topics: D(j)uved(j) (food), 45th parallel, latitude and longitude, Zadar, history, Pag Island; jump to dispatch

BikeAbout Log


Rider Notes: April 23-25, 1998

Person of the Day: Aleksandar Fabijanic click to view a photograph

Aleksandar Fabijanic click to view a photograph was our CARNet connection in Rijeka. He was kind enough to let us use the CARNet offices in Rijeka to do some quick research and vital email sending and receiving. (Even after having been unable to connect with him by telephone and thinking that we would do without essential information on the Internet, he saw us in the streets of Rijeka and introduced himself. What luck!) Aleksandar went above and beyond the call of duty by letting us do this even though it was a Sunday afternoon and his wife was patiently waiting for him at home.

A member of the faculty at the University of Rijeka, Aleksandar is also in charge of maintaining the Rijeka CARNet server and the computer network at the university. He is a very, very busy man. Our helmets go off to Aleksandar and our thanks go out for his generosity and patience. We would also like to send out a little thank you to his wife for being so kind as to allow her husband to share a moment of his important weekend time with us.

Place of the Day: Zadar

Similar to many of the coastal Croatian cities that we have already visited (like Dubrovnik, Split, and Trogir), Zadar is a beautiful walled medieval town. Built on a narrow peninsula, Zadar is a long, equally narrow town accessible only through the Town Gate click to view a photograph at the southern end of the city. To the east is a harbor, while on the west is the Zadar Channel. click to view a photograph

In many ways, the history of Zadar is typical of the history of Dalmatia. It passed from the Romans to the Byzantines (in between there were barbarians repeatedly knocking at Zadar's gates) to the Venetians to the Austro-Hungarian empire. During World War II, the city was badly damaged by Allied Anglo-American bombing. However, when the city was rebuilt, the same street plan was maintained and an effort was made to blend the new part of Zadar with what was left of the old. Most recently, Zadar came under heavy attack during the Yugoslavian civil war. While it largely escaped damage, there are still visible scars from the Yugoslavian rockets and artillery.

For more about our visit to Zadar, see the Rider Notes.

Tech Fact of the Day: latitude and longitude

For our Fast Facts section, we use our Magellan GPS (Global Positioning System) to establish our location on any given day. We use a set of geometrical coordinates called latitude and longitude to describe our location. Latitude and longitude make it possible to define a location on the surface of the earth.

Longitude describes a location east or west of a line that runs north and south around the earth and through the North and South Poles. This north-south line is called the prime meridian and it is measured in angles with 0° being the prime meridian (and running through Greenwich, England) and 180° being the International Date Line.

Latitude gives our location in terms a point north or south of the equator (a great circle that divides the earth into northern and southern hemispheres) using angular measurements varying between 0° (at the equator) to 90° at the poles.

Both latitude and longitude are described in terms of degrees, which are further broken down into 60 minutes, each of which is composed of 60 seconds. So a very precise location description will provide degrees, minutes and seconds for a location east or west of the prime meridian and north or south of the equator.

So, in order to zero in on our location, our GPS receives information from satellites located in space. It takes this information and then, using the east-west running circles (latitude) and the north-south running half circles (called meridians of longitude), is able to give us our exact location (well within a hundred meters, usually).

For example, today our hotel in Opatija was located at 45° 20' 29" N and 14° 18' 36" E, meaning 45 degrees, 20 minutes and 29 seconds north of the equator and 14 degrees, 18 minutes and 36 seconds east of the prime meridian.

Group Dispatch, April 23-25
photograph of Anthony

This dispatch covers three days so hang on tight...

The first day, after our pleasant night in a residential community not far from Zadar and a long morning spent eating breakfast and working on dispatches, we decided to head for town. We wanted to explore some of the parts of Zadar that we had missed during our whirlwind tour the day before on our way to CARNet headquarters for our weekly Wednesday chat 'n' debate. So, leaving Corinne at the sobe to slave over her dispatches, the BikeAbout boys headed for town. (For more information on the history of Zadar, go to the Place of the Day.)

