Istria - boring facts.
Istria is a peninsula widely considered to be Croatian, but in fact its small fragments also belong to Italy and Slovenia. Area: over 3000km², which is 10 times less than the Masovia Province and not much less than Majorca. In addition, 330,000 people, or half more than in Radom. It is divided into white, red and gray and it is not difficult to guess which one we are currently in. The most often seen pictures are: trees, vines, hills, pubs, truffles and tourists from Poland.
The highest peak - Vojak (in the Učka park) is 1396m and from the sea level an asphalt road leads to it. Add to this the Mediterranean climate and probably we have a ready answer for:
Istria - why?
We choose Istria because it is cheap. We choose Istria for many reasons. First of all, we have recently returned from Majorca and thought of packing a suitcase with a bicycle, a trip to the airport, car rental and 17 other activities, during which many things may go wrong, we did not like it a little. We spent the last picnic on the Garda and from what I remember, I kept telling myself that "never again this far away car". So we set the key criterion: we go where it can be reached on one tank ... at least theoretically.
We wanted to Kłodzko, but it turned out that it was expensive. We wanted to go to Slovenia, but there are still roads closed in the mountains. We considered Hungary, but there is nothing there. Slovakia was too close, we visit the Tatras too often in the Bieszczady Mountains for a large crowd. It was not easy. Someone on the internet has thrown the idea that maybe Istria. I took a look at booking, I saw the price - 15 minutes later the accommodation was booked. Doubts came later, but a little later ...
In fact, it was a lie, just like Majorca was chosen only because Panda wanted to sing "Orki from Majorca" for 2 weeks, this time she wanted to sing Jozin from Bazin ... or more specifically Jozina from Pazin, because we choose this city as a cycling base.
Pazin - why?
Who has ever been with us on any trip, knows well that if we choose a city on our base, it will probably be the worst choice possible ... at least for the average person. In the case of Pazin, it is similar. Not only is this the coldest city in Istria (true story), it is also probably the only place where there is not even one pub - we have not found it for more than a week. However, the choice was not accidental and if I had to go to Istria once again (and I will not), I would probably be there again. Here's why:
Pazin is located in the very center of the peninsula and is its administrative and cultural center. I do not know on what basis this 5000 city was chosen, but its main advantages are: a slightly falling and not very impressive castle, a large hole in the ground, on the bottom of which there is a cave, Lidl and the second big food. By the way, I suspect that it was one of the more expensive Lidl in the area, looking at how much rock had to be forged to put it.
In fact, Pazin is a classic village - in places quite pretty, in places looking like an average Slovak town. Already on the first day we get in the car of the professional group Bahrain - Merida. During this week, the driver driving it in unknown goals waving us many times. Maybe he forgot to come back after Tour of Croatiawhose posters are visible in most coastal towns?
As it is not difficult to guess, the fact of Lidl's existence and the paths that spread in all directions are quite convenient for us.
I mentioned that Istria is chosen, among other things, by costs. Now hold on: for a house accommodating 6 people (comfortably 4), fully equipped, located on the outskirts of Pazin, with a very nice lady, telling us daily freebies like homemade marmalade, bakery cakes, or handmade bouquet of kitchen rags (seriously) we pay .... 246 euros for 7 nights (link to the object). This includes, of course, towel changes, bed linen, local taxes, parking behind the gate and everything a person needs. And dogs - a lot of large dogs at the entrance and 2 assigned to the house, one of them is a fetishist, because he steals shoes.
The cost goes to petrol for 2 times ~ 1250km and vignette. Austria 10 days - about 60 PLN, Czech Republic 10 days - about 70 PLN, Slovenia 7 days - about 86 PLN (so if you go for 8 days, cheaper to buy monthly for about PLN 155 ... thieves). In Croatia, the only highway through Istria is payable and being on the spot, we will be forced to negotiate it quite often, each time paying a few zlotys. Plus, the access to Pazin from the border is free (but also single-band) - the gates are, but you pay zero. Refueling, of course, is best in Poland and possibly in the Czech Republic, and then paradoxically ... in Austria, where it is 10% cheaper than in Croatia (which is slightly more expensive than Slovenia).
