Magnificent Montenegro

So I entered Montenegro, a country I never heared anybody speaking about and I had no clue what would happen to me once I would cross that border: would i go up in flames? Ascent to heaven? Enter twilight zone? Or finally turn into that so desired eagle state? 😀

None of that.. but i was very pleasantly surprised by this small country (only 60.000 inhabitants) with lots to offer! The first thing I noticed where the good road condition compared to the Bosnian roads I was coming from. Next was the fact that i found myself paying with euro’s again! Even though Montenegro is nowhere near entering the EU and even Croatia hasn’t adopted the euro yet. I understand that after all the wars (Balkan means bloodhead for that reason) Montenegro didn’t have it’s own currency and just adopted the euro. Simple as that!

My first destination was Nikšić, where the only warmshower host in the country lives. I hadn’t received any reply to my requests but the website showed his coordinates, so I decided to just go there and see. And the route was beautiful. Almost empty roads and fantastic views 🙂 I was crying.. This is what makes me happy 😀

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I told the many ladies that were walking the road they looked beautiful today

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Just said normal hello to these cyclists from Russia and Ukrain when i could barely hit my breaks as i was on a fast descent and they were going up, with this great view over the valley 🙂

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Funny enough, apparently people noticed us (i had a feeling, with all these cars horning and showing thumbs up :D). My friends from Holland stayed that night at the campsite near Mostar where their neighbours told them they had seen a girl on the descent and two guys going uphill right there 😀 that’s us!!

I biked my way to a house with a scary dog and was just about to ask the young man if he knew of any Boris living close-by when he introduced himself. I had made it to his door and he was expecting me, cool! He lives with many members of his family on this square surrounded by appartement buildings. He was the only one speaking english but everybody gave me a warm welcome and made sure i was taken well care of for the next two days 🙂 queenlike treatment!

Boris told me it is custom to give your guests a present and when one of his friends heared i was coming, he arranged for me this beautiful gift! Everybody, meet Zombia 😀

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We spend the next two days figuring out how i could take this beautiful creatures on my journey without torturing her.. I couldnt figure it out 😦 so sorry Zombia, you will always be in my heart..

That night I slept in his sisters bed (didnt quite understand where she slept.. :/ be careful with too much kindness in the Balkans! Some would starve their own children to give you the best they can offer..), the family made me vegetarian meals (which is a big deal, Balkan people love their meat!) and Boris took me for a swim, a walk up the hill for a great view over Nikšić and for a drink in the main street with lots of bars and loud music. Since i knew nothing of Montenegro he decided what to do the next days and he drove me around the country by car, to Skadar lake,

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On the way i was very impressed to find churches that were still being build!!

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Boris was not impressed and couldnt understand my excitement 😉 I explained to him that in my hometown people dont go to church anymore and many churches are being demolished or given new purpose. One is turned into a gym, one into apartments buildings, one is a pizza place and one is even turned into this fantastic beer brewery (Jopen beer). In the balkans people are way more religious (Boris has a moslim mum and orthodox dad though, very interesting.. ), and many times i see confused faces when i tell them this haha.
The closer to Albania and Bosnia more churches stand side by side with mosques.

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We continued along the coast, which by itself is beautiful but packed with small towns spoiled by tourism, mostly from other Balkan countries, eastern europe and Russia. Montenegrans are famous by being lazy and not wanting to work, but at the coast commerce was thriving. Tourism seems to be their main source of income.

While swimming was very pleasant, the atmosphere was not really ‘my thing’. Most girls from Balkan (i was told!) like to go here, sit at the terrace, have a drink, go shopping, be treated like a princess, ok im not that kind of girl! The next day we luckily skipped Budva, packed with rich Russians, and continued our way to the Unesco town of Kotor, situated on a fantastic inland bay. Actually i do understand why this attracts enormous cruiseships (bigger than the town itself!) full of tourists. After visiting the old town and worrying Boris by entering the churches with shorts, we spend the rest of the afternoon at the bay side enjoying the view and…. fishing for dinner!! 😀

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The fish was enjoyed together with two Serbian cyclists, who got me very excited to also go up north to Tara river canyon and Mount Dormitur 😀

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But first I said many Hvala’s to the family and biked along to Chris, an interesting Englishman living in Danilovgrad and very active couchsurfing host. I decided to take the longer but much nicer route over the mountains (as usual) and enjoyed the small beautiful roads with great views!