The first order of business was ice cream. Of course, this was Anthony's excellent idea. Who else would be so ready to track down the best ice cream stand in town. Quickly noticing that there seemed to be a lot of happy people (with ice cream cones in their hands) coming from a particular section of town, just as we did in Split, we decided to "backtrack" the smiling faces and multicolored tongues to the source of their happiness. This is a special investigative tactic that we have used with great success. It entails accurately judging how far away a shop is by examining how much of an ice cream cone has been eaten (given numerous variables such as wind speed, ambient temperature, barometric pressure and the intensity of the sun, etc.) and from which direction the ice cream cone carriers are arriving. It didn't take us long. Properly armed with double-scooped and chocolate-dipped icy cones of joy click to view a photograph, we started our walking tour of Zadar.

Our first stop was the circular St. Donatus Church. click to view a photograph Built partially on a square that was originally the site of a Roman forum, the church is a 9th century Byzantine structure. Just as we had seen in Byblos, it was interesting to see how elements from the forum (pieces of columns and friezes) had been incorporated into the base of the building. click to view a photograph

We then wandered down around the end of the peninsula, stopped to gaze in wonder at various stone reliefs click to view a photograph click to view a photograph (that had a peculiar resemblance to certain members of the BikeAbout team...), and strolled back along the eastern city walls toward the center of town.

Taking advantage of the setting sun click to view a photograph, we next headed for the magnificent promenade click to view a photograph along the Zadar Channel (which actually goes by the name of Obala kralija Petra Kres(h)imira IV - though we prefer "magnificent promenade"). We ended up near the Philosophy Faculty building click to view a photograph where we had done yesterday's chat.

Next we walked back over to the Town Gate click to view a photograph (which is topped with yet another protective lion click to view a photograph) and marveled at the tiny port that nestled up against the town's walls. click to view a photograph

Heading back toward the center, it was hard to not be captivated by the town's tiny, stone car-free streets. click to view a photograph In the light of the setting sun, the stone seemed almost to glow with a golden light.

Reluctantly we started to walk back towards our sobe in the growing twilight, sad to leave such a beautiful city yet eager to eat dinner and hopefully go to bed early. (We have such simple needs these days.)

Rising early the next morning, we headed back out on the road. Our ultimate goal was to get to Rijeka, but we assumed that we might have some trouble biking the 220 kilometers (137 mi) all in one day, especially given our experience with coastal roads (they are rarely flat in this part of the world). Also, having conferred with Damir about different alternatives, we decided to go via Pag Island and not follow the main coastal highway. Once we reached the base of the island, instead of biking on the mainland, we would make our way up the island and then catch a ferry to the mainland at the end of the day. This would free us from much of the traffic that plies the coast while giving us, we hoped, excellent views of the mountains and the sea.

The mountain ridge that runs up the Croatian coast (check out our dispatch from March 18-19 for more information about the Dalmatian Coast ) to Slovenia is called the Dinaric Alps and the island we biked up was in essence a partially submerged foothill of the chain of dramatic rocky cliffs. This is why the island was so long. Many of the islands off the Croatian coast share this characteristic. click to view a photograph

Biking on the island was a little strange. First, we immediately noticed that there was an almost complete lack of vegetation. click to view a photograph We had not seen such barren land since we biked across the Sinai Peninsula. There seemed to be rocks everywhere. click to view a photograph We were surrounded by rocks, sky, mountains and, of course, the sea. It was strikingly beautiful in a barren sort of way. click to view a photograph There were even the remnants of old castles that were slowly being worn away by the weather. click to view a photograph Several times we were reminded of the fact that the island we were riding on was really a partially submerged mountain ridge as we were forced to climb up and over the center, an occasionally grueling task.

Once we arrived at the end of the road we were forced to wait for the next ferry to the mainland. It was a longer wait than we had thought it would be, so we took the opportunity to snack, rehydrate ourselves and nap. click to view a photograph click to view a photograph We also had an excellent view up the coast. Looking across the channel, we were even able to see the road we would take and it looked relatively flat, which was a great relief. Unfortunately it also looked as though we would have to climb 3-4 kilometers (2-3 mi) almost straight up to where the road ran along the side of the Dinaric Alps. click to view a photograph

And, when we did finally cross the water, climb we did, up and up and up until we finally reached the main road. While this ascent nearly killed us, it was a relatively flat ride along the coast until we swooped down into Senj where we planned to spend the night. click to view a photograph

Senj seemed like a lovely town (there was even a castle perched on a hill on the edge of town click to view a photograph) and we really regret not being able spend more time there. However, by the time we found a sobe, showered, dressed and then walked back into town for dinner, we were wiped out. Exhausted, we were at the end of our rope and near death from fatigue (we exaggerate only a little). For this reason we headed straight to bed after dinner without even looking for an ice cream shop!

