On to Croatia!

Oh no, it seems a week has passed since I wrote a diary blog. This one’s either going to be a long entry or very abbreviated. We’ll see. Got a sore elbow from falling off my bike today which is somehow affecting my typing ability…

May 31st

I don’t think we actually did a lot this day. Hung around Certaldo for the morning doing some planning then drove northwards, to a camperstop about 30km south of Bologna, that was near a train line (Sasso Marconi). This is our new tactic for cities – keep Gertie well outside and go by train. Not buses as they are hard work to figure out (as we discovered in Siena).

June 1st

Moved Gertie to the station car park, took train into Bologna, then walked our leggies off around the city. It has these wonderful porticoes (covered walkways) along nearly every street- some plain, some covered in carvings and frescoes. All keep the sun off and make it a very pleasant city to stroll around. And the tourist information office issued us with a map that included a self-guided walking tour of the sights, which is the way we most like to ‘do’ cities. Ate tagliatelle Bolognese for lunch as it seemed to be obligatory.

bologna
Bologna’s porticoes. Me in a floppy white hat.

Our onward plans involved a long journey round to Croatia, so when we got back to Sasso Marconi by train we decided to get some of the miles driven. So it was on to the autostrada, foot down and away we went. Ended up going somewhat further that day than we’d thought, as we didn’t want to have to go too far off the motorway to camp, and the only camperstop we could find that wasn’t either really pricey or really far out of our way was about 50km before Trieste. It was a supermarket car park (but was an official camperstop with water and disposal facilities etc and free to park).

June 2nd

So after a night of no rain but almost continuous lightning flashes we thought we might as well stock up at the supermarket, only it was closed for an Italian bank holiday. That’s the third they’ve had since we arrived, not including Easter. Not fair.

lightning
Lightning

We found another that was open, stocked up, then got on the road again. Soon we were in Slovenia, where we got out of the van only briefly to buy the toll pass thingy and to fill up on diesel which was MUCH cheaper there than in Italy.

We hit traffic queues approaching the Croatian border. Wasn’t sure if that was just down to lots of Italians going away for their bank holiday weekend. But when we finally got there (after spending a while parked in a layby waiting to see if the traffic eased off) we discovered it was because it’s like the UK – ie they haven’t signed up to Schengen so everyone’s passports have to be checked. There’s a lot to be said for Schengen, free movement of people, the EU, and nations generally cooperating with each other rather than trying to go it alone…

And we finally reached a large campsite by the beach near Rovinj in Istria. It was well laid out, with a pool, restaurant, shop, its own beach etc. Had a swim in the sea then ate in the campsite restaurant for dinner.

June 3rd

Campsite day. Got the sheets washed, admin caught up, etc. Spent a lot of time sitting outside and reading. Went for a swim.

June 4th

Cycled around the coast from the campsite to Rovinj town. This took us via another, even larger campsite which had a naturist section (I saw more dangly bits than ever in my life before!) then through a beautiful forest park, and finally to Rovinj. This was an old fishing village but is now basically a tourist town. Pretty winding cobbled lanes, lots of gift shops, even more restaurants. We had a sea food lunch out on a terrace by the sea, with a very friendly waiter who explained what kunjka were and how they were caught.

We’d brought swimsuits and fibre towels with us on the bikes, so had a swim off the rocks in Rovinj town before cycling back.

swimrovinj
Where we swam in Rovinj

Croatia is full of Germans. German is the default tourist language – everyone in campsites, restaurants, bars etc greet you in German first. Nine out of ten motorhomes we’ve seen are German. I’ve begun using my 5 words of German to say hello, thanks etc to people. Though I have learned hello (zdravo) and thanks (hvala) in Croatian.

June 5th

Three nights at Rovinj was enough so time to move on. We had a lovely drive around the bottom of Istria and up the other side, stopping in Opatija for a look around. And here too you could swim from the concrete beach, so we did. Croatia is becoming ‘the place where we swim in the sea at every opportunity’ to us. Drove on round the coast, to a campsite in a village called Selce, by the sea. There was a nice little restaurant by the beach where we ate.

June 6th

Had a quick swim in the sea this morning before moving on – heading inland towards the Plitvice Lakes national park. Everyone, every guide book says this is a must-see. So we thought we should see it. We’d found mention of a restaurant in Korenica just outside the park where you can camp for free if you eat in their restaurant, which is a great idea and I wish more places would do it. So after checking out where the entrance/parking for the Lakes was, we set ourselves up outside that restaurant, and ate there in the evening.

June 7th

Early start, to go to the Plitvice Lakes park. They are a series of lakes at different altitudes, linked to each other by waterfalls. Lots and lots of waterfalls. More waterfalls than you can shake a stick at, as Ignatius said. The place is well organised although the map (had to buy, for 20Kuna) was rubbish and the coffee we bought at the entrance was horrendously overpriced (18K where normally its around 8K). Hundreds upon thousands of coach parties, all doing the shorter walks. We’d managed to find a few paths no one else was taking before ending up on the main tourist route around, which involves a boat along one lake and a bus along the shore of another. It’s all very beautiful, and definitely worth a visit, although it’s veering towards the plastic in the way it’s being managed. We were a little unlucky with the weather that remained overcast all day, although as that meant it was cool I wasn’t too upset!

After leaving the lakes we had a stunning drive southwards, through high plains then mountains and finally dropping down to sea level and back to the coast. We drove about 2 hours seeing only about 3 other vehicles. I may be exaggerating but certainly when away from the coast there are a lot fewer people and cars. We reached a campsite on the edge of the town of Zadar. Sadly it was better in the book than in the flesh – they had not finished their much needed renovations so were unable to offer the ACSI discount… in other words we had to pay more for worse facilities than expected! On the plus side it was a great location – on the beach, 5km from the centre of Zadar. We had a swim in the sea, then Ignatius cooked my favourite BBQ dinner. Just for me. And himself.

bbq
Burgers and grilled veg. And wine, of course!

June 8th

Rode our bikes into Zadar, after checking out of the campsite (our most expensive yet, despite the rubbish facilities!) and parking the van by the campsite entrance. Zadar’s a cute little city (the old part) and we locked our bikes up and walked around it. Its main attraction is the sea organ – waves force air up pipes buried in the concrete promenade, making random music. And a 9th century church built on Roman remains. We had a drink at the Garden bar, set up and owned by members of the band UB40.

On the way back to Gertie I stupidly managed to fall off my bike. My own fault – misjudged a bump up a kerb and went flying. Right elbow and hip took the force of the fall but nothing serious – just bruised and I expect to be very stiff tomorrow.

After limping back the last part of the cycle and applying ice, we drove to a supermarket, stocked up, then onwards to a camperstop on the edge of the Krka national park. More waterfalls – we may go and see them tomorrow.

June 9th

Well I didn’t get round to finishing this blog last night as I was tired and couldn’t be bothered finding suitable photos to go with it. Went to bed at 11pm after checking the exit poll – then checked the news as soon as the alarm went off this morning and it was very nice to see that T. May did not get the landslide she’d banked on. Well done Labour. OK this is supposed to be a travel blog not a political commentary so I will shut up now!

We pushed on to a campsite outside Split today for a couple of days relaxing and to visit Split itself. Have to say this is by far the best campsite so far – certainly the best in Croatia and probably the best of the whole trip to date. Great setting, bars, restaurants yet doesn’t feel huge, good facilities, its own beach, about 7km from the town centre (so cycleable as soon as my injuries have healed!) We may be camped here some time.

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