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Published: April 21st 2019
Yes, it is that time of year and we are back on the road again. For those of you we haven't already bored silly with our plans, we are exploring Croatia over the next couple of months.
We left Manchester two weeks ago and arrived in Croatia last Tuesday.
We stopped off a couple of times on the way down to catch the ferry from Ancona in Italy, the first being on the France / German border at Neuf-Brisach. It is a fortified town designed and built by Vauban at the behest of King Louis XIV in 1699. If you read our blog last year then you should know all about Vauban. I certainly feel that I now have a good grasp of his talents and have admired most of his fortifications. The ramparts were made more interesting by both professional and amateur works of art so despite the grey skies and pouring rain, it was actually quite interesting and just nice not to be driving.
We also had an afternoon in Verona, Italy. Very pretty but clearly a pre-Easter school trip destination.
It was worse than Alton Towers in July. I tried to get a glimpse of Juliette’s balcony but the fight through hordes of teenage instagrammers was just too much for me. I was slightly horrified to see the walls of the building covered in graffiti but after doing a bit of research discovered these are detachable panels (to preserve the walls) where visitors can scribble a note asking for guidance in love.
We cycled into Verona and this being our first bike ride since leaving home, John discovered that every time he applied his brakes they screamed like a donkey with its testicles in a vice. It was mortifyingly loud and unpleasant in the narrow crowded streets of the city. He has since discovered that his brake pads are worn and he has bald tyres. You can imagine the conversation we had about having all winter to make sure his bike was fit for purpose!
Our final stop before the ferry was in San Marino, the world’s fifth smallest independent country, oldest sovereign state and the oldest republic. Its soaring cliff top profile with three towers
could be seen as we made our way towards the Rimini coast before diverting back inland. We spent a day exploring its historic walled town (also called San Marino), wandering through the picturesque narrow streets and admired a small street exhibition of old cameras and bicycles, on show as part of a Steampunk festival being held there that weekend.
When I looked at booking the ferry from Ancona to Split, I had the choice of two ferry companies, both leaving and arriving at around the same time. Needless to say, I choose the cheapest. It would be the Aurelia’s first sailing to Split of the season. On reflection, this perhaps wasn’t the best option as the majority of the crew seemed to be still in training. Having to reverse the campervan up the ramp on to the ferry was a little nerve racking but not as bad as for the poor HGV driver who must have spent the best part of 45 minutes trying to get his rig up a ramp that was too steep with no traction.
After a week of grey skies, rain and
temperatures less than 10 degrees, it was a revelation to arrive in Split, Croatia at 7am on Tuesday morning. The sun was out and it was warm. The Adriatic sparkled in the sunlight and the limestone hills towering behind the elegant architecture of the city made a dramatic backdrop. I felt like we were now truly on holiday.
For the last six days, we have been camped on the Makarska Riviera in the village of Zaostrog. The campsite is next to the sea and we can see the islands of Hvar and the Peljesac peninsular in the distance. It is the perfect setting, a narrow white pebbled beach and turquoise sea in front of us and sheer white hills behind us.
We have ventured into the hills a couple of times. The first expedition was to climb Mount Viter (769m) after which our campsite is named. The walk was a bit tougher than we thought. We knew it would be steep but the last 40 minutes saw us scrambling across huge limestone slabs to the summit. We then had a retrace our steps and coming back
down the rocks was even more tricky. It felt like every step could potentially lead to serious injury at the best and death at the worse. If you think I can be dramatic, at the end of the walk, John thanked me for not falling saving him the trouble of having to arrange a rescue.
Our second hike was much easier. It was still a steep ascent but on a good path and all reasonably straight forward. On both walks, we had stunning views of the coast line and the hazy islands off shore.
We have also done a bit of gentle cycling along the shore line. There is a cycle route from the port of Drvenik through Zoastrog , Podaca and Brist to Gradac. We had a couple of beers in Gradac this afternoon after finding that the restaurant recommended by the campsite lady was closed due to it being Easter Sunday. To be fair, there is very little open anywhere.
The holiday season clearly doesn’t start for some time yet. We were expecting a bit of an
influx of Croatians for the Easter weekend but that hasn’t happened. Our campsite comrades have been a mixture of German, Dutch, Italian, Swiss, Czechs and Slovenians.
Tomorrow we are moving on to catch the ferry from Ploce to Tryanj on the Peljesac peninsular. It avoids us having to drive through Bosnia and Herzegovina to get to Dubrovnik.
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