We have been on the Adriatic Sea for two days now and are completely enthralled. Both of us have so much attachment to the ocean (a.k.a. British Columbia) that we feel a certain sense of peace to smell the salt air and hear the lapping waves. It is a breathtakingly beautiful place, and we now see why everyone spoke so highly of this country. We are also very happy to have found warmer temperature and although the Croatians seem surprised we are here in this season, we are finding the 15 to 20 degree temperatures absolutely balmy!
Before arriving to the sea, we enjoyed inland Croatia quite a lot. There was certainly a different feel to the country in comparison to the EU nations we have already visited. The villages and countryside we traveled through felt quite old-fashioned; the homes, for example, were tired yet colourful, each with personal vegetable gardens and yards full of turkeys, chickens and barking dogs. The weathered houses perhaps reflect some of the struggle that this nation’s population has gone through over the last century. War is a very recent reality for Croatians, and we are fascinated with the history of their transitions between independence, communism and capitalism. Each person we meet grants us a little more insight into the nature of these conflicts and what life was like during Yugoslavia.
And the people are as beautiful as the country. We are pleasantly surprised at how excited people seem about our bicycles. We receive a lot of friendly honks and thumbs up on the roads, and many pedestrians give us verbal congratulations, and there have been several groups of cheering school children. We have also be hosts to good Croatian hospitality thus far. One morning we frustratingly got a bit turned around (as the GPS maps for Croatia seem to be incomplete), but our attitude on the day soon changed when a young guy named Zvonimir, driving a delivery van, offered us a lift for 30 kilometres, and then a delicious homemade lunch of sausages made of deer and pork. Zvonimir shared great travel stories of his trips to India, Nepal and South America with us, as well as his perception on the town and country. We were all very happy to have met!
Croatia is where we have had our first Couch Surfing experiences. Until now, we have relied on Outdoor Clubbers to play host to us in cities, but we are now venturing into internet matchmaking! We stayed for two nights with Ivana in Zagreb, and then two nights with Vedran in coastal Rijeka. It really is an incredible way to meet local people and understand the city from their perspectives. We were so thankful for their time… although perhaps things may seem normal for them they enjoyed playing host to our excited tourism. Both Ivana and Vedran were so generous, we felt quite spoiled! Our stomachs also felt quite spoiled in Rijeka, as Vedran provided us with excellent nourishment. We enjoyed a very traditional and local breakfast on Friday morning which got us very excited for coastal food: we had a Feta-like cheese with tomatoes, olive oil and vinegar, with olives and fig jam. Speaking of food, we have really enjoyed the Croatian markets thus far, and have visited ones in both Zagreb and Rijeka. They are full of both farmers and customers; the produce is abundant, colourful and delicious, and the seafood abounds. It feels pretty wonderful to be in a place where exotic foods (based on Canadian standards) are grown!
One more story of generosity we feel worth mentioning is that of our potato lady. This evening we got caught with the darkness and we were unable to find a proper place to camp and thus we had to take a hotel for the night. However, we wanted to enjoy an evening outside so we sat on a bench beside the water to cook our pasta dinner. Many people walked by us, but one woman seemed especially excited that we were from Canada, although said nothing more to us. We are not sure how she processed the situation of two young Canadians making food beside the ocean in the dark, but 45 minutes later she returned with four boiled potatoes for us. She couldn’t speak English (or German for that matter, and we are finding the Croatian language, which is Slavic, impossible to figure out) so she simply blew us a kiss and left us with the warmth. They were delicious, and we were extremely happy. How strange it is that we will never see her again, but we will both remember each other for a long time. This is simply another beautiful episode on our journey reminding us that humans are inherently good and that people want to help others. The nearly constant provision of this lesson is incredible.
Well, we are tired so that is all for now. We hope that everyone is enjoying their November, wherever they may be!
Alec and Caitlin
P.s. Let it be known that Nootka (Alec’s bike) got her first flat tire today. Temagami feels better about herself.