Triplogue - Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia- Herzegovina

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Making an offering to the BVM in Zagreb

Sleepy Slovenia

12 September, Zagreb, Croatia to Hrastnik/Ljubljana, Slovenia, 102 km (f)

"Zagreb rocks," Andy kept saying. He was overwhelmed by how active the streets of this obvious capital were. Neither of us had ever been in a city where public spaces were so used. Every bench occupied, every square inch of sidewalk stepped upon, each tram full and every café alive. I had the sense that no one wanted to or could go home so they just stayed out all the time.

Unfortunately the streets "rocked" with cars on our way out of town. We wove through the town looking for a quiet way out and found none. Our route to Ljubljana began on a four lane agouti highway avoiding ruts and cars while fearing for our lives. After about 25km of nail biting while riding we made it to the countryside. As we did Andy’s rear tire blew out just in front of the only Eastern European polo field we’ve come across. Lucky in some small way, we had been on the wrong road and only realized that we were headed the long way to Ljubljana when we stopped.

The border of Croatia and Slovenia was a bit of a worry. The soldier on the Croatian side was not able to speak in English so he let us pass, but the Slovenian border guard was a little more articulate.

"This border crossing is reserved for Croatians and Slovenians only." Our faces dropped as we considered the 40 or 50km of backtracking we’d have to do to get to the border he suggested in lieu of this one. We looked at one another sadly and began to speak as though the border guard wasn’t there. "What a shame it comes to this after ten thousand kilometers," I said. "Yeah, I was looking forward to seeing Ljubljana," Andy retorted, "guess we’ll have to just backtrack and take the train to Rijeka and skip Slovenia altogether." That last comment effected the guard’s national pride. "Go ahead," he said reluctantly and handed us our passports. I grabbed them and we pedaled as fast as we could before he could change his mind.

The afternoon experience was wholly different than the morning. A quiet road took us through our favorite type of terrain, a valley. The only downsides were that it was up the valley and against the wind. Speaking of winded, Andy was from the start and had trouble finding the energy to push on. He managed, the scenery inspiring him. This valley was as lovely as the one a few days before in Slovakia, the only difference today is that the weather was clear and hot, rendering the views spectacular. Getting Slovenian agoutis proved to be a challenge; the local flavor of cash-o-matics choked on our cards so we exchanged some American agoutis.

The drivers here seem nearly as bad as the Poles. They go too fast and pass too closely. However, most appear to have some idea how big their car is unlike their northern counterparts. Our last bit of road was to be on the main highway and neither of us were up to dodging vehicles for the last K’s so we decided to train into Ljubljana. At the train station we were swarmed by curious Slovenian kids out in the country for a hike with their school.

A walk about Ljubljana at sunset revealed a decidedly different town from the one I remembered from my travels. The dilapidated old town streets had been treated to new cobbles, spruced-up store fronts and yuppified clientele. Riverfront trottoirs had lost their bohemian atmosphere and now look like a new land at a theme park. Despite the civilized trappings of the new Ljubljana, there wasn’t hide nor hair of a cash machine that liked any one of our cards, making currency the drama du jour. A hotel clerk took us on a bank-o-mat tour of Ljubljana in hopes of ferreting out Slovene agoutis to no avail. We finally settled on exchanging some Croat cash and hit the town. A few beers and a light meal later we were back in our room writing about our day.

15 September, Split to Trogir and back, 91km (a)

I had to step through a puddle of elephant piss to get to my bike. The sun hadn’t risen yet and my brain was still clouded with dreams of sword swallowers and bearded ladies. The gray sky became lighter as we pedaled aimlessly through the deserted hills around Split. It took a long time to find our way to the center of town, which turned out to be only a couple hundred flat meters from where we had disembarked. Still, I suppose taking the ferry was a whole lot easier than riding all the way down the Dalmatian coast. From Ljubljana we chose the train option once again, both of us realizing that we needed a vacation from our vacation. The train took us over the mountains and through the rain to the nasty port town of Rijeka, where we headed straight to the ferry terminal.

