Tag Archives: croatia

Simply Happy

24 Aug 17
Heidi Kumm
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2 comments

Yesterday I made the hilly, sweaty bike ride from the Camping Kate campground in Mlini to the main bus station in Dubrovnik. In an attempt to avoid the relentless, baking heat I left camp before 7am + arrived at the bus station approximately 3.5 hours before my bus.

While I did manage to accomplish my goal of avoiding a ride in the hellish sunshine there was no skipping out on the humidity. I very gloriously arrived at the bus station dripping sweat. Literally, there was sweat dripping from the tip of my nose, from the ends of my eyelashes + all along the edge of my chin. It was disgusting. So I strapped my bike to a nearby fence + made my way to a smokey but air conditioned cafe. Oh, the things I have been willing to sacrifice for a blast of cold air. Sorry lungs…

**side note: this was written over two weeks ago as I sat at a cafe in Zagreb, then I got restless + wandered off…forgetting to finish it off, so just float back in time with me!**

Around Croatia [+ all of the Balkans?], I’ve come to expect cafes or “caffe bars” to have nothing more than beverages. You can get coffee, orange juice + a beer from the same counter, but no food. In a way, this is weird to me + my stomach hasn’t quite adjusted. My blood stream tho…it’s gotten used to the pumping caffeine sans calories.

Eventually, my body stopped producing new sweat + I hopped off to the bathroom to swap out my sweaty cycling clothes for my not-yet-too-sweaty traveling clothes. The only real difference was the current level of moisture content. My “traveling clothes” stayed quite dry until it was time to wrangle Jackalope into his bike bag for the 7-hour bus ride north to Zagreb. Practice makes perfect — I can now get him shoved away in roughly 7 minutes.

As I waited for the bus to arrive I attempted to cool myself with ice cream + iced tea. My phone attempted to speed charge on an overloaded power strip + Jackalope’s black bike bag soaked up all the sunshine outside. Ah, nomadic bike life?

At first, I felt a bit like I was tempting fate when I walked away from Jackalope, even though I was “keep an eye” on him from afar. Then I tried to move him. Ha. No one would try to steal that heap of awkward metal. Besides, if they succeeded to get away with a bike in a bag they probably deserved the bike.

Just before noon, my bus-venture started…with the realization that this bus did *not* have a bathroom on board. I had been holding out for the bus bathroom because the bus station was charging about $0.50USD to get into the restrooms. What can I say, I’m stubbornly cheap. The look on my face when the bus driver said “no toilet” must have given away the angst of my bladder as he waved me off toward the cash machine that would grant me access to a tiny restroom. Oh, Europe + your random pay-to-pee facilities.

My trip to Zagreb was relatively uneventful. So uneventful, actually, that I managed to fall asleep while listening to my audiobook…three times. Maybe Audible should add an “are you still listening” check like Netflix has. Or, maybe I should stop curling up into an awkward ball of “comfort” on buses. We’ll see which happens first.

Oh, Zagreb.

This capital city of Croatia was not even on my radar when I planned my cycling route through the country. I am forever telling myself I’m not a “city person”. Then I wander around cities like Zagreb, Zurich or Vienna only to fall in love with the hustle, bustle + beauty.

Last night I fell asleep to the rumble of thunder, flashes of lightning + constant smash of rain against the pavement. Glorious sounds, rolling through the open windows of my AirBnB room. Ah. Rain. Finally, a break in the relentless heat + humidity of the Balkans. I’ve always loved storms + this one came at the perfect time — breaking the heat wave + waiting until I had squeezed my bike into a tiny elevator before ripping the sky apart.

This morning I woke up wrapped in a blanket for the first time in weeks. Ah…the feeling of something other than sweltering heat! The smell of someone else’s breakfast lured me out of bed + into the old down streets of the cobblestone city. When I left the apartment I actually contemplated going back for a long sleeve as a chilly breeze swirled through the nearly empty city streets. A chill, what is this even?! Instead, I continued on, excited to see what this city had to offer to the world before everyone woke up.

…the only photo I took while in Croatia. hm.