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I saw some grass fires, which are a big problem in the country now that the ground is very dry. I had a small competition with a big tourist bus trying to flight it’s way up the hill to get to the small monastery. On the straights the bus was overtaking me but in the hairpins it had such a hard time manouvering that it was my turn to take first position again. In the end i won! 😀 Haha the little pleasures in life :p

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I made it to Chris’ place with kiwi’s covering his terrace

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Making sure not to disturb the dangerous wildlife in his garden

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We shared a nice lunch with view over this bridge

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And before the hour was over, I was down four rakijas! Even though we managed to do a little bike ride around (ok i fell once :p but i blame it on the instability from missing all my luggage :D), including a visit to his friend and a Nikšić-beer (or two :p) at the riverside.

The next day Chris had arranged for his friend to drive us through Podgorica (the only city in Montenegro, while i would consider everything else i saw no more than a village),  along the amazing river canyon up to the famous Tara bridge, ending the journey in Zabljak. I guess I wasnt the best company, i couldnt speak much with my mouth hanging half open and my eyes wide open from amazement of this insane achievements of mother nature. Since i couldnt capture this all with my own camera some of these pictures are from Google to give you an impression..

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Up at Zabljak we spontaneously decided to hike all around the Black lake

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We were wearing flipflops and a red nose (no better way to disturb a serious story, I love that thing! :D), didn’t carry any warm cloths or water, what an adventure! Luckily Chris’ endless stream of stories helped us through it :p
We wondered where this door would lead us

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and what was going on in this hotel

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Whahaha in my language SOA means STD! I can only imagine.. 😀

We enjoyed a nice meal and Burek breakfast the next morning before he had to return by bus to meet his new guests.. Too bad, cause we were having a great time! But i had to get moving too to be back in Split in time to meet with my friend Anne from Holland who was coming to visit me and join me on a bike trip to Sarajevo 😀 Yeay! Anne, im comingggggg…..

I couldnt help myself though to spend the day climbing the rest of the mountain to 1907 meters 🙂 And whether it was the alcohol, the lack of sleep, the fact that i was alone again, the difficulty i had climbing that mountain in the heath, the fact i spoke to Mario that morning or it was just the absolutely breathtaking views..  Anyways, it was a very emotional climb! About every five minutes i started crying pretty hard, which made me laugh at the same time. So many emotions were flowing through my body and i was enjoying so incredibly much!

Right there, right then I decided there is a God, here name is mother nature and she lives in the north of Montenegro!

Pictures cannot snapshot the views and my feelings, but here’s something..

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And even better things were yet to come!
When I stopped to eat a peach i was invited, well actually ordered, to come sit with the men at this strange located house to share some bbq meat and bread (i guess they were there to cut the grass?). I wasnt sure between five men that didn’t speak any english but it was very nice.

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I declined the offer to stay the night there though and continued; the road became more foresty. I stopped to look at a sign when a french girl told me she was there on the bike too, with her boyfriend, and the owner of the smallest and niest camp ever had offered her to stay there for free. I didn’t plan on stopping just yet but the idea of spending the night up on the mountain was too attractive!

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Another german cyclists joined the party and it was very nice to exchange some experiences!

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Even better when i asked the group about the bird sound i heared and Yoann turned out to be a birdspecialist and pulled out his bird species book!

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At my turn i impressed the group with my star chart app and we had a great time! The next morning they went on the other direction and i enjoyed a looooooong very fast downhill down the canyon, with the most amazing views and the bluest water. Montenegro, you rocked my world!

