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Last week we shared part one of Australian, Bill Kesteren’s European scooter adventure holiday in Almeria. In part two Bill and friends wave goodbye to sunny Spain and head to the wetness of Croatia, via a short stop off in damp Venice. One thing you can never plan your whole life around is the weather, but when you’ve flown halfway around the world for a touring holiday and are planning to rely on lightweight riding kit it can dampen your enthusiasm somewhat… if you let it.

 

Iggy

 

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Our Spanish tour was over and it was time to prepare for our next scootering adventure. Our hosts/guides for this part of our tour would be Edelweiss Bike Travel. They have 39 years of experience and (at the time of booking) offered three scooter tours…

 

  • Alps by Scooter – 8 Days – which looks fantastic, but will have to wait for another time
  • Tuscany by Scooter – 7 Days – which we have already experienced with Edelweiss
  • Croatia by Scooter – our next destination

 

Edelweiss offer two brands of scooter, one being the 300 cc HPE Vespa GTS, which most of the group had booked and the BMW C400X, which I had intentionally booked to test ride it. What better way to assess something than ride about 160km (100 miles) a day in all weathers, over all terrain and roads and road conditions to assess if it is something you are interested in purchasing?

 

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Italy

 

We departed Almeria and as we flew towards our new destination we looked to the forecast. The weather in our ongoing destinations was not as sunny and clear as we had probably taken for granted in Spain. You can pick your destinations, time of travel, method of travel and all associated accommodations, but you cannot pick the weather and so we arrived to grey skies over Venice.

 

Once checked in, we headed off to explore the city a little. When you are looking at the tourist information, they dwell on the lack of roads and the canals that replace them, and gondolas with guys in striped shirts punting them along. What they don’t spend enough time on is that a city that has so many waterways also has a bucket load of bridges. So an evening stroll around Venice was beginning to feel like a Les Mills Body step session, so many stairs… Our visit also coincided with a high tide, so we got to see some of the boardwalks go underwater in the lower-lying areas.

 

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Murano Island

 

The following day we took the hotels “free” water taxi transfer to Murano Island, which is best known for its glass blowing. There was a brief display of blowing glass and a prancing horse before being led into the showrooms of finished product for sale, so we found the door and went off to explore. Once outside, we found that the place we had been taken to was one of the many making and selling glass ornaments, ornate chandeliers and glassware.

 

We had purchased a multi-day pass for the Venice equivalent of public bus service, so after wandering around and having a coffee stop we boarded a ferry to the other popular island, Burano. There are several islands along the way in different states of despair, but as you look to our destination it is hard to miss Burano’s Leaning Bell Tower. The 53-metre-tall tower leans 1.83 meters with respect to its axis, due to land subsidence.

 

The island is also known for its lace-makers and brightly painted houses. We enjoyed our time wandering around, finding the tower at the back of the Church of St. Martin Bishop, and admiring the brightly painted houses. We enjoyed the relative quiet of the island, which maybe the weather had contributed to, but time had come to reboard the ferry and return to Venice.

 

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We were surprised to see the cruise ships so close to the main attractions; they really do tower over everything with their associated tug and manoeuvring vessels. We got off near St Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco), St Mark’s Basilica, and the bell tower of St Mark’s (St Mark’s Campanile).

 

A bit of sightseeing and wandering until we found the Hard Rock Café, a great find. We were seated on a mezzanine next to the windows that overlook a gondola boarding area and it seems a tour operator had just dropped off a load of customers, so one after the other they were loaded and off to experience the ‘real Venice’.

 

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Legend has it that a wealthy Middle Eastern merchant, who was forced to leave his homeland to move to Venice, decided to have a camel carved on the facade of his new house in order to make it recognizable to the woman he loved. She had not agreed to marry him and follow him as his bride, it is not known if she ever saw the camel. There was the things you just don’t think about that is part of Venice life, the water entry to the hospital, the cemetery island, the method of getting to your boat when the spot you have been able to get is not next to a boardwalk, etc.

