Porac, Rovinj, Pula, Croatia and the Veneto May 30 / June 26, 2014

Michael J. Ferguson

Journal Index


1  Introduction
2  Montreal to Venice, Fri. May 30 and Sat. May 31
3  Camping Rialto, Sun. June 1 / Mon. June 2
4  Into Venice, Tue. June 3
5  Camping Rialto to Porec, Croatia, Wed. June 4
6  Porec, Thurs. June 5
7  Porec, Fri. June 6
8  Porec to Rovinj, Sat. June 7
9  Romanj, Sun. June 8
10  Rovinj, Mon. June 9
11  Rovinj to Bale Tues. June 10
12  Bale to Pula, Wed. June 11
13  Pula, Thurs. June 12
14  Pula, Fri. June 13
15  Pula, Sat. June 14
16  Pula, Sun. June 15 / Mon. June 16
17  Pula to Venice. Tues. June 17
18  Exploring a small part of the Veneto, Wed. June 18 to Tues. June 24
    18.1  Exploring the Brenta Canal
    18.2  Camping near Venice
    18.3  Camping Fusina to Padua, Fri. June 16
    18.4  Veneto Church Architecture
19  Camping Fusina to Camping Rialto, Wed. June 24
20  Camping Rialto to Montreal, Thurs. June 26
21  The Google Map

1  Introduction

On this trip I planned to fly to Venice on Air Transat and then go north along the Adriatic to Trieste, through a small section of Slovenia, and then along Croatia's Istrian coast. I tracked the air fares for several months and watched it change from $978 down to $678. I decided to wait until after my echocardiogram exam in case there were any problems. Everything went well at first. I received the invoice and e-ticket quite quickly, but ran into problems when I tried to do an advance check-in on the Internet, continually getting an error. Then I tried to get new copies of my travel documents and was told that my booking reference was non-existent. After several phone calls, I still had no advance check-in, but I was assured that the reservation was OK.
I also, as usual, modified my travel equipment. I added a small hockey bag to fit into the trailer frame, added a new small security mesh for my computer and stuff that will live inside the bag, and designed a legal carry-on bag that can be used as a bicycle trailer, instead of a backpack, for shopping. I wanted to have it replace my big trailer but couldn't fit enough space into the carry-on dimensions.

2  Montreal to Venice, Fri. May 30 and Sat. May 31

My problems started on Thursday when I tried to check-in, and discovered that my reservation code was invalid. After several phone calls, I was assured that it was OK. However, when I got to the airport they couldn't find it. The check-in attendant disappeared for 20 minutes and finally came back saying all was OK. It appears that Air Transat cancelled my reservation while I tried to check-in. My second worry was due to the fact that all of the airport baggage belts were inoperative, so all the baggage had to be moved by hand. We left an hour late, after waiting for the baggage to be loaded, but it was nice that, since the flight was non-stop to Venice, I didn't have to worry about a gateway connection.
My worries were for naught. Everything arrived, and I put together my bike and trailer and rode to Camping Rialto, about 7 km towards Venice. I discovered on the way that the trailer was wobbling rather badly and dangerously. I had modified the attachment to the bicycle to make it easier to pack and apparently destroyed its integrity. I will have to try and get it fixed or drastically reduce the scope of my trip.

3  Camping Rialto, Sun. June 1 / Mon. June 2

I started Sunday by riding to Decathlon in the hope that they sold Bob trailers ... no such luck. However I did get a new mattress as mine has a slow leak and finding the leak, even at home, is almost impossible The rest of the day was spent shopping for more supplies and looking for an ATM machine. With the advice from the campground office I found an ATM.
I also looked for some welding shops, found one and it was totally barred, windows and doors. The other one was not where I had expected. I think I will have to give up on a repair, and just try to load it very carefully.

