6 weeks in Croatia - 6 months in Europe

LG
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6 weeks in Croatia - 6 months in Europe

Postby LG » Mon Oct 10, 2016 11:01 am

Long service leave and a milestone birthday for my partner are leading to us planning a 6 week cycling trip through Croatia as the start of the 6 month sojourn through Europe in 2017. It would be greatly appreciated if anybody has first hand experience cycling through Croatia could let us know pointers or ideas. Our main interests are history and natural heritage & national parks (not so much partying nowadays). We are planning to take camping gear with us, and we are aware it may be a bit chilly in March/early April, but we do live in Tassie and cycle through winter.

Our current thoughts are to fly in to Dubrovnik in the second half of March and from there to spend a few weeks island hoping, eating and drinking our way north through to Zadar, stopping at any World Heritage Site we can, and visiting any other point of interest. We also had a look at visiting Mostar in Bosnia for a few days. We are not looking for too many big cycling days and are interested in stopping in one place for several days if it takes our fancy.

From Zadar our current thoughts are to catch a bus to the Plitvice Lakes in order to avoid riding up a dirty great mountain, before heading inland via the Lonjsko Polje Nature Park RAMSAR Site and Park Pirode with the aim of ariving at Osijek by about the start of May, then visiting the wetlands along the Danube.

After leaving Croatia via Osijek, we have 3 months in the Schengen Zone and are looking at Eurovelo 6 through to Western France prior to crossing to the UK for another 6 weeks or so. Again, we don't really have a schedule for this other than the 90 day Schengen Zone deadline, and we are keen to be somewhere the Tour de France goes past in early July. If we feel fatigued or need to skip a section, we don't mind catching a train for part of it.

Most of our gear is sorted, my partner has a nice nearly new Vivente World Randonneur and I've lashed out a purchased a new Surly Long Haul Trucker frame to build up.
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battler2
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Re: 6 weeks in Croatia - 6 months in Europe

Postby battler2 » Fri Oct 21, 2016 2:07 pm

i can provide a lot of advice but i'd spend forever writing stuff when you're most likely going to want to discover yourself. remember you can't see everything in a short amount of time.

going from dubrovnik, you'll have to choose to stick to the mainland (going through bosnia (you wont get a stamp), and island hopping OR you could visit mostar and međugorje and come back again, which is recommended if you have the time.

some tips to consider along the coast.
- krka waterfalls (can swim in it)
- plitvice has a number of trails, so pick one for a day or spend a few days.
- knin fortress (history, war ended here officially)
- trogir (i loved this town, near split)
- makarska, and hike/ride up biokovo. this is very steep and road is poor (check strava and google streetview, but views are spectacular)

islands you probably shouldnt miss
- hvar (touristy, rich and famous but awesome)
- Brač (town of bol, zlatni rat for a nice famous beach, windsurfing here when its windy). the road there is spectacular drive, will do it myself on a bike one day.
- krk (there's a bike path there now that's pretty long. cycle all the way to baška (beach here is awesome) and back, it's scenic and ive done it numerous times.
- on krk, see vrbnik. really nice old town. and near baška is the replica of the baška tablet. watch a video. they have it in english.

from zadar tbh, i'd recommend seeing plitvice and then going to krk, or getting to the coastal ferry from jablanac to rab (a small nice island if you want time away from hordes of tourists, but skippable). and then ferry to krk. then the bridge to the mainland.

istria is really nice, but hilly, but really nice. motovun is a nice hilltop town and pula, poreč, rovinj (amazing) you can easily spend weeks there.

assuming you're going to osijek via zagreb, you can do that in a few days touring. it's flat and easy. highlights of the region (dakovo for a big church), vukovar (rebuilt), can pass through slavonski brod (fortress). otherwise not as much to see in the farming region, just corn fields.

it is going to be very cold in march/april. possibly rainy. but the weather in dalmatia along the coast is usually better than the rest of the country. i would almost put going to the beach out of the question this early in the season.

camping will be cold (be prepared), and accommodation is cheap (especially out of tourist areas). i usually don't pay more than 200 kuna x2 people (about $40 a night). but it depends on where you are. hotels are expensive, and better off looking for apartments if staying somewhere for a few days. agencies used to be the go but they are rubbish now, just stick with booking.com or if you see a sign just enquire within. but there are campgrounds everywhere so if it's dry then that's even better. FKK is nude camping btw.