 

We then returned to the canals, winding our way through before we were back in open water crossing near the church of San Giorgio Maggiore. I am glad I did not have to find my way as a GPS would have trouble working out our winding path, past Belmond Hotel Cipriani, the police vessel workshops and then on to the boatyard that manufactures the gondolas of Venice. Following the tour (recommended) we purchased tickets to enter the Basilica and wind our way back to the hotel to pack and prepare for the new day and transfer to Trieste.

 

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On the way home after dinner we saw some of the people who had been all smiles getting their ice bucket with champagne passed to them at the time of boarding. They were now, rather shakily, getting themselves out of the gondolas along the canal on their own. Any thoughts of going in a gondola disappeared. Instead, we had a look at some of the locations that were underwater and now were dry and probably a little cleaner.

 

We booked a tour with “Like a Venetian” Tours and this was probably the best money we spent in Venice. The boat is a motorised fibreglass boat, and it took us all over the town out into the harbour and back again. We departed and went into the Venetian Ghetto, which was an area of Venice in which Jews were compelled to live by the government of the Venetian Republic. In the 19th century, the ghetto was renamed the Contrada Dell’unione. From here we took shelter under one of the cities many umbrellas (bridge) from the rain before motoring by Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo and the Cannaregio district and Camel House.

 

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Trieste – Croatia

 

Trieste is a coastal city that is well worth adding to your travel itinerary. We chose road transfer, but you could take a train or ferry to get to it from Venice. As we approached, we saw the signage for Miramare Castle (Castello di Miramare) then followed a coastal route with Vittoria Lighthouse in sight for most of it before the coast turned to former rail yards and coastal warehousing that is in the process of being renovated and revitalised. A bit of a walk around town before hunting down the pizza restaurant we had been recommended.

 

Pizzeria Di Napoli exceeded all expectations, I am no stranger to pizza, but this was something else. The base was not like the cake or flatbread we sometimes get in Australia (price is more often than not linked to quality), this was more like pizza crepe… soft pliable and tasty, I think the only way you could eat it without cutlery would be to roll it into a sort of pizza kebab… do not read that as criticism it tasted fantastic. “You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six” – Yogi Berra. This was followed by deconstructed vanilla slice and berry… fantastic.

 

We went up the hill toward Parco Della Rimembranza to the Castle of Saint Giusto, once at the top there was a large statue honouring soldiers who fell in WWI. Monumento Ai Caduti di Trieste is a large white stone base with five male statues depicting a battle scene constructed out of cast iron. Not far from this is Forense Roman Basilica, Cattedrale di San Giusto Martire and the more obvious Castello di San Giusto.

 

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Unfit for purpose

 

Having been travelling for a while, information panels, plaques and banners to help you know or understand what you are viewing are almost taken for granted, as well as the expectation that history is written by the winners and there is usually the gilded view of the past, so it was refreshing to see a sign panel stating that the castle would not have been up to the task if they had been attacked.

 

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We had a nice lunch in the courtyard within the castle’s walls before walking back into Trieste via the old town. The exhibition hall had an “I Love Lego” exhibition, so we went over and had a look, and found some of the characters hidden in the scenes under display cases in the room. Then over to the next hall for “Eataly” – all sorts of products food and produce under one roof.

 

Trieste is also the home of Illy coffee. We tried a different location for dinner but having been spoilt planned to return to Di Napoli on the walk back to the hotel. As we walked around the city there was a wide variety of scooters, types and brands parked along most of the roads.

 

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e-bikes

 

New day, a new adventure, time to get some handgrips in our hands, and today it would be e-bikes. Having explored the castle and old town the day before the decision was to go to Castle Miramare. The helmet I was given was a design I have not seen before, as it is collapsible… Being a DEVO fan I was thinking it would look like a power dome, but actually once pushed out it looked as good as a bicycle helmet can. It came into its own once we reached our destination and wanted to fit more than one helmet in a small backpack.

 

Our route though somewhat familiar was quite different, as on bicycles we rode through and past the warehouse and former rail line, then next to the water along the boardwalks (read beaches) almost all the way to the castle. It is a quite impressive building in its own right, but the thing that it is trumped by are the grounds, which are all free

 

Beautiful gardens, forest, and lawns, a bit rushed to be frank, but the guide was on a time frame, so we returned to the bicycles for the return ride. When not guiding, she coaches mountain bike riding, so this was a snap for her – with or without engaging the battery.