4  Into Venice, Tue. June 3

Since my trailer is now dangerous, instead of riding to Croatia, I decided to take the ferry. I had not intended to go into Venice this soon, but thought it would be prudent to find out the location of the terminal and buy a ticket.
The long causeway into Venice has sidewalks on both sides, but only one entrance and exit. I missed the one going in and was stuck on the rather busy road. However, It turned out just as well. Partway down, the sidewalk was totally blocked, even for my bicycle, by a construction crew pulling wires.
I first asked in a very large travel agency where the terminal was located but they had no idea. They knew of a hydrofoil terminal, but didn't think that it took bicycles. I finally found that terminal, and then discovered that there was a Venezia Lines ticket office just inside town. It was hidden away on the third floor beside a restaurant with only a buzzer indicating its existence. I did manage to rouse them, and get a ticket, including one for my bicycle.
It was a beautiful sunny day, so I picked a shady spot and relaxed beside the very large Canale Della Guideca and then I wandered around some small back streets, alley ways, and canals, that I had missed on my last trip.
On my way to the Campo San Margarite, I passed the small Clony shop that was selling BIO PAPER. I wonder what makes it BIO.
The Campo San Margarite was remarkably uncrowded, and quite pleasant. Again I took advantage of my Helinox chair, relaxed, had a glass of wine, and talked to people passing by.
On the way back to camp, I also missed the sidewalk. I will have to be more careful tomorrow.

5  Camping Rialto to Porec, Croatia, Wed. June 4

I tried to fix the trailer with wires to no avail. The vibration is frightening so I will have to try again in Porec to find a welder.
I looked carefully at the sidewalk on the causeway and discovered that it was blocked off to everyone. It was also blocked at the other end so I made do with the road. The main difficulty is that you cannot stop to take pictures. After locking up my bicycle, I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in the Campo Sebastiani and talking with other tourists.
The ferry ride was comfortable and calm and I arrived at about 8:00pm. It soon became dark, but with some difficulty I found a campground.

6  Porec, Thurs. June 5

My major quest on Thursday was to find a welding shop so I could fix the trailer bracket. This drew blanks from everyone. I found one using Google but the street was not on my map.
The old city is on a peninsula, and I was able to get a great view of it, and the cathedral, while riding into town from the campground.
I went into the centre of the old town, found the tourist office and no information and just wandered around a bit.
I arrived back at the camp to discover a large group of Czechoslovakian children who were here for a soccer tournament. I was invited over by their mentors for some real Pilsner. It was much fun.

7  Porec, Fri. June 6

I changed my strategy on finding a repair and started looking for auto body shops, since they would certainly have the ability to weld stuff. The first two insisted that they needed the part, but the third shop took it, and returned it in the afternoon with a band of metal welded in place. It is probably not as strong as the original but will certainly be better than what went before.
While I was waiting for it to be fixed, I sat down at the harbour and then walked around the outer walls of the old town.
There doesn't seem to be any sand on the beaches, but that does not prevent the children from having fun.

8  Porec to Rovinj, Sat. June 7

I discovered that the Adriatic coast is steep up and down (6% grades were common) with the towns perched on cliffs by the side of the sea. I stopped at both Funtana and Vrsar, rode part way into town in Funtana.
I rode up and then walked around Vrsar as the approach was much easier. The streets where I was walking were so steep that even the electric bicycles were being pushed.
This is certainly a tourist coast with a Dino Park, complete with McDino arches.
After Vrsar, the road swung inland around a very deep fjord. It was here that the trials were the greatest.
After the climb out of the end of the fjord, and an encounter with a couple of young cyclists from , Halifax, who said I was the first Canadian cyclist they had seen since Amsterdam, I started looking for a place to wild camp. Nothing appeared to be compelling to I continued into Rovinj. There are several campgrounds around town so I just took the, apparently nearest one that I had way pointed, and arrived there just before dark. It is much nicer than wild camping.

9  Romanj, Sun. June 8

The receptionist told me last night that there was a bicycle path along the shore all the way into Rovinj. This is one of the many numbered bicycle paths in Croatia. Most are on highways so they don't have the charm or the possibility of arbitrary stopping like this one. I was able to get to it through the camp ground at the end of the road.
After the path disappeared into dense woods, it finally opened up on Rovinj.
At this point I was by the harbour and thought about riding up to the church on the top of the hill.
It soon became clear that this was not a bicycle friendly place so I locked my bicycle out by the gate, near about forty other parked bicycles.
The church at the top had a commanding view of the Adriatic, but no internal glory.
After some sitting and observing the gene pool, I rode back to camp.