oh and if you want to skip with train, and are running short for time, you can train it to eastern slavonia eg. osijek, cheap and easier than riding a mostly average scenery wise area.

oh and sorry i didnt read your original post properly at all. so i might have said stuff that go against your wishes.
Last edited by battler2 on Fri Oct 21, 2016 2:21 pm, edited 2 times in total.

battler2
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Re: 6 weeks in Croatia - 6 months in Europe

Postby battler2 » Fri Oct 21, 2016 2:16 pm

safetywise be careful. roads are often narrow and caravans wide and aggressive (foreign tourists from slovenia, austria, italy, hungary) but you shouldnt encounter too many that early in your trip. when riding in bigger cities such as split, zagreb, if there's no bike lane consider riding on the footpath and speeds are often high (no speed cameras = plenty of speeding) and croatians don't really care much for laws. inner city there's some bike lanes.

but my experiences riding in the north i found it safer than oz. cycling is gaining a lot of momentum and there's less hatred on the roads and more respect typically than here.

nobody really cares if you ride in a pedestrian zone, it's legal i think, but they are trying to (and have in some places) changed it. but i was walking my bike through one, saw a cop walking in the distance and another rider rode straight past the cop and nothing happened so i hopped on my bike and rode past as well. and this was in a place where they just changed the laws to made it illegal (there was a huge protest btw). but if it's forbidden risk a fine, it won't be more than $10-20

LG
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Re: 6 weeks in Croatia - 6 months in Europe

Postby LG » Sat Oct 22, 2016 11:14 am

Thanks for your reply, very informative. I've tried plotting a route along the coast using 'ride with GPS' but it's problematic getting it to follow the desired path with the ferry routes. It's prior to the summer ferry schedules starting up, so we're currently unsure what's going to be running. Ideally we'd like to catch a ferry out of Dubrovnik onto Mljet, Korcula, Hvar, Brac then to Split, but this isn't looking promising. We might instead need to take the coast road from Dubrovnik to near Ploce, head up and back to Mostar, then a ferry from Ploce to Tripanj then on to Korcula, Hvar etc to Split. The roads on some of the islands look pretty hilly. From Split it would be via the coast to Trogir, Sibernik, Krka waterfall and on to Zadar. We'll see how we're travelling then as to whether we have time to head further up the coast or just go straight to Plitvice Lakes. Bit of a shame it appears Eurovelo 8 hasn't progressed too much in Croatia.

Your comments about Krk Island and Istria are noted, and we'll look into it.

Once at Plitvice Lakes we'd like to spend several days exploring, then are looking at a route something like this one ( https://ridewithgps.com/routes/17287664/ ) through northern Croatia. I'm keen to have a look at the wetlands near Sisak and there seems to be a cycle path that follows the Drava River down to Osijek, so we'd like to get onto it.

As for weather, we realise it's going to be cool and non-swimming weather, and April on the Croatian coast seems to have an average max aroun 16-17deg at start of April, around 20deg by the end. Happy with that. We're not anticipating heading inland until mid April and the temps should be warming up to similar (as far as google searches tells us).

All this is with the aim of getting us to the Hungarian border by about the start of May. From there we'll have about 2 months to follow Eurovelo 6 to France and the Tour de France appears to be very close to our route in the first week. After that another 3-4 weeks to get to the French coast and onto a ferry to the UK before our Schengen visa free period ends.
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battler2
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Re: 6 weeks in Croatia - 6 months in Europe

Postby battler2 » Sat Oct 22, 2016 2:57 pm

jadrolinija.hr is the ferry operator, and they release schedules ahead of the season. judging by the release of the 2016 season precisely on 23-11-15, a bit longer to wait for a bit more concrete planning. but you can see this years schedule anyway as i doubt it would change.

http://www.jadrolinija.hr/en/sailing-sc ... 31-12-2016

dont think you can do dubrovnik direct to mljet, you might need to ride up to peljesac (and then back again via same ferry) if you really want to see mljet. personally never been there.

probably just made two sets of plans if there's uncertainty and just go with whatever at the time. weather etc. will affect your time

not much point making a massive detour to krk based on your intentions.

i'm intending to do a detailed tour in the near future. probably a huge loop.

edit: i also found ridewithgps gives much higher elevation than it actually is sometimes. use strava create routes and you'll see how different it can be sometimes. use strava heatmapping tool as well to see what are commonly ridden routes. useful for touring.