From the bar deck of the venerable Marco Polo –an apparent cast-off from the Viking Line of Scandinavia—we watched a circus load onto the ship. Lots of beat-up trucks with huge words in Italian plastered all over them, being directed by dwarves and various circus types. When the ship finally pulled out, we recognized a tall and glamorous-looking Australian woman from our hotel in Zagreb. Iva explained that she was born of Croatian parents in Australia, and now lives in London. Traveling with her were boyfriend Neil and five other Australian expatriates from London. All seven of them were young and fresh-faced and excited to be on their way to Dubrovnik, the first stop on a two-week tour. They quizzed us extensively on our own trip before the rather sullen and contentious Neil launched into a diatribe about the virtues of land mines. All the others started laying into him, biting at his bait, and I took this as my cue to head back down to the cabin to join Fred. I wonder how they’re faring now, and feel a special empathy for Iva, who has cast herself in the role of tourguide/interpreter, which can’t be altogether relaxing.

In any case, relaxation was and is our goal in this part of the world. It’s very satisfying to know that we have nearly a week to get to our next boat in Dubrovnik, only 200 kilometers away.

Split looked and felt different from anything we had seen from the instant we pedaled off the boat into the murk. It felt balmy even in the wee hours, and the sight of palm trees and agave delighted me, even though we had cheated to get here. We also noticed a distinct change in attitude and pace. People seemed warmer and looser, more Mediterranean in demeanor. From the only open café terrace in town, we watched the town come alive as we listened to the rain patter on the umbrellas above our heads. For once we had no set program or goal for the day, and the rain made us decide to stay in Split. Finding a place to stay proved no problem, since women kept coming up to us saying, "Sobe?" –which I quickly deduced to signify "room" in Croatian. The first two shook their heads when we indicated the bikes, but the third –a rather unkempt and decrepit old lady with facial hair and a limp—said her place was big and right around the corner. She led me through a huge gate leading into the atmospheric old town –once the palace of Roman emperor Diocletian—and up a stairs into her dingy abode. The room she proposed was large and built right into the palace walls, with a great view of the harbor. Before making a hasty decision, I went on a walk to check out our options and stumbled upon the Hotel Bellevue, where we landed not only a great place to stash our bikes (the hotel’s laundry) but also one of the larger suites I’ve ever seen. It contains a kitchen, a dining room/office, a living room/bedroom plus a second bedroom. There’s even a separate room holding the bidet. The many windows look out onto the port, the islands beyond, and a beautiful old Venetian-style square. We could be happy staying here for weeks.

After settling in, Fred and I went exploring the old town, which was more happening now that it was past seven a.m. on a Sunday. Mass was being performed in the cathedral that was once Diocletian’s mausoleum, so we climbed up a rickety metal stairway to the top of the campanile. Luckily the bells didn’t ring on our way up, and the view from the top made me want to call my family and tell them I was moving to Split. It’s an incredible place. Firstly, there’s the dramatic setting on a turquoise bay, framed by rocky mountains and tree-covered islands. Then there’s the huge Roman palace that constitutes the center of town, an inhabited ruin of ancient columns and hanging laundry, surrounded by a warren of little streets and plazas left by the Venetians when they ran the place. It’s tourist heaven, only without the tourists. Most outsiders are still put off by the war, it seems.

After a long walk through the underground foundations of the palace and around its walls, we ate our lunch on a covered terrace surrounded by animated locals in their Sunday best. As we munched our spaghetti and salads, the drizzle evolved into a downpour, providing a perfect excuse to take a long nap before subjecting ourselves to some truly bad Hollywood output ("Batman and Robin", which, incidentally, the Croats loved).

This morning we thought we’d go to a beach listed in the Spartacus Guide, thirty-some kilometers up the coast. We took the long way out of town, around the huge wooded peninsula that serves as Split’s Central Park. A car-free road used principally by joggers and roller-bladers snakes along the coastline through groves of juniper and cypress, providing stunning views of the beaches and turquoise water below. The whole effect was shattered, however, when this sublime thoroughfare dumped us without warning onto the main road out of town. All my theories of the laid-back nature of the Dalmatian people evaporated in an instant. These people are terrors when they’re operating motorized vehicles. A solid line of cars and trucks honked at us angrily before speeding by us only a hair’s breadth away, making their tires squeak in the process whenever possible. Knowing that we’d have to come back the same way made it all the more nerve-racking.

A slightly calmer road led us through the industrial suburbs and then a string of villages along the coast. The stiff wind at our backs blew us all the way to Trogir, where we decided to have a look around. It’s an old walled town, very Venetian-looking with its narrow labyrinthine streets punctuated by little squares, and jammed with tourists. I wondered if a cruise ship was docked in the port, and Fred seemed to read my mind when he suggested a picnic lunch on the beach.

