GL007: Lost in Navigation

June 13th, 2016

Another night with a lot of rain that has woken us up several times. We enjoy breakfast and the scene of an irritated neighbor who starts chasing the cats that have been peeing in his lavender.

We’d like to get to Dubrovnik today and stay there for two days because it’s supposedly pretty. We try to arrange an apartment in the center which involves calling three different phone numbers in France, Poland and Croatia. That is still easier than our visa puzzle.

As soon as we continue on the Magistrala the landscape changes once again. This time there is a lush landscape with lakes, rivers and canals between rocky hills. There is a nice viewpoint with a fruit stall with delicious cherries. A German BMW rider stops too and we have a chat. Although he wears suspenders that give us two dozen middle fingers, we don’t take it personally.

Bosnia was also given a bit of the Adriatic coastline at Neum. The border crossings with Croatia are a few kilometers apart and there are no serious border checks here. When we’re doing 15km/h (10mph) over the speed limit, the Bosnian rozzers overtake us, probably because we’re too slow.

Back on Croatian soil we fill up at the most leisurely fuel station we’ve ever encountered. In my efficiency-driven mind I just want to fill up quickly and don’t keep anyone waiting unnecessarily. Here it’s different because of the shift change of 1:38pm. During the change, all pumps in the fuel station are stopped for ten minutes and everyone just waits patiently and keeps smiling. Children in the vehicles find the bikes very interesting. A girl seems to be mesmerized by the fact that Petra rides her own bike.

We reach the modern looking outskirts of Dubrovnik after only 130km (80mi). The highest ‘building’ in town is a cruise ship. Our apartment is in the historic center and we did wonder whether that was the right choice. The center has a lot of streets that are for pedestrians only but I did check various maps and they seemed to be conclusive on a road that would take us close to the apartment. The navigation system tries to route us through the pedestrian zone twice, which we ignore, but causes us to make several detours.

Then I miss a turn and we’re out of the city again without a proper place to turn around. It takes three attempts through mostly dense traffic to get as close to the apartment as possible but it’s still a long walk. We park the bikes on the sidewalk and Petra continues on foot to find the apartment owner we’re supposed to meet.

Here’s what frustration looks like from above:

The second problem is that various map sources are not conclusive about the street names. We only know roughly where the apartment is. So Petra is out there looking for a person we don’t know in front of a place we don’t know. To complicate things, Croatia plays a football match for the European Championships today and there are public viewings with several hundreds of people filling the streets and squares.

Here’s what frustration looks like from above (where every light grey pixel resembles a dozen football fans):

Petra asks a restaurant owner for the address of the apartment and he answers he doesn’t know. Then she asks him for his own address and he doesn’t know that either! Mobile phone coverage is miserable right now (no surprises there) and after a lot of trying she does reach the apartment owner and actually manages to find her in the mass of people.

Problem solved, right? Well that one is, but we’ve got 110kg of luggage to transport over 400m (1/4 mile). And in a very Triestesque way this is going to cost a lot of sweat in three runs from the bikes to the apartment and back. The other tourists aren’t really paying attention but I can’t be bothered right now and take the shortest path to the apartment. Two 16kg (35lbs) topcases do make an impression, at least in a shin or two.

When we come back for the last run, a shopkeeper complains that we are illegally parked, even though there is plenty of space for people to pass. He seems like a nasty guy who would actually call the police to have our bikes removed so we’re moving them to the motorcycle parking first before we can unload the last two bags. Of course, it starts raining meanwhile to fit our mood. I’m now walking down a 50m (150ft) high staircase between barefoot Asians and plastic-clad tour guides wondering who the odd ball is here. It is not very encouraging that every step down means a step up with luggage in three days from now. Punching a hole in the queue in front of the Game of Thrones fan shop clears the way to the apartment. Have I mentioned that it does not have an elevator and it’s 55 more steps to the top floor? When we finally reach it, panting and in a mixture of rain and sweat, Petra’s phone notifies us casually that today’s step target has been reached. That probably means that we can finally have a shower now.

The apartment is wonderful, with plenty of space for our stuff and a separate living room upstairs. The view from the top floor compensates for all the hard work we’ve done since we arrived here.

Here’s a contest for you: the first one to find a photo on social media of any of us carrying luggage through Dubrovnik on the early evening of June 12th, 2016 wins a free beer!