18th Sep to 29th sept - possibly final edition
TUESDAY 18TH SEPTEMBER 2012 CAMPING SOLARIS Nr SIBENIK
Woke up to a lovely sunny day. Jimmy was doing his 30mins exercise next door on his punch bag which he has hanging from the tree. He joked that he should have a swastika on it then he would hit it harder.
Tony went off to cycle round the camp, he was gone ages and came back saying the hotels and amenities were really good. The camp staff were busy raking up all the pine needles from the trees, leaving them in small piles for the lorry to come round later to collect.
I looked at the boat trip round the Island National park but it was a 9hr day, cost 57E which included lunch, drinks, transfers & boat trip. When I asked how much time was spent in the boat going around the islands she said 1 ½ hrs! It sounded like a real touristy trip so think we may make our own way there & try to get a boat.
We went for a walk along the promenade past the three hotels. There are some spectacular swimming pools, one has chutes and a big pirate ship to play on. My favourite was one that was only about 12” deep, it had sunbeds and tables and chairs in it. The waiter was serving with his trousers rolled up to his knees.
We had lunch in the Italian restaurant on the front. It was really lovely and far too much we both left some. Back at the van we relaxed and had a swim in the pool just in front of us.
We spent the evening round the van, watched a DVD and then bed. Totally relaxing day!
WEDNESDAY 19TH SEPTEMBER 2012 CAMPING SOLARIS - SIBENIK
Tony cycled to the KRKA national park, it wasn’t exactly where he had planned to go but he hasn’t quite got the hang of programming his cycle Garmin satnav, he had wanted to cycle to Sibenik, entirely the opposite way! Anyway, he thought as he was out that way he’d have a look to see what the access was like for when we go there in the van. It was OK and he said the waterfalls looked good.
I was going to treat myself to one of the sunbeds in the pool or on the beach but it was very cloudy so I just took my own chair down to the beach and sat & read until it got very windy so I went back to the van.
In the afternoon Jimmy, from next door, bought round another bottle of his champagne and we sat drinking that & beers and chatting. He said his ‘girlfriend’ was coming over from the UK on Saturday to stay with him for a week so he was busy sprucing everything up. He said he has ‘girlfriends’ in several different countries… he talks a lot but we have noticed doesn’t tell you anything about himself.
Anyway, we got spruced up and went to the camp’s posh restaurant. We knew it would cost but hopefully the food would be good. I decided to try once again to have a steak but once again they didn’t ask me how I wanted it cooked so had fingers crossed…. It wasn’t bad but not one of the better ones I’ve had and it was a good job I didn’t mind it rare as that is how it came! Tony had as described in the menu - “meat cooked under a lid (veal, octopus)”. He said it tasted good but couldn’t find one piece of octopus in it so when the waiter came to collect the plates and asked if everything was OK he queried the lack of octopus. The waiter then explained that you could have either veal or octopus not both, something not made clear in the menu or asked when taking the order! Once again no condiments other that salt, vinegar or oil, no sauces or mustard.
Having paid the bill - £32 for one course and one beer each – we ambled back to the van. There was a German van parked right on the beach (as usual) and they had very loud music blaring out and were sitting, drinking & laughing, wouldn’t like to be next to them.
Back at our van we had a few drinks outside before going to bed, luckily we couldn’t hear the German’s loud music!
I was woken in the night by a big clap of thunder. The chairs & tables were still out so I got up and put the fabric chairs in the garage so they wouldn’t get wet if it rained and took in the towels that had been drying on the line. There was very loud music playing and it wasn’t coming from the German’s van but from one of the hotels in the complex. It went on until 1am which is unusual for a campsite, everything is usually quiet by 11pm. I found it difficult to get back to sleep but when I did I slept soundly until early morning when the rain & wind started.
Looked outside and everything had been blown around, the mat was all in a pile and the chairs were covered in pine needles from the trees, glad I got the chairs & washing in!
We heard from our friends still at Camping Stobrec that they had very fierce winds in the night and one of the vans near them had its skylight and side window blown out (which is why they should really be closed at night!) As they were parked on the shore the side window was blown out to sea. The winds continued into the next day and after continuously replacing tent pegs that had been ripped out of the ground time after time and having poles coming apart they dismantled the awning of their caravan.
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 20TH 2012 AUTOCAMP TURIST – GRABOVAC
In the high wind we packed up the van and stocked up water etc…
We said goodbye to Jimmy who was busy doing his washing in his electric camping twin tub washing machine. We paid the bill which was exactly 16E a night as we were told when we arrived – that’s a first! It was a bargain given how nice the site was and all the facilities.