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Crossing borders in the balkans :)

Nine o’clock in the morning. Coffee for me, beer for Nikola. At some little café close to a little town in the middle of nowhere. A dutch campervan pulls over at the parkinglot and there they are! I had been nervous about this moment and now it finally arrived 😀 My fantastic friends Erwin and Carla and her daughter Julia made it all the way to Croatia. Great days awaiting us 🙂 so strange to meet friends from home, so far away from home. So good 😀 big hugs, lots of laughing and cuddling later we hooked the bikes to the camper and made our way to Plitvice, where we spent a day enjoying the wonderful panoramas, scents, boat ride, hike, majestic waterfalls, cave, green mountains and turqoise waters, (where Nikola and I took an illegal swim :p). After lunch it was time to say goodbye to Nikola.

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Erwin and Carla planned on continuing down the Adriatic coast and I decided to stay with them a couple days and hop along inside their ‘box’, which was actually quite comfortable and I secretely enjoyed the bed, with even a pillow! such luxury :p
I played some harmonica in the back, finally found some time to read my book (a present from the family up north) and appreciated not biking the busy traffic coast road but still being able to enjoy the view. And the best: beer and wine every evening and lots of coffee every morning 🙂 ok that’s not the best. The company was. I like these guys so much!!

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We visited the coastal walled cities of Zadar and Split. I was happy to show them the majestic sea organ of Zadar which had made such an impresion on me.

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And walking through the old towns without a bike was a nice change of habits. For the first time i did feel like a tourist in stead of a traveller (yes, there is a big difference!)

Entering Split was horrific and i highly doubted our decision to go there because of the heavy traffic roads with horrible smell and ugly views; one big concrete jungle we had to go through before reaching the city centre (happy i didn’t have to do it on bike :p). But it turned out to be completely worth it! oh the small alleys, stylish coast, that local market!

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The main attraction is Diocletian’s palace, history lovers heaven: a rich, complex, interesting mess of human settlement with influences from many different rulers: romans, austrians, ottomans, venetians, Yugoslavia etc. The structure was too big and strong to demolish, so succesive occupants merely adapted the space, turning it into one of the world’s most thriving ruins.
We tried to get lost in the impressive basements underneath the palace

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where we found Diocletianus himself, emperor of Rome for 21 years.

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Let’s just not talk about his presecution of the Christians and his delusions of divinity, because he left us one hell of a palace, measuring 700 by 600 feet with walls 6 feet thick and 25 feet high! Four gates bring all who enter to the peristyle, the central courtyard, where we amaze ourselves with the beauties of this massive structure.

Remainders of activity and occupation everywhere, ongoing to this very day.

Lines of washing hang out to dry from the windows of apartments built into the old Roman walls,

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And local farmers and fishermen try to sell their last catchings

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We enjoyed cold beers at the local market before filling our bags with all kinds of beautiful, great smelling and very tasty fruits (you buy for three days but finish everything before reaching the camper :D).

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We enjoyed a day at the national park of Krka, wow! I could have walked around for days. Julia and I got a nice neck and back massage at this incredible waterfall 🙂

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We stayed mostly at quite campings on the coast, again: such luxury!, took looooooong swims and enjoyed each others company 🙂

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We did some shopping at the fantastic local markets, made a great salad including some kinds of lettuce we found just laying there on the market, waiting to be thrown away, i felt so sorry for this lettuce, let’s save it from destruction!.. So i took it and we ate it, was delicious!
(introducing my friends to my new hobo lifestyle: never ever throw away food! If you don’t want it: give it to Tamar :p).

