To Varaždin - Balkan Dreams - CycleBlaze

August 28, 2020

To Varaždin

The day gets off to an unhappy start when I prepare to leave for coffee at Caffe Viola.  It’s just past sunrise and I’ll be sitting outside, so it’s apt to be a bit chilly out.  I look around for my Pendleton shirt, but can’t find it.  I look harder, carefully checking out all the nooks and crannies in our spacious apartment, but without success.

This is really bad news.  I love this shirt.  It’s one mom bought for me three or four years ago for my birthday.  For as long as I can remember mom has bought me a new Pendleton every year, and it’s a good thing she did.  For years, it seemed like I would lose or damage about one per year, which is a terrible thing since Pendletons are wonderful shirts.

I’ve gotten better at this as I’ve aged, and I’ve now got five Pendletons to my name because I haven’t lost one for quite a while.  Until today.  Worse yet, this is my favorite one, perfect for traveling.  It’s a bit lighter weight than the others, packs better, and goes well with the other outfits in my vast traveling wardrobe.  I’ve taken this shirt on every tour since we sold our home and hit the road two and a half years ago.  I wear it almost daily for three or four months, and take it in to the cleaners wheneve we return to Portland.

There aren’t many possibilities here.  If it’s not in the apartment, it’s probably at Caffe Viola, where I must have left it yesterday morning.  Conceivably I could have worn it to dinner last night, but I don’t think so - it was too hot.

At the cafe, I ask the waitress - she’s the same masked young woman that served me coffee yesterday morning.  She speaks english, but not enough and doesn’t understand my pantomime.  Fortunately a guy sitting at the counter does, and translates for me.  No, it’s not here.

So now I’m not just unhappy, I’m a bit depressed.  I must have left it here at my outside table, and someone walked home with it.  Suddenly I feel just a bit less warmly toward our host country.

Then, as we’re packing to leave I bend over to pick up my panniers and glance straight down into a cranny I’d missed before.  There’s a narrow slot between the sofa and the counter, and the shirt slipped in somehow and is well hidden in the shadows.  Hooray!

Easy to miss.
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Suzanne GibsonI'm glad you glassed didn't fall into the crack behind the sofa - you would NEVER have found them.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonGood point. On that front, I’m feeling pretty Proud of myself. It’s been over three weeks since losing a pair of glasses!
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3 weeks ago
I scanned through the album for a photo of this shirt to show at the cafe but couldn’t find one. I might as well take one now in case it’s needed again.
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Patrick O'HaraWhat a relief. I know how attached one can become to a favorite wool shirt! I have a couple of favs of my own....they get better with age. As it should be, eh?
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Patrick O'HaraYou’re right - it should be that we get better with aging, but actual results may differ.
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3 weeks ago

After three nights in Krapina, we’re moving on today - to Varaždin, a historically important city north of Zagreb, on the Drava River and close to the Slovenian border.  I couldn’t say why exactly now, but I’ve wanted to see Varaždin for many years.  I think I first learned of its existence over twenty years ago, when we were planning our 1998 tour of Slovenia and it was included on our Freytag & Berndt map of Slovenia.  It was highlighted on the map as a town of significant interest, and it piqued my imagination for some reason.  I think maybe I just liked the name.

We loved Slovenia, and have been trying to fit in another trip to the region ever since.  I think Varaždin has been a waypoint on every trial itinerary I’ve tinkered with through this part of Europe, and I’m excited to be heading there at last.

Between Krapina and Varaždin stands Ivanšćica, an East-West oriented mountain that parallels and has a very similar shape and prominence as Medvednica, the mountain just north of Zagreb.  There are several possible routes from here to there.  Today we’ll take the northern route, that skirts the west end to the mountain and bends east along its northern side.  We’ll pick a different route on the way back when we return from Varaždin to the Zagorje region next week.

Leaving Krapina, following the path beside the Krapinica River. This is the same route we’ve been walking to dinner each of the last three nights. It took long enough to realize this was the best biking option as well.
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Ahead is the low western edge of Ivanšćica. Luckily for us there’s an easy route through it, through a gap on the far right that you can just discern if you look closely.
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Today figures to be a pretty easy ride, once we get past Ivanšćica.  The route I’ve picked out looks very forgiving though - about a six hundred foot ascent over three or four miles, and a well behaved one - no short 15-20% segments for a nice change.  Traffic is light, but it’s a narrow shoulderless road with the occasional large truck.  Not scary if you’re paying attention and are ready to slip off into the grass at the right moment.

It’s enclosed, green, not terribly scenic; and easy enough that I don’t stretch to find a subject for the camera as an excuse to stop for a break.  Soon enough we’re up, down the other side, and biking through villages and small pastures again, seeing the same sort of appealing sights we’ve been experiencing the last several days: fields of corn and goldenrod, colorful pastel homes, interesting architecture, barnfowl roaming around freely, corn cribs.  And, for the first time on this tour, we see another bike traveler - a fully loaded biker riding solo in the opposite direction.  We exchange greetings as we pass, but he doesn’t slow down as an invitation to stop for a chat.

