Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200109 Croatia Italy

2001 Saturday 1 September  – A little further along the road we enter Plitvicka National Park a UNESCO site.  Miss the entrance to car park one and end up on car park two.  Park tickets are 60 Kuna (£5.50) and this entitles you to walk in the park area, take the Noddy train type buses around the lakes plus one crossing by boat.  We select the 5-6 hour route denoted by a red circle.  Plitvicka Jezera (Lakes) is a chain of 16 descending lakes linked by a vast number of waterfalls.  Our route starts with a bus journey up to the highest lake Proscansko Jezero.  The bus is full and we have visions of walking in a pack all day but after about 10 minutes we have dispersed and walk alone.  Boardwalks take you across the end of the highest lake and then down the side of the next one.  We soon realise that having parked at car park 2 we have the advantage of walking from the highest lake down to the lowest whereas from car park 1 all the walking is uphill.  It has all been well organised as the car park 1 tracks go around the opposite side of the lakes to us and we just meet in a sort of figure 8 as we cross sides with them.  Each car park offers 2 other 3-4 hour routes one for individuals and one for tour groups and most of the time these also use a different path.  This explains why we are often alone to savour the beauty of the area.  The water is crystal clear and turquoise blue with lots of fish.  At each twist and turn more waterfalls appear, some individual high ones and others in clusters of narrow low ones forming a horseshoe shape.  At one point Steve tells me to shut up exclaiming how nice it all is but I am amazed that we can still find something to outshine all the wonderful things we have already seen.  After crossing about 8 lakes we arrive at the top of the longest lake Jezero Kozjak.  Here we board a boat, which has just brought car park 1 long tour people up.  At the lower end of the lake is a grassy area with picnic tables and many stands selling different types of food.  The weather has improved and although clouds are around and give the occasional very light shower we do get spells of sunshine.  Following the red dot we take one of many possible extra detours to climb up high inside a cave system formed when water eroded through the cliffs up above.  Near the end of the lakes we hit crowds of people on the one way in, one way out stretch to the Big Waterfall.  Not only do all the trails come this way but also some tour buses stop just to allow their passengers to walk this part.  Another bonus of doing the walk the way we have done is that we get the Big Waterfall as a grand finale.  Wearily climb out of the gorge to catch the bus back having completed the course in about 4 hours.  (Would recommend it to anyone coming to Croatia and we are very glad our friends Malcolm and Barbara tipped us off about it).  We are now within about 5km of the Bosnian border so turn west to head out to the coast.  Even more evidence of the war with whole villages of abandoned houses many riddled with bullet holes.  Occasionally someone has returned and is still re building but many look doomed to remain uninhabited.  A very sobering and sad place to be.  Although we are on a back road we suddenly hit lots of traffic and realise that due to the holiday traffic jams causing accidents on the major roads traffic is being diverted our way.  This has to be the last weekend of the holiday season with everyone making a run for home.  War torn houses can be seen right until we reach the top of the plateau ready to drop down to Senj on the coast where everything looks normal.  Autocamp Senj is right by the sea and just the sort of spot we would free camp in many other countries.  Here they have made power points available, offer toilets and showers at the restaurant and charge for the privilege.  We can see the pitches marked out so close you would feel you were in a car park in high season.  Fortunately now there are only half a dozen vehicles here so we can park side ways on to the sea and have space around us.  We look out over the tip of Krk Island, which combined with the calm water makes it look more like a lake than the sea.  All this suddenly changes as storm clouds gather and thunder and lightening starts.  A wind gets up and the sea suddenly becomes very choppy and then it starts to rain heavily.  Steve is delighted to find the England v Germany match on TV, as he doesn’t fancy going out to find a bar to watch it in.  He’s ecstatic when we win 5 -1 with the Liverpool lads scoring all the goals.
[88 Kuna (£8) without electric]
Sunday 2 September   Torrential rain all night which fortunately stops just after we wake up.  Packing up to move I remove the ramps and find them very muddy.  I try to clean them under the tap but it is too powerful and splashes me with mud.  Next I scamper down the steps to the sea slipping my reef sandals off on the last step.  Just managing to wash the mud off when a big wave comes and takes one of my sandals with it.  I drop the ramps and climb down to the next step but slip off and end up in water up to the top of my thighs slipping and sliding over pebbles grasping for my sandal.  Meanwhile Steve is sitting in the van cracking up laughing.  Fortunately the water is warm and I can also see the funny side of my unexpected early morning dip.  After a quick change of clothes I’m fine.  Just north of Senj we see a sign showing 5000km to the Equator and 5000km to the North Pole. Steve is still on a high about the football and each time we see a German motorhome he holds his hands up to form a 5 – 1 wave. He proudly wears his England shirt with Owen on the back and we move our England football sticker into a more prominent spot.  Along the coast the trees are very autumnal with more rust than green leaves already.  The road surface is poor and winds up and down with lots of bends.  This finally kills of any vague plans we had to go to Dubrovnik in the motorhome.  Rijeka is a pig to get around.  At the edge of the town they send you up the hill on narrow roads with hairpins to join the main road above the city.  Should have used our map and continued along the coast.  Once on the main road we change plans and stay on it paying 30 Kuna (£2.70) toll to go through the Ucka Tunnel.  Now on the Istrian peninsula tourists and motorhomes abound.  3km NW of Rovinj is the naturist campsite/village of Monsena.  Manage to get a pitch just one spot back from the beach but still with a sea view.  It’s a huge complex and too big for our liking but we have already been warned that this is much smaller than neighbouring ones.  Now only about half full it’s difficult to imagine what it would be like in season with literally thousands of people.  Spot mostly German vehicles here followed closely by Austrian but ours is the only GB one.  Steve settles down to watch the Grand Prix whilst I explore.  The long sea front is typical Croatian with concrete patios formed over the rocks and pine trees behind the "beach".  There’s a swimming pool, 2 beach and one village restaurants, shop, market stalls, post office and probably enough to enable you to spend your whole holiday without leaving the site. A beautiful sunset leaves us with a superb view across the bay to the old town of Rovinj with the church on the hill surrounded by pink clouds.  9.00pm is the Miss Monsena competition in the big restaurant but when we arrive the band is still playing.  All very much holiday camp atmosphere with mainly old style waltz dances and then an announcer geeing everyone up for the Miss Monsena event.  It’s starting to get quite cold so after 10.00pm we leave.
[91.56 Kuna (£8.20) with elec and 5% INF discount]
Monday 3 September – Back to blue skies and breakfasting outside. I’ve noticed lane ropes out at sea running parallel with the shore so with my new goggles I set out to do some serious swimming.  It’s the first time I have tried to swim any distance in the sea and I don’t like it.  It’s choppy and the waves keep pushing me away from the rope so I have to swim diagonally and the salt water makes my lips sore. I turn back intending to make use of the pool later.  There is a fitness programme on offer with Aqua aerobics at 11.00am – or should be but the pool is empty.  Together Steve and I set off to explore further along the shore away from Rovinj.  Some distance from Monsena people are still nude and we find a cluster of caravans serving seafood.  Just after this we spot a German motorhome free camping and he says to join him.  It’s nice and hot and we enjoy being able to walk nude so continue to look around the next headland – and the next and so on until we see the fjord separating the coast.  There is another naturist camp near here so we assume the nude beach continues until that, but we don’t.  Pleased to return and find the swimming pool full but not pleased to find it is salt water and the sides of the pool and the steps have things growing there.  Monsena is due for a renovation and in many places it shows.  We also don’t like the cramped camping spaces, volume of people and the whiff of drains that pervades the site when the wind changes direction.  Free camping behind the nude beach with an open view appeals much more.  Early evening an uninvited guest makes himself known.  We have a mouse onboard who cheekily bobs his head out of the cupboard when Steve opens the door then retreats.  We empty the cupboard and Steve stands in wait with a mallet.  Reminds me a kids’ game where a rat pops his head out of a hole and you have to bash it.  Steve obviously didn’t play it.  Soon give up and resort to poison and if this doesn’t work we shall have a pet for Daniel!
Tuesday 4 September – Check off the site and drive into Rovinj.  Park just around the bay before the old town with a fine view and news that other people have free camped here also.  David is now keen to come to Italy with a friend so on the Internet we check out Ryanair fares and find Stansted (London) to Trieste at only £8.99 plus £11 tax.  All fares are one way so we can book them back from an airport further round the coast.  Rovinj is a pretty place with the old town almost surrounded by sea and boats.  You can walk all the way around with restaurants, bars and souvenir stalls to tempt you.  Climbing the hill is interesting with lots of narrow streets where the houses have unusual chimney pots.  The church of St Euphemia tops the hill and her statue on top moves and acts as a weather vane.  Spend a lot of time exploring before returning to the van.  Early evening thunder and lightening begins followed by rain all through the night.
Wednesday 5 September – Rainy morning.  Book David and Mick on a flight to Trieste.  The £8.99 fare is available Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays and we book Tuesday 25th September.  Other days the fare is £99.99.  Drive out to the beach just beyond Monsena campsite.  There are lots of clearings in the bushes and we pick a fairly open spot, about 20 feet from a nice bay used by naturists and with fine views.  It brightens up just after we arrive giving us chance to enjoy our free camping spot.
Thursday 6 September  – A nice sunny start to the day.  Just in front of the van the beach is quite rocky but someone has started to clear the stones down to a layer of shingle.  I continue and use the stones to create a paddling pool.  With the stones removed from inside it I have a pool with an almost sandy bottom just perfect for children – good practice for when Daniel and Natasha are with us.  Dozens of boat trips sail past with passengers no doubt taking lots of photos of the naturists.  Late afternoon organ music drifts our way.  Miller from Czech Republic and his wife Maria are also here in a motorhome and he has a keyboard with him so we get a free recital.  Watch a splendid sunset then all get together to sit and chat along with the Germans Bernd, Victoria and 16 month old Anna.  Chef Henry has given me some simple recipes for crumble and custard knowing in the motorhome we have no scales.  I’ve managed to buy Vanilla sugar for the custard but no food colouring so it will have to be white custard.  All goes well with the peach crumble.  Ask Steve to sample the custard to tell me if it is sweet enough.  He wretches and complains it is salty.  I’ve only used coarse salt instead of sugar by mistake!  Don’t think I am going to make it to Master Chef just yet.
Friday 7 September  – So far so good with the free camping.  Considering we were told free camping was not allowed in Croatia we are doing rather well and would love to stay here a lot longer.  Walk a bit further towards the naturist site Valalta but still it always seems to be round the next headland.  It’s difficult walking scrambling up and over rocks but we do get a good view of Vrsar and also spot an interesting sea cave which we swim to investigate and find very shallow.  The water is a pleasant temperature and very clear which makes for a pretty good snorkelling session in the afternoon. 
Saturday 8 September  – Mainly cloudy day
Sunday 9 September  – A sunny day but the sea is very rough and my paddling pool gets washed away.  Yet another beautiful sunset to finish the day.
Monday 10 September  – The sea is now calm but it’s cloudy.  Back into Rovinj for some more business and exploration of the town.  Find an almost "normal" supermarket called Valalta Discount.  They have proper shopping trolleys and the store is quite large but there is still very little choice and prices are quite high.  Return to the beach for an afternoon sunbathing and our evening meal watching the sunset. Having sent Daniel a text asking how his first week at school went we receive this reply: – "GOOD I HAVE GOT BUDDY BEAR. WE ARE COMING TO ITALY. GRANDMA AND GRANDAD I’M 4. I GOT STUNG BY A BABY BEE LAST NIGHT".  Claire followed this up to say that he had done the text all by himself only asking about spellings and it took him about half an hour.  She explains that buddy bear is homework. 
Tuesday 11 September  – Walk to Monsena campsite and sneak in for a hot shower.  Steve often tunes in to the world service for the afternoon news but today can’t believe what he is hearing about America.  I also listen and it seems that both towers of the World Trade Centre have been hit by aircraft and also the Pentagon.  Tune in the TV and pick up CNN news but without sound.  The pictures are horrifying and like something out of a disaster movie.  Keep hearing updates until we retire to bed feeling very shocked.
Wednesday 12 September   Both slept badly pondering the ramifications of the attack on America.  It seems that 4 different planes were hi jacked and the fourth crashed in Pennsylvania but was probably heading for the White House or the Capitol.  Arabs are suspected but nothing is definite.  Feel sure this will go down as a big point in history and just wonder what the retaliation will involve and bring in terms of future repercussions.  All flights in America are grounded and international flights routed to Canada.  The stock market is closed and Manhattan a virtual standstill with the city covered in dust from when both the towers collapsed yesterday.  In Washington the Pentagon is still burning.  Still can’t believe it, as it is worse than anything you see in James Bond movies or even at the movie studios.  Anyway it’s a nice hot day so we try to make the most of our last day here but both feel very deflated.  Early evening into Rovinj.
Thursday 13 September  – Our 26th Wedding Anniversary.  Head up the Istrian coast first turning inland to get around the head of Limski Fjord, which is rather attractive.  Koversada naturist resort overwhelms us, as it is 6 times the size of Monsena, that we thought big, and has camping places for 7000 people.  Continue to Istra Naturist at Funtana, which is only twice the size of Monsena with 3000 camping plots.  Still not our cup of tea but we had decided that as it was our anniversary we were going to stay on a site so we could have a meal in the evening with no worries about drinking and driving.  Find quite a nice plot right by the sea and then walk 3km around the perimeter of the site to explore and check out the 3 different restaurants. Settle on the nearest restaurant and on arriving at 7.30pm are surprised to find it packed out.  They find us a table sharing with a German couple and we have a superb meal.  We both have steaks but with different sauces and the meat just melts in your mouth.  Maybe this is because meat is butchered in the restaurant immediately prior to cooking.  
[Numbered site with electricity 29DM (£10) + 7Kuna (60p) per person one off administration fee]
Friday 14 September  – We both wake feeling unwell with bad heads and blocked noses. In fact during the night I felt I couldn’t breathe and the air was stale so slept on the sofa.  Both feel a little better after a shower but it doesn’t last.  A storm brews and by early afternoon we have raging seas crashing over the sun terraces, heavy rain and prolific thunder and lightening.  We have to shut all the windows and vents and I start to feel even more ill.  For the last few days we have kept noticing bad smells and now on a campsite where we are both showering twice a day we know it can’t be us.  I suddenly remember that we haven’t heard our mouse for a few days so maybe the poison has worked and it is now rotting in the van.  Trace a terrible smell to the heating duct that Steve dismantles and investigates.  No sign but on following his nose he finds the dead mouse curled up behind the drivers seat.  It has started to decompose and does not look or smell very nice at all.  No wonder I have felt ill as both the pillow of the bed and where I slept and on the sofa would have put my head very close to it.  Despite the rain we open the door and give the death site a good clean and spray with fabric freshener.  The effect on my health is almost instant although I contribute my remaining headache to the storm in full swing.  No respite through the night with the rain battering on the roof, lightening flashing and thunder booming around the cove.
[Total for 2 nights with INF discount 222Kuna (£19)]
Saturday 15 September  – The storm has receded leaving intermittent rain.  Call into a shopping centre in Porec expecting to do a big shop and wander round.  The shopping is again limited and expensive and so far as a shopping centre goes it is even worse with only 2 other stores.  Have difficulty parking in Porec so continue around Playa Laguna Riviera where we stayed many years ago with Netty & Dave.  Autocamp Ulica the next naturist site is much more appealing with most sites having a sea view, some small sandy beaches and a beautiful new freshwater swimming pool.  Park just behind the pool with a fine view over it and to the ocean.  The sun breaks through and I make the most of the opportunity to swim even though the water is a bit cool.  Clouds stop play late afternoon.  Rain begins again then at 11.00pm the thumping of disco music filters our way from Porec across the bay.
Sunday 16 September   The music thumps and thumps right through the night with occasional booming sounds until 8.00am when we finally get some sleep.  Wake just before 11.00am and early afternoon eat at the restaurant.  The set 3-course menu at 33 Kuna (£3) is good value and the food is also good.  Steve stays on to watch the Grand Prix in the bar.  We ask about the noise last night and learn it was a one off tourist function, thank goodness. Rain starts again and by 5.00pm has become hailstones. 
[157 (£13.00) Kuna for 2 nights no electricity]
Monday 17 September  – No sign of the weather improving as it is still raining.  Further up the coast we check out Ladin Gaj site for future reference and it looks nice, no point in paying to stay there in this weather!   Pelegrin is a small village made up of holiday homes where we settle on the car park near the beach.  See lots of black squirrels around.  Make the most of the only time the rain stops to walk along the shore where there is a pretty little church.  Rain starts soon after.    
Tuesday 18 September  – Well it may be cool and cloudy but we are glad to wake up to fine weather.  In Umag we spend a few hours wondering around, as this is the last town before Slovenia.  Just before the Slovenian border Naturist Camping Kanegra is on the sea front in what used to be a quarry.   We have a good view of Portoroz and Piran in Slovenia and distant views of Trieste and Grado in Italy.  There is a lot of activity out at sea with many ferries and hydrofoils.  Hope for better weather tomorrow.
Wednesday 19 September  – Steve’s 47th birthday.  Breakfast outside with Steve dressed appropriately in his tan coloured birthday suit.  Shortly after a thunderstorm drives us inside but doesn’t last long.  It’s nice enough in the afternoon for a bit of swimming and snorkelling.  Set out for our evening meal but both the restaurants are empty, the menu is uninspiring and as it is too cold to eat out we would have no view.  Return to our own restaurant with a superb view of Portoroz, the outside of one building is illuminated by lights, which keep changing colour.  Menu of the day is creamy garlic and mushroom soup, Pasta Ameratriciana with garlic bread, fresh figs and grapes, cheese and biscuits, coffee and brandy.  
Thursday 20 September  – Dry and sunny all day.
[194 Kuna (£17) 3 nights no electric]
Friday 21 September  – Cloudy again.  Just finished washing the van when a British car pulls up.  Barry & Catherine from Denby Dale near Wakefield and staying at Koversada.  Theirs is only the second British vehicle we have seen in Croatia and we only saw one in Hungary.  Invite them for coffee and a chat then find it’s almost checking out time.  At 2.00pm we pass swiftly into SLOVENIA.  Having travelled this coast before we press on to Italy where there is a queue at the border. 2.45pm and we are in ITALY.  Hope to stay over in Trieste but the motorcaravan parking is poor and the city very busy.  Follow the coast up and round to Grado where we find motorhomes are now banned from the sea front at Pineta where we previously stayed.  Fortunately there is another place on the Isola Della Schiusa where many are parked.   Settle beside the canal to wait for David and his friend Mick to arrive at the airport on Tuesday.
Saturday 22 September  – Cloudy day.  Walk around Grado and find free Internet at the library.  Ryanair are now selling flights for the unbelievably low price of £1 – we were robbed!  Pause at the church to listen to a choir singing modern religious songs.  Notice new excavations of roman remains going on in the square with lots of mosaic uncovered.
Sunday 23 September  – Rain all night and almost all day. Late afternoon Steve takes a stroll and finds space for us round the far side of the island, which should be quieter so we re locate.  He takes another stroll in the evening to find a bar for the lads to watch football on Wednesday.
