Just like any other river route it is very popular, with a special lure in passing through many states and regions. In Legrad, a town on the edge of three Croatian counties surrounded by Mura, Drava and neighbouring Hungary, it feels like a delta, a bond of everything beautiful. Besides the landscaped river bank, lookouts, a beach that seemed lonely in the winter sun, there are canoes, even a temporary border crossing to Hungary.
This bike ride began in Koprivnica, the city of bicycles and renaissance. Certainly a good choice to begin another winter ride, but accompanied by the messengers of spring. After a cold and foggy morning I made it to Legrad District. Many lovely sign posts which lure into touring the Mura delta into Drava.
One kilometre to Legrad approach and another on gravel to a truly imposing scene and many meanders and estuaries of the two mighty rivers. I was also welcomed by two deer and an occasional tourist wondering about like me. Across the Drava is the secretive Hungary, a raised symbolic ramp although the border truly meanders here and the Drava is not always a formal border, at least according to the map. Truly lovely weather got me to walk around and when I found snowdrops along some still frozen sections of Mura, my happiness was boundless. It was a sign to me, covered in a hat and extra head band, with four layers of clothes, I said to myself – oh yes, the cycling spring has come. Winter has its moments, but we can’t wait to head out into new and warmer bike adventures.
After around twenty kilometres I still had to cross the bridge across Drava to reach the left bank and go upstream to Prelog. Many fishermen were on the bridge, I guess their season has begun too. Another special experience: in order to build a hydroelectric dam on Drava, the largest artificial lake in Croatia was created. Lake Dubrava is over fifteen kilometres long, wide around three or four. The old course of the Drava is somewhere at the bottom of it. I rushed to get to the top of the embankment and realised right off that I had arrived to the Međimurje sea, still frozen.
In Donja Dubrava a new hanging bridge has been built to open corridors to the old course and estuary of Drava and many islands the river created. Besides riding on top of the embankment, the direction of the R2 route, you can also ride the gravel along the embankment and the local road. Multiple bridges create contact with the road. There is a small channel along the lake. But this is not the only lake, there are two more to Varaždin. Getting here can for example be a ride just along the lakes. Circular routes, combined with crossing a dam or bridges. The exploration would be interesting as there are hidden Drava and lake routes to be found.
In Prelog the lake level was even with the plain. A harbour, island, many birds and swans, visitors and cyclists hint that there is plenty of tourism potential here. The lake is good bait. In summertime and heat there is always a wind blowing, in wintertime it’s magical at any time of day. Even foggy, the lake seems more mysterious. There are still gold prospectors here, flooded forests, the biggest value is the preserved landscape of the old Drava.
After my nearly fifty kilometres on the bike, I found the Panorama hotel cyclist friendly. A new project by Međimurje County for accommodation as a system of value and standard. It includes a line of benefits for cyclists. Regardless of whether the cyclists will stay in a hotel or use any service, they can count on everything they need during a ride or after it. This includes water, internet, bicycle wash etc.
In Međimurje there are currently five such locations with accommodation with specialised gastronomy for cyclists. The Panorama hotel offers bike maps, expert advice, necessary tools, special bike shed etc. Some of the services, such as renting bikes or bike transport is subject to a fee. I liked the combination of fashionable and sports spirit in the hotel as well as the gastronomy offer and individual effort for every guest. This is characteristic for continental hotels.
How to describe a day in Prelog and Međimurje? Early morning rise and lake ride with intertwined fog, sun and low clouds. Being here and enjoying just the sunrise or sunset is an experience in itself. Everywhere a bond of tradition and something modern. Mostly in gastronomy and wine. More and more of products on the table are domestic. Everyone in Međimurje tourism is committed to creating their own identity.
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