Having given a lot of thought as to whether we wanted to stop at KRKA national park & waterfalls we decided to give it a miss and set off for Plitvice National Park. We reasoned there are only so many waterfalls you can look at and we would save KRKA for another time.
We took the main road to Plitvice not the motorway, but these roads were more like UK minor roads. They twisted and turned through the mountains and villages. Sometimes the views were good but mostly it was very desolate and deserted. We passed many empty small towns where the few buildings remaining were shot up and partly demolished, this was an area of Croatia that had seen a lot of fighting in the war. There were also lots of huge bomb craters. One thing we started to notice was that where new building had been built many of them stopped at the breeze block stage, it was like they built the blocks, put on a roof and moved in then decided that that was good enough and never put on an outside render – must be very cold in the winter.
There were lots of railway tracks criss crossing the countryside and we would come across a railway crossing without much warning, just turn a corner and there it was, no gates or lights or anything – I would like to think that on approaching these crossings the train would sound it’s horn to alert everyone.
On approaching the first ‘big’ town Ornis we saw a lot of excavation, roadway and pipe laying, we then saw a huge sign stating “EU FUNDED PROJECT” , it would seem that Croatia is not even officially in the EU (will be 2013) and they are getting funded!
We stopped at a supermarket in KNIN to get some bread & milk. Tony waited in the carpark whilst I went in. He saw an old steam train parked in the corner of the carpark and as we travelled further up the road it was obvious that Knin was the Clapham Junction of Croatia as there were lots of railway tracks converging from every direction.
We had to do a detour around the town as the roads were all being dug up and replaced, once again another sign “EU FUNDED PROJECT”, no wonder there’s no money left!
Funnily enough we also saw a sign for Lidl but never saw the supermarket – we have decided that this is just a marketing ploy to remind us that Lidl exists – somewhere……
We stopped in a mountain layby to have lunch, it was too windy to sit outside without risk of being swept down the mountainside so we sat in the van with the sun streaming through the windows. When we set off again cars coming the other way were flashing their lights at us but nothing was wrong they were just warning us of a police speed trap – I suspect that the police didn’t catch too many speeding drivers.
Whilst driving across the bleak countryside we came across a field with fences alongside the road, there was a huge double gate with a soldier on guard in a guardhouse. There were two big tanks, one either side of the gate. That was it…..nothing else, no other buildings, no road or anything…..very weird… perhaps it’s their equivalent of the secret bunker?
We could tell we were approaching the national park by the number of hotels and apartmanis, they all seemed to be numbered for some reason. We drove through Plitvice and pulled in at Camping Koran where we read the price list and pulled straight out again – 35E a night! We travelled on another 10KM to Kamp Turist - £17, more our price. It was a small camp but we only wanted an overnight stop so had everything we needed. It had a restaurant so we went there for tea as it had got quite cold so a BBQ was out of the question & I didn’t fancy cooking. As it was so cold we decided to have soup as a starter – I had minestrone and Tony had beef. Well Minestrone turned out to be a bowl of clear liquid with bits of cauliflower, broccoli & carrot in it – sorry but I thought that was vegetable soup! And Tony’s was a bowl of the same clear liquid with a load of spaghetti noodles in it and didn’t even taste like beef!
Luckily the other two courses, veal & apple struddle & ice cream made up for it. Still no sauces, I have decided that in future I am going to take my own sauce to the restaurants.
We talked to an English couple who had just arrived like us, they were on their way down to Dubrovnik and this was only their first stop in Croatia. They remarked how cold it was (it was REALLY cold tonight) and hoped it would be warmer on the coast.
We went back to the van and it was in darkness. The alarm was flashing on the battery panel which shouldn’t have been happening as we were hooked up to the electricity supply. Turned out we had no electricity supply according to the panel. Tony checked the trip switch in the van, all OK so he changed the lead that was plugged into the campsite supply unit but it made no difference. I suggested that perhaps the camp supply bollard had tripped but we couldn’t find a reset switch anywhere and couldn’t change to another socket without unplugging someone else’s van. To test if there was a supply coming from the bollard we used an adapter lead to connect my hairdryer to the campsite unit – no power coming through so the fault was with that and not our van (relief!). We found a locked door panel on the side of the bollard which if forced open on one corner we could just see the trip switch inside and it was off – so poked around in it with a stick and managed to re-set it – bingo, we had power restored. Actually we deduced that we may not have actually had power in the first place and was probably the reason for the batteries running down, neither of us checked the panel to see if the 24V light was illuminated when we hooked up, a lesson to be learnt there. The adaptor that we used to check the hook up with was one Tony had found someone had left in the electric hook up bollard on the first campsite we stayed at – one man’s loss was our saviour!