As I roamed the cobblestone + brick laid streets I only saw a few people  headed off to work. Locals, residents…people who “back home me” could relate to. I came upon a big “local market” where people were setting up tables with colorful displays of flowers, fruits + vegetables. Many elderly couples were pulling trollies around to fill with produce, then prop up against a cafe table while they sipped coffees + chattered.

Eventually, I let my caffeine craving veins lead me to the Argentina Cafe. I found an empty seat, ordered up a cappuccino + pulled out a book. As the sun slowly crept over the stone buildings I sipped up foamed milk + just smiled.

I felt…happy. Simply happy.

It felt like everything was falling into place. I was in a city that made me grin. I had a bus ticket that would shuttle me back to the mountains of Switzerland, then a plane ticket back to the States. Along the way I had plans to hike mountains, climb rocks + cycling trails. Once I arrived in the States I would jump into a week full of family shenanigans before settling back into mountain living in Colorado. If I’m lucky I might even end up with gainful employment before the mountain tops are covered with snow.

Until then, I’m perfectly happy, simply happy, to roam around the mountains in my backyard with Max, float around mountain lakes in our new kayaks + drag Robb off for weekend adventures in a tent.

Life. It’s a beautiful mess.

Currently.

01 Aug 17
Heidi Kumm
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5 comments

I am currently sitting in an open air home at the kitchen table of strangers wearing nothing by my sandals. Surprisingly [or not?], it doesn’t feel weird at all. That’s probably because I’m at a “naturalist” camp in the hills of Montenegro + no one is wearing more than their sandals. I’ve never been the world’s biggest fan of clothes + the 80-90+ heat has convinced me these naturalists are onto something!

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Cycling Croatia // The Struggle Bus

29 Jul 17
Heidi Kumm
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I am a bit of a stubborn optimist, which leads me to believe in my ability to persevere even when the odds are against me. Because of this fateful personality trait, I considered this cycling trip to Croatia to be just another challenge. I haven’t ridden a bike for more than 15 miles in the last…three years? Not to mention, I knew/know little to nothing about bike touring. I went into this the quest to cycle to the coast of Croatia grossly under trained + somewhat under-prepared.

That said, many people were quick to offer up advice about what sort of misery to expect. They told horror stories of leg muscles that hurt so much sleeping is nearly impossible. The internet warned me I would be eating food like there was no tomorrow. I was mentally prepared for pain + hunger + exhaustion + misery.

I was not prepared to get knocked on my ass due to dehydration.

Hello There, Struggle Bus!

A stupid mistake, I know! It turns out when I’m super focused on not tipping over + not getting lost I completely forget to drink…or eat. This had my head pounding after a rather uneventful 20km ride on day one. I arrived at camp happy, only to have my world come crashing down around me in the next few hours. My head throbbed with every movement, my bones ached down to the marrow + my brain couldn’t form complete thoughts without incredible effort. Essentially, I was crazy dehydrated + my electrolytes were jacked.

…even a meal of just extra salty fries deserves a round of dessert, right?!

Enter liters of water, cups of slushies + extra salt on a meal of fries. I did what I could to nurse my stupid self back to health. I wasn’t completely out of my wheelhouse with this sort of misery…ultra + trail running has taught me a thing or two. That said, I was not prepared for how quickly my body gave up on me.

Later that night I headed into town to meet Sophie at the bus station. While I waited for her to arrive my world fell apart. Tears rolled down my already salty cheeks as I sat on the floor of a busy bus station near the outlet that was charging my phone. I wasn’t giving up, I just needed to melt down…momentarily. Eventually, Sophie arrived + I pulled myself back together, mostly.

The next day we lounged around on the beach, napping in the shade for hours. I chugged bottles of water like we were going into a drought + even indulged in some “cappy pulpy” peach juice on multiple occasions. This was not how I expected my cycling trip to begin. I was smarter than this, damn it!

on our test trek around the peninsula near camp…we found a ruined fortress, a nudist beach + a water slide!

