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Friday, 26 June 2009

Europe trip 2009 - Plitvice to Trogir

30th May
After the previous days overcast skies, it dawned bright and sunny, great weather for our trip back over the mountains from Plitvice to the coast.

At Otocac we took a different route through Svica and Krasno Polje. The road is undergoing widening and improvements but it still took us through some interesting countryside - the last bit down to the sea gave us fantastic views of the islands of Krk, Prvic and Rab in the piercing sunlight.

The island of Krk gleams in the sunlight

Rab is supposedly the birthplace of Marin the stone mason, who is said to have founded and given his name to the city and republic of San Marino, across the Adriatic near Rimini.

The ferry to Rab from Jablanac is run by a different company, Rapska-Plovidba, and runs all day, virtually every hour in June and continuously in high season. 173 Kuna (about €25) for a 7 metre motorhome and two persons.

First impressions as you drive off the ferry is that you have landed on the moon - it is totally barren and rugged, but as you get into the interior it greens up a lot and there are some forested and cultivated areas amongst all the developments.

Auto Camp San Marino is at the top of the island at the end of the road, just after the town of Lopar.
It’s an ACSI site but when we arrived the reductions were off for the holiday week. The site employs the common, but tiresome, routine of requiring you to park outside, walk around and select your pitch, then report back and register with reception. When it’s busy the whole process of selecting a pitch can take an hour or more.
Tourist tax and registration fee added 25 Kuna to the listed prices, bringing the total for one night to 132.20 Kuna (about €19). (GPS: 44.8238 N, 14.7368 E)

Auto Camp San Marino - the white stuff gets everywhere!

The big attraction of this site is the vast shallow bay it surrounds - unusually for Croatia it is all yellow sand. It is a paradise for kids as you can walk through the water over the smooth sand for a hundred metres or more and still only be in up to your knees - though if you want a swim the attraction soon wanes, just as you think it’s getting deeper and plunge in your knees touch bottom again!

The rest of the site was dusty and scruffy with very little grass anywhere, under the trees the ground was covered with white fluffy blossom which drifted everywhere and stuck to our shoes. Add in the noise of screaming children and motor scooters zinging up and down – we soon knew that we wouldn’t be staying for a second night.

31st May
We drove down to the celebrated Rab town with its four church towers, but the only parking available was through lifting barriers and very tight, so we gave it a miss.

Rab town - as near as we could get in a motorhome!

Apart from its cathedral, Rab doesn't appear to have much in the way of assets historical, ethnic cultural or naturally wild - it is a holiday island pure and simple, bring your swimming trunks and even your boat, but be prepared to share your space with lots of others.
Claiming 120 years of hospitality, we felt that the island was rather tired of that burden.

By midday we were off Rab and waiting for the ferry to Pag, a Jadrolinija ferry service again - 188 Kuna (about €27).

No, its not the Gobi desert -its Pag

Pag, like Rab, has a bleak, barren entry from the ferry - devoid of vegetation, but it doesn’t green up as much, there are myriad dry stone walls enclosing fields of scrub used for grazing sheep and virtually no trees, though some olive groves and vineyards.
As on Rab, we drove to the northernmost tip, a 20 km run up its narrow spine from the rapidly expanding and uninspiring resort town of Novalja.

The upmarket village of Lun

The village of Lun has a small waterfront away from the main settlement and now has a one way system for accessing it. Fifty metres down the road we were confronted with a newly placed “No motorhomes” sign! Rather than reverse back up the road we carried on and negotiated the waterfront without great difficulty, though we did collect a few stony glares.

Oops! - we are now in a one way traffic system

However, we think the Womo guide was crazy to suggest over-nighting or even parking down there, the stream of motorhomes trying to do exactly that has obviously caused some agitation. There is another sign as you leave the village appearing to either warn of cattle on the road, or ban motorhomes, for 20 km. We felt the chill of the local populace anyhow.

