Reference Points: Along the Way to Country #4

May 10, 2022

If you’ve traveled even just a little, even only in your own country, you’ve seen enough to develop reference points. Later, when you pass by a certain region, or city, or river, or countryside, you might have that flashback feeling, thinking it looks familiar.

On my ride in 2015-2016, I made it a point to mention these, as it helps me attach a certain feeling or recognition with places based on places I’ve been in the US. For example, there were areas in Colombia that reminded me of the California rolling grass hills near Monterey.

As we left Ljubljana headed south, we found ourselves climbing into the hills on a narrow two-lane road, just barely wide enough for two cars. The road twisted along, following a beautiful flowing creek. Large trees, a mixture of beech, fir, and oaks, covered rocky hills, and large farmhouses sat in grassy clearings, their vegetable gardens overflowing with produce. The area reminded me a bit of the Smoky Mountains in eastern Tennessee, though the farmhouses were larger for the most part, and with brown or red tile roofs.

Eventually we dropped out of the hills and down to the Kolpa River, the border between Slovenia and Croatia. As we approached the river, it became clear that this was a proper border crossing. Unlike passing from Germany to Austria to Slovenia, where crossing the border was only visible due to the blue sign on the side of the road announcing a new country, here was a large fence topped with concertina wire, running the distance.

We stopped for gas in Vinica before approaching the border. Per the official Croatia Government website, I had filled out the Croatia Entry Form online and then printed the resulting page, so I figured this would be an easy border crossing: just hand them the form and the passports and pass through. We stamped out of Slovenia, rode across the river, and up to the Croatian entry point. The officer asked for our passports, stamped them and handed them back. I produced the printed Entry Form and asked if he wanted to see it. He said “No, all good. Go.”

Huh. Another unnecessary formality. I tucked the form back into my jacket and we rode away into our fourth country in the past week: Croatia.

The scenery changed a bit immediately. The tall, lushly covered hills were gone, replaced by shorter, more scrubby trees. The land as well as the farmhouses seemed a bit less appealing, but it could have just been the route we took, as we tend to avoid the larger, more tourist-traveled roads. The small road became an even smaller road, no longer two cars wide, and we entered another forest. This one reminded me more of the road through the trees on Orcas Island in Washington State, climbing up to the lookout tower to look back towards the mainland.

After several miles, we emerged at the main road again near Selište Drežničko, and to our campsite for the next two nights at Camp Korana.

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