In Lidl, prices close to ours may be slightly higher. In pubs, Warsaw prices - a nice steak and fries are some PLN 50, a set of grilled meats in a local murder less than PLN 40, a mix of strange animals from the sea in the old town - PLN 70 for one person or PLN 150 for full grazing for two.
Sample prices in Poreč, a large city in the tourist area - 10 kuna is currently about PLN 6 (so we divide the price in half and add 10%):
[pullquote] average net salary: 4375kn [/ pullquote] lunch at a cheap restaurant: 45kn
double, 3-course dinner in a decent restaurant: 170kn
liter of milk in the shop: 5.76kn
kilogram of bananas in the store: 11kn
1.5l of water in the shop: 6.50kn
0.5l of local beer: 8kn
liter of gasoline: 9.50 kN
Traveling by car is so beautiful that the trunk can be pushed to the roof with cans and jars, to be self-sufficient for a week and oozing local shops. I do not know why exactly, but you can.
The average temperature in May is 17.5⁰C, but in April only 12.6⁰C. I give both, because the lunch usually falls between these months. Interestingly, the sea water temperature is one degree higher. The average rainfall in April and May is about 60mm (it rains on average for a week), which is slightly more than in Warsaw in these months.
During 7 days we get 2 hot days, one heavy storm afternoon and 2 cloudy days. It's good, because the forecasts left no illusions on the back of the sun. It turns out that they do not always work well, and the expected rains can be a mild rain that does not bother you. To uphold the tradition, at the top of the highest Istrian mountain, we thaw our fingers during a steep and wet downhill ride.
The main plus of the Croats is that they communicate in most civilized languages. In tourist places we will get along in English, German and Italian times. In principle, this is unnecessary, because we can speak to them in Polish as well, and they will answer us after them and everyone will understand each other as well.
Special features were not found, especially that in the May period, the Croats are in a clear minority in Croatia. Polish and German are heard more often. Just in case, we try to communicate in German. It's probably our inner Germany coming out of us. Even the kindest lady of our house, when she hears that we are from Poland, is very happy and adds that she has a family in Berlin.
Useful phrases in Croatia:
Please, give me water - Molim vas, give me a vodu
Where is the shop? - Gdje je dućan?
Why did you try to kill me? - Zašto si me pokušao ubiti?
You are a very bad driver - Ti si as loš vozač
Stupid - Glupan
Which way to civilization? - Koji put to civilizacije?
Why so expensive? - Zašto tako skupo?
Your mother - Tvoja majka
I do not like Germans too - Također mi se ne sviđaju njemački
You have beautiful ... truffles - Imate lijepe ... tartufe
There was no particular courtesy or courtesy for the Croats. It was a bit of a drudgery when flipping the car (and more precisely all the storage spaces, instead of the luggage compartment) on the Croatian-Slovenian border, but without unnecessary excesses. That's what it seems to us at least until we start to drive the streets.
I do not like to generalize. When foreign journalists ask me how to travel on a highway around Poland, I say that generally it is rather good and that sometimes you will find a fool. Such a fool is found everywhere, and it is not that there is no such thing in Italy or Spain, either.
The problem with Istria is that these fools are somehow more and the streets feel definitely less confident than in our country. If we drive along an empty street, 1.5 car wide, and somewhere in the distance a car driving in the middle of the road will appear, we can expect it to slow down a bit and get closer to the edge of the road. This assumption is fatal here. There is a good chance that such a car not only does not slow down, it will not leave the center of the road, leaving us near the side of the road with a large WTF ?! in head.
Similarly, it is on larger roads. Even if it is wide and the movement is minimal, then when we go side by side, someone will give us a shot (I would even say that most people). Fortunately, when we go alone, but not at the very edge of the road, they also break us down, so maybe it's just a greeting. I have the impression that just like in Majorca we were the privileged participants of the movement, so here we are not at all participants. We are treated more like an obstacle on the road, which should be avoided at the lowest cost. It is particularly good for trucks that run here with stones. Leaving 1.5cm of space mastered to perfection.
