Split, Croatia – Nov 2017

The weather forecast was for 24 hours of showers but, while there was some quite heavy rain last night, it was bright and sunny this morning. A quick tour around the campsite and then I was off to Split. The site I am parked in  does appear to have it all (including it’s own beach, a bar, restaurant, supermarket and even a dive centre, although the latter is closed until summer).

 

The first photo is of Stobrec from the campsite beach and the second is of the campsite from Stobrec. In between there is a small promenade with the usual bars and cafes. 

Again I chose to walk  but there’s a bus service that goes direct from Stobrec to Split or you can take a taxi for about 100 kuna (12 euros). I walked because there’s a path that goes right to the heart of the city and follows the coast pretty much the whole way. I was told it is about 8 km long but it felt longer despite the great views you always seem to get when hugging the coast.

 

The quality of the path varies but it is easy to follow; keep the water to the left and ensure you are at one with the tide

I had the path to myself until I was about a mile from the city. I say “city” but Split isn’t like a city in the normal sense of the word. It is simply too relaxed. There was a surprisingly large number of people out and about but the great majority were sitting at beachfront cafes or bars drinking coffee and chatting. Yes there will have been people working (waiters & waitresses certainly) and; there was a handful of locals  playing boules (or what I assumed was boules) and; others sitting in the shade playing chess and; there was even a trio playing Picigin in the sea at Bacvice Beach but, for the most part, everyone I saw was chilling. Unreal.

In case you don’t know. Picigin is a sport that is unique to Split. It dates back, I am told, to 1908 when students returning home from Prague University brought with them the game of water polo but had to adapt the rules somewhat because Bacvice beach is only ankle deep. I imagine it would be difficult playing water polo in just 6 inches of water. The end result looks nothing like water polo but, I kid you not, that’s what I was told. The participants (there can be up to five) play with what looks like a tennis ball, hitting it with the palm of the hand and working together to keep the ball in play (i.e. not letting it touch the water) and they seem to get most points (and spectator approval) when they throw themselves about acrobatically, especially into the water, to keep the ball in play. Sounds fun?

 

Chess and Picigin

Split is amazing. It is difficult to describe in a few words because it has so many different facets. The different styles of architecture in particular stand out with there being so many examples of each. I began today’s blog listing some of the different architectural styles and adding photos that I took today as examples of each but there were so many that the blog started to look like a catalogue for some kind of building auction. It will suffice to say the city was born out of the Roman Emperor Diocletian’s Palace and what is left of the Palace remains the heart of the city with all subsequent architectural styles blending in nicely (even some of the more modern stuff such as Ivan  Mestrovic’s imposing statue of the 10th century bishop, Grgur Ninski). You are going to get a photo of that.

I’ll take some more photo’s (especially of the Palace) when I go back into Split tomorrow but in the meantime, here is an artists impression of the Palace as it once stood and a few other views that caught my fancy.

Artist’s impression of Diocletian’s Palace

 

The first view of the city proper as you climb up from the beaches and a view of the city waterfront, the Riva

  

Yes, that’s Gurgr Ninski on the right

  

No surprise that the city has it’s fair share of narrow lanes and dilapidated buildings but these were totally different. Walking them, I really felt as if I had gone back in time. Bizarre

 

Trogir, Croatia – Nov 2017

Just arrived at a very comfortable campsite at Stobrek, near the City of Split. There’s a hoolie blowing (the Bora, again) and I’m staying in the Van this evening with a bottle of wine and some chicken fajitas. Split will wait until the morning.

I’ve travelled just 80 km today. I could have driven it within an hour or so but chose to make a day of it travelling along the coast road, stopping at Primosten  and Trogir. I didn’t stay long in Primosten (just long enough for a coffee and to catch up on the UK news) but I was a fair while in Trogir and even then I had to tear myself away. Small wonder it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The town itself is tiny. It is on an island about 500m by 250m and linked by bridges to the mainland and a larger island, Ciovo.

Trogir with the mainland in the top left and Ciovo in the bottom right of the photo. The football pitch on the left of the island by the castle is HNK Trogir FC -their home ground truly is a fortress 

The view above is of the south side of the island from Ciovo

Much of the town is surrounded by medieval walls and, inside those walls, there is a small castle and a relatively high concentration of churches and palaces set among even narrower streets than was seen in Krk. Pretty as Trogir is, regular readers of this blog will understand my wanting to get back on the road to Split before dark.

  

One of the old gates into the towns and a couple of the alleys. The stone is mostly marble.

Principal among the buildings in Trogir is the Katedrale Sv Lovre (Cathedral of St Lawrence). It was built in the 13th century on the site of an older Christian church that had been sacked and demolished by Saracen invaders. For a 15 Kuna contribution to church funds (about 2 euros) I was allowed to go to the top of the 47 metre bell tower for some fine views over the town. I made it up and down the tower before the bells started peeling. LoL.

 

St Lawrence’s Bell Tower and the Entrance to the Cathedral (which for those interested in art was sculpted by Master Radovan and I think it is in the Romanesque Gothic style but don’t quote me)

 

The ascent up the bell tower is a little narrow to start with (room for only one at a time but, once again, I had the place to myself)…

  

… but it opens out

I’ll leave you with a few other photos…

Kamerlengo Castle

Town Loggia

Not sure of the name of that church. There were a few and I became confused

Time to open some wine and get on with my fajitas.

 

 

Skradin, Croatia – Nov 2017

Moving to the Region’s largest town, Split, tomorrow so today was always going to be a lazy day checking out a few more of the local sites. It started with a brief stop at Skradin, just a few kilometres down the road, to  top up with supplies (milk, bread, eggs and the local cheese, ham & olives – olives can be a bit hit or miss with me but that’s not been the case in Slovenia and Croatia; not when they are so fresh) and then on to the Krka National Park to find a nice spot for breakfast. I don’t think I did too badly…

 

There’s the Van parked up for breakfast and there’s the view I had to suffer while sitting in the Van drinking coffee and enjoying a rather good omelette (‘though I say it myself); I’ll have the olives later.

Further down from where I was parked is Visovac Island on which sits the Franciscan Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy.  Apparently it has sat there since 1445 but from where I was sitting you couldn’t see it for trees and I didn’t therefore bother with a photo. There’s another reason for not including a photo – I am told the monastery houses “a valuable collection of historical church linens and dishes” – At this moment I don’t need reminding of the chores that await me before I split for Split tomorrow. For those of you who think this is one long holiday; it most certainly isn’t! It is more a succession of Saturdays and things still need to be done.

In hindsight (that word again), I think I made a mistake travelling up the western side of the Krka River. Yes, I found a nice secluded spot to have breakfast but I was on the wrong side to approach the Roski Slap (another apparently nice set of waterfalls known locally as “The Necklace”). Well, if you ever visit this place and it is worth it you will be better informed than me.

It’s not my photo, but that’s the Roski Slap. Zoran tells me that, good as the falls are, it is more about the walk in along an 8 km trail from another place in the Park worth visiting called the Ozidana Cave. It is reputedly one of the best walks in the country

Giving up on the Roski Slap (this time) I spent the rest of the day exploring Sibenik and Skradin but, believe it or not, the best views of both places was from the Odmoriste (Service Station) next to the Skradin Bridge on the motorway to Split (a service station well worth stopping and that beats Watford Gap for views by a country mile)…

 

First photo is of the Skradin Bridge from Skradin and the second is of the same bridge from the Motorway Service Station (by the way, they don’t sell petrol at this particular Odmoriste)

 

Two more photos taken from the Service Station, the first being a photo east to Skradin, the second being the view west towards Sibernik 

Well. That’s all for now. The sweeter red wine here isn’t too bad when taken in quantity.

 

 

 

 

Lozovac, Skradinski buk – Nov 2017

Before yesterday’s bad weather complicated matters, my plan was to use Sibenik as a base for exploring at least some of the Krka National Park. I thought that plan had gone out of the window. However, by pure chance the restaurant I parked up at last night, in the hamlet of Lozovac, is about as close to the National Park as could be. It is at the Park’s southernmost point, near the “Skradinski but” (i.e. the Skradinski waterfalls).