 

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Once back at the marina, she wished us well and went off to her next commitment and we continued along the marina around to the lighthouse for a bit more exploring before returning to the shop to return the bikes. Another visit to Di Napoli and back to pack for the new day and transfer to Opitija and some serious scooter riding.

 

We booked a private car transfer to our end destination, but this would not be the quick run around the coast, we would be backtracking past Castle Miramare once again and onto the expressway until we reached the turnoff to start our journey to the Soca valley. Soon after leaving the highway on our way to Bovec, we heard and saw the first of many motorcycles as it seems Slovenia is a rider’s paradise. Two flashed by, changing up with the crackle of quick shifters as they disappeared into the distance. Most of the roadside cafes have “Bikers Welcome” signs.

 

We stopped to take a closer look at the Emerald River. We also stopped in Kobarid, which appears to be a base for every kind of activity. Mountain bikes, rafting, kayaking, even scooter rental all available. After a coffee, we went up to the war memorial, which also provides a 360-degree view of the valley and Alpine region.

 

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Soca is known for its Emerald River, but Lake Bled is blue with a castle overlooking the lake and a small island which has several buildings – the main one being the pilgrimage church dedicated to the Assumption of Mary. There were tour boats and rowboats making their way over to the island when we stopped to take a few pictures.

 

We continued on to Bled Castle, which overlooks the blue water lake (like Lake Victoria in Canada), and equally picturesque and popular with tour coaches. However, our arrival was late enough for most of these to have departed so we were able to have a good look around and enjoy the views and sun. Bled Castle is the oldest castle in Slovenia – over 1000 years old. It is built on a cliff 130 metres above Lake Bled, with the Julian Alps in the background. Some parts of the castle are in Gothic, Renaissance and Romanesque styles. Time had got away, so from the castle there were no more stops till we reached our destination.

 

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Back on scooters

 

We arrived in Opatija, our home for the week. The following morning six red Vespas appeared outside the hotel alongside the BMW C400X. Meet and greet time was confirmed for 5 pm, which left the rest of the day to do so many things. But a lounge chair overlooking the water won. The rest of our group arrived from Trieste after lunch. It was good to see them again and catch up on what they had been doing since Spain.

 

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Day 2

 

Our first ride out was to the caves, we were uncertain of what the weather would be like so packed our rain gear just in case and made our way toward the Slovenian border. There are still border checks along the Croatian border, but it does not take long and in these days of e-tag passports it’s nice to get a few stamps to make the new passport look used. We had good weather on the ride out, so could take in the scenery along the way.

 

The caves are a massive network of caverns and galleries stretching over the border to Italy, so big that there is a passenger train to take you from the opening deep into the cave where the walking guided tours start. We had a bit of a wait till our 12:00 train departure to take in the carnival of trinkets and souvenirs. I saw all the usual things but was not aware the region is known for its honey and mead. The restaurant even had a “Cave Burger” featuring a black bun.

 

While occupied by the Germans during WW2 they used the caves as a fuel store, which must have seemed like a good idea till some Italians snuck through the network of caves and lit it up. Apparently, it burnt for over a week and the black soot near the entrance is from this, though the caves are starting to heal as water continues to seep through the limestone and create new formations. The train ride is surprisingly fast and close to the limestone formations and outcrops. Whizzing through is just a taster of what you see during the walking tour.

 

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Then it is back on the train, past the river that runs under the chambers we visited and out into the open. I did not personally see it, but Dominico’s face apparently dropped when we exited into rain. This was just the beginning of our wet days in Croatia. Chel had twisted her own arm into buying a spray jacket at the caves as coming over with only carry on luggage did not allow for proper motorcycle gear. We ate lunch and Dominico checked if we would be ok with taking the highway back in the rain as the alternative twisty road we would otherwise take would not be as much fun. We rode back and stopped near the Slovenian/Croatian border for coffee at a biker cafe that had a great view over the valley, which included a huge bridge towering above us further down the valley.