Our guide book had listed it as a gay nudist beach, but it looked more like a watering hole for rhinoceroses. Old Italian and Croat hetero couples, their skin hanging off them in folds, sprawled along the pebbly beach or floated loglike in the water. We chose a spot a little further on, a concrete slab poured over some rocks. I stripped the moment we got there and stepped into the rough water, figuring a pre-lunch paddle would be refreshing. Feeling a sharp pain in my foot, I pulled it right back out. I didn’t need to look at it to learn that I’d stepped on an urchin. After a futile attempt at removing some of the spines, I lunched and dozed until the desire to swim drove us back to the rhino hole, where we splashed around, played backgammon and tried our hardest not to look at our neighbors.

The ride back was against the wind. This plus our familiarity with the route made the trip seem longer than it was. Coming back into town was predictably nightmarish, so we treated ourselves to another ride along the car-free peninsular, now infested with Dalmatian yuppie joggers. The sea glittered in the setting sun and I felt like I was on vacation again for the first time in what seems like a long while.

While pedaling hadn’t been particularly painful, walking the short block to dinner was excruciating. On our way back we stopped in a market to get some white vinegar. Fred says he remembers it from a first aid class he took in sixth grade as the remedy for urchin spines. Hopefully he remembers correctly; otherwise I’d feel pretty stupid soaking my foot in a bag full of vinegar here, my toes smelling like a salad.

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The side of Split they don't show in the tourist brochures

Pickled Broan's foot

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Antonio helps us hydrate

Dramatic Dalmatia

17 September, Split to Makarska, 68km (f)

Andy left his heart and the urchin spines in Split. The evening before we left he went to a "pediker" (foot specialist) to have his pickled foot treated. Biting on a towel he sat back while the twenty-or-so black needles were removed. On our last night a nearly total eclipse of the full moon cast an eerie red glow upon the old city. Most of the locals didn’t even notice because they were fascinated by the World Cup Finals. Before we left we found from a local homo that there was no gay life as we know it in Croatia. "There could be no gay bar in Croatia," said the Dalmatian. Not surprising when you consider that the Croats can’t even tolerate their brethren who are ethnically identical but have a different religion. It does seem odd when you consider that the average Croatian seems pretty laid-back. On our last day at breakfast we joked about how funny it would be to have sex with a local just to be able to tell everyone we’d "done it with a Dalmatian" and watch their subsequent facial expression.

Remarkably Andy navigated us out of town on an extra quiet route. The only downsides were that we had to walk the bikes a bit on a footpath and the formidable ascent we had to make to finally rejoin the main road. On the main road we decided we’d come upon the absolute worst drivers of the trip. Driving too close to us, speeding by all coupled with a honk just as they are about to pass win them the title.

We opted to suffer the high road along the coast to escape the drivers after a beachside lunch/swim/nap triathlon by the mesmerizingly blue and clear Adriatic. Even on the high road the few drivers there were managed to get close to us on the nearly vacant road. They still honked as though we couldn’t hear their cars straining to make the grade. Cypress tree smells filled the air. Frequently the fresh tree smells were eclipsed by the smell of forest fires present and past. From high above the water we watched a tanker plane fight a fire. It made great circles in the air and through the water. First dipping into the sea to pick up its cargo and then dumping it on the hillside.

Perplexed by the discrepancies between our map, roadsigns and terrain, we sought counsel from a dude and his family building a new residence. Antonio took a break from his labors to invite us for a beverage. A concentrated juice made from sugar and flowers was brought out with some cold water and served. Andy nearly drank the undiluted concentrate but was saved by Antonio. An electronic engineer by trade, Antonio claimed that the fires were started by bad power lines. We viewed his opinion circumspectly having seen more unextinguished cigarettes thrown from cars than we care to mention. Adriatic Croats have no problem throwing butts or anything else along the road. I haven’t seen some much debris on the shoulder since the southern United States. Everything went over the side from ice cream wrappers to old cars. We started counting discarded washing machines at some point to pass the time.

Even with the trash I was completely floored by the physical beauty of this region. I remember thinking to myself that this place is probably more beautiful than the coast of California. Certainly it is less spoiled by the population’s crimes against it. We paused to ogle the blue water and staggering views after a white knuckle descent to the main highway. We had a new BikeBrats snack consisting of ˝ liter of beer and four scoops of ice cream. The beer made for a hazy entry into Makarska. By the bay in Makarska we stopped at the tourist office where a room in a private house was arranged. The clerk’s prepubescent daughter was assigned the task of leading us to our accommodation and did so very reluctantly. We pushed our bikes after her up the steepest hills of the day, leaving us out of breath and dripping with sweat when we reached Maria’s house.