We crossed the Bosnian border twice (cheap shopping (food of course) in between) to make it to the incredible Dubrovnik! (Games of thrones was recorded here)

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Now considered the most beautiful town of Croatia, with sixteenth-century walls designed by Italian architects, was not spared the violence that convulsed the Balkans. Dubrovnik always rivaled the glory and power of Venice, their agressive competitor to the north, and one thing they sure succeeded in is that here it’s free for street musicians to basque as they wish. I enjoy the sounds 🙂
In the eyes of the West the two great outrages of the war were the destruction of the bridge at Mostar (which i will visit later) and the shelling of Dubrovnik in 1991. Weird because Sarajevo was struck much harder, and within months of the siege being lifted, most of the roofs were relaid, stonework patched up and Dubrovnik was back in business. Almost only for tourists nowadays though :/ giant cruiseships load off the sightseers daily, overwhelming the old town. We fit ourselves between them. Soon i had enough and realize this is not a city for me. Once fantastic, now destroyed with tourism bullshit. Where Split was still very beautiful with the right atmosphere, dubrovnik was destroyed in my eyes. Let’s get the hell out of there. It was time for me to move on anyways.

After these wonderful relaxing and enjoying days full of love it was time to stop being on holiday and get back on my journey again. This week: Montenegro!
Saying goodbye to my friends was very hard, there were some tears and the first hour i felt sad, lonely, a little scared and homesick. But the road im Bosnia to the Montenegran border was so godamn beautiful that my mood changed quickly and my eyes started glittering with enjoyment again!

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The signs on the road warned me for cows and they were actually there! I said hello and told the ladies they looked beautiful today, as they did 🙂

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There was a biiiiiggg climb up to the Montenegran border which i was biking at midday,  when it was hottest (around 40 degrees) and there were no houses or villages to fill my waterbottles. Every turn on the road brought me an even more fantastic view of the beautiful country though and though exhausting it was so good!

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And then there it was: the border to Montenegro!

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Up on the hill the border crossing was almost empty. It was a big difference compared to the border we crossed by campervan that morning, standing in a looooooong line of cars, being held up for an hour, only able to cross after paying ridiculous money. Welcome to Bosnia :/
This border was much more fun. I had some laughs with the lady from customs and the guy from police, who both gave me cold mineral water from the fridge, so nice! (My water is always cooking after half an hour and im considering putting teabags in my bidons :p) I felt strong and ready for this next country.

The tenth country on this trip, on the day i would pass 4000 kilometers of cycling, yeay!! I feel like celebrating!! I’ll gather all the ladies 😉

Cool Croatia

Entering Croatia I encoutered my first border on this trip where I had to stop and reach for my passport. It came so much as a surprise that I just bluntly biked passed the barrier and the officers had to call me back, oopsie :p they didn’t care, they didn’t even come out of their squares. I guess I didn’t expect a border control in any country part of the EU.
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After two days I also realised Croatia is not part of the Eurozone and I had to change Euro’s into Kuna, before being able to get myself another of those heavenly Bureks 😀 I like it!
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A language I can understand nothing off, a different currency, it is starting to feel a little bit more exotic now (even though a huge part of the country thrives on tourism and almost everybody speaks english.. little joys..)