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Re: 6 weeks in Croatia - 6 months in Europe

Postby LG » Thu Feb 23, 2017 11:40 am

Starting to become real, 2 weeks until we leave Tassie, just under 1 month until we start riding
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RonK
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Re: 6 weeks in Croatia - 6 months in Europe

Postby RonK » Thu Feb 23, 2017 12:54 pm

New VWR looks great, but could you squeeze any more into that pannier? :lol:

So did you miss out on a new build? Is that your old Gemini?
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LG
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Re: 6 weeks in Croatia - 6 months in Europe

Postby LG » Thu Feb 23, 2017 2:07 pm

Panniers on the maroon bike (mine) currently have all my proposed clothes, two person tent, sleeping bag, cooking stove with sundries, tools/spares and GE body bag with sleeping mats strapped to the top. Basically all the camping gear for two. Total weight of bike and gear is about 35kg. That leaves my partner carrying her clothes, sleeping bag, personal items, body bag and not much else until her bike fitness improves and she takes some of the load off me, her panniers are only half full with a few cushions bulking them out for the photo.

It has been a strange few months for me with touring bikes. The old Gemini is in the shed getting a respray and rebuild, probably for eventual sale. I bought a new surly LHT frame in October, it's built up and a fantastic bike, love it. The maroon Vivente subsequently came up for sale in Hobart about two months later for a price I couldn't resist so I bought it too, wish it was a few months earlier. The Vivente is scratched, chipped and has minor dents but has now been refurbished and rides with a load brilliantly. Given the beat up nature of the Vivente I've decided to sacrifice it to air travel and 6 months of abuse. LHT is feeling neglected, not sure what to do with it now. First world problems.
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Re: 6 weeks in Croatia - 6 months in Europe

Postby LG » Wed Mar 29, 2017 5:32 am

1 week in now and things are going well. We flew in to Dubrovnik airport from London last Tuesday arriving at 11:40am and after getting through migration and receiving our baggage/bike bags then reassembling the bikes just outside the terminal we were on our way by 1:20pm. Thankfully nothing was broken on the bikes, though the body bags looked like they had were well worn.
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From the airport we went south to Montenegro staying at Herceg Novi 1 night then Kotor for 3. Some on main roads, other on nice quiet country lanes with a fantastic decent from the Croatian border checkpoint to the Montenegrin. Total of 80km over 2 days for a relatively easy start.

Kotor is amazing and we thought we could change plans to spend a month in Montenegro easily. Riding was pretty straight forward, but choice between main road with heavy vehicles and tiny little waterfront roads which were nice, but won't be a viable option during a busy summer period. Eurovelo 8 is totally undeveloped.
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After our time in in Kotor it was back to Herceg Novi for 1 night via the short route with Ferry crossing and an afternoon spent exploring the old town, eating pizza and drinking beer.

Back to Croatia the following day following the route of Eurovelo 8 along the coast road to Cavtat , 40km riding with nearly 1000m climbing. Fantastic quiet road which was hard to believe with small villages, olive groves, etc, just what touring in Europe should be. We then had a short 20km ride to Dubrovnik, mostly along the main road, and are currently loving this place, we've decided on 4 nights here to fully explore and soak up the place.

So far it is 8 days on our tour with 5 days of riding and a very sedate 150km complete. For the next stage we are planning to head to the islands for a couple weeks riding and exploring, ending up with a ferry in to Split.
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Re: 6 weeks in Croatia - 6 months in Europe

Postby rangersac » Thu Mar 30, 2017 11:09 am

Envy levels are rapidly rising
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RonK
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Re: 6 weeks in Croatia - 6 months in Europe

Postby RonK » Thu Mar 30, 2017 2:10 pm

Looking at herself on the VWR, the fit seems to be perfect.

Such stunning surroundings, what a lovely place to tour.
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LG
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Re: 6 weeks in Croatia - 6 months in Europe

Postby LG » Sat Apr 01, 2017 8:13 pm

Bikes are good and my partners is a great fit.

We have been really lucky with the weather which has been stunning, around 18 to 22 deg most days and sunny so ideal riding, we've had 1 afternoon of thunderstorms which we managed to avoid. The surprising thing has been the lack of tourists. The season doesn't start until late April and there is basically nobody around (except Dubrovnik to some extent). No problem finding cheap accommodation and enough restaurants and bars open. We have seen 2 other cycle tourists, 1 American and 1 Catalan so far. Highly recommend late March for the Croatian coast, although the locals say the weather can be variable.

