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Offline White Rhino

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A taste of Croatia
« on: June 29, 2013, 07:53:30 am »

Sometime back in 2010 after having read some of the cool ride reports on this forum of Ivan’s explorations in Croatia …. here …
http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=39205.0 - Dalmatia - Southern Croatia in pics...... &
http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=90813.0 - Snow tour in Croatia (African in the snow) - worth a look - a lovely selection of pics), there was very little left to convince me that Croatia was a country that would be high on the list of desirables, and one day our plans would take on an adventure of this country that was once under siege by the Bosnians and the Slovenians that left the world horrified with tales of merciless and senseless killings.

A touch of luck
As luck would have it, some of our non-biking friends got pretty entrenched in planning a boat excursion from Split to Dubrovnik and back via the Croatian islands, taking in the bluest of oceans. Our own holiday plans were focused on Norway, and the beautiful Fjord ridden landscape that also calls for two wheel exploring.

Intrigued by the possibilities of sharing a holiday with some our more reprobate friends, I thought it appropriate to contact Ivan “Croatia” on Wilddog , to see if we could tag on some adventure riding in Croatia with him. Before long Ivan and his wife Debbie, who handled all the travel arrangements, my wife (Margie) and I were chatting on Skype about the wonders of Croatia using two wheels. Ivan told us he has bikes for the occasion and would chaperone us around as much as we like. Before we knew it we were redirecting our original holiday plans from Norway to a beautiful place that was once part of the mighty Yugoslavia.

Our plan would route us through Paris for a few days followed by four days of riding in Croatia before the drinking crew arrived and all semblance of normality would disappear. What made this occasion extra special was the fact that Margie & I had enjoyed 25 years of marriage. We would celebrate this grand occasion with captivating memories.

Departure - Paris
We departed May 10 – a little before the European peak season. A little earlier than I would like, but there are advantages to going early in the season. The risk ultimately being the weather. Paris is the perfect City to dial up the romance at any time of the year. Amongst the obvious places like Momatre, Champs-Elysées  and the Eifel, we found ourselves enjoying an afternoon at an old railway station that had been transformed into a dancing studio playing all kinds of music from years gone by, getting the enthusiasts that dress up especially for the occasion, spinning and jiving in all flavours of latino and similar dances. Heaps of energy and dancing talent across the ages, awakened us to realise just how much fun and sexy classy dancing can be. We wined and dined at some rather special places taking in all the best that French cuisine had to offer.

Eifel – One amazing sculpture





What's Paris without Artists in the street – this dud could crank a piano


Paris brings out the romance – a couple deeply engaged


Fantastic Seafood at Bofinger – Exceeds anything I’ve ever experienced


Margie & I enjoying the moment


Quite liked this scoot


Unusual building – narrows to a wedge


Artists always catch my attention – one of the better styles


Croatia - here we come
With the city of romance behind us we head off to Croatia – Split, via Zagreb. Split is a stunning coastal city in the Southern half of Croatia. On our decent towards Split I studied the landscape from my window seat and got pretty excited about the geological structures of the Croatian mountains. Some months before this moment, I connected with Jan “Staal”, who had visited Croatia and done some technical riding with Ivan. His words “Those 660XT are perfect for the terrain …. The longest stretch of straight road is 2.4km”. It all made sense seeing these bold mountains. The country was formed predominantly from ancient volcanic activity. Put simply …. biking paradise.

Once landed we glide through customs. We are welcomed by a charming Croatian gal that could double as Demmi Moore with a name too difficult to pronounce. We were whisked off to meet Ivan and Debbie at their - Ala Carte Shop – a mere 20 min ride. The irritating parts of travel are often the pickups and hotel drop offs and knowing what to do when leaving the terminal. Debbie had taken care of all of those hassles for us. We then checked in to a very clean and comfortable hotel that’s was recently built and Ivan delivers our commuter …


Our chauffeur – gorgeous Demmi


Try not to laugh  … Our commuting transport


The bay … across lies the city of Split


We have a good chuckle about our wheels - Not convinced that we will both fit. Anyway we freshen up and make our way to a seaside restaurant that Demmi hailed as her favourite. We nearly wipe out on the scoot, the steering took a bit of getting used to. I took one in the ribs.