A good night's rest worked wonders for us and the next morning we jumped out of bed eager to start biking again. Ethan click to view a photograph and Corinne click to view a photograph seemed extra perky, while Anthony and Padraic looked like they had stayed out all night and shaken their respective booties. After a quick and unsuccessful phone call click to view a photograph to try and connect with Aleksandar Fabijanic (our Person of the Day), we were off. Well, sort of. Corinne sprinted ahead while the boys were lured onto the side of the road by a small sign proclaiming to be planted right on the 45th parallel. Our curiosity piqued, we had to investigate.

The 45th parallel is the point on the earth where you are an equal distance from the equator and the North Pole (5,000 kilometers or 3,000 miles). click to view a photograph We were quite surprised to find it there, as we had not realized we were quite so far north. Standing astride the 45th parallel was interesting (in a geeky, plastic-pocket-protector sort of way) in that it meant we were 5,000 kilometers from the North Pole and 5,000 kilometers from the equator.

Yet something just did not feel quite right. Whipping out our trusty Magellan GPS, we decided to verify the placement of the sign. A few moments passed as we anxiously waited for our GPS to lock onto a handful of satellites. As the three of us eagerly huddled around the receiver, we discovered that... the sign was in the wrong place! After carefully lining up our GPS and the signpost click to view a photograph, according to our measurements, the sign was at 44° 59' 59" (44 degrees, 59 minutes, 59 seconds)! click to view a photograph The sign had been placed a full second too far to the south! We were shocked and astounded! We had heard of such egregious errors being made by lax road sign crews, but an error to such a large degree! This would never happen in America.

Everyone knows that latitude and longitude are a system of geometrical coordinates used to describe a point on the earth's surface (for more on this fascinating subject, check out today's Tech Fact of the Day). In order for this to work, the degrees of latitude must be equally spaced and to a large extent they are but a slight flattening of the earth at its poles causes the length of a degree to vary from 110.57 kilometers (68.66 miles) at the equator to 111.70 kilometers (69.37 miles) at the poles.

So what does this error mean? It means that assuming that a degree of latitude at 45° is 111.14 kilometers (the average of the length at the equator and the pole) and that the sign is one second off, then the sign is 3170.555555556 centimeters (1236.516666667 inches) too far to the south. We would just like to point this error out to the highway department of Croatia and express our hopes that they will be able to rectify the problem.

The rest of the day was basically spent on our bikes. We tried to take in as much of the stunning coastal ride as possible, but most of the time we just kept our eyes on the road. After all, we didn't want to become flattened fauna. But there was one highlight: once, when we were paused on the side of the road and catching our breath in anticipation of a monster climb, the driver of an ice cream delivery truck made an "emergency stop" and sold us some of his wares. We were perhaps easy marks when it cams to frozen delights.

Far too soon - well, sooner than expected - we arrived in Rijeka. As we were busy being overwhelmed by the big city and its bright lights, our Person of the Day, Aleksandar Fabijanic popped out of the teaming masses of pedestrian traffic and introduced himself. While we have become quite used to being mobbed by adoring fans wherever we go (the burden of popularity is something none of us thought we would have to endure), it was quite a delight to be "found" in this way. Aleksandar, the local CARNet representative, zeroed in on our needs (Internet access). With a "Hi Ho, Silver and Away" he hopped into his car and led the way over hill and dale to the University of Rijeka, Faculty of Engineering building where we quickly logged on to the Internet, sent and received email, and found some quick info on cycling organizations in Italy.

Anthony tried to trade his bike to Aleksandar in exchange for his Sun workstation or the school's Cysco Internet routers and server, but Aleksandar would have none of that. Apparently he already has a bike (and also happens to like his job). Bidding Aleksandar a fond farewell (he was already very late for an appointment with his wife!), we asked directions of several cycling locals. click to view a photograph

Once we were pointed in the right direction, we spun our way to the neighboring resort town of Opatija and quickly located a sobe. (Oddly, Rijeka appeared to have no sobes at all. And since it was Saturday afternoon and all the tourist information services were shut, we figured we might as well move on to where we knew our needs could be met.)

We cleansed our bodies and then headed for the closest eating establishment. After dinner we restocked our over-tapped ice-cream reserves and headed back to the sobe to collapse in our beds once again totally and completely exhausted but at the same time eager to wake up the next day and venture off into yet another new country...Slovenia!

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