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Review: Road trip to Croatia

Specialist Holiday - Non-escorted tour

Croatia by Motorhome

  • By SilverTraveller SilverTravelUser_2866

    2 reviews

  • Jul 2011
  • Wife

76 people found this review helpful

From childhood I’d always thought how difficult it must be organising a family holiday. The logistics of camping equipment, food required, travel documents for the car and its occupants, route planning, accommodation details, all washed over my head! Come the day of departure, after weeks of planning, we’d set off, all booted and spurred. A couple of miles down the road Mum would come up with “Dad, we’ve forgotten the tin opener again!” Dad would reply “Never mind Irene, I’ll buy you a shiny new one in Newquay”. When I was aged 15, our local Scout leader masterminded a trip for 17 teenagers on board a 3 ton wagon, to Europe. A journey of 3000 miles, visiting seven countries. A three week extravaganza encompassing a Channel crossing, several mountain passes, the Italian Riviera, the Eternal City, the Amalfi coastline, Venice, the Olympic Winter sports venue in St. Moritz, the Rhineland and the Champagne region of Rheims. My young mind was bombarded with wonder and my urge to travel thus developed. Apparently the organisation for this trip proved to be nightmarish and devilish. It all washed over my head! In 2011 we’d been wondering where to take our camper van for its annual main holiday. The answer came to us as we were queuing at Morrison’s supermarket checkout. Jane said “How about Croatia?” I replied “That sounds like a good idea, when we get home we’ll book a ferry". After checking that our passports were still valid, booking an overnight campsite in Dover, swapping Sterling for Euros and stocking up with groceries and diesel we were on the A1 heading South from Yorkshire within two weeks. On arrival in Dunkerque we journeyed in a SE direction skirting the national borders of Belgium and France. We advanced upon Luxembourg and spent two days absorbing the delights of the historical capital city, and the carpet of wild flowers near to our campsite. Perusing the European road map is akin to a biologists’ viewpoint when studying the human body’s blood circulatory system. The smaller roads resemble the tiny blood vessels or capillaries and the blue and red roads replace the veins and arteries. So as we cruise along the North shore of Lake Konstanz in the direction of Bregenz, we are met by a cycology of bike riders, which is a collective noun for cyclists of my own invention. This is a great place for a sporty family holiday. For us, the Alps are beckoning, and we approach them, awestruck. These days the lofty giants are crossed underneath, rather than over the top. Tunnels of 15 kilometres are not uncommon. Waving goodbye to Germany, we enter Austria and edge around Innsbruck, pursuing the A12 in the direction of St Johann and Kitzbuhel in the romantic and unchanging Tirol. We change course veering southwards and taking a run at the Felber Tauern Tunnel. The great hulk of the Grossglockner to our left and the Grossvenediger to our right, tower over us at more than 12000 feet above sea level. It’s enough to make your ears pop. Emerging from the tunnel we are squeezed along towards Lienz and Villach before we are introduced to another European civil engineering masterpiece which is the Karawanken Tunnel. Although we are oblivious to national borders, the road signs on our emergence from this underground highway inform us that we have reached the blinding sunlight and increased temperatures of Slovenia. Travel writers have long spoken admiringly of the healing waters and magnificent scenery of Lake Bled. So, as we were just along the road, we thought we might camp here for a night or two. We weren’t disappointed. The lake is nestled beneath a circle of mountains. A lovely church is perched on an island in the centre of the turquoise water, which feels warm when you dip your fingers into it. It’s no wonder that the Slovenian national rowing team are based here. If I was a rower, I would be inspired to come here. It beats the Leeds and Liverpool Canal any day. At Ljubljana (Lub-li-ana) we have an enforced stop due to toothache which requires surgery. Whilst the morphine is making the pain more bearable we explore the mediaeval town and delight in the architectural talents of Slovenian Josef Plecnic. They say time and tide wait for no man or woman and so three days later after removal of my Jane’s mandible stitches we cross another border, into Croatia. In this part of the world they have Croatian Kuna, which is their own form of monetary currency and a trip to Riyeka is made to find a bank. Parking a 20 foot long motorhome