The green nature-rich route along the river Sava brought me all the way into Zagreb, where i found some off these beautiful birds. Fly baby’s, fly!!
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Entering the city I found myself on heavy traffic roads again though, with fumes and hurried, stressed, fast driving people. It started raining a little bit, just the right atmosphere to bike through these grey concrete outskirts of town. I was told Zagreb would be like a big Ljubljana, but the atmosphere was totally different: where Ljubljana was a nice relaxed sunny beautiful town with great roads for biking, at first sight Zagreb seemed big, ugly, busy and impersonal. Luckily this impression only lasted on the road to get me in the city (there seems to be no ‘nice’ way to do that on a bike), where the centre was much more enjoyable.
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I biked directly to the place where I would be staying with my great host Nikola! This is him:
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Nikola is the kind of person that makes you feel comfortable from the first moment you see him. A relaxed personality, nice friendly smile always, funny and positive, very enjoyable to be around. I didn’t have to think twice when he offered me to stay another day 🙂 Nikola took me out for some drinks and we biked around town (through a sudden thunderstorm, everybody fleeing the streets! I love mother nature). By the time the beers were finished and the storm was over, we had decided we were in a big need of midnight pancakes; the only problem was we were out of milk.. No stress! We biked across town to his friend to get some milk and the pancakes were fantastic, somehow they always taste better at night 😉
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We hung out with this friend and Nikola’s roommate the next day and we all had a good time. Usually I don’t feel so relaxed in a big city. Thanks guys!
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In Zagreb I visited some tourist attractions, enjoyed myself at the local food market (always the best part of town!!),
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and Nikola borrowed a friends student card to take me to lunch in the local student mensa (I felt nostalgic, and also a bit like a monkey behind these bars :/ oh-ah-ah-ah (=monkey-sound))
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When Nikola and his friend went to shop for shoes (two guys! That was fun :p), I went into town and spent rainy hours in the European Space Expo! Heaven 🙂
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I learned about the Galileo project, which sends satellites into space since 2011 (orbiting the earth at 23.000 km up in space) to develop an european network for accurate positioning and time. It is supposed to become more precise than GPS and GLONASS and -more importantly- independent, since GPS and GLONASS are military controlled systems (respectively US and Russian) and could in theory be switched of in case of conflict. I learned about the Copernicus project which focusses on climate change. Did you know that the difference between the highest place on earth (Mount Everest) and the lowest (Mariana trench) is only 19,7 km? And did you know there are over 17.000 artificial space objects orbiting our earth?! There are projects for cleaning up the space and there are satellites able to detect which cows in the fields are ready to be fertilized, just by analyzing their movements; Venus is the only planet in our solar system that turns clockwise and days on this planet are longer than years, can you imagine? I try to get my head around this every time I see Venus, which is usually the brightest light in the sky at night (one of the few I can recognise :p). I’m working on recognising more, praise to the ‘star chart’ app! When I look at the sky I wonder whether things might not have beginnings or endings, they might just be fluctuations in intensity. I read this sentence somewhere recently and it got stuck in my mind, wondering what it means. To me. To the world.

These are some of the topics I was waiting to talk about to my dad. But first I had to make it to Istria from Zagreb to meet him. I left Zagreb to bike to Karlovac and i was so lucky Nikola decided in the morning to come biking along with me for some hours! While actually he ended up biking with me all the way to Karlovac and even paddled my heavy packed biked for most of the way (and hills!) ‘trying it out’, isn’t that great?! We had a fantastic day together, enjoying the biking, the weather, the beautiful lunch stop, the beer stop..
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By the time we arrived in Karlovac he obviously was sick of me and got on the bus back to Zagreb.

I went to see my new couchsurfing host, who took me for a walk around town. Karlovac is famous for its many parks and indeed the city is very nice with so much green, beach, water, parks, where many youngsters where celebrating their last school day, partying, jumping in the water, good atmosphere 😀

Next day i biked up in the mountains feeling incredibly happy to leave the cities and being back in unspoiled nature again. No tourism, few restaurants, and lots of nothing all around 😀 This is where I feel best.
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With my two words of Croatian I could ask locals to fill my water bottles (voda, molim, hvala ,hvala! :D). After a beautiful day of pretty tough climbing I felt very satisfied but tired and decided to start looking for a place to pitch my tent. It didn’t take long before I spotted a house with a huge lawn, which I thought would be perfect. I biked up to the house and asked whether it would be ok to pitch the tent. They spoke good english and before I knew it, I was shown a room in the house, joining the family for late warm lunch, after which they took me to go see the beautiful town of Ogulin (where fairytales come to life ;)),

