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.


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.


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