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Croatia

Curious what backpackers do in Croatia? Discover travel destinations all over the world of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.
  • The rain and cloud had given way to a warm sun and bright blue sky. The clear water of Starigrad bay looked so inviting... until we stepped into it in our wetsuits and snorkeling gear! It was too cold even for Will and that is saying something! We stayed in for a freezing 5 minutes, seeing a few fish, some tall anemones and clam like creatures before hurrying out and into the van for a nice hot shower! Luckily the air was a lot warmer and we enjoyed lunch outside with Poppy.

    The next day the rain returned and we visited wind blown Pag island via the bridge. The terrain as we entered the island was startlingly barren. Loose rocks covered a surface devoid of any real topsoil and the only plants we could see were the occasional sprig of wild sage.

    As we progressed further onto Pag, vegetation in the form of tall reeds, scrubby bushes and trees had a foothold. We passed salt pans in the shallows and sheep huddled in dells. Arriving in Pag town, we found the majority of shops were shut, including the tourist information office, despite it being Saturday. It was similar to Zadar in that it had a harbour, narrow streets and a light stone church, only on a much smaller scale. We bought lunch at a bakery and ate it on the bracing seafront. Will particularly enjoyed the cottage cheese wrapped in filo pastry!

    Another shop that was thankfully open was the little cheese shop. Pag is famous for its Paški Sir (Pag Cheese), a strong hard ewes' milk cheese, a bit like a cross between Cheddar and Parmesan.

    On our way back to the van we were accosted by a stray tabby cat and her brood of kittens. They came running down the street towards us and the only suitable food we had for her was butter which she didn't seem too keen on. (Will wouldn't let Vicky feed her the Pag Cheese). Vicky found it difficult not to take the whole family back with her to the van!
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  • On our last full day at Camp Jaz we had a suprise visit from the little black dog who'd sat with us during our meal in Starigrad. 'Sammy' as Vicky named him was sniffing around outside the van and was overjoyed when we came out with Poppy to give him some fuss. He took a particular interest in Poppy but unfortunately the feeling wasn't mutual. Although Vicky loved it when he hopped in the van, Poppy didn't and so he lay outside, rolling over to have his tummy rubbed. Even when we were all inside he hung around for hours. He had no collar but seemed in good condition so we were pretty sure he had a home to go to. We've seen quite a few dogs roaming free and in outdoor kennels in Croatia, most seem in good health but some owners obviously have a very different attitude towards their pets than back in the UK.

    The sun rose to a clear sky the next morning and after picking Vicky's cards up from Starigrad Post Office (thanks Sue!), we set off for Northern Dalmatia. Many Croatian main roads are lined with roadside stalls and although the vast majority are closed this time of year, there are occasionally ones selling fruit and veg. It is often difficult to stop and park the van, but needing shopping we pulled into a large supermarket and there, at the turning was a stall selling 5kg nets of clemantines for 20 kuna (around £2.50). We didn't have change so returned on the way out of the supermarket. It is good to see fruit of different sizes and shades instead of the homogeneous 'chosen ones' in chain stores.

    We'd planned to stay at a stopover in the hills but driving along the coast road, the water was spotted with small round islands of pale coloured rock, topped with lush green trees. There were dozens of campsites and the views were so beautiful that Will persuaded Vicky to try one. For €10 a night we got to park where even Vicky could throw a stone into the water (admittedly on a third attempt). We were the only ones on the site and there was even an affectionate black cat to fuss, so we were happy!
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  • Over the water from the campsite we could see Murter and several smaller pimple shaped islands. There were a few spots of rain as we launched from the little campsite jetty but the wind was light and the waves small, so after we'd skirted the shoreline for a while we turned to cross the channel and explore some Dalmatian islands! Looking northwards there were layers of hills, the ones furthest away appearing as faded grey silhouettes. A mirage effect caused some island hills to 'float' above the sea, adding a magical quality to our Adriatic adventure.