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finishing the day at his brother’s house where we drank coffee and stayed for dinner, which included their best homesmoked meats and homegrown vegetables. Wow, so much hospitality!
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Milan (the father) is a history and geography teacher and a tour guide who could tell me lots of interesting things about the country. Together with the little things I have read and heared from others I realise that many people think back at the time before the war with a sense of nostalgia. Many things were better those days. The modern capitalism brought a world that revolves around money, money and more money. Sure there was dictatorship and corruption; Tito was known as a very charming man spending the peoples money on cars, women, movies, food and the good life generally, but capitalism isn’t all that pretty as well. There was more money for the lower classes and all people were taken care off. Milan told me that the professor as well as the librarian and the farmer could afford a house, a car, a little holiday, some travelling. Many people struggle nowadays and consider themselves better off before. Tito still is a celebrated man under some parts of the population. 36 Years after his death the mourning still goes on and his statues and portrets are not taken down. But, I just heared a few stories so far and I need to talk to some more people to get my head around this. So I continued.

The family let me sleep in, I joined them for breakfast and they even made me sandwiches for the road! After this queenlike treatment I felt so strong I could make it to Rijeka in one day, even though it was a 90 km ride including lots of climbing (and one 1000m mountain).
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The last part was a looooooong downhill bringing me to the adriatic coast. From the mountains down, Rijeka came closer and the high industrial buildings became bigger and bigger.
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I was told Rijeka was a big industrial city but I didn’t expect it to have such a good vibe, it is beautiful! Choatic, with lots of destroyed and abandoned buildings, lots of people, lots of metal structures and a huge thriving harbor. It is one of the more alternative cities of Croatia with lots of young people and artists. I very much like this kind of unstructured liveliness. Also, it was the last city on the Istrian peninsulan coast that didn’t have his main focus on tourism (brr, horrible).

I met with my couchsurfing hosts Natasa and her boyfriend (both maritime students, him a seaman) and we walked the long long pier by night. Oh, those lights of the city are amazing! I would highly recommend a midnight walk in Rijekas harbor ❤
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During the next day both of them were out and I discovered the city by myself. I walked the 500 steps towards the castle with another great view over this magnificent city
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(which brought me myalgia in the legs.. my legs are very strong by now but apparently this is a different movement.. haha but i like myalgia!).

I enjoyed the fruit, vegetable, meat and fish markets.
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The theatre is beautiful and I did a detour to this fantastic destroyed old paper factory.
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I was playing the harmonica in the streets, gotta practice to improve!

And then, finally, the day arrived where I was going to meet with my father! After almost three months not seeing him.. I follow a beautiful road along the coastline
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And very coincidentaly it’s this same day I meet a father and his daughter from Switzerland, who tell me they go biking together each summer, how wonderful!
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I am very very close to my dad, I have always lived close-by and even in his house the nine months before departure, I had never been away from him longer than five weeks and talking on the phone had been a disaster with background noise and echoes. Finally I could touch and cuddle him again, smile at him, take care of him, and talk to him about everything that has been going on in my life and in my mind. Oh how we can talk.. never-ending! So that’s what we did for the next week 😀

