LENGTH: 27 km
SURFACE: 80% paved, 20% gravel road
TYPE: circular route
This cycling trail is going to take you west of Karlovac, over the hills scattered along the Mrežnica, Dobra and Kupa rivers. Its starting point is in the Novi centar neighborhood, in Karlovac, and the route takes you through Luščić to the Kozjača woods. From that point on, it follows the ‘Kozjača Educational Trail’, with its info-boards containing the essentials on the trees, bushes, herbs and ferns, mushrooms and chestnuts. If you’re lucky and are cycling through these woods in autumn, make a stop and pick up the chestnuts these woods are famous for.
Not far from the village of Zagradci, you are going to reach the historic Karolina road, the first modern road (built from 1726-1732) connecting Karlovac to the Adriatic Sea. For those who do not know it, or were not on especially friendly terms with their history at school, this road was not named after the Austrian emperor’s wife or niece, but after the emperor himself: it was Charles VI, who got tired of the previously ‘eternal’ trundling to the Adriatic coast. The trail descends, along with the Karolina road, to Novigrad na Dobri and its stone bridge. The first records mentioning Novigrad date back to the twelfth century. From the fifteenth century up until the Zrinski-Frankopan plot against the Austrian Empire in 1671, the castle of Novigrad na Dobri was in the hands of the Frankopan aristocracy. It was destroyed in World War II, and the renovation is ‘in progress’. The stone bridge over the Dobra, built at the same time as the Karolina road, is a ‘construction masterpiece’.
The Novigrad area offers the possibility to rest and get some refreshments at inns with traditional food and drinks, in case you are not already full thanks to the delicious wild strawberries you found on your way there. Before you reach the bridge, the trail turns and follows the Dobra, taking you through picturesque hills with orchards, vineyards and groves, all the way to Skupica. Here both the deer and hares are waving to you from the woods, it’s just that you can’t see them. At St. Mark’s chapel the trail takes you over a tunnel on the Zagreb-Split (Rijeka) highway, while in Gornje Stative it reaches the historic Lujzijana road (built from 1803-1811). For a change, this road was actually named after a female member of the Habsburg court, Marie Louise, the daughter of Emperor Francis II. Passing under the highway, Lujzijana takes you, through a serpentine stretch of road, to Trpčići, from where it descends, via Vučjak and Kalvarija, to Karlovac. Cvitaki is a hiking destination with its chalet, ‘Zvonimir Plevnik’.
From this point on, you are going to keep descending to Dubovac (hit the brake a little bit there), where you’ll see, some 200 meters to your left, the eponymous castle. Should you come across some archers or other medieval warriors, fear not: they’re just performing their bit for the tourists. This hill was inhabited even in the Bronze Age. The most important owners of the medieval fort (from the twelfth century) were the Frankopan and Zrinski noble families. The Branič-kula tower offers a nice view and is a permanent venue for exhibiting the local museum collections. The cycling trail then descends to Luščić, to its starting point in Novi centar. In the Dubovac neighborhood, a short road will take you to the National sanctum of St Joseph, Karlovac’s patron saint. And you’re there, crossing the finishing line.