On the north side of Ivanšćica, somewhere near the summit.
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Along the way.
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There are a number of small vineyards tucked into the folds of these hills.
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We’ve picked an easy traverse, but the surrounding terrain is pretty rugged. I think this vineyard must be planted on a 25-30% slope.
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We’re on a bike route! Actually, we’ve been on one for most of the last three days. We’ve seen signs for different routes everywhere we’ve been in Zagorje. I imagine there must be a guide or map set for these routes if we’d bothered to look for it.
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Another beautiful cycling road. Somewhere along here we cross the border from Krapina to Varaždin‘s county.
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In Šaša, a named place.
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I liked this structure in Šaša enough that I thought it was worth a second look.
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Coring the squash. This reminds me of scenes we passed by 25 years ago in Burgenland, east of Graz. The squash harvesters were in the field with pikes about fifteen feet long, spearing squash and tossing them into large piles.
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Another appealing relic.
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Another one I thought worth a second look.
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Bedenec welcomes us.
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The last fifteen miles are easy riding, but not the most interesting.  Once we’re near the Drava the terrain flattens out completely, and about seven miles from Varaždin we’re essentially in its outskirts.  We had been looking forward to these last miles, because they’re on the famous Drava Cycle Route, the 700 km route that spans four countries (Austria, Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia); but there’s nothing appealing about these specific miles - a narrow two lane road, big trucks, moderate traffic load, and shoulderless in some stretches.  The path runs on the sidewalk in these shoulderless stretches, but it’s very slow going because there’s a depression every hundred feet for the driveway entrance of the next house you pass.

Just south of the Drava, just before merging on to Route 2 and the Drava Cycle Route. Oh, boy!
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Video sound track: Amarhunzi (Shadows), by Simon Wynberg

We’re really getting into this slow traveling thing.  We’ll be in Varaždin for six nights, staying long enough to get a real feel for the city as well as to explore what looks like an excellent cycling region.  We’re staying in another attractive apartment, this one a downstairs unit in a private home - the sort of place you’d look to AirBnB for back home.  It’s a bit smaller than than our spread back in Krapina, but very comfortable - a better layout really, since Rachael won’t have to crawl over me to get out of the bed.  And the location can’t be beat - it’s only a half block from the near edge of the pedestrian zone at the heart of the historical center.

And, it’s only a block from Paladin, which looks like a very attractive restaurant.  After Rachael disappears to collect a week’s worth of groceries, we sit around the apartment and keep cool until six and then step out to dinner.  As expected, it’s a fine meal.  Also, it’s very quiet - there are a few other parties enjoying an evening beverage, but otherwise we’re the only diners this evening.

After three mediocre meals in Krapina we’re happy to splurge at upscale Paladin Restaurant, only a block from our apartment. Note the very nice Pendleton shirt draped over the back of my chair.
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Jen GrumbyA fine-looking shirt on your chair
Lost, but now found .. no despair!
A gift from your mom
To be worn with aplomb
And it's plaid, to add to its flair!
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyThis could be your best composition yet, Jen. Jeff should appoint you as the CycleBlaze poet laureate.
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3 weeks ago
Jen GrumbyMaybe Pendleton would buy it for a marketing campaign?
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyGood idea! Submit it and report back on results. If they use my photo though, I expect royalties.
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3 weeks ago
Teacup chandelier, Paladin.
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Horseshoe art, Paladin.
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We could show you our meals (duck breast in orange and honey sauce with buckwheat gnocchi; sea bass stuffed with zucchini, Swiss chard and lemon cream, with potato fritters): but wouldn’t you rather see this impressive chocolate and chestnut torte instead?
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After dinner we take a first look at the center, while only going about two blocks from home.  Varaždin is a city you immediately fall in love with and imagine living in yourself.  With its large pedestrian area busy with walkers, bikers, ice cream eaters, and the like, it feels very comfortable and inviting.  

And, it’s gorgeous.  Varaždin is more or less the birthplace of Croatian history: it’s the oldest county in the country, and it’s the original capitol - the first Croatian government was formed here.  After much of the city burned to the ground in 1776, the government moved south to Zagreb.  The city has been lovingly restored though, and everywhere you look there is a church, palace or fine facade to draw your interest.  We’ll have a great time exploring it in small bites in the coming days.

This is Mioscica Street, right at the west end of the pedestrian zone. Our apartment is at the end of this street, on the left. All of the photos here were taken within about a half block of this spot.
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The Ursulin Church of the Birth of Christ.
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The Franciscan Church of Saint John the Baptist.
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The Varazdin County Palace. Originally built in a baroque design, it was largely destroyed in the fire of 1776 and rebuilt in a classic style. It was renovated in 2006.
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Ride stats today: 42 miles, 1,400’; for the tour: 282 miles, 8,100’

Today's ride: 42 miles (68 km)
Total: 282 miles (454 km)

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