Briefly Back into Country No.19

Now we were out of Bosnia it was time to re-enter Croatia again. It wouldn’t be for long – just a few days cycle before crossing into country number 21 – Slovenia.

Croatia, I think it’s fair to say, is a country which has become the next big destination for the established western (and eastern) tourist scene. About 15 years ago it might have featured on the intrepid travellers’ ‘eastern block’ list – safe but still developing – but since joining the EU in 2013 the country’s tourist industry has exploded and Croatia’s hidden charms are now eagerly being rediscovered. It’s easy to understand why, Croatia has a lot to offer, with beautiful coastline, sandy island beaches, picturesque inland lakes and impressive Austro-Hungarian 19th century castles. We had a nice cycle through the middle following a route which saw us cross at Bihac and wind up through Slunj and Generalski Stol.

The biggest thing we have noticed here is that it’s really the first country where most people have had gardens as we know them – nice lawns with flower beds surrounded by fences or trees; well kept gardens with animal figurines and matching furniture. All the houses are very neat and well kept too. This seems like a strange thing to comment on but we think its probably quite telling; people seem to have more disposable income here.

Although it’s in the EU, like the UK, Croatia has retained its original currency – the Kuna. There is roughly 7 kuna to each £1 – it will be our last unfamiliar foreign currency of the trip! As we move further west, each country is becoming more and more expensive. We have found it relatively easy to keep to our budget up to now but Croatia is likely to be be the first big test.

We take a nice half day off to visit Plitvicka National Park – an amazing wildlife sanctuary made up of a series of forest-clad Jazeras (or lakes) which flow into each other via hundreds of waterfalls.

It’s very touristy and pricy with set routes to follow through the waterways. We were looking forward to an afternoon where we didn’t have to think too much, where we could just enjoy being off the bike.

The many tiers of lakes
Tourists waiting for snap at one of the prime spots
Large waterfall at the end

We thoroughly enjoyed the 3 hour walk, the park is beautiful and really nicely done – the pathways actually allow you to twist and turn through the lakes and even down the waterfalls. We also had great weather for the walk which was fortunate as rain was due that afternoon.

We followed a great group of Chinese tourists round for the first section – their excitement was infectious and we enjoyed being featured in their selfies and home-video footage – we enjoyed people watching and this was often more interesting than the waterfalls themselves. 🙂

We didn’t stray far from the park and found a great hidden camp-spot in the woods off the road. We get set up and see another big deer casually walk past us as we’re eating our curry. Heavy rain falls overnight but the surrounding beech trees provide plenty of cover.

The next day the weather feels like it doesn’t know what it wants to do with sunny spells one minute and torrential downpours the next. Paddy navigates a nice cycle through the quieter roads up to and we manage to find an undercover picnic area to hide from the overnight downpours.

We’ve done well not to lose any items thus far in 2017 but in Croatia this all broke down; firstly with some git taking my winter cycling gloves from where I had left them momentarily in a carpark to then us managing to leave my sunglasses one day and our thermos the next on the roadside after a quick stop. These last two things we managed to retrieve but only after retracing our route 40km back… Doh!

We left the rain behind us on the last day and had sunshine to the border this will be our last passport control crossing as Slovenia, Italy and France are all Schengen countries.

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