Discussion in 'Continental Touring' started by darklord, Feb 1, 2012.

  1. darklord


    Apr 28, 2011

    This is a diary of a trip done in 2007 with landrovers, some info not relevant, but some may help people thinking of going, hope this is OK.

    We normally do this trip in three days, with two overnight stops.Dover to Calais, then france, Belgium, luxembourg for the first stay at a good hotel. Hotels are easily found in Luxembourg, but hotels with off street parking are not!

    After a good nights sleep and a hearty breakfast, we normally travel in to Germany and then to Austria for our second nights rest at a hotel in the Alps, the hotel we usually stay at never fails to impress people. Again, a good nights rest and a breakfast, and we are off on the last leg of the journey, through Austria, then italy, Slovenia, and finally arriving in Croatia.We normally average about 300 miles a day with plenty of breaks, But, this time, we decided because we had things to do when we arrived in Croatia, we would do the trip in two days!
    We crossed the channel and headed for Luxembourg to fill our tanks(and jerry cans) with some of the cheapest diesel in europe, then drove on to Stuttgart for our overnight stay.In the morning, we hit the road early after brekky, and gave a good account of ourselves on the autobahns.After a few "comfort " breaks, we were crossing the border into italy then quickly, Slovenia and Croatia, arriving a bit tired to say the least at about eight pm.

    Our first day in Croatia saw us head for Porec a lovely town on the Adriatic coast with its shops, cobbled streets and cracking restuarants, very similar to Italy,but without the hassle.We enjoyed a good meal and watched the street entertainment until bedtime.
    The second day, we headed offroad to one of the small uncrowded beaches. We parked the landies on the beach (yup, on the beach) and sunbathed and swam until evening, when we headed home and washed and changed.That evening we went to a resturant owned by the sister of one of Croatia,s top offroaders.We ordered our food and drinks, and to our surprise, the service was a little slower than usual, then we realised why, Croatia were playing Brazil in the world cup and it was on the tv in the next room!
    Unfortunatly, Croatia lost, but our service and meal was still better than most other places.
    Our third day saw us getting on with what we came out here for, doing some more laning. We headed for Hum, the smallest city in the world, perched up on the side of a rocky hill. Its a place worth visiting, with writings on the wall in a langage that predates latin! We then headed to Kotli, where there is a water wheel fed by several waterfalls that bounce in and out of shallow pools on the way down, I climbed down and gave my feet a good cooling off while taking photo,s.
    We tavelled on through loads of tiny villiages going up and down steep valley, most off the time i was in low box as the ground was mostly shale, the missus was gripping the dash going down some of the hills.We probably did abut thirty miles off road, travelling through farmyards, fields and crossing unmanned level crossings, then we came across a natural dam on a river, where we saw about twenty or thirty teenagers swimming, so we stopped. As with most places in Croatia, we parked by the river and joined the kids to see what the area was like, its been noted for future times, but what struck all of us, was that all of these kids were just swimming, dancing to the ,music from an accordion played by one of the group, and there was,nt a drop of drink or any waccy baccy in sight!
    We stayed in that night, ordering a takeway and chilling out ready for the next days adventures.
    Its worth saying here, that the cost of eating and drinking in Croatia is very reasonable. The food is similar to meditaranean food, with plenty of choice and a good meal for two with drink cost,s around 200 kuna,s (£20), you can snack on pizza, cakes, fruit, and beer and wine are more than cheap enough, especially if bought from the farmers and you take your own bottle! But, please, its not Spain, they love the English but the government have decided its not going to become an "all day breakfast" and "cheap english beer" country, they welcome all tourist,s, even offroaders, but are aiming for tourist,s who travel to broaden their knowledge not their beer bellies!
    Day four saw us taking a trip to the island of Cres, a twenty minute ferry ride from Rijeka. If you like driving along mountain roads with sheer drops to your right and spectacular views across the bays, then this trip is a must. as we neared Rijeka, the number of motorbikes passing us increased, this is because the roads leading to and on Cres are loved by bikers all over Europe, it was a bit of a treat to see about ten German riders on Harley Davisons roaring off the ferry, shame about the obligatory moustaches!
    We loafed around in the harbour, watched the fishing boats come in and out, and enjoyed lunch at one of the many waterside cafes. In the evening, we travelled back, but stopped at a ranch in a place called Tinjan, a proper olde worlde restuarant with big wooden slab tables and chairs and a veranda overlooking the forest.