I was the only customer in the restaurant last night (it’s more of a small family run taverna really) and with the owner Zoran having gone to a great deal of trouble to cook me his speciality dish (a kind of veal and tomato stew which I confess was very, very tasty) and insisting I taste his own locally produced red wine (which, regretably, was as bad as the stew was good) it was difficult for me to retire as early as I wanted to; so it was a late start this morning.

Today was going to be about orientating myself and leaving the Park until tomorrow but you know how things change. I set off in the direction of what I was told is an abandoned aluminium smelter plant. If so, it is the oddest aluminium smelter plant I have ever seen (and I have seen a few) but, I digress…

 

The “aluminium smelter plant”…

 

…complete with military pill boxes

…behind the “aluminium smelter plant” was a great view of what I assumed was the Krka River. I made my way down to the river and before I knew it I was in the National Park and very close to the Skradinski buk.

That view is worth exploring – all I have to do is make my way down to the river

And what a Park this is if these waterfalls are anything to go by. I took a number of videos too and one of them is posted on Facebook. I really do need to add a widget to this website that will allow me to post videos.

More about the park tomorrow. Zoran has prepared another of his specialities (and I’m already on the beer).

Lozavac, Croatia – Nov 2017

Parked safely outside today’s destination which is a small restaurant near Lozavac in Croatia. I should have reached this place within 3 hours or so of leaving the island of Krk but circumstances worked against me and the journey took more than 9 hours. It seems I was caught out by a White Bora that is headlining this evening’s news on Croatian TV because of it’s sudden severity.

I’ve been lucky with the weather so far but that changed last night with strong winds and torrential rain seeming to target the Van immediately after I settled down for the evening. I must have been woken 3 or 4 times during the night with rain hammering on the roof (I mentioned in an earlier blog that such heavy rain is going to take some getting used to). Anyway with a full 48 hours of unsettled weather being forecast I determined over breakfast to head further south. With hindsight, I would have been better waiting another day.

The winds were very strong as I drove back across the Krk Bridge to mainland Croatia and you’ll see from the photos below why I had to keep my speed below 25 mph. The Van was exposed to the wind and blown all over the place.

  

The Krk Bridge (not my photos)

The weather deteriorated throughout the day and twice I was forced to leave the motorway because of roadblocks. I wouldn’t ordinarily mind that kind of inconvenience but, as was also mentioned previously, Croatia doesn’t  use detour signs. You are simply directed off the motorway, compelled to pay the toll and left to your own devices thereafter. It is so frustrating.

 

Weather deteriorating; it is only a matter of time before the motorway is closed (but twice several miles apart and why oh why do they not identify an alternative route?!?)

Unfortunately the alternative routes I chose took me up and over some rather intimidating mountain roads. It became colder as I climbed; the wind increased; the blizzards thickened and the situation worsened (the roads seeming to become narrower and the bends sharper and the drops steeper). You’ll forgive me for not taking any photographs. I stopped just the once to take a photo and was quite literally blown off my feet.

I’d like to say it was soon over but it wasn’t. It took forever and, to make matters worse, there was hardly anybody else on the road. Not surprising really; it is a Sunday with a poor weather forecast and with the police closing roads left, right and centre. Mad dogs and Englishmen… etc.

Enough of that. All is now well and although the strong winds persisted throughout the journey to Lozavac, the really bad weather ceased once I was back down in the valley. Check out the following photo looking back – a different world.

Still a silly hill to have to cross in such conditions

So, what is the Bora? The Bora is typically a dry and very gusty wind that originates in the northeast and travels down the Adriatic (particularly the eastern coast and especially during the period November to March). The White Bora is characterised by clouds and thick snow up on the summits and cold clear weather and good visibility in the lee of the (coastal) mountains – that explains why the weather is so settled this side of the hills I crossed. The Black Bora is characterised by low clouds and reduced visibility but it is less gusty and is accompanied by more rain and snow. The White Bora bodes well for me tomorrow given that I intend hill walking in this the lee side of the mountain range. Here’s hoping…

  

Croatian news:   Tell me about it…

Punat, Croatia – Nov 2017

Found the Van – the less said about that, the better.

The walk to Punat was straight forward and didn’t take that long but I should have taken the bike. There was just the one hill as I left Krk, not a particularly steep one at that, and with the bike I could have done the journey in half the time. As it was there didn’t appear to be any bus service operating in Punat and I had to walk back too.