Once at the restaurant, we could see why Demmi was in love with the place, the waiter was a replica of Ronaldo - the football icon.  Anyway, besides the chirpy waiter, the food was something special – I had an octopus starter that was juicy, tender and just so scrumptious - the Greeks don't even make it that well. We were equally delighted by the quality of the wine - at that point we knew we were in for a treat - we cheers to the start of a great holiday.


First taste of Croatian cuisine … Octopus delight


Fab wine – chardonnay


In reflection
In reflection, there are a few things that the Croatian’s seem to have perfected: Coffee – it’s rich and creamy and always of an exceptionally high quality. You can have a “Coffee with milk” anywhere and you will inevitably enjoy it – never mediocre. Ice-cream – They’ve followed the Italian Gelato recipe – always a treat. Food – We ate great meals everywhere – never an average meal - always delighted with the flavours. Wines – They had some very interesting wines - even the average wines were very easy drinking. And the bread is to die for. I’ve never had such fresh bread that’s crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside – you can’t stop yourself from having a few slices with each meal – no matter where you go – it’s fresh.

Something about the Croatian people, they are mostly tall and slender – or better described as athletic. They are a very outdoorsy nation. They cycle and walk a lot. Adidas seems to have found a profitable home in Croatia, as most people are seen walking around wearing tracksuit type outfits – many with the three white-stripe branding. Track shoes and sunglasses seem to be the accompanying wear  – everybody looks like they’re heading to the Olympics.

1st Adventure ride

Our first adventure ride takes us in an easterly direction back towards Zagreb but over the spectacular mountains using very little tar, which is exactly what we wanted to experience. The dirt roads are very different to those found in SA, mainly because they don’t seem to have “fine” sand. This has clear advantages – very little dust and none of those sand monsters that gobble up front tyres. But you can expect more of the marbly type roads that can make you nervous cause your tyres drift a lot and cornering has its moments. Margie was somewhat apprehensive in the beginning, but after an hour or so, she settled down and started to relax and enjoy the scenery.



Views from above – spectacular


It also took me an hour or so to get comfortable with the Yamaha 660XT, compared to the larger bore engines that I’m more familiar with. Having a large single bore is very different to a multiple piston motor. The motor vibrates at lower revs. But after I got in sync with the motor we were eating up the dirt roads with ease.

Nothing  around for miles


Our fearless leader with his fireman’s shades


Some of the countryside



We find ourselves changing elevation very often so the roads are permanently curved and you concentrate all the time working the bike through the hillside. I catch myself smiling a lot.

We circled many lakes, dams and crossed the odd river and finally ended up at the source of one of the River Cetina. What a spectacular route with the culmination of reaching this water-filled hole that oozed the clearest and bluest of water from hundreds of metres below. It looked so pure and perfect you felt the urge to rip off your gear and plunge right in. The freezing water temperature quelled any urge do so.

The source of the River Cetina



Croatia has many natural springs that bring the clearest and purest of water to the surface.
Some of the countryside. Orthodox Christianity is a big part of Croatia – unlike some of the neighbouring countries. Croatia seems to be fairly close in many cultural aspects to the Western European countries.

Ancient Roman bridge - leaving their mark all over Europe


Ivan is a very accomplished rider, you can see the pictures of him and his two wheelers scattered all over his walls some dating back where the white in the pictures have turned yellow. It was a pleasure following him, he knew what kind of terrain Margie and I should be exposed to without placing any unnecessary risk on us.

We stopped in a little village (Rumin) for lunch. Another spectacular meal was presented to us with fish and chips. The chips are made properly – similar to the Greek style of preparation.

Food – the simple things in life are great!


... end of part 1 .....
I'd rather have a full bottle in front of me than a full frontal lobotomy
Nothing clears the head like a throttle twisted and the fresh air on the tip of the nose

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Offline J-dog

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Re: A taste of Croatia
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2013, 08:05:24 am »
 :sip:

love the pic of the two parisian lovers. simply beautiful capture.
 