    The rain came down heavy as we approached the first island. It had a small solar powered light to warn craft of rocks and we docked Little Green (our canoe) on the stone jetty this was sited on. Wide, dry stone walls provided shelter from the wind as we picked our way over the rocks and long grass to reach a dry area under the old pine trees. Rocks jutted up in lines parallel to and slanting towards the shoreline. It looked like a natural amphitheatre and a perfect place for a picnic! A smell of pine pervaded the air and it was wonderfully quiet and still. As we ate our sarnies we checked Maps.Me and found out the island was called Tegina.

    We spent several hours circling round three more islands, only seeing a couple of boats and two hardy snorklers the whole time we were out. The islands were all pale rock topped with a thick covering of verdent green trees. Most were surrounded by dry stone walls with a few homemade stone jetties jutting out.

    Underwater we saw shoals of small fish flitting back and forth under the canoe. Long black blobs (that on closer inspection turned out to be sea slugs) occupied the deeper water while hundreds of little red anemones populated the shallows. We again saw some large moluscs reaching up from the sea bed. Vicky used the paddle as a makeshift hockey stick and manoeuvred an empty shell to a depth where she could reach down and lift it from the water. We sent photos to our good friend Suhaine and her knowledgeable husband Malcolm, who kindly identified them as 'noble pen shells' or 'fan mussels'. Suhaine told us that a crayfish often lives inside and pinches the mussel when it spots danger, causing it to close up and protect them both. Thanks for enlightening us!

    On our way back, we touched ground on the large Murter island and we paddled round a stone shrine that sat in the water. Back on site, Will foraged samphire for tea, it was a little woody this time of year but still yummy.
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  • Intending to make use of a day of fine weather we took a trip to Krka National Park. Leaving the van in the top car park we made our way down the steep rocky track into the gorge carved by the River Krka.

    Brown and red dragonflies hovered in the air and basked on rocks. Vibrant pink cyclamen splashed colour on the forest floor while the aroma of pine sap wafted on the breeze. Reaching the river, we started out on the 1.9km boardwalk over the water. Swimming wasn't allowed due to the high water level, which disappointed Will. However, the heavy rainfall caused water to gush over grass, through reeds and around tree trunks. It even came over the side of the walkway at times. We could see and hear hundreds of waterfalls of different sizes spilling over pools and channels all around us. Progressing downriver the falls increased in their height and volume, ending in the largest one; Skradinski Buk. At this point a bridge crossed the wide river and we got a wonderful view upstream.

    There was a heritage hamlet accross the bridge and an old woman with a stall of sugared almonds, dried figs and sea shells. She encouraged us to try some and we ended up buying a little pot of almonds.

    Arriving back at the van, slightly out of breath from the uphill hike, we took a double take at the van parked next to us. The number plate was British! We'd seen very few other vans, let alone British ones since arriving in Croatia and so when the owners (Rhea and Gareth) returned, Will eagerly invited them over for a cuppa. We chatted for quite a while and got on well. They are a young couple who worked all the hours they could to save up, buy a van and travel for 6 months. They also had a canoe and bikes and like Will, Gareth had brought his guitar and fishing rods with him.

    Saying our goodbyes we set off back to Camp Kalebić via InterSpar supermarket who had a special offer on mattress toppers. Vicky had been sleeping on an inflatable camping mat for a while as she had been getting a bad back. The bed cushions where comfortable enough for short term use but after over 5 months of constant use, we could feel the metal crossbars underneath. The mattress topper had memory foam and we had the most comfortable night's sleep in quite a while!

    N.B. We shot a short video at the main waterfall and have uploaded it on our VnW Travels Facebook Page. Follow this link to watch it: https://www.facebook.com/pg/vnwtravels/videos/
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  • Sibenik old town had been highlighted in The Rough Guide as a 'must see'. Built on a steep hillside, it had a labyrinthine maze of narrow streets and stairways. Brown or green painted wooden shutters dotted the walls and above us telephone wires and washing lines criss crossed between houses.

    St James Cathedral was, like most of the religious buildings we've encountered in Croatia, made out of a smooth pale stone. Inside, statues and paintings lined the walls. There was a drying bunch of grapes hanging from the outstretched fingers of the Madonna and Child. Its baptismal font featured centrally within an intimate round room. Cherubs and fine detail around inset arches decorated the walls and ceiling, with an external light providing atmospheric illumination. A single stained glass window lit the length of the prayer hall through a circular peacock fan. While neither of us are religious we could both appreciate the carthedral's charms.

