19th-22nd May ……..Dubrovnik
We are missing our travelling companions, Tom and Jo. What a shame they had to cut their tour early. We no longer get the messages on our walkie-talkies we used to get as we travelled together. Discussions about any planning decisions always bought our Captain Cruwys plucking from somewhere suggestions of places to go. Now it is just Elaine and I travelling without his great suggestions.
We have had lots of discussions about how we would visit Dubrovnik. One option was to miss it out completely and take a weekend fly package later in the year. The coach tour from Split cost a lot and meant six hours on a coach, there and back, with 4 hours in this wonderful city. We stopped at a camp which advertised a bus connection only to find that from there we would still be on a bus for 3 hours just to get there. The next option is to drive straight through Bosnia. The problem with that is we were specifically told by our insurance company that this was one of the countries where we would be uninsured if we drove through. You can buy insurance cover at the border but it is expensive for motorhomes. Lots drive through uninsured and boast that it is no problem as it is only 20 kilometers. I opted for the sensible option. I have never driven even 1 mile uninsured and I didn’t intend to start now just to save a few pounds. So we opted to take the ferry onto the peninsula of Pelijesac that takes you past the short coastal front of Bosnia then through Ston where you join up with the coastal road down to Dubrovnik.
So we made our way to Ploce, bought a ticket and waited for the ferry. The crossing took about an hour on the very modern car ferry. Almost as soon as we got off the ferry we came across mile upon mile of burnt forest as far as the eye could see. The answer to our Google enquiry told us that there was a devastating forest fire in July 2015 and blackened bare trees stand everywhere right up to either side of the road. Once past where the fire was stopped we were soon on our way on the pretty roads up the peninsula until we came to Ston. I just had to stop to take a photo and luckily found a spot by the side of the road.
The guide book says the walls are 15 kilometers all around the protected area and we have decided to go back and get the exercise of walking the walls on our way back through. We pulled into a lovely, friendly campsite and our pitch is right down the hill overlooking the sea and all the islands in the area.We caught the bus the next morning to Dubrovnik and got off where the bus driver told us. It was quite a walk down to the old town and the walls that surround it so we followed the signs that took us down narrow streets and uncountable steps.
There were the walls and up the hill to our left was the Fort Minceta and down to the right was the equally impressive Fort Boker. We went through the pile Gate and there was Big Onofrio’s fountain. Unfortunately this historic fountain was under repair and was shrouded by scaffolding and canvas. The square just inside the gate was packed with tourists and guides were everywhere trying to collect up their guide groups. I went straight off to get tickets so we could tour the walls thinking it might be good to get ahead of the large groups that were collecting there.
The views from the walls are amazing and thank goodness they have a one way system for walking around the walls. Especially on the narrower parts, it would be chaos otherwise. A large section of the walls are under repair. The route did continue. A scaffold path had been built about 8 foot above the original walkway and this ran for about 100 meters. Anyone not liking heights would have found this very scary indeed so I was really proud of Elaine when she just strode over it without a care and even stopped at one stage to take in the view. We walked on a bit and I continued taking picture after picture. We had just climbed down yet another set of stone steps when I heard a familiar Aussie voice calling out my name. What were the chances of that? It was Brian and Wendy so we finished the rest of the tour of the walls together before we went off for coffee and a great chinwag. We went off on our separate ways and we all know we will meet up again before we leave Croatia. It is hard to choose which photographs to show the walls because I took so many.
Elaine and I went off to the small harbour just outside the walls and decided on a fish restaurant right by the water’s edge. We chose a fish dish for two which included local muscles, calamari, squid, huge prawns, mackerel fillets, sardines and swordfish steaks. I ordered a small bowl of salad to go with it As we started to tuck in a young couple came and sat beside us and having seen what the waiter had brought us, they ordered similar but with a large salad. We got chatting. Sebastian and Sam (?) are from London and unbeknown to Sam, Sebastian proposed to her on the walls around Dubrovnik the previous evening. He did say that he had had a panic attack when they crossed the scaffold section that I mentioned earlier. It was lovely to hear from them about their lives in England and the prospects of their lives together. He talked about the 26 days holiday a year they got plus bank holidays from their employment giving them lots of time for holidays. They both took a double take when we told them we had been touring since October.