With time, I recovered, for the most part. The agony left my brain + returned to my throat…where it had lodged itself the day before Robb arrived in Switzerland the week prior. apparently even my body gives up on life after three months of traveling! Silly immune system!

We forged onward…onward + upward. Upward, upward, upward. Guess what?! Croatia has hills! I knew this going in — if we did the full coast line we’d gain roughly 30,000 feet over the course of 500km. To me, that seems manageable. I have grown to love the “put your head down + push on” mentality of climbing. Sophie, on the other hand, is not a fan of hills. She cycles on the regular, but it’s around the UK…a very flat portion of the UK. Oh + the UK isn’t known for days upon days of relentless sunshine either!

A few days after my brush with “death would be easier” suffering Sophie had her chance to experience all of the terrible. We were averaging roughly 40-50km per day with 500m [1600ft] of climbing…but that wasn’t enough. Considering we’d started the trek nearly a week late [thanks to a fruitless wait on a bike part stuck in Swiss customs!] we were running out of time. If we continued onward we needed to add at least 20km per day…which came with an increase in uphill climbing.

the night we decided to hire a car…I was overly worked up about it, I know. sorry Sophalina!

This meant we would spend the next 10 days getting up earlier, riding longer + crashing harder. Honestly, this is what I came to Croatia expecting, but I didn’t come alone. As we talked it over the idea of renting a car become more + more appealing. It was a bigger expense…but we would get to see more + do more. Rather than chase kilometers down the coast on a bike, a car would allow us to head inland to chase waterfalls around the national parks.

Okay, Fine…Hi, Compromise!

A week into our cycling trip we caved + hired a car. As I ran to the rental car pick up in the Rijeka airport I was a ball of uncertainty + disappointment. This is not what I wanted! I wanted to be stronger than this + try harder than this + suffer more than this. I wasn’t prepared to give up. The anxiety was crushing as I handed over my passport, driver’s license + credit card at the rental desk. I felt like I was giving up on myself.

I drove the car back to the campground to pick up the bagged bikes + Sophie, frustrated + unhappy. Sure, the AC felt great…but I was supposed to be out on the road struggling! I’m not sure who I have to thank for this jacked view on life, but thanks? I think?

me + Sophie, after hopping into the pool below the waterfalls to cool down…because it was that hot at 10am!

Had I been on this trip solo, I’d like to think I would have persevered + cycled on. That said…I do NOT regret getting the car + I’m really glad Sophie came along for the ride. For all of the angst the car gave me, it also meant we saw a lot more of Croatia + it meant I had someone to chat with, whine with + share pasta with along the way. This would have been a completely different trip had I been on my own, but after we got off the struggle bus + began to accept what life [+ Mother Nature] was throwing at us we started to have fun again.

Because we threw money at a rental car we were able to roam below the waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes National Park + jump in the lakes at Krka National Park. The cold rush of AC slapping us in the face as we sped along the highways. We spent our extra time roaming random towns, climbing to the top of mountains + lounging on beaches just a bit longer. We even purchased real shampoo…since we no longer had to worry about its weight on the bikes!

**disclaimer: This post was written about 10 days *after* the agony of our first week of cycling…so my emotions have settled down a bit + I’m far less worked up about the details. At the time, those little details about giving up felt very earth shattering + compromise was physically agonizing…but at the end of the day it was worth it, I pinky swear. I promise you those tears in the bus station felt completely necessary in the moment! I’m also rather proud of the fact I was able to re-adjust my mindset enough to [eventually] embrace the car + all of its air conditioned glory…thank you Chloe the Clio!**

Cycling the Coast of Croatia

10 Jul 17
Heidi Kumm
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one comments

In a few hours, I’ll be hopping on a bus to Croatia. I’ll be leaving behind my life of comfort + ease in the Swiss Alps for a month of sitting in a bike saddle as I tour the coast of Croatia on a newly acquired bicycle. Everything is in order [I think] + somehow all of the details have fallen into place [hopefully]. The trip to Croatia was planned out of necessity [visa requirements + such], the idea to cycle the coast was born by insanity + the details were hammered out courtesy of many creative, enabling + determined minds.

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