All this was done in the pitch black and freezing cold, when we got sorted we put on the van heating to warm up – memories of English holidays were returning and our plan of visiting Hungary & Czechoslovakia were diminishing fast.
We had spoken at length to several people and they all informed us that in Hungary & Czechoslovakia most campsites close near the end of September and the weather was getting colder every day. Having gone from warm sun & swimming in the sea to being really cold I asked if we could perhaps make our way home via the Italian Venetian Riviera to get what could be the last of some warm weather, luckily Tony agreed. He said we could visit Prague or Budapest by plane for a weekend some other time. Hurrah!!!!!!!!!!!
FRIDAY 21ST SEPTEMBER 2012 CAMP SLAPIC MREZNICKI BRIG – Nr KARLOVAK
Today we were visiting Plitvice National Park.
Having set the alarm for 7.30am we were up early, freezing cold, and packed away read for an early start. I bought some rolls and made a packed lunch, I had also bought some Snickers bars for extra energy J
We arrived at the park at 8.30am to find that they were already queuing to get in. There were some tour groups behind us and they pushed their way through to get in first (Germans again and Japanese). It was £12 each entry so hoped it would be good, we were not to be disappointed. The National Park has sixteen lakes, inter-connected by a series of waterfalls, and set in deep woodland populated by deer, bears, wolves, boars and rare bird species. It covers a total area of 300 square kilometres, whilst the lakes join together over a distance of eight kilometres. There are various walks around the park ranging from 2hrs to 8hrs.
We decided on the 6hr one which would take us up to the halfway point, across the lake on the boat and then another walk to highest point with a trip back to the carpark on the park train. The walkways were either very rocky paths or wooden boardwalks across the lakes, very slippery when they got wet.
We had been warned in the literature to ensure we wore appropriate footwear. Now appropriate footwear would be walking boots, trainers or Keens.
Inappropriate footwear would be high heeled espadrilles tied with ribbon at the ankle or flip flops!
For some reason, up high where the air was probably cleaner than 99% of the air anywhere else in the world, we also saw a Japanese girl wearing a paper face mask!!!! Tony reckoned it was because she had bad teeth and didn’t want anyone to see them.
We set off to walk our chosen route only to get caught up in one of the tour groups who were ambling along at about 2mph. We managed to push our way through them and continued our walk around the lower lakes and waterfalls. It really was truly amazing. At each turn we would see another lake and another waterfall more spectacular than the last. Even though we knew it was entirely natural it was as if someone like Disney had built a ‘Waterfall Park’ with everything just as you would expect it to be.
My Snickers was calling “eat me” from my back pack and I was finding it hard to ignore it but I did and all that sound of rushing water had been playing havoc with my bladder albeit only in my mind. After a couple of hours we came to the large lake where the boat crossed the river to the next level. By this time I really was desperate for the loo and was pleased to see one and it was free – they could have charge anything as there was no other option – for women that is – than to use it.
We queued up for the boat. When it arrived there was the usual rush from the back by German’s who don’t do queuing but just push their way to the front, however there was one lady amongst them that pushed them all back and made them wait. “But we are with a tour” one of them shouted, “Well you still have to wait your turn” she replied….and they did…..like naughty school children.
I have to admit that whilst waiting in the queue I gave in and ate my Snickers J
The only downside of this is that I would have to watch Tony eat his laterL
It took 15 minutes to cross the lake where got off the boat and continued on with our walk, more spectacular scenery and lots more waterfall.
We saw some caves which Tony investigated, very brave of him considering there was an information board outside telling of how some long legged spider makes its home in these caves. Given that he is an arachnophobic I don’t think he’d read the sign! He must like caves as here he is trying another one out for size.
At one point Tony stated “I’m getting a bit fed up with all these waterfalls” which, for anyone who knows Tony, is a mega statement as he will travel miles to look at a waterfall! We stopped and had lunch sitting on a bench overlooking one of the lakes and yet another waterfall. Tony also remarked on the complete lack of bears which we had been warned could be lurking in the park, he was really disappointed not to see one, although he said he would keep looking in hope. I said wouldn’t it be funny if in the winter -the park is open all year round- someone came to visit wearing a big fur coat, everyone would think it was a bear!
We got to a fork in the path which we later named ‘confusion point’. There were two signs for two opposite areas of the park but they were both pointing the same way. Everyone was standing around looking at the signs and then looking at their maps to see which way to go. It was really a chance as to which one you took but luckily we took the right one and continued to the top of the park where we caught the road train which took us all the way down and back to the entrance. As we passed ‘confusion point’ there were still people standing around looking at their maps and scratching their heads!
