April 21 – Ogulin to Rijeka
We have a style of travelling that’s become our way of doing things and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. We don’t organise things in advance. We don’t do extensive research. We don’t book days, weeks or months ahead. We really just go day by day and take things as they come. We thought we would head towards the coast and do some island hopping, taking the ferry to the islands to tootle around and explore. That was the plan. Didn’t work. Change of plan.
Our day started with the sound of church bells tolling just across the road, but we were already up and ready to make a move. We’d pulled up well after yesterday’s epic hilly ride and nothing hurt, just a little bit tired in the quads but that was all. Our hotel had breakfast included with the room, so down we trotted, expecting to see a breakfast buffet with selections that we could navigate to suit us. Not so. The girl in the restaurant greeted us and seated us at a table before disappearing into to the kitchen.
“I think we’re going to be given something,” I said to Steve, “quick, get out the translate app and check again what vegan is in Croatian.” It turned out all the app could give us was “vegan” which was different to what I’d seen elsewhere but I couldn’t remember the word. Oh well, roll with it as best we could. The girl returned with arms full of breakfast – a basket of sliced bread, a selection of yoghurt and a selection of meat pâte, butter and cheeses. What to do now? I’m really conscious of this – our food choices are our choices and we don’t impose them on others and we certainly don’t want our choices to be a nuisance to others especially when travelling in another country. She had provided, what was to her, an excellent and substantial breakfast, it just didn’t fit how we eat. I apologised, “Oprosti,” I said, “vegan.”
“Oh,” she replied, “we have cheeses,” and she waved her hand over the selection plate.
I waved my hand across them to indicate we didn’t eat that and waved them across the yoghurt. “No cheese, no yoghurt,” I said.
She looked a little bewildered. “What do you eat then?”
I tried to think of something easy and fairly recognisable. “Cereal?” I asked, “muesli?” Since the packets of muesli in the supermarkets still have that as the word.
She disappeared back out to the the kitchen and returned with a bowl of dry oats.
“Hvala, hvala,” I said (thank you).
Now, nothing came with the oats, nothing to put on them, just dry. So this is where I just had to get creative. Off to the drinks dispenser I went and a little bit of apple juice, some hot water and back to the table, add a dollop of jam that had been provided for the bread, to add a little sweetener and voila…porridge. Well, it was a bit dry and a bit chewy, but it was fine. Adapt and overcome! Steve happily ate the bread and jam.
I always like it when we stay places that include breakfast because we learn so much about different ways of eating and different cultural preferences. As we walked out, the nice girl had set up some plates at a small buffet with a basket of boiled eggs painted in Easter colours, plates of sliced meat and a plate of spring onions. The spring onions had serving tongs so I guessed a guest would put an onion on their plate just as it was. I am a little intrigued by that. I love seeing these different things. I’m sure what we eat for breakfast is equally out of the norm for people here, as eating meat and spring onions for breakfast would be for us. All part of the interesting tapestry of life, cultures and travelling!
With everything shut down for Easter, we decided to do some leapfrogging and take a train from Ogulin to Rijeka, on the coast, rather than ride on and risk not finding anything open. So, we packed up, loaded the bikes and did a slow pedal around the very quiet town. There were three sets of church bells ringing from across different parts of the city and people were walking in their Sunday best, heading to one of the many churches. It was nice to ride around when it was so peaceful and hardly any traffic. We had a look at the castle / fort which was right next door to the hotel and a piece of history.
Here’s its story, direct from the information board:
The Castle of Ogulin was built above the canyon of the Dobra River, upon an order of feudal Lord Bernadin Frankopan, in approximately 1500. The castle was constructed in a time of great danger, following the destruction of the Modrus fortress by the Ottomans, as one of the forts built to serve as military strongholds against the Ottoman conquest. The Chapel of Saint Bernard was built along with the castle and church services were held there throughout the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. After the construction of the castle, due to frequent Ottoman bursts, several families moved from nearby settlements and built wooden houses near the fort. Thus, already in the first half of the 16th century, Ogulin market was formed, which was enclosed by towers, half towers and curtain walls. In 1553 the fortress of Ogulin was occupied by the troops of King Ferdinand I. In 1570 it became the seat of the 13th Frontier Regiment, which was considered the most important regiment in the Croatian Military Frontier. From 1746 until the demobilisation of the Military Frontier in 1873, Ogulin was the centre of the Ogulin Frontier Infantry Regiment No. 3 and the fortress, having lost its fortifying role, was converted into a prison in 1865.
It still amazes me, the ages of buildings and places we see; that we can touch the walls and walk the cobbles where people from centuries ago also walked.
After a pedal around the streets to have a look at the town, we sat in the park, which was a lovely little spot. The fountain was also a monument and a monument to what you may ask? Well, a monument to the town’s water supply. We might take our running water for granted, but here in Ogulin they have a fountain to remember when they first got a town water supply. Lovely.
