Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Senj, Croatia

Friends: Road signs to Rijeka along with the rugged Adriatic coastline and a pleasant chill in the air momentarily diverted me and my reveries to Iceland, but once my radar registered the thick growth of trees on the steep embankments flanking the road, I was promptly transported back to my present reality of Croatia, which wasn't a bad reality at all.

This was cycling as it should be--little traffic of the internal combustion virus that plagues the planet, countryside little marred by the humanoid virus and what evidence there was of man had order and sense. The vegetation was lush and thick and allowed to flourish unhindered and unfettered in this hilly, semi-mountainous terrain. Such was my introduction to Croatia at its westernmost extremity.

It was a most welcome and marked contrast to Italy, where the terrain had been fully subjugated and strangled, every inch occupied. Here there are signs warning of deer, and bears still roam. The human occupation of Italy is so complete, there is hardly space left for insects. Further evidence of the optimum cycling were the Germans on their motorcycles, who roam far to find scenic roads of little traffic. There were Sunday bicyclists out enjoying the roads my
first full day in Croatia as well.

I crossed into Croatia Saturday evening after about 90 minutes in Slovenia. I followed a well-marked bike route from the Italy/Slovenia border, the bicycle emblem complete with a head light. It was a great relief to immediately have breathing room on the roads and all about me. Croatia barely seemed inhabited. I had my first truly secluded camp site in a week and didn't need to be off early.

I also could end my day a little early, which I somewhat needed to, as I could see, as I approached Croatia's prime port of Rijeka, a well built-up coastline for miles, limiting my wild camping possibilities. The final 15 miles to this bustling, thriving city were packed with homes and businesses and even a few campgrounds. Rijeka's main walking mall was packed with pedestrians and its outdoor cafes packed with coffee-drinkers at 9:30 in the morning. My first chore was to change money, as Croatia has its own currency. That was easily accomplished with ATMs everywhere.

Then I had another 45 miles following the coast before turning inland to a UNESCO World Heritage Site national park. There was more traffic on this main route than yesterday, but still mild compared to Italy. While sitting outside the Internet cafe in Senj awaiting its opening, I encountered my first Americans since Cannes, a couple from Sacramento who had flown into Split, about 200 miles down the coast, rented a car and were exploring the country. They had just come from the national park and raved about its beauty. The waterfalls were flourishing due to heavy rains. The park is on the border with Bosnia, my next destination, so I will only have three days to enjoy Croatia.

Later, George

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