Did I say Croatia? To be more precise, we are talking about Istria. The group of enthusiastic bicyclists, Charles and Beth, Mark and Stephanie from the US and Petra from Austria met with Lucian and me in Opatija. Some of you might wonder how I ended up with a bicycle tour, but that's another story.
We took an absolute easy start this morning! After the welcome briefing, followed by the important informations for the day everybody got the final adjustments for his bicycle done and after a few practice loops in front of the hotel we left. Pretty soon we left the busy roads around town and disapeared inland. Uphill, downhill, uphill, downhill - that was the moto for the day. On almost abandoned roads, framed by dense natural forrests we headed inland. Lush and green, thats the way to describe the countryside. Sometimes we stopped to have a look at one of the big sinkholes formed by nature.
After having a great lunch in Jelovice, close to the Slowenian border we paddeld towards Buzet, our final destination for the day.
After an easy start in Buzet, first down the hill and then following the river Mirna Valley we soon hit the first climb of the day. It did say 10% on the sign, so we knew that this will be the steepest climb on the tour so far, but it did not say for how long. Well, finaly we got rewarded with outstanding views of the surrounding. Riding alonf the crest of the hill evrey few hundred meters offered beautiful scenery, pictures will not satisfy.
The highlight of the day was Motovun! A fortified medivial town sitting on top of an isolated hill - a hard place to get to, being a conquerer in the 15th century. But we conquered the place with our bicycles. But what was even more atracting was the smell which seems to hoover over this place like a cloude - the smell of fresh truffels! Time to get some.
We ended the day in Poric. Riding into the old city center we could not resist to try ice cream. Strolling through town we found the right place.
Starting out in Porec we travelled through remote countryside south. After a short visit to Vrsar we entered the Limski Fjord. First of all we did not get to see a lot of the fjord, but we rode like in a green tunnel through one of the most beautiful natural forrest of the area. Nice and cool in there! But at the first viewpoint nature offered a breathtaking scenery. It got even better when we sopped for lunch directly at the fjord.
Several legends are ranking around Limski Fjord. One of them tells, that Captain Henry Morgan (yes the guy on the whisky bottle) was hiding and taking shelter in the fjord, but even better, he was hiding his treasure a little inland in a small town named Dvigrad - that ment we had to go there! A stretch of dusty gravelroad took us to Dvigrad where found in spite of the treasue buildings, that were abandoned in the 18th century.
Finally we ended up in Rovinj, a fascinating little town, originally built on an island, but later connected by road.
The tour starts to demand its tribute and so we decided to take it easy today. A little city tour in Rovinj in the morning shows the town's beauty. Nice and easy paddeling along the road towards Bale and turning of after that back towards the coast it does not take too long that we reach our lunch stop in Fazana. We watch croweds of tourists bargening for tickets to get on the ferry to Brijuni but we prefere to sit in the shade and wait for fresh and tasty seafood to come. Afterwards we head for Pula to stop at the empressive Roman Theatre, one amongst the six largest on earth. Quite impressive to imagine that it could hold up to 26.000 visitors
A thunderstorm moved in during the night so the day started with a greyish sky. For the first time this week we did not need to worry about heat and sunburn. Travelling through remote farmland on small roads with almost no traffic we were zickzaging North. As the Barbarian Riviera was not opened yet we decided to skip that steep up- and downhill section and travelled to the village Barban instead.Lucian found a great spot for lunch, we got all kinds of homemade past with and without truffles. While we were sheltered in the restaurant it started to rain - so we finally got wet on the last few kilometers.
The last day was an easy one! Leaving Labin we cruised through a lush and green countryside until we got onto the main road towards Opatija. Getting to the Southern corner of the Ucka Mountains the few opened up into a panomramic 100% Kodak moment. Looking down to the Kavarner Bay with all its islands in the distance we could not stop taking photos. Following the coastline towards Opatija we stopped for a last lunch a la Croatia in the small town of Lovran. Grilled kalamari, mussels and homemade pasta - just perfect. Finally we got to Opatija - all safe and sound.