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Emma & Maneesh on the Big OE

Croatia

CROATIA | Saturday, 17 October 2009 | Views [777]

Us in Split.

Us in Split.

 

October 8th

We had a busy morning at the campsite, squeezing out the washing we had put out overnight that got wetter from the overnight dew, emptying waste water and the usual leaving camp jobs before getting on the road to leave Ljubljana. It was about 9:30am before we left and got on the road heading south east into Croatia. The roads near the Croatian border were not so good (on the Slovenian side). Then at the border we had our first proper border crossing in the van, where we were stopped and had to show our passports and declare anything we had. It all went smoothly and we got through without a problem which was great.

Once we got on the Croatian side we found out why this country has such a good reputation for it's roads. They were fantastic, the best we have had for weeks. We had a couple of hours on the highway before stopping for lunch and getting a little fresh air as the day had really heated up.

After lunch we got onto more back roads for 70km, mainly heading east towards the Bosnian border. It was a pretty drive, with the forests really showing their autumn hue. We are guessing we drove through areas that were active areas of the war in the 1990s, because it was common to see bullet holes on the sides of houses, lots of houses simply looked deserted and are now looking quite desolate. As we came close to our campground we were driving on a narrow road through a forest and saw a remembrance plaque on the side of the road. It was all a little eerie really, especially as October 8th is a public holiday in Croatia, Independence Day.

We made it to our campground later than we had anticipated, but the sun was still beating down so we sat outside and relaxed for a while, having a few snacks and a drink, before retreating to the van after sunset for dinner, and then planning our trip in Croatia.

October 9th

Today was our first full day in Croatia. The main reason we had come to Croatia was to explore the coast line really, but we had driven inland, to see the Plitvicka National Park nearby. So we decided to go and see the National Park for the day, with Em being the most keen for this (us boys thought the entry fee was a bit too steep). We got to the park just before 9am and got ourselves ready. We did have to pay to get in unfortunately but shortly after we started walking we knew that we would have a nice day.
The sun was shining, there were waterfalls everywhere, and the cascading lakes (the main attraction of the national park) a deep bluey green colour. It was spectacular. The water was incredibly clear, and full of fish who goggled up at the walkers above. After spending the first half and hour competing with tour groups for the walkways we got off the short trails, and started on one of the longer trails around all of the lakes. It was fantastic to be away from the crowds of people walking next to the lakes.

We had a late morning tea, devouring some fantastic home made struedel we purchased near the entrance to the national park, before continuing on further up the lakes. We stopped for lunch just before the top lake, at the top of a hill, then got ourselves a little off track following some trail that lead to a place that I am sure we would still be walking towards had we not turned around. When we realised this we turned around, got ourselves back on track, and were soon at the road train station. This is where we caught the road train back to near the start. We were all pretty tired by this stage, (after a good five hours hiking), quite hungry again, and all three of us had just run out of water, so we decided to call it a day there and head back to Sven, instead of walking the downhill part.
Although the national park is 'tourist central' I was not expecting to find something like this in Croatia. The water was so clear, it just seemed like something you associate with a tropical island. It was a nice side of Croatia to see before we hit the probably even more touristy coastline in the coming days.

Once we had finished up, and were back at Sven we went to the supermarket for a couple of things for dinner on the way to our campground for the night. Once we arrived we set up camp and relaxed for the evening.

October 10th

We were up and on the road by 7:30am for our drive south west back to the more touristy area of Croatia, the coastline. We arrived in Split at about midday and found our way to the campground, which was right on the beach. The drive down put us in scenery like no other on this trip. It was rugged, rocky, hillsides covered in scrub. It all seemed familiar, but I think this may be from the TV footage I saw of this part of the world in the 1990's during the war.

After setting up camp we headed into town in search of food as our supplies were running low. After finding a couple of different places to source our lunch from we headed towards Diocletians Palace, an old Roman fortress, and is supposed to be one of the best preserved pieces of Roman architecture in the world. We were all really impressed by it, but it would have been good to have been on a guided tour, because some of the architecture clearly did not fit with that era or style and we were left wondering what was original and what was not. Inside the fortress, where old market places used to be there are now shops so we had a browse through those before heading along the waterfront at Split and enjoying the sea breeze. There were palm trees and lots of public benches to sit on along the front of the marina. By the time we were finished exploring the area it was after 6pm and time to head back to the campground, having enjoyed a nice afternoon in Split. We left town with some pieces of art that we really loved.

Our first impressions of Split was that it is an industrial port city, but once you get into the alleyways and on to the waterfront we found out it is a nice small (by European standards) city which was pleasant to wander around in for the afternoon. We did not 'find out' about Split really, the main reason we stopped here was to visit Diocletian's Palace, before we move on to the beaches for a few days.

Once we got back to the campground we dropped off a couple of things then went around the corner to the supermarket and replenished our depleted food stores, particularly as tomorrow is Sunday, we are not sure what will be open and closed tomorrow. After getting back we had a simple dinner before turning in for the night.

October 11th

We were woken in the early hours of the morning by deafening claps of thunder, followed by lots of lightning. When we heard this we quickly lowered our pop-tops on the van and bought in the washing off the line. About a minute later the rain started. It was fantastic. We all lay in bed and watched and listened for about the next 15 minutes. We have not had a thunder storm since Stockholm. It was great. Soon after the storm had passed we all went back to sleep.

Our real day started after a sleep in until 8am. It was our first one for a couple of weeks. After a casual morning we got on the coastal road and followed the coast south for just over 80km. It was a nice relaxed drive. Unfortunately the it was still raining so the views were not as spectacular as they could have been. We stopped along the way at one of the rest stops and had a fantastic lunch of freshly made sandwiches.

As we got further towards the campground the hills became more densly planted in olive trees and a few pomegranate trees hiding in amongst them. Unfortunately there never seemed to be any when we pulled over so we still have not picked any yet.

We found a campground on the seafront. Unfortunately as with many Croatian beaches, the shoreline is rocky, although its small, smooth white stones on the beach – fine for walking on. The white stones give the clear water an incredible aqua colour. This will be a nice place relax for the next day. In the afternoon the sun managed to squeeze through the clouds for periods, but it was not enticing enough for me to test out the waters. Emma and Hamish went for a swim and said it was nice – the shared one pair of goggles and looked at lots of small fish and kina near the rocks and shore. I will have to try it out tomorrow hopefully.

October 12th

Today was supposed to be one of our beach days in Croatia. We had a small sleep in, before checking out the sky. Unfortunately it was cloudy, but warm enough, so Em and I went for an early swim before going for showers. We spent the morning doing washing and reading.

At about lunch time we thought we should head into town to find some bread. Em went and asked Mladen, the campground man, and came back with bread from the camp shop which was handy. She then went back and enjoyed a cup of coffee with him. He is a very friendly man who enjoys talking a lot. We have seen him sit and drink at least 20 cappuccinos (which his wife makes) with different people since we arrived at the campground yesterday!

By this stage it was lunch time, so we got into more sandwiches, with the fresh bread that Em had purchased.

We just relaxed for the afternoon and watched the weather progressively deteriorate. After a few games of cards in the afternoon it was dinner time, so we headed across to the restaurant at the campground for a fantastic platter of BBQ meats cooked over coals. It was delicious. Midway through dinner the wind and rain really picked up so we had to move tables. It was good that we did because by the time we were done eating the platter the table we were at was covered in water. The platter was enough for the three of us, and we each got a salad as well and bread. It was great. Mladen also gave us a couple of samples of the different schnapps that he makes. They were okay, but very strong. We had a nice evening chatting to a few of the other campers eating there as well before coming back to the van to play cards before going to bed.

October 13th

It was the windiest night we have ever had in Sven. It blew all night, rocking the van from side to side. The rain also continued until the early hours of the morning. It felt like a tree might fall on us, or we might tip over (lucky the van weighs three tonnes!).
We got up and found that nothing major had happened in the wind overnight thankfully. Our jandels had been blown away, but I found them after a quick search around the camp. We spent the day in the van. It was nice to sit and watch the wind on the sea, with lots of mini-twisters over the water and sea spray going up in all different directions. The sea spray was so bad that we could hardly see out the windscreen because it was covered in salt from the spray.

It stayed cold and very windy until early afternoon, then the wind slowly died down and we even got some afternoon sun which was nice. Later on in the afternoon we played cards and watched the amazing sunset which was full of purples, reds, oranges and other vibrant colours. It just seemed to last for ever. After this we headed back to the outside tables for our dinner. Instead of meat on the platter, it was fish tonight, cooked whole over the grill. For the three of us we got 9 whole fish, varying in size, as well as calamari. It was a very filling meal. It did not look appetising but tasted great. We managed to steer clear of the schnapps tonight, but sampled Mladen's wine instead which was quite tasty. Once we were done we managed to get back to the van at a reasonable time and had a relatively early night which was nice.

October 14th

We had another leisurely morning, getting up later than normal. We were greeted by a slight weather improvement, with less wind and a little sunshine. The wind had picked up again during the night. After packing up our campsite and giving Sven a rinse off to try and get rid of some of the salt that has accumulated from the seaspray, we went and had a coffee with Mladen before leaving the campground.

It was a shame we have had bad weather for the past couple of days, which were supposed to have been spent on the beach, but we were very happy to have been able to spend it at Mladen's campground. We almost feel like we have done a homestay with a Croatian family. It was a great experience, and lots of fun.

We left late morning and followed some of Mladen's advice and drove to Ston, about 80km south. It was a nice small town, that has the second longest wall in the world, however this one is only 6km long, as opposed to the Great Wall of China. We had lunch then wandered around Ston, climbing up a hill side and getting up onto the wall. It was a nice view over the town and surrounding salt drying flats. We drove further out along the peninsula. We found a nice bay where a campground was but it was closed. After enjoying the sun, but trying to keep out of the wind, we got back on the road in search of a campground. We made it to a pretty little village a couple of bays along, and found a campground, which was the back section at someones house. It did not have hot showers, was expensive, and did not look so good, so we left there and went back to the bay we were at.

We stopped here for the night, in the carpark outside the closed campground. Within half and hour another couple of campers had pulled up, and by the time we had finished dinner there were five in total, so we felt safe enough there. After dinner we played cards, then went to bed.

October 15th

We had a slightly disturbed nights sleep with a car driving past at 1am beeping their horn, but apart from that everything went smoothly. After having breakfast we got on the road and drove 60km south to Dubrovnik. On the way we had to pass through Bosnia for about 10km, then back into Croatia. Suprisingly we were pretty much waved through the passport check points. We were expecting a more thorough check, but this did not happen.

We picked up some groceries before heading to the campground in Dubrovnik. We followed a older camper van into the carpark that had a silver fern on the back. Surely enough Em met them during check in, Sara and Carl who are currently touring around before heading to Northern Ireland to live for a year. We had a good chat to them after eventually finding a flat campsite, which is on a rocky hillside.

We had lunch, then spent the afternoon in the van. This campground had internet for the first time is Croatia so we also were able to make good use of this. Later in the afternoon Em and Hamish were going for a walk down to the beach and were back in about 10 minutes in the back of a van. Out they jumped along with two ladies, Marilyn and Jan, who we had met on our Anzac tour of Turkey in April! Marilyn and Jan spent a couple of hours with us, catching up and telling us what they have been up to. It was strange, just so coincidental. Then after they left, Sara and Carl turned up with a couple of beers and some snacks so we spent the rest of the night chatting to them which was great fun. We got to bed at about 1am.

October 16th

Today was our day to look around Dubrovnik. We had a small sleep in, but were up just before 8am to get things going. After breakfast Marilyn and Jan turned up with a few details of places to stay which was great, so we chatted to them, then we went and said goodbye to Sara and Carl, before getting on the bus late morning into the city.

We went to the old town, which is the thing to see really, and it was fantastic. We had a small wander around before getting pasta for lunch, which was really delicious (not far from Italy!). After lunch we wandered through the alleyways and into a few of the shops, before getting up onto the amazing, fully intact 3km city wall. It took about 2 ½ hours to walk around the wall, but it gave fantastic views over the city. The wind had died down, and the sun was beating down on us. We had the beautiful blue Mediterranean in the background, it was bliss! We had an audio guide which gave us a fairly bland commentary on the wall and the history. The construction was amazing – hugging the rugged cliffs.

One of the highlights was getting into some black grapes Hamish found on a vine, they were beautiful. Whilst eating grapes, we heard a few older couples talking, and knew they were Irish. We got talking, and they were a hilarious bunch from Tipperary (the county Maneesh worked in). By the time we were done on top of the wall, the sun was starting to get lower in the sky and the shadows were creeping further and further along the ground. We all felt like we had seen what we wanted to, so we were back on the bus and back to the campground.

When we got back we all went for a walk down to the beach to have a look. It was well in shade and the wind was there so it was a quick walk around before getting back to the campground.

The evening was spent catching up on a few things like photo downloading and journal writing.


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