What a start it has been!
I’ve mostly laughed, never cried (except from laughing too hard), sworn a lot, shouted at dogs chasing us, smiled and waved, improved my Croatian, ate lots of bread and cheese, got sun burnt one day and cycled through snow the next day.
My highlight in northern Croatia was the camping place we stayed at near Plitvice Lakes. As we were there that early in the year, we were the only ones sleeping in our tent, with only two other couples staying there too.
Our two evenings there we spent with Ivan, our host who among other interesting stories (e.g. bears walking through the village) had shared with us his personal experience during the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s: One morning Ivan was having breakfast in front of his house. When he went back inside to get the salt he had forgotten, a grenade exploded right on his porch…
The first week was definitely the hardest, while towards the end of the second week we climbed some mountainous roads that would have seemed impossible for me to do without pushing before.
Over one of those passes we reached the highlands around Livno, famous for its wild horses and cheese. Unfortunately we didn’t come across any horses, but we could buy the smallest portion of cheese just next to the road at 1,4kg, which fitted well with the 1kg of honey we had bought the same morning.
We also came across signs warning about old land mines in this region for the first time, which often gave us shivers cycling past.
On this stretch we frequently passed partly destroyed and abandoned settlements and often could still see bullet holes in the walls of the houses.
The body was adapting quite fast. The mind took about the same time. I was finally getting into travel mode. Relaxing and taking every day as it comes. We adapted the route as we went, according to the weather or people’s recommendations. Two snowy days in Bosnia and some very fresh nights camping were enough cold for us. So instead of heading to inland Montenegro with 2000m high passes, we opted for the seaside and the Mediterranean climate.
On the way we passed through beautiful gorges in which we had to stop often because the views were simply breathtaking.
Thanks to my friend Ralf I again got some amazing pictures of myself from this stretch:
Heading further suddenly everything was green and blooming again. I can’t count how many times we have witnessed the different seasons, from winter to spring to somewhere in-between, in those first couple of weeks. And with ever changing elevation, the seasons changed again too…
Except for a few days of rain and two days of snow (one of which was a rest day), we had been incredibly lucky with the weather so far.
On the day we reached Dubrovnik we cycled our 1000th kilometer. As a celebration we took two days off to explore the city and drank some wine we had carried all the way from home. Thank you Bea, it was delicious!
And a huge thanks to Michaela, who (from back in Austria) invited us for a delicious lunch in a restaurant a friend of hers owns in Dubrovnik!
After our rest in Dubrovnik (a touristy town, but for a reason), we continued to the next new country: Montenegro.
We cycled all the way along the Bay of Kotor to the town with the same name. We found an old fortress, small streets and lots of cats, but most excitingly: another cyclist – Pauline from France (also on an open end trip).
In the beginning we were trying to avoid hills as much as we could. Now, instead of heading to the Montenegrin coast, we were joined by Pauline on a scenic mountain road, climbing up over 1200m of elevation on 26 switchbacks just for the fun of it!
On top we crossed paths with four Belgian cyclists, one of which was also heading to Central Asia (spoiler: I met him again in Tajikistan!).
In a café a bit further we ran into two local cyclists. One of them suggested we could camp in his garden for the night.
We ended up having a great evening together with Niko and his family, and could also sleep inside while it was raining through the night.
Our last two days in the country we spent at stunning Lake Skadar, the biggest lake in southern Europe, bordering Albania. Though often under clouds, we had spectacular views getting there and cycling around.