The Croatian coastline in full splendour
Trip Start Jul 2003
50Trip End May 2005
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Where I stayed
Arrived in the largest town (v) in eastern Slovakia at 5am and hiked to campsite due to incomprehensible tram situation having been dug up. Not impressed so hopped on train towards the capital city, and got off a couple of hours before reaching it in town (w). Beginning with a T, this lovely little town had a great castle dominating all. Tried to find some rollmats so that we no longer had to sleep on balloons, but gave up and went and had too many bargain cocktails. So many in fat that the barman insisted that we had a few free ones for being such affluent customers. Wonderful campsite on an island, and spent the next day on the Slovakian 'beach' which comprised of a large and very shiny metal
swimming pool and a field full of posing pouches and thongs. A great time was had by all.
Then off to the capital (x); big rains today and all night. Managed to track down the address of the 'Therm a Rest' sleeping mat agent in Slovakia, his house that is: all we had to do now was find his shop
Scarey, 100 floored Eastern block state run type, with an evening of football-watching mafia-type characters.
Arrived late in the next capital city (y), which was a pest. Originally in two parts, which is reflected in the name, we wandered around and around very hungry.
Amazing old buildings on top of hill, completely surrounded by walls. Lovely view of river from hill top, and again we were forced into another hotel. Big shame since we had a very early train which meant missing the 'free' breakfast. Train travel was 1st class (never again): screaming children with incapable parents to name but a few inconveniences allll the way.
Capital of Croatia (z) received our trade next. Well, it would have done if it hadn't been the Day of the Assumption (if anyone can tell us what that is we'd be grateful). Unfortunately, national holidays lead to closed bars and the ever-atheist McDonalds received our trade instead. Lovely city with medieval streets and a very strongly Catholic quarter was very pleasant to wander around with hardly a soul in sight. Stayed in our first youth hostel, still occupied by refugees, and had a great Chinese feast.
Departed for the next capital (aa) which was a real challenge as it was impossible to pronounce in a station which speaks no English. Wonderful train journey through deep valleys and high mountains, wild wolves snoozing unawakened by our presence. The city itself really wished (and thought) it was in Italy, although picturesque with its three bridges. Retro mixed with mutton cafes. The only really interesting thing we found was the 'Cafe of Death' with its bodies
under glass panels in the floor and loos hidden behind bookcases etc.
Another train and finally the sea was in sight (and another country). Splendid town (ab) fed us pizzas and put us up in the Savoi Excelsior Palace for only 50 pounds instead of the usual 150. Incredible room with sheek and sleek brown furnishings: very trendy and with a thermostatically filled bath and a large bottle of intimate wash (unexplained).
Up very early and what a boat! Luxury power cruiser blasted us down the stunning Croatian coastline, complete with big sunglasses and espressos on deck.
Docked in a splendid town (ac) on the Istrian peninsular. Must be time for an anagram - ojvinr. Best campsite yet, with tree lined terraces and ledges leading down to a beach with the town over the bay. Little streets in town fed us well with scampi and chips, although not in the style accustomed to in The Angel in Halesworth - whole and complete in shell frightened Emma although not too much as this became the staple diet for the next week! More relaxing days snoozing on the beach, and evening drinking in wonderful bars on rocky ledges over sub-lit bays. Cracking.
Bus journey down the coast to the tip of the Istrian peninsular (how do those buses squeeze through those streets). Town (ad) was a major base for the Austro-Hungarian fleet in WWI, and several very interesting BC Roman ruins. Wonderful old wooden ferry took us down the coast: polite waiters in old world restaurant served us silver platters of seafood as the scenery floated by. Port-holes in the loos kept me amused for ages. As the sun went down the deck was strewn with romantic couples as we snored in comfy chairs.
Arriving in Zadar at midnight we attempted to catch the ferry 20 minutes later; successfully found it as it was slipping its ropes off and disappearing off into the darkness. Oops. Beach very inviting until the sun came up. Eaten alive by large nightlife insects. After breakfast found very shady spot with great views across the bay and snoozed until local old men fighting woke us up. Made up with a great lunch of barbequed sea bass. Then found the next ferry wasn't for a week so begrudgingly we left the coast and took the bus to next big town (ae) on the coast, famous for its huge Dioclesian Palace.
Lady in info desk in bus station took pity on our complete lack of success of finding accommodation, and called her sister who came and picked us up in her Jag. Fantastic apartment (a bargain of course) held us up for a few days, as did the family who seemed very entertained by us. Compulsive tours of the town by Jag made us feel like Goran Ivanesevich. Washed sleeping bags for first time, lots more food and dodgy Croatian wine (red lovely, white not so). Town built in Diocletian's retirement palace, warren of streets. Saw our first Dalmatian in Dalmatia.
Awoke late but managed to make it to ferry by running and pushing-in in newly-learned European style. Ferry bounced us off several infamous nudy islands to the famous great walled city (af) at the tip of the Dalmatian coastline. And what a city. Besieged in war, most damge now repaired leaving great rooftop views. Sat in Ferrari bar, reminiscent of brother Benny O's bedroom decor in the 80's.
A final departure from the coast for a while and straight over the border north into Bosnia-Herzegovinia. Fairly barren landscapes, mostly comprising of scantily clad towns and hills. Arrived in the capital of Herzegovinia (ag) to find blown up streets and deserted buildings. East (Muslim) once again connected to Western side over a fantastic river of such blue-green ness. Walked down through old town, large part of the medieval buildings still intact but everything riddled with shrapnel. Sat in bars where the only part of the building still intact was the ground floor, trees growing up through the remining floors. Famous old bridge being rebuilt (article in last week's Telegraph, we believe). Just in time for the famous bridge diving championships, with scoring based on the best belly-flop/dive, we think. Impressive. Storm brewed up so we escaped back to A/C hotel room via big cakes. Emma caught a cockroach and read Lord of the Rings whilst I slept for 16 hours.
Bus though the Misty Mountains, just like Frodo and Sam. Never realised the scenery would be so amazing. Road wound its way alongside the crashing blue waters as the mist turned to rain. In the capital city (ah) we were greeted by a Turkish coffee fired lady who arranged room for a couple of nights (someone's dining room). Despite being besieged for months, city not as damaged as the previous, although most buildings bullet ridden. The mix of religions had apparently joined together whilst being relentlessly bombarded by their neighbours. Known as Europe's Jerusalem due to its ethnic mix. The most interesting thing was standing on the spot where the Serb assassin had killed the Austrian/Hungarian royal couple to start World War I. How on earth had this single event led to the slaughters on the fields of France?
Must dash, more kebabs to eat and (more) yoghurt to drink.
Will and Emma