We explored the Istrian peninsula, island Cres, walked in the forests of Kamenjak, along the coastline, almost everday went swimming in the Adriatic, enjoyed the local fresh fruits, vegetables and wine, drank fantastic tasting and very cheap coffees in the little coast towns and talked. Talked, talked, talked.
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Istria is a peninsula on the northwest Croatian coast. We found out it was part of Italy between the wars but handed over to Yugoslavia by the Allies in return for keeping nearby Triest a free port. After the break-up of Yugoslavia the Croatians took most of the peninsula back, allowing Slovenia a minuscule share of coastline (about 50 km), which -I remember- they are very proud of! (‘our country has Alpes, valleys, forests, countryside and sea coast, everything you might wish for’). My dad and I drove along beautiful mountainess green and rocky coastlines with turqoise clear waters and through rural landscapes with many vegetables growing from deep-red earth and small towns build on the top of hills. Driving through vineyards and many olive trees we understand why Istria is famous for (apart from the expensive white truffles) its olive oil and wine and we stop at local farmers to do our shopping.
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Those tastes are fantastic! Healthy ecological products everywhere, and they taste fantastic, we’re in heaven 😀 My dad and I talk about food a lot, how it is so very important and so much neglected in Holland. We agree we feel so much better on a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, some nuts and dark chocolate. We dont need anything else. Food should be alive, raw where possible, as direct from the ground or trees as possible (so local and in season), ripened in the sun and on the plant (not picked unripened and ripening in the truck while driving it across the earth). If you cook food you kill so many good qualities. But in the supermarket even the milk and cheese is usually pasteurised, many products have so many additives and we eat so many things our bodies don’t need (like white bread, pasta, cakes, manufactured food etc.). Of course, we don’t want to be neurotic about it and we enjoy the local Burek’s but immediately we realize we need an after-lunch nap to process this. With our former eating habits we never had this, we always felt strong, energized and happy! Yes, food is very important for your mental health as well. Just an example, people claiming to be moody by nature, might just as well be lacking Kalium. On the bike I try to eat a lot of bananas and lentils and beans. We discovered it is probably because these products contain a lot of Kalium and Natrium I need, especially in these warm countries where I sweat a lot.

So this is what I do: I try to eat only local fruit and vegetables during the day, but when people invite me for dinner, of course I join them and enjoy all the fantastic food they prepare. Fortunately for me, it is more and more prepared with vegetables from their own gardens 😀 In the balkans people eat a loooooooot of meat though :/ And I’m still not sure whether I should tell them I’m a vegetarian or not. Because I’m not really, I’d like to taste their meat, but just to taste, not to eat. I don’t want to be rude and I want to accept everything they offer, don’t be an pain in the ass, but also I want to feel healthy and strong and I really don’t enjoy big piles of meat. Not sure how to balance this yet, but I’m sure I’ll find a way 😉

One thing I really really enjoy is that the more south and east you go, the more people grow their own food (you see full gardens everywhere), spend time cooking and –also very important- spend lots of time enjoying the meal together. We sit outside, with the whole family, there is no TV, no rush or stress. Fantastic! I could easily fill my days with gardening and cooking J I wonder how my perfect live would look like and for sure it includes lots of sunshine, outside life, growing and cooking my own ecological food, maybe distributing it on my bike to all the poor people around. I would want to live in the countryside, but not too far from the city. I’d spend time playing music and reading books. Enjoying life at a very slow pace where nothing ‘has to’ be done. I’m getting allergic to these ‘have-to’s’ and realize more and more we have choices, so many choices. And the less you own and the less have scheduled in normal day life, the more you feel free to make those choices. I don’t have to go back to the fast, individualistic, money-driven western world. Of course you can find your peace in a world like that as well, but maybe I will feel better in an environment less westernalised and more back to nature. It is funny to remember how fast I was living, trying to get everything out of life, filling every free second, and how much I enjoy the quiet, peace and nothingness now… My dad and I talk about this a lot and after two long days of sightseeing we just stopped and slowed down our pace a lot, and I mean a lot, enjoying so much more 😀 No stress at all, just enjoying. Staring at the water we wonder whether fish drink water (sweetwater fishes don’t, they are hydrated through their skin and gills (is that an english word?), but saltwater fishes do and are able to secrete the excess salt); we listen to the flight of the bumblebees (fantastic music), because there was a bumblebee on the coffee cup; we visit some towns along the coast and are disappointed by the all-consumings tourist industry that spoils the beautiful coast, we are negatively impressed by the enormous yachts and decadence and we are delighted when we find a spot in one of the many harbors filled with small fishermen boats like in Cres and Rovinj, where we sit on a bench watching the life pass by and enjoying our home cooked lunch.