    Exploring the lanes we came accross a shrine in a shallow cave, orange and peach trees growing in small gardens and the ubiquitous pussy cats, popping in and out of doorways or preening themselves. The place was quiet and had character aplenty but there was very little in the way of a quick lunch so we headed out of the old town. There was a distinct divide between the historic side presented to tourists and today's city that accomodated most of its population. We'd seen some graffiti previously but many walls were covered with it here and going by the uncared for building facades with crumbling plaster, there was obviously a lot of deprivation.

    We came accross a market that was packing up but some peripheral street vendors were still open so we bought the same pasty/pie lunch we had the other day in Pag. We discovered the cheese stuffed one was called a 'Burek Sir' and the meat one 'Burek Meso'.
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  • It was time to pack up and leave Camp Kalebić.

    The previous evening had been lovely, Will went fishing as the sun dipped low over the islands and Vicky had sat on the wall with the campsite's black cat purring contentedly on her knee. When she'd gone back in the van, black cat had followed, only to execute a sharp u-turn when he saw Poppy and Poppy saw him. Vicky shut the door but minutes later heard a knocking in the boot. Upon investigation black cat had tried to stow himself away!

    Soon after Will returned, the storm began and we'd had a restless night with persistent heavy rain drumming on the roof and 10 hours of thunder and lightning sillhouetting islands as it light up the bay. Unfortunately the storm wasn't letting up and there was still the canoe to put on the roof, the toilet to empty and the water tank to fill.

    We hadn't seen much of the owners as they'd been busy harvesting and bagging up olives from the campsite trees. (The showers had turned into a storage facility for a huge vat of olives!)

    We found a layby with a view of the sea about 30km north of Split. The number of campsites had dwindled and we wanted to be close to Split in order to visit it the next morning. There had been a pause in the thunder and lightning but it returned again that evening. Poppy's health hasn't been good and she is needing to be taken out every 2 or 3 hours - not a pleasant task at night in heavy rain. Oh well, at least it wasn't cold!
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  • Wow, last night was windy! Despite being protected by a large hill we were buffeted with force.

    On our way to Ploče to check out the ferry crossing to the Pelješac peninsula we kept a close eye out for campsites. We needed toilet and water services by now and couldn't depend on a ferry crossing to the stopover we knew about on the peninsula. It was 8th time lucky (including yesterday's attempts) so you can imagine how happy we were to find Dalmacija Resort open! After arranging to stay the night we continued on to Ploče to buy ferry tickets.

    On the way back we stopped for lunch at a layby overlooking a beautiful set of inland lakes. The air was still with only the gentlest of breezes in places. Reflections of autumnal trees and hills in the water made the view appear like something conjured up in the imagination and brought to life in a painting.

    Returning to Dalmacija Resort, a mixed site of van pitches, log cabins and apartments, Robert the site manager hailed us with his little dog/fox cross, Buba. He'd had friends over and cooked chicken on the outdoor wood stove, far too much for them to finish so would we like to join him? We couldn't say no! He fed us chicken, bread and wine and we got to know one another and his watchful ginger tom cat. He told us that last night's wind had been 160kmph (no wonder it rocked the van!). It is familiar to the locals who know it as the 'Bura'.

    The site had wifi so after watching a glorious sunset we spent the evening catching up with family including a video call to Will's son and daughter in law and our beautiful grandaughter! We were also able to Skype Vicky's brother Ali, who was celebrating his birthday at Dad and Sarah's. It means a lot to us to be able to keep in contact with family and friends back home, something that Germany's restrictive connection regulations made difficult.

    The following day was very relaxing. Poppy met Buba and the young black lurcher that belonged to one of Robert's friends. Vicky took advantage of the washing machine before we were invited to share a drink of cherry brandy and schnapps with Robert and another friend. A peaceful canoe paddle took us a little way down the coast before Will had a dip in the sea and we had nice hot showers courtesy of the resort.

