Time to hit the pedals again and ride out of the city to the outskirts and stock up on essentials at Decathlon, one of our go-to outdoor superstores. We thankfully had a bike path most of the way and when we didn’t, we opted for the footpath when it was clear and we wouldn’t be in the way of pedestrians. Steve decided to ride without his helmet, since no one here wears one. I wasn’t that brave and if I’m going to be anywhere near traffic I want that bit of plastic over my noggin.The only time I’ve ridden without a helmet was in The Netherlands where we had our own bike road completely separate to the traffic, not so here so I just stuck to my usual scaredy-cat ways and opted for the shell on my head. The ride took us through parts of Zagreb that were definitely more disadvantaged than we’d seen anywhere else. We saw lots of dilapidated housing estates and run down buildings. This is another reason we like to tour by bike, we get to see the real side of cities and towns and not just the tourist, sanitised, “Disney version”. The parts of the city we rode through weren’t the places you would necessarily choose to go if you were on foot or car, they were urban and looked to be struggling, but on the bikes we get to see other sides of the city and come away with a more authentic perspective. We’ve seen the beautiful areas but we’ve also seen people really doing it tough. As we rode along, there were lots of graffiti, as there has been everywhere really, but there was some really good wall art that I wanted to take a photo of, but there were three fellas standing in front of it, in combat fatigues and it didn’t look like it was a gathering of the Garden Club, so I didn’t think they’d appreciate me pointing a camera in their direction. I pedalled on.
One of the things I’ve noticed about Zagreb is it’s a real dog loving city. There are dogs everywhere and such an amazing assortment of breeds. People are out and about with dogs everywhere and the dogs all seem very polite and well behaved, even off leads they just trot alongside their owners or trot ahead with a spring in their step and a smile on their face. I saw one dog today with a ball in its mouth trotting down the street with its owner about twenty metres behind. The dog was on a mission to get to the park and play ball and it wasn’t waiting for any slow-coach owner. When we got to the Decathlon store there was a car park for the cars, bike racks to park the bikes and…a spot to park your dog. A nice green “grass” mat was laying beside a row of hooks for leads, as a spot for dogs to wait while people went shopping. I hadn’t seen that anywhere before and one can only hope, in such a small space, that the Yorkshire Terrier and the Mastiff waiting together, find something in common and get along, because there wasn’t much room to escape if there were any doggie disagreements during their wait time. A nice thought from the council or planners though, to include a special spot for pooches.
The dogs here are also very gender neutral, as in, there are no “manly” or “girly” dogs. I saw a big fella strutting does the street wearing his Adidas tracksuit pants and gold bling around his neck looking like someone you wouldn’t want to mess with and on the lead beside him was a little cute fluffy terrier. It was like that bloke was making a statement, “I’m confident in my masculinity and I don’t need a dog to show it, so don’t mess with me and fluffy Fifi!”. It was great to see!
After we gathered essentials from the store, we headed across the road to a big supermarket to get some supplies. We were wandering up the aisles when I heard a woman’s voice behind us. We turned and a lady was gesturing at Steve, waving back as if to say, “come here, come here”, all the while smiling and speaking very fast, all of which we, of course, couldn’t understand. She didn’t seem to mind that we were responding to her with inane looks on our faces and all we could do was smile and follow her back down the aisle. The reason for her calling us back became clear when she stopped and pointed to a box of cat food high up on the top shelf. She’d obviously spotted Steve and thought his height could render assistance. Steve reached up without so much as raising his heels from the floor and passed the box down to her. She spoke to us again and smiled a lot and we gestured a “no problem”, said we were happy to help and smiled too, without any of us understanding each other, but that was just fine.
