Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Driving To Croatia – German Motorway Tolls?

Croatia Online - German Motorway

As I pound the keyboard preparing my Croatia Camping Guide, currently focusing on the road trip there and back, I am reminded that the costs I estimated, based on my latest trip, were high enough without the threatened introduction of road tolls on German motorways for foreigners.

So I thought I’d better check the current position, and the latest reliable information I have found is in a Wall Street Journal article dated June 18th 2015. According to that, the EU is still blocking the introduction of the tolls on the grounds that they are discriminatory to foreigners, and long may that last!

I’ll try and use this posting to collect updates on the matter in the comments section so if anyone knows any different please let me know.

For the Wall Street Journal article, link to WSJ - Germany Postpones Highway Toll For Foreign Cars though be warned, you may be asked to subscribe.

For our detailed posting on the costs of the trip, go to Croatia Online - Driving To Croatia: How Much Does It Cost?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Croatia Road Trip–Day 7 Part 1 – Klenovica

Croatia Online - Klenovica

Today we went from Novo Vinodolski to Senj, ending up at one of our very favourite campsites of the trip, right by the beach and next to the centre of Senj.  First stop was to take some photos of the second new marina just outside the centre of Novi Vinodolski – see sister site Croatia Cruising Companion – and the next stop was Klenovica, a lovely small and compact settlement around a large harbour.

The statue in the picture gives a big clue as to the main occupation of Klenovica’s residents – fishing. Now, of course that’s supplemented with tourism and Klenovica has plenty of apartments to let, a campsite, bakery, post office, small supermarket (with limited stock though that might be because the summer season had hardly started), free WiFi and a handful each of restaurants and bars. It also has its own little islet, St Antony, with a causeway built so you don’t need a boat to get to it. Our kind of place for quietly watching the world go by.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Croatia Road Trip Day 6 - Novi Vinodolski

Croatia Online - Novi Vinodolski

Novi Vinodolski was the last stop of a very interesting day. It appears there are no less than two new marinas under construction here, of which more on our Croatia Cruising Companion Blog in due course.

Readers may recall that, in an earlier posting on Selce, our first stop of the day, we alluded to the rather fascinating wartime history of the area. Our research on a Novi Vinodolski war hero,  Slaviša Vajner, known popularly as Čiča Romanijski and depicted in a statue (sorry about the crooked image!),  took us to the same website  - CroatianHistory.net

Croatia Onlina Slavisa Vajner, Novi Vinodolski

The website lists a number of partisans from Novi Vinodolski, including Slaviša Vajner, killed during the second World War, and quite a few more citizens who were victims of fascist terror. Here’s what the website says about the town and its hero:

NOVI VINODOLSKI. A town on the Croatian Littoral, its representatives had been one of the signatories to the Vinodolski zakon (Vinodol Law), one of the oldest legal texts in the Croatian language dating from 1288. It remained the leading town of the Vinodol Valley for centuries.

The town is the birthplace of Slaviša Vajner, known popularly as Čiča Romanijski, one of the first People's Heroes. He was killed in battle on the Romanija Mountains in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1942.

Croatia Online - Novi Hotels & Resorts

Just out of town is the new, five star, Novi Spa Hotels and Resort with its own kilometre of coastline, 70 hotel rooms, over 300 apartments and, allegedly the largest spa centre in Europe. It’s website -  Novi – lists the main highlights as follows:-

To mention just some of the endless NOVI SPA HOTELS & RESORT amenities: NOVISPA – the biggest SPA Centre in Europe, SeaPony Club for children: 4000 m2 Kids’ Town and Pirates' Island playground, programs and activities throughout the day for our youngest guests, ten different Restaurants and Lounges, pools with cabanas, a Spa beach, a pebble beach, an abundance of sports and outdoor activities, a Shopping gallery, a congress hall and meeting rooms, night entertainment ….

Novi Vinodlski has plenty of churches but the one in the main picture, St Martin, has its own little island so you’ll need a boat to get there.

And make sure you make the climb up into the old town to see the 13th century Frankopan Castle, the city museum and some more lovely churches.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Croatia – An Engineering Nation

Croatia Online - Ciovo Bridge

Yes it probably does get a bit of help from its international neighbours but it never ceases to amaze me how clever and resourceful Croatia can be when it comes to meeting the engineering challenges of its dramatic and scenic topography! Nothing is too big a hurdle it seems when it comes to roads, viaducts, bridges and buildings.

I took the picture above, of the new Čiovo bridge being built, half way through my road trip, in late May this year. Latest reports suggest that it’s going to be finished, on schedule, in a couple of months. That doesn’t altogether surprise me as, after a slow start, it seems there have been three shifts working pretty well around the clock for the last few months. It appears that additional motivation to finish was provided by the EU infrastructural fund holders who suggested the funds would not be available for ever!

Not only will the bridge take the pressure of the narrow road bridges linking Čiovo to Trogir and then the mainland, but it will also allow the inhabitants of Čiovo to get to Split in a much more direct way rather than having to drive all the way to Trogir and then all the way back to Split which is just about opposite the east tip of Čiovo island.

And it appears that the bridge even has its own Facebook site - https://www.facebook.com/TrogirCiovoNewBridge

The next, even bigger project, will be the bridge to the Pelješac Peninsula which has been on the drawing board for years and will allow Croatians to drive all the way along the coast, to and from Dubrovnik, without having to go through Bosnia and Herzegovina which has a stretch of coast around Neum.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Croatia Road Trip Day 6 - Crikvenica

Croatia Online - Crikvenica

As regular readers will have noticed, I’ve been somewhat distracted, in a good way, from the chronicles of our Croatia trip and got slightly ahead of myself in the last posting which was triggered by a photo from Day 8!

On Day 6 we went from Kraljevica to Novi Vinodolski and our first stop was Crikvenica where I saw some brave souls having a dip in the chilly, early May, Adriatic.

There are quite a few elements to Crikvenica and it covers a large area with plenty of, mostly sandy,  beaches, including a Dog Beach. Primarily though, it’s a resort town full of cafés, bars restaurants, ice cream parlours and souvenir shops, but it’s also got bags of character. Parking for the campervan wasn’t that easy and there were plenty of signs saying “No Motorhomes”  so I wondered where the bigger ones might go. On the plus side, the drive down from the main road was nice and easy – not too steep or bendy!

Croatia Online - Crikvenica Statues

The large main square hosts the tourist office, the post office and several banks, and there are plenty of moorings for boats of most sizes. Crikvenica also seems to have rather a lot of statues and it always seems to be the statues that lead into the real history of a place. There are some busts of famous Crikvenica residents dotted about all of whom played a part in the Partisan resistance during the occupation of Italy, and later Germany.  The history is fascinating, if complex, and the following  link will take you to a great account of it, as well as detailing the relevance of the various statues (scroll down to Crikvenica) Croatian History.net - Chapter One

Croatia Online - Crikvenica Statues 2

The Croatian Tourist Board describes Crikvenica as “one of the most beautiful tourist destinations on the Kvarner coast” and I can see why it must be popular –plenty of space , sandy beaches….. All the same, in places it did look in need of a little TLC. Most of the hotels are two and three star and I suspect it’s just one of those places where the tourism infrastucture is of an earlier era and waiting for some new investment.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

St George Slays Dragons All Over Croatia!

