The shape of Croatia is a lot like a chili pepper, not the southern Chinese chili peppers which are practically bell peppers, but more like the northern Chinese, long and skinny, hot and spicy, a La Jiao pepper,(so hot that you will look to the sky for respite). The stem and the seeds run through the interior of the country starting at the capital, Zagreb, moving west to the busy port city of Rijeka, and ending at the interior hub of Knin. (Knin was a stronghold for the Serbs during the Serb-Croat war, and was held in captivity for close to 5 years). Further south, is the more tasteful, seedless part of the pepper, the cities of Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik, offer a window to the ancient world in terms of architecture and history.
The weather has been unforgivable; rain, torrential winds and hail, continued to follow my path from the Plitvica lakes all the way to Split. Small patches of snow, remind me that the weather could be worse, but on several occasions my feet and hands went completely numb, and all day I awaited my warm sleeping bag. My tent has become the equivalent of a “work truck”, small leaks have gotten so bad that I now have put out my cook set during the night to collect the dripping water. The zipper on the fly has also failed, so to keep the water out I had it sewed shut in a local village, now to get in I have to crawl. It all adds to the enjoyment though of living in the wild, and I am thankful for all I have.
The sun came out during my visit to Split, and I took the opportunity to dry all my gear on the busy tourist strip. Mistaken for homeless I was quickly offered a warm meal and a few beers, more Croatian hospitality. Beautiful ancient structures, the old city was built in the 3rd century, and the majority of the citizens still drink water from original artesian well, the Jadro Spring. The Diocletian palace, built during the same period, is the hub of the old city, and offers a glimpse into Roman times.
I am now pedaling south on the Dalmatian coast on route to Dubrovnik. Each day I am offered handfuls of seasonal oranges and greeted with smiles from the local farmers. The rain continues though and I am now drinking coffee in a café while my tent sits vacant on an isolated road.