 

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What we did not understand when agreeing was that the highway, was actually a tollway, which created some anxious moments at the toll booths – but they are fine with one person paying multiple tolls (as long as you go through the gates one at a time). Cutting through the mountain was a great time saver and given the weather was the correct decision.

 

After a buffet dinner in the hotel on arrival day we all appreciated going to one of the many fine restaurants in town. We went to Ruzmarin, just up the hill from our hotel. On offer was a diverse menu with pizza, scampi, ribs, beef steak and assorted pastas including some with truffles. We all easily found something we fancied. The waiter wagered his choice of grappa would be better than the one Drew had picked, before I knew it the table was covered with grappa glasses. The first one Drew picked, then the waiter’s pick was given to the whole group, though there was a different one for males or females brought to the table. We were all ready to call it a night after walking back to rearrange our gear in the hope it would be drier before being put back on in the morning.

 

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Day 3

 

I think the guide book for the tour suggested this would be the day we visited the islands, but with the unseasonal weather, there was definitely going to be rain and possibly thunderstorms, so not the best for that. Instead, Dominico had planned to go to Pula, which is to the West of Opitija. We rode out along the coast road and it was not long till our new companion, rain joined us. However, he had also invited his mate, cold along, who was not terribly welcome as rain and cold with little or no rain gear made for some pretty miserable riding for some of our group.

 

By the time we made it to the Roman amphitheatre being warm and dry outweighed ‘touristing’ outside. It is the second-largest amphitheatre and looks quite spectacular with the harbour behind it. The cafe we stopped in had a room above street level, which was perfect to warm up a little and get some blood back into fingers and other extremities.

 

Eventually, Dominico encouraged riders out to their scooters by offering to do a lap of the amphitheatre before going on to our lunch destination of Rovinj. This has Venetian influences and a large marina behind – which is where we stopped for lunch. Some of our group prioritised finding rain jackets to wear while riding before joining us for lunch.

 

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The time arrived to meet back at the scooters for the trip back to Opitija, which was necessary but not enjoyed by some. For the most part it meant backtracking the same roads we had ridden in the morning. The place Dominico had anticipated stopping at was closed, so we rode on to Plomin. However, once we were there, while Dominico was checking if this coffee shop was open, there were enough wet and cold people to overrule the guide and a carpark vote ruled to continue without the stop to get off the road and out of our wet gear. The rain had gone through everything, even if you had rain gear. Most riders had the experience similar to waddling out from the sand at the beach, where you have the choice of sticking to the shallows, or taking that extra step into deeper water. Riding scooters in no/poor rain gear had forced most to involuntarily take that last step as they felt the cold and wet slowly approach the areas most would rather have kept dry.

 

The choice for dinner tonight was Rozo, a Nepalese style Italian restaurant,

 

When I eat with my friends, it is a moment of real pleasure, when I really enjoy my life”- Monica Bellucci.

 

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Day 4 

 

The next day probably had the worst weather predictions, regardless of which forecast you looked at online, which split the group.

 

Three rode and three stayed in Opatija. Drew, Diane and I accompanied Dominico for the ride to Porec. A bit more spirited riding as we went along the – now becoming more familiar coast road. It was drizzling when we left, which later turned to rain, but as we continued, we rode into cloud. Cloud is good as it is damp but not rainy, you just have the trade-off of reduced visibility. We stopped in Plomin, and at the time we arrived, you could barely see the red ring in the chimney in the valley.

 

The place we visited was a total surprise with a nice area inside where we could watch the changing conditions. Drinks were done, but we stayed on as a couple of heavy rain fronts swept through. As with the day before, at some point, you have to decide to go on regardless. Our tenacity/stupidity was soon to be rewarded as the further we rode the better and clearer the weather became till it cleared, and we were riding on dry roads before reaching our destination of Porec.

 

We parked and walked toward the Basilica. Diane and Dominico were interested in going into the church, Drew and I not so much, so we parted with the intention of regrouping for lunch. It was surprising – or maybe not, how much of the town was associated with the church.