Croatia Online - Sveti Juraj Statue

I learnt quite a lot this morning as I was cataloguing photos of day 11 of our epic trip around Croatia. The day took us from one of our favourite campsites in Senj, to Novalja on Pag, but it was a stop in Sveti Juraj that piqued my curiosity, specifically the statue in the picture. What was it and what was its relevance?

The light slowly dawned……..

First of all, I finally twigged that Sveti Juraj is, of course, Croatian for St George and therefore the statue must depict the man himself slaying a dragon. Given that St George is our patron saint I wondered what he was doing near Senj and discovered that he featured quite a lot in Croatia, particularly in the capital Zagreb. There it appears that, not only are there no less than three statues honouring St George, but also a secret society – The Brethren of the Croatian Dragon – which took St George as their patron and continues to have influence today.

The second connection I made, that had not previously dawned on me, was that it was our old friend, the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who is mostly responsible for the charm and character of Split city centre, who was also responsible for poor old George’s demise as a Christian martyr.

Read the full article that illuminates St George’s place in the Croatian world here - St George The Dragon Slayer In Croatia

Unfortunately I am not much clearer on why the place, Sveti Juraj, in Croatia, is named after our patron saint or why indeed, with his international, rather than national, significance, George is our patron saint instead of the man he “displaced”, St Edmund!!

Time to consult the #Croatia Twittersphere!

Monday, September 05, 2016

Zablaće, Near Šibenik – A Celebrity Make Over?!

Croatia Online - Zablace Sign

Zablaće, and the rest of the area around Šibenik, was one of the places I enjoyed exploring most on our recent road trip around Croatia. It’s completely unspoilt, a little off the beaten track and some of the very minor roads, for example around the Kanal Sveti Ante, leading to Šibenik, have been opened up.

Unspoilt, perhaps, not for much longer though hopefully in a good way!! Croatia Week reports the arrival of Brad Pitt and entourage in Croatia last week to inspect the proposed site of a substantial investment destined to provide a luxury resort including villas, shop, marina, hotel and golf course.

Reassuringly the project team includes local but internationally renowned architect,  Nikola Bašić, probably most well known in Croatia for his two Zadar installations Greeting To The Sun and the Sea Organ.

Croatia Online - Greeting To The Sun

I interviewed  Nikola Bašić for the 2009 edition of Time Out’s Visitors’ Guide To Croatia and this is what he told me about  the Zadar installations and, prophetically, about future plans!

When commissioned to regenerate the western part of Zadar’s peninsula, Bašić took his inspiration from Hitchcock’s immortalisation of Zadar’s sunsets, and the sound of waves breaking on the shore. Resisting a conventional approach, he wanted the public space to be a “kaleidoscope of metaphors” to enhance the visitor’s appreciation of the true spirit of Zadar. Though there’s plenty of technology involved in the Greeting To The Sun, The Sea Organ could have been engineered centuries ago, and Bašić maintains that the result of both is more of a man enhanced natural phenomenon than a man made installation…….Bašić has more challenges to pursue before he retires to his idyllic islet of Ganagarola to “catch cuttlefish and dry figs”. His “1246 project” involves a commemorative stone for each of Croatia’s 1,246 islets and islands, and his innovative enthusiasm is currently directed towards the concept of a new breed of tourism developments designed to blend with their surroundings.

Croatia Online - Sea Organ

……

The project has apparently been in the pipeline for several years and early reports suggests that eco friendliness will be a priority. Reports also suggest that the project is generally welcomed by locals for the additional infrastructure and facilities, such as schools and clinics, it will provide, and for the additional money it will inject into the local economy.

Hopefully it will make the most of  Zablaće’s place in history as well as its natural assets – the settlement dates back to the 18th century and inhabitants were engaged in fishing and salt extraction. As well as the salt lakes, the mud is reputed to have medicinal qualities.

It’s not far from the large Solaris resort and has a campsite and beaches of its own as well as a small local marina. However, partly due to its remoteness by road, and also because all but 500 inhabitants remain after many have gone abroad, it does have the air of a rather sleepy settlement which may well get a rude awakening once development starts.

For more information on the proposed development go to:

Croatia Week - Brad Pitt in Croatia

People.com - Brad Pitt Visits Croatia Luxury Real Estate (though I wouldn’t describe the Sea Organ as a giant sculpture, as all the working parts are concealed underwater beneath the steps, and the “Dogusvom Hotel” is actually a hotel of the Dogus Group called D-Resort Šibenik.)

Independent Balkan News Agency - Swiss Investor Building Town In Croatia

For more about Nikola Bašić and his work, including a recording of the sounds of the sea organ, go to:

Croatia.Org - Nikola Bašić

Domus Web - Nikola Bašić And The Adriatic Landscape

Friday, September 02, 2016

How Did I Get To Here?!

Jane yacht portrait

This month I had the honour of being interviewed by the Croatian Language School for their regular newsletter. Alexander, my interviewer, certainly got me thinking – just how does one go from being a Chartered Accountant in London to a freelance journalist on Croatia? – and I am afraid it took me quite a few words to work that out,  not really having thought about it much before.

It’s not the most obvious of career paths but it’s certainly been an interesting and varied one and I wouldn’t have swapped any of it. To find out how I did it you can read the full interview here. Croatian Language School Interview

Alexander’s questions also helped me to work out a few other things, not least that I’m going to have to work pretty hard over these next few months to do justice to all the research material from my 4,000 mile, seven week, road trip around Croatia, and you’ll be able to read more about that here, soon.

Many thanks to Alexander, for his patience, and to Linda, the founder of the school, for her continued interest in one of her ex pupils!

I hope readers may learn something from my experience with the Croatian language, as recounted to Alexander – if you’re thinking of moving to Croatia or spending a lot of time there, it will make a HUGE difference if you can speak the language a little. Sure, most Croatians speak perfect English, but if you want to get into the culture, rather than keep yourself at a distance as a foreign tourist, then understanding and speaking the language is a must. It’s quite hard to learn to start with as it’s not that similar to the languages we normally learn like French or German. However, once you’ve mastered the basics, it’s very consistent and you can start making rapid progress. And what better way of doing it than on one of the Croatian Language School courses, best of all perhaps their summer trip to Croatia, during which you can absorb the language whilst having fun visiting the country with expert guides.

The insightful and amusing article reached using  the link below, was written by one of the students on the 2016 trip. It will give you a real feel for what to expect, as well as helping you differentiate between a toad and a cucumber!

