Dave the motorhome is camping in Croatia near Rovinj (N45.06560 E13.67563) at Camp Ulika Rovinj.
As the sun set and the thunderstorms eased last night, it was cool enough to take Charlie for his evening walk. We headed towards the town of Isola to see what Saturday night in a Slovenian seaside resort was like. We were very impressed!
They must have known we were coming as there was a wine and food festival going on. The narrow cobbled streets were lined with stalls selling local produce, however unlike the usual farmers markets I’ve been too, no one carried bags of goodies they’d bought, instead everyone carried a wine glass and the drink was flowing.
The crowds, accordion players, smell of food and brass band made Charlie wide eyed and glued to the floor, so we nipped back to Dave and dropped him off. Back at the party Jay enquired at the glass selling stall how it all worked. In perfect English, with a Canadian accent, we were told we buy the glasses for €3, then sample the wine. Sorted. Curiosity got the better of us and we had to ask – it turned out the girl had a Canadian English teacher.
Glasses in hand we set off among the stalls. Many were selling glassfuls of wine for a euro, it didn’t take us long to find one we liked – Refosk. Never heard of it before, it could be something else in English, but it was fruity and good, a quality that continued at every stall we bought it from! Several glasses later, we found that stalls were giving away free tasters of the wine before you bought a glass (maybe we were becoming more fluent in our Slovenian), and then we found it….a stall selling lovely, lovely refosk for 50c a glass! Not long after this point we recorded the below video and realised how much we’d had to drink. In true Brit style we walked past the brass band and fine foods on offer and headed straight for the stall selling chips. It had mussels, calamari, whitebait and all sorts of other tasty stuff, but we needed chips. Slightly cold, but very salty they hit the spot and helped us stagger back to Dave.
This morning we plotted into satnav a campsite over the border in Croatia. As we approached the border we were reminded that Croatia isn’t in the EU (at the moment). A bit of a queue formed and everyone was stopped and had passports checked – twice. At the first border they looked at our photos, at the second one, under the glare of some sort of guard, we were waved on as soon as we showed the cover. On the other side the queue to cross back into Slovenia snaked back for miles onto and along the main motorway. There was a police car blocking off the exit to the other border a bit further north, we had no idea what was going on, but made a vow not to come back this way, especially not on a weekend.
I didn’t know what to expect of Croatia, all I know is that there has been some war and they’re OK at football – hopefully I’ll pick up more as we go along. As we drove by the side of the road little stalls sold honey, grappa, wine and olive oil – got to love any country where you can buy alcohol at a roadside stall. In Croatia the motorways are toll roads, but that didn’t stop satnav trying to take us along them, with my huge scale map I navigated us from town to town along the coast road while satnav insisted we head inland.
We reached our destination, without going on a toll road, drove past the queue of caravans parked outside and parked up right in front of reception. I was told that if I was using my ACSI card we could only stop in certain areas, which were highlighted on a map for me, the receptionist then strangely suggested we go and have a look before booking in. We did and realised why, they were packed. It was a huge campsite right by the sea, within walking distance of a town and not far from the border. The areas for ACSI were unmarked and it was a free for all, awnings, tents, camping chairs, cars, bikes anything and everything was being used to secure space around the motorhomes. There was a tiny space we could have squeezed Dave into, but really didn’t fancy trying to navigate around all the obstacles. Back at reception we thanked them and left. Was this it? Looking through our ACSI book it looked like all the campsites were 500 pitch or more monsters, some even boasted over 1000 pitches. Oh dear, what had we done. Was all of Croatia going to be like this?
We pulled in further up the road, I rifled through our camping cheque book while Jay fired up the laptop, he’d downloaded some stuff from the Croatian tourist board while we had good t’internet in Italy. We found a booklet entitled small camping, it looked promising, but turned out to be just a list of small campsites, no map. grrr. Then we spotted an advert for Ulika Camping near Rovinj. We also had an aire in our database in Rovinj and if all else failed there were a few of the monster campsites there we could head to. Again fighting satnav to keep off the toll road, we made our way along the coast. We stopped at a couple of supermarkets in hope of a cashpoint – something that seems to be lacking around here, but no luck. At the second supermarket I bought a decent sized map of Croatia and apologised to satnav, there’s a decent red road running alongside the toll road, it looks like that was where she was trying to get us to – oops. Still, armed with a good map and a plan things looked up.
It was now lunchtime and Sunday and all along our route cafes had pigs roasting over spits, in Flengi the owners of the three pig roasting joints waved us to join them, sorry fellas we need to sort out accomodation first. We passed several fields full of caravans in storage, I don’t think we want to be around when they’re all released in July and August. At the aire in Rovinj we sat looking at the payment machine. The currency in Croatia is the Kuna and we had none, so we couldn’t park there yet, but if our maths was correct it was around £30 a night to stop in a car park. We suspected we’d get a campsite for that, certainly not as close to the town, but the money saved could be spent on shoe leather – or beer and ice cream!
We got the gps co-ordinates for the small campsite and headed there. It’s quite a walk into Rovinj (perhaps I was a bit hasty trading my bike in Morocco) but close to the sea, quiet, free wifi, amazing showers and very, very welcoming. We were shown the available pitches and given their plus and minus points, which were mainly shade related. When I handed over our documents to check in we were given several maps of the area and shown places to visit – this will do nicely. Camping table and chairs out we sat in the shade. Jay did research on places to visit and stay in Croatia, while I slept. When it cooled down a bit we walked a few hundred meters into one of the monster campsites (our receptionist assured us this was the closest beach and we won’t be stopped). Charlie and I sat on a bench while Jay had his first snorkel in the Adriatic sea. Warm and full of sea cucumbers was the verdict.
We’re stopping here for a couple of nights, there’s a big national park between here and Rovinj with tiny coves and beaches, we might head out on a big hike tomorrow to do beach and city in one go. We’ll see how warm it is. Tonight we’ve sat out and cooked on our Safari Chef, Jay is drinking beer and I’m enjoying a chilled Strongbow – thanks again Jon and Anne! In the distance we just heard a cheer, looks like the big campsite is showing Euro 2012 and there must be quite a few Italian supporters around here. Lord knows what it’ll be like in a hour or so when Croatia kick off!