    As we were turning in for the evening, Robert came over with a bag containing approximately 7kg of freshly picked clementines for us. His friend with the black lurcher had a couple of trees and more fruit than he knew what to do with. Still, it was very nice of them to think of us!
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  • Bosnia Herzegovina is excluded from the list of countries our van insurance allows us to drive in but with the border so tantalisingly close we didn't see the harm in driving up to it and walking across!

    The campsite manager of a few nights ago had shared his thoughts on Bosnia Herzegovina. His home town was in North East Croatia and to get there he could either drive 400km through Bosnia Herzegovina or 800km within Croatia. He had decided he would rather undertake the longer journey than take the 'shortcut'. His thoughts were that Bosnia Herzegovina was really two countries, the predominantly muslim Bosnia and the mainly catholic Herzegovina. Whilst he had no problem with the Herzogovenians, he had felt extremely uncomfortable when in Bosnian areas, as if he was being watched. He said the muslim faith was very hard line there and that about 300 ISIL fighters had returned to Bosnia from Syria. We don't know how much of this was fact and how much was chinese whispers, nor do we know how much his experience was shaped by his preconceptions. However we found it very interesting to listen to his perspective. The creation of national borders has too often been done by removed politicians seeking an advantage, or as a compromise in the face of a feared situation. The interests of groups of people on the ground have often played only a small part and whilst it is almost impossible to please everyone, there are obvious tensions between groups with different histories, cultures and beliefs.

    The road in the sat nav seemed to end at the border but as we weren't wanting to go further, that didn't matter to us. We didn't see a single other vehicle as the route took us up higher into the hills. The further it got, the further the vegetation spilled over onto the concrete. Cow pats splattered the road and Vicky had only just told Will not to be surprised if we came face to face with a herd of cows, than we turned the corner and there was a cow, glancing with a bamboozled expression between us and the other 3 further up the hill. Rocks littered our path, some of them sizeable.

    We got to a point 1.3km away from the border where bushes closed in and the concrete ended. The track beyond was stoney so we decided to park the van up (there was no room to turn it round) and continue on foot. It was only as we were setting off we saw that the gravel track was actually a 'repair' where it looked like the road had been washed away. Driving on, we found there were several patches like this but we took it slowly and kept our fingers crossed that the tyres would hold out.

    The border was marked by a small sign saying 'state border' in Croatian. It didn't look as if it wanted pedestrians to continue along the path so we took some photos, reversed back to a point that was just wide enough to shuffle the van round and headed towards our second border of the day -Montenegro!
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  • Dodging dogs in the road and holding our breath as we drove under low hanging telephone wires we drew closer to Montenegro. We know nothing about the country itself but it is another place we aren't insured to drive so today's breif visit is likely to be the only time we spend there.

    Parking up at a litter strewn patch of concrete just before the border controls, we grabbed our passports and struck out on foot towards what would be the third country of the day. There was a group of uniformed officials and one stayed around when he saw us approaching. Luckily he spoke English, although we could see him questioning his understanding of the language when we handed over the passports and explained what we wanted to do. "You want to walk to Montenegro?" he asked. We nodded eagerly and he let us through. About 500m further on there was a 'Welcome to Montenegro' sign with a view of a valley winding down to the sea beyond which we thought as good a point to turn back at as any.

    The officials were ready for us on our return. One diligently checked our passports asking with mock seriousness that didn't quite come over in translation "So, where are you going?" We started to answer until he cut in with a grin "And where have you been?". We guess they don't get many British people crossing the border on foot!
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  • We'd come as far south as we could and it was time to travel back up north to more Christmassy climes.

    As so many sites were closed, we retraced our steps trying to stay at the ones we'd found on the way down. After a night among the olive trees at the closed Brijesta site we drove along the Pelješac Peninsula, dropping in at a small wine tasting bar where we tried a local Plavac Mali made by the woman standing there pouring it. It was very dry so Will loved it. We bought a litre from the large metal keg and a pre bottled middle range red along with some homemade olive oil. After we'd paid, the woman (who had also made the oil) insisted we shouldn't use it for cooking as it was too tasty! This didn't come across as a sales technique but as someone who cared about and was proud of what they made; with good reason too!