When it comes to bitumens, it's different. Sometimes "rather good", sometimes very good. You can see that the European Union is working and more and more broken roads are exchanged for perfectly black and equal. Because asphalts are very different here, just as with the piston on the roads. Sometimes we go for a smooth, oiled surface of the kitchen, where we pass one car for 40 minutes, sometimes we get on the asphalt or gravel road, sometimes we are constantly overtaken by a string of campers and suppliers. Generally, however, I would describe the roads as good enough for sensible riding, and their grid as sufficient for planning routes without overlapping longer sections. Our several-day cycling stay looked like this (we went the rest by car;)):
If I had to set a route for 6 days, would I put them in the same way? Definitely not and this entry is to explain why.
Where to go?
This is probably the most important question in this entry. It turns out that there are few ready-made and sensible routes. To make it even harder, some areas are so dramatically boring that I am beginning to wonder if there is a Uber who can save me and some are pre-eminent. Seriously: beautiful, empty and wonderful. If I lived in Pula or in a wonderful city like Rovinj, I would return with a much more negative opinion about Istria. In a nutshell, it looks like this:
It's bad in the south west, but the more northeast, the better. If of course you are slightly abnormal, just like us and you like hills.
You can forget about the west of the peninsula. The coast is crowded, tourists move between hotels, beaches and restaurants. It is relatively flat (though not Mazovia-flat) with few exceptions to overcome the craters (or more precisely, one in the Kanfanar area). Inland there are roads here that never end. Such through the forest, with lacerations and heights. The roads on which you are struggling, but which in no way reward them. We were there once, I decided to never go back there again. Then we went to this area again to confirm that it was wrong - yes, it still was. Fortunately, the whole coast is bad, everything compensates Rovinj, but it's a civil visit, without a bike, so more on that later.
The more to the north, the better it is, though I would not call it areas that would be worth 1250 kilometers. It is in the northwest that Istria Granfondo takes off - probably the most famous road race in the area. It is 136 kilometers with almost 1500 meters of elevation, which are reminiscent of Kashubia - just like the entire central part of the island. Both for asphalt, as well as for drivers and views. In principle, the only area of interest (for tourism) is the Motovun area. A beautiful and lofty village located on a great flatness on the hill, which can be seen even too well from the surrounding hills. In my opinion, it is between Motovun and Rijeka that the part that should interest an ambitious cyclist-explorer.
It would be a lie, of course, to say that the western and southern parts of Istria have nothing to offer. Apart from the fact that to a large extent the resorts there could be called Łeba and be full of Azoty centers, or Wodnik (with more transparent water, but pebble beaches, instead of our zlotys), you can find very nice spots. Well, if you're going with a non-Polish family, it's hard for me to imagine another option.
Tourist Novigard, for example, is a very pleasant place with cafes, port, campgrounds and everything an average tourist might want. Also impressive is the south entrance to it, where Mirna flows into the sea. We are reminded of Norway ... only those drivers who can not fully enjoy the charms. The gravel road along Mirna (the place is also accompanied by a brand new asphalt road) that leads deeper into the island is also very good.
This is similar to the town of Trget, located in the bay, which can be considered one of the best in the cycling context in the south. And not only because a climb of over 4km and 5.5% begins in it (including the beginning, over 1.5km and 8.2% - extremely heavy), and south of it leads a great road to Skitaca (4.7 km, 5.9%). Both of them give a very nice view of the sea. It is hardly surprising, the sea always looks good from a height of 300 or 400 meters - especially if you are in a level several hundred meters from it. In Trget, an additional attraction is something that looks like a small transshipment point for ships. Particularly well suited to a ship consisting mainly of rust and looking like a ruin, with a graceful name: LSS Success. It floats under the Panama flag and carries a pet.
That's where real fun begins. If it were not for the two routes we defeated in these areas, I would consider trip as a loser.