Monday 24 September  – Brighter day but not great.  Back to Grado to persevere in buying a few unusual things.  The town is now very quiet and the beach, wall-to-wall parasols in summer, is empty.  Lots of coaches still arrive for the passengers to take boat tours around the lagoon.
Tuesday 25 September  – Aquileia has good motorhome parking with toilets, water and a dump station and we use all three.  It’s a very old Roman town and we explore the ruins including an impressive mosaic covering the whole floor of the basilica.  Late afternoon arrive at the smaller Trieste airport of Ronchi, much better for us to park up.  David and Mick are due to arrive at 20.25 but just after we arrive we receive a text to say the flight is delayed by an hour.  Unfortunately no one has told the people at this airport and we can get no information about any delay at all.  The heavens open up and at the original arrival time we move to the short-term car park near the terminal so we can keep checking.  The flight eventually lands at 22.10.  It’s good to see David again and he and his mate Mick Plunkett have lots to tell us on our journey back to Grado.
Wednesday 26 September  – After more rain in the night we wake to a dry but cool and breezy morning.  David finds it warm and goes out in just a T-shirt whilst I have my fleece jacket on.  Show them the town then book their return flight from Ancona on 4th October for a total of L116300 (£39) for two seats.  Move on after lunch to Jesolo where the sun is shining and the temperature much higher.  The lads want to find a bar showing the Liverpool match but despite walking and driving most of the 7km main stretch they find nothing positive.  Park on the special motorhome car park.  The "boys" set out in the evening and Steve arrives home merry at 11.00pm.  The youngsters arrive back even merrier some hours later.  Mick then proceeds to shout and snore most of the night. He did warn us but not until after he had arrived.
[15000 ITL (£5)]
Thursday 27 September  – Drive off with Dave and Mick still asleep in bed.  Return to Camping Serenissima at Oriago near Venice having stayed here in our first year.  Bus into Venice 1500 ITL (50p) each way.  Manage to get a little lost on the way to St Marks square via the Rialto Bridge.  After glancing at the church and scaring the pigeons (or was it the other way round) in the square we escort the lads back to the bus station by taking the waterbus 6000 ITL (£2).  We continue back and the boys return early evening, David with wet trainers having slipped on a step into the Grand Canal.  After a quick feed they check out the campsite bar.
[19,000 ITL (£6.35 van 11,000 ITL (£3.65) pp]
Friday 28 September  – Off again with the two sleepers in situ.  Casal Borsetti offers good motorhome parking on a grassy site near the beach.  It’s a very hot day so it’s off to the beach where the lads play football, volleyball, and snorkel then round off the sports with boules on site.  Mick returns with a bit more colour to his body – red.  An evening stroll around the village reveals lots of hammock style fishing nets by the inlet, which doesn’t seem very sporting at all.  A mini motorhome pulls up with forces plates.  Richard is from Germany and joins us for the evening with the lads calling back for a feed.
[9,000 ITL (£3)]
Saturday 29 September  – A foggy start but by the time we arrive in Rimini it’s another hot day.  Motorhome parking by the station about 400m walk from the beach.  Split up and spend the afternoon at the beach then return to cook tea and for the boys to spruce up for their big night out.  Rimini is famous for it’s nightclubs and bars, which they enjoy until 4.00am
[15,000 ITL (£5)]
Sunday 30 September  – A damp drizzly morning.  Continue a little further down the coast to Miramare where Steve spots some sort of racing event.  Park amongst dozens of other campers to find mini bike racing, free to watch.  The tanoy announcements stir the boys out of bed or is it my offer of a full cooked breakfast?  Mick is a bit hung over but putting on a brave face.  The main races are in the afternoon and involve lots people falling off due to the rain.  Heading south all the resorts seem to join up and are very busy despite the poor weather.  At Misano Adriatico we find a good spot to park right behind the beach at Porto Verde.  Usual evening routine

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