Offline BMWPE

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Re: A taste of Croatia
« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2013, 08:13:35 am »
awesome report  :thumleft:
keep it coming
Rallye
 

Offline White Rhino

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Re: A taste of Croatia
« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2013, 09:44:08 am »
.... Part 2

In a nearby quarry there were some limpet mines from the recent wars. Quite explosive views I thought


Croatia has a fair amount of poor people – it's more evident as you travel inland, mostly as a result of the hardships of past socialist rule as well as the recent wars that have left deep scars. But, there’s no abject poverty. You don’t see beggars on the streets nor do you see any tramps lying about. They all seem to have a task to perform and do so with purpose and pride. We saw many farm labourers, mostly families looking after their own crops. Many of the people are subsistence farmers – the mothers, fathers and children can be seen working the land. Things are well kept and you don’t see litter lying around.

After lunch we visit another fantastic water source near Ruda. This river powers four hydro stations as it meanders towards the Adriatic.

Something spiritual about water that oozes from below


With high quality and constant flow - water purification plants are not necessary



There are many abandoned houses


We make our way further to an old village where there is an old mill, still milling in exactly the same manner in which it did over 600 years ago. The same equipment using precisely the same techniques. All passed down the line from generation to generation. The mill is powered by the same water source that we saw earlier.


The might of the water drives the mill


An original mill stone dating back over 600 years – it’s still in use


Function and form


This fellow was telling Ivan how he used to fly Migs and other Jets in his day – he waxed lyrically. Must have been the 660’s that got him excited.

Could this guy talk – Ivan’s heard this story a million time but he indulges him


We head back to the hotel, and wrap up the day indulging in some of the local beer. Like most European countries, beer is of a very high standard and it slides down the hatch effortless.

We learn about Ivan’s past in SA



He tells us all about his time in SA. I find out just how small this world really is. His father owned the butcher shop in Park Town North where I grew up and where my parents used buy their meat from. I'd been in that shop many times and remember my dad talking fondly about the butcher on a several occasions. Ivan shares his successes and tribulations in SA and what finally got him to look at Croatia. A very interesting story.


Local beer



Earlier in the day I confide with Ivan that it’s our 25th anniversary and that I would like to get some Champers for us to celebrate as a surprise. He tactfully makes a call to Debbie who makes the necessary arrangements. This is what was waiting for us in our room … Margie’s surprise look was a pearla.


How cool was this …


25 years! You get less for murder


... end of Part 2 ...
I'd rather have a full bottle in front of me than a full frontal lobotomy
Nothing clears the head like a throttle twisted and the fresh air on the tip of the nose

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Offline Welsh

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Re: A taste of Croatia
« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2013, 09:47:54 am »
How did she put up with you for 25 years ::) ::)
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Offline White Rhino

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Re: A taste of Croatia
« Reply #5 on: June 29, 2013, 10:05:01 am »
How did she put up with you for 25 years ::) ::)
:imaposer: The good looks, what else?
I'd rather have a full bottle in front of me than a full frontal lobotomy
Nothing clears the head like a throttle twisted and the fresh air on the tip of the nose

Beta 300RR, WR450 Rallye, KTM990 Adv, HP2, HPN635, 1200GS LC
 

Offline ZAR

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Re: A taste of Croatia
« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2013, 10:31:30 am »
 :happy1:
When injustice becomes law, Rebellion becomes duty!

A dubious plan decisively executed is more likely to succeed than a very good plan tentatively executed.

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Offline Knucklhead

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Re: A taste of Croatia
« Reply #7 on: June 29, 2013, 10:43:58 am »
 :thumleft:
 

Offline Welsh

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Re: A taste of Croatia
« Reply #8 on: June 30, 2013, 05:47:01 am »
Morning Rhino 8)
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Offline White Rhino

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Re: A taste of Croatia
« Reply #9 on: June 30, 2013, 05:58:09 am »

Part 3 ...

The early morning view from our hotel room. Planes darting in all directions.



