Croatia - so good Claire liked it!

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June 15th 2011
Published: July 7th 2011
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What were we concerned about? What a lovely country this is. We have been blown away by the coastal scenery, completely unspoilt thanks to considerate development. The roads are great for towing the caravan, it’s not expensive, and everyone wears a smile on their face.

Our campsite Porto Sole has first class facilities and it’s all pretty new and shiny too. The boys have been in heaven with a choice of two beaches, two pools and a minigolf! We have a village green type atmosphere going on around the caravan as we are near the euro-camp style tents with the kids and parents venturing on to the green in the evening for cricket, badminton, tennis type activities.

We’ve taken the boat (blow up dinghy!) into the sea a couple of times and used the snorkelling gear (not much cop to us hardened scuba types but a few sea urchins around). Simon and I have even been dancing as we convinced one of the euro-reps to babysit for us three (!) times. The icing on the cake is that the local gelateria has a non-dairy chocolate ice cream that keeps 2 little boys very happy when the thermometer pushes 90 degrees.

Apart from us and the Croations, everyone else in the whole of Croatia it seems is German. We did see a GB car 10 days ago but not a hint of a Brit since.

Now you might think that with all that rain in Tuscany all we would do is sit and enjoy the sun for 10 days, but no. We ventured to the hill towns of Istria (almost). We visited Pazim where we looked at the chasm that inspired Dante’s Inferno and was the setting for Jules Verne’s novel (really a karst feature where the river disappears into an underground cavern only to re-surface several km away) and a trip around the castle which was lovely and cool and contained an ethnographic museum which covered the touching subject of the emigration of mostly Italian born Istrians after WWII.

We headed out to the sculpture road between Roc and Hum (that would be a great name for a band!) which celebrates the Runic script developed by a Monk from the area (as a way of writing the Bible without getting caught in the Reformation years – I think…).

There are about 7 or so sculptures on the road ranging from solitary engraved rocks to formations in spirals and circles. It’s really very pleasant and since we urge you all to go to Croatia at your earliest opportunity you may even get to see them yourself!

On the way back from Hum to Roc, Sat Nav pulls one of its stunts and takes us down a goat track. The family motto is “Everything Happens for a Reason” and at the end of the track is a Mill that doubles as a konoba (restaurant).

One look at the rickety road bridge and we decide to park on the land side of it and traverse the river which is dotted with natural stepping stones. What an odd geology this is, the limestone is super smooth and shaped by the water. There is a really deep swimming hole (at least it must be as two local lads were jumping in from great height) and we spent a lovely hour watching and wishing we had our own swimming gear with us.

A trip up to the Motovan hill town on the way back didn’t go according to plan thanks to the protestations of one little man. We have a video of the award winning tamntrum if anyone wants to watch it! What his little performance did result in though was the lady at the shop feeling sorry for us and we got 3 bottles of wine and some local blackberries for 100 kuna (£12). – everything happens…etc

We also decided to take the longest day trip in the world and visit the Plitvic National Park some 3.5 hours away. Its another Karst phenomenon that has resulted in 16 interlocking waterfalls with wonderful turquoise lakes around them. Unfortunately although there are buses and ferries that more or less link the lakes with the waterfalls and the car parks, there are also some pretty steep and long climbs and miles of un-guarded jetties which made most of it unaccessible to us. Still we did what we could, met a great ranger called “Pinnochio” (at least that is what he told me his name was) and he’s promised to pop in to Motcombe at Christmas time when he is visiting his friend in Charmouth!

The strongest memory we have of our day trip though is rather more sombre. Sat Nav being Sat Nav led us a rather rural route to the park entrance. A mile or so down the road I noticed that there were lots of old wooden houses with new houses built behind them. I asked Simon to stop for a photo next time we saw one as they all had pretty geraniums and fabulous wood stores. However, looking through the view finder I noticed patches of render missing on the new house and the chilling realisation that I was looking at bullet holes. For mile afer mile a good 80% of the houses still had either bullet holes or visibly patched up holes. The other noticeable feature was the lack of any infrastructure, no schools (no kids), no shops, just one huge derelict factory. The history section of the Lonely Planet says that this region that borders Bosnia was particularly hard hit by ethnic cleansing in the war of 1991.

Rather less chilling was our trip to the Aquarium in Pula, set in an old fort and complete with rescue turtles. We lunched in the garden set in the old Moat and as luck would have it there was a minigolf opposite to keep the boys busy.

Despite extending our stay in Croatia by 4 days, the end came too soon (except for the barking dogs in the night) and we packed up and set of to join the queue of Germans waiting to get through the border crossing on a Saturday morning into Slovenia.

Some amusing things about Croatia:

Our campsite was next to the original naturist camp, frequented by no less than Edward and Mrs Simpson. This was a source of much curiosity for the boys who ogled at the people going in and out and asked countless questions about the “naturists”!

One of the rather odder things about Croatia are the caravan depots or “Rent a Wreck” as Simon calls them. Vast storage sites where people store their caravans until their next visit (including the Germans and Dutch) and from where you can hire a van for your stay. Rather you than me, they do look a bit unloved and like they have been left out in one too many hail storm and baking sun.

As twilight falls, the crickets come out on to the tarmac and your drive home is punctuated by the cracking of shells under the wheels and bouncing of bugs off the windscreen!

Im not sure if it is Istrian cuisine or pandering to the German clientele, but every restaurant has at least one suckling pig on the spit roast at any time of the day or night and the waiting staff jump in to the road to entice the passing cars to stop?

This time we used Frommers Croatia with your Kids and the AA guide to Croatia. Both were very good, but the Frommers guide tended to “big up” attractions that were really no more than passing diversions.

Miles’ favourite trip was to the local sculpture park.

Additional photos below
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3rd July 2012
the fabled Trabant

That's not a Trabant
It's a Zastava (aka Yugo).

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