We drive from Italy to the Slovenian border, heading towards Croatia; the road from Slovenia to Northern Croatia is only about 20 to 30min, with uneventful border crossings.
As we enter the country we head to the coast near Opatija; although beautiful we find it completely filled with tourists, mainly Italians, Germans and Austrians. In the hope of escaping the crowds, we head into the northern lakes and mountains towards the Plitvice Lakes National Park.
Driving the country lanes is pleasant; houses with plentiful logs outside ready for wood fires, occasionally dotting the sides of the road. Winding through the valleys we see few cars or tourists. The only people on the road are three girls on two old 1960’s clapped out motorbikes.
As we drive, the sun setting, our hopes of finding dinner tonight slowly fading… turn after turn, the light begins to dim. We enter a valley where the mist is hovering over it, and cross the river Mreznica. We hope to find a town soon as we only have some bread and tuna fish in the car, which neither of us wants! We enter a small village with a few buildings, each dilapidated. It feels like a ghost town. We pass, possibly an old hotel, which seems to have bullet holes sprayed all over the walls.
We eventually find a small town in the darkness about 10 miles from the lakes. We settle for a pizzeria selling pizzas for £4 and some very nice beer!
Looking for somewhere to sleep the night, we pull up at an entrance to the national park where a single guard emerges from the darkness. Martin asks him if there is somewhere we can sleep in the car tonight. The guard, in broken English, replies ‘campsite expensive, private rooms cheap’. Martin asks him how much and if he is able to arrange something for us. He phones his mate and 5 minutes later we are escorted to the room. Not knowing where we are going or what the room would be like, we are slightly anxious. The car in front signals left by a bridge and we follow him down a dark winding track with no lights or signs. To our relief, we emerge from the darkness to arrive at a lovely chalet style guest house for £10 which was a bargain, as the previous campsite wanted £20 for the night!
Plitvice Lakes 12th August
We wake up early after a good night’s kip, and head straight to the Plitvice Lakes. We follow a wooded path around and through the lakes where we see some spectacular waterfalls and crystal lakes. So tempted to dive in but unfortunately there is no swimming allowed. The walk lasts for about 4/5 hours. After wards we are completely knackered.
We take a break for lunch just past the large Veliki-Slap Waterfall, trying the local homemade sausage and chicken.
After the lakes we decide to head to Zadar for the evening, about an hour and a half’s drive away. Although the Lonely Planet book suggested the town was not touristy at all, we found it to be the opposite, extremely busy, the old town full to bursting. We search for a restaurant; being so busy we’re lucky to find a table. After waiting 15 minutes for the table we finally order, Risotto and a Mixed Grill for me.
Pag Island 13 August
We head to the Island of Pag. On the way, the terrain turns from green to a barren desert like landscape. We pass through the town of Pag to the other side of the island where we spot a lovely little pebbly beach, and decide to stop for the day. We both get in, perilously overcoming the sharp rock and sea urchins, to the depths where we can swim.
In the evening we head into Pag town for dinner, were we had, probably the nicest pizza to date, even though it was vegetarian and also some small local sausages (with chips).
We spend the day relaxing in Pag town drinking & eating (Soup, Mackerel, Pork Cutlet and Salad all for €5 each) and use the internet while we can.
We head along the coast to Prvic, a small town near the Krka National Park, where there is a large gorge and more waterfalls. We pass numerous tiny stall with locals selling fruit and veg. We stop in the town for some food where it starts to rain. We hope it continues, in the hope of cooling us down a bit!
Murter Island 15 August
We drive from Privic to Murter Island, where we spot a beautiful cove from the hill top, and decide to head there. Little do we know, it is an auto-camp. However the cost of entry is only 15 kuna for the night, and we find our own little spot right by the sea. We both immediately jump in; I get the chance to try my new fins out, wow why did I not have these before!!
Writing this from the beach bar while Martin goes swimming again… wonder if he’ll come back with some fish this time!
Beautiful clear waters shimmering under the sun as small boats bob up and down on the rippling waves. We have a view drinks and play cards at the bar. We try to order some food however they are out of bread, only chips on the menu tonight!!
Split 16 August
Murter island to Split. We visit the Diocletian’s Palace in Split and come across traditional Dalmatian singers, a male quartet performing in a court yard. Their beautiful voices unexpectedly coming from such rough looking men!
We head along the coast where we find a wooded parking area with lots of sea front bars. We grab some dinner; huge portions of chicken & pizza and play some cards during the evening.
Dubrovnik 17 August
We are woken by an early morning knock on the car. The man wants money for parking, 25 kuna, a bargain!
We stop at a gorgeous little pebbly beach for a dip, with an old sailing shipped moored in the cove. We try and find a room for the evening with internet, and stop at a small villa. Unfortunately there’s no room at the inn, but the owner very kindly offers us to use the internet for free, or even come back in the evening to use for as long as we needed- a good example of Croatian hospitality!
We pass turquoise coloured lakes, surrounded by mountains as we head to Dubrovnik. Driving along, a border crossing appears in front of us. Looking at each other confused-“ have we gone the right way?” Looking at the map confirms we were crossing into Bosnia and Hercegovina. The trip into Bosnia does not last long- 20 minutes later we are back in Croatia.
We pass the village of Ston and its rows of oyster farms. When we arrive at Dubrovnik the streets are filled with tourists and parking is scarce too. We thought we had found a free parking spot but later that evening, we come back to find a parking ticket on the car for 170K!
We walk the old city streets taking in its unique atmosphere. Taking the back streets, we are almost alone, as we leave all the tourists in the central hub. The prices of food and drink within the city seem about 3 times the norm; where you would be paying 12K for 500ml of beer, here it was 35K, so we searched the back streets for a reasonably priced restaurant. We found the Taj Mahal, not an Indian but a Bosnian restaurant. I have the cevapi and Martin has the Taj Mahal special.
After dinner we find a 5 star hotel to relax and have a drink, with great views over Dubrovnik and also free internet!
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Martin & Nicole