10  Rovinj, Mon. June 9

Today I rode into town to get some yoghurt and band-aid, and again was distressed by the large paving stones.
Bandaids are not sold in grocery stores so I needed to find a pharmacy. They were rare but I finally found one tucked away at the end of an alley. After that I took advantage of my chair and sat by the harbour.

11  Rovinj to Bale Tues. June 10

According to Lonely Planet, Bale is a hidden gem in Istrai. Unlike the other medieval towns it is inland. After a very hot and slow ride I found it. I also found, what was probably the town's only market and bought some pulpy orange drink. Up to this point I had only seen a dull semi-modern village of new stone/mortar houses. My GPS said the nearest attraction was over 20 km away, so I was a little disappointed. I continued into town a little further. and saw a narrow lane, with the huge cobble/paving stones I saw in Rovinj. I rode to the far end of this section. It was so small it was easy to miss. Evidently other people thought so too. It was almost empty.
After that I rode mostly downhill, 6 km, to the huge Camp Corone, which, of course, is on the coast. It may be big, but it has no WiFi.

12  Bale to Pula, Wed. June 11

I left very early in the morning to tackle the 5 km 3% hill out of the campground. Yesterday there had been construction at the highway junction and traffic was being detoured on a gravel sideroad. I hoped I could ride through the construction, but no such luck. The detour was quite distressing ... heavy impatient traffic in both directions, clouds of dust, and by far the worst, scree like gravel that threatened to crash you into the ground. Finally, after about 2 km, it was over.
The hills were much less severe than yesterday, but the heat was very high (high 90s F / high 30s C) and the sun quite oppressive. I stopped often to rest in the shade. There was one possibly interesting town on the route, but when I diverted off the bypass, I ran into a No bicycles - 1 km sign. I went back to the diversion and found what I really wanted, a market where I could buy something cold to drink. I drank a litre of cold Fanta, and after many questions from the employees I was on my way.
I arrived in Pula by mid afternoon, and was surprised by the large Roman Amphitheatre on my way to the camp. It was a delight.
After discovering that I had the Camp Stoja waypoint in the wrong place, a few questions, and Garmin having a POI of the Camping Village Stoja nearby, I found it.

13  Pula, Thurs. June 12

My major goal for the day was to get a ticket for the ferry back to Venice. I found, what appeared to be the ferry terminal in the marina, and rode into town. On the way I passes my first ruin of the day, the Basilica San,. Marike Formoz. There was not much too it, but it obviously had been impressive at one time.
I continued and then saw a plaza on my right. It was the old Roman Forum that was at the heart of Roman Pula. It was over run with tour groups, with a new one coming every few minutes.
It also had a Tourist Information Centre where I was able to get a map of the bicycle routes around Pula and some information about where I could buy a ferry ticket. I was directed down a small street to the A Tourist travel agency. On the way I passed the small Piazza San Tomas with its small tower and church.
I was able to get a ticket for the next ferry on Tuesday, then tried to find the ferry dock. I was given explicit instructions, and after a few mistakes, found a small jetty with a sign on the right side suggesting an entry point for Croatia. .
Hrvatska pronounced herwatska is the Croation name of their country. I wonder how it became transliterated into Croatia. There was nothing indicating that there were any ferries to Venice. I went back to the ticket agency and was assured that this was the right place.
After some wandering and sitting around the old town, I rediscovered the Pula Amphitheatre.
After that I left the old town through the Slavoluk Sergijevaca Arch.

14  Pula, Fri. June 13

This morning I started looking for some forts on the bay near the Stoja. I found the bay, of course,
but discovered that this was an active military area so the forts were not open for visitors. In fact, I never even saw them.
One objective was to find the Roman Arch that I thought I had missed yesterday. On the way I went through the Park Grada and found that this was the first day of the three day Antiqua Polensium festival. Polensium is the Roman name for Pula. The little legionnaires were getting organized to march.
I continued my search for the arch and discovered more of the festival, at the gate, which was really the arch, that I saw yesterday.
I sat down in the shade, with my view periodically obscured by the tour groups that came by, and watched the legionnaires arrive. Even legionaries need to rest and so delighted me and other tourists.
The Slavoluk Sergijevaca arch sits right by a city wall so it almost looks like gate. I pushed my bicycle up the ramp to the top of inside the wall, and then continued up by the top of the cliff that runs above the streets of the old town.
I went back to camp along the road I had discovered on my way out, It was much easier than my normal way.

