Croatia, full of surprises

5th October – 12th October

Murphy’s law will always come into play when you least expect it. The border crossing from Slovenia to Croatia was where it struck. We didn’t get our passports out this time, there has never been anyone at the border posts, until today!!! We had to pull over to get them out of the safe and on reaching the border post, the lady just glanced at them, then us and waved us on. Continuing on we stopped at Slunj, a little town where the main attraction was a number of waterfalls, all at different heights cascading down into the river. It was really pretty with moss covered rocks and a small boardwalk that would take you to many more waterfalls further down the river. Driving another 30kms we stopped at the beginning of the Plitvice lakes area for a glimpse of the emerald green waters. Weather permitting we will visit there tomorrow as you need several hours to see all of the lakes. We have found a wildcamp spot about 8kms from the lakes next to an old church ruin so we should have a quiet night.

We woke to -2.5° but clear blue skies which is just what we wanted for our day trip to the Plitvice Lakes. We had a short drive back to the car park from our overnight spot, and once Tilly was settled we headed for the ticket booth. 110 HK each (€14.66 or $21.38) we set off on the first leg which was an hour long walk along a wooden footbridge passed these amazing turquoise lakes. There are 16 lakes in total, all connected by a series of waterfalls and cascades. The mineral rich waters carve new paths through the rock depositing new porous rock in continually changing formations. The footbridges follow the lakes and streams over, under and across the water. The second leg was on a boat which took us across the largest lake where we then continued on foot for another hour and a half reaching the end lake. The scenery along the way was just beautiful. So many different colours of water, depending on the sunlight as well as the trees in the forest which are changing to their autumn colour. We had our lunch before hopping on the bus that takes you back along the road which gives a different view of the lakes and their amazing colours. Another 15 minute walk had us back at the start, 4 hours later. It was a great day and although a bit expensive we thought it was well worth it.

See the waterfalls?

See the waterfalls?

Look at that colour!

Look at that colour!

More of mother natures beauty.

More of mother natures beauty.

Awesome!

Awesome!

Another cold night and some rain on our journey towards Zadar. We drove around 85kms through scenery reminiscent of Spain on a winding road through a very large rocky mountain range that was blue/grey in colour and was barren of trees. We passed a huge river gorge which unfortunately had no road leading down to it, perhaps a tourist attraction opportunity missed? We have found a wildcamp spot right on the water opposite the town of Maslenica, about 25kms from Zadar. There were three abandoned kittens at the waters edge so we put out some tinned sardines and fresh water for them. We spent the remainder of the day admiring the view, watching the fisherman and relaxing.

We do get some great overnight spots.

We do get some great overnight spots.

A warmer night and a lovely view of the sparkling waters when we got up this morning. After breakfast we drove the last 25kms towards Zadar. We parked a couple of kilometres outside of town and walked to the old town which is on a separate island to the mainland. With marble paving throughout, the old town follows the old roman street plan with lots of little alleyways and contains roman ruins and medieval churches. Heavily damaged during WWII as well as by Yugoslavian rockets in 1991, it has been rebuilt and restored, retaining much of its charm. We wandered the streets visiting most of the churches as well as the roman forum. In one of the squares there were several stalls selling local produce and giving away a free lunch of a bowl of pasta with beef and crusty bread so we sat with locals and tourists alike enjoying it. We had a walk along the waterfront and came across the sea organ. Set within perforated stone stairs that descend to the sea a system of pipes and whistles exude a mournful sigh when the movement of the sea pushes air through the pipes, it was quite an eerie sound. We continued our walk around the waterfront area with views to the mountain ranges we passed yesterday and today on our drive.

Zadar old town

Zadar old town

We had a lovely drive in the glorious sunshine along the coast for most of the journey. We passed many little towns that hugged the coast and inlets of aquamarine waters. We stopped at the tiny town of Trogir, formerly a Roman town called Trau whose old town is set within medieval walls. Paved with marble, like Zadar we wandered through the maze like streets to the seaside promenade which is lined with bars and cafes with some very expensive yachts moored at the marina. Buildings of Romanesque and Renaissance architecture make this Dalmatian town worthy of its world heritage listing. From Trogir, we continued along the coast passed more beautiful bays and inlets to another ruin of an ancient roman city called Solin (known as Salona by the romans). We are parked just outside of the archaeological site which we will visit tomorrow.

We spent most of the morning visiting the ruins of the ancient city of Salona which was the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia from the time Julius Caesar elevated it to the status of colony. It held out against the barbarians and was only evacuated in AD614 when the inhabitants fled to Split and neighbouring islands in the face of Avar and Slav attacks. In the complex, there were burial places for early Christian matyrs before the legalisation of Christianity, excavated remains of a cemetery and the 5th century basilica. A covered aqueduct ran along the inside base of the walls along with several cathedrals, public baths and a 2nd century amphitheater which was destroyed in the 17th century by the Venetians to stop it from being used as a refuge by Turkish raiders. At the east gate, grooves can be seen in the stone road left by the ancient chariots. An amazing place, it was quite a morning. There were several archeological sites being worked on throughout the area with one at the entrance to the car park uncovering a broken Roman coin while we were watching them work. We asked a gentleman on the street about buses into Split, so with the timetable, cost and bus number, Split is our destination for tomorrow.

The

The amphitheater of Salona with Split in the background

After a non eventful 20 minute journey on the bus, we were in the city of Split, Croatia’s second largest. A short walk had us arriving in the old town where the main tourist attraction, Diocletian’s palace is one of the most imposing Roman ruins in existence. Walking through the first gate took our breath away with the size and beauty of the surrounding buildings. A rectangular fortress built as his retirement palace in the late 2nd century, it housed the imperial residence, mausoleum and several temples. Being a major tourist attraction, everything cost money to get into, the basement halls, the cathedral, Temple of Jupiter however we did get in to see the crypt as well as the tunnel that led to the basement halls. We were more than happy to just wander the web of marble paved streets (with our walking map) and reading the history of Split on the information boards dotted around the old town and admiring the beautiful old buildings. Three of the palace gates are still standing thanks to a lot of restoration work. One side of the fortress wall faces the waterfront and the promenade that runs parallel is full of restaurants and cafes. Not the busy tourist season but there were still a lot of people visiting and a lovely place to roam. Several scenes from Game of Thrones were filmed in the old town and the surrounding coastal mountains, so as well as the usual souvenirs, there was Game of Thrones paraphernalia to buy, for those inclined. Can’t wait for Dubrovnik!

Inside the walls of Diocletian's palace

Inside the walls of Diocletian’s palace

One of the three gates

One of the three gates

We had a big drive today in the glorious sunshine. The first 100kms was around the coast passed many lovely villages and towns with the crystal clear aquamarine waters of the Adriatic Sea shimmering in the sun. We headed inland for awhile and around the area of Rogotin canals for agriculture have been designed to irrigate the hundreds of acres of fruit trees, olive trees and vegetables with makeshift stalls lining the road selling the produce. A little further on we hit the border of Bosnia where the gentleman in the border post took note of Tilly’s number plate and waved us on. We did have concerns about going through Bosnia but only because our insurance didn’t cover the country. We figured after travelling almost 20000 miles to date, to have an accident in the 10kms we needed to travel to cross Bosnia back into Croatia, we would take the risk. Back on Croatian soil, the road headed back to the coast, passed more villages and towns. We had glimpses of Dubrovnik in the distance and have parked about 15kms away at Orašac. We had a walk down to the beach to stretch our legs however it was too windy for a swim although the water temperature was quite warm. Tomorrow we hop on the bus bound for Dubrovnik.

13th October – 19th October

Another sunny day greeted us for our trip to Dubrovnik. Our bus arrived on time and took us along the coast to the Port of Dubrovnik where two cruise ships were moored. From there it was on another bus to the old town. With our tourist walking map in hand (and the sites of filming for Game of Thrones highlighted) we set off for our walk around the city walls. As with Split, everything costs but you can’t come to a place like this and not complete the city wall walk, 120HK each (€15.99 or $23.53). Built between the 13th and 16th centuries, they enclose the entire city in a protective veil over 2km long and up to 25m high with two round and 14 square towers, two corner fortifications and a large fortress with great views over the old town and the endless shimmer of the peaceful Adriatic. Shelled by the Yugoslav army in 1991, residents cleared the rubble and set about repairing the damage with amazing results. When we had finished the wall walk, we spent the next few hours wandering the rabbit warren of marble streets with their baroque buildings, restaurants and souvenir shops all doing good business with the thousands of tourists visiting. We had our lunch sitting on the edge of the main fountain before continuing our walk around, passing too many sights to mention. Back on the bus and home again from what was an enjoyable but expensive day.

A section of the wall in Dubrovnik-glad it wasn't peak tourist season

A section of the wall in Dubrovnik-glad it wasn’t peak tourist season

Within the walls of Dubrovnik's old town

Within the walls of Dubrovnik’s old town

More of the wall

More of the wall

Cersai's walk of shame (Game of thrones scene)

Cersai’s walk of shame (Game of thrones scene)