There we were welcomed by her warm smile and a glass of deadly resin-impregnated white wine that left both of us woozy. We somehow staggered into town for dinner where I treated myself to the biggest meatiest meal I could find – the Gypsy Brochette. Sausage, lamb, veal and bacon came drowned in roasted onions, tomatoes and potatoes. Somehow we made it back up to our room and rolled into bed, drowned in the light of the moon.

18 September, Makarska, Croatia to Medugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, 76km (a)

Our hostess Maria told us that the road to Medjugorje would be easy and flat, but by nine this morning we were 600 meters up the side of a massive rock, sweat dripping off our bodies. I guess spending your whole life on a steep hill can makes "flat" a relative concept. The view of the azure sea directly below us was exhilarating, and would have been more so had we had any food in our bellies. Breakfast was not part of the package offered by Maria, though I did manage to beg some coffee out of her. We drank it while she slurped down yogurt and cereal. Fred, unable to function before his morning meal, looked at her with frank envy. Not feeling up to braving the hill down into town, we figured we’d stop at the first place along the way –a near fatal mistake.

When we finally rolled into Ivan’s café and goatisserie in the middle of nowhere, high up in the mountains which divide Croatia and Bosnia, we were ready to kill for food. The innkeeper made us sandwiches, which we scarfed down as we watched a man pull a skewered goat our of his car and hand it to Ivan to put in on the spit of his open-air oven. The shiny mass of red tendons and eyeballs looked tasty enough to eat raw.

A little further on we stocked up on more food. It was the last town before the Bosnian border and Fred was afraid we wouldn’t find anything to eat in the war-torn country we were about to enter. His hoarding instinct kicked in, and soon we were weighted down with enough fruit, water, and chocolate to be mistaken for an envoy of the Red Cross.

The operations at the Bosnian border are an exercise in cynicism, since Croats run the show. A guy with a gun and a uniform briefly looks at your passport and lets you by. There is no Bosnian side to the border, no "Welcome to Bosnia" sign, no real indication that you’ve left Croatia –which is of course precisely how the land-hungry Croats want it.

Nevertheless, we did notice some differences. Firstly we felt an increased presence of IFOR and SFOR (which stupidly stands for "Stabilization FORce", I later learned from an American who worked for them). At one point I nearly fell off my bike from the shock of seeing a trio of tanks cruise down the road towards us. Like all the other traffic, the tanks were traveling at far too high a speed to be considered safe. Diesel-driven Mercedes skimmed our panniers, laying into their horns as they passed us. Buses hurtled towards Mostar and cement trucks announced Armageddon. Bosnians easily surpass their Croat brethren in the bad driving category. They made the last few kilometers into Medugorje interminable. I decided that making it there in one piece would qualify as a miracle.

The possibility of a miracle is, after all, the reason pilgrims flock to Medugorje, a little village not far from Mostar. I had heard about the place from Peter in Copenhagen, who recently made a documentary on Medugorje for Danish television. In 1981 six local youngsters reported having visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary (or BVM –an acronym we got from the Zagreb Historical Museum) on a daily or near-daily basis, usually just before dinnertime. Some of these "visionaries" hold private audiences (for a fee, of course) or lead groups of pilgrims up to a hill outside of town where the first visions occurred. Neither of these activities figured into our plans, however. I thought we’d have lunch, check out the church and the scene in general, and then get the hell out and head 50 kilometers south to Neum, the only town on the minuscule Bosnian coast. It was blisteringly hot and I longed for another swim.

Fred convinced me to change my mind on the day’s itinerary. He said he was too tired to pedal and thought Medugorje might be worth spending a night. Initially reluctant to spend so much as a penny in such a place, I finally capitulated. We ate in a place called Kathy’s Katholic Kitchen or some such nonsense, run by an Irish girl (guess what her name is) and patronized chiefly by her Mary-mad compatriots. I quizzed her about the visionaries and she told me that the BVM normally appears to them at their homes at a predetermined moment, during which a silent vigil is observed by mass-goers in the church. It sounded pretty bogus to me, but I withheld the opinion, preferring not to have my sandwich poisoned.

We checked into the Pax Hotel, an ugly concrete structure identical to every other building in this boomtown of religious tourism. Gracing the walls were works of uninspired Katholic Kitsch; the receptionist quoted a rate in German marks. As far as we could tell, all the other guests were French, Italian and …American. They all seemed to be devout elderly folks on package tours, and I wonder if anyone warned them that they had booked a trip to Bosnia. I suppose miracles know no boundaries.