on streets originally designed for horse and carts is no mean feat. Fortunately I have a broad back and, after complaints from motorists, pedestrians and policemen with whistles, I finally adopt the Englishman abroad technique of ignoring protests, smiling and nodding and turning the other cheek, whilst mustering as much dignity in public as possible. By nightfall we leave the precipitous coastal road and descend into Portoroz, just as the lights are coming on in Venice. What a sight! Sixty miles West, across the Adriatic Sea, the skyline is unmistakeable. The bell tower of St. Marks Church dominates the scene. A week later we visit the mostly barren, deforested off-shore islands of Cres, Pag, Rab and Krk. They were stripped bare by the Venetians in their heyday, to feed their insatiable thirst for timber for shipbuilding. Leaving our wooded campsite behind at the delightful fishing village of Selce, we headed for Trieste. With 1600 miles behind us we decided to re-visit Italy and the eighth country on our trip. From the flatlands of the Venetian plains, we venture North and climb higher and higher over the Santa Croce Pass, and descend to our site alongside Lago di San Croce, which is circled by the Alpago Alps. These remind my poor wife of sharp edged broken teeth. With the combination of warm breezes drifting North from the Adriatic and the cold mountain air of the Dolomites drifting Southwards, the mix meets here, much to the delight of the many young kite surfers who take to the waters each Summer, with much colour and gusto. Also we regularly dined on pizza, green salads, tiramisu and carafes of red wine for around 20 Euros. After seven days of a fresh air lung transfusion we head north to Belluno and Cortina, following (on my part) a gap of 47 years. We travel through some of the most magnificent mountain scenery ever constructed by Mother Nature. Finally we crest the brow of the Brenner Pass and cross the Italian/Austrian border and snake down over the Europa Bridge into the heartland of Innsbruck. We do not dawdle because Garmisch Partenkirchen is along the road from here and is another Alpine delight that we must reach before nightfall. Alpine roads in the dark are a hazard that must be avoided. The wet weather spoils our mountain revelry so much that we keep travelling up and on towards Ehrwald, circumnavigating the Zugspitze, which is Germany’s highest peak. The sun comes out and forgives the rain that did its’ best to spoil our fun. The meadows of this area are lush. The forests are thick with conifers and with pungent smelling vanilla exuded from the orchid filled woods. The high, rocky cliffs seem to reflect the suns’ rays and radiate heat on to the land. The cows burdened with milk and clanging bells, work on their ponderous gardening. We arrive after the cheese festival is over, leaving behind odours best kept wrapped in muslin. We encounter a wedding outside a white church that seems to be decorated in icing sugar. A fireman and his bride act out a ritual that involves the local brigade. The bride’s role is that she must be rescued from a window in the church spire by her hero on an extending ladder. The girl has a game spirit and is applauded by a good natured crowd, as she is taken away in a pony and trap. I’m sure it must have been a one-off. Leaving behind the highlands, we journey into the lowlands of Southern Germany. We pass through Ulm, Stuttgart, Karlsruhe and Saarbrucken today in the direction of Luxembourg, once more to the campsite where we stayed around five weeks previously. It is like coming home. The receptionist was friendly and referred to us by our Christian names. Unfortunately we have a long drive in a day or two, back up towards the Channel port of Dunkerque. We rise early the next morning and sneak off the site without paying – I’m only joking! A couple of hours are spent loading up with beer and wine and presents for the grandchildren at the Cite of Europe shopping village. Village – we’ve been in smaller towns, but it is very popular and handy for the trip back home. The crossing was uneventful, a short respite before tackling the final leg of our journey. This is the 270 miles from Dover back home to Yorkshire, a distance which brings our final tally to 2790 miles, quite a drive. On reflection I’ve had many a sleepless night thinking about my responsibilities and organisational priorities for our annual holidays. The solution to these worries came in an inspirational flash, giving me a feeling of great relief. I’ve decided to let my long-suffering wife continue to take care of that side of things. I’ll just concentrate on enjoying myself, and let everything else wash over my head.



 

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