Croatian Language School - Summer School In Croatia

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Croatia Day 5:Karlovac To Kraljevica Via Rijeka

Croatia Online Rijeka
Today I felt a bit like the lady in this Rijekan statue might feel with a seagull perched on her head! 

If you are following sister site Croatia Camping Guide you will see that our first whole day in Croatia started with the dog nearly getting swept away by river rapids and me wading waist deep in water to rescue him. A little miffed with the lack of any sympathy, let alone interest, from anyone at Camp Slapić we quietly dripped away and took the coast road to Rijeka. Deciding to stop in Rijeka for a while we eventually found a suitable car park and had a wander around only to find that our exit ticket wouldn’t work when the time came to leave. This time plenty of people tried to help, but to no avail, and two other motorists had a similar problem. Finally, after about twenty minutes, a very apologetic car park attendant appeared and let us out. It was not too much of a hardship though as we weren’t in a rush and we had a great view of the local harbour, the Inter Continental Hotel, this imperious statue and, of course, the seagulls.


Croatia Online - Rijeka Car Park

Off we finally went, along the bendy coastal road, admiring yet another magnificent feat of Croatian motorway engineering……..


Croatia Online - Motorway Engineering

……until we arrived in Kraljevica, a fascinating place full of contrasts, and found Camp Ostro which will be the next subject of  The Croatian Camping Guide


In the meantime we have a little work to do on the main reason for our trip - The Croatia Cruising Companion
Don't tell anyone smile

Finally, just to round off day five, we did make our hat trick of disasters  eventually. The near doggie drowning and car park confinement was followed, just before midnight, by the discovery of a tick behind the poor doggie’s ear. Fortunately, I had the full tick kit to hand and managed to remove the offending insect without too much distress to either dog or human.

For those who are interested, the full tick kit, pictured below except for the olive oil, consists of a pipette for sucking up olive oil, olive oil that is then dripped on the tick so it suffocates (apparently they breathe through their skin) and therefore relaxes its grip, and a variety of specialist tick removing implements that get under the beast so it can be removed in a twisting action, pincers and all, as it is when the pincers are left behind that most of the damage is done. Tweezers are less effective and should definitely be a tick weapon of last resort. And of course hopefully, if the regular doggie flea and tick treatment is doing its job properly then a tick should drop off of its own accord pretty quickly anyway.
Croatia Online - Tick Kit

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Driving To Croatia–How Much Does It Cost?

Croatia Online - Service Station

In the excitement of arriving in Croatia, in my last posting, I forgot to tell you all the costs of Day 4 so here they are:

I topped up the tank in Liezen at €1.179 per litre (Ultimate rather than the  standard Diesel I usually have, just as a little treat for the campervan!) and there was another Austrian “Tunnell Toll” @ €8.50. I’d already paid for my Austrian and Slovenian Vignettes (see the earlier posting Croatia Online - Driving To Croatia Day 3) so there were no more tolls until I crossed the Slovenian border into Croatia.

In Croatia there was a toll for the first motorway, from the Slovenian border to Trakoscan, of 72 Kunas which I paid with Euros at an exchange rate detailed on the receipt of  €1 = 7.46 kn, and another one to Karlovac of 34 kn. Incidentally, looking at the receipts, I see they include VAT (PDV in Croatian) at a whopping 25%.

I was charged as a Category 2 vehicle, being over 1.9 metres in height but less than 3.5 tons in weight. Most cars without trailers would fall into the first category which would be cheaper. For full details on categories and pricing, go to Croatian Autoroutes - Toll Rates

In total, totting up all the receipts for the journey and using  rather arbitrary and perhaps unduly punitive sterling exchange rates of 1.2 for Euros and 8 for kunas, to take into account all the fees, etc, total costs were as follows:

Diesel £194, Food & Drink £46, Campsites £41, Motorway Tolls and Vignettes £58. I calculated average miles per gallon at 28 on the way over, which is not bad for a long wheelbase van full of water and diesel most of the time,  probably averaging 60 to 70 miles an hour on mostly motorways, and also full of living and work clobber!

That makes a total of  £339 to which I need to add half  the cost of my Eurotunnel ticket. The full return price was £220 which gives me a space for high vehicles and includes the cost of the dog at €36 return. By the time my Tesco Club Card vouchers had been tripled up and deducted  (see Croatia Online - Driving To Croatia - Day 1) I actually paid £85.

I can’t think of many other additional costs as I already had most of what I needed for the campervan and  the dog had his three year rabies injection a year or so ago.

So lets call it, worst case and ignoring the “Tesco Discount”, £550 which is probably quite a lot more than a single flight, or even two single flights. If the costs back were similar then that’s a total return cost of £1,100. Flying was not an option for me because of the dog but I like to think of the cost as spread over the whole trip. I had 42 days in total in which I was able to find accomodation at an average of probably £10 a night rather than the £30 to £50 pounds it might have cost me in a hotel so that’s already a saving of £840 to £1,680. And of course I would have had to eat and drink at home….

If you were making the trip by car, rather than campervan, and assuming you booked Eurotunnel or a ferry well in advance, the crossing would probably be much cheaper. You’d also get a lot more miles per gallon and probably get to Croatia a bit quicker so you could set that saving against the extra cost of  hotels on the trip.

HOWEVER, as I’ve said before, particularly if you are taking a campervan, motorhome,  caravan, or even a tent, the journey is part of the holiday and needs a change of mindset from the one that wants you to get from a to b as fast as possible. The cost is secondary to stress free travel for your dog, the dramatic and varied scenery, the delights of the unexpected, being able to stop when and where you want and having all your little luxuries and many necessities around you. It’s one of the most liberating and enjoyable ways of travelling once you get that into your head, assuming, of course, that you have the flexibility to take a few weeks off at the right time!

In the end, I returned home more or less the same way as I went, though stopping off in different places. It will be interesting to see if the costs were about the same but I am afraid you will have to be patient to find out. We had such a jam packed few weeks in Croatia, staying in a different place nearly every night and exploring all day, that there is a lot to report before the journey home.

Smile

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Driving To Croatia Day 4 – We’ve Arrived!

Croatia Online - Camp Slapic

It’s very difficult to leave a campsite like Putterersee in a hurry – see Croatia Camping Guide - Driving To Croatia Day 3 - Austria for more information. In fact, as my trip continued, I frequently had to overcome a reluctance to leave some very special places. I learnt eventually, with growing confidence, that there would be plenty more special places to come. It was not so much wanting to get my money’s worth out of our normally short stays at campsites, but the fact that I wanted to do each place justice There’s nothing worse than being somewhere for a short space of time, probably never to return, and missing the specific thing that makes the place super special. The nearest I got to that was on the way back when we stopped just off the motorway at a not especially appealing campsite by a canal. It was raining, we were tired, there was a big football match on and we had eaten and drunk well in the campsite restaurant while we watched it. If it wasn’t for the fact that the dog had had a pretty boring day cooped up in the campervan, as we covered more than our usual number of miles, I probably would not have made the effort to walk along the canal where he could run around a bit. Ten minutes later we were in the chocolate box German city of Limburg marvelling at the amazing architecture.

So, apart from the myriad of daily “campervan” jobs that need doing, as well as meal times and walking the dog, I felt we had a duty to explore our neighbourhood and make the most of it. And of course travelling with a (sometimes wet) dog in close confines means a daily spring clean can make a big difference to your air qualityand that takes time too! In the end, despite our best intentions, we rarely managed to leave a campsite within less than three hours of getting up and I learnt, eventually, not to worry too much about this. Even if we only did fifty or so miles in a day we had somewhere new to explore. And on the rare occasion we treated ourselves to a second day in the same place, it took a major effort to completely relax for a day, once we had run out of jobs to do.

In these early days of the trip, we were up with the lark and so left our idyllic Austrian campsite at 11 30 after a reasonably leisurely morning. Ten minutes later we topped up with diesel in Leizen – BP Ultimate @ €1.179 a litre though usually we just get normal diesel (and this just proves that the garage on Day 3 was a rip off) – and were off.

It was not long until we were at the Slovenian border, already prepared with our vignette, purchased in Austria from “Frau Grumpy” the previous day. Having kept my expectations very low, I was not too disappointed with the Slovenian roads. I have been making periodic trips to Croatia via Slovenia for well over ten years and throughout this time the Slovenian part of the journey has always been the most painful – expensive vignettes, poor roads and motorways interminably under construction. OK so the motorway part is a little longer than it was four years ago but the potholes on the narrow single carriageway roads by the roadworks are dreadful and we shook to our bones for several slow miles following lorries and tractors. The bottleneck at Maribor has now been largely overcome by the motorway but, overall it’s a disgrace, especially considering the cost of the vignette, and I swear the Slovenians must be building the motorway at the same pace as we poor travellers are funding it with our exorbitant vignette fees. I thought very hard about avoiding Slovenian motorways altogether, on principle, by going via Trieste but it’s not so quick and so I gave in.

And just to add insult to injury, as you leave Slovenia and enter into Croatia, the Slovenian guards seem to make a point of leaning over a car and turning their backs to you, as if they don’t want anything at all to do with you.

So it was with even more joy that I finally reached the Croatian border and got on a Croatian motorway heading for Zagreb, where the lovely Croatian toll booth attendant got out of his booth and went to get the ticket for me to avoid me reaching over to my passenger side and struggling with the ticket machine. The newish motorway was almost deserted and very smooth, so we sped across Croatia until we were attracted by a very effective piece of marketing for Camp Slapić which was advertised periodically on big signs. “Why not have an early stop” I thought, now we have made Croatia, and so we followed the signs and ended up spending the night near Karlovac in one of Croatia’s newest and highly prized campsites. We could have made the coast in another couple of hours but what’s the point of arriving exhausted when you can make an early stop by some lakes. It was quite a detour from the motorway though and I’m not convinced the distances suggested on the billboards were entirely accurate!

***

We covered 228 miles on day four, a total of 1,141 miles since we left home in Suffolk and, would you believe, exactly 1,000 miles from Eurotunnel! A relatively easy four days of driving, three brilliant campsites, one excellent wild camp, scenic views and really only the Slovenian roads to moan about. Yes there were a few contraflows, or stretches of roadworks, on the German motorways and just a couple of small jams. However on a  road network that vast, and a motorway that runs by so many big cities, that’s only to be expected. And lets not forget that, so far, the German motorways are toll free.

I chose my route because I thought it was the fastest and simplest to navigate. Last time I did the trip in my campervan, when I had a lot more time for the journey, I meandered off and on the motorways on the way over and took a completely different route on the way back, stopping off at Lake Garda in Italy, taking the St Bernard’s Pass into Switzerland and ambling through Champagne in France where I found one of my favourite campsites ever but that’s another story!

Just a few closing tips on the drive:

  • If you’re camping and you are new to it, you’ve got to try and get out of the mindset of wanting to travel from a to b as fast as possible. The journey really is part of the fun if you let it be. The same can apply if you’re travelling by car but there’s just a bit more pressure to find the right kind of hotel room for your budget. If you take the same route as me though, you can be pretty sure of a mid range budget room at many of the motorway stops.
  • If you’re travelling with a dog and you’re going to be travelling for a few days then the last thing you want is for the poor dog to hate going back into your vehicle because you are not stopping enough and having fun along the way. If you’re in a campervan and your dog sleeps on the floor, bear in mind that, however good his bed is, his poor head will be bumping up and down with every little imperfection in the road. In the end, on days where we drove a lot of miles,  I put extra cushions down for my dog and I think it really made a difference for him to have his head just a bit higher and more “shock absorbed”. In a car, the shock absorbers tend to have an easier time and dogs often travel on the seats. I never drove for more than two hours at a time without a break and I tried to make sure we were never on the road for more than 5 hours a day or, if we were, there were some long breaks – at least an hour- in between. The dog was fine – he has a sturdy well padded waterproof bed wedged between two of the seats, is allowed on top of one of the seats and can walk around (but not the cab area) at will. He seemed to prefer, however, his head on a cushion, lying stretched out on the floor in the narrow aisle. A much because it was cooler on the floor, I think, than because it was more comfortable.
  • Off season, unless there’s some big festival going on, or it’s a bank holiday, then you’ll rarely find a campsite that’s fully booked. So it’s fairly safe to turn up on spec and that gives you so much more flexibility. If you’re too off season, though, you might find them closed so check on opening times before you make the detour. Not one of the campsites I tried in May or June was closed but as I got towards the Croatian Coast, several of them were still undergoing maintenance work, sometimes substantial! Just one, in Sv Filip i Jakov, near Biograd, was full up (now June and very warm). It was a lovely “minicamp” – in someones’s (large) back garden but with all the essential facilities. No great problem though as her next door neighbour also had a minicamp and was delighted to absorb the overflow! If you’re in a car and relying on motels, we never had a problem finding a room in the old, pre campervan, days but we generally made sure we stopped before 6 and often by 4. If you’re camping, you can go on longer and I never had a problem arriving at 7 or sometimes 8. Of course you could book everything ahead but then you are stuck with a rigid itinerary. If one little thing goes wrong, or you don’t like somewhere and want to leave early, or you do like somewhere and want to stay longer, you are faced with teh domino effect of having to change all your bookings.
  • To give yourself the best chance of minimising traffic jams, avoid the big cities and busy roads, like the Brussels ring road, at peak hours.
  • Avoid the “big” weekends for people travelling down to the coast from Germany and Austria, normally in high summer. The Croatian website HAK is a good reference point for current and predicted future traffic problems in Croatia and many map Apps and Satnavs also indicate current traffic problems.
  • Lorries are banned at weekends on some continental motorways, particularly in summer so if you are flexible in your travel arrangements and prefer quieter roads, try the weekend.
  • Be aware that in some service stations, particularly those in more remote areas, lorries parking up overnight can fill up, not just their own parking areas, but also sometimes caravan and car parking areas too, as well as approach roads where it is relatively safe to do so. Afternoon and evening are obviously likely to be busier than in the morning so if you are looking for a rest stop on the busy motorways you may need to get there early.
  • Most of the German motorways are two lane only, with occasional crawler lanes or three lane stretches near the bigger cities. Lane discipline is very important and the Germans, especially, will quickly let you know if you are hogging the overtaking lane. I did however notice this time, now speed limits have been in force on German motorways for a while, that not so many Germans drive quite so fast as they used to. Despite that, I was still one of the fastest on non German motorways, though one of the slowest on the Autobahns so you will need a different kind of driving approach as you cross borders!
  • Have plenty of layers of clothing handy – the climate can change in an instant, for example from day to evening and after you’ve driven through a long tunnel through the mountains.
  • Stop as soon as you feel you need to and keep your tank topped up – if you wait for the next service station you might find it’s another 70 kilometres away. You will be passing through plenty of rural areas where amenities may be a lot scarcer than they are in the UK.
  • Keep plenty of change handy for paying tolls but note that the Croatian toll booths, particularly in the north, will accept Euros as well as kuna.
  • Be aware of the weather – if you are travelling in, say, March, you may still need snow tyres in some places, or chains. The wind can be a factor too – a strong Bora (north east wind) may close the Croatian motorway north of Zadar and can be very uncomfortable in various places along the route.
  • ENJOY!