Is that a warning of cattle for 20 Km or No motorhomes for 20 Km (or both)?

Still in search of some quiet camping near the sea we turned down a narrow track to Auto Camp Skovrdara. The long steep gravel track down to the camp had been wasted by the heavy rains and more resembled a dried up river bed - a tortuous drive - whilst Sue was concentrating on getting me to miss the olive trees, I was more focused on not putting a hole in the sump pan!

A waterfront terrace at Camp Skovrdara

It turned out to be a very basic, newly set up site (the water heater was an old wood burner!) but the owner was very friendly and had good English. 10 Euro or 150 Kuna a night, with no electricity - but peace and a sea view with a private beach. (GPS: 44.6279 N, 14.7925 E).

The site, as we found out later, has an entry in the German Bord Atlas for motorhomes and we were amazed to see a huge German Phoenix double-axle overcab van turn up - he must have had some fun coming down the hill! Manoeuvring down the slope onto one of the terraces involved building a ramp out of his levelling blocks to clear his long overhang from the stony ground.
Still intent on upstaging everybody, they rolled not one, but two identical scooters out of their garage, donned their identical helmets (kids on the back as well) and roared off back up the dusty track.

1st June
The weather took a turn for the worse again, very blustery with showers, so we stayed put.

The butterflies like it here, anyhow
2nd June
Gritting our teeth for the scramble back up the river bed (the owner did promise to get it fixed soon) we headed down island for the 15th century Renaissance town of Pag - however it is now submerged in a cordon of new developments.

Pag town on a windswept day

Parking appeared to be limited so we moved on, some very high winds and heavy showers reinforcing our decision not to seek out the town’s ancient stonework and “Mediterranean hustle and bustle” as the guide has it. If you are around at the end of July there is a traditional carnival in the town with local folk costumes and brass bands.

Pag island seems to have set itself up as another “fun” resort destination for the younger generation and despite its bleaker, more remote parts, we personally wouldn’t bother with either Rab or Pag again.
Nonetheless we stopped off at a farmhouse for some Paski Sir, the famed Pag sheep’s milk cheese. The dear old lady in the house didn't have much English and unfortunately there wasn't any cheese available for tasting, though Sue did ascertain that the price was 150 Kuna (€21)/kg. Wine, grappa and olive oil were also for sale.

The wind and rain continued and soon we were over the single span, toll free bridge to the mainland. Shortly after, near Razanac, we took a right turn onto a minor road towards the ancient town of Nin.
Nin is situated on a 500 metre wide island in a shallow lagoon and is Croatia’s oldest royal town. In its 3000 year old history it has been abandoned twice due to devastations and destructions and now has around 1700 inhabitants. The tourist office proudly displays its membership of the “Walled Towns Friendship Circle” of which Tenby in Wales was the founder.

Our ACSI book had thrown up Kamp Ninska Laguna on the north side of town and we squeezed into its narrow access to be met by an irascible and impatient old man.

Campsites often ask to retain our passports but we always politely refuse, offering our International Camping Cards instead (of which we carry one each, alternating the renewals each year).
The cards hold all the relevant details that our passports do and up until now they have always been accepted. (The reason we don't leave our passports are twofold: one, in most countries and that includes Croatia, you are required to carry verifiable ID at all times - so we always carry our passports with us, secondly, in these days of ID fraud it just seems an unnecessary additional risk).
Anyhow, this was not enough for the old man at Kamp Ninska Laguna who kept shouting over Sue's explanations: "I want documents". Eventually he very rudely suggested we take ourselves, our van and our cards to Zadar, 14 km away: “go to Zadar, lady!”

We didn't, we paid a visit to the tourist office (who said the rain had probably upset him!) and went to Kamp Dispet on the other side of town.
This small and pleasant autocamp is right by the water, closer to town and far more spacious. The lady accepted a single ICC with a smile, and for only a couple of euros more than the cramped and muddy Kamp Ninska Laguna, we had ourselves a far nicer pitch. No registration fee was charged either - it's included in the price, which makes it even better value. (GPS: 44.2466 N, 15.1900 E)

The smallest "Cathedral" in the world!