 

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Miss World

 

We did a bit of a lap through the streets and past the restaurants before stopping for lunch in a courtyard in the sun with Gothic influences in buildings around us, which looked to be a better option than our initial pick of one in the main square near the other church. As we were finishing, a parade of young ladies in fashion contest sashes glided through.

 

We took what appeared to be a short cut as the girls were back again near the scoots. Dominico and Diane appeared at the same time, so we got ready to ride on. Diane’s Harley riding days had her chasing Dominico most of the day. Our next stop was the Limsky Channel, a Fjord-like channel between forested slopes. It is 5.6 miles long, though without knowing that, it looks like any number of rivers. It is neat that the North and South banks have different vegetation appearance.

 

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Still enjoying good weather, it would have been a coffee stop, but a decision was made to ride on as it could be reasonably assumed that cloud (and his mate cold) would be waiting for us further up the road. Not only had they stuck around but the clouds were now thicker, resulting in riding near and following the right-side solid line to track the road. The centre line is more of a suggestion than a lane limit for most of the local drivers and I did not really want a car or truck to appear from the pea soup conditions with me in its path. We had slowed and were riding much closer together. It was a relief to see Dominico’s indicator come on at Hotel Flanona on the corner near Plomin – that in better weather overlooks the water. For us, it was a coffee stop and sanctuary from the cloud.

 

It’s a stick up

 

The restaurant had a semi-circle of tables along the windows with balconies outside. On two of their glass panels near the car park was a motorcycle sticker wall I added ‘Scooters and Hooters Ipswich’ to it, and Drew added ‘Seven Hills Scooter Club’ before we departed into the now lighter cloud, which later turned back to drizzle, then rain as we approached Opatija.

 

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Day 5

 

According to the Edelweiss itinerary, all we had left was a choice of either the islands or to visit the Risnjak National Park. Dominico advised that the Risnjak National Park is very beautiful in better weather, but that there is not much in or around it. With our current weather limiting visibility from Veliki it was decided that maybe we should consider something else as an alternative (there were many suggestions to leave the scooters parked). When Google searching the area, Motovun came up in several searches as a recommendation. Drew and Chel have been referencing Rick Steve’s guides for a number of years and agreed it and adding a stop at Na Burj Restaurant in Kozina, would be a suitable alternative. They had visited the restaurant with friends while staying in Trieste and said it was the place to go to eat meat.

 

Our new riding companions, rain and cold were waiting for us outside, but seeing that we knew where they like to hang around, we had agreed to pay to use the toll road to give rain and cold the slip. We were out the other side in no time having enjoyed the apparent warmth of the toll tunnels, we returned to the outside air and probably the coldest day to date. The weather was good with no sign of rain, and low cloud to impact visibility at Motovun of the surrounding countryside.

 

Slovenia

 

The name of the village is also of Celtic origin, derived from word Montona, meaning “a town in the hills”. The whole area reminded us of hillsides around Radda in Chianti in the Tuscany region from previous vacations in Italy. It is situated on a hill 270 metres (886 feet) above sea level with houses scattered all over it, and the Parish Church of St. Stephen facing the Andrea Antico Square. We arrived before most of the tour operators, so were able to have a good look around before continuing on over the border into Slovenia to Kovina.

 

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We rode past our stop on the way back from the caves and arrived soon after. Na Burj is a large restaurant that is being renovated to make it even bigger – with a large kitchen area full of men preparing meat with grills in the background. Dominico offered to substitute this meal for the evening meal on the Edelweiss account. The waiter suggested a shared platter for six that would have more than enough for seven. He was not wrong – when a huge platter of meat and fries arrived, the bacon-wrapped chicken was delicious, but then so was the rissoles with cheese, and the slightly sausage-looking mince logs that tasted a bit like kebab meat. All of it was great but even after seconds I did not really need, there was still a mountain of fries and meat on the platter when we were all done.

 

The waiter offered takeaway foil trays to put the leftovers in. That lead to a conversation around the stickers fitted to the underseat bucket on Vespas sold in the USA that prompts the term “We will stick it in the kitty cooker”. It is a warning sticker in case people could possibly think sticking pets under the seat is a good idea.