A sunset walk gave us an idea of the scale of the tourist industry in once-tiny Medugorje. Haphazard construction spread out in every direction, presumably for more hotels, more restaurants, more souvenir shops. Shiny new taxis and busloads of pilgrims clogged the narrow lane that comprises the town’s only real thoroughfare. Behind the new church (we never did find the old one, nor the original village for that matter) some sort of prayer meeting was underway under a canopied structure reminiscent of a big top, and the countless rows of empty benches on the perimeter of this showed us that Medugorje is equipped to handle even more mass-going masses. On another side of the church priests loitered around under signs indicating their linguistic capabilities, waiting to take confession or to perform layings on of hands upon invalids. Most of the Americans we came across were buried in the gift shops, pricing useless objects sporting images of the BVM and wondering aloud which rosary would be appropriate for cousin Eileen back in Baltimore.

As the bells began to toll, more and more pilgrims flocked towards the church. The time had apparently come for the special evening mass-plus-silent-visionary-vigil. We took this as our cue to position ourselves in a deserted pizzeria directly across from the church. Munching hungrily and noting the rapid onset of dusk, I asked myself if the BVM observes daylight savings time in her apparitions. Does she always show up at precisely the same time of day? Our waiter and his colleagues appeared distinctly unimpressed by the miraculous moment, and I asked him if he was a believer. He pretended not to understand.

I asked the same question of the trendy-looking girl who sold us one of the cheesier postcard albums I’ve ever seen. It took a while for my message to get through, but she nodded her head: "Of course I believe." We got the same response from the girl who sold Fred a BVM tee shirt. We tried to bargain her down, asking for a nonbeliever’s discount, which caused her to feign shock and jokingly ask for double the price. I guess it’s never a good idea to bite the hand that feeds you. While the BVM apparitions remain open to skepticism (not even the Vatican has authenticated them yet), the economic miracle in Medugorje is indisputable.

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"I can't believe we biked this high"

Goatisserie, mmmm!

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Bosnian Bog

View of Neum, the Bosnian Riviera

19 September, Medugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina to Dubrovnik, Croatia, 136 km (f)

I didn’t dream about the BVM this night; instead I had a strange one that involved a tiger chasing Andy and me on our bikes. Somehow I managed to have a great night’s sleep despite the very loud and late arrival of 34 American Catholics from Indianapolis. We were a little disappointed that none of them were with us at breakfast at the crack of dawn. Andy had been especially keen on quizzing them on the subject of their trip to Bosnia. We ran into a couple as we checked out of the Hotel and loaded the bikes. Harold and his wife wanted to "check things out." Harold indicated that he was a skeptic so I quizzed him to clarify his comment. Less than diplomatically I queried, "So you think that all of this is a hoax?" I watched Andy cringe across the parking lot, he only heard that question and thought I began the conversation that way. Harold answered, "no, I mean that it just seems that you shouldn’t have to cross the oceans to find such a thing, perhaps you should look in your own backyard…."

We made an early start, exiting the splendor of Medugorje by eight. Even at this hour the sun was already hot. Within a few kilometers we passed the SFOR (the international peacekeeping force) outpost. I stopped to take a photo of the enclave, but was prohibited from doing so. The Spanish sentry didn’t speak English but did speak "no" and had the hardware to enforce his wishes. Even without a photo it is pretty easy to imagine: think of a million miles of razor wire, hundreds of dudes with big guns and more tanks and armored personnel carriers than you can wave a rosary at. The encampment was very intimidating, even for the Bosnian drivers. They seemed to take a break from their normal irresponsible driving to slow down and drive carefully in front of the place. (I learned why everyone seemed especially nervous on this day only after reaching Dubrovnik. A bomb went off in front of the Croatian controlled police station in Mostar the night before, only 15 kilometers from where we were, injuring over 50 people.)

Riding through a broad and wide river valley we passed back into Croatia thanking the BVM that some nutty Bosnian driver didn’t run us over. Trying to find the small road to Dubrovnik we sought council from a pump jockey at a gas station. Though the jack-o-lantern toothed dude was convinced we should take the busy highway, Andy got him to relent and tell us how to find the small road. A good thing too. Just a few kilometers down the pike a roadworks project blocked passage for cars and we had the road to ourselves until lunch. We even had our very own border crossing where three friendly (not) Croats sent us back into Bosnia.

