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Published: June 17th 2019
May to Wednesday 5th June
The forecast has improved and we are in for some sunshine again. The ferry to Porozina on the north of Cres was straight forward. Cres is the second biggest Croatian island but is sparsely populated and seems only to have one road from the port along the island. The road is in the process of being improved and made for an interesting driving experience as traffic unloading from the ferry met traffic coming towards the port. We stopped off in Cres Town for provisions before crossing the narrow channel at Osor (a tiny walled town) that separates Cres from the island of Losinj.
This was to be a two centre visit where we enjoyed exploring the islands both on foot and by bike.
Our first campsite was about a kilometre down the road from Osor with views of the sea. It was very peaceful. The only thing we had to contend with was hundreds of furry caterpillars descending from the trees down silken threads like storm troopers.
The highest hill on the island (Televarin
588m) is just behind us so we climbed up to its peak before walking along the ridge and descending on footpaths between crumbling dry stone walls, passing a deserted village long given up to the dense vegetation.
We crossed back over onto Cres for a day cycling along its southern tip and enjoying a butty on a small pebbly beach next to a tiny harbour. Not a soul in sight.
Our second stop on the island was at Mali Losinj built around a natural harbour on the narrowest part of the island. Its pastel 19th
century ship captain’s houses line the sea front providing a picturesque backdrop to what is a charming town. We spent a bit of time here just boat and people watching. The coast line either side of the town consists of numerous small bays that can be discovered by following a coastal foot path. One bay might be a small fishing harbour, the next a packed campsite, the third a large hotel complex or a handful of privately owned villas.
We also cycled inland to get great views of all the islands in the archipelago at a
small café that not only provides a stunning panorama but also a short walking trail with information boards.
The campsite at Mali Losinj was nice and we met another couple from the UK which has been a rare occurrence during our trip so we said hello. Our fellow campers have been mainly Germans.
Thursday 6th June to Saturday 8th June
Back on the mainland we are in the province of Istria, renowned for its culinary delights, mainly the truffle. The campsites seem to be getting bigger and bigger. This one covers a whole peninsular and even has its own island. It has numerous restaurants dotted around as well as a supermarket and gift shop. We picked up a map with various cycle routes and did an appalling job of trying to follow a route to Pula. We eventually got there but not on the quiet scenic roads we anticipated and at one point we had to cheat with google maps. Pula is lovely with its 1st century Roman amphitheatre and Temple of Augustus (the oldest
preserved building in Croatia). After a wander around the old town, we managed to follow a cycle route back to Medulin but we weren’t very impressed with the signage.
Not to be deterred we headed out the following day to cycle to Cape Kamenjak. What a difference – it was well signposted and took us down lovely quiet roads and tracks to this gorgeous and uninhabited area on the Premantura Peninsula. The gently rolling hills are covered in low Mediterranean shrubs and boast over 30 species of orchid. Its main attractions though are the beautiful coves and beaches. At Kolombarica Beach we watched young lads jump of the high cliffs into crystal clear water. At Polje beach we tested out the sea for ourselves (the first time on our trip). I managed up to my knees but John braved a full swim. The water was freezing.
June to 11th
We have gone from one extreme to another – a campsite with over a thousand pitches to one with just 10. We are inland and camped at
the foot of the village of Motovun, a small medieval town perched on top of a hill. The weather is getting hotter and it is easy to understand why everyone migrates to the coast in the summer. The rolling countryside is beautiful with forests and vineyards as far as the eye can see. On route to Motovun, we stopped off at the town of Pazin, famous for its gapping chasm and castle that inspired Jules Verne to write a novel called Mathias Sandorf even though Verne never visited the area. We walked up to the castle and then onto a bridge to get a good view of the chasm but couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm in the heat to walk into the chasm itself.
Motovun is charming. We walked the walls and meandered through the cobbled streets. We ate out one evening at one of the restaurants with superb views over the countryside. Everything on the menu comes with truffle. For starters we shared an Istria platter with local cheeses (with Truffle) and cold cuts. For mains I had risotto with fresh black truffle and John had steak with fresh black truffle. Everything tasted delicious.
Aside from coming here to try the culinary delights of the area, we are also here to cycle the Parenzana, an old single gauge railway line from Trieste to Porec built in 1900 and abandoned in 1935 that has been turned into a cycle / hiking route. It passes through Motovum on its 123 km journey. We cycled towards Porec one day and Trieste the following day. Fortunately there weren’t too many tunnels and they were lit. We stopped off in Groznjan for lunch and a look around. It is another medieval hilltop town but after the Second World War it became a ghost town as its occupants fled the communist regime. It was rediscovered in the 1960’s by a sculptor and a small group of artists who set up studios in the abandoned buildings. Today it is a lively little town still full of artist studios, restaurants and the inevitable Truffle gift shops. Cycling along the old railway was fairly easy but in order to make the routes more interesting, we picked up other cycle routes rather than just cycle back the way we had come. This probably wasn’t the best idea as
we found the going very hard in the afternoons when inevitably we would be cycling back uphill to the campsite in the hottest part of the day.
June to 15th
This is our final stop in Croatia before we start to head north. The campsite is on a river and two minutes from the train station on the Zagreb line. The countryside is looking more Alpine in regards to its architecture – lots of wooden barns and balconies with geraniums.
After a day of doing nothing (a bit of laundry and enjoying the swimming pool) it was an early start (for us!!) to get the 9.30 train to Croatia’s capital since 1991, Zagreb. The station is a concrete platform at a cross roads in the village with a single rail track. There
were two German couples from the campsite also waiting for the train. The train arrived and we jumped on. The conductress came to sell us our ticket a few minutes later and it was at that point we discovered were weren’t on the Zagreb train but one going the other way to a place called Ogulin. Oops! We disembarked at the next station in the hope we could pick up the Zagreb train from there but we just missed it. We killed time until the next train by finding a café where John “read” the Croatian equivalent of the Metro, stopping short of completing the Sudoku.
When we eventually arrived in Zagreb, we loved it. What a beautiful city. We wandered through the lower town past huge 19th
century buildings, tree lined boulevards and ornamental gardens. We bought Strukli from a small bakery and sat on the grass enjoying this local delicacy. Well John enjoyed it, I thought it just tasted like cold lasagne layered with cottage cheese.
After lunch we headed to the
upper town, the oldest part of Zagreb and bought cherries in the Dolac Market which sells everything on hundreds of stalls shaded by red parasols. The city has a wealth of museums and galleries we could have visited but we chose the Museum of Broken Relationships which was very quirky, sad and funny and well worth the visit.
The train journey back to the campsite was uneventful but our wrong train embarrassment was further compounded when the next morning one of the Germans waiting at the station with us the previous day asked if we had intentionally got on the train to Ogulin the day before! We told him yes.
We also spent a day cycling in the area. All very picturesque.
Next stop, Slovenia…….
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