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!

Post 4 … Dubrovnik – a phoenix risen from the ashes.

We left Ljubljana in the afternoon, and drove nearly 200 miles south. The roads through Slovenia were small, and bordered by verdant scenery, and pretty villages at every turn.

Then, after a few slightly worrying moments with a rather stern border guard, we crossed into Croatia. Within 20 minutes we were on a smooth motorway, but the scenery was much more rugged. Predominantly limestone karst with rugged boulders strewn about, and mountains all around.

As we neared the coast we saw a brilliant sunset, and a strong wind buffeted Boris all the way to a nice camper stop at Skradin.

Off on our way early, we drove 2 hours south to Ploce.

Croatia has 1,770 kms of coastline. Due to a centuries old agreement, Bosnia owns a 9km stretch of coastline in the middle of it! Dubrovnik is the other side, and many car insurance companies, ours included, won’t issue a green card to drive there. So we have to catch a ferry to the adjacent peninsula, and drive south to Dubrovnic that way. Ferry cost £36 for us and Boris, lasted an hour, and we could pretend we were cruising the Adriatic!


The drive down the peninsula was spectacular, including past the village of Ston, which boasts the 2nd longest wall in the world. It was built in 1358, then over 7km long, to protect the salt basins, a prized commodity.


We arrived at Camping Kate in Mlini, south of Dubrovnic, high above the Adriatic, and very nice for 17 euros per night with our Acsi card! We took the walk down to the lovely waterfront, had a good supper at Konoba asatrea , and then staggered up the very high, very steep hill to Boris.


Next morning, a ferryboat took us to Dubrovnik. So exciting. I have wanted to visit here for years, and to approach from the water was extra special.

This is an exquisite city. Visually and historically fascinating.We took a walking tour and learned so much. Dubrovnik was always under threat from the 2 great powers in the Middle Ages – Venice to the north, and the Ottoman Empire all around. After they built their amazing defensive walls, no-one ever attacked them again… until the Yugoslav army in 1991.

Map showing the sites of all the bombs which hit the city.
Dubrovnik became fully self governing in 1358, and thrived. It was way ahead of it’s time. A medical service was introduced in 1301, with the first pharmacy, still operating to this day, being opened in 1317. An almshouse opened in 1347, and the first quarantine hospital in the world (Lazarete) was established in 1377. Slave trading was abolished in 1418, and an orphanage opened in 1432. A 20 km (12 mi) water supply system, in stone pipes, was constructed in 1438 by the Neapolitan architect and engineer Onofrio della Cava. He completed the aqueduct with two public fountains.

Still drinkable today !

We took the cable car for stunning views, and walked the entire walls.

The Game of Thrones references were lost on us, but many scenes were filmed here, including Cersei’s walk of shame down the steps.

Apparently, there is a daily market held below the staircase. During filming, it couldn’t take place. The stallholders refused to move because of loss of earnings, so the film company bought the entire stock on every stall!! Also, there are many shuttered windows in the wall to the right of the staircase. The owners were told they must be kept closed for hours and hours each day for filming. They refused, and negotiated a deal of 100 euros per window, per day to leave them shut!!

This is an amazing city, but it was most moving to hear what they went through in the recent war, and see images of that time.


Now, it is a city of hope, repaired and thriving!

Post 3 Slovenia is gorgeous… it’s official!

A peaceful night at Camping Bled, and the luxury of excellent showers in very modern, heated washrooms! Then we set off to find the Vintgar Gorge walk. We recommend the circular walk, along the deep cut gorge, climb up through the forst to Katerina, and return along the side of Hom Hill with magnificent alpine views and cows with bells! Gorgeous.

Next we drove for 45 minutes, past local farms which have special racks, used for drying hay.

We went to the neighbouring, but more isolated, Lake Bohinj. Wow. This was stunning too. At the far end of the lake is the cable car to the Vogel ski area. We ascended to find Alpine scenery, and some gorgeous walks. A highlight was watching crossbills feeding in trees right next to us.

Back down in the cable car, we visited a tiny church of St Christopher, and marvelled at the clarity of the lake water, and the relections.

Then to our campsite, with a super pitch by the river, and a walk to town where Chris continued his healthy eating campaign with a very traditional supper of local sausage, sauerkraut and a delicious mashed potato with onion. This was accompanied by 2 very tasty (and strong) local ales! Slovenia likes craft beers!

Next day was an early start to walk the length of the lake, watching the mist rise as the sun burned it off. 4 miles at a brisk pace so that we could catch the ferry back. What a super morning.

The tiny village church was filled with astonishing paintings, some 600 years old!

A picnic lunch surrounded by glorious scenery, before driving to Ljubljana, the capital.

