Perhaps all our spring holidays are destined to have an ‘incident’ and if a bicycle accident is as bad as it gets on this trip then we are happy enough [although no incident at all would be better]. We were visiting the lovely town of Samobor, a short distance north-west of Zagreb and in a region famed for its wine and the grapes are grown in small strips of vineyards on the steep slopes. Samobor’s main square is packed with cafes, many of them serving the local speciality cakes, kremsnita, a light and fluffy version of a vanilla slice. These are delicious and we tucked in to a slice each while considering how friendly all the Croatian people we had met were. In every cafe and campsite people had been helpful and welcoming and also pleased when we used our four words of Croatian. We speculated whether Croatian people were naturally nice or if all these people were just good at their tourism jobs.
Our lovely campsite was a two kms easy cycle ride in to Samobor’s town centre along flat roads. Climbing back on our bikes after our cakes we found the one-way system took us up a hill and as we then descended a steep residential street a breeze caught my much loved Portuguese sunhat I was wearing and I stupidly put a hand up to save the hat. At that moment time went in to slow motion as it dawned on me that I was losing control of my bike and I was going to hit the tarmac.
Every part of my body hit the road in some way. My lovely calm husband made sure I was safe and gently untangled me from my bike. I could hardly move as I cautiously checked the many different parts of my body that hurt and when I did try and sit upright dizziness overcame me so I stayed lying down. Over the next thirty minutes every Croatian who passed us by, in cars, on foot and other cyclists, stopped to ask if they could help, reverting to English as soon as they realised we weren’t Croatian; their kind-heartedness was both natural and extraordinary. One man from the street bought a bottle of water, other local residents offered a pillow and everyone asked if they could call an ambulance for us.
I hoped I would be able to get back on my bike but it became apparent this might not be possible in the short-term and so Luka and his brother Noah, whose house I had fallen outside, came up with a plan to help. They stored my amazingly undamaged bike in their garage, helped me in to their car and drove me the short distance to our campsite. Hubby followed on his bike and then Luka and Noah took him back so that he could return on my bike; what heroes! During our car journey I was still in shock and at first could only keep repeating ‘Hvala’ [thank you], ‘You speak Croatian!’ Luka delightedly exclaimed. I managed to pull myself together enough for conversation and Luka, Noah and I found a shared love of Manchester United, we talked about the many beautiful places we had seen in Croatia and they told me about their studies. They were both exceptionally generous human beings.
At the campervan I investigated my injuries, cleaned up the cuts and grazes, got out the ice packs and ibuprofen and counted my lucky stars I had no broken bones. My left wrist was sprained, a rib cracked, my right hand had some wounds and there was blood on my face from grazes. In truth it is easier to tell you where I don’t have any bruises than describe where they are. The right side of my face soon swelled up and after a couple of days the bruises emerged from underneath my tan. I keep forgetting about this visible sign of my injuries and then wonder why people are looking at me strangely, children must be saying to their parents, ‘Why has that woman got a blue face?’ I can’t open a jar of olives just at the moment, reaching up to all those high cupboards in the ‘van is painful and getting comfortable at night is tricky [even with painkillers] but it could have been so much worse.
Falling off my bike is a drastic way to test the goodness of the people of Croatia but we can now confidently say that Croatia is not only beautiful it is also truly friendly.