April 26 – Pula to Rovinj
We set off from Pula this morning and the weather forecast said rain but thankfully, apart from a few spatters through the night, the morning was clear and not a drop to be seen. As we were leaving the apartment we were carrying all our panniers down two floors of narrow stone steps and I had two panniers in each hand and the rack pack bag and handlebar bag slung over my shoulder. I was making my way down when a man came out of one of the apartments a few stairs down, so I stopped to let him go ahead rather than hold him up with my slow one-step-at-a-time descent with the load in and over my arms. The man stopped and pointed to the panniers and said something, as if he was asking to take them. I didn’t want to be a bother and not having the language to say anything other than English, simply said, “It’s OK, thank you.”
“Is fine, is fine,” he said and just reached and took the panniers out of my hand. He didn’t take a couple of them to ease my load, he took all four of them off me and proceeded to lead the way and carry them all the way down for me. When we got to the bottom he rested them very carefully and very gently against the wall.
“Hvala, hvala,” I repeated in thanks.
“Is no problem,” he said with a wave.
Another lovely, friendly person we get to meet on our travels. What a way to start the day!
We pedalled out of the city and soon stopped to take off a layer because it was a mild morning. On we went and a few minutes later we stopped to take off another layer. It was warm. Lovely! The sun still hadn’t put in an appearance but it was overcast and mild and we were off to a climb at the beginning. We had to get up a fairly steep street to take us out of Pula and thankfully we had a footpath so we could keep out of the way of traffic. As I crunched down the gears and went up and down steep sections of gutter, I got the slow wobbles a couple of times and nearly wiped out a wheelie bin, but made it to the top with self and nearby inanimate objects unscathed.
Once out of the city we were on open road which was relatively busy but the traffic was brilliant and the drivers kind. They gave us distance and waited behind us until it was safe to overtake rather than trying to squeeze past us which was wonderful because there was no shoulder on the road.
We rode past olive groves, dry stone walls and kazuns, which are particular to the Istrian area. They’re round, dry stone huts that were used as shelters for farmers and shepherds. We’ve seen the occasional one as we’ve ridden through Istria and this one stood beside a dry stone wall encircling a grove of olive trees. There’s a particular method to how they’re constructed and places have been set up to preserve this form of construction. As we pedalled along we also passed people foraging for wild asparagus along the roadside. I’ve seen bunches of this in the markets and it looks almost like an asparagus wheat stalk. It has a longer and thinner stem than regular asparagus and the tips are much longer. In a bunch it really does look like a green sheaf of asparagus wheat. The lady I saw had been successful and was holding a big thick bunch.
We rode through the small town of Galizana and a man up ahead walked across the road towards his van. He saw me coming and turned to face me, said something with a smile and began applauding.
“Oh, hvala, hvala,” I thanked him. These lovely people!
Further along the road an elderly man on a bike rode past, he had crinkling, smily eyes and almost a handlebar grey moustache.
“Dobar dan,” I called in greeting with a wave. He gave the biggest, smiling wave back. Then on we went and a man was chugging along the road on a tractor and his arm went up into a cheery wave with a beaming smile as an accompaniment. We had quite a bit of that today as we passed through small towns, lovely people waving or returning our greetings with a smile. Love it!
As we pedalled along we had mostly flat and downhill runs and we even had a tailwind. Tail I tell you! Tail not head! Who would have thought it possible! Even the downhills were my kind of downhill – nice and gradual and not steep, so I could cruise quite happily and have a bit of fun on the “baby rollercoaster” instead of the big, steep scary ones! We saw a little town off to the side of our route so decided to detour and have a look. So glad we did. Bale was absolutely exquisite. We stopped for elevenses on a stone bench and then pushed the bikes to have a look around. It was absolutely beautiful.
