When we left Split our plan was to ride to Zadar, another coastal city and on the way stop at Krka National Park, which known for its waterfalls. We set out on the 14th intending to ride to Krka, about 80km away, but it was not in the cards (in a very good way). As soon as we left Split I realized that we were only a few kilometers from Salona, which my uncle had recommended seeing. We didn’t know much of anything about it, just that there were some cool ruins. We got there and quickly realized it wasn’t just a few ruins, it was about 1000 years worth of ruins from a pre-Christianity Roman city that over time became one of the first Christian cities in the area. We spent at least an hour and a half walking around the site (which is free and had no one there). We are still getting used to how accessible the ruins we have visited have been. We could walk around inside of all the ruins that were there with no fences or glass keeping you from getting close. It’s pretty awesome.
It was really cool to be able to see the layers of history at Salona. The ruins range from around 100 AD all the way until the Slavs invaded in about 700 AD. Over time traditional Roman elements like the forum and its temple gave way to Christianity and the Church became the new center. We were really surprised to only see a handful of other people there as the ruins are really well preserved and very cool. We had lunch in the sun overlooking the ruins and then headed out towards Trogir, our plans of making it to Krka less sure. We were both sleepy and enjoying the sun and the going was slow. We stopped in Trogir and lay in the sun in the park for a while deciding what to do. We spent a little while walking around the city. It’s another in the Venetian style and had a cool little watchtower type fort right by the water.
After spending a little while wandering through the city (it’s quite small) we headed onward to find somewhere to sleep. We ended up at the first open campsite of our trip which was right on the water. Nothing special, but a good place to sleep. We have started to get pretty good at setting up and breaking down camp and the tent is actually quite comfortable. That night was the first night of camping that was actually comfortable. Previously we would wake up throughout the night cold in our light sleeping bags and even resorted to wearing jackets to sleep. It was finally warm enough for that to not be a problem. The whole camping part was getting a lot more appealing. The next day we started climbing within the first 500 meters and continued to climb away from the shore for a lot of the day. The landscape was very barren feeling all day, lots of rocks and very dry. It would have felt somewhat desert like were it not for a all the flowers just starting to pop up along the road. We did get some nice views of the water on the way up!
We stopped in Šibenik for lunch at what we thought was a buffet (because it said buffet) but was really just a restaurant. Autumn tried a Zagreb style veal steak which is a pretty awesome concept. Take a veal steak and pound it flat, then fold it around cheese and bacon before breading and frying it. She had no idea what it was when she ordered it but it was really good. (no picture, sorry) We rode over one more big climb to find our campground right by the entrance to Krka. The scenery at the campground itself was pretty standard but the showers were fantastic. Best shower I have had since leaving home by a fair bit. Most of the showers have been in hostels or cheap hotels which mean small, not much hot water and pretty cramped. Europe takes its camping seriously so the amenities have been pretty good. The next day was long and busy. I planned for us to ride the length of Krka which is a park that runs along a river for about 70 km. We had a few spots to stop along the way to see sights. The first stop were the waterfalls at the southern end of the park. There are these neat wooden walkways through he marshland with water rushing through the grasses in all sorts of directions.
Also at the first stop were some historical buildings from the late 1800’s including a mill and place for processing wool. One really cool thing was this washing basin which spins the water from the river in a hollowed out rock. It was used to clean cloth, just like a washing machine today. From there it was more climbing and as we worked our way up the river. We stopped in Skradin for lunch by the river (where we almost got attacked by these guys). Afterwards up up up before a nice fast descent to another set of waterfalls. When we got there we found out that there was a cool cave to see, we just needed to climb 517 steps up the cliff to get to it. With already tired legs we decide to run the stairs to save time and make sure we got to Burnum, an old Roman camp, by nightfall. We sprinted the stairs, breaks only every 50 steps and made it up to the cave. By the time we got to the top our calves were really feeling it. Too much vertical movement for one day. We walked through the cave and read a bit about the prehistory of the area. But what really made the climb worth it was the view of the falls below.
We continued our riding up the river and Autumn’s knee which had been bothering her a little bit off and on really started to hurt consistently. Any time we were going up hill (which was a lot of the time) it hurt a lot. With a few stops and a bit of walking up a long hill she toughed it out and we made it to Burnum, which we were really excited about, a bit before sunset. We were a bit underwhelmed. After spending the last hour and a half of our day racing to get there with Autumn in a fair bit of pain at times it turned out that there was very little to see. The arches that are still standing were very cool but the amphitheater which we were excited to check out was mostly reconstructed with no original stonework remaining.
