One of the most rewarding aspects of traveling by bicycle is the connection with people. When you travel by this means of transportation, the people you encounter see all the information about you since you carry everything with you. And what they see is a traveler. Then, a connection is formed, and often, they approach with curiosity to know where you’re coming from, where you’re headed, if you need anything—ultimately, a bond with the local people is created, and that’s a wonderful part of the journey.


It’s incredible how many people approach us to inquire about our journey or simply come to encourage and praise us. These encounters and exchanges enrich our journey. From the man who shares his youthful travels that he still remembers with bright eyes to those who give us chocolates and food to boost our energy, to those who open the doors of their homes to us!


Today, we want to talk about these people and their hospitality. We’ve ended up sleeping in places we could have never imagined. Let us share some of these experiences with you:


Wednesday, 29th November 2023 – Stage 48 from Rijeka to Bater (Croatia)

The cold sets in. Additionally, there’s a forecast for heavy rain tonight, extending into tomorrow morning. Today’s route had significant elevation gain, and as the sun began to set, we realised finding a camping spot would be challenging. We were passing through a rugged and inhospitable area. Moreover, our goal was to find a sheltered place for the night.


Eventually, we diverted towards a small cluster of houses. The first people we asked said they had no available space but pointed us to a somewhat abandoned house. The atmosphere there wasn’t particularly welcoming, so we continued a bit further. Only one house had lights on. In the window, a man was looking out, most likely alerted by his dog’s barking. sing signals, we made him understand that we wanted to talk to him. He came out. As best we could,  we explained that there was a forecast of heavy rain, and we were looking for a covered place to sleep with our tent.  He pointed at his hayloft and, with a smile, opened the garden gate. He showed us an interior where they stored hay and tools. It’s perfect!


He went inside to inform his wife and tell her about the situation. She immediately agreed. Her only concern was that we wouldn’t catch a cold. Oh, and another thing: no open flames inside, as she worried about a potential fire with so much straw around.


Later on, they brought us two hot teas and a cake. They are Vinko and Seca.

Thursday, 16th November 2023 – Stage 35 from Cavallino to Marango (Italy)

Following the directions of a cyclist who had a chat with us, we stopped at Marango Monastery and tried to ask if we could spend the night there. We knocked on a couple of doors. Then, Cristina, a young and energetic nun who speaks perfect English, appeared. In fact, it’s hard to tell she’s a nun because she doesn’t wear the habit; the only religious symbol she wears is a wooden cross pendant. She greeted us with a big smile and a clear, and smart gaze, welcoming us to stay in two available rooms. She explained that it’s a community of monks and nuns living together in monastic life.


We asked how we could contribute to thank them for their hospitality. David mentioned he’s a photographer and could take some photos if they were interested. Cristina’s face lit up. We arrived on a day that was important for them: the presentation of the 2024 calendar, featuring contributions from 12 artists. She invited us to the event and suggested that David could take photographs during the presentation.


In the afternoon, they invited us for tea. It’s truly a dynamic community. Today, there are about 20 people, and in reality, only 9 of them are monks and nuns. Everyone is welcome, creating a relaxed and joyful atmosphere. Monks, nuns, and guests coexist in the same space, sharing meals and prayers.


The head of the monastic community is Giorgio, a robust and smiling man who founded the community 39 years ago. He established it following the monastic rule of another Italian monk, Giuseppe Dossetti, with whom he lived for a year in Jerusalem. All communities following this order consist of monks and nuns, which surprised us.


Dinner passes quickly. There’s nervousness about the evening event. Giorgio’s three brothers have come for the occasion. One of them bears a striking resemblance to him. He’s 12 years younger and also a monk. The other two are quite different and work as hairdressers. When I remark on the similarity between the two monk brothers, the younger one responds, “holiness,” and laughs.

Around forty people attend the calendar presentation event. At the end, Cristina speaks about us, expressing gratitude for having a photographer at the event and explaining the KARABAN project. Happily, we all return together by car to the monastery. It’s late. Breakfast is scheduled for 7:15 am the next day. However, the monks and nuns start their personal prayer at 4:40 am and the joint prayer in the church at 5:40 am.


In the morning, we all have breakfast together at a long table, as there aren’t as many guests today. Cristina enlivens the conversation. We agree to meet for a coffee and say our goodbyes at 10 am.


During coffee, Cristina translates for everyone the note we wrote in their guest book. Afterwards, we go outside, and it’s time to take portraits and a short individual video where they have to say one word. Only one word, their choice. Giorgio chooses the word “smile,” reflecting the atmosphere in this monastery.

Thursday, 23rd November 2023 – Stage 40 from Portoroz to Visnjan (Croatia)

With the onset of the cold season, most campsites are closed. Nevertheless, we try to find a campsite to have a hot shower and access to a covered space. A few days ago, Elena emailed a camping (Natur Kamp Karli) to inquire if they were open. Their response was that they were closed.


Unaware of this, yesterday David called the same campsite, explaining that we were traveling by bicycle, looking for a place to spend the night, and wanted to know if they were open. They replied that they were closed, but we could still spend the night at the campsite free of charge.


The surprise was that it was a beautiful campsite with a communal area/kitchen to use. However, everything was outdoors! To express our gratitude for the hospitality, we bought a bottle of wine produced by them. That’s how we accompanied the chilly evening…


Once again, we’ve learned that proximity and close contact make our journey smoother.

“As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.”

Ithaka, Konstandinos Kavafis

And all these discoveries are part of the journey and we carry these experiences with us as the most cherished part of our luggage!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *