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  -

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 -

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 - 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 8 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 - 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