 

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We started to head home but unknown to us, Dominico had led a motorcycle tour here in the past and knew of a little hidden village that you would never know was there without this kind of knowledge. The road to it looked more like a sealed driveway than a road. There was a cluster of stone buildings in a variety of states of repair/disrepair around the cafe which were good photos. Once inside it had a bit of a hunting lodge feel, but some of the mounted items were quite different to what we saw in Bacares in Spain.

 

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The cafe owner had quite good English and talked about the basketball teams and other sport before we headed off. The roads were in surprisingly good condition considering how apparently remote we were, with hardly any cars passing us from either direction. Soon the signs for the border crossing appeared. It was manned by two police officers who collected our passports for processing.

 

As we had eaten so much at lunch it was an easy decision to skip dinner and go straight to dessert after a few ales in the cafe next to the hotel. We had passed this place the two nights we went to Roko, so the girls had already decided what they wanted from the display case. Once we had finished, the girls headed back to the hotel and Drew and I went off to have a better look around town before a few more beers and bed.

 

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Day 6

 

It seems cloud and cold had worked out we had been giving them the slip, and were off sulking somewhere, as they were nowhere to be seen on our last riding day.

 

We headed off toward Plomin once again, though dropped down to the ferry loading area before reaching Hotel Flanona. After buying our tickets, we went to the front of the line where a few vintage Harleys were parked with the group of riders clustered around one of them that seemed to be doing a vintage Lambretta owner impersonation. With various tools and spark plugs spilling from a tool wrap and people taking turns to crank it over with the kick start. The one they had been working on ended up being walked onboard the ferry to Cres island.

 

We had assumed we might be first on last off on arrival, but it was a bit of a free for all – with all lanes of loaded vehicles attempting to leave at once. We quickly seized the opportunity and lead the pack up the hill through the roadworks till we reached the 45th parallel parking area for a photo stop and sticker.

 

Cres is the largest Croatian island and most of it is undeveloped. We had a nice ride in the sun with the outside temperature around 19 deg C, more like we should have had at this time of year. The township of Cres is a little harbour village with narrow laneways running back amongst the houses.

 

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We had plenty of time to have a look around and still make the next ferry to the island of Krk. This is connected to the mainland by bridge, so was a bigger town with a larger port and retail area. I had a look along the bikes and spotted a familiar flag on the top box of a KTM.

 

Everybody loves…

 

We wandered around and had a laugh at the name of the bikini shop – which probably means something else in the local language. That was before some gelato in the courtyard. When I returned to my scooter I found it surrounded by Suzuki Katanas that must have been on a press launch ride. Some of the number plates were consecutive, my hunch was later confirmed when someone came out dictating to his phone on a selfie stick as he walked around describing the bikes and their features. We regrouped and rode off to the distinct sound of a Katana being given a few revs in the car park.

 

The crosswind off the water was quite strong when we reached the first bridge, so we were ready for the longer second bridge before returning to the mainland. This road weaves along the coast, and we passed a hilltop old village, shipyard and other industrial sites, marvelling at the network of bridges and flyovers above us for the highway. As it became more residential and my wife asked through the intercom why don’t they base the tours in the bigger city we could see across the harbour from Opatija? This was soon answered when the traffic stopped. Dominico looked back and asked if the group agreed to lane filter through the traffic. We agreed and started what turned out to be about a half-hour of weaving the seven scooters through the traffic till it cleared enough to return to riding in a single lane for the balance of the distance to Opatija for the last refill before returning the keys.

 

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Last supper

 

For our final dinner, we returned to the first restaurant – the beef ribs were so good the first time I ordered them again. The conversations changed to packing and leaving and transfers, and reminders to return the surveys. The following morning we were the first to leave for our transfer to Zagreb. The driver who would help load the scooters before driving them and the van back to Austria had arrived, as Dominico would be off on a bus to Split to pick up and guide a motorcycle tour around there and back to Opatija. Drew, Chel, Delia and Diane were sharing a rental car they would pick up from a nearby hotel to visit the Soca valley and overnight in Bled.