Overall you just need to turn the journey into handleable chunks. Stop when you feel tired, perhaps drive a bit more when it’s raining and enjoy your overnight location more when the weather is good. Maybe think of the last long journey you made in the UK and compare that in distance. For example, a few days after I came home, I went to visit my niece in the Lake District for a few days. We did a little driving around locally and when I got home I’d done 720 miles. It seemed like no great distance but  it could have taken me three quarters of the way to Croatia.

Over the next few days and weeks, you’ll be able to read more about our Croatian campsites on Croatia Camping Guide, more about the new marinas and other nautical facilities we discovered on Croatia Cruising Companion and we’ll be keeping you in touch with general Croatia  news, discoveries and stories here, on Croatia Online.

***

Today’s photo is of the lake by Camp Slapić, with very fast flowing water from which I had to rescue my over adventurous dog!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Croatia By Bus

Croatia Online - London Bus

No, Not a London red bus but I’m afraid this was the best illustration I have!

***

In the process of pulling together the information on my journey by campervan to Croatia, I came across a brand new website that makes travelling by bus a lot easier. For many,  given the challenges of the terrain for railway lines, bus or coach is still often the best (and cheapest) way to travel short or long distances in Croatia. The problem has been, until now, that it’s often quite difficult to find out the information you need and it’s been late coming online.

Now there is Vollo, a young and enterprising internet start up with big ambitions and plenty of achievements already. In its own words, the simple website aims to provide a fast and easy bus search, comparison and booking system.

Rather than me explaining, why not read the following posts on Vollo’s blog:

Vollo Bus Booking System - How It Works

Vollo - Our First 100 Days

There’s no App yet but we have a feeling it won’t be long!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Driving To Croatia Day 3 – Austria

Croatia Online - Aigen im Ennstal

Day three takes us from Neumarkt in Bavaria to a stunning campsite by a lake amongst the Austrian mountains.

For those that want to recap on the detail of the first two days below are direct links to the postings:

Croatia Online - Driving To Croatia Day 1 - Suffolk to Eisenbachtal in Germany – 500 miles

Croatia Online - Driving To Croatia - Day 2 - Eisenbachtal to Neumarkt – 212 miles

As you can see, we did not push ourselves on day 2 (or day 3, come to think of it!) so we left Neumarkt quite early, rejoined the motorway and continued  south east through Germany along the E3. After refuelling (the campervan with diesel and ourselves with breakfast) in Regensberg, we carried on motoring with a stop every couple of hours or so.

At 1 30 pm we made the Austrian border and bought a vignette to allow us to use the Austrian motorways and a vignette for the Slovenian motorways. There was no opportunity for chit chat at the busy little “vignette kiosk” by the border – every question was met with a grumpy stare and a finger pointing to the price list – ie “don’t ask me; work it out for yourself”! For convenience, and a little rattled by Frau Grumpy and the queue of burly lorry drivers behind me, I purchased a two month vignette for Austria at a cost of €25.70 (about £21) when what I should have done was get one 8 day vignette for the journey there and another 8 day one for the journey back at a cost of two times €8.80 ie €17.60 (about £14). At that point I had no intention of coming back on Slovenian motorways, as I believe their vignettes have always been a rip-off, particularly given the state of their motorways, and so I bought the minimum available – a 7 day vignette – for €15. They call it a 7 day vignette but of course most people using this tiny stretch of motorway only use it as the most direct means to get to and from Croatia, so in practice it’s a 1 day vignette with the next option  being one month at €30.

What you get is a sticker with notches in it, to show the validity dates, and you need to put them on the top left of your windscreen. If you get stopped and the vignettes are not stuck on your windscreen you may be fined just as if you haven’t got one at all.

The following two websites give more information on the various categories of vignette and some other useful driving information – in Austria motorhomes under 3.5 tons pay the same as cars; in Slovenia, there’s a bizarre split into two categories for motorhomes under 3.5 tons, depending on height above the axle.

Austria By Road

Slovenia - Vignettes

And this link shows the main routes through Austria where tolls apply Austria Tolls - from the A3 in Germany the most direct route to Slovenia, and then Croatia, is via the A8 and then the A9 to Graz. From around Graz there are signs to Slovenia and Croatia.

And while we are on the subject of windscreen stickers, I had one other sticker which I did not need but might have done – one that shows I am “green enough” to enter into some of Germany’s bigger cities. It was relatively inexpensive and easy to get, and lasts for the lifetime of the windscreen it is on as long as you still “own” it – I just had to fill out a form online, load up a scan of my registration document and pay a few Euros. The sticker arrived back in a couple of weeks and it was all reasonably straightforward, even with a ten year old diesel van. Below is the link to the online application form (current cost is €6) and it works for all the cities in the scheme – I just happened to apply to Berlin because I read they had one of the more user friendly ways of obtaining it.

Germany Environmental Sticker

Now back to the drive – Austrian border negotiated, vignettes affixed, it was time to admire the magnificent Austrian scenery and experience a very sharp change of climate as we made our way south east through Austria and through a number of tunnels which cost us another €5. As well as the vignette, Austria has some additional one off tolls for “expensive” routes, for example where there are a lot of tunnels and/or where the tunnels are very long (and the A9 has at least a couple, well over 5 kilometres in length, piercing through the mountains, as well as one running several kilometres along underneath the city of Graz).