Nicely ensconced, we walked around one side of the lagoon and over one of the two ancient bridges into town. Nin lays claim to ownership of the “smallest cathedral in the world” - the 11th Century Church of the Holy Cross being only 36 paces from end to end.

They are busy rebuilding (and re-creating) some of the town walls and covering the concrete streets with stone paving. A new memorial park has been built next to the cemetery - so far so tasteful.
However, parts of the original wall run through the front gardens of people’s homes and the remnants of the wall have here been put to different uses, the stones even used to build a barbeque!

Nin sheds its medieval ambiance

Nin is a nice place, with a lot of history if you want to go into it, but it has far too many modern concrete homes for it to recover any real “ancient” charm.

3rd June
has been the capital and economic and cultural centre of Dalmatia for millennia. The Croats arrived in the 7th Century and formed the first Croatian kingdom. However from 13th Century the city came under Venetian control, whilst the hinterland was under the Turkish Empire.
Then under Austrian rule from the 19th Century until the end of WW1 (except while Napoleon had his hands on it for eight years), it passed to Italy in 1920 before becoming part of the former Yugoslavia in 1947.

As we waited for the bus to Zadar outside the campsite (13 Kuna each way), the sun gave notice that the day was going to be a hot one, and after a ten minute wait we were glad to get on board.

The bridge to Zadar's old town was a short walk from the bus stop and we were soon wandering its narrow, stone paved streets.
Cutting through to the seaward side of the peninsular we found ourselves on the south-western waterfront promenade, claimed to be the most beautiful town quay in the world. A further accolade - no less a cinematographer than Alfred Hitchcock is said to have declared the sunsets from there the best in the world!

Hitchcocks favourite setting for a sunset

Originally the site of seaward facing fortifications, the quay was constructed during 1871-74 whilst the city was under redevelopment by the Austrians. It became the focal point of the town but was then comprehensively bombed by the Allies in 1943-44. Most of the elegant Austrian buildings were destroyed and have not been replaced, instead a green belt of parks shades virtually the whole length of the quay.

At the tip of the town peninsula and seaward end of the quay there is a newly paved area of the waterfront with shallow steps gradually going down to the waters edge. Cut into the steps there are hundreds of small slots, like air vents, and hidden below the stone slabs at water level are “Organ pipes” skilfully created in the reconstruction of the jetty.

Listen to the (natural) music

Emanating from these vents was a low and melodic sound - think Pan Pipes made for a supernatural musician - the notes were eerie, powerful, with deep mournful base and effortless, fluting mid range. Subtly changing with the arrival of every wave, it was quite entrancing random music from the sea, akin to the recorded sound of whales calling from the deep ocean.
Some visitors were lying in the sun on the broad steps, their ears a few inches from the vents - away in some magical place perhaps? Others still had their MP3 players plugged in - counterpoint, or cultural isolation?

Between the pipes and the ferry terminal there is a huge glass faced compass set into the paving, and around the periphery are the names and distance to famous places of worship. There also appeared to be a ring of lights under the glass slabs, and a constant clicking sound - we’ll have to go back one day to find out what its all about, and see one of those special sunsets.

The enigmatic compass set into the town quay

The iconic building for Zadar is the 9th Century Church of St Donatus, adjacent to the remains of a large Roman forum built in the 1st Century BC.
The cathedral was bare inside, but interesting for the evident use of sections of old fluted stone column and decorated lintels for the foundations - clearly plundered from the Roman forum next door!