There was just the one interesting feature on the way over; a small church (perhaps the smallest I have ever seen) dating back to the 13th century. Otherwise, there’s not a lot to report except the route between Krk and Punat is made for cycling. There is no pavement but there is a two lane cycle path which goes the whole way.

  

The mini-church en route to Punat and the cycle path

Punat wasn’t particularly special  although it has a massive boat yard and marina and I noticed three dive centres (and I saw two in Krk yesterday). All five dive centres are closed for winter but I think I could have been tempted. It seems there are a number of wrecks in the area (some from WW1) and certainly I am seeing a great many more fish in the harbours than was the case in Slovenia and Italy earlier this month. I’ll make enquiries about the diving as I move further south. My diving gear is in the back of the Van just waiting to be used.

 

 

 

Krk, Croatia – Nov 2017

Arrived at Krk late afternoon yesterday. Parked up at the Bor Camping Site and went for an exploratory walk and then a few beers before it got dark.

Krk has a small but pretty harbour and the sea looked calm despite  a weather forecast suggesting that there will be a day or two of unsettled weather before the sunshine returns.

 

Krk harbour /marina

Walked from the harbour into Krk Old Town. First impressions are that the lanes in these old towns get narrower the further south I go. I suspect this is deliberate and something to do with limiting the amount of direct sunlight that the streets get? No matter, as dusk approached and the street lights came on, the lanes became increasingly quaint. It just needed snow and it would be fabulous Christmas card material. Not much chance of snow here just yet with the thermometer hitting 18 degrees earlier today.

  

The lanes in these old towns get narrower the further south I go…

  

With dusk, the lanes become increasingly quaint…

As time went on I headed for a small bar on the harbour that I noticed on the way in. More of a beer place than wine. Shame, the beer here is not great and I am really getting into drinking the local wines…

  

Tiny little bar by the harbour

I didn’t eat anything and I had a skinful of beer and I then set off back through the Old Town to find the Van. Silly move; not sure if it was the alcohol or the dark or whatever (it was probably a combination of all three) but those quaint little lanes became a dark labyrinth that confused the hell out of me and, let’s just say, it was some considerable time before I got back to the Van. In fact, and I wasn’t going to admit this, I ended up booking into a hotel overnight. Just don’t tell Dave Hoyle – he’ll never trust me to get him off a mountain ever again!

  

… the little lanes became a dark labyrinth

In hindsight I only needed to walk downhill to escape the Old Town but you know what it is like …

It’s an 8 km walk to the neighbouring town of Punat in the morning.

 

 

Umag, Novigrad & Lovrecica, Croatia – Nov 2017

Left Izola yesterday morning and was in Croatia in about 30 minutes. First time I have seen any border presence (other than when the Swiss police simply waved me through from France) with police on both the Slovenian and Croatian side of the border wanting to check passports.

My first stop in Croatia was Umag for a quick walk around and a spot of breakfast (pleasant). The second scheduled stop was at Novigrad for a longer walk around and lunch (more pleasant) but in between I stumbled upon Lovrecica (most pleasant).

I was swearing at the time (very rare during the course of this tour) because the road from Umag to Novigrad  was blocked for roadworks. No warning, no detour signs, nobody to explain what is going on; just barriers blocking my route. And of course in such situations the sat-nav really doesn’t help;  continually urging me to follow the same road despite having it explained in no uncertain manner that the route is closed. Enough to drive anyone to distraction. Well, I turned off the road to consult a map and found myself in Lovrecica. Within moments, I was chilled and properly focused to resume my journey.

Umag (breakfast)

  

Novigrad (lunch)

 

Lovrecica

Lovrecica – that house alongside the harbour in front of the church is up for sale. Needs a bit of work but I would be sorely tempted if Lovrecica had a few more amenities – the village is just a bit too small

Was going to spend the next day or two in Porec (just further down the coast) but I think I will leave that for the return journey and head for Krk now. No particular reason. I saw it on the map and, as the Irish would say, I fancied the Krk (although they spell it craic).

Koper, Slovenia – Nov 2017

Today is as much about deciding where to go next as anything (do I go deeper into Slovenia or cross the border into Croatia?) but I started the day off by walking down to Izola and then on, along the coast road, to Koper. Koper is some 9 to 10 km from where the Van is parked at the Belvedere and I figured I would be there for when the bars open. Decisions like this are best made over a glass of wine or a beer.