There is no other option, the first mountain mentioned here must be Vojak - the highest peak of Istria. A peak that can be seen from most of the peninsula. When we see it for the first time, not only that I can not completely estimate its height, I can not believe that someone has left the asphalt on the top of this mountain. Respect for the man who invented it. Vojak is a king among the local mountains and there is no doubt about it. There is a mandatory point here.
Vojak, ridden from Opatija, is 21.6 km with an average of 6.3%. The maximum slope on 100 meters is less than 15%. We choose a slightly less legitimate, but probably more interesting version, i.e. from the town of Icici, it gives us 21.9 km, also with an average of 6.3%, so we rise by 1381 meters, and then a few more of the shoe. It is on it almost every year that one of the stages of the Tour of Croatia ends and asphalt painted over with names, does not let us forget about it.
It is not easy, really. It is not Mortirolo, and the numbers do not suggest that going to the top requires more than patience, but the driveway can get tired. Especially that the vast majority of it leads through the forest, therefore, it is difficult to distract attention from anything other than trees and swaying up, an even and wide road. The further away, the more names and scribbles on the asphalt, and finally the desired countdown "to the line" begins. The problem is that the line and parking lot are located at an altitude of about a thousand meters - a bit lacking. A tired man, somehow does not bother him too much and he does not think about it.
At least until the moment we exit the main road, we pass the sign of a traffic ban ... and another is an exclamation under which there is information that it concerns the next ... 7km of the road. Due to the fact that the mast at the top becomes visually more and more achievable, and at the end shows a perfect panorama of the coast, time flows relatively quickly.
At the end, of course, the crowds of walkers and a few people on the MTB who have taken an alternative route here - I envy them a bit. There is also a turret that you can climb onto (or make commemorative purchases in it). From the top you can see everything: from a distance of about 1.5 km down and 5 km in the level of the coast, through the hills of central Istria, to the high peaks of 2500m.npm. If only it would not rain and the temperature drop would be around 20 degrees.
The exit to the north is a joke. The first 12.5 kilometers have an average of 9%, but the vast majority of these kilometers are seriously double-digit values. Taking into account a large number of corners, even asphalt, serious slope, and then very long and very quick straights, it was the day when, after returning home, we decided to order new tires. If you like challenges, Vojak from the Lupoglavia side is definitely to recommend - we, due to the lack of time (and fresh legs), do not decide.
It sounds good, but it's a bit different Route 66 than it is this one featured on the occasion of a visit to Vegas. It is a road that we discover by accident while traveling to Vojaka. A road that no one has recommended to us, and which is, in my opinion, the most beautiful of all in Istria. This is the equivalent (or maybe rather a substitute) Formentor in Mallorca, GC-200 in the Canaries, Ligurian coast and the state's "one" passing through Tamlpais Park in California.
Okay, let's be honest: every road going by a cliff by the sea is beautiful. Even our local, off-road near Rowy at the Baltic sea. Each of them is also completely different, although the description sounds very similar. I can not compare them with each other - whenever I find myself on such a path, it seems to me that she is the best of all.
Here is no different and this is confirmed by the number of motorcyclists passing us. We can choose the main, perfectly even and quite mobile (though in a non-cumbersome way) road and alternative winding up a little higher, which one day was degraded to the side. So we're moving the main one, then to get to the smaller one - it's a hit.
The route itself starts at the bay, which Google Mapsy does not provide. The view is impressive and reminds a bit of the landscape from Norway - the hills, though a bit lower, coming straight into the water. We are convinced that we are in Croatia, however, the huge power plant in Plomin, which is at the end of the bay. To make it more interesting, it is a coal-fired power plant with the highest structure in the country - a 340-meter chimney. It is also the 12th highest chimney in the world.
The connection of this coastal road and the entry to Vojaka is, in my opinion, the most obligatory point of cycling in Istria. Together with Lake Butoniga and roads in the north-west, they are a duo that should not be missed.
Lake like a lake, some water and a forest around. A bit like in Żywiec, but a bit not ...