Some early re-cycling of Roman stonework

We had a break for coffee and a slice of fruit strudel under the umbrellas next to the cathedral, and later at the large covered market square we finally tasted some Pag sheep's milk cheese.
It came in three different strengths, mild, tangy and eye-wateringly tangy, depending on its maturity. We settled for the merely tangy, mid-priced offering, which still came to 56 Kuna for a 250 gram slice (€32/kg)
As we discovered later, the local Plodine supermarket sells the dark mature stuff for €18/kg, so we know where to buy it from next time!

4th June
Again in bright sunshine we headed south along the coast road out of Zadar towards Sibenik. There are literally dozens of small waterfront Auto Kamps to choose from along this road if you need a cheaper stop-over.
Inland there is the emerald green of Lake Vrana (another one), part of another national park and with a large campsite.
At Prosika there is a loop of road which gives direct access to the coast and there are several parking spots by the water, possible over-nighters out of season.

Next we turned off to the pretty, unspoilt island of Murter. This is connected to the mainland by a swing bridge, no toll is levied. After a drive to the fishing port and resort/marina of Murter at the top of the island we selected Autokamp Plitka Vala. (GPS: 43.8053 N, 15.6139 E)

This is a great site with a sheltered bay of its own, complete with a couple of jetties for small boats. There is a small restaurant and bar and the quaint little fishing village of Betina is just a short cycle ride along the coast path.

The unusual streets of Betina

Further along the road out of Betina you soon come to Murter which is also a base for boat trips out to the Kornati national park, a beautiful archipelago of 150 islands.

The view of Betina from our waterfront pitch

Again we managed to find ourselves a pitch only yards from the waters edge. The rest of the site was almost full of German vans, with a sprinkling of Austrian and Dutch.
It’s their favourite spot to return to year after year it would seem, as many had boat trailers, some with large double-axle jobs carrying 20 ft sports boats. Attached to their bulky vans, they make a road going ensemble 50 ft long or more - not for me, brother!
As the only Brits, we certainly seemed to arouse some interest and a very pleasant German couple in a large A class held us in conversation for an hour or so.

5th June
Reluctantly we decided that we should move on and made our way to the huge Solaris campsite and tourist resort/convention centre 4 km from Sibenik. It is a vast complex with its own shuttle bus service into town, but the campsite facilities are excellent, with fully serviced pitches under shady trees and quick access to the beach.
We found a vacant pitch a few steps from the gravely beach and a lovely “infinity” sea water swimming pool. Including tax, one night came to 150 Kuna (about €21). (GPS: 43.6978 N, 15.8786 E)

Sibenik lies in the most protected natural harbour in the Adriatic, a single, steep sided narrow channel allowing access. It was the first genuinely Croatian coastal city, emerging in the 11th Century rather than growing on the foundations of cities of antiquity.

Its best known monument is the UNESCO listed Gothic-Renaissance cathedral of St Jacob. Its construction took over a century, and as well as a frieze of 84 startling carved heads around the outer walls of the apse, it is noted for its barrel vault and dome which is made entirely of carved stone blocks, weighing several tons each, fitted into grooves in stone ribs – a technological first and amazing achievement for the 15th Century.

The fascinating carved heads on the cathedral apse

The atmospheric and steep narrow streets also lead the way to a partially restored 12th Century fort which overlooks the town (entry 20 Kuna).
On the way down from the fort Sue decided that I really did need a haircut and I popped into the Croatian equivalent of the Gentleman’s Barber. After half an hour of manic cutting and shaving by a very intense young man I was left severely (though not catastrophically) shorn and 35 Kuna (€5) poorer.

6th June
We departed the Solaris site in high winds, white crests breaking in clouds of spray on rocks at the end of the beach, and water lifting in droplets off the surface of the infinity pool.

We stopped for a quick look at Primosten, but the wind had reached the strength that you could almost stand against it. The swell whipped up by the wind was crashing into the south facing harbour and several posh motor yachts moored stern-to were leaping about and in danger of damaging themselves on the jetty.

Its hang on to your hat time in Primosten

Amazingly, the gravel beach on its northern side, sheltered by the hill on which the village stands, was perfectly tranquil.

