We spent our day off in the coastal town of Rijeka. It’s a fairly quiet little harbour town but the guide we’d picked up from the campsite suggested there were plenty of activities to keep us amused. There was a Natural History Museum with an aquarium, a computer museum promisingly called “Peek and Poke” as well as loads of interesting architecture and local foods to discover.
We spent the first half an hour or more trying to find the entry to the Natural History Museum, which was bizarrely well concealed. The “aquarium” consisted simply of a few fish tanks with some not so exciting looking local fishes, but having paid only 5 KUNA for the museum entry fee (less than £1), we weren’t overly disappointed and it was totally worth it just for the giant shark models.
We circled the block which housed the computer museum twice, trying to find the door but failed. Amused by a now recurring difficulty to find a well highlighted entrance for anything in Croatia (campsite, Natural History Museum, computer museum…) we assumed it was closed. There would be no peeking or poking for us today.
We wandered about the town instead.
Spotting some pretty cool graffiti…
… as well as some not so artsy but just as poignant graffiti…
We stopped for a mysterious sandwich for lunch and, even after eating it, still had no clue as to what it contained other than carrots and some kind of meat. Definitely some carrots in there.
It was pretty tasty though, washed down with a couple of chocolate cocktails from the Chocobar. Nom.
We were still getting confused with the bonkers currency and couldn’t help feeling like we’d won the lottery with literally hundreds and hundreds of bank notes in our (shared) wallet. Our daily budget had gone from 50 EUROS to about 350 KUNA and the high denominations would take some getting used to.
We sat at the harbour for a while, watching ships come in and out and looking at the fish through the crystal clear water.
In the evening we walked to the village of Volosko, a little closer to our campsite where, it seems, they do not like a ska band.
Trumpets left in the tent, we walked about the cliff-side village, all narrow streets and quaint red roof tops.
We stopped at a restaurant that smelled so good we couldn’t bring ourselves to walk past it. It turned out we were lucky to get a table without a reservation but they “managed to squeeze us in”. There were other indications that this restaurant was a bit nicer than our usual budget-led choice, like actual cotton napkins and the fresh menu that the waiter had to memorise as it changed daily, depending what fish had been caught that day. Deciding to treat ourselves, we went all out with three (extremely yummy) courses and a bottle of Croatian wine.
When the bill came, the figure made my eyes widen: 370 KUNA. It was a little over our entire daily budget but still, with happy tummies we sat by the harbour and talked ourselves free of the guilt by agreeing that we deserved a treat after over 7 weeks of cycling and that back in England we’d have paid twice that for the same quality. Just thinking about the ricotta cheese and berries I had for pudding is making me drool. Mmmmmm.
The next day, we cycled 51 miles further along the coast to the town of Senj.
It’s a mountainous area, so we knew it would be hilly but we didn’t expect it to be quite so windy. We might have been a bit more prepared for what was in store for us that day if we’d done a bit of research online: the whole area is known for its insane winds that have been recorded at up to 304 km per hour (about 190 mph). We were reliably informed by two locals that the winds on our cycling day were actually quite light. When we stopped for a snack at a little bakery, we were told by a grumpy looking but actually very friendly Croatian man that “this is just a light breeze! When it’s really bad, it’s not possible to go out in a car, let alone on a bicycle”.
It did not feel like a light breeze when I had to get off my bike and push at one point because the wind was so strong it was pushing me from side to side, threatening to blow me over the cliff edge on one side or into the frighteningly fast traffic on the other.
The scenery was beautiful but I didn’t really get to enjoy it because the whole day was like a 7 hour long hazard perception test – constantly keeping one eye on the cliff edge to the right, one on the traffic whizzing past on the left (not to mention the oncoming overtaking cars that on more than one occasion almost took us out) and struggling to keep my bike pointed in the right direction against the wind that wasn’t just a headwind but seemed to be coming from all directions!
Arriving at the campsite down a steep slope and under a little tunnel, I’ve never been so relieved (and surprised) to be alive.
It was only just after 4pm when we got our tent set up. The campsite was right on a pebbled beach with its own dive centre, so we hired some snorkelling gear and went for our first swim in the Adriatic sea to calm our minds after our most stressful bike ride yet. The sun was out, it was a beautiful day despite the wind with water so clear you could see right to the bottom, but it was bloody freezing! After an hour, we got out and wrapped up in our towels, teeth chattering, with a cup of hot tea to warm our cockles. The cosiness of the warm tea in our freezing hands made us both think of home and, for the first time, we admitted we weren’t looking forward to cycling the next day.