Tour of Croatia 2016

August 22nd we left Torquay for the start of our tour of Croatia with GB Motorhomes the Motorhome Tour Company that we had toured the Black Sea Coast of Turkey with. We met up with some of our group and Tour Leaders in Sandwich Kent and after crossing to Calais made our way over 4 days to arrive at Monzambano in Italy on Friday 26th August where we met up with the rest of our fellow traveller, 15 motorhomes in total.
Saturday 27th an early start for the drive to our 1st campsite at Umag in Croatia. Very busy roads and not very scenic. Short drive through Slovenia before the border with Croatia. The weather was extremely hot and there were long queues at the border but we eventually arrived at the very large campsite Park Umag in the provence of Istria. Set in a beautiful bay with lots of facilities it was an ideal place to relax and enjoy the beautiful weather and swim in the lovely clear warm sea. In the evening we all enjoyed a welcome reception from the Campsite.

Monday 29 after a day spent swimming cycling and relaxing a coach came to collect our group to take us to visit Porec an old roman town. Porec has special memories for me as my parents had visited it many times in their motorhome during the 60’s and 70’s and was one of their favourite places. The town of Porec is almost 2,000 years old and is one of the most visited places in Croatia. we had a very informative tour of the old town by a local guide before travelling on to Rovinj. Rovinj is a Croatian fishing port on the west coast of the Istrian peninsula. The old town stands on a headland, with houses tightly crowded down to the seafront. A tangle of cobbled streets leads to the hilltop church of St. Euphemia, whose towering steeple dominates the skyline.  Euphemia was a young girl from a town in Asia Minor. When she was 15 years old she was arrested by Roman Soldiers for refusing to give up Christianity. She was tortured and thrown to the lions who killed her but would not eat her. Rescued by chrisitians her remains were taken to Constantinople and in the year 800 her marble sarcophogus was returned to Rovinj where she was proclaimed St Euphomia the patron saint of the town.  After a tour of the old town and a walk up to see the view from the Church on the hill we were ready for our lunch, (Lamb) which was excellent, served at a country-side restaurant, before heading back to campsite for a welcome swim and quiet evening watching the beautiful sunset.

Wednesday 31st after another relaxing day the coach arrived to take us to Groznjan a medieval hilltop village famous for its music and art festivals, the little town has over 20 Galleries and is known as the Town of Artists. Lovely views of the farming countryside from the old walls. We then moved on to Motovun another medieval high walled hilltop village although bigger then Groznjan. The area is very well known among foodies, because the nearby forests are full of hidden treasure: black and white Truffles.There was a jazz festival on whilst we were there. These hilltop towns are full of history and well worth visiting. On our way home we stopped off at another country restaurant for a lovely meal with local music to entertain us. (I was persuaded to dance with our tour guide Manuel which was interesting!)

Friday 2nd September after another hot day relaxing, swimming and eating delicious Croatia ice cream it was time to move on to our next destination but on the way we stopped off to visit The Baradine Caves. The sightseeing lasts 40 minutes, visitors descend  a 300m long pathway  to 60m below the ground and an underground lake and visit 5 beautifully decorated chambers. An interesting detail of this adventurous trip is also the encounter with the underground world of animals: visitors will see the cave olm (Proteus anguinus Laurenti), endemic in this dinaric karst region- an animal that can be found only in this karst area, it has no eyes and looks like a small eel. In one of the chambers you will pass along a 4m wide passage that leads 66m vertically down reaching the deepest point of the cave at 132m. The long ‘Curtain’ Stalagmites form a beautiful backdrop as you make the descent. There is also a Fascinating Tractor Museum which Arthur and Andy (a farmer) really enjoyed. We carried on towards our next stop Camp Korona nr Plitvice Lakes. We first took the very scenic motorway around Rijeka then country roads passing through small villages, simple farms, and several bombed or bullet marked buildings from the Bosnian War some partly rebuilt but then abandoned. After an interesting coffee stop and an encounter with a very friendly local who insisted on calling Arthur “A very good man”(we think he’d had too much Grappa!)we travelled on through lovely countryside to our destination at the Plitvice National Park.

Saturday 3rd September A beautiful morning. A coach arrived to take us to the Lakes. it was very busy with loads of tourists. Plitviče Lakes National Park is a 295-sq.-km forest reserve in central Croatia. It’s known for a chain of 16 terraced lakes, joined by waterfalls, that extend into a limestone canyon. Walkways and hiking trails wind around and across the water, and an electric boat links the 12 upper and 4 lower lakes. The latter are the site of Veliki Slap, a 78m-high waterfall. We had a great day followed by an excellent meal in the park restaurant.