    On day five, i had to go back into Porec to collect a baseball hat that was being made for me at a shop there, it was being embroidered with my name and , shall we say, a well known logo!. We had a bit more of a mooch around and then went for coffee at a cafe owned by "Bruce Willis". Thats not his real name, but a nickname due to his resemblance to the movie star.Bruce Willis ownes four 90,s all in various states of repair and was negotiating to buy a disco while we were there, so you can guess the main topic of conversation. When we dragged ourselves away from there, we called at a resort named Funtana. Funtana has a hotel and all of the facilities that european visitors could ask for, one other benefit is that they do not stop non guest,s enjoying the facilites.There is an excellent beach area, a sheltered section for kids, speedboat hire, pedalo,s etc etc and a cafe that does cheeseburgers the size of frisbee,s!
    So far the weather has been hot and sunny, fluctuating just under 80f, so we decided to have an evening chilling out back at the house with a barbeque, and watch the sunset over the woods behind us.
    Just a little extra info, from Porec, you can take a high speed catamaran to Venice.The trip takes about two hours, then you can wander at your leisure around St Marks square and all of the tiny alleys filled with shops selling everything you can think of. Just a tip though, Venice is Italian and the italians are masters at the art of tourist fleecing!, you will not get any bargains in Venice but if youve never been there, or want a romantic day out with your partner you may want to go.When you get there, if you fancy something to eat and drink, the rule is, the further out from St Marks Sq you go, the cheaper it gets! The trip cost,s about £45 per person, so like Ive said, only go if Venice is on your list of things to do before you die, or your partner tells you to!
    The Croatian people are warm and friendly, and on my visits ive not found a bad one, they welcome tourist,s and accomodate them well, if you walk past a shop, and someone starts to show you their wares, they are probably Italian or German, not Croatian. In the tourist areas near the seafront,s, the shops close very late at night, the steet entertainers go home when you do, and you can sit, unhurried at all of the restuarants, cafes and bars till the small hours.
    Just a word of warning, ive had people tell me horror stories after having been out there with some so called tour operators. The fact that you are supplying your own transport and not booking through a "high street travel agent" leaves you open to all sorts of risk,s , but you need not take them!
    The first thing is the ferry across the channel, any decent tour operator will have spaces booked well in advance, to be able to negotiate a discount if nothing else.Some of the excursions should also be prepaid, again, for the above reasons.Your accomodation should be known to you before you part with any money, that incudes during your stay, and on the journey out and back.If a tour operator does not insist on seeing a copy of your breakdown insurance, and advise you that in now takes a couple of weeks to get an E11 card, and advise you to take out at least the basic health insurance..........I,d be very wary! Most tour operators will advertise "a support vehicle", thats o.k., but that vehicle will not replace yours if you break down on day three of your holiday, nor will it get yours repatriated, and when you think that the cost of that could well exceed the value of your car, you can see the sense in it.Finally, anyone who takes money from another person for a holiday should be "Bonded", that puts it under the care of a regulatory body...........You have been warned!

    Day seven saw us back on the beach with the cars having a picnic and watching the sailing enthusiast,s enjoying their sport. Every sort of water craft was there, from small dinghy,s with outboards to large sailing boats, and the type of criusers you see in ports all over the world where money does,nt seem to be an object.The adriatic coast is littered with small islands and inlets which make it a favourite for sailors, beutifull clear warm water, secluded mooring and a hot did seem to entice a lot of them to take their clothes off though, normally the ones who should have left them on!

    The eigth day was a men only day.his was due to the fact that we were going to explore a forest region near the Slovenan border. The area is vast!, we did at least eighty miles of laning through thick forest land, driving up steep tracks with sheer drops to one side, dodging lumber that had recently been felled, and looking with disbelief at banks of snow still lying on the side of shaded gulleys. The area is so big, that we only touched a part of it, even though we were driving it for probably six hours!
    We only met one other car all day, a couple of forestry worker.s drove past just as we had stopped to investigate the entrance to another track.Unfortunatly, i did not see any bears, but one thing that did strike me was, as we came to a clearing, there was a long meadow running up to the tree line.It looked like a scene out of "Little house On The Prairie", but the smell really hit you, a mix of pine, grass and woodland flowers.....i,n not normally impressed by such things , but that I,ll remember.
    We were using a garmin GPS unit linked to a laptop to pinpoint the tracks and log driveable ones for future use by the friend i was with.I definatly would,nt enter this area without at least that sort of back up,plus the usual overnight bag, plenty of food and water and a c.b. radio or better means of communication, it would be near suicidal to try to drive these tracks in the dark, so getting lost late afternoon would be cause for concern.But, we made it back, and are planning another jaunt in a couple of days to show the ladies and explore some more.

    Ive covered about 1500 miles with the disco 2 so far and i has,nt missed a beat. Ive kept up with the defender and been everwhere it has been. It probably could do with a bit more whoosh for some of the long mountain climbs, but when i think of the fuel consumption I,m getting, I think its a case of "if it aint broke, don,t fix it".