The next morning we rode into Knin, a nearby town to stop for a day or two and hopefully give Autumn’s knee some time to recover. We found a place to rent a room, but they were full so we ended up staying in the owner’s brother’s spare bedroom downstairs. Right after we got there he made us a plate of bread, cheese, and bacon all made by him, as well as some apple strudel. The family has a piece of land across the street from the hotel where they grow garlic, onions, and potatoes, and keep goats and chickens. They invited us over to check it out and we enjoyed seeing their space.
Since we didn’t have anything to do for the day, the castle is the main thing to see in Knin and we had decided to wait until the next day, we thought we would try yo make some Mexican food for dinner. Every now and again something familiar is nice. We knew that it might be tough to find some ingredients but we figured we coud substitute other stuff. We figured there wouldn’t be any tortillas but I was pretty surprised to not find any black beans (we got pinto) or any limes (I made salsa with lemons…) It actually ended up being pretty good.
In the morning Branko (the brother) made us awesome crepes filled with his own apple-lemon-orange marmalade, Turkish coffee and a drink they call white coffee which is actually made from barley and chicory. The crepes were awesome like everything else he made. After breakfast, Branko went out to get things to make pizza that night and we headed out to see the castle.
When we left it was a little overcast and luckily we thought to grab our rain jackets. As soon as we got up to the top of the hill and into the castle it started to drizzle. It was actually pretty cool. It was pretty intense to be up on top of the hill in an ancient castle on a blustery rainy day. The castle is really big, essentially a walled protected city. Looking out over the ramparts into the valley below you can imagine what it must have been like hundreds of years ago.
After a while the rain got a lot harder and with the cold it was a bit much to be out in. We made a run for it and spent the rest of the day warm and dry working on the blog. That evening we had delicious home made pizza with Branko and his nephew and watched a movie. Hopefully in the morning Autumn’s knee would feel ok and we could head on to Zagreb. When we woke up the knee was not feeling much better and we realized that there was not a whole lot of places we would be able to stop along our route if it got worse. We made the call to catch a train to Zagreb to take a few more days of rest. We thanked Branko and rushed to the train station (the last minute call meant that we got our tickets as the train pulled up) and made it on. We had a really nice time staying with Branko, he was so generous and fun to talk with, we felt very much at home and were sad to say goodbye.
When we got to Zagreb we found a nice little hostel and went to go see the Museum Of Broken Relationships which I had read about months ago. The idea of the museum is that people submit objects along with a story about the relationship that was broken and what the object means. These un-edited stories are displayed along with the objects as a symbol of people’s lost relationships. The museum was fascinating, you would go from a heartbreaking story to something really funny and back in a few exhibits.
The next day we headed out in the morning to replace a few of the things that had been stolen (finally in a city with good bike shops). We went to 3 shops to find shoes for Autumn and ended up getting a great deal on a nice pair of Sidi’s. Afterwards we spent the rest of the day sightseeing. Zagreb was a really nice city. The downtown was a really manageable size and there were some really cool buildings and things to see. I’ll let the pictures do some work here.
We left Zagreb in the morning head for Hungary. We had a nice day riding, going slow as to not make Autumn’s knee worse (it was finally starting to feel better) and ended up camping at a fire station in Novi Marof, a small town. In the morning we met the President of all the volunteer fire stations in the county who happened to be by for a little bit. He offered us showers and gave us some cool trinkets. For the fire brigade’s 90th anniversary in Novi Marof they had pins and a DVD made which he gave us, as well as a cool patch.
In the afternoon we stopped in Varaždin, a small baroqe city. We went and saw the castle there as well as stopping into an exhibit of Ivan Generalić sketches. Ivan Generalić one of the most famous of the Croatian naïve art movement, which we knew nothing about until we saw the exhibit. The artists who were part of the movement had no formal art education, so the art lacks perspective at times and can look a little childish. The artists are very talented though and childishness adds a certain authenticity to the pieces, especially since most of the art is of their local village and people. The final pieces are done with oil paints on glass, giving them a very unique look. Generalić’s work is really interesting and seeing the progression of each sketch was very cool. After visiting the local cemetary (very old and very ornate) we rode to the next town and found a place to camp. After a bit of confusion, we were generously offered a spot in a family’s yard to spend the night.
The next morning we rode our last 15km in Croatia and on our way out of the country we spent the last of our coins at the final gas station and stopped to look up a few Hungarian words.