History began right here, in a simple narrow house in the village of Kumrovec, with doors so low I have to duck every time my 6'2" frame enters a room. I'm at the birthplace of half of Eastern Europe's former ruler, Josip Broz, better known as Tito. He held together with ambition and skill, the powers of socialism, until it finally collapsed in an absurd war, where neighbors were against neighbors and brothers against brothers. His country was called Yugoslavia — but it's gone now.
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Remnants of a Futile War
Today several successors, all of them parts of the former Balkan empire, have opened their doors to western visitors, offering a new and exciting playground for motorcyclists. And Croatia, the epicenter of the former Yugoslavia and our starting point, is one of the most diverse and beautiful countries in all of Eastern Europe. Together with another nine members, I am a guest on a guided tour organized by the local company Blue Bike Tours. My rental, which is a brand new KTM 990 Supermoto T (the T stands for traveler), promises to combine the fun of the Supermoto and the comfort of touring amenities like panniers and a small fairing. For eight days, I'll be on the road covering 1,400 miles.
The road meanders through a landscape cultivated up to the last detail, with small farms catching the eye wherever we look. A few slopes are dotted with vineyards, and on top of every third hill, there seems to be a little chapel or a church tower. This is Catholic country. We head northeast towards Varazdin, which, according to our guidebook, is one of the most beautiful cities in Croatia. But suddenly near the border of Slovenia the road is closed, with no explanation or signs suggesting a detour. The map is no help either, but a friendly truck driver happens along, and with a smile on his face, leads us back to the highway. Maybe it's because tourists are still a rare experience in this part of the country, but the people seem to be extra friendly when they discover we are foreigners on motorcycles.