Primosten is a seafront village that has obviously been on the tourist trail for some years, its surrounding vineyards its main claim to fame.
Architecturally unremarkable except for its church (firmly locked as so often has been the case in Croatia), we didn’t find anything else to make us linger, especially as a rather flaky youth – prone to jiving with himself – was taking 10 Kuna an hour from us in the car park above the town (you do wonder if this was a scam, we’ll ask for ID next time).

So onto Camping Belvedere, 5 km north of Trogir. It is a large, old established site with high terraced pitches down to the rocky seafront, with a man-made beach up past the restaurant. There is a reasonable supermarket on site but no access to the washing machines, only a laundry service. (GPS: 43.5102 N, 16.1948 E)

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Europe trip 2009 - Beli to Plitvice

15th May
The island of Cres, at 68 km long and 13 km wide, is the biggest in Croatia and is connected to the island of Losinj by a small swing road bridge near the town of Osor - the channel dug by the Liburnians 2000 years ago, before which they were one island.

The islands are also crossed by the 45th Parallel, which is the border between the continental climate and the subtropical climate, hence they have two, or even three distinct climatic zones (depending on whose information you are reading).

In the centre of Cres is lake Vrana, a natural freshwater lake 5.5 km long and 70 metres deep, which provides the whole of the Cres-Losinj island archipelago with fresh water. It fills only with rain water and is an important habitat for fish as well as an ornithological reserve.

The sea around the islands is also an important area for endangered species such as dolphins and sea turtles. The presence of 100 -150 dolphins indicates clean water and enough fish to feed them.

The promise of another hot and sunny day in Beli didn't materialise so under overcast skies we decided to break camp and visit the eco-centre for Griffin vultures just outside the town.
The Griffons from Cres and the other Kvarner islands are unique in that they nest on cliff tops above the sea, rather than high mountain cliffs and river canyons.

Griffon vultures awaiting their new enclosure at Beli

The centre had some interesting information of the ecology of the island, and after absorbing that we were taken to an enclosure to see the recovering vultures. The reduction in the number of these 2.4 to 2.8 metre wingspan birds is mainly due to the decreasing number of flocks of sheep on the island - dead sheep are their main source of food.

To help sustain their flock of young and recovering birds, local people bring dying or recently dead animals to the centre. The young woman, who showed us around the new and spacious enclosure being built for the birds, told a story of a man with a sick donkey who phoned the sanctuary. They collected the animal, but the hardy beast “recovered” and lived with them for another five years before being fed to the birds!
(http://www.supovi.hr/ )

Later we checked into Camping Kovacine at Cres, a vast campsite within easy walking distance of the old town. As well as a long beach front, a mini-marina and slipway, pizzeria and a la carte restaurant, it also doubles as a naturist site with roughly a third of the pitches and half the beach front allocated to the skinny-dippers and sun-worshippers. (44.9617 N, 14.3960 E)
(http://www.camp-kovacine.com/ )

16th May
Another rare beast in Croatia is the campsite washing machine - so far the only sites we had stayed at that had them, kept them locked up until the high season, or offered only a laundry service.

Alas there was no tumble dryer, so we created a drying rack under the awning, and with a month’s worth of jocks and socks suspended underneath it ended up looking like a colony of fruit bats. It got some amazed looks from passers-by anyhow.

The charming old town and harbour of Cres has many late-medieval buildings, built during Venetian rule, and is a 15 minute walk along the easy coast path. There are two small inner harbours and a new large jetty (completed last year) for large yachts and tripper boats. There are also commercial ships, a floating dry-dock (prettily painted to hide its bulk) and further out of down, a large and well equipped marina.

Pizzeria on the waterfront at Cres

There is plenty of tasteful refurbishment going on around the town’s maze of tiny streets and the place still has that lived-in-by-the local’s feel which such tourist towns have often completely lost.

