Panniers of Holiday Jam

City lights across the Mediterranean

City lights across the Mediterranean

I find my mind drifting and wandering to the far corners of the globe, and feel the insuperable urge to continue down the vast road. Staying in one place, a small island of about 400 square km, has proven quite challenging. Spending my days wandering about, and cycling familiar roads does not conduct the same current in veins. I have acquired a few acquaintances, and have ridden long single track to remote villages. I continue to be greeted with praise, and am often offered cheese, bread, Rakija and dried figs from the island. am frequently told the same Croatia proverb, that in order to see and travel the world one must wait for “the wind to pick the vegetables from ones garden, and blow the olives from tree”… But if “one has no garden and no trees then there is no need to wait”.

Sunset beach lounging

Sunset beach lounging

“the only wait is for the sun to greet me each day”

Icy waters near forested shores

Icy waters near forested shores

I have become quite popular in the weekly community yoga classes and the attendance has grown to around 15. I have been asked repeatedly to teach and Monday will be my first Croatia yoga class. Many students think that because I am so flexible I have some sort of “secret” practice that if taught to them, will enable them too to grab their heels in a forward bend.

Lots of dirt roads waiting to be explored

Lots of quiet roads to be explored

Keeping strong in my days off the road, I have filled my panniers full of festive Croatia Jam, which is made all over the island. Each pannier can fit close to 5 litters of the sweet topping, and it makes for a good snack at the top of the steep hills.
Omisalj is decorated in Christmas lights, and the local church choir have started practicing in the evenings. I have started to learn Croatian baking and will soon be a master at making “burek” and apple strudel.

Old ruins, waiting to be excavated

Old ruins, waiting to be excavated

Winter Dilemma

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Winter plans? It has gotten pretty cold in the last week, and for several days all transportation to and from the island was stopped due to the “Bura” ( north-east mountain winds). On one particularly windy day a large tree in the center fell on the super market and all food shopping was suspended for three days. The winds have gotten up to 240 km/hr!

 

Hanging out in a windstorm in the center of town. This is what it is like on a busy day here

Hanging out in a windstorm in the center of town. This is what it is like on a busy day here

 

I have become good friends with my hosts (Nino and Ljbinka). They call me “Bojidar”, blessed boy, because I share the same December birthdate as the prophet. No longer in America, I now introduce myself as “Bojidar”, and have become quite popular in the rarely frequented Zen yoga classes. Since the end of the Serb-Croat war Croatia has become extremely Catholic and in many small cities it is considered taboo to practice yoga. Here on Krk there are only a few people willing to go against the church and most of the classes are empty.

Ljubinka, Nino and Marko my Croatian family

Ljubinka, Nino and Marko. My Croatian family

I am really enjoying staying in Omisalj. The town is small and people leave their bikes and their personal property unlocked and out in the open. When it rains people frantically run around gathering their laundry off the lines and stuffing all their possessions in their tiny apartments. . I see the same people walk the streets everyday, and I am always greeted with the same genuine smile.

View from the highest point of the Omisalj

View from the highest point of on Omisalj

My hosts have a second home, used for rentals and retreats, about 20 km south of Omisalj. They often make trips to the house and I am always invited to lend a hand in preparing things for winter. The house is completely off the grid, and was built from the rocks of an ancient cow barn. The impressive structure incorporates  two rain catch basins, 4 solar panels, compostable toilets, an organic garden and a cow powered grain mill! For extended relaxation there is even a solar-powered Jacuzzi. Nino built the house himself mixing several tons of concrete and building each wall out of hundreds native rocks.

Stone retreat house with two water catch basins

Stone retreat house with two rain catch basins, solar panels and a compostable toilet

Meditation loft inside

Meditation loft and dining room

Fireplace stove and oven

Fireplace stove and oven

An ancient grain mill

An ancient grain mill

I have been invited to stay the winter here in Omisalj and I am considering accepting the offer. The island, although windy and cold is extremely beautiful. With several neighboring islands easily accessible by ferry, and many ancient ruins of Roman temples, I think I can keep myself occupied till early January.

Regardless of how cold it gets the beaches are still beautiful, this is one of my favorite hangouts on clear days

Regardless of how cold it gets the beaches are still beautiful, this is one of my favorite hangouts on clear days

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAI am planning a winter de-tour adventure, and will explain in further details once I secure transport. Hint: “The Holy lands”. I am plan to be gone for the entire month of February, and with the next few weeks off I can start thinking about visas and the trip across Central Asia. Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are deserts and will be extremely hot in the summer months, while Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will be covered in snow until June or July. The visa situation is also be rather problematic in that several countries only issue them when applied in one’s home country. Meaning that when I enter Turkey I will have to send my passport to Washington DC, and hope that I can get all my visas by the time I exit and enter Georgia.

