Category: Croatia

Crossing Borders

Camping Fusina – where we did not stay

We headed west from Bulgaria via Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia towards Italy. We were pleasantly surprised how smoothly we were able to travel from one country to the next. At each border our passports were checked once on leaving the country and again on entering the next. Vehicle documents were examined and a customs officer often came on board to physically check the inside of the truck. No mention was made of Covid. Usually the whole procedure took no more than half an hour. We stopped overnight at fuel stations, restaurants were open but only serving coffee and snacks – we catered in the truck.

When we reached Slovenia we needed to stop for a day or two to relax and do the laundry. It looked such a beautiful country, it reminded us of Austria, clean and well-ordered with rolling green hills and prosperous looking farming communities. We looked for a camp site but it seemed nothing was open during the winter months.

We also had a problem with Slovenian road tolls. We were travelling in an elderly truck with no modern emission controls, thus contravening EU regulations. On entering Slovenia we had to purchase (€10) a digital toll responder and load it with €45 of credit. Every few miles the responder gave a single beep showing our credit was still good. An hour or so into our journey the responder started giving a double beep indicating our credit was being used up. The cost of one day’s drive had now reached €65 and the annoying double beep still persisted. We felt pressured to leave Slovenia before our bank balance was further plundered.


When we reached the border with Italy all vehicles were able to drive straight through without any checks at all. We planned to stay a few days at our regular camp site at Fusina, opposite Venice. We arrived just as it was getting dark but were refused entry to the camp site because we didn’t have a negative Covid test certificate. The huge site was almost empty of visitors but there was no offer to let us stay segregated from the other visitors in a quarantined area – nor did they have any information as to where we might get a Covid test. Camping Fusina had committed the ultimate sin of turning away a traveller just as it was getting dark.

We eventually found a deserted fuel station on a busy roundabout and spent a comfortable and undisturbed night there.

Driving into Fusina we had noticed a woman sitting in an old camper van parked under a bridge. On our way back when we were searching for somewhere to stop overnight we passed the van again and noticed this time there was a car parked next to the van. It was much later when we realised she was probably a working prostitute. Imagine our red faces if we had tried to park up beside her – would she have taken us for customers or the competition?

Dubrovnik

Our camp site was at Solitudo on the outskirts of Dubrovnik, a well preserved medieval walled city whose past wealth came from its maritime trade. We caught the number 6 bus from Solitudo for a fifteen minute ride into the old city the following morning.  It had been raining all night but, according to the forecast, the weather was improving and the rain had just about ceased by the time we disembarked and walked through into the narrow alleyways of the old town.

We spotted a large cruise ship moored at the docks and before long we joined a throng of British tourists milling around the squares and narrow streets – our ears immediately tuning into their snatches of conversation.  Fortunately they were walking around in small groups, unlike Venice where there would be thirty or more in a group following their leader, making movement difficult.

We climbed up many flights of steep steps to the top of the city walls where we were charged the equivalent of £12 each for the privilege of walking around the city walls.  It provided a good view of the old city and there were fewer tourists who were fit enough to negotiate the steps to enjoy the wonderful view of the bright roofs and the harbour. 

 
    

Driving South To Dubrovnik 

Our journey south started in the pouring rain.  We were travelling from Split to Dubrovnik on a deserted motorway that ran through a mountainous wilderness dotted with the occasional isolated community.  There were very few exits from the motorway and virtually no fuel stops, just green covered hills and the occasional tunnel through the high mountains, the summits draped in low cloud.   

 Some hours later we came to what we thought was a toll booth on the motorway but it turned out to be the border post into Bosnia and Hertzegovena.  We were leaving the EU and we had to show our passports before we were waved through.  Half an hour later we crossed a second border which took us back into Croatia – where they barely glanced at our passports.

 We were now on the coast road and were delighted with the views as we travelled up and down hills, circling bays that overlooked red roofed towns and small fishing harbours.  We stopped at one of the many roadside stalls and bought dried figs, home made jams, black honey and figs and some oranges (note how the signs were written in English).

 We saw many small islands just off the coast, some of which were accessible by road from the mainland.  There were a lot of campsites in the area and we were tempted to stay as it was very beautiful, in spite of the dull weather.  We could imagine how fine the view would be if the sun were shining. 

 

Stobreč, Split

We stayed three nights at Stobreč near the port of Split.  The campsite was excellent with clean, modern facilities  but we were disappointed with the surrounding area which was a dual carriageway and industrial units – plus playing fields – the former were ugly, the latter noisy.  We walked down to the harbour in the evening and had a good meal in the only restaurant.  There was a full moon as we walked home and noticed  that that the view looked much better after dark – or was it the bottle of wine we had just drunk?

 
We caught the bus into Split, a journey of twenty minutes.  It was a lovely city with a handsome esplanade filled with cafés and market stalls.  The older parts of the city dated back to early Roman times; the paving stones under our feet were worn quite smooth with age.   The ruins of Emperor Diocletian’s palace formed the centre of the old city, you could walk through any of the four portals and admire the ancient arches forming the cellars.  Surrounding the palace were a maze of narrow alleyways with shops and restaurants.

  

One Of Four Portals To The Emporor’s Palace
    
 

The Dalmation Coast

  

After two enjoyable days we left Draga and drove south to Split on the Dalmation coast, a journey of five hours.  Croatia joined the EU recently and we made excellent progress on their new and fairly empty motorway (blue dot to red dot on the map).  We passed through some beautiful countryside, green hills dotted with bright terracotta roofs, giving way to tunnels and mountains, topped with a little snow.  We drove through a National Park, passing lakes and mountains where we spotted roadside warning signs showing an image of a bear and a wolf but, fortunately no corporal sightings!

    

Campsite at Stobreč, Split
 

Drago

The campsite at Drago was newly opened after the winter.  The grounds were attractive and well looked after with beautiful flowering shrubs (honeysuckle, mimosa, wisteria) giving the place a wonderful flowery aroma.  We were charmed to hear the song of a nightingale through our open skylight as we settled down for the night.  

Everyone seemed to speak English and we were able to use our euros to pay for most things although the Kuna was the Croatian currency (9 to the £).

The following day was sunny, chilly first thing but reached 20° in the morning sun shine.  We walked down to the port and were amazed how lovely everything looked.  The Adriatic was a dramatic turquoise colour and the water was gin clear.  We realised that this was probably just one of many pretty harbours along that beautiful coast.  

      

    

  

Italy, Slovenia to Croatia

 

Blue Spot Marks Our Campsite At Draga
 

We left Italy and took the motorway north of Trieste and on through Slovenia following a winding road through the mountains.  The route in both directions was dominated by a land train of trucks travelling nose to tail bringing goods in and out of the eastern bloc countries.

In less than two hours we had crossed into Croatia, formerly part Yugoslavia, gaining independence in 1991 and now part of the EU.  We were heading for a camp site on the island of Krk on the Adriatic coast.  It was raining and the wind had increased as we followed the Tom-Tom route to our chosen destination.  Unfortunately the motorway was blocked by a landslide that closed the road completely and so we continued to re-route until we were finally defeated by the closure, due to high winds, of the viaduct bridge connecting the mainland to Krk.  We had no option but to turn around and find an alternative camp.  After another two hours of concentrated driving we eventually found a camp site at Draga, further up the coast.  

Force 10 Winds Whipped Up A Spume
      
Finally We Found A Peaceful Campsite