The last day we explored the small small streets of Piran on the Slovenian coast and we drove a bit through the Slovenian countryside, which was amazing. Defenitely my favourite country on this trip so far. You’ll find only small villages, lots of beautiful landscapes, and almost noone there, fors ure no tourists. The only tourists Solevnia seems to have are motorcyclists; almost all hotels and bars have a sign stating ‘welcome bikers’, I like it :). We spend the last night with my host from Trieste, Nino, who makes a fantastic octopus!
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Lots of fun, sightseeing, laughs and hapinness later, it is time to say goodbye to my beloved dad, it was a fantastic week, but he has to get back his life, full of ideas and inspiration how to improve it, and I have to do the same thing. I cry when he drives away, not knowing when I will see him again. I feel ‘triste’ in Trieste 😉 I want to hold on so tight, but I have to let him go. I know I am strong and biking the world on my own, but when my dad is around, I’m just his little girl and I always will be. Love you, daddy!

Nino was able to improve my mood by taking me on a motorcycle ride through my favourite country 😉 and he let me drive, yihaaaaa!! 😀
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We even watched the MotoGP which was in Holland that day. It is the first year in 12 years I am not there to watch the race live! It was an exciting race and Valentino Rossi won! Fuck.
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Nino made a fantastic couscous and we went out for more motordriving, high up on the hills, great views and went for a nice last dinner together.
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The next day I made it back to Opatija
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where I met my friend from Zagreb: Nikola. He was able to take a couple of days off from work to join me on a bicycle trip along the islands, kickass!
We went to Krk, Rab and Pag, visited his friend in Zadar (who plays great harmonica!), climbed Velebit (again) and made it to Plitvice! We had a great great time 😀 We were wildcamping every night, found fantastic spots in the woods, in the park, in an abandoned house. The islands are amazingly beautiful. The road on Krk was a bit busy but on the other islands we found way smaller roads taking us through the most amazing scenery. First it was like we landed on the moon, then we cycled through olivetree fields (unfortunately olives you cannot eat right from the tree, they have to be soaked first), green wooded areas, along the wide ‘most-amazing-color-blue’ Adriatic sea (swimming in it every day!), and on dirt roads with almost no traffic. Often times the quiet peaceful Adriatic was on our right side and the enormous Velebit mountainrange on the left, wow. Again, I couldn’t believe this was all real, so much stunning nature. Life is so so so good!
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Look at these fantastic stairs!! (unfortunately they were missing steps, so we couldnt jump them :/)
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Crossing Krk bridge
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A very nice lady filled our waterbottles, inviting us to stay over and when I asked in my best Croatian for two figs at a vegetable stand along the road the guy gave them to us for free, people are so nice 🙂 We made fantastic chickpea and lentil salads with superb tasting tomatoes and Nikola got me addicted to canned sardines 😉 Zadar is a beautiful city with a walled old city,
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coastline all around and a fantastic sea organ which makes beautiful sounds when the waves hit the organ. Very meditative. I could have stayed there for days, that sound… wow.

It was a lot of fun biking together, since we are both positive persons and enjoyed every part of the trip, no whining or complaining, just fun! Thanks for joining me Nikola, it was great 😀 Unfortunately Nikola has this ‘normal’ life which involves having to get back to work, so I waved him goodbye at the busstop. But I didn’t have much time to get back to my senses, since some friends from Holland are on their way to Plitvice and will arrive there tomorrow! The next adventure is on!
The last night we found the perfect t campingspot, after a long unexpected offroading experience where all kinds of stuff broke from the bike, oopsie. But so worth it 🙂 we had the whole meadow to ourselves and cooked fantastic bean dish on the campfire! (with lots and lots of garlic, yummie!)
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Like the waves and the stars i can just look at the flames forever and get lost. Dreaming. About the world, the good life, the next steps. But mostly no thoughts, just a smile.

So a little bit about the plan: after Plitvice, I will bike through Bosnia and hope to make it to Guca, Serbia begin august, to be able to enjoy the Guca festival (lots of trumpets and brass bands :D). I will visit the other Balkan countries (Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro) and make it through Bulgary into Turkey.