15  Pula, Sat. June 14

It started out with a thunder-shower drizzle but cleared up early in the morning. I tried, with no success to find the beginning of the bicycle routes on the newly reconstructed Pula Riva, with absolutely no success, so I spent the day riding aimlessly around Pula.
The Riviera Hotel was evidently a landmark in its day, but has, now, a certain degree of sadness.
There was also a memorial to the victory of Fascism in WW2 for Tito and his friends, all of which seem to have died in 1943, while he survived to 1980.
A common feature of Pula is the wartime shelter caves carved into the cliffs that abound in the city centre. One opens its door in the morning for a mushroom seller.

16  Pula, Sun. June 15 / Mon. June 16

I found and lost the bicycle route that ran near the camp, but it was pretty while it lasted.

17  Pula to Venice. Tues. June 17

I started packing at about 4:30am to be able to leave by 6:00am in order to catch the ferry to Venice at 8:00am. The wind had died down sufficiently that I could make my coffee, and I arrived at the ferry dock by about 6:45am. Much to my delight there were people waiting. It was reassuring that I had the right place. My bicycle, and about six others were loaded, but the delay meant that I did not have a window seat. It was quite rough and even one of the attendants got sea-sick.
We arrived at about noon, and after the immigration formalities, I parked my bicycle by the terminal. I spent the early afternoon sitting and wandering some of the back streets Venice where some of the poorer residents of Venice seem to live.
After that, I rode, on some rather busy roads, to Camping Fusina where I stayed when I was last here in 2011.

18  Exploring a small part of the Veneto, Wed. June 18 to Tues. June 24

The Veneto is the area around, and including, Venice that exists because of Venice's military dominance for several hundred years around 1000 AD. The Brenta Canal was built to help consolidate the Venetian control of the area but soon became the water route that opened up the interior for rich Venetians to build summer villas. Enough of these villas was built that modern publicists have given the name of Brenta Riviera to this area.

18.1  Exploring the Brenta Canal

The village of Malcontenta, a strange name for home, is about 5 km form the Camping Fusina. It apparently received its name because the unhappy wife of its owner was banished to the Casa Foscari because she was unfaithful to her husband.
My first foray into the area on this trip was to get some supplies in Malcontenta and to avoid the 10 km ride to the nearest big grocery store, the Lidl in Marghera. I could not find a grocery store in Malcontenta but did discover a new way to get in and out of Fusina. The main road to Malcontenta is on the right side but there is a small one on the left side that is part of one of the bicycle routes and dead ends at a lock just before the lagoon. However, both bicycles and pedestrians can get across. The Garmin map does not know this and insists that you should make a U-turn.
The lock is quite small and the Burchiello tour boat from Venice to Padua can barely squeeze through.
The Burchiello has other trials, such as many rotating roads and lift bridges that it must negotiate on its way to Padua. I am sure it was purchased with these obstacles in mind.
None of the bridges I saw on the side canals were passable.
On another day I tried to navigate the canal using small roads beside it, and the designated bicycle route. I was successful going up the right bank of the canal after crossing the lock by the camp but immediately lost the route in Malcontenta.
From Malcontenta I tried to stay on the small roads on the right bank, but in Malcontenta I was stymied by the Casa Foscari which had all the land down to the canal bank. I continued up the left bank on the busy road until I saw a small one going right by the canal. The sign said Dead End. It did indeed die at a farmer's gate but I was able to walk on the bank between the cornfield and the canal. If I had been courageous, I would have ridden.
This finally ended at a barrier in front of a side canal, of which there are many, but I was able to easily get back to the road.
It was here that I started to see many villas. There seems to be some confusion as to whether they should be called Casa or Villa. Although it was Casa Foscari, my next one was Villa Priuli.
I continued to the small town of Oliego on the busy left bank road.
Just beyond Oliego, is the Villa Widmann, a stop on the Burchiello tour, and just across the canal, the Villa Valmarana.
In Mira, which is the commune centre, there is a nice park, unnamed villas, and pleasant newer houses.
and the commune offices, the Sedine Palazzo Correr.
There were many more villas that I passed,
before I stopped for lunch in Friuello.
Although many villas are being restored, some are still quite dead. Most of he restorations seemed to be aimed at apartments.