Sunday 4th We drove towards Trogir first along quiet country roads surrounded by mountains then we took the stunning coastal route towards the Rozac Camp at Trogir situated right on the coast.Trogir is a town on the central Adriatic coast of Croatia. Its preserved old town, known for its mix of Renaissance, baroque and Romanesque buildings, lies on a small island connected to the mainland and the island of Čiovo by bridges. The 13th-century Cathedral of St. Lawrence houses the Renaissance Chapel of St. John and offers sweeping views from its bell tower. Parts of the medieval city walls remain intact. In the evening we attended a welcome reception party by the campsite owners then a group of us stayed on to enjoy a nice meal in the campsite restaurant and entertained by local musicians. A fun evening!

Monday 5th Caught the ferry for a guided tour of Trogir. Interesting old city but very crowded with tourists and touristy shops. Weather now not so good so 6 of us met up in restaurant for lunch before returning to camp. Weather cleared in evening so went for nice walk along seafront

Wednesday 7th after a day resting and swimming the coach arrived to take us on a day trip to Split a town on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast,it is known for its beaches and the fortress like complex at its centre the Diocletian’s Palace, erected by the Roman emperor in the 4th century. Once home to thousands, its sprawling remains include more than 200 buildings. Within its white stone walls and under its courtyards are a cathedral and numerous shops, bars, cafes, hotels and houses. Not one of our favourite places but still worth the visit. We walked up a hill overlooking the harbour for a coffee and to view the Jewish Cemetery which we enjoyed much more. 7 of us also enjoyed an excellent lunch in American Square and a visit to the Cathedral and crypt, lovely inside with an ornate domed roof

Thursday 8th.  Our Tour leaders had organised a boat trip for a group of us around the islands. the boat collected us from the campsite pier then went on to collect another load of people! it was very crowded but ok.  The weather was glorious so the scenery around the islands and the coast line was fabulous. We stopped off at the Blue Lagoon with deep crystal clear water, great fun was had by some (we did it) by climbing up on to a high shute at the end of the boat and zooming down into the water. Then on  to Solta island for a welcome coffee and stroll around the picturesque little harbour.Then back on board to cruise to Ciovo Island for lunch in a beachside restaurant. BBQ mackerel it was delicious then another swim before heading back to the campsite. In the evening we had a group meal in the campsite restuarant with  entertainment by the local band, an excellent day and evening.

Friday 9th Left Camp to travel to Bosnia via the coastal route. Lovely scenic route with mountains down to the sea and the road carved around the edges. Pretty coastal villages, small seaside resorts, pretty bays with small stony beaches (not much sand in Croatia)with crystal clear water were dotted along our route. We reached the Border into Bosnia at Metkovic to get  our green card Insurance before entering the country e50! We were now in Bosnia very different to pretty Croatia much poorer looking countryside and worn torn buildings. We reached our next stop a small family run campsite basic but clean and friendly owners.

Saturday A coach arrived to take our group to Mostar. We had an excellent guide Jasmina who gave us in interesting and informative talk on the history of Mostar which was destroyed in the Bosnian War. Mostar was the most heavily bombed of any Bosnian City following the breakup of Yogoslavia. Air strikes destroyed many important buildings and structures including the cultural icon Stari Mostz The Old Bridge originally built by the Turks in 1556. It was destroyed in 1993 and rebuild built in 2004. The bridge is a UNESCO world Heritage Site it is 21m high and you will frequently see members of the Mostar Diving Club diving off the bridge. Mostar is a small city of narrow cobbled streets with a mixed race population. Muslims, Christians and Jews. Once ruled by the Ottomans before becoming catholic.We saw many different styles of architecture including mosques as well as a cathedral. A significant portion of the city has now been rebuilt and the old town is a colourful place to visit. However, many visible signs of Mostars troubled recent history remain. Time was spent watching the old tradition of young men diving off the bridge  into the shallow waters of the river below. They have to be specially trained to do this. We enjoyed a good lunch at a waterside restaurant overlooking the bridge. A very interesting day.

Sunday 11th Today we had a 30 minute walk to the village of Blagaj to visit the 16th century Tekija Monastery a Dervish Holy Place. The Tekija was built at the source of the Buna river one of the biggest in Europe and is considered by many to be one of the most mystical places in all of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was a fascinating place to visit. to go  inside the Tekija men must wear robes to cover bare legs and ladies scarves to cover head arms and legs (if wearing shorts) which created quite a few interesting photos! After the tour and coffee we made our way back to the campsite stopping off at a local restaurant for a locally cooked delicious meal served by the very entertaining cafe owner!

