Ok. So. I’m sitting writing this blog post from the quiet comfort of the library in Harrogate, UK. Tim is currently ‘home alone’ or maybe I should say ‘van alone’ back in Croatia. Oh don’t worry, he has a list of chores. I flew into Leeds Bradford airport on the tail end of Storm Brian last Saturday. To say it was a bumpy landing is an under statement. After one aborted landing and a circle around a bit we came in for a second go. I think it is fair to say the atmosphere on the plane was somewhat tense. Cheering and clapping commenced as soon as the rubber hit the asphalt. I don’t think we were quite out of the woods at that point but it did break the tension. I’ve got to give it to these pilots, trying to tame a bucking Boeing 73 something or other in winds gusting at 40+ mph must be no mean feat. They deserve whatever they are paid. End of.
Anyways, meanwhile back on the coast of Croatia last week……….
Leaving Plitvice Lakes National Park we headed back down to the coast taking the A1 toll road to get us through the Velebit mountains. Oh yes, we’d done our homework this time on how the toll system works in Croatia. Pay a human at a toll booth. Simples. We’d learnt from our past mistake. Right decision. Several tunnels, including Sveti Rok tunnel at five kilometres long, convinced us that the alternative route would have been d.i.v.o.r.c.e. inducing.
Pitched up back on the coast at a smallish campsite at Tribanj Šibuljna some more walking was to be had. And swimming (that’ll be me not Tim, he prefers terra tarmac).
The weather was superb, the campsite quiet and a footpath across the road led us up and up (and up) into the Paklenica National Park. The cloud was still hanging low across the sea towards Pag island. The views were phenom.
Pag island, from a distance, looks like a giant pumice stone. Just bleak and barren. Twenty four thousand sheep call it home. As do eight thousand people. The sheep support themselves mostly from sage which carpets the eastern side of the island. The people support themselves from the cheese provided by the sheep. That and tourism, clubbing and olives. Novalja, one of the main settlements on Pag is said to be the ‘prime venue for Adriatic clubbing’. I presume it’s not the stone age kind of clubbing.
Judging by the size of Šimuni campsite where we stayed for a couple of nights the island must be rammed with people in the height of the summer. I say campsite but it was more a camping village with restaurants, bars, supermarket, holiday homes, private beach and shower blocks that wouldn’t look out of place in a boutique hotel. Just enorm. Out of season with our ACSI card it was about £16 per night and exceedingly quiet. A bargain.
The coast of Croatia seems to close by the second week in October. That suits us but wouldn’t suit everyone.
Onwards then to Split.
We took the toll road again. Can’t get enough of them now! The drive through the outskirts of Split on the D1 is all downhill and pretty dramatic. Yes it’s exceedingly busy and a culture shock after having tootled about at a leisurely pace for a week or two but the views made up for that. Backed by an ominous grey wall of mountains, the D1 sweeps down past little hillside settlements and Klis Fortress, a medieval castle teetering on a rock above the city. We installed ourselves at Camping Stobreč, seven kilometres outside the city. That is where Tim is now, you know, quietly working his way through his list.
Before I left for my little sojourn back in blighty we took the bus into Split from just outside the campsite. Split and around is one of the most urbanized areas of the Adriatic coast. As with all urbanised areas some of it is pretty grim but the overall situation of the city with the mountainous backdrop is very agreeable. It’s a lively place even at this time of year with its bustling markets, seafront cafes, ferries, boats and marinas.
The piece de resistance of Split, for me at least, is its warren of alleys hidden away behind the remains of Diocletian’s Palace. Built in 295 AD by the Roman Emperor Diocletian as a retirement home, measuring 200m by 240m, with a fortified keep and four towers, it must have been quite the des res. Over the ensuing years after Diocletian’s successors had departed it was gradually, over time, remodelled into a labyrinth of houses, tenements, churches and chapels. It really is fascinating with so many nooks and crannies to explore. Boutique shops, little cafes and restaurants sit cheek by jowl with apartments airing the days washing.
We loved it.