Today our tour guide armed with his zoot glasses takes us in a northerly direction towards the town of Zadar. We are off to see the famous Krka falls (pronounced Kirka). Today would be tar and following the coastline mostly. The road conditions are magnificent meandering through mountainous terrain. It’s a lot like travelling in the southern and western Cape coastal roads. It seems like the folds of the earth were exaggerated in Croatia.
Coffee and ice-cream stop. Did I mention how marvellous they are - so rich and creamy - Like a double espresso with a cuppachino topping.



You can’t help being impressed by the gazillion boats that are berthed along the coast line. The calm and deep blue Adriatic sea interposed with over a thousand scenic islands producing thousands of miles of clean coastline makes for the perfect shelter for the toys for sea lovers. There is a obscene pile of money floating on the Croatian coastline.

Across the bay …. Money to play


Marina's are dotted all the way up the coastline. Looks like yachting paradise.

A little island packed with holiday homes. From above it looks like a fish.


Ivan takes us to one of his struggling clients … a Russian that owns a bank!
This is his Croatian getaway boat, packed with all the right stuff … 4 KTM dirt bikes, Jet bikes, Scuba kit, compressors etc. etc. We were invited on board, sans shoes, but weren’t allowed below because the mistress was still in bed.

This boat is a wet dream, all chrome, wood and class…




Sorry sir – no shoes …


Some of these chrome bits cost more than a whole bike!

 


The combination of wood and chrome just makes it





The deck hands work hard keeping the madam and master happy



Ivan looks after the Russian's two wheeler toys. What a life. My mind races back home to where our roots lie and become acutely aware of the contrast of our lives. Ivan’s life story met with the most unusual twist of fate. He too is a native South African, as is Debbie and his two daughters. But now they are Croatians!

Little did they realise just how much their lives would change when they received a very unique letter back at home in Johannesburg,  originating from some distant relatives, inviting them to pay a visit. A visit that would change their lives forever. They bonded with their newly acquainted and distant family, linked by common great grandparents. The story goes that Ivan’s grandfather packed his bags back in the 1920’s and headed off to South Africa, never to return. Two whole generations later, the family in Croatia trace their relatives to South Africa using a tracing agency, sending them a “hello we’re here” letter and enticing them over. Well, five holidays later, Ivan and family take the plunge and head to Croatia permanently. That’s a challenge of huge proportion … learning a new and tough language. Foreign schooling for the children – tackling  Matric in a tough new language under a totally different education system – WOW!. Add to that, starting a new business and settling in with the locals – exercising a very different culture. Debbie tells just how tough it was, but that it’s been worth the challenge.

Today they have a stunning business that’s constantly growing, a bunch of happy children that all enjoy the Croatian lifestyle with all its benefits.  We are privileged to get a little peek into their world and are envious of their adventure lifestyle. They own an adventure and travel business – Croatia ala carte. Debbie handles the travel arrangements, bookings, boat cruises, connections and the like, while Ivan handles the adventure activities which include Adventure riding, dirt bike riding, white water rafting, sight seeing, boat cruises, hiking, cycling, mountain biking and kayaking and I don’t now what else. He’s got all the toys, safety kit and the kindred spirit of adventure to make any occasion feel unique and fun.

Debbie also took time to show us around Split and stuff us with local delights as well as key facts about the history of Split and the interesting cultural aspects of Croatia and the traits of the people. We found it fascinating to learn about this part of Europe – you begin to appreciate the diversity of mankind and the challenges they once faced to sustain and eek out an existence. I must say, I found myself being drawn deeper and deeper into the heart of Croatia. I was not hard to see why they packed up and carved a new life over there.

Their business is pretty well supported by South Africans. Word of mouth like this ride report, gets them new clientele. And they find that many of their clients go back each year. I will be one of those that will go back, there’s so much to see and do, you can’t possibly cover enough in one visit.

Back to the present, we tear ourselves away from the billionaire’s yacht and snake our way up the coastline towards the Krka nature park, that’s home to some famous water falls. We stop en route for a bite at the little town of Sibenik on the water’s edge. We mistakenly eat a popular winter dish that was a little too rich for a hot spring day – tasty but should really be eaten in the winter time.

Note The views from the restaurant




Having a name like Ivan in Croatia is akin to John. Nevertheless John is proud to see his name up there.