Silhouette of Omisalj

Silhouette of Omisalj

I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving!

Descending to the Mediterranean

Deserted island beaches of Krk, Croatia

Deserted island beaches of Krk, Croatia

I left Fuzine with a new sense of mind and spirit. My perceptions felt enhanced and I climbed the last pass out of the alps with ease. Colors, smells, sounds, tastes flooded my perspiring body… I am ready to receive the grace of nature and let me find a respite in my quest. The top of the pass yielded a beautiful view of the northern Croatian Coast. I am in a very interesting place; Slovenia is less than 100 km north and Italy is a short ferry ride across the sea.

Decent into the Mediterranean

Decent into the Mediterranean

Fresh bear tracks, Croatian Alps

Fresh bear tracks, Croatian Alps

I have not seen the ocean since Riga, and slowly descending the steep roads I could smell the sea. Temperatures rose and soon I was cycling in sandals, shorts and a tee-shirt. My plan was to avoid the huge coastal city of Rijeka and head toward the island of Krk. A long bridge took me from the Croatian mainland to the largest island in the Adriatic.

I can only image what cycling this bridge is like during a strong wind storm

I can only image what cycling this bridge is like during a strong wind storm

Difference in culture between Croatia and Serbia is apparent when looking at the currency. Top is Croatian Kuna

Difference in culture between Croatia and Serbia is apparent when looking at the currency. Top is Croatian Kuna

The interior of the island had a very similar environment to the Tenaja/De Luz mountains near my home town. Sumac, sage and olive trees grew throughout the interior, and after climbing a small pass I entered the city of Krk. Almost completely deserted, the island is a huge Summer attraction but during the off-season most businesses close or have shortened hours. The island was part of Italy before the second world war and the older generation speaks a crossed Croatian-Italian dialect. Camping, I easily had an entire beach to myself. Following the beach outside of the main town I found a deserted cove and pitched my tent less than a meter from the calm sea. Ice cream can last 5 hours outside the freezer, I had just purchased a small tin for dessert when I befriend a Slovakian business man who invited me to drinks at a nearby bar.

City of Krk at night

City of Krk at night

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The water is cold, but swimmable. The high salt content makes for a good float and my only company that evening and following morning were the fisher man working small boats off the coast. The Croats share a similar feeling to the cold as do the Chinese. While leaving Fuzine a stranger told me “When I look at you, I am cold”, while cycling on the relatively warm Krk I passed a cyclist riding in a Everest summiting jacket! It is no wonder that the beaches are deserted, as the water is probably only a few degrees above freezing to most people.

Pile of olives awaiting the transformation into oil

Pile of olives awaiting the transformation into oil

Leaving the city of Krk, I cycled to an abandoned campground for an evening of meditation. On my out of the city I encountered many people picking olives, and after lending a hand I was invited for a quick tour of an oil mill. 4-8 kg of olives make 1 litter of extra virgin oil.

Olives are cleaned, mashed then centrifuged

Olives are cleaned, mashed then centrifuged

 

These guys even filled growlers!

These guys even filled growlers!

Sleeping in an abandoned camp ground is a bit creepy, it kind of had a Friday the 13th feel. The evening was overcast but a full moon pushed its way through the clouds and once again I had a completely deserted beach.

Old city Krk

Old city Krk

A tropical storm has moved in and it is pouring today. I left the abandoned campground this morning and headed to the more touristic city of Baska. With the rain, Baska feels more deserted, but the city is known for its beaches, it should not be hard for me to claim one for myself tonight. I am warned that the “Bura” (wind from the Croatian Alps) is forecasted in the next few days. On bad days Bura can make the bridge too dangerous to cross, and to avoid an extended stay on the island I will depart by Thursday.

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Latitude 45

Looking forward to some oatmeal and banana mash. Bananas and Dalmatian tangerines are the cheap crop on the island but all other produce comes to the island on trucks paying heavy transport duties. It is good to take a temporary break from cabbage. At the retreat in Fuzine there was one particular meal that got my stomach working overtime. The meal consisted of; Cabbage lasagna, tofu stuffed cabbage rolls, and a raw cabbage salad. There was also a raw onion, sprouted bean garnish. Not a good idea before 6 hours of meditation!

Since the retreat I love wooden grain

Still following the grain

Anyhow, will be heading back to the Croatian mainland tomorrow or the next day depending on weather. I have a few ne contacts thanks to some new friends from the retreat, and I am looking forward to cycling the fertile Dalmatian coast south of here.