Sitting with an excellent seafood pizza on the waterfront, we watched an old boy (who looked as if he wouldn’t see ninety again), clamber stiffly onto his fishing boat, get out his sandpaper and paintbrush and apply the zillionth coat of paint to his beloved boat – at eight o’clock in the evening!

Walking the coast path back to the Camping Kovacine

17th May
Reluctantly leaving Cres behind we headed down island, having a quick look at Lake Vrana on the way – amazing colour, but only accessible by bike or on foot down a steep track.

At the small hamlet of Belej we passed the Konoba Gromaca, a small restaurant with a young pig roasting on a spit out front. Suddenly it looked like Sunday lunch and after a quick U turn we settled ourselves down with a beer to await the carving up of the animal.

Konoba Gromaca, Sunday lunch in the making

The tasty pork was served up with baked potato segments, a light salad (straight from the garden), huge wedges of dark bread and the most delicious lime green olive oil we have ever tasted – we poured it over the meat and spuds and it lifted them to another dimension. Some very smooth grappa was thrown in gratis to finish off. The bill, with two half litres of beer, came to 166 Kuna (about £20).

Freshly spit-roasted pork - no fighting over the portions!

After a snooze on our ever-ready fixed bed we crossed over the swing bridge to Losinj.
The port and resort of Male Losinj is far more built up than we expected (better map readers than us will have spotted an airport not far away) and is in fact the largest settlement on any island in the Adriatic, as well as the commercial and administrative centre for Cres-Losinj.

Foregoing the huge ACSI Poljana campsite, we found ourselves a more expensive pitch on the waterfront at Camping Cikat, in the Jadranka chain of campsites.
There were plenty of wooded pitches to be had but the rest of the waterfront, if not already taken, was reserved from the last week in May onwards. (GPS: 44.5344 N, 14.4447 E)
(http://www.camps-cres-losinj.com/ )

A pitch on the water front at Camping Cikat

A cooling swim put us to rights, but the noisy surrounding campers and continual promenaders convinced us to move on the next day. One night cost 136 Kuna (about £17)

18th May
We had a quick look at Veli Losinj, which is as far south as you can go in a vehicle, but it wasn’t motorhome territory at all – signs up banning parking of motorhomes: “0-24 hrs”.

Back up island we stopped for a while at the little town of Osor. Quaint and quite quiet, it none the less has a “cathedral”, a legacy of its more important past. Up to the 15th Century it was the main settlement of both islands. There is a waterfront campsite and a few small restaurants.

The ancient streets of Osor

Our next decision was to turn south again to the tip of Cres at Punta Kriza. After a 12 km drive down a single track road we found Camping Baldarin and finally, our camping nirvana.

To quote the website: "This is an oasis of tranquillity with beautiful beaches, hidden coves and crystal clear seas. From the moment you discover the dense Mediterranean forest of coastal oaks with their fauna, you will stop thinking about the narrow and winding road you drove along to get here".

Just about spot on actually.

In the brochure it is billed as a naturist site only, but it does have a small section available to the shy ones, in a small shallow turquoise cove used for their boat hire business.

Camping Baldarin's very busy boat hire business

Although we are not averse to a bit of skinny dipping, I haven't yet tried the Full Monty, so we walked the small, steeply sloping forested area and espied a pitch which we thought was viable for our van.

Our unique pitch under the trees - water and electricity in the yellow post

To be fair we were very lucky to get the pitch we did, most of the other level areas had been taken up by fixed private and rental caravans and during the next week we saw a few motorhomes arrive (having driven the 12 km from Osor) only to give up trying to find a suitable pitch and leave again. (GPS: 44.6152 N, 14.5097 E)
(http://www.camps-cres-losinj.com/ )

19th - 25th May
So began a lovely week of lazy, languorous days swimming and lounging, and breakfast, lunch and dinner eaten alfresco. Every evening we sat outside as the sun disappeared behind the trees and ate our meal in the still, pine scented air.