The trick is that it is an artificial lake and fully fenced, which makes it impossible to approach it. The reason is simple - it supplies large parts of Istria with drinking water. The system capacity is about 1000 liters per second. The main advantage of such places is the fact that since something is closed, there are no people in them. Here is no different. Apart from a few tiny villages where we can buy wine and truffles (and nothing else), there is nothing.
We, apart from great views reminiscent of the intersection of Tuscany and Kashubia, find something for everyone. It is a narrow, very winding and extremely steep road near the lake. For example, in the direction of the town of Kašćerga. It's almost 4 kilometers with an average of 10% or 2.4 km with an average of 11.4%. Going farther, we can go through a beautifully sounding segment: Hell in Croatia full package - over 7km with an average of 6%. Given that there are some downhills, it is not difficult to imagine that this is one of those places where you pray for grip - both up and down.
For these are roads on which we do not meet anyone, and hence, stones evenly scattered across the width of the road (that is, some 2 meters) can be expected at each turn. We follow similar roads to Buzet, to which we drop by a 10-kilometer long slope with a slope of 3.5%. This is the only place on the day that you can refuel the water bottles and ice on a supermarket stick. We're going further north-east, if it was not for this store, you'd probably never see an entry on the blog again.
The north-eastern part of Istria is the area where we promised each other, to visit Slovenia one day. We are traveling along the border, starting from the aforementioned town of Buzet. On good morning, we are greeted by 14.5 kilometers of almost 5% of the driveway. A driveway whose beginning resembles the famous one long straight popradzką. It is a driveway that does not give a shadow, in which you can hide for a moment, or hope that soon it will be better - all the time we see on the horizon that the road never ends.
Our world changes when we cross the tracks of the railway line (run down the slope - # I drive) and approach the Slovenian border at hand. A moment of driving between barbed wire, which looks like made of razor blades and we find ourselves in a new, better reality ... and at the same time a bit like from Eastern European films. How else can you call a situation when narrow and empty lanes reach a village that looks like time has stopped in it somewhere at the turn of the 80's and 90's? I think that there is not enough of it to be a key location for post-nuclear films. There are more such towns along the way.
Cottages that look abandoned. The wreck of a car, which is more of rust than the right car. Dude in a tracksuit looking like he was taken out of youtubowego movie called "dancing crazy russian party". He goes out of the house with a pipe in his mouth, which is probably there already from 30 minutes and goes to the garden hose, which he pours an enamel pot carried by him, throws a suspicious look and returns to the cottage. The same thoughts appear in the head, which have often accompanied us in Slovakia - someone will take us here, eat and listen for us.
Fortunately (or maybe a disaster, because the climate of these places is unforgettable) only small fragments of the road, which can be easily described as great. We go through forests and glades, on hills, with occasional views of the mountains from one side and the hills from the other, from time to time. There is absolute silence, and due to the lack of tourists or even locals - Swiss cleanliness. We pass some more signs saying something about 18% and we get to the village of Hum, about which in a moment.
There is a problem with Istria, especially with any part of it that does not lie on the coast, and consequently, there are few tourists. There is nothing here! This is particularly noticeable on hot days. I do not know how much the case is, and how much is it actually, but several hundred kilometers traveled let us have some suspicions: there are no shops here. The ratio of restaurants (here called Konobami) to stores is about 30 to one. In most places you will find a restaurant or "shop" with wine or truffles. I guess, of course, we're looking for a restaurant like this - then they're gone. When it's 30 degrees outside, you're just going through an endless straight line with a few percent inclination, and the contents of your water bottles are counted in droplets, it's a serious problem. Accustomed to Mallorca, where the shopping and cycling infrastructure was too large, we are experiencing a shock here.
There are several dozen kilometer sections of trails, during which we do not pass any place where you can buy anything to drink (which is not wine). You can also forget about coffee-stops. We are left either to visit the coast or to plan a route to go through one of several major cities.