By this time it was about 3 30 pm and we were looking forward to a bit of a rest so, ACSI app consulted, we made for Aigen im Ennstall, near Liezen, and the delights of Campsite Putterersee which you’ll be able to read about on Croatia Camping Guide in a few days time. Close to a lake, mountains all around, a lovely crisp sunny evening – what more could you want?! We arrived at 4 15 pm after another 230 miles and several stops to admire the changing views. We filled up twice – once in Regensburg, Germany, where diesel cost €1.099 per litre, and once in Aistersheim, Austria, where diesel cost €1.409 per litre – gone, it seems, are the days when Austria had the cheapest fuel in Europe.

Today’s images show the lovely lake at Camping Putterersee –  the dog, who can’t resist a plunge in almost any temperature, and in whatever water is available,  found it bracing but invigorating!

Croatia Online - Barnie swimming in Aigen

Monday, July 18, 2016

Currency Matters!

Croatia Online - Kunas

Reporting on my road trip to Croatia is taking an age – nearly as long as the trip itself -  because I’m trying to catalogue individual photos and sort out various bits of admin at the same time. Hopefully things will go a little quicker once I “get to” Croatia and into my stride but I don’t want to rush it as, this time, I kept to my resolution to note everything very carefully so I could give a reasonably accurate account of distances, costs and other hopefully useful information.

Today I tried to work out what exchange rate I was getting with my various sources of cash and credit card and it is a minefield. Nor might it be terribly relevant to readers at the moment as, since I came back, there has of course been a vote to leave the EU and a corresponding weakening of sterling exchange rates.

On the assumption that sterling will recover and get back to “normal” soon, here’s what I found. Firstly, it is very difficult to come to any firm conclusion about the various methods of obtaining Euros and kunas because there are so many permutations of fees and exchange rates. On top of that the “pure” exchange rate does of course vary from day to day, making it difficult to isolate variations between banks and other travel money providers. Secondly it’s not just about the pure financial cost – there’s convenience too. Cash often carries with it a better exchange rate if you change it abroad but you don’t necessarily want to be carrying large quantities of cash around with you. If like me you also have an aversion to queuing in banks (and tying the dog up outside) when you can simply use an ATM, then that convenience also has a value. So I took a bit of cash, had some Euros and kunas from a previous trip, used two different UK credit cards where necessary but majored on my Post Office Travel Money Card (denominated in Euros) until that ran out of the money I had loaded onto it.

The big advantage to me of something like the Post Office Travel Money Card (and of course many other similar products are available!) is that, if you think sterling is going to weaken, and/or if you want to save up steadily for your holiday, you can load it up in advance, either when you think the exchange rate is favourable, or when you have some spare cash. Of course the exchange rate might go the wrong way so beware. A couple of things to note with this card – when in a country with a currency different from your base currency, eg kunas, you get the option to accept the exchange rate offered at the time of the transaction (in which case your card is billed in its base currency) or let your card provider do the conversion with an (unknown) exchange rate, and a bigger fee, available at another time. I did not understand this properly to start with (and as you will see below it’s really just a gamble!) but, overall and despite an additional €7 in fees (€9.98 instead of €2) it was better for me to use my provider’s exchange rate (though this might have been due to the timing). I think the concept is explained somewhere quite prominently but I’m afraid it did not seem very clear when faced with the rather complicated decision on currency rates presented on the ATM screen at the time of the transaction. The screen and your slip make it very clear that you have no comeback if you accept the offered rate and then find out it is a rip off although they do not put it quite like that! Essentially you are choosing between a known exchange rate now and an unknown one later so it’s a bit of a shot in the dark. The other problem I had, and again this might be my fault, was that the card did not seem to work in petrol stations where payment was automated and there are quite few of these in, for example, Belgium. There are also a couple of frustrations:

a) you print your own statements and only a year’s worth of transactions are available so if you don’t realise this straight away…..

b) the date on the statement is not the transaction date (my banks give me a transaction date and a “received by us” date) so it’s quite hard matching individual transactions if you’ve done a couple of similar ones in the same place

In general I suppose the purely financial rules are to try and buy kunas direct (rather than going though an intermediary Euro card), and use the Euro card just for credit transactions to avoid too many fees, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. In the end you could tie yourself up in knots trying to save a few pounds and get the exchange rate movement completely wrong and lose much more!

The Croatian kuna is linked to the Euro in terms of exchange rates. I understand that we Brits (and Aussies, Canadians, Americans, etc) are in the “non Eurozone” minority of visitors to Croatia. However I find it quite infuriating that Croatian prices (for things like accommodation, car hire, campsites, etc) are often quoted in Euros but you have to pay in kunas and no one seems to be able to tell you what exchange rate will be used for conversion. Most organisations will quote prices in kunas too, if you persist, but I had a completely bonkers conversation with the receptionist of one very swish campsite who was adamant that they ONLY quoted prices in Euros (and this was the type of campsite that thinks all foreigners automatically come from Germany/or speak German as a native language). After remonstrating that Euros were not very relevant to me as a Brit, or them as a Croatian organisation, I got nowhere. “Fine”, I said, “then I’ll pay in Euros.” “You can’t” I was told, “it’s not legal; you have to pay in kunas” to which I replied, reasonably I thought, “then can you tell me how much I will have to pay in kunas, when I check out tomorrow?” “No”, was the response, “we only quote in Euros and I don’t know what the exchange rate will be tomorrow. The system will generate the kuna price in the morning”.

Confused smile

During the seven weeks I was away the publicised kuna exchange rate varied between about 9.4 and 9.8 kunas to the pound and the Euro between 1.26 and 1.29 Euros to the pound. I bought my Euros for my travel card back in March at 1.242 expecting the exchange rate to go against me in the future. However…taking into account fees, the best net exchange rate I got for cash was 9 and the worst was 8.2 so I’m going to have to work out a different strategy next time! For credit card transactions the kuna rate was nearer 9.3.

Rather than go by my limited experience of a prepaid travel money card, here’s a link to what Martin Lewis says about them and its reassuring to see that he’s also heard of them being refused at petrol stations (and for car hire which suggest that the problem is they have a relatively low finite limit on them).

Money Saving Expert - Prepaid Travel Cards

For the purposes of reporting on costs I’m going to keep it simple and use €1.2 per pound and 9 kunas per pound which will take into account a little of the decline of the pound since the Brexit decision, though I’ll also give the base currency amount and you can work it out for yourselves at your prevailing exchange rate.

And for those readers who may have glazed over by now, don’t worry, the next posting will hopefully be a little more exciting!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Driving To Croatia – Day 2

Croatia Online- Restaurant Plitvice

We wrote about Day 1 of our drive to Croatia a few days ago - Croatia Online - Driving To Croatia Day One - and also about our first night’s stop in Eisenbachtal - Croatia Camping Guide - Driving To Croatia Day One

After a full on first day of our drive across Europe, we decided to have a little spring clean, rest and enjoy our campsite so we did not leave Eisenbachtal until 1 20 pm. That’s the joy of exploring off season in a campervan – you can do pretty well what you like, when you like, according to need and mood.