Having completed our walk Tony decided he’d earned a treat…..
As we walked back to the car park I happened to glance at the entrance sign and saw the reason why we hadn’t seen any bears – they are only around between 11pm and 7am!
After paying the car park fee of £7 we set off for Camping Slapic in Mreznicki Brig near Karlovak (how they manage to pronounce all these words without covering you in spit is amazing!) I had read someone’s blog of their Croatian travels and they mentioned staying at this campsite. It is in the countryside next to a river and apparently only a short cycle ride to Karlovak.
We passed loads of people in laybys selling what looked like giant bread rolls or cakes. There were so many of them we deduced they must be more than just ordinary rolls so at the next layby we pulled in and went to investigate. It turned out that they were selling mushrooms – not ordinary mushrooms but huge great things, some were the size of dinner plates. The seller had one box of bright red ones and assured us that they were a big delicacy of the area. Well I don’t know about you but we didn’t fancy trying his ‘red mushrooms’ so declined his offer to purchase some and drove off.
We arrived at 4.30 having travelled on some very narrow country roads. TomTom had told us to turn down a very narrow road which luckily, at the last minute, we had declined to do. On talking to a Swedish chap on the campsite he said he had taken this road with his caravan and had ended up going over a Bailey Bridge, which is a temporary floating bridge that is put over the river. He said he got stuck on it and it was only with the help of some local lads he managed to get off!
We were told to park anywhere we liked so headed for the grass next to the river but saw it was water logged, there was a German van parked on it that was up to its axles in mud (I couldn’t help but hear the slight snigger from Tony when he saw this) so we parked on a hard standing area nearby.
Once again we went to the camp restaurant for tea – this is getting to be a habit, don’t know how I’m going to go back to cooking every night at home! Sitting at the table a couple spoke to us, fellow Brits from Yorkshire. They said they had stopped at this campsite on their way down to Dubrovnik back in May/June and liked it so much they had come back again for 5 days; they didn’t go out, just sat round the van each day. Now the camp site is OK but not that special - it’s in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do so wouldn’t think it was worth a trip all the way from Yorkshire, I could think of better places to go!
We had a nice meal, I had remembered to take the sachets of sauces with me so had mustard & ketchup for our mixed grill plate! We were saying how cold it was in the van when the young couple next to us laughed and said “you want to try staying in a tent then”. Chatting to them it turns out they were from Amsterdam and were spending a couple of days visiting the National Park but were finding it freezing at night sleeping in their tent.
Back to the van we put the heating on. For some reason I was so very tired so watched TV in bed at 8.30pm and soon dropped off to sleep. The only programmes we have been able to get are Malcolm in the Middle and The Big Bang Theory, both with Croatian sub titles. Now Big Bang Theory I can watch but Malcolm in the Middle……………………………………perhaps that’s why I fell asleep so quick!
SATURDAY 22ND SPETEMBER 2012 CAMPING SLAPIC – DUGA RESA (Nr Karlovak)
Today is our 39th wedding anniversary . This time 39 years ago I was eating a smoked salmon & champagne breakfast – today I had toast!
No real plans for today other than hanging out around the van. Tony done a repair to the dashboard (lots of swearing & cursing!) then he washed the outside of the van for the first time since we had been away.
The German van that was up to its axles in mud in the field area was trying to get off with the aid of a tractor but not having much luck. Tony watched for a while but then succumbed and went over with our wheel mats to lend a hand and eventually they managed to move it to another spot on the camp site.
Tony went out on his bike to look at an open air war museum that we had seen on the way in. There were aircraft and tanks used in the 1990’s war and some information about how the area had suffered. He then went into the outskirts of Karlovak but didn’t think much of it so came back. He had a shower and was changing in the van, wearing only his underpants, when the Dutch chap we had been talking to the night before turned up to take Tony’s offer of boiling a kettle of water for him (its quicker than them boiling it on their one ring gas stove!).
Tony invited him to come in and wait whilst the kettle boiled but the chap said he would come back in a few minutes but Tony insisted he come in now and wait whilst the kettle boiled – I think he was a bit worried as to whether Tony was a bit of a pervert and as we sat talking he didn’t know where to look but looked anywhere other than at Tony in his underpants!
That evening we went to the camp restaurant and Tony had squid stuffed with ham & cheese, a peculiar combination but he had seen someone have it the night before and it looked good so thought he’d give it a try and yes it was really good. Not feeling adventurous I had a veal schnitzel. When it came it was the size of a small rug!!!!!! Tony had to eat half of it.
