Cyclists in Kaštela — a true story


Once upon a time there was a small house in Kaštela, in the south of Croatia. Kaštela is a quiet place most of the year, but crowded with tourists in summer. Also this small house was full of tourists on this evening. But it was not a hotel or anything similar.

The person who used to live here and still owned the place, had left more than a year ago: Frane, in his late 20s, had embarked on a cycling trip around the world. Instead of selling or renting out his house, he donated it to the cycling community. He left the door unlocked, published the address and GPS coordinates on and wrote: “Welcome to my home, I am not there, make yourself comfortable.” And so we did.

On this evening in July 2016, after 136 km and a flat tire, I opened the door at the end of a backstreet. I was greeted by the smell of food and the sounds of conversation and a guitar. In the middle of the living room stood four touring bikes, next to which I placed my own.

Someone had taped a big sheet on the wall with instructions “How to survive in Kaštela”. There were recommendations where one could buy camping gas and what was the cheapest prepaid SIM for Croatia. A hand-drawn map of the surroundings included multiple cafes and bars and their wifi passwords, the library, a bakery and a supermarket. It also showed the free water taps and showers at the beach, because while the house still had electricity, the water had been turned off.

Dinner was ready, and six people sat down at the kitchen table. Two cyclists from South Korea had taken a plane to Paris and were on their way home — one of them was carrying an electric guitar. A cyclist from France was going in the opposite direction, but already staying here for a week and complaining about how comfortable it was. Another cyclist from Croatia was making a small tour along the coast. His route coincided with mine (Ljubljana to Athens) and we continued together on the next day. Finally, an exception was made to also grant asylum to a VW bus traveller from Germany.

It was a great evening.

Note: I wrote this originally for a yearbook of Cover, the study association for AI and Computer Science in Groningen. They asked for a made-up or hard-to-believe story and I went for hard-to-believe. Everything in this story is true. Frane’s house probably hosted hundreds of cyclists. See for my whole trip.