Smile

Having rested and recovered, we drove on into the evening and hoped to find a nice quiet place for a short overnight rest so we could leave fairly early in the morning and make up some time. Neumarkt turned out to be the perfect location and we stopped there at about 7 pm having found an ideally flat parking space, by a field, not to far from town. After 24 hours on various combinations of ham, cheese and bread, we felt we needed something more interesting and decided to treat ourselves to dinner out. Lo and behold, the first restaurant we came across in this small German town, between Nuremberg and Regensburg, was Restaurant Plitvice, named after one of Croatia’s most beautiful natural attractions - the Plitvice lakes and National Park. It seemed too much of a coincidence to ignore so we went inside, only to find it empty apart from its owner who, you guessed it, was Croatian.

Ivo Gavić, like many compatriots, left Croatia several years ago to make a better life in Germany but continued with some of his favourite Croatian recipes. I had a delicious dish of “Croatian pork steaks” and then a couple of feisty home made rakijas (herb brandy) with Ivo whilst we chatted in a mixture of Croatian, German and English about the things we missed most about Croatia.

You’ll find contact details etc on Ivo’s facebook page Restaurant Plitvice and what a great way to whet your appetite for your visit to Croatia!

Croatia Online Restaurant Plitvice pork

On day 2 we drove a mere 212 miles but there’s no point getting there exhausted and we slept well and were rested for the next leg.

Diesel cost us €1.159 a litre, there were no tolls to pay on the German motorways so the only other expense we had was food. My dinner at Restaurant Plitvice was €13.80 which included a huge salad as well as my pork medaillons, a beer and a big glass of wine. The rakija was a gift from Ivo.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Croatia’s Peljesac Bridge Saga

Croatia Online Dubrovnik Bridge
No this isn’t it – this is the bridge over Dubrovnik’s river, Rijeka Dubrovačka, as you head south west to Gruž port and Dubrovnik city centre. We could have used the foundations of the new bridge, from the mainland near Split to Čiovo island, as an illustration  instead but it’s not quite so pretty!
Like the Čiovo bridge, the proposed Pelješac bridge is likely to be funded with EU money, and both sets of developers have been told to hurry up if they want to get all of it. Both projects also share a long history of being “on” and “off”. However the Čiovo bridge is well on the way as three shifts work day and night to get it finished. Not only will it considerably shorten the journey from, for example,  Slatine, at the east end of  Čiovo island, to Split (they are almost opposite each other as the crow flies but, at the moment you have to drive west to the other end of the island, then over the bridge to Trogir old town, over another bridge to the mainland and then back east to Split) but it will also take the enormous pressure of the narrow bridges, connecting  Čiovo to Trogir and the mainland, as holiday makers go to and from the beaches in day time and for some night life in Trogir in the evening.

The purpose of the Pelješac bridge is somewhat different. When the territory was split up after the various disputes and the collapse of Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina got just a tiny bit of coastline around Neum, just before the Pelješac Peninsula joins up with the mainland. So Croatians travelling from, say, Split to Dubrovnik have to “go out” of Croatia and come back into it a few miles further along the coast. Understandably that wrankles, especially from a nation that treasures its relatively recent independence, so the bridge would allow Croatians to cross over to the Pelješac Peninsula and stay on their own territory wherever they wanted to go in their own country. Hopefully it’s all systems go now but it’s fascinating to read the history of this project and we found an interesting website that details the early stages (from 2005) and some of the early facts: Korčula Info - Pelješac Bridge

The French company, Bouygues, is apparently interested in tendering - SEE News - Bouygues Eyes Croatian Pelješac Bridge Project -  and that will add to a number of large infrastructure projects it is already carrying out in Croatia. And I suppose that as we Brits mull over and discover all the implications of Brexit, we also have to accept that another consequence is our engineering and construction companies missing out on big projects like this.

On a more upbeat note, whilst trying hard not to be distracted by the temptation to refer to Croatia’s political crisis and the “unifying” minority party “Most” (Croatian for bridge),  it looks like there’s yet another bridge in the pipeline for Croatia – big business I suppose for a country with so many inhabited islands and several inland waterways. Rather ironically, according to Total Croatia News, there’s a new bridge planned as part of a new highway connecting Eastern Slavonia more directly with the Croatian south, through Bosnia & Herzegovina. Read more on the following link New Bridge Across Sava River Planned Soon

And for those interested in more information on the strikingly photogenic bridge near Dubrovnik in today’s picture, it’s called the Dr Franjo Tuđman Bridge, it’s 518 metres long and an undergraduate student in Bath has carried out a detailed critical analysis of it which any bridge nerds amongst you (and even laymen like me!) might find very interesting - Student Critical Analysis of Dubrovnik Bridge

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

What’s Best About Croatia?

Croatia Online Sibenik Cathedral

According to the Telegraph…. party towns, summer festivals, Dubrovnik, a quirky museum, coffee, beaches, national parks and Roman ruins to name just a few of their favourite things.

Oliver Smith has come up with 23 reasons to love Croatia and although some points on his list might be a little obscure, there is so much to love that the UNESCO protected cathedral of Šibenik, pictured, doesn’t even get a mention. Check out The Telegraph's 23 reasons to visit Croatia this summer and see what else he missed.

Winking smile

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Driving To Croatia–Day 1

Croatia Online EuroTunnel

We’ve written about the drive to Croatia before and, depending on how close you are to Eurotunnel or the ferry ports in the UK,  it’s possible to do it relatively comfortably in two days. Frankfurt is a good place to aim for as a stop on the first evening if you want a reasonable choice of motel and to spread the driving fairly evenly.

If, like me, you have a dog, the most stress free way of crossing the Channel is Eurotunnel and it’s also much quicker than the ferry. Once we’re on the train Barnie and I always have a little lie down and then we’re ready for the continent! Of course Eurotunnel can be more expensive than the ferry but those of you who collect Tesco Club Card points will know that they get a triple boost on Eurotunnel which makes a big difference.

Last time I went in my campervan I took my time, but on this trip I had a lot to do once I arrived in Croatia so I wanted to get there as quickly as possible without exhausting myself or Barnie the dog. So, armed with my ACSI app (more about that soon on Croatia Camping Guide), I looked for a  place with a good choice of campsites to reach at about the time I thought we would have had enough for the day.  Camping Eisenbachtal was our home for the night and, again, you can read more about that soon on Croatia Camping Guide.

Those of you making the trip in a car, rather than a camper or caravan, and wanting to get to Croatia relatively quickly and cheaply, will fund a number of reasonable motels on the motorway with good restaurants that are often self service.