We've moved on from Dubrovnik now and lucky for us the passenger ferry from Dubrovnik to Mljet Island started up again for the season a couple days ago so we were able to put the bikes on it. We were the only tourists. The national park here is fantastic and given the lack of tourists on the island (we have seen 2 others) the roads are dead quiet, though tough riding given the hills, yesterdays ride was around 65km with nearly 2000m of climbing.

A few days on this island then on to the Peljesac Peninsula for a couple days before Korcula Island.
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Re: 6 weeks in Croatia - 6 months in Europe

Postby LG » Mon May 22, 2017 6:14 am

Well if you don't post for a week, it ends up being 6 weeks :oops: .

We loved Croatia. Ended up riding the Peljesac Peninsula, Korcula Island from one end to the other, ferry to Split because the buggers on Jadralinija wouldn't let our bikes on the catamaran to Hvar, then vehicle ferry to Hvar and back to Split again a few days later. The islands are great for cycling.

From Split along the coast to Trogir then Sibernik (surprised and really enjoyed this place), before moving on to Krka National Park (Easter Monday and free entry for Croatians so busy as hell). From there we rode to Knin with the intention of continuing on over a couple days to Plitvice Lakes. We were stopped by a howling northerly, snow to low levels and with wind chill one of the coldest days I have ridden in, ended up catching a train (bus) to Zadar to get back to the coast and wait out the cold weather. The good news was we got to see a sprint finish for the Tour of Croatia on the waterfront in Zadar.

Once weather improved and snow melted we caught a bus with our bikes to Plitvice Lakes (was a bit of a hassle and don't recommend relying on buses for bike transport in Croatia), and then another 10 days or so riding to EV6 in NE Croatia. Saw our first real bike lanes in Sisak and from then on all towns have been pretty good for bike infrastructure.

We hit Hungary on 5th May and wow the number of people riding bikes and infrastructure improved again although EV6 has varied from great to ordinary. Loved Budapest with a brilliant bike culture and fun to ride around, currently in Vienna which has the best bike infrastructure I am yet to see, so easy getting into the city, it links up and makes sense.

So about 1100km in Croatia and about 600km on or around EV6 so far. Many km to go but should have time for some side trips before we need to leave the Schengen zone in early August, current plan is ferry from Roscoff to Plymouth. So far used everything we packed (except puncture repair kit... yet), so happy with the gear, although have just purchased a camping chair.
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josskey
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Re: 6 weeks in Croatia - 6 months in Europe

Postby josskey » Fri Jul 14, 2017 1:00 am

Thank you for sharing your travel route (photos would be much appreciated too :D I don't want to sound mean, I'm just really jealous :) ) I miss Croatia so much, visited it last year and still so impressed. It topped all of my expectations and was such a memorable holiday for me and my friends. Friends even bought their own lovely house in Split https://tranio.com/croatia/split-dalmatia/split/ eventually. Hope I'll have a chance to visit them some time soon hehe. And how is your trip going now?

LG
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Re: 6 weeks in Croatia - 6 months in Europe

Postby LG » Sun Jul 16, 2017 5:47 am

Checked in to this site yesterday for the first time in ages and spent an hour writing an update, pressed send and the bloody thing disappeared. So more briefly, we are still on the road. Not sure what has happened to my photobucket account as well, will try to sort it out when we get home.

Yesterday we ended our journey on EV6 about 30km upstream of Nantes at a small town called Oudon on Bastille Day. We today took a shortcut on road to the Nante -Brest canal and are heading into Brittany. Total is around 4200km on the bikes so far, with another 500km or so to go before we leave France.

Will try posting this brief message and then try to update details in some subsequent posts.
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LG
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Re: 6 weeks in Croatia - 6 months in Europe

Postby LG » Sun Jul 16, 2017 6:12 am

Previous post worked, so to update the Vienna / German section of the ride.

The Vienna to Passau section was great, nice scenery, big river to follow, excellent infrastructure, something historically interesting each day, and plenty of good camping sites. This section is definitely set up for mass bike tourism. We estimate about 70% to 80% of people touring we saw were riding e-bikes and many were in the 60s and 70s year old bracket. No regrets riding this section the 'wrong way ' either, and think it would be worse travelling in the same direction as the e-bikes and being regularly overtaken.

Passau to Regensburg was what we are calling transition days, 2 days of riding with not too much interesting to see. We loved Regensburg though (and Passau) and it is a real cycling city.