The only downside was the mozzies, there were some tiny little buggers that even managed to nip us through our socks!
Before lunch we swam, and again as the heat of the day eased. Every day dawned clear and sunny, temperatures reaching 37 degrees some afternoons, a mini heatwave as it turned out.

Even the stick insects are friendly here!

At night it was utterly quiet, there was no road noise, no shipping lanes, no overhead flight paths – when it was finally dark and the birds fell silent, it was so still a footfall on the soft forest floor sounded like the crunch of a hobnail boot on gravel. Only the occasional hoot of an owl broke the silence, raising the hairs on the backs of our necks.

At first light the deafening dawn chorus burst on our ears – you might as well get up and enjoy the sights and sounds of the early morning.

Yet another tranquil morning down on the beach

On the Saturday lunchtime we walked the couple of hundred metres to the Pogana, a waterside restaurant on another tree lined, crystal clear inlet.
A couple of locals were making an ancient style of fish trap out of stiff green reeds - the woman explained that it took many years of practice to produce the perfect shape crafted by her older mentor.

A few yards away on the shore, a fisherman was gutting the day’s catch surrounded by children who had arrived on a tripper boat.

The fisherman gives a lesson in fish gutting

On Sunday evening we returned to Pogana for a fish platter – mixed fish in this case meant exactly that, three whole different fish on one plate, not your usual meagre fillets with a few tired prawns and bits of calamari thrown on top.

Now, thats what we call a fish platter!

The fish was firm and perfectly cooked – by the fisherman, and served with salted boiled potatoes and spinach. With a little salt, lemon juice and olive oil, the flesh was just perfect, I don’t know how it could have been bettered.

Pogana, only the freshest fish and Cres lamb

Pogana has been established for 35 years and serves only fresh fish and meat. No bookings are taken, they open at six in the evening - turn up early if you want a waterside seat and the pick of the produce.

26th May
It was time to tear ourselves away. As it was, our timing was just right – the weather broke the next day. We drove up island towards the ferry terminal for the island of Krk at Merag.
We did think about looking at the small hamlets of Lubenice and Valun to which we had been recommended by many, but realising we wouldn’t have time in the day we headed for the ferry.

In actual fact we arrived 90 minutes early and cooled ourselves down with an ice cream from one of two cafes on the quayside.

Official - no camping outside of campsites

A large sign at the terminal gives a strong reminder that camping is only permitted on campsites. Over the course of our travels on Cres-Losinj we found two of the Womo guide “overnight stops” still usable and a few more ourselves, but they were all by well used roads.

Interestingly a Slovenian motorhome plonked himself on the waterfront 50 metres from the Baldarin campsite for a couple of days, chocks out and bikes off, lounging on the beach. According to a Belgian who we chatted to at the Pogana, the police came to move him on half an hour after he had left!
The same Belgian (who had been coming to Punta Kriza for twenty years and seemed to know everyone) said the Police will normally give vans 24 hrs grace. The Womo guide talks about a possible 1000 Kuna (140 Euro) fine, though one campsite receptionist told us a 2000 Euro fine can be levied - so you either pays for your campsite or takes your chances. Personally we didn’t feel it was appropriate on such an island.

A state of the art ferry for Jadrolinija line

The ferry was an elegant vessel less than a year old, built locally at Rijeka, and it runs from 0630 to 2330. From 1st October to 31st May the frequency is every 2 to 2 ½ hrs, from 1st June to 30th September every 1 ½ hrs during the busy part of the day.
(http://www.jadrolinija.hr/ )

Ashore on Krk, it felt very different – like being back on the mainland, which practically it now is, because of the bridge on the other side.
We headed for Camping Glavotok, an ACSI site which promised good swimming and camping amongst the trees. There are some very narrow sections of road to get to it and the site pitches themselves are fairly tightly packed, however we squeezed ourselves onto a waterfront patch.

