during the war, a student at the university.  She’d like to see the town invest more in cleaning it up a bit so that it could draw more tourists.  It’s certainly easy to see the potential here.

A few more words, and finally it occurs me to get the camera out.  She’s startled at first, and then obviously pleased.  She hams it up a bit, stretches her arms out wide, but her first delighted reaction was the best.

Our host Sonja arrives to check us out of our apartment.
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We enjoy an enjoyable chat with Sonja before leaving town. If you come through Karlovac, we highly recommend her place, Apartman Anja.
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We were apprehensive about today’s ride, anxious about how the traffic would be and how challenging we’d find the terrain.  Looking back on it now and at the evidence we had available, I’m not really sure why.  It’s a little on the long side for us on a day when we’re carrying luggage, but it has no significant climbs.  I think maybe we’re just mentally getting out of the frame of mind for carrying a load.

As it turns out, the ride as a whole is just fine; and the final twenty miles after we turn off onto a minor road east toward Slunj (sounds like saloon, without the letter A)  are quite beautiful: very green, very quiet in general - except for a single huge truck that somehow manages to squeeze through this narrow, twisting road.  We make good time, and are on course to arrive by 2 - an hour before the earliest arrival time listed on the reservation.  We’re just discussing what to do with the extra hour when Rachael solves the problem by pulling up flat and taking up most of the slack.

Heading south. It’s a good day to ride: cool and comfortable, and more overcast than it looks here. Though we can seldom see it from the road, we’re generally following the course of the Mrežnica River for the first fifteen miles.
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It’s fairly common to see Croatian homes gaily painted in pastel shades. They make an interesting contrast with solid brick homes, traditional wooden ones, and wrecks that likely were destroyed in the wars.
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Crossing a small rise, we get a view of the highlands to the southeast: the Gorski Kotar.
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Crossing the Tounjski Most, the bridge at the town of Tounj (Do Tounj and town rhyme? Not sure.). A curious bridge adorned with sculptures, but no explanation that I could see.
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We were mostly impressed with the views from the top of this bridge. We didn’t really think much about the bridge itself, which looks modern from the road surface.
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Oh, no! This is the bridge (photo downloaded from the web)! Why didn’t I take the time to look at it from the side? I think we were too focused on making time before the day heated up, and satisfied with the view. I want to go back. The tiers were built at different times, by the way: the lower one in 1775, and the upper one in 1835.
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As we continue south, the road gets gradually quieter and the country wilder. This is turning into a much more attractive ride than we’d expected.
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This is something new in this region. Some of these old wood houses are whitewashed, and others are covered over with lath and plaster. Well, probably not actually plaster, which I assume would quickly erode away.
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An attractive set of barn doors. I wonder what that forked stick is for?
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Now this is more the way we like to see our beehives. Not all cooped up in a sterile high rise that looks like a soviet-era housing block.
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Bruce LellmanAnd this is the way I like to take baths.
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Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanYes, but perhaps not so close to a million free range bees.
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Bruce LellmanInteresting concept - "free range bees."
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Rachael fell behind for the usual reason, so I waited at a good spot to photograph her. I shot too soon though, and missed the best picture. By the time she’s beneath the house she’s being pursued by a black dog that appeared from nowhere.
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I’m curious about this prominent conical peak that stands tall above its neighbors, but I can’t figure out what it is.
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All along this road we pass numerous ruined structures that look like they must have been ravaged in the war.
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It’s just speculation, but I take this to mean this was destroyed in 1991, the first year of the Croatian war of independence.
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After having parted from the Mrežnica River for the last fifteen miles it’s back again, down in this depression. That’s our road, climbing out the far side.
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The only real look we get of the Mrežnica River is here, when we cross it.
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Another look at the mystery peak, with the Mrežnica River below.
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Rachael has fallen behind again, this time to change the batteries in the camera. I’m waiting here in the shade, about a half mile down the road. Finally I call her, and discuss the situation that’s holding her up. The situation is that she has a flat tire.
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So let’s look on the bright side here, and count our blessings. It’s not raining, we aren’t pressed for time, we have a pump, we have a spare tube, and I don’t destroy it with a pinch flat when I mount it. Could be way worse.
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And, it’s a photo op. Not just of the tire repair job, but of this nice set piece of tabled tomatoes beyond the fence.
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Scott AndersonTo Patrick O'HaraOh, right. I’d meant to go back and correct that but forgot.
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Video sound track: Michael, Michael, Michael; by Don Ross

Rastoke is a tiny place, and now is essentially just an appendage to the much larger town of Slunj.  It’s a well known beauty spot though: when Sonja heard we were biking to Slunj, she said to be sure to visit Rastoke while we’re there.  Its distinguishing features are the numerous waterfalls cascading through the village, working their way down to the Korana River, the same one that we dined by in Karlovac last night.  We’re only about 20 miles from the famous Plitvice Lakes, and many compare Rastoke to that spot.

A uniquely charming place.  Our room is adjacent to one of the falls, and we hear the water rush by constantly from our room.  We‘ll be here for two nights, before moving on to the Plitvice Lakes themselves.

In Rastoke, a village on the edge of Slunj characterized by the numerous waterfalls that cascade through it. The left half of the white building is Buneta Rooms, our lodging for the night. A waterfall begins just past it, and we hear it all night from our room. Very soothing.
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This is the waterfall we hear from our room. At its top is a bar with an outdoor patio, and our room is directly behind it. It was very nice to sit there on the deck and enjoy a beer after we arrived, listening to the waterfall break beneath my feet.
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Scott AndersonTo Patrick O'HaraWow is right. Imagine another twenty of these lining the whole lower edge of the village.
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Petro, the restaurant we ate at tonight and probably will again tomorrow. Also surrounded by water and waterfalls. The stream runs through the middle of the restaurant, with pens filled with trout that presumably are the source of the specialty of the house.
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Tonight’s feast, which we both ordered: grilled trout, grilled pepper and onions, and a buckwheat cake.
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Settled down in the common area of Buneta Rooms. Our room is upstairs, as is the only other room for let, unoccupied tonight. The owner lives in the house also, on the ground floor.
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Ride stats today: 46 miles, 2,600’; for the tour: 790 miles, 26,300’

Today's ride: 46 miles (74 km)
Total: 790 miles (1,271 km)

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