Upstream of Regensburg all the way to Tuttlingen were our favourite parts of the German ride, the gorges are great, there is some fantastic forest in SW Germany and really interesting towns/historic features. There are quite a few km of gravel riding, but generally the quality is good. Didn't notice we were heading uphill until about Ulm, then it just became perceptible each day.

From Tuttlingen there is a bloody steep uphill for about a km, some small undulations then the saddle between the Danube and Rhine is reached. The good thing is the Danube at this point is much higher than the Rhine so the downhill is incredible, about 20km of it. We took a slight detour here and visited the Bodensee for a few days of R n R. It was pretty warm so we were swimming in both the Danube and Bodensee.

Without hesitation we would tour in Germany and Austria again. Infrastructure is great and the cycling culture is very strong, much more so than we have seen here in France, not that France is bad or anything, just lots more people cycling in those countries.

Will post another time to update the Rhine to Basel then France.
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josskey
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Re: 6 weeks in Croatia - 6 months in Europe

Postby josskey » Mon Jul 17, 2017 5:16 pm

Thank you for the update! really interesting to learn how people do it. and nice to know that Germany and Austria are such great cycling spots, somehow I never expected that. safe travels and great adventures to you :D

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Re: 6 weeks in Croatia - 6 months in Europe

Postby LG » Tue Aug 01, 2017 12:53 am

Sorry for the delay in posting again, to busy living the dream and not excited about typing out too much on the phone.

Well the Rhine was a great ride with beautiful towns, a nice river and lots of short sharp climbs and descents, the stretch from Constanz to Rheinfelden had something interesting each day and we'd ride that section again. The towns like Stein am Rhein, Schaffhausen, Wallshut and Laufenburg are stunning with half timber buildings and murals. Camping also great. We made the mistake of camping on the Swiss side for 1 night and it cost about twice the German side and supermarkets are similarly expensive.

As mentioned, we generally stayed on the German side as reports were the track was much better and the cost. Basel was hell expensive when we looked to stay there, we ended up spending the day in the city, shopping on the German side of the border and camping in France in the canoe club site in St Louis with about 50 other cyclists, was excellent.
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LG
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Re: 6 weeks in Croatia - 6 months in Europe

Postby LG » Tue Aug 01, 2017 6:51 am

The French EV6 route of course follows canals and rivers, some of the canals such as between Basel and Montbelliard are easy riding, but lack interesting features for the day. They look pretty murky so in hot weather a swim isn't inviting. The track standard and signage is quite good, but in Burgundy left a little to be desired.

The route down the Doubs River is very scenic and the Saone is quite nice as well. The canal du centre has some interesting features and the wine region of Burgundy is scenic (with nice wine).

The Loire Valley for us was a bit of a surprise with the sand banks and islands of the river itself we really enjoyed riding along it. On top of that the towns are great, camping setup for cyclists is good, and there seems to be something interesting to see and do off the bike most days. We didn't strictly follow the route each day and did a fair few side trips, but in general the route made navigation and thoughts about where we were going simple.

The French EV6 route is generally pretty good quality on a variety of surfaces, the most annoying thing we found was the extent to which the sign posting would direct you on a long loop in order to avoid an intersection or short section of busy road.

We left EV6 about 70km before it ends (starts) at the Atlantique in order to head into Brittany. We departed from a town called Oudon and took D roads to Nort sur Erdre and onto the Nante - Brest canal path. This canal was the most scenic of all the canals we followed and we quite enjoyed it. It is largely flat riding except around Mur de Bretagne.

After finishing on the canal we were lucky enough to have a spare 8 days so rode out to the Crozon Peninsula, took a ferry from there to Brest and then rode the NW Brittany coast to Roscoff where we have arrived today. The last week has been stunning (except for the rain and fog (Breton sunshine)) and has been another highlight of the journey.

So, sadly our mainland Europe sojourn is complete. 4900km of riding in total with just over 2000km of those in France over the last 6 weeks. No mechanical issues apart from 1 broken spoke, 2 worn out tyres and a few sets of brake pads, new brake cables, new chains, my bike also has a sticky pawl I've been putting up with since before Budapest. Amazingly we have got through with zero punctures!

On Wednesday we take the ferry to Plymouth for 6 weeks of riding in England. All the Brit's we meet have been apologising in advance for the drivers, so we are going with low expectations but will see how we go.
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