And what of the roads? Well the trip hadn’t changed much in this respect from four, or even ten, years ago. The German motorways are still (so far) toll free, mostly two lane and reasonably good. There are still plenty of lorries  (perhaps not so many at the weekend), but there don’t seem to be so many speed freaks now that speed limits have been around for a few years. On much of the motorway, lorries are not allowed to overtake, and there are occasional three or four lane stretches so generally it’s possible to average a decent speed.  Of course on a motorway this long there will always be maintenance somewhere and the narrow temporary lanes can be a bit scary if you choose the fast lane, but overall it’s a fairly easy drive though its a good idea to try and avoid the big cities at peak times.

As far as navigation is concerned, I know the route pretty well now and just follow the signs to Brugges, Brussels, Leuven, Liege, Aachen, Cologne, Frankfurt, etc to stay on the E40. The Brussels ring road can get a bit congested and you need to go roughly half way round it, but a good tip is to follow the signs to Zaventem Airport and then the Leuven/Liege exit is soon after that.

Its not the most scenic way of getting to Croatia but it’s a trade off with more time once you’re there and, as we discovered  on the way back, you can turn just a short way off the motorway and find yourself in a surprisingly lovely, historic location which adds to the surprise and fun!

We covered nearly 500 miles (excluding the channel crossing) from our Suffolk home to Eisenbachtal (270 miles from Eurotunnel in Calais) but an early start and long summer evenings meant we had plenty of stops to stretch our legs, and arrived at our campsite at 7 15 pm which still gave us a couple of hours to relax and explore in daylight and be relatively fresh for day two.

For previous postings on driving to Croatia:

Driving To The UK 2009

Driving To The UK 2008

Driving To The UK 2007

For more information on Eurotunnel, Tesco Boost and The Pet Passport Scheme, which is much simpler now

Eurotunnel Fare Finder

Tesco Clubcard Eurotunnel Boost

Pet Passport Scheme

Eurotunnel - Travel Info - Pets

Today’s photo was taken just as we proceeded to embark on Eurotunnel. We saw no sign of any problems, for example migrants trying to rush onto the tracks or the trains, on both Eurotunnel journeys, and we noticed little difference in border crossing practicalities once on the continent.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Croatia Online – One Helluva Road Trip!

Croatia Online Road Trip

Have we got news for you! 4,000 miles, plenty of time at sea and seven weeks non-stop researching have uncovered some new gems as well as some old favourites with a makeover.

We’ll be revealing all to you in a series of detailed postings both here and on sister site Croatia Cruising Companion. And we’ll be starting at least one new blog tailor made to give you the inside track on camping in Croatia.

A different campsite every night, detailed exploration of the mainland coastline and a number of islands, in depth catch ups with all our local experts, visits to almost all the principle marinas and ports (with quite a few new marinas to report on) and quite a few meanders off the beaten track.

It was a jaw dropping trip – the weather was beautiful, the landscapes and sceneries as varied, dramatic and stunning as ever and the people even more welcoming, friendly and resourceful. Seven weeks was a long time on  the road but we could easily have used another seven or  more. However all good things come to an end and now the hard work starts as we share the exciting discoveries, though that’s quite fun too!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Croatia Puts All Its Parks In One Place!

Croatia Online Mallard in Krka

Metaphorically speaking of course, so this mallard in Krka National Park has no need to scratch its head!

Croatia is finally giving its enormous diversity and abundance of beautiful unspoilt habitats the attention it deserves and has consolidated all the various information onto one website.

It splits its parks between National Parks and Nature Parks, the former normally afforded a higher level of protection and perhaps a little more “spectacular”

Looking at the map we’ve just a couple left to do but so far the highlights are Kornati, Učka, Kopački rit and Krka. Here are some links to some previous Croatia Online “park postings”:

Croatia Online - Krka and Skradin

Croatia Online - Kopački rit

Literally, the Parks of Croatia, you can find the English language version of the new website here - Parks of Croatia Homepage

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Croatia Online Features on Total Croatia News

Kastela fire planes JC. One of my favourite blog photos

It seems Croatia Online has the dubious distinction of being one of the oldest English Language blogs on Croatia, having achieved its 10th anniversary at the beginning of the year.

In recognition of this magnificent achievement our editor, Jane Cody, was interviewed by Paul Bradbury of Total Croatia News – one of our favourite websites.

Jane made full use of this unique opportunity, and some very meaty questions from Paul, to reflect on a number of major and hopefully interesting issues – Croatia’s progress in tourism, particularly nautical tourism, the Croatian blogging scene and some favourite blog posts, to name but a few.

So make a cup of tea, put your feet up and see what she has to say on life in the universe as it applies to Croatia!

Here’s the link  Total Croatia News - Bloggers Of Croatia: Jane Cody and many thanks to Paul for his insightful questions and affording us the space we needed to answer them properly.

Today’s photo is a Croatia Online favourite – a fireplane coming into Kaštela Bay to top up its tanks with water.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Football in Croatia

Poljud_panorama_2

As in most other sports it takes part in, Croatia punches well above its weight in football. The national team is a force to be reckoned with, there are plenty of Croatian players in the UK leagues and of course Slaven Bilić, the erstwhile national coach, is now manager of West Ham.  Croatians also take their football fan responsibilities very seriously and none so enthusiastically as the supporters of Hajduk, Split. Despite needing a little tlc, Hajduk’s Poljud stadium, pictured, is a sight to behold, day or night, roof open or roof closed, and there aren’t many football clubs that can boast a backdrop of karst mountains and azure Mediterranean waters.

To get the full story on Croatia’s football scene (or most others worthy of note!) have a look at Libero Guide Croatia. Libero is a digital travel guide for football fans and aims to be the most up-to-date travel companion to the game’s most exciting destinations, city-by-city, club-by-club. So if you like holidays with a football theme, or just want to follow your club around the globe, Libero is the website for you.

Thanks to Ballota for today’s photo

Friday, February 05, 2016

Travel Croatia By Seaplane

DSC00945

In November 2014, our intrepid roving reporters, Diane and Roger, reported on their first seaplane trip. They travelled from Split to Hvar island on one of the first European Coastal Airlines (ECA) sea plane flights. In fact the Split terminal at Resnik they travelled from is just a short walk from where we used to live in Kaštel Štafilić. This terminal is placed to be near Split’s international airport but now it seems there’s also a terminal in Split city centre so you can arive right into the heart of this amazing Dalmatian City, with its eclectic history and culture, as well as easy links to Croatia’s popular islands of Brač, Hvar and Vis.

Read about Diane and Roger’s trip on Croatia Online - Come Fly (To The Islands) With Me!

News hot off the press is that ECA flights now link Split and Dubrovnik which is another huge breakthrough for locals and visitors alike. Previously the choice was a long car or coach ride, or scheduled flights between the two international airports. As far as I’m aware modern  trains and the motorway still don’t go all the way to Dubrovnik yet but that something else on the list of things to catch up on!

Even if you don’t particularly want to go to either destination (are you mad?!) the flight is worth it for the view of the coastline and islands alone and you can read the full story on Total Croatia News