Zagreb, Croatia - June 11, 2012
I see Spot is struggling to get a location out. Probably too much electrical interference from all the lightning. Just a guess. So I am now at my most likely bedbug encounter of the trip so far. This was literally a port in the storm. I got to do my most favorite of all things today... arriving in a big city that I don't know, with cobblestones and tram tracks, looking for a hotel in the pouring rain. Wheee!!! I found this three star place (actually, I've never seen a two star in Croatia... I think they start counting at three) just as I was pulling over because I couldn't see anything ahead of me. Has an elevator, but it doesn't work, has air conditioning, but that doesn't work either, has two big cable boxes on top of a 12" TV but only gets five stations, but most exciting is that it has a lot of funny debris in the seams of the mattress. I'll just go to bed with my bottle of Benedryl in my hand and count sheep... or whatever those things are running across my face.
Along the Coast of Croatia
Anyway... there has been a recent lull in the storm, and in fact it looks like the major part of it has moved through. I was skirting it all day from Zadar, but it hit just as I got to Zagreb. It was so violent, that the thunderstorms must be frontal related. If that's the case, then I may get some clear, cool days for a while. I noticed that a few stores downtown were cordoned off and were replacing broken glass. Some of the puddles are several inches deep. It was a doozie of a storm.
If you gotthe Spots, then you know I was in Zadar. Zadar was a nice place, although I wound up there by accident as well. After leaving Trieste, I headed for the Croatian border. Very simple procedure. The border officer just stamped the passport. "Go!". He hadn't asked for the bike papers, so I thought that I had better confess and tell him that I had no insurance for Croatia. Most EU-registered bike owners do have Croatian insurance and so not having it is a bit unusual. I asked if I could buy it there. "You're fine. Go NOW!" Cool. There are so many weird arrangements between countries that for a while I was thinking that maybe the EU insurance I did have was recognized in Croatia now. But as I was riding, I started thinking that dealing with insurance was probably not in this guy's job description so what did he care? He just wanted me to get the hell out of his line and move on. But really, if I get stopped by the police, even for a document check, the only thing I have is a policy that shows Croatia with a big X through it. Not a good situation. What does the cop care that the guy at customs waved me through?
So Zadar was the first big city I could get to. I thought if worse came to worst, I would spend the night in Zadar and hightail it out the next day. As it worked out, I found a hotel and explained my situation to the guy at the hotel desk. Oh... his cousin is an insurance agent and blah...blah...blah and there is an office right around the corner. Great! Merde. Just closed. Checked the next morning. Saturday. Office closed. Merde. So I thought I had better wait in Zadar until Monday morning, and so booked an all-day cruise for Sunday out to a National Park on one of the outer islands. Then I found another insurance office that was open on Saturday... and got my insurance. But only for Croatia... Bosnia was not available through that office. Nuts. Now I had the insurance and could have gone to Split on Sunday, but already booked the cruise. So I did the cruise instead.
At a Restaurant, Zadar
Still Working on My Recovery Plan
The cruise was nice but I'd have to say not as fantastic as the one I did out of Datca, Turkey two years ago. The boat was not as nice, more crowded and the two swimming places were just beach swims. In Turkey, we were diving off the boat into big holes. And the area in Turkey was just prettier. And this was a long day. Over 10 hours from start to finish. The little kids on the boat were all going pretty zonkers... all except for a 20-month old little boy who sat at my table and who was just a charmer the whole time. He was a gas to be around. There was a little hole in the floor and he would just squat there and look down that hole for hours. I got curious myself and had a little squat there. There was absolutely nothing to see. It was just a black hole. Weird. Anyway, met a kid, Tai, from China, doing his Masters in Stockholm. We talked about everything from the quality of weather forecasting, to widespread corruption in China to debating whether we would be able to survive alone with nothing on some of the islands we were passing. All-in-all a good day.
But that's as far south as I got in Croatia. With better planning on my part, I could have gotten an all-Europe insurance policy before leaving home instead of the all-EU policy I have, and spent time going down to Split or Dubrovnik, and coming north through Bosnia, particularly Mostar and Sarajevo. I did want to go to Sarajevo for sure. I think that is one of those places that you need to go to bear witness. Flower-shaped sniper and mortar scars have in some places been filled with red resin. It was a crazy time. In Mostar, before the war, almost 50% of the marriages were mixed religion. Now, zero. I think it helps in some way when people without all the hatred and animosity visit. All that bad energy is diluted or something, if only for a while. Another "someday" thing.
So I just had a quick walk down towards the center of Zagreb. Beautiful city for sure, but I think I only skimmed the edge of the old part. I asked for a map at the desk. Every hotel, no matter how small the town, has always had a map. Even if it was a little photocopied hand-drawn thing. I was even given a map to the dumpy little Alban, France for god's sake. Anyway, "Do you have a map of the city I could have?" Arms folded, "No". Oh... "Is town this way?" "Yes"... arms still folded. Actually, there weren't even any maps at the newsstands as there usually are. So if it weren't for my GPS... I really would no idea where I am.
In the Old Town, Zadar
OK... bike is still running well and for the past three riding days, no rear brake squeaking. Hallelujah! What a relief. The brakes seem to have healed themselves. Then I got thinking that maybe they're not squeaking because they're not leaking because all the lube has leaked out of the final drive... but I checked and it's down, but not out. So maybe we have reached an equilibrium of some sort. Maybe it will stay as it is.
So I am headed for Pecs, Hungary tomorrow, then to Budapest on Wednesday. I should get there just before Diane's flight gets in... but because she will have luggage, she'll have to make it to the apartment on her own in a taxi. Then after her vet conference, we will leave Sunday to points unknown. Many options... some weather dependent.
There are lots of traveling bikers down here. Way more than anywhere else I have seen. I met a kid from the Netherlands at a truck pullout riding a reproduction Indian. He was traveling alone as well. That's very, very unusual I'd have to say. There are almost no solo travellers. We chatted for way too long. I might have made Split otherwise. Oh well. I guess I just needed to be in Zadar!
Roadside Lunch on the Way to Zagreb
It looks like I will have to go give Spot some words of encouragement. He really has been doing incredible work. I am amazed sometimes at the locations from which he has been able to get out a signal. This one might be too tough for him though.
Take care and be happy! Happy Birthday to my brother Kelly today. Both my kids also had birthdays this week, so Happy Birthday to them as well. Unfortunately, I missed Ian's high school graduation yesterday. Bad Dad. I tried to explain that I missed mine as well. Yeah, so?