Down to the train station we pedalled and this is where the stress kicks in. Train travel with bikes is not easy. We are against the clock from the time the train arrives, knowing we have to get everything on before it takes off again. If we’re lucky, it’s a new train with a low entry that sits at the same height as the platform and we just roll the bikes on. If we’re not lucky, it’s an old train with the high doors with ladder like steps that we have to haul the bikes up. We weren’t lucky. The guard was standing on the platform waiting and we checked with him where to wait for the train. He directed us across the tracks, so we walked the bikes across two sets of tracks and waited. The train pulled in. Darn, one of those with the doozy of a high door to get up. Action stations! We quickly pulled all the panniers off the bikes, Steve leapt up into the carriage and I began passing panniers up to him. The guard was kind enough to help lift the bikes on and then Steve hung the bikes from their hooks in the bike storage compartment, we packed the panniers around them and we were on! Thankfully the train didn’t take off straight away so we had a bit of time. Then we settled in and watched the Croatian countryside fly past the window. We had a look, from a distance, at some of the hills we’d met at close quarters yesterday.
Arriving in Rijeka we did everything again in reverse, quickly getting all the panniers off, then Steve lifting the bikes down to me on the platform and then loading up again.
We discovered there was a ferry leaving for Cres Island in a couple of hours so we headed off down to the terminal to see about tickets. Nope, that wasn’t going to happen, a sign told us no ferries running today because of the holiday. Oh well, looks like we’re staying in Rijeka instead, not to worry. We always try and find new experiences and do things we haven’t done before, so when we saw a hotel on the waterfront that was a boat, well, we’d never done that before so we’d better stay there. The lovely lady at reception said there wasn’t a problem with the bikes, they had a spot for them, so we came aboard and are staying at the Botel Marina in a room (which is really a cabin), complete with porthole. “Awesome,” was Steve’s assessment.
We went out for a roam to see what Rijeka had to offer and to think about how best to get to the islands. Rijeka is an interesting city, Croatia’s third largest in fact. It’s a blend of old-world European with modern high rises, a casino by the water and a shipping port too. Some of the old buildings are gorgeous and the sun shone again so it was lovely to stroll by the water and through the laneways of the city. Everything was closed, but still lots to see. There’s a lot of Italian influences here, lots of Italian voices around and Gelaterias, Pizzerias and menus that are very Italian. There’s also a lot of tourists and I spotted car license plates from Germany, Austria, Italy, Serbia and Hungary to name a few.
We went back to the ferry terminal to check what time it would be open in the morning and to look at timetables to find a time we could leave. We discovered the only ferries that run to Cres are passenger catamarans and then we saw the sign. A picture of a bike with a line through it next to the word Katamaran. Darn, it seems that bikes aren’t allowed on the catamaran ferries and they’re the only ones that go to Cres. Change of plan, it looks like we aren’t going to Cres. Maybe there’s another island we can go to. After looking into that, nope, it seems there isn’t a ferry that allows us to take the bikes. We thought we’d wait until tomorrow when the ticket office opens at 11:00 and ask the question anyway. It doesn’t hurt to ask and see if we can get the bikes on. So that was the plan.
We took ourselves to an outdoor cafe bar to sit in the sun, have a drink and think things through again. Steve enjoyed a cold one and I had a cup of tea and in the end we had a complete change of plan. Why wait around to ask a question we already know the answer to. So…from a plan to island hop and get ferries from the mainland to an island and then onto another island until we reached Pula, we have decided to abandon the islands altogether because it’s just proving too hard.
So…change of plan, we will now ride down the coast instead. We know there’s a car ferry that will take bikes from a town along the way, so if we get there and still want to go to an island, we might be able to do that, but for now, we’ve decided to pedal on, hug the coast and explore that way. The thing is, Rijeka is surrounded by hills, which means we have to climb back out of town and then ride the ups and downs of a coastal road. More climbing.
So tomorrow, as plans go in our version of day to day plans, we will begin yet another ascent and pull ourselves out of Rijeka and instead of some island hopping we’ll do some coast hugging and see where we end up. As always…adapt and overcome! Part of the fun of adventure is just rolling with what comes and we certainly do that. Maybe one of these days we’ll look into things ahead of time so we actually discover what we can and can’t do a little bit in advance. One day. Maybe. Or not. Winging it and flying by the seat of our pants is part of the adventure. Sometimes it works great and…sometimes it doesn’t but when it doesn’t, we just come up with something new and that becomes the adventure ahead of us. Roll with it. Embrace the unknown. Smile at the unexpected. Eyes front to whatever lies ahead. On we go…!
Distance ridden: 5.01 km
Time in the saddle: 33 minutes
Distance roamed: 5.2 km
Plans foiled: 3
Plans afoot: 1
Weather: sunny, warm, no wind, 21C