Slovenia and Croatia

Slovenia is where the Alps meet the sea, so I had to cross them one more time. Not long after I set off, the road began to climb.

The mountains are lower here, and the highest point I reached was below 900m. For the rest of the day I made my way across the country. Formerly part of Yugoslavia, Slovenia is now closely integrated to the EU and is relatively wealthy. It’s also sparsely populated. Put together, this means good roads and minimal traffic – a good combination.

I passed through a few small towns but for the most part it was countryside, with some livestock farming and a lot of forest. Since the country is mostly forest, camping was very easy – once it got dark I followed a track off the road and set up camp.

Slovenia is a small country, so it only took me an hour to reach the Croatian border the next morning. Although Croatia is in the EU, it isn’t in Schengen so I had to go through border control. I’d been stamped into France on my British passport, so I made sure I left Slovenia with that one and got stamped out. Entering Croatia, I used my Irish passport. Some of the countries in this region seem to be more likely to require PCR tests for non-EU citizens, so I’ll be using my Irish passport for a while.

Border control

Although not completely flat in the way the Netherlands is, there was no significant climbing for my route in Croatia. For the first half of the day I was mostly riding through forests on very quiet roads. I was a bit worried I wouldn’t have much to write about but thankfully some guys tried to mug me.

I was sitting at the side of the road when a moped went past, stopped, then came back. Two men got off, one in his twenties and another, perhaps his father, about 50.

They started demanding money and at one point the younger one raised his fists threateningly. I just smiled and looked at him, eyebrows raised as if to ask whether he really thought that was a good idea. His hands dropped to his sides and he backed off.

I went to pack my things back onto my bike, but they got back on their moped and drove off. I sat back down and finished my food.

Nothing else so interesting happened that day. At one point, the road did abruptly end, turning to gravel. This was the boundary between two regions and evidently one side felt this road was worth paving; the other did not. After a few kilometres I reached a small village and the tarmac resumed.

Traffic picked up a lot as I approached the city of Sisak. There were lots of cars, all passing very close, which isn’t great fun on a bike. It was all worth it though because I got some sirnica (also called Burek) – a pastry filled with cheese between the layers.

Later on in the day the road mostly went through farmland, so I took a detour which added a couple of kilometres but went through a forest. I pushed my bike away from the road and set up camp.

The next day was quite uneventful. I rode for several hours through alternating farmland and forest, and ate some more sirnica. When it got late, I wandered into a forest and set up camp.

From this spot it was a flat 60 kilometres to the Serbian border so I was there by mid morning. I got stamped out on the Croatian side, despite not having been stamped in.

I was a bit worried about crossing this border, as Serbia don’t accept the UK’s vaccine certificate.

Of all the countries in this region, Serbia is most firmly in Russia’s sphere of influence. A lot of their vaccination has been done through the Russian Sputnik vaccine, which has limited international acceptance. Officially, they only accept vaccine certificates from countries with whom they have reciprocal arrangements. Citizens of other countries need to get a negative test before going to the border.

Some cyclists had said they got through by saying they were transiting the country – which doesn’t require a test. When the Serbian border guard asked where I was going I said I was transiting to Bulgaria. He stamped my passport immediately.

Relieved, I cycled off into Serbia. I’d planned to have a short day, and so I had a hotel reservation in the town of Sremska Mitrovica, 40km past the border. I started riding that way.

Serbia is noticably poorer than Croatia. The roads are much worse and the buildings look somewhat more delapidated. The use of bicycles for utility (as opposed to sport) is a lot more common.

So many bikes!

I reached my hotel about 1 PM and checked in. Apart from resting, I also worked on this blog. If I keep up to date every day, it’s not much work. But if I leave it for a while it builds up and takes quite a while to sort out. Hopefully I’ll be better at staying up to date from here on!

Sept 1: 160 km

Sept 2: 183 km

Sept 3: 168 km

Sept 4: 101 km

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