Time to head back and we took a different route this time and it was…awful! We were alongside really busy roads, three lanes of traffic, lots of noise and crossing each road was taking our life in our hands. It seems here, like other places we’ve been in Europe, drivers see pedestrian crossings as a suggestion more than a rule. They see a pedestrian crossing but don’t see it as a place to give way to people, more just a loose guideline and if it’s suggesting they look out for pedestrians, well the drivers choose not to go with that suggestion. Even when there are lights and the green man is flashing, it doesn’t mean a thing, those cars just go right on through. Being on a pedestrian crossing or a bike crossing doesn’t mean you can just get across the road when the green man is flashing, you have to look and look and look again because you might still be collected by a passing Hyundai. Even when we do cross, the cars are virtually tapping your heels or nudging your wheels wanting get going, as if we’re in the way and being the greatest inconvenience to motoring. This happens everywhere and not just to us, locals sprint across the roads to get out of the way of cars, even when on pedestrian crossings. On the ride back we had a lot of the usual, with cars getting close on the crossings, but there was one really near miss. We waited at a crossing and pressed the button for the lights and the green man flashed, giving us the go ahead to cross. Steve started across the road and a car came flying around the corner, not stopping or looking and hit the brakes hard to avoid hitting Steve. Steve kept pedalling across the road and I pointed to the green man to let the driver know that we weren’t being an inconvenience or in the way, we did indeed have the go-ahead to cross. Every road we crossed was pretty hairy. That poor green man, he has definitely lost his edge over here. At home, you don’t mess with the green man! When that little fella starts flashing at a pedestrian crossing, he’s in command and cars stop and the pedestrians calmly stroll across the road at their leisure, knowing the great and powerful green man had brought traffic to a halt and is fully in control of things. Here though…nope. That green man has lost his power, he’s a shadow of his former self, he’s had the kryptonite treatment and his power has drained from his flashing little pants, powerless in the face of the teeming traffic. The pedestrians now know it’s everyone for themself, with the weary and weakened green man, just a flashing shell of his former greatness. So, it was up to us to just get across roads as safely as we could, knowing the green man couldn’t help us anymore. Steve took the lead and navigated and I just followed his back wheel. We did, of course, get lost at one point as we invariably do and we lost the bike path and ended up on the road in amongst the crazy traffic in three lanes of churning, honking, swerving metal and wheels. I just looked ahead and went for it…go, go..go!! Just get out of this…truck to my left at the lights…nudge past, please don’t move until I’m past…keep going…get to an intersection and GO…push those pedals and get across as fast as I can…keep Steve’s wheel in sight…left…right…turn…brake…where’s the bike path? Is there another path we can get onto? There must be one…look out truck, mind my elbow…another intersection…go…go…GO little bike, let’s get out of here! We eventually made it back to a path, but man-o-man it was no fun being in amongst that heaving traffic and crazy driving and all the while I’m looking at Steve’s unadorned head where a helmet should be. We had thought we might stop at a park on the way back for elevenses but every park we passed was right beside the road and no siree, that wasn’t going to be an enjoyable or peaceful spot to partake of an elevenses snack, so we opted to just make our way back to the apartment. It was a relief to get there, let me say!
After a nerve racking ride, we were in need of a little peace, so we decided to roam to the Botanical Gardens. On the way we passed more lovely city parks and gardens, with flowers in bloom, Easter displays and dogs having fun in the sun.
I watched one little pooch chasing a ball over and over until suddenly he’d just had enough. He stopped and flopped down and decided to swap ball chasing for some yoga poses and went straight into “frog leg pose” and he wasn’t going anywhere fast anymore. “That’s it, he was saying, “strenuous exertion over, time to get zen.”
The Botanical Gardens were nice and probably less of a garden and more of a woodland with paths snaking between trees and groves of flowers.
In a pond in such a place, you might expect to see carp or other fish, but here, instead, it was tortoises, or turtles, sorry don’t know the difference. Some sat quietly on the bank and others paddled around.
One group paddled over to meet up and it became a meeting of the Turtle Lodge and the members gathered on the pond bank for their weekly meeting. I could almost hear the conversation as the Shell Master introduced the first item of General Business. “Now Barry, I hear you’ve been causing trouble and you’ve upset Frank here. It has to stop, so stop sticking your neck out, mind your own business and just pull your head in!”
We continued roaming and paid another visit to the cathedral so we could look inside. I didn’t want to take photos inside because somehow it felt disrespectful. In Easter week there were a lot of people there for reasons other than tourist sightseeing and I just kind of wanted to leave them to it, so I did a slow walk around and then headed back out into the sunshine. On the way back was another sign that this is a doggy place, with a Pet Bistro that offers a menu for the furry members of the family.
We chanced upon the Croatian National Theatre which is a lovely building in another nice garden with a sculpture that caught my eye. It’s called The Well of Life and shows a circle of people, each paired as a couple, from childhood through to an elderly man who is looking down into the well. It’s been in this spot since 1912.
We roamed a little more along the street, I said hello to another little dog that had nonchalantly strolled out of a bar, had a sniff along the street and then strolled back into the dim interior.
Then back to the apartment we went and that was that, another day done. Some peaceful moments in nature and some stressful moments in traffic, but another page in the book of experiences.
Tomorrow we ride off and head south west. We’ll be camping now, so there may not be a blog post tomorrow if we find ourselves without wifi. So, here’s hoping for quiet roads, calm traffic, not too many hills, sunshine and tyres that stay up. If it all gets too much, I might just take a leaf out of my little doggy friend’s book, find a spot on the side of the road and fall into “frog leg pose”. Ommmmmmm…..
Distance ridden: 13.3 km
Distance roamed: 11.1 km
Close calls with crazy drivers: 1
Number of times lost: 1
Weather: sunny, mild, no rain!