    On day nine, we crossed the border into Slovenia to visit the caves at ********. These caves are world famous due to their size and the different make up of the various galleries in them. You actually travel by train for two kilometers down into them, then take a tour on foot for another two kilometers, and then a train ride for the last two! They are amazing to see with all of the different formations and are lit well.One of the galleries is used as a concert hall on special occassions, the tour takes about one and a half hours in total, and the temperature underground was VERY cool indeed, a welcome break from the heat above ground. More border hopping saw us back in Croatia for an evening meal and a few drinks.We walked around the town of Porec again, stopping at various bars for a slice of pizza and a drink, nearly all of the bars and restuarants have tables outside, and because of the world cup, also had wide screens set up so that diners could enjoy the matches. We actually say on a wall outside a cafe waiting for friends and saw the start of the england/sweden game and a waiter came over to turn up the sound for us! As we continued our roving dinner at other establishments, many more people were glued to the screens while eating and drinking.At the end of englands less than impressive performance,everyone.......english, swedes, croatians, italians and germans, just carried on eating and drinking, no bad behaviour, no shouting or drunken silliness!
    As we walked back to our car, we passed a company who advertise offroading trips out here.Their three Lada,s painted up in black and white stripes were proudly displayed just off the main street. The black and white striping mystified me a bit as ive not come across any zebra,s while out here, as did the ramsey 5000lb winch that was interchangeable across the three cars, along with the thinnest winch cable ive seen for a long while,....but hey, that enough of being bitchy. I did consider for a moment, contacting him and offering to sell him three decent winches, but then worked out that the cost of these would probably match what he had paid for the cars!
    As with in england, there is a big differece out her between "offroading" and "laning". There are thousands of miles of "white roads", which are compacted mud with a white shale on them, they are great to drive and take you through small villiages , forest,s, and into small bays and inlets all over the region. There are also "red roads", these normally branch off of the white roads and are mud tracks that lead to farms or lesser visited places, these are what i define as "lanes" . As pointed out by an ardent offroader from Slovenia when he saw a picture of a car on on of these white roads, "the wheels are still on a track, that,s not offroading" Knowing his experience in these matters, i agree with him totally. Much the same rules apply out here for offroading as do back home, if you are offroad, you are probably on someones property!
    The farmers grow grapes, olives tomatoes and ALL of their own vegetables and a lot of fruit, I,d hate to hazard a guess what they would do if they saw a few landies ploughing through the last two months work! There IS good offroading to be had out here, there are competitions attended by offroaders from all over europe and once they decide to pay a visit to our shores, they will upset the "leader board" quite a bit, BUT, i,d never stray offroad without a good local guide, ...much the same as at home really!
    Day eleven.....the end is getting close, Today we went in search of a bear sanctuary high up in the forest,s about two hours drive away. Once we got off the tarmac, the roads were a bloody hoot! big time. One minute we were on white road, then mud track, then forest track,and all climbing up to a hiegth of about 500mtrs above sea level with scary drops on both sides. At one point, we had to wait for forestry workers to clear a path for us due to a heavy fall of rocks from the cliffs to our left.......can,t see that happening in snowdonia. We kept seeing signs for the bears, but stopped for a picnic, then carried on our search. After about four hours of driving round the forest,( all different tracks), we gave up and headed for home.......we suspect that we had been driving through the bear sanctuary all the time, even while having our picnic!
    We stopped at a roadside cafe on the way back for some refreshments, and just did,nt have time to visit a nearby cove where a german ship is sank, apparently its a favourite place for divers from all over the world, so back to base and an evening meal and bed!

    Well thats about it, ive got to spend day twelve sorting out a squeeking brake pad, (too much dust) cleaning the car, and generally getting ready for the trip home.Weve clocked up just on 2000 miles so far, with another 1000 to get us back. The disco has performed very well so far, with less trips to the fuel pumps than i anticipated, and no unexpected happenings (shhh touch wood).

    Anyone who facies coming out this way will not be dissapointed, Croatia holds more than enough to suit all tastes and gives good value for money.The down sides are few, and can be overcome. Driving in this part of the world is easy to get used to, but Croatian driving takes a little longer.They do not like to see car in front of them, going slower than they want to go! So, whether its on a straight stretch of road or a blind bend on a mountain climb, they WILL overtake........causing you to brake so that they can get in when another car threatens to hit them head on! Its a bit scary at first, but you soon get used to it.
    Police speed traps are as common as they are in England, so it pays to keep your speed down and have ALL your documents with you......or they fine you for each item you don,t have!
    This is our second trip out here, and weve enjoyed it both times, if youve got a car, and don,t mind driving it......eastern europe can give you an adventure holiday with a difference, next year we are possibly going to Romania, maybe Slovena, or it could end up being Portugal!
    Due to forum rules, I have left out anything than could be construed as advertisng, I have also obviously, only added a few of the many photos and videos we took, but if anyone wants more info on anything, e
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