Back at the van we watched TV - Croatia’s Got Talent with their very own Ant & Dec. The acts so bad they were hilarious. About 11pm (10pm UK time) we got the expected phone call from our friends back in the UK who had been to a VP lunch at the rugby club and were now ringing us to say hello – let’s just say they were not sober!
It’s not so cold tonight so we don’t need the heating on thank goodness.
SUNDAY SPETEMBER 23RD 2012 BI-VILLAGECAMPSITE–FANZANA-CROATIA
We paid the Slapic campsite bill – only £25 for 2 nights (thanks to ACSI) and were on our way by 9am. We were heading for Venice to meet up with Jean and Graham for a couple of days but on the way had a change of plan and decided to head for the Croatian Istarska Coast. We had briefly touched this when we first arrived in Croatia but in August it was far too busy for us to contemplate staying there, now however it would be different. We were also hoping for a few more days of sun before we headed north to the colder weather.
On leaving Karlovak we passed through the national park and tony shouted “Bear”. I saw the outline of a brown bear at the side of the road – unfortunately it was a metal one not a real one!! We passed several more of these along the way and from a distance they looked quite real.
We went to Fanzana on the south west coast of the Istarska and booked in at Bi-Village Campsite. It was windy all the way there but when we arrived the sun came out. The campsite was very big with lots of camping areas, chalets and apartments. There were three swimming pools, two of which were shut, and various bars and restaurants around the camp, all of which were shut except one near the beach. There was a supermarket and some shops but hardly anything on their shelves, they were obviously looking to close permanently in a week’s time. They had internet on the site but it was mega expensive - £5.50 for one hour and you could not even log in and out you had to use the whole hour in one block. I remarked to the receptionist how expensive it was and she replied in a very worn voice “yes, but it will change next year”, obviously lots of people had remarked on this and she was fed up with it! Needless to say I did not buy any airtime!
Tony went out on his bike to have a look round the area and see if we could walk into the next town. He came back with a big red mark around his neck – he had cycled back through the campsite and had almost been garrotted by some woman’s washing line which was strung across a tree next to the entrance. He said he gave her a few choice British expletives
As we sat reading outside the van in the afternoon a chap arrived with his caravan, parked in front of us and started to put up his awning – the Tent Tapper is exposed!!
A huge RV arrived and proceeded to park in a space in the middle of a row. I think he wanted this particular pitch to be next to some friends but he had to drive back and forth to fit into it using the vacant site opposite and I wondered how he would get out if anyone parked in the vacant pitch there whilst he was still there?
In the evening we walked along the seafront from the campsite into Fanzana which was a lovely small town with a quayside – fishing boats and excursion boats, it took about ½ hr. We thought about going over to the island we could see in the distance, it was a National Park island. On the quayside we asked about the boats to the island and were told that as it was a National Park we could only go on a tour and had to stay with the guide who would walk us round the things to see – including a safari park! – on the island. We couldn’t get our own ferry and walk round on our own so decided definitely not for us as don’t like to be herded around like sheep!
We ate at a restaurant in one of the back streets of Fanzana and Tony persuaded me to join him in having the fish platter for 2 people. It came and I have to say looked really nice, two whole fish, some sardines, small squids and 2 huge prawns, all for £12. The thing is with these is that they look lovely but by the time you have peeled everything and removed skin & bones there is hardly anything left, especially on the prawns, so it was quite a disappointment and to be honest when we had finished we both still felt hungry!
Walked back to the campsite had a couple of beers and then bed.
MONDAY 24TH SEPTEMBER 2012 BI-VILLAGECAMPSITE–FANZANA-CROATIA
We woke up to find lots of people had either packed up and left or were in the process of doing so. We walked down the seafront, the weather was very cloudy. We decided to cycle into Pula (Pola) using the cycle routes Tony had mapped on his cycle Garmin, we took a map just in case!
We eventually arrived in Pula having done a bit of a detour (thank goodness for the map!) and saw a big Amphitheatre so secured the bikes to a nearby railing and went to have a look at it. We paid the £4 entrance fee and had one audio unit (£2) between us. We walked around mostly ruins and listened to the audio tracks, not very informative really and there were no written things around the site or plans to show how it might have looked when it was first built – there was however an exhibition of Neanderthal man and olive growing which had diddly squat to do with a Roman Amphitheatre! Now days it is used to house concerts and operas and they were in the process of dismantling the stage & seating when we were walking round.
We walked into the old town to find somewhere to have lunch. As we passed a narrow road we looked down it towards the sea and saw a huge ship, one of the biggest I’d ever seen. We walked to have a closer look and saw that what we thought was a harbour was in fact a ship building/refitting area and this ship was in the process of being built; there was another one by its side.