 

The improved weather continued to allow us to comfortably explore Zagreb to take in most of the top ten features. We were out most of the day and when we returned to our room we were reminded of all the wet or damp clothes we were dragging home thanks to the unseasonal weather and, of the hotel that refused to run its air conditioning in Opatija. Weather is unpredictable and though not our first choice it did not stop us from seeing or riding any of the days we or Edelweiss had planned. Actually it facilitated the change of ride from the Risnjak National Park to Motovun and Kovina.

 

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How was the BMW?

 

Though it probably would have looked nice if we had all been riding Vespas. When looking at and booking the BMW C400X I had considered the heated seat or handgrips as something that comes standard, but, I thought I would never use. Well, let me share with you that when riding with wet sodden gloves the handgrip warmers can pump out enough heat to need turning down and still keep blood in your fingers. I am sure I do not have any rips or tears in my rain pants but still ended up being wet and cold below the waist, resulting in my manhood retracting away from the cold till the seat warmer was turned on. This combination is invaluable when arriving at a restroom, and not having to try and work through layers of rain gear and zips and retracted manhood with a couple of mallets substituted for hands on the end of your arms.

 

My Vespa riding friends were most jealous, but you can retrofit Oxford or other brand grips, although I am not sure of any aftermarket seat heaters. Another feature that I enjoyed on the BMW was the fold-down section of the under-seat compartment that allows you to store your helmet when stationary. There is an interlock to prevent you from riding away with it down, which works, as I found out one day when I did not lock it back up properly. The top case was not huge but given you can get your helmet gloves and other things under the seat it was a great place to put things you wanted for faster access and it’s lockable. The two convenience compartments in the leg shield were invaluable when going through border passport check stations and tolls, to have things ready to present and then quickly stow away before riding on. These are not lockable but easily checked and content transferred to rider, or top box. Something I had not considered but were fitted to the scooter was the BMW GS style sidebars, which in my opinion added to the appeal of the scooter.

 

It is a 400cc single-cylinder engine but had a nice sound with the stock pipe. It is possible to have a minimum of three-feet positions, my preferred feet forward, then flat feet forward or flat to the back of the running boards. The seat was comfortable enough to not need to shift weight around to manage any emerging pressure point discomfort.

 

How about the GTS?

 

My wife and Chel found the Scomadi in Almeria more comfortable than the Vespa, as the saddle-style seat was not as comfortable as you would assume versus a flat seat, which allows you to adjust your riding position more. I think they equated the Vespa GTS seat to the feeling/after-effects of going on a long trail ride on a horse.

 

Would I consider a BMW C400X? Yes, though I think that the weather may have influenced my assessment of the scooter. The assessments of the Vespas were mixed, those who love them continue to feel strongly about them, those who don’t did not find compelling reasons to change.

 

800-50

 

Tour verdict

 

The Edelweiss Tour is a great way to see some of Croatia and Slovenia, two countries I unreservedly recommend visiting – whether it is in a coach, car, motorcycle or scooter. The Edelweiss scooter tours are generally run as day tours from one hotel as a base for the duration and they ride up to 160km a day. This leaves plenty of time to walk around and see, experience, and taste where you are before and after riding and at the break and lunch stops. The tour was not without issues, which have been fed back to the operator via the post-ride questionnaire and subsequent follow-up.

 

I did see some rental companies, offering basic rental with no guide, or maybe a guided day/half-day tour of one of the locations we visited and surrounding areas.

 

You would need to spend a lot of time joining the dots and making separate reservations to get close to the same experience. Not impossible, but not for everyone. Final observation being what I started this story with, weather is unpredictable and with the tour we were able to adjust to it and the destinations to the weather, or in the case of our day five – do something completely different.

 

Words and photos: Bill Van Kesteren

 

The comfiest pebbles in Croatia
The comfiest pebbles in Croatia

 

Sunnier trip to Croatia

 

I was fortunate enough to spend 17 days riding to Croatia and back in 2015, we also visited Krk and never had to get our waterproofs out in over 2,000 sunny miles. You can read more about that trip here. 

 

Iggy

 

Feel free to share your own scooter touring and adventure stories with us. Email: editorial@scooterlab.uk 

Bill’s photo gallery

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