Catching Zees in Croatia—Zadar to Zagreb

With the sun setting over the Adriatic, I ride out of the coastal hills to Zadar, the fifth largest city in Croatia. Though there’s plenty to see in Zadar, I must move on to Zagreb, the number one and capital city of Croatia. 

Most of the reasonably priced hotels are fully booked, so I arrange for an Airbnb near the pedestrian promenade and old town. Still gun shy from the incident in Split, I take extra precaution and find what I hope is more secure parking and then cover my bike.

Solid culinary tips from Alen Bibich. A chose the restaurant at Altmayer—number two heavily circled here.

With strong a recommendation from my new friend Alen Bibich, I walk over to the restaurant at the Altmayer Art & Heritage Hotel. Set in a courtyard beyond tall limestone walls, Corte Vino & More feels as much like a garden as it does an elegant restaurants. My server sits me at a table outdoors then brings me a glass of a crisp white wine made from Posup grapes at another northern Dalmatia winery. 

I know it will be hard to match the culinary bites I sampled at Bibich Winery earlier today, so I give my server license to bring me local treats matched with local wine. Tonight I’m in no mood to make decisions. Sometimes we all must learn to trust and let go. 

Dalmatian Caprese is served with sheep’s cheese from the island of Pag, unlie mozeralla used in the quintessential Italian version of the same dish. 

The server brings me a few courses of beautifully presented and delicious plates, including what they call Dalmatian Caprese featuring the sheep’s cheese unique to the island of Pag. Soon, I realize I’m the last person in the restaurant. There’s no pressure here, the server pours me another glass of wine and simply asks me to exit through the lobby of the hotel as the main door for the restaurant will be locked.

I wander down the promenade, through People’s Square and along the water. Zadar is quiet save the occasional bristle of a bar. The stone walkways wind around restaurants, boutiques, churches, and discrete residences. It’s lovely, feels more cozy and authentic than Split and clearly more sleepy thanks to the lack of tourist clusters and annoying microphone-toting guides. Though I know it’s late, I am sure my impression will be the same tomorrow.

As much as I enjoy the laid back vibe of Zadar, it is time to motor on to Zagreb. With each mile I travel, I sense the rumble and rattle of my exhaust.   Yet, before I kiss Zadar goodbye I ride along the coast and find a cozy cafe to sit down, contemplate the next phase of my journey and gaze toward Italy on the other side of the Adriatic.

At the comfy and relaxing Bruschetta restaurant, two young American guys spot my bike. Filled with questions and curiosity they ask if they can join me. Dave and Mason have been traveling together for about two weeks. Tomorrow they will each go their own way. Mason heads to Dubrovnik and Dave to Italy. It’s their first time traveling abroad, and tomorrow will be their first as solo travelers. Both admitted excitement and apprehension for their inevitable goodbyes and new adventures. I shared with them a few pockets of wisdom, suggestions and congratulations for their decision. As solo travelers, I explain, they will have experiences indepently that they could never have together. 

They snap a few photos and I head out of Zadar and make my way to Zagreb where I plan to connect with Dooby, the proprietor of Lobagola B&B. Dooby is well known among both the international motorcycle and bicycle crowd for his passion, immense knowledge and excitement and eagerness to share the wonders of Croatia and the Balkans to travelers passing through his welcoming Zagreb crossroads.

Dooby was the guy who went out of his way to find a clutch cable and then ship it to me in Ston by hand delivering it to a bus driver. He also arranged an appointment with a local mechanic to service and repack that annoying exhaust. Though many people barely spend a night in Zagreb, opting to the more popular coastal destinations of Split and Dubrovnik, I’m looking forward to spending a couple days in Croatia’s capital—a place to explore while I take care of a bit of bike business.

It’s also a place where I hope to meet my friend, fellow television host, and California Ashley Colburn. Several years ago Ashley’s show “Take Off” earned an Emmy for an episode on Croatia. This propelled Ashley to become a Croatia expert and popular among Croatians and the Croatian tourist buiness. Since that showed aired and earned its award, Ashley continues to produce content about Croatia and just over a year ago decided to buy a home here and moved to Croatia. She now spends the summers in Istria, a peninsula on the northern coast near Trieste and northern Italy.

Doc safely parked outside the legendary Lobagola B&B in downtown Zagreb. 
The lovely Stanka serves as an Ashley surrogate and together we explored a bit of Zagreb’s finer eateries and Croatia’s excellent wine.

When I was down and out in Mali Ston with that broken clutch cable, Ashley was in Zagreb. Sadly, as I learned this week, she returned to California to see her parents and attend a wedding. I reached out to Ashley when I was stuck in Ston. This is hilarious as I am in Croatia, and she is in California. But no worries, Ashley connected me with her very close friend and confidant, Stanka who will be Ash’s surrogate and meet me in Zagreb.

Sipping good Bibich wine with Stanka while hanging out in the cozy lounge at Lobagola B&B in Zagreb
We enjoy a bottle of Dingac at Bota, a popular seafood and sushi place in Zagreb.

It’s about a four-hour ride to Zagreb taking the local road and ultimately picking up the highway in Karlovac. And after about an hour of winding around and through traffic I find Lobagola and in just minutes meet Stanka and Dooby. I open a bottle of Bibich Babic which will polish off while sharing stories and connections on the Lobagola terrace. Though Lobagola is booked for the next few days, Stanka offers her sofa. We proceed to explore the town while I queue up a number of maintenance tasks related to my motorcycle and research related to my next couple weeks on the road.

All is good in Zagreb.

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