We had lunch and then walked back to the bikes. A loud siren sounded and about five minutes later we were nearly knocked off our feet by lots of men on bikes cycling past, we reasoned that given they work 7am – 3pm the siren was for the end of the days shift and now they were all going home, we were right. We got our bikes and cycled back to the camp site. We had to travel a short way on the main roads before we could turn off, over several roundabouts and a left turn at one busy junction (remember we are driving on the right over here so had to cross several lanes of traffic!) The traffic by now was very hectic with everyone going home from work and whilst Tony had no problems and set off at a great speed I was terrified and at one point refused to go round a busy roundabout instead I walked my cycle across the pedestrian crossings until I got round it to find a very cross Tony waiting for me shouting at me not to be so stupid and to take control of the traffic!! We got lost on the back roads on our way back to the camp and ended up down a dead end road – literally as there was a cemetery with a huge funeral taking place, loud trumpets playing and everything, it was embarrassing when we cycled by and even more so when we had to turn around and cycle back past it all again.
Back at the campsite we stopped at the bar for a well needed beer and an ice cream. As we sat outside the wind got up and it looked like rain was coming so we went back to the van where we stayed for the rest of the evening.
We decided to head for Lake Garda tomorrow so Tony put everything away ready for an early getaway.
TUESDAY 25TH SEPTEMBER 2012 CAMPING SIRENA – NOVIGRAD – CROATIA
We awoke to bright sunshine. Tony was reluctant to drive whilst the weather was so good so we decided to head up the coast for 35miles to Novigrad and stay on another campsite there. We needed to get some food so turned off when we saw a sign for Lidl but whilst looking for it we came across a big supermarket called ‘Kaufland’ so decided to go there instead (just in case the Lidl was another invisible Lidl!). It was a very busy supermarket, probably because it was very cheap, so we stocked up on food and I have to admit lots of drink! Tony said he had found some huge mosquito candles and they were only £1 each but I had to explain to him that they were not mozzies candles but candles people lit and left at shrines of dead ones………
We parked on a cliff top at the campsite, the ground was quite muddy and soft as apparently they had had heavy rain the night before yet 35 miles down the road we had not had a drop!
We pulled into a spot right in front of a German van totally blocking their sea view – unfortunately the ground was too soft for our heavy van and we had to move along one pitch, but an hour later someone else arrive and parked there much to the annoyance of the German chap who got out of his chair and started to stomp around.
We had lunch outside, eating lots of the things we bought in the supermarket, then Tony went off to explore on his bike.
It was very windy here on the cliff top but every now & again when the wind died down it got really hot. There was a quarry next to the site and every 30mins or so there was a loud crash as a huge lorry or bulldozer dropped a load of rocks – hope they only work 7-3!
We got talking to a British couple parked nearby who had been here for some time and were heading off tomorrow for home – Yorkshire. They told me of a good route, non-toll roads, through Austria so we could go back that way to Germany without having to buy an Austrian vignette. She assured me it was a good road, not high mountains or winding – this remains to be seen!
In the evening we walked into the small nearby town of Novigrad. The receptionist said it was about 400m along the seafront -- she lied it was about a mile but at least it was a pleasant walk. As we passed a hotel there were a lot of women on the promenade doing a Zumba class with lots of people watching.
Novigrad was another lovely town. We walked around the narrow streets down to the Marina. Lots of choice for where we ate that night but we chose a small restaurant up a side street. Tony fancied Calamari and I fancied spaghetti – I suppose we should have read the menu before sitting down and ordering drinks as neither of these items were on it!
The menu consisted of fish or steaks, nothing else. Tony stated that he was fed up of fish – anyone that knows him will know what an outstanding statement that was! – and was going to have the stuffed steak whatever that was. I plumped for rump steak with pepper sauce, once again having low expectations as neither of us were asked how we would like it cooked. My expectations rose for a moment when our plates were bought and we were given steak knives – this was a first. They rose even higher when the meals arrived and I saw that we had a portion of French mustard on the side of the plate. Well…………my steak was really good, almost as good as Ramons in Spain and Tony’s was excellent and huge, in fact he struggled to eat it all which is another first for him. We decided that this was one of the better meals we had in Croatia, one of the most expensive at £40 but worth the money – pity it turned out to be a German restaurant
We walked back to the van, sat outside for a while with a gin & tonic and then bed.
WEDNESDAY 26TH SEPTEMBER 2012 CAMPING SIRENA – NOVIGRAD – CROATIA
The work at the quarry starts at 6am!!!!!! Woken up with a sudden noise of trucks dumping rocks. It is also very windy and cloudy this morning and I assumed that we would be moving on but Tony said he wanted to stay another day here, he was sure it would brighten up.