A steep ascent greeted us there. We re-climbed the coastal mountains entering back into Dalmatia. For the next several kilometers we climbed a grade that ranged from 9 to12%. Tough, but it afforded us a great perspective of where we’d been earlier this day.

Reaching the top we revisited the familiar coastal landscape. A quick lunch of risotto and salad and we were on our way. Andy was decidedly energy free; the climb "did him in" he admitted later.

Our coastal path treated us to yet another afternoon of sweeping views of the ocean and steep hillsides along the shore. Ancient abandoned terraced plots ran patchwork down the inclines where olive and cypress trees grew untended. We kept noticing blemishes on the road that looked distinctly ballistic in nature. The holes looked hastily patched and I wrote them off to falling rocks or geologic instability, not willing to succumb to the paranoid notion that they were caused by the war. We reached a little village that looked perfect from a distance. Charming quiet streets, stately church tower, sunny swimming harbor, waterside residences and winding streets made it look like an archetypal seaside European town. The illusion of perfection diminished as we got closer. We began to notice that all was not right in Slano. Sure there were kids still playing in the water of the harbor, but the only operating business was a café which was situated in the only building that looked whole. Every other structure had some mortar inflicted scar or more severe damage. Roofs were blown off, residences seared by fire, tilted by ballistic concussion or vaporized by a direct hit. Here many of the "blemishes" on the road were not patched and looked exactly as the ones on the main highway had.

After Slano we rode quietly, the enormity of the war tragedy sinking in as we pedaled towards Dubrovnik. We stopped for a drink along the way and somehow settled on having a beer in a little town called Orsan. The cafe there had tables on the water from which you could dive into the crystal clear Adriatic. Andy and the other patrons took advantage of that facility. Our waitress treated us to some "helpful" advice on our route to Dubrovnik. "It is flat and only 16 kilometers," she said convincingly. We were cursing her as we made the 50 meter ascent out of Orsan. It may have been 16 kilometers "as the crow flies", or if they had finished the bridge that was to span the huge inlet just north Dubrovnik. Instead we had to travel inland for 4 kilometers and then back to the coast again making the remainder of the trip close to 30km. The distance wasn’t as bothersome as the nasty hills within Dubrovnik that finally did Andy in.

After Bosnia and two very tough riding days I was ready to have a relaxing and comfortable day or two in Dubrovnik. We found a once-glamorous commie hotel called the Argentina could provide a suitable venue for our rest. The only room remaining with a sea view was the "politburo suite". It consisted of two seventies decorated rooms with ceilings which seemed higher than the mountains around the city. The reception room was painted puke green and had two tasteful white leather couches and four white leather bucket seats around a glass table. The only thing missing to make the 70’s imagery complete was Bee Gees and Abba muzak. The bedroom was more tastefully furnished, but the decorated had his (or her) revenge by painting this room orange. Looking past the flawed interior, our windows and balcony were portals to the Adriatic which we had come to know and love.

After rolling our bikes into our glamorous accommodation and cleaning up we headed for town. From a distance the fortifications of Dubrovnik were more impressive than I’d ever imagined. There was no evidence of the shelling that pounded the town just a few years before. As we entered the walls I felt the streets seemed just a little too quiet, almost eerie. Suddenly we rounded a corner and the city’s nightlife unfolded for us. The gleaming foot-traffic polished marble walkway of Dubrovnik’s primary promenade lay before us. It was packed with tourists and locals walking, gabbing, drinking and eating. Their voices bounced off the buildings. For us the social vortex was a little too much to handle. A bite and walk is all we could muster after our tough ride. Exploring Dubrovnik’s fortifications and streets would be left for the next day.

The next morning I found that our daylight view from the "green" room’s balcony was even more spectacular than the evening view. The aquamarine shoreline framed the old harbor and city. We walked to town, mounted the wall and circumnavigated the city getting an aerial tour of the old town. Only then did the evidences of reconstruction past and present make themselves known. The first suspicious "tell" was that nearly all of the city’s roofs had been recently re-tiled. Later we came upon a map that detailed all of the bombardment damage. I was shocked to see that almost every block of the town had substantial damage. It was hard to imagine after having seen how pristine the city is now. Angry thoughts crept into my mind when I pondered what type of conflict could inspire the bombing of a place like Dubrovnik.

The remainder of the day was reserved for a BikeBrats pentathlon, bathing (sea and sun), backgammon, imbibing and reading. It was a most invigorating event. Andy was the victor in the swimming and backgammon events, the others too close to call.

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