    We took the ferry back over from Trpanj to Ploče (it was warm enough to sit outside this time) and again stayed with Robert at the Dalmajica resort. Instead of using the facilities in the large toilet block, he gave us a key to one of the wooden chalets whose facilities were a lot nicer!

    Moving on, we reached Camp Kalebić, from where we'd canoed around the islands. Unfortunately it was dark and the gates locked. We spent the night on the dead end road outside where we weren't disturbed. Bright and early the next morning we drove to Sibenik where Vicky had previously spotted some waterproof sheet material at the market. We now needed it to make suitable beds for Poppy to help us deal with her incontinence. Vicky was enjoying trying to communicate a little more in Croatian. She was pleased when she managed to ask for 1.5 meters of the desired material and very relieved when we actually got 1.5 meters! It was morning, so the food market was open and we made the most of it, stocking up on clemantines, cheese, figs, dried camomile flowers and a fresh that Will filleted and marinaded in garlic, oregano and olive oil for tea - yum! The market had a real vibe about it, it was purposeful instead of gimmicky or touristy and the sellers called out as you passed.

    Camp Jaz near Starigrad was our next stop and we were relieved to be able to park up in our favourite spot looking out over the bay. When we went to pay, the owner said no payment was necessary! Unfortunately the water was also turned off, so although we managed to empty the toilet, our water tank was in need of a top up!

    Travelling on, we left the coast behind. The land became more fertile and more trees deciduous, making it seem as if Autumn had bounded on quickly. Shepherds, many of them women in traditional Croatian headscarves, hearded flocks of between a dozen and 30 sheep along scrubby fields that had no fence separating them from the road. We passed a tractor with a pig in a crate and a cow being led by a rope.

    Hopes that our next planned stopover would have water were dashed when we translated the 'closed' sign on the door. The 'Marina' restaurant had been taken over by a Chinese restaurant and although it still advertised a free stopover in the car park if you ate with them, it looked as if they had gone for their own holidays! In an effort to conserve water (at least that was a good excuse) we went to a local bar for a beer but the air was so thick with smoke that Vicky couldn't get out soon enough!
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Republic of Croatia, Kroatien, Croatia, Kroasië, Krowehyia, ክሮኤሽያ, Croacia, كرواتيا, ܩܪܘܐܛܝܐ, Xorvatiya, Харватыя, Хърватска, Kroasi, ক্রোয়েশিয়া, ཀུརོ་ཤི་ཡ།, Kroatia, Hrvatska, Croàcia, Chorvatsko, Kroatsia nutome, Κροατία, Kroatio, Horvaatia, Kroazia, کرواتیا, Korwasii, Croatie, Croacie, Cravuazie, Kroaasje, An Chróit, ક્રોએશિયા, Kurowaishiya, קרואטיה, क्रोएशिया, Chorwatska, Horvátország, Հորվաթիա, Kroasia, Croasia, Króatía, Croazia, クロアチア共和国, ჰორვატია, Korasia, ក្រូអាស៊ី, ಕ್ರೋಯೇಶಿಯಾ, 크로아티아, کرۆواتیا, Kroati, Хорватия, Kurowesya, Kroatië, Krowasi, ໂຄເອເຊຍ, Kroatija, Horvātija, Хрватска, ക്രൊയേഷ്യ, Kroazja, ခရိုအေးရှား, Kroaitsiya, କ୍ରୋଆଟିଆ, Croasya, Chorwacja, Croassia, کروواسيا, Croácia, Hurwatsuyu, Korowasiya, Croația, Croazzia, Kroasïi, Chorvátsko, Hrvaška, Korweeshiya, Kroacia, குரோசியா, క్రోయేషియా, ประเทศโครเอเชีย, Kroasya, Kuloisia, Hırvatistan, كرودىيە, Хорватія, کروشیا, Crô-a-ti-a (Croatia), Kroasän, Orílẹ́ède Kòróátíà, 克罗地亚, i-Croatia