The coast road from Izola to Koper is no longer open to motor vehicles. It has been set aside for the use of cyclists and pedestrians only (a lane each) and they have even opened a new public toilet and showers along the road for road users. It was an easy walk but if I had known that the road never once deviates from the shore line (there is absolutely no ascent/descent) I would have been tempted to cycle there and back. Having said that, the bus service down here is frequent, regular and very, very cheap and I took the bus back.

  

The route, pedestrians on the left and cyclists on the right, with toilet and shower facilities – there’s considerate

Koper is a working port and a much bigger place than Izola, Piran or Portoroz  but the old part of the city with its old buildings and narrow lanes (it’s a real rabbit warren) has much character and a great many drinking houses. I found one, the Lord Byron, that does Guinness. If you wonder why I chose Guinness instead of a local wine (this was my third time of drinking Guinness since commencing the tour) it is because in France, Austria and now Slovenia they serve it far better than it is served back in the UK – they serve it at a temperature such that you can taste it and not ice bloody cold.

Talking of cold, as I passed through Izola there were two blokes taking a dip in the sea – Australians. It had to be didn’t it.

 

 

 

Yes, I’ve made my mind up. It’s Croatia next.

Izola, Slovenia (and Orange Wine) – Nov 2017

Dober dan. That’s Slovenian for good day and wasn’t it just!

Today was about taking it easy and after an easy walk down by the cliffs to Izola and checking out the local sights (first impressions were correct – Izola is very much an old fishing town with shades of Venice) I made my way to the Manzioli Wine Bar on Manzioli Square (if a courtyard no more than 25 metres square can be termed a town square but, Izola is not very large). Manzioli was recommended to me yesterday by a local as the place to go to try out the local wines.

 

Azola is very much about fishing but its marina is also home to countless yachts; owned I dare say by relatively rich Italians who cross the border in droves to take advantage of the Slovenian casinos (which are everywhere, even at motorway service stations)

  

The town is made up of narrow lanes; not the picture post card lanes of Pinar but more lived in lanes of shops, wine bars, the odd local art gallery and, most especially, drying washing

The Manzioli Wine Bar is special. Except for a couple of locals sitting drinking morning coffee outside the entrance, the bar was very quiet when I arrived and the chap running it, Peter, was able to spend some considerable time explaining the local wines to me. I take back all that I said yesterday about the wines of this region. Certainly, many of the local white wines are different but that is because they are “orange wines”. Orange wines can take some getting used to but with the right frame of mind and the right food they are seriously good. I am sure there is more to it than this but Peter explained that orange wines are created by making white wines as you would normally make a red wine and, vice versa, red wines are made as you would ordinarily make a white wine. He went into more detail (about how the skins are left to macerate with the pips, grape skin, etc) but that was many glasses, sorry hours, ago and I cannot remember it all.  It will suffice to say that Manzioli make their wines using the Malvasia grape (although I also tried some that were made with the Pinot Grigio) and jolly nice they were too. I couldn’t trust myself to carry any back up the hill to the Van but I’ll return tomorrow to buy some.

  

The Manzioli Wine Bar, operated by the Zaro family

  

The wine and my lunch: Local Prosciutto Ham and Olives (with the family’s home made olive oil) and Montasio Cheese from just outside Trieste all served with more of the family’s wine, this time their Refosk Red.

Peter made me smile with his comment that the Zaro Olive Oil served with lunch is not necessarily the best in the area (not surprising given that this region is noted for it’s olive oil) but it is home made with olives from their own trees and the alternative would have been to cut the trees down.

  

Peter in selling mode and the route back to the Van (I’m sure the path was straighter than that on the way in)… almost dusk already.

Not sure how much longer I will be staying in this area but so glad I found it (especially Izola) and, believe me, you have not heard the last of orange wine. I’m quoting Peter now but if nothing else it is a more natural wine than most in that additives, including yeast, are rarely used in the production process. Last word with regards to orange wine, if you try it and don’t like it, don’t give up on it. In Piran I was unsure. Here in Izola I am hooked.