It is also worth focusing on smaller towns, because it is in them that we find the truest climate of Istria. The one that we will not experience in the Canaries or Majorca. Delicate poverty and lightly flowing, historic buildings mixed up with a history dating back to very distant times. Us, as tourists mainstreamit does not cease to amaze that in almost none of them the store's institution has yet been invented. Driving through the buildings, we can not get rid of the impression that in a moment we enter someone into a large room, or at least we land in his garden. Streets are very narrow, there are no people, there is silence but only the sound of animals.
Among the villages there is a lot of pearls, both known and less known as Gračišće or Pićan. When it comes to the goals of mass tourist trips, we can distinguish 3 spots:
The most obvious cycling destination, as it leads to it nearly 3.5km uphill with an average slope of 7.3%. However, it passes quickly, because the city is located in a perfect place - right next to the plains located only a dozen or so meters above sea level. We are rewarded with the panoramic landscape of central Istria and a bit crowded but beautifully preserved town with a rich history reaching the Celts. The best known, however, is the international film festival, which none of us associates.
This is the most surprising point on our list. Rovinj is one of the most recommended obligatory points in Istria. I always approach such places with a distance. Here, at first, it is no different: the first visit ends quickly: it is difficult to say how much wine is a food poisoning, and how much Sunday evening, in which the number of people per square meter is growing many times. The second visit, however, brings much better feelings. With heartache I admit that it is probably one of the prettiest towns I have ever seen. History dates back to the 7th century BC. Originally built on the island, it was only in the middle of the 18th century that it was connected to the mainland.
The city is a small Venice - even the towering tower above it is modeled on the one at the Basilica of St. A brand in Venice. I would even say that it is like in Italy, only better. So here we have narrow streets, squares, old buildings, a cathedral, a bay, a small port, a lot of restaurants with sea food and an exceptionally long swimming belt separated in the sea.
The worst thing about all this is that, like most other similar places in the world, there are many stalls and souvenir shops here. We can stock up on a standard set of Croatian ranging from oil, wine, truffle and crap mass ... which, as it turns out, is not a bad thing at all. These are really cool (and not necessarily cheap) things that small galleries would not be ashamed of. Maybe we've turned in the direction massor maybe they were actually pretty - it's hard to say. I can imagine that we would be able to even buy something as a souvenir from the city. Fortunately, this is not happening, and instead, we bring the mentioned martens back to Poland.
It is the smallest town in the world with a population of around 20. At least that's what the Guinness Book of Records says. I will not hide, on the one hand it is a light profession, on the other: what to expect from the smallest city in the world except that it is small? We feel a bit like after receiving an interesting link from a friend, after clicking on that, a known and well-liked hit opens "Never Gonna Give You Up".
We are standing in the middle of a town that looks like dozens of others (it also does not seem to be smaller than most of them) and we wonder what to do next. The town is betrayed only by a paid car park located at the entrance and buses that transport German trips, which slowly, in a retiring step, move along the usual path, slowing down at nothing distinctive points. They give the impression of wondering why this is not theirs.
Is it worth it?
One cyclist will say it's worth it, another one is not worth it. It took us a bit to discuss, or to give Istria a recommendation, and eventually we did not find a common opinion. Panda says she would recommend it and that at times it was nicer than in Majorca.
I'm so sure I would not be. Yes, it was nicer, but we are talking about a distant place, however, by 1,250 km. In the similar surroundings of Warsaw there is a lot of better places, and a little further, much better (Garda). The main advantage of Istria is the weather and here it wins with the competition. This is probably the closest of the "warm" spots. Well, costs are also a plus. If you plan a short budget trip in early spring, you've come to the right place. If you are looking for something created for cyclists, with epic views, with known climbs, allowing you to snap your fives, which your friends will be jealous of - rather, take a different direction. One thing is certain: I do not plan to go back to Istria, but I absolutely do not regret this trip.
What is the most characteristic in Istria is green. The color that we miss during most winter trips in search of heat. The greenery we've seen so well for the last time probably during a visit to the Azores. Turning to the next Croatian kilometers, it did not look so much in the eye, maybe it has some time to dress up, but we experience a shock when we return to Warsaw, which now looks like a concrete desert ...