Dubrovnik relies on the constant stream of tourists that come into the city and everywhere there is the hustle and bustle of happy people touring the old city. What would be the odds? We just happened to be on the exact part of the walls to meet the Aussie couple and wandering round the corner, ice cream cornets in their hands, were Debbie and Peter. These are a lovely English couple we met up with when we first came into Croatia and, again, by chance are staying on the same camp site as us.
We toured the beautiful old city. We visited the cathedral and some even more delightful old churches.
Considering the damage this city received from the endless bombing this city underwent during the recent war then it is amazing how most of the damage no longer shows (except for lots of new roofs) thanks to the millions that have been pumped into this country from the EU. Boat trips to and around the islands leave all the while and there are some very modern glass bottom boats taking tours out to see what is under the waves. There is a cable car ride you can take up the mountain that towers above the City. Looking at the postcards in the shops, the views from up there were magnificent but we decided that we had had enough excitement for one day. Dubrovnik is a beautiful, fascinating place and we thoroughly enjoyed our day there.
Why we ended up having to take a taxi ride back to our campsite instead of the cheap bus fare I am not going to go into here but I know we have seen parts of this city never before visited by a foreign visitor. Part of our extended tour of the city took us past the port where the cruise liners moor up. Yet another coincidence, the Queen Elizabeth cruise liner was coming into the port there on the Sunday morning. On board were long term friends of Elaine, Pam and Malcolm. Their email told us they were taking the tour of Dubrovnik in the morning so we probably could have met up with them at some stage. Elaine didn’t like to say why but we did not go to meet them. We just couldn’t stand the thought of getting lost again on the way back!
Debbie and Peter came round to our van the next day and we heard their difficulties getting back from Dubrovnik. They didn’t get back to the campsite until a quarter to eight having started queuing for the bus at a quarter to five. They were going on the same ferry as us the next day.
23rd May……heading back up Croatia.
We met up with them again on the ferry and the journey flashed by as we chatted and laughed the whole crossing. The motorways run down past Zagreb across to Pula and the A1 runs down a lot of the way to Dubrovnik. It is fast, does cost and if you need to get somewhere in a hurry then it is the obvious choice. I am told some of the stretches have pretty views. However if you have the time then take route 8, the coastal road that runs from Rijeka all the way down to the south of the country. Now that we are on our way back up the country we have done almost driven this entire fabulous road.
For approximately 400 miles this roads hugs the coast and only deviates inland as it passes some villages, some towns and larger cities like Zadar and Split. The views are unbelievable. If you are travelling south the rugged mountains run most of the way to your left and the sea and all the islands are your view on your right. There are so many islands that you get the impression that they all merge into one and it is another country just over the water. Round a bend there will be another view of a pretty coastal town. I found driving this road had nothing to do with getting to our destination for the day. The joy was in the driving. I do love driving but I was envious of Elaine because I had to concentrate on the road where as Elaine eyes were always on the views.
We pulled into a small auto camp right on the water’s edge just a few kilometers from the fabulous Trogir. We wandered into the pretty village and then walked back along the coastal path to get back to our van. We are going to spend another day here as the only firm decision is that we are going onto the island of Krk. So the maps will be out and some plans need to be made. In the off season we use ACSI sites where we get discounts and soon sites will be charging their full summer rates. We want to be in France before that happens as long as they have sorted out the problems with the unions and the fuel distribution.
In 3 days’ time it will be seven months exactly that we have been out of the UK and we have done 5,985 miles so far. This trip we have spent about £25 on toll roads when we were dashing out of Portugal to get away from the bad weather there. Just consider, unless we are out and about, Elaine and I share a space that is 7 meters by 2.1 meters. How is it going to feel when we go back to living in a house and with toilets that I do not have to empty? We have played hundreds of games of Rummikub and other games and watched very little television in all that time. We haven’t even finished watching the box set of a series we brought out with us which we keep saving for a rainy day. So far during our 2 years of travels I have published 91 blogs and have typed around 170,000 words doing so, so perhaps you can see why television is not important to us. Thank goodness for Kindle. Elaine and I have read countless books, Elaine far more than me. Thank goodness also for the cover that we bought for Elaine’s kindle. This Kindle has lasted much longer than her others.