Loving life


This building still bears the scars of the most recent shelling by the Serbians and the Bosnians in the early 1990’s. The complexity of land ownership is such that restorations are not always possible. Some family members each own a part of a building and depending upon their financial situation may not be able to afford the renovations necessary, so the result is quite often that the building has to remain in that state.



We arrive at the famed park, and we were not disappointed. The setting is amazing. The falls are spectacular. There’s something that stirs within when one sees these fundamental natural elements that form the essence of life, much like we get mesmerised by fire and the ocean. Waterfalls remind us of a key energy source of our beautiful planet.

The lower section of the amazing falls


Lunch gave me extra strength


Some more falling water






The wash bay – for laundry … looks more like a Jacuzzi


Just in case you hadn’t seen enough water …


We learn how the locals cook their meat, breads and potatoes. They have a dome under which the food is placed. A ring gets place on top of the dome and filled with coals that are allowed the dish to cook slowly. A variation on the stolen Greek lamb (Kleftico).



That night we are invited by Ivan and Debbie to join their family and some of their friends who, by some coincidence happen to be South African. We head to the very old Town of Trogir.

The Island of Tragir.


We dine at a quaint little restaurant in the old castle on Tragir. I don’t need to tell you, but the food and the company was fantastic.


James and Ramon are two other huge biking enthusiasts that are preparing for a three day trip to the north of Croatia with Ivan. Their trip is packed with adventure - I can't help feeling envious. It's also Ivan's birthday, so he's treated himself to a holiday of adventure with the boys - what a boytjie.

The weather heads south tomorrow ... Margie decides it's time to let the boys play ... So i'ts Ivan and I and mother nature ... can't wait

... end of Part 3 ...
I'd rather have a full bottle in front of me than a full frontal lobotomy
Nothing clears the head like a throttle twisted and the fresh air on the tip of the nose

Beta 300RR, WR450 Rallye, KTM990 Adv, HP2, HPN635, 1200GS LC
 

Offline CHorse

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Re: A taste of Croatia
« Reply #10 on: June 30, 2013, 07:50:45 am »
Stunning Rhino, great report and pics  :thumleft:

Congrats on the quarter century!
 

Offline BLK

Re: A taste of Croatia
« Reply #11 on: June 30, 2013, 09:45:42 am »
Reports like this just stuff my mind up for the day!!I just want to go and see the world!

Thks for the well written report/photo's

 

Offline jorust

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Re: A taste of Croatia
« Reply #12 on: June 30, 2013, 12:06:49 pm »
Awesome! Lovely photies. Sub!  :thumleft:

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Offline zawillow

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Re: A taste of Croatia
« Reply #13 on: June 30, 2013, 12:38:44 pm »
Great photos, thanks for sharing
 

Offline Tweets

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Re: A taste of Croatia
« Reply #14 on: June 30, 2013, 08:37:19 pm »
Ooooooooooo. How I envy you globe trotters  ;)

Thanks for the pics of a far away land.  Clean water for sure!

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Offline 1ougat

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Re: A taste of Croatia
« Reply #15 on: June 30, 2013, 09:06:09 pm »
We did a 2 week sail in 2008 in Croatia ..... was really wonderful as you have seen.... bring back some memories .... :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft:
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Offline evansv

Re: A taste of Croatia
« Reply #16 on: June 30, 2013, 09:11:58 pm »
Stunning images!! I must admit that having a few local beers in the country one's visiting can be very good fun!! :thumleft:
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Offline Hondsekierie

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Re: A taste of Croatia
« Reply #17 on: June 30, 2013, 09:21:18 pm »
Wow!!!  What a super read.  I might just visit John one of these days :biggrin:

(What happened to you guys this morning, thought we're heading to Beestekraal and then everyone behind me were gone)
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By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more"
 

Offline 2StrokeDan

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Re: A taste of Croatia
« Reply #18 on: June 30, 2013, 09:34:09 pm »
Baie baie geniet. Julle het omtrent n pad deur Europa ge-eet! :imaposer:
 

Offline KTMRICK

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Re: A taste of Croatia
« Reply #19 on: June 30, 2013, 09:40:14 pm »
Did Ivan own a plumbing business in JHB by any chance??