We had breakfast, I had mine in the van whilst Tony had his outside, sitting behind the windbreak he had erected – I think he is trying to prove something!
I looked at the weather forecast and it was turning bad over the next few days in Croatia. Lake Garda was slightly better but still not many sunny days, however at our house in
La Marina in Spain for the next three weeks --
I looked on TomTom to see how far & how long it would take us to get there - 19 hours and 1250 miles! Tempting……
I reasoned with Tony that if we went there now we would save ourselves having to fly out in November when it would be cold & wet to winterise the house but he wasn’t having any of it. He said it was too far to drive. “How about if we went home now and got a flight out?” – NO!
So I am resigned to the fact that I’m going to have to suffer cold & rainy weather for the next few weeks as we make our way home………. If he complains once *!*!*!...........
Talked to another English lady as she was passing our van. Her & her husband were full timing and had just arrived in Croatia and heading down the coast. We told her best of luck with the Bora winds which were almost constant now. I saw the same lady later that afternoon whilst rinsing out some washing and she said she had spoken to another British couple who lived in Slovenia but were here on site with their caravan, they had arranged to meet at the bar at 7pm for sundowner drinks. I said I didn’t think the bar was open? “it’s not”,she said”but we’re going to take our own drinks down and sit at their tables”, so I said we’d join them.
We had steak & kidney pudding for tea with mashed potaotes,peas and Bisto gravy – very wintery & homely, lovely……
At 7pm we duly went to the bar with our bag of drinks and after rearranging the furniture to get away from the ferocious wind we sat there until 1am drinking . Near the end of the night one of the other chaps actually fell asleep in the chair – reminded me of Barry when he’s had a few! Before we went we decided to line up all the empty beer bottles, wine bottles, gin bottles & cans on the bar…………there were quite a few!
THURSDAY 27TH SEPTEMBER 2012 CAMP BELLA ITALIA – LAKE GARDA
Woke up not feeling too bright – not surprising having consumed 2 bottles of cider, 1 bottle of beer and the majority of a bottle of red wine the night before! Tony wasn’t much better.
We packed away and then headed for Lake Garda some 211 miles away where our friends Jean & Graham were staying. Last time we were there it was in August and it was heaving with people so hopefully it will be a lot quieter this time. We left Croatia and crossed into Slovenia for around 20 miles before crossing into Italy. I remembered that fuel was a lot cheaper in Slovenia so we stopped to fill up. We used the toll roads all the way. Non toll roads were only 50 miles longer but about 4 ½ hours longer so considered it would be worth it. Tony said it was the most boring stretch of road he has ever driven on, there was nothing of any interest on either side of the road the whole way there. We were on it for about 180 miles and was contemplating a toll fee of around 50E but it was only 24E which was a nice surprise.
We arrived at 3pm at Camping Bella Italia. It was a huge site with static caravan and chalets as well as touring camping. It had several restaurants, shops and pools. It was still quite busy with people going & arriving. We parked up in a pitch opposite our friends.
It had rained the night before and where their groundsheet was became very muddy & wet so Graham had asked at reception for them to come and put down some gravel to soak it all up, they had said it would be along later. It was a bit muddy around our van so we didn’t put out the mats etc.. but would wait and put some gravel down first.
We parked up and connected everything up. The pitch was near the lakeside and it was sunny with no wind thank goodness, summer clothes back out of the cupboard and jeans put away!
I had some Kuna left and Graham had told me he changed them at the change desk in reception and bought some internet time so I headed up there to do the same. I gave the receptionist the Kuna and she held one of the notes up to the light, looked at the front and then the back and then said “what is this? Where does it come from?”. I told her it was Croation currency, surley she had seen some before, they must have people from Croatia visit the campsite? She went off to speak to someone else and came back and said they couldn’t change it for me. I got a bit cross and told them that they had changed my friends currency the previous day so why couldn’t they change this now. Once again she went off and spoke to someone who came back out to see me and said they definetly couldn’t change it. I went back to the van and told Graham what had happened. “Hmmm…. “ he said, “Come to think of it it I might have changed it in Venice”…………………………..
Tony had gone out for a look around on his bike and on his way back had called in at reception to ask when the gravel would be coming….this afternoon apparently.
We heard a bugle sounding and a few minutes later a horse & stagecoach cart came by the van. There was this bloke dressed up as a cowboy and he was singing cowboy songs at the top of his voice as he rode by. There were people sitting in the cart. You can go around the campsite in this manner for 3E each, he started about 5pm and he came past our van every ½ hour, always with people in the cart, mostly kids in the front with their parents sitting embarrased in the back! This continued well into the evening, even after it got dark.
