Post 8 Last days….part 1!

Our last day in Croatia was spent on the Istrian peninsula, nearly at the top of the Adriatic sea. Colonised by the Romans, and Venetians, it has a rich heritage, and was part of Italy for many years, only regaining it’s Slavic identity after World War 2. There is a definite Italian feel to the architecture and cuisine here!

Many smaller Autostops for campers have closed by October so we stayed on 2 large coastal sites. Lovely waterside pitches, nice showers and facilities and quiet.. but our idea of hell in July and August with 500 crammed pitches, pool, entertainment and queues for showers! Also, many of them are more than double the price in high season. We count our blessings that we can travel out of season.

We have also had 3 weeks where temperatures have mainly been between 20 and 27 degrees C. Perfect. Others have told us it was up to 40 degs in summer and unbearable.

Our first visit was Pula for it’s remarkable roman heritage dotted throughout the town. The Hercules Gate, Temple of Alexandra and most impressively, the amphitheatre, all date from the 1st – 3rd century AD.

Don’t miss the little church and monastery of St Francis, with it’s 13th century cloister, and beautiful polyptych .

Then up the coast to Rovinj, a truly charming pedestrianised town and port, with a warren of alleyways, and waterside paths with lovely views of the sun setting over the sea.

We walked from our campsite, passing the fishing fleet. A merging of old and new. Sailors sat repairing their nets, next to brightly coloured stacks of plastic trays, giving an idea of the size of the expected catch.

The imposing church of Euphemia is at the highest point , and the atmosphere was made rather surreal by a guitarist outside singing ‘Wish you were here’, by Pink Floyd in a strong Croatian accent!

Inside, a nun was praying while her companion studied her phone!!

We found a tiny, local restaurant, Ulika, hidden away in the old town, and had a wonderful meal there as our farewell to Croatia.

Croatia – conclusions:

1. Beautiful coast and inland, but tourism is huge so areas are feeling quite commercialised, with the potential for Huge crowds. Personally, we would avoid between mid June and mid September, and seek out more remote spots and islands.

2. Quite expensive. No cheaper than UK and in some places more. Most churches and museums charge and entrance fee, only £2 or £3 pp but it quickly adds up.

3. We aren’t beach bods, but met quite a few people who were surprised that the majority of beaches are rocks and pebbles. Sandy ones are rare and get very busy!

4. We ate out a few times, and had to really hunt for non touristy menus. Lots of Pizza everywhere!

5. Island hopping was a lot more feasible with a camper than we thought, and fairly reasonably priced. Not every route takes vehicles. Get a good timetable!

Next, back into Slovenia for a day visiting their 47km coastline, especially beautiful Piran. We parked Boris in neighbouring Portoroz, by the old salt warehouses

and walked the 2km coastal promenade path to lovely Piran, passing this hostel on the way!!!

What a delightful town. Again, very Italianate architecture, with a lovely atmosphere.

Climb up to the Cathedral of St George to see a beautiful ceiling, and statues.

There was a square here, almost filled by its Bellini fountain, with an interesting guttering arrangement.

We had a coffee gazing out over the sparkling water, feeling sad to head inland and leave the clear blue Adriatic.

Inland for 2 last amazing Slovenian surprises. A tiny detour to the middle of nowhere brought us to the church of the Holy Trinity at Hrastovlje, fortified against the Ottomans. Inside are the most incredible, original frescoes, painted in 1490 to illustrate bible stories, morality and the cycle of the seasons to the population who couldn’t read.

The dance of death is the most famous section.

In the UK we have churches with fragments of original wall friezes, mostly plastered over thanks to Henry VIII . This is what our churches might have looked like. A blaze of colour! It was incredible.

Secondly, onto the caves at Skocjan. We have visited many cave systems, but can honestly say these were by far the most impressive. We visited 2km of cave, with huge chambers full of wonderful formations, but the thing that set this system apart was the river, thundering through far below us, still cutting down and illustrating how this amazing place was formed. At times, it had a Lord of the Rings quality!

No photos allowed inside, so these 3 aren’t mine! And yes, I did manage to walk across that bridge.. gulp!

We said a very sad Goodbye to Slovenia, which wins the prize as our favourite country on this trip. Wonderful in every way.

We crossed into Italy and wildcamped in a car park by the cliffs overlooking Trieste Bay.

A very multinational spot. 5 campers there, representing Italy, Austria, Germany, France and GB. Our exact route home!

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