A rabbit warren of narrow cobbled lanes, streets and passageways, a jazz tune playing in a small cafe and an elderly dog with a grey and wise face ambling gingerly along the cobbles. Ah, the cobbles. They really do make a place special. The age, the design, the look and texture of them, the stories they could tell. I love them and this quaint, little, out of the way town and its cobbled maze of passageways was utterly charming.
As we left Bale, the rain gave us a few spatters and the wind picked up, so we set off heading for Rovinj, aiming to beat the rain. “‘ellooo,” I heard to my left. It was a group of road cyclists giving us an encouraging wave and greeting. Friendly people everywhere!
I discovered a road feature today that I’ve decided I dread even more than roundabouts – the slip lane. Twice today on the busy highway, we had to make left hand turns onto side roads which meant moving into the middle of the road into a turn-left slip lane. Me perched in the middle of the busy road, balancing the bike with one hand and indicating with the other does leave me feeling a tad vulnerable. Don’t like those slip lanes, no sireee!
We neared Rovinj and saw a bike path ahead, so crossed onto that and we were out of the traffic again. But, just as we were cruising along…end of bike path. Why I wonder. Is it intended to toy and tease the poor cyclists? This one started all of a sudden and a couple of hundred metres later stopped all of a sudden. I really don’t know why it was there at all!?
Into Rovinj and we made our way down to the waterfront, sat on a bench for a bite to eat and looked out at the water. The harbour was full of small boats and the streets were teeming with people and many different languages swirled around us. Lots of tourists like us.
We decided to leave exploring until later and set off to find our accommodation. After going to the wrong house, a very nice man pointed us in the right direction and we soon found our apartment in a quiet neighbourhood. The owner had told us she was unable to meet us but her grandmother would be there when we arrived. Grandma Ada was lovely. She is Italian and speaks no English but with some gestures, and us trying to remember some of our very basic Italian phrases, we all managed to understand each other. We could remember ‘thank you’, ‘good’ and ‘yes’, so we said that a lot. Grandma Ada gestured for us to come into the yard, “Prego, prego,” she welcomed us. She then said something, something, something, in the middle which we heard “bicicletta” and “garage”. We guessed she was asking if wanted to keep the bikes in the garage.
“Si, si, grazie,” we said. The bikes were then stowed snugly in the little garage and Grandma Ada showed us where to go to the apartment.
“Bene?” she asked.
“Si, molto bene, grazie,” we said. Once again we bumbled our way through language and managed to achieve some minor success with a very limited repertoire of phrases!
We settled in and then had to go for a walk to the supermarket to get supplies and, wouldn’t you know it…down came the rain. So we got soggy again!
When the rain eventually decided to have a rest we set off for a late roam through the streets of Rovinj. More lovely cobbled streets, steep cobbled passageways and a climb up the cobbles to the church sitting on the hill that gave a view out over the water. Then back down for a roam around the water front. I tip-toed along the cobbles in the wet, sensing my love for cobbled streets may wane if I ended up rear-end on them with an ungraceful dive, but I stayed upright and loved walking along those cobbles big and small, rough and smooth, leading us to little nooks and crannies to explore.
Sometimes the world gets a bad rap. We hear about all the troubles and terrible things that happen and the news is dominated by the negative. Sometimes it pays to remember there are ordinary people going about their ordinary lives and the vast majority of them are kind and friendly. We meet them all the time. We met a few of them today, friendly helpful people ready to lend a hand, give a wave or share a smile. We need to hear about them more often I think.
Only a short ride today, but we explored some delightful places and walked their cobbled streets with their stories lying quietly beneath our feet. A nice day, even with the rain finding us again, it didn’t dampen the enjoyment of the exploring and discoveries we made. Tomorrow we ride on, hoping the pesky rain leaves us alone as we continue north. Even if it does find us, not to worry, we’ll pedal on because there’ll be cobbles to stroll and friendly people to meet…perfect!
Distance ridden: 38.6 km
Time in the saddle: 2 hours 36 minutes
Rained on roamers: 2
Languages spoken with greater or lesser success: 3