Tony cooked tea outside – a concoction of mince rissotto with all sorts thrown in but turned out to be very nice. This would be the first meal he has cooked for me in years – beans on toast for him and BBQ’s do not count as cooking a meal!
After tea we watched the sunset over the lake and then sat in Jean & Grahams caravan for a while with a beer – or in my case a can of coke.
The gravel never arrived and on enquiring Graham was told definetly tomorrow…………
We went back to our van at 9pm, I was very tired so went to bed with a book, Jean had given me some paperbacks that she had read so I had a new supply to read. Tony started watching TV then a singer and guitarist started playing at the restaurant very near to us. They sounded very good so he went to have a look and stayed for quite a while watching them. We could hear them in our van, it was as if they were playing next to us so it was a good job they could sing and play well. At midnight there was a big fireworks display at another campsite just along the lakeside. At 2.30am we were woken by a group of lads going back to their van singing at the tops of their voices.
FRIDAY 28TH SEPTEMBER 2012 CAMPING BELLAITTALIA – PESCHIERA DEL GARDA
Bin men came at 7am so woken early but went back to sleep until 8.30am. When I did get up I went of to get some bread and found a shop selling English newspapers so I bought two – The Sun and The Daily Mail (as I’ve said before – beggars can’t be choosers!).
Tony set off for a long cycle at 9.30am and Graham borrowed Tony’s second bike and went out for a couple of hours. I spent the morning reading the papers & my book, writing my blog & chatting to Jean. The weather was overcast but when the clouds cleared it was really quite hot. Graham came back having called in at reception to see where the elusive gravel was, he was told maintenance was at lunch and he was to come back at 1pm. When he went back he spoke to the manager who assured him that he would ensure that the gravel came this afternoon – it’s got to be a big joke now with the vans around us as well………both Tony & Graham keep calling in at reception knowing full well that they have no intention of bringing any gravel to put over the mud but are just humouring us until we leave the site! Graham gave up waiting and as we were expecting rain tonight he went and bought a plastic taupaulin which he put down first and then put his groundsheet on top of that.
I was checking on ferries home and found if I booked through the caravan & camping club site I could get a ferry from Holland to Harwich for £2 less than the Calais to Dover one so we may go that way home.
It got to 3.30pm and Tony had not appeared, I was getting a bit worried so I phoned him – he was sitting in a café having a coffee about 10 miles up the road having cycled all 105 miles around Lake Garda.
We had a BBQ outside the van early evening with Jean & Graham and I was just remarking that we hadn’t seen Cowboy Joe today when his bugle rang out signifying that he was open for business. I was determined to get a photo of him as he went past, which I did. Later in the evening he came down the avenue that we were parked in and I took another one, he stopped the horses at our table, they were really big and eyeing up the BBQ on the table, Cowboy Joe was eyeing up a bottle of beer! He went round the site until 9pm and all the time he was blowing his bugle and his passengers were singing “Country Roads” by John Denver.
We sat outside drinking until very late.
SATURDAY 29TH SEPTEMBER 2012 CAMPING BELLAITTALIA – PESCHIERA DEL GARDA
Woke up this morning to rain. It stopped for a while , Jean & Graham went off on the bus to Verona for the day. Whilst they were gone Tony gathered up a small bucket full of the gravel from the surrounding pitches and put it outside Grahams awning door. We decided to walk into the town so hauled out the rain coats and walked along the promenade, we hadn’t gone far when the drizzle started again. We found a fishing museum in the town and as it was free to go in we spent some time looking round it, it was quite interesting actually. We then walked around a few shops but they were mega expensive. The rain became torential so we sat in a restaurant and had a bowl of ministrone soup that cost 6E and I’m sure was a tin of Heinz vegetable soup! We walked back to the van to watch TV and read and listen to the rain on the camper roof!!!!!!!!
When Graham came back from Verona Tony told him the maintenance chap had come and delivered the gravel he had asked for and it was the small pile outside his door. He laughed when he saw it and as one of the other campers walked by he remarked that this was all they had left. He said he was going to have a word with the office so Tony had to own own up to the joke!
We sat in the van and had cakes and tea and chatting for a while and then decided that this evening we would go to the camp site restaurant for a meal, a chance to glam up a bit for a change!
It continued raining most of the day and looking at the forcast for the area we will be traveling in it’s going to be pretty much bad weather for the next three weeks journey home.
The weather in Spain is still looking good so we are seriously considering going straight home and getting a flight out to Spain. We will make up our mind tonight.
You need to be logged in to comment