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We had our biggest drive day today since Norway, travelling 350kms towards Zadar. Our first leg had us driving back the same way we came up to Rogotin through two border posts, one going into and one going out of Bosnia. This time we had to show our passports at both ends to the nice men sitting in their little boxes! We headed inland from there through more traditional villages, stopping at Veliki Prolog for lunch which gave us a nice view down the mountain and across to Bosnia. School had finished for the day (classes begin at 7 o’clock) and Dave started talking to some school kids who were waiting for their bus. Next thing I knew, they were all piling inside Tilly for a look. A few of them spoke English, with one girl in particular becoming the spokesperson. We chatted for 10 minutes or so before our camera and their mobile phones came out. After many photos and rounds of “cheese”, phones were put away and we bought out the Oreo biscuits. They all politely had one before we said our farewells, what a great bunch of kids. We stayed on the back roads for another 50 or so kilometres with rocky outcrops and autumn coloured bushes before getting onto the motorway for the remainder of our journey mainly to give Tilly a good long run and also Dave felt like a change of scenery. Just before Zadar we turned off as we are returning to our overnight spot on the water across the bay from Maslenica, where the three stray kittens were. We had glimpses of water on our drive but the majority of the scenery was scrubland with the mountains in the distance. The toll for our 180kms on the motorway was €16,25 which given how far we travelled, we didn’t think it was too bad. We arrived at our wildcamp spot to find that two of the kittens appear to have been taken as there was only one very little timid one here. After putting out some fresh water, we fed it with some cat food we bought, which it ate only when we had walked away.

Cheesy school kids

Cheesy school kids

The plan for today was to have a quiet day, put the awning out and sit in the shade from the sun and research Italy. The weather had other ideas with thunder and lightning off and on for most of the morning and early afternoon. We read and researched for most of the day managing a quick walk for about 20 minutes up the road to a rocky outcrop which gave us a view back to the main road bridge where bungee jumping happens in the summer. The view across the water from there was lovely with a little village off to the right by the waters edge. More wild storms later in the afternoon that lasted over two hours with the loudest thunder we have ever heard kept us indoors however we did get quite a lot of research done so the day wasn’t all wasted.

The difference in the weather today is amazing with a mist over the water and blue skies. We said goodbye to the little kitten with breakfast before we headed off. 16kms along the road we stopped at the Paklenica National park as Dave had read of a gorge walk that we thought we would take a look at. For some reason the 10HK (€1.33) parking fee was waived for today which we took as a good omen. We made our lunch before setting off on what turned out to be a 13km 4 hour hike through the gorge and up to a height of 570 metres. Due to all of the rain yesterday the small river had quite a bit of water in it and the path followed it for most of our hike. The sheer cliff walls along the gorge towered above us and the area is extremely popular with rock climbers of all ages. We decided after our hike we would drive to Senj about 110kms away on the coastal road where again the view was over the shimmering and very calm Adriatic with many islands off the coast, some of which were huge barren chunks of rock, others had small villages tucked into coves dotted around the island.

Gorge walk in Paklenica national park

Gorge walk in Paklenica national park

The coast road again was our company for most of our journey to Pula. We passed many lovely beaches however as we have found in several countries, parking for motorhomes and even cars in some places was non existent. We did however find a lovely spot to stop for lunch which was high on a cliff overlooking the villages below and an island across the bay. From the coast we headed inland with some agriculture and a small forest for scenery. We have travelled quite a distance since Dubrovnik and looking at our calendar it would have been possible to get a ferry to Italy (they stop on 24th October) but if we had done that we would have missed some amazing scenery. We are both a bit tired today due to a very windy night so we will take it easy for the rest of the day and visit Pula tomorrow.

We should have visited Pula yesterday. There was a light rain when we headed into town and by the time we got there, the rain got considerably heavier. Not to let that stop us, we continued on through the puddled streets to the oldest part of the city which follows the ancient Roman plan of streets circling the central citadel. The 1st century Roman Amphitheatre, made entirely from local limestone seating up to 20,000 was in remarkably good condition. It was designed to host gladiatorial contests and is still used today for pop and classical concerts. Next we walked around the Roman walls past 2nd century twin gates to the Roman theatre and the Temple of Augustus. A quick look at the waterfront and we headed back as the skies were getting a lot darker and we had seen pretty much all that we had planned, albeit a lot quicker than normal.

On our travels today, we stopped at the town of Rovinj, a very tidy fishing port. We walked along the harbour passed a cruise ship to the old town which is webbed by steep cobbled streets and piazzas and up to the Cathedral of St Euphemia and when open you can climb the 60m high tower. Still, the view from the courtyard was very nice looking down onto the bay and across the water. Our next destination was to be Poreć but again we were thwarted with not being able to park near town without paying a ridiculous price for parking. Similar to Rovinj we figured we didn’t miss much by not visiting. Further on, we found a lovely wild camp spot 5kms outside of Novigrad overlooking an inlet which feeds out to the Adriatic.

Very tidy fishing port of Rovinj

Very tidy fishing port of Rovinj

Cobbled streets leading to the Cathedral of St Euphemia

Cobbled streets leading up to the Cathedral of St Euphemia

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One Response to Croatia, full of surprises

  1. auschip says:

    Awesome photos

    Happy Belated Birthday Dave

    Des

    ________________________________

    Like

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