18.2  Camping near Venice

There are four campgrounds near Venice. The nearest is Camping Venezia but it has an institutional RV look, at least from the outside. The second closest one is Camping Rialto, which has the advantage for me of being only 6 km from the airport. The next closest is Camping Serenissima. All three have busses into Venice. However, cyclists must hassle with the causeway that leads into the city centre.
Camping Fusina is much further than all these, but is, in fact much more convenient for visiting Venice than any of them. Parking in Venice is so difficult and expensive that several huge parking lots have been built beside the camp and there is an hourly ferry into Venice central. It is much pleasanter and more convenient than a bus.
I was not the only cyclist in Fusina. Two were from Sweden, and another, with the most heavily loaded bicycle I have seen, was from the Netherlands.

18.3  Camping Fusina to Padua, Fri. June 16

I arrived in Padua by mid morning, having been routed near, but not always along the Brenta. I had enough time to find the city centre, and wander around. I passed the inner city walls on my way to one of the many pedestrian malls. Here people had to walk their bicycles, but the cobblestones made that a blessing.
I finally ended up in the huge Prato dela Valle a central feature of the inner city with its gigantic oval park surrounded by stately buildings, including the municipal police headquarters.
On the way back, I tried very hard to stay on the right bank where the road was much calmer.
It was a good day of about 88 km.

18.4  Veneto Church Architecture

It seems that the preferred architecture for churches in this part of the Veneto is a masonry main building with a brick bell tower. I must admit I did not find it very inspiring.

19  Camping Fusina to Camping Rialto, Wed. June 24

This was an uninspiring ride through Marghera and Mestre, made less enjoyable because of heavy rain, my first of the trip. In addition, the navigation was a little difficult because my new touch-sensitive Oregon 600 GPS insisted on interpreting the rain drops a random screen touches resulting in screens I had never seen before and losing my routing.
I made it to Camping Rialto in the early afternoon, and the rain paused just long enough for me to put up the tent.

20  Camping Rialto to Montreal, Thurs. June 26

The rain stopped during the night and I woke up with a beautiful dry morning to take down my tent. My tent was essentially dry so it was very easy to pack. I took my time. I did not really have to arrive at the airport before 10:00 am and it was only 6 km away.
Although I was assured in Montreal that my reservation had been corrected, I was not on the passenger manifest for the flight. The printed copy of my E-ticket convinced them that something needed to be done so they phoned Air Transat in Montreal. After some waiting, it was confirmed that I was on the flight and I got my ticket - almost. Air Transat is saving money by not having a check-in counter on the departure floor, but instead uses counters on the arrivals floor. I had to take all my stuff up to the departure floor to pay for my bicycle and deposit my bicycle and trailer at the oversized baggage counter. Then I came back down stairs to get my boarding pass where I was hassled about my carry-on bicycle trailer because it had a wire security screen. I was give a plastic bag and told to put all my stuff in it. They claimed the reason for this was that security would reject the bag. Since they should know more about local security than I did, I took the screen off and put it on the bottom. I then put the stuff inside into the plastic bag and strapped it so that it would, hopefully, not fall out. I had no problems with security. Since that arrangement would not keep everything inside while riding home, and since I had plenty of time, I reattached the screen, and repacked the contents. The flight attendants were astonished that someone could have a carry-on bicycle trailer, and that I had made it myself. It is clear, though, that this is the first prototype. I will build the C-O-2 version at home.
The rest of the flight was uneventful, except for passing over thousands of icebergs.
We arrived almost on time, and took long enough to get processed, that the baggage was quite prompt. I put everything together and rode home, taking only about 55 minutes, in contrast to my over two hours when I returned last year from Basel.

21  The Google Map

This map includes the long, at least for me at this time, day trip to Padua, and the intercity trips in Croatia. This is the link to the Padua and Croatia rides.

File translated from TEX by TTH, version 4.03.
On 17 Aug 2014, 09:04.