Monday 12th. Left Campsite to take the cross country route across Bosnia back to Croatia. An interesting drive across the Bosnian farmland dotted with little churches /mosques/graveyards and bombed buildings with plaques memorials to the terrible war. A rich  agricultural and wine growing area but very neglected and quite dirty and scruffy in places. Without the tourist input that Croatia enjoys there are few jobs, and no real industry. After crossing the border we arrived at Dubrovnik and Camping Solitudo are large touristy site on the outskirts of the city.

Tuesday 13th A coach arrived to take us into Dubrovnik. It was heaving with Tourists! Three huge cruise ships were in the port disgorging passengers into the city. It was impossible to move around the main square so our guide took us to the quieter streets which was much more interesting.  In 1991, after the break-up of Yugoslavia, Dubrovnik was besieged by Serbian and Montenegrin soldiers of the Yugoslav People’s Army  for seven months and suffered significant damage from shelling] After repair and restoration works in the 1990s and early 2000s, Dubrovnik re-emerged as one of the top tourist destinations in the Mediterranean.In 1979, the city of Dubrovnik joined the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites.After a tour of the Historical Sites (the morning crowds leave quite quickly)and an excellent lunch at a waterside restaurant we had a nice relaxing cruise around the small island of Lokrum before boarding our coach back to the campsite for a welcome swim in the lovely warm waters of the Adriatic.

Wednesday 14th A very Hot Day! We caught the bus into Dubrovnik to walk the famous city walls. A walk along Dubrovnik’s famous city walls that surround the old town is a unique and wonderful experience and a must-do when visiting Dubrovnik. The walls are 2km long and you can walk all around them (it took us around 2 hours) It was quite hard going, lots of steps up and down and very hot as no shade, but well worth the effort as the views over the old town and out to sea are stunning.  After Lunch we met up with our son and daughter-in-law who were on holiday near Dubrovnik. Then back to camp for more cruise ship spotting!

Thursday 15th Hot!  Coach arrived to take us to Montenegro. After a short wait at the border we boarded a small ferry to take us across the Bay of Kotar with a scenic backdrop of Montenegro’s  Black Mountains. We stopped at Kotar to visit the old town with little narrow streets and lots of churches. Then it was on to Budva a holiday resort area with big sandy beaches. After a lovely lunch in a very interesting restaurant (one of my favourites) we walked into the old town  and up to the Citadel for stunning views of Montenegro Bay, before making the return journey back to the  campsite. A long but very interesting day –   too tired for usual swim!

Saturday 17th Raining! Scenic coastal drive to Camp Galeb at Omis. Rain cleared. Sandy beach no rocks. Sat on beach.

Sunday Boat trip from Omis to Cetina Canyon. Very pleasant quiet and scenic high cliffs some with climbers. Arrived at Rustic Restaurant for lunch which was excellent, traditionally cooked chicken and bread in charcoal ovens. Local music. Huge thunderstorm during meal which was exciting as we were sitting outside! Very heavy rain thunder and lighting during night parts of campsite flooded in the morning. Later sun came out so sat on beach and had a swim.

Tuesday 20 Sunny Clear Morning. Early start to drive the coastal route to Zadar.  Very pretty coastal villages stopped for a coffee overlooking the attractive Primsen Island a must do another time. Arrived Zadar a large full facility campsite with nice swimming pool, and a sandy beach.

Wednesday  Bike ride to Nin. On a small island in the middle of a shallow lagoon the small town of Nin can be found with its old centre, connected to the mainland by two stone bridges.
It is the oldest Croatian royal town, the cradle of the Croatian state. The smallest cathedral in the world and the coronation Church of St. Nicholas can be found here, as well as one of the word’s most beautiful beaches.  Touching the big toe on the statue of Grgur Ninski – tradition has it-brings good luck. I gave it a try but haven’t won the Lottery yet!

Sadly our tour of Croatia had come to an end. We had a group evening meal in the campsite restaurant where we celebrated a couples engagement and we thanked Ron and Sue our tour leaders for leading and taking care of us on our journey around Croatia and Bosnia. It had been a wonderful experience, blessed with beautiful weather,  visited some wonderful and interesting places enjoyed lots of lovely group meals, enjoyed the company of our fellow travelers and had a lot of laughs. Tomorrow we had for home. The story will continue……………