Just across from us was a British registered Rapido owned by Andy and Rosemary. Contact made, we were soon swapping Rapido data and inspecting each other’s “rubber bands” - as they put it.
The swimming was good but Sue still managed to carve up her knees on a shallow rock – no serious damage. (GPS: 45.0937 N, 14.4403 E)
(http://www.kamp-glavotok.hr/ )

Skiing into the sunset - the last of the serene weather

27th May
A distinct change in the weather - high winds, a severe drop in temperature and the odd shower, so we decided to stay put. A very fiery sunset though. Later we sunk another bottle of wine with Andy and Rosemary.

28th May
The Camper service station at Glavotok must be one on the worst we have ever come across. We are not a large van but access was very difficult because of the low walls around it and trees behind. The base was flat and water did not flow to the drain so, unable to get our valve over the grate, our waste water ran down the hill. The final irritation was having to use jetons to get water (at very low pressure) and for flushing out the cassette. Pump and dump took an hour.

We visited the town of Krk but didn’t linger. The road to the mainland bridge is new from Krk and we were soon off the island, no toll is payable when leaving.

It was a fine and sunny, if rather windy day, and we felt the van shift from side to side as we drove down the coast - later we heard that parts of the coast road had been closed.
We passed several small inviting looking Auto Camps tucked around small bays.
We had decided to have a break from blue sea and shingle and move inland over the mountains to the Plitvice Lakes National Park, the largest of Croatia’s eight national parks and a UNESCO site since 1979.

At Otocac, thinking we were well out in the sticks we were surprised to come across a brand new Lidls and a Maxi Konzum. A big stock-up thus ensued, our supplies of Lidl’s excellent tinned fish, our lunchtime staples, were well depleted. A few tens of kilos heavier as we passed through the town, we suddenly realised that several large buildings were scarred and pock marked with bullet holes – the evidence of the 1991- 95 war was still around us.

As we drove on through lush countryside and sweeping plains it became commonplace to see residential houses still spattered with holes, some abandoned, even a burned out church. It was disturbing to see the signs of warfare so fresh.

Our site for the night was Camping Korana, a few kilometres from the entrances to the national park. They arrange buses for campers to get to the park, a 20 Kuna round trip, leaving at 0900, returning at 1700. (GPS: 44.9464 N, 15.6394. E)
(http://www.np-plitvicka-jezera.hr/ )

29th May
The Plitvice lakes or Plitvicka Jezera are a series of sixteen lakes interconnected by cascading waterfalls, set in forest and falling from open rock faces, or through lush vegetation.

Plitvice National Park

Our Croatian brochure describes them as the “pinnacle” of lake landscapes in Europe, the special factor being the active formation of a porous carbonate rock called Tufa or Travertine from the sedimentation of calcium carbonate in the water. This continually builds barriers, sills and other formations, constantly changing the form and position of the waterfalls.
The virgin beech-fir forest is also home to brown bears.

The boardwalks take you there

A 110 Kuna entry ticket includes a trip on an electric boat across a lake and a road train trip back to the entrance. There are several different routes you can walk, but the “C” route was the campsite’s recommendation.

The lakes are teeming with fish

It’s hard to sum up the spectacle of this park, it’s like some endless private water garden, created at impossible cost by a megalomaniac 18th Century baron – half a dozen Capability Browns on overtime. Though enhanced and lovingly maintained by men and women, it’s better, far better than anything man could create.

Not your average water garden

The key to fully appreciating its beauty are the miles of boardwalks, which take you over the pools, close by the falls, even over them – water gurgling up through the rough hewn wooden staithes of the walkways. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, there’s another wonderful vista opening up in front of you.

How close can you get

The more we travel, the easier it is to cast a jaundiced eye over major tourist attractions, but we thought this was one of those places than lived up to or exceeded its billing, one you could visit again and again when you needed some refreshment for your soul. Sue summed it up with: "it puts a smile on your face that's hard to wipe off", it really is a magical place.