However I had spotted a comment that a village enroute, Radovljica, was worth a look! It was gorgeous, and the highlight was the museum of Apiculture. Beekeeping is a great tradition here, and the old wooden hives are still used. For 200 years, paintings were done on the ends of the hives, depicting religious, historical or comical scenes. They were gorgeous.

Next onto our camperstop near Ljubljana, where our neighbours were some cute piggies, goats and a kitten! A short bus ride into town, and we strolled through the charming streets of this delightful, miniature capital city, and visited the beautiful cathedral. Slovenia gained it’s independence in 1999, and is fiercely proud of it’s heritage. Slightly worried about the baker though!!! We enjoyed a super meal at Atelje before returning to Boris for another peaceful night.

We caught the first bus back into the city on Saturday morning for an excellent walking tour. The city chose a poet as the name of it’s main square, rather than a military leader or politician, as they value their language, and love over military actions. Nice!

The architecture is delightful. Baroque and Art Nouveau styles are much in evidence.

Much of the town was damaged in the 1895 earthquake, so Art nouveau was the style of the time!

Time to leave. But not before lunch in the square at the Beer and Burger Festival.

We timed our visit well!! No alcohol when driving here, but Chris buys a craft ale for later. The burgers were superb. Organic meat! We love this country.

Now a long drive southeast, into Croatia. Slovenian scenery was gorgeous all the way to the border. Croatia quickly became more rugged and wilder, especially as we crossed the mountains and headed towards the coast. We witnessed a gorgeous sunset, and then drove to a tiny campsite in Skradin, where Chris could at last drink his ale!

We are more than halfway to Dubrovnik, our next destination… and that involves a ferry ride for Boris

Post 2 if it is Wednesday it must be Austria…or is it Slovenia?

Our objective on this trip is to travel to Southern Croatia, so Germany and Austria are, on this occasion, serving as interesting stopovers! Our night in Germany was… chilly. So glad I packed the 10.5 tog duvet. It dropped to -2 degrees C in the night, but we were on a site with electric hookup AND an all night electric blanket. Best camping tip I can give anyone!

A gloriously clear day for our drive south east, past Munich towards the Austrian border . The Alps gradually appeared, and the scenery became stunning.

We arrived at Camping Nord Sam, on the outskirts of Salzburg, at 14.30. We had a quick snack, and caught the very convenient bus to the town centre. The Mirabelle gardens around the old palace are beautiful… and where the children in Sound of Music sang Do, Re, Me. (So I am told. I have managed to get this far through life without seeing it!)

We sadly opted to skip the 4 hour Sound of Music city tour (was it a sing a long tour I wonder?), and did our own walk. Crossing the river to the Aldstadt, the whole city centre is stunning 17th and 18th century architecture, with lovely narrow streets, and ornate metal shop signs. No Golden arches here!

The baroque Cathedral was impressive, but we loved the little chapel and cemetery of St Peter, and the hermitage chapels and catacombs in the cliff face.

Mozart was born and lived in Salzburg, and much is made of this. Mozart chocolates, liqueurs, Umbrellas, aprons, rubber ducks…. you get the idea. No music though!

Our final visit was to the Augustinian Brauhaus, a monastery brewery since 1621. A huge, traditional hall has expanded into 4 halls and a terrace holding over 5000 people! You collect your stein, get your beer dispensed…7.2% proof, and then find some yummy, if very meat based, street food at the indoor stalls.

It was a great experience, rounded off with the bus back to Boris and another very chilly night!

Another bright start and we crossed Austria on route 8. We had bought a vignette for 9 euros to allow us to travel on the motorways. Route 8 had tolls as well, for the 2 huge tunnels which meant we did not have to climb high over the Alps. We were in Slovenia in 2 hours, and 45 minutes later had found Camping Bled, on the shores of magical, glacial Lake Bled.

Another quick lunch, then off to walk the 4 miles around the whole lake, plus a long climb up to the impressively perched castle.

Fantastic views and some very interesting historical exhibitions. The castle has never been beseiged in it’s 900 year history. I wonder why.

The lakeshore is dotted with beautiful 19th century villas, one of which was taken over as a summer home by President Tito, the communist ruler of the then Yugoslavia.

An island in the centre has a lovely church of the assumption. Visitors can ring the church bell to ask for a wish to be granted, so our walk was regularly punctuated by slightly discordant chimes!

The only way to reach the island was to row yourselves.. maybe tomorrow…. or go in a traditional Pletna boat, propelled by a gondolier with 2 oars!

Great views at every turn on this walk. I am so glad I have a camera phone. A 12 shot reel of film would have been woefully inadequate!!

What an introduction to Slovenia. Magical, and the most photogenic place I have ever been to.

Tomorrow I am determined to eat the local Bled cake… a very very very unhealthy custard and cream slice!