In the first week of our month-long road trip round Europe, we had driven through five countries: England, France, Germany, Austria and Slovenia. It had been busy, but brilliant, and tiring at times.
At the beginning of the second week, we were about to hit our sixth country – Croatia – where we were due to stay for a week. We were looking forward to settling into a place and parking the car up for a few days.
We’d booked a chalet tent at Camping Belvedere near Trogir on Croatia’s southern Dalmatian coast. Up to now we’d stayed in hotels or guest houses, but being away for a month we had to find cheaper accommodation for the bulk of the stay.
Camping like this cost about £20-30 a night, and we also saved on the cost of meals because we now had cooking facilities. The previous week we’d been spending £100-200 a day on an overnight stay and meal out.
The tent comes with beds and cooking facilities so it also meant we didn’t have to cart our camping gear across Europe. We did take some of our own things in case of emergencies: our gas stove and a kettle so we could always make milk for Sam, even on the road; a sheet and a duvet; torches; and some basic crockery and cutlery.
Our first impression was that the campsite had great facilites – the usual washrooms plus bar, restaurant, swimming pools and a supermarket – and a stunning coastal location with great views of Trogir and nearby islands. We had a couple of days’ sunbathing and swimming in the sea, and even a cocktail or two at the bar which overlooked the Adriatic.
Unfortunately our stay here was spoilt by other campers – some making a lot of noise outside until the early hours of the morning. As Brits we tend to talk ourselves down, but I think you can tell a lot about a country by its campers and I’ve never stayed at a British campsite where people don’t respect the curfew!
It was German campers causing the problems for us; when we asked them after midnight to be quiet because we had a baby we got “We’re on holiday!” in reply. From talking to others I understand Italian and Spanish campers can be worse. Lesson learned!
Nonetheless, there’s no doubt Croatia has a lot to offer tourists. We’d loved Dubrovnik when we visited for a day on a cruise last year.
We found nearby Trogir a very pleasant city. It’s a world heritage site and set on a small island that is linked to the mainland by a bridge.
Split we were less impressed with, though I’d expected to like it. Maybe it’s because we were driving: it’s a busy and chaotic city. Coming in by car past the high-rise apartment blocks that represent real life is no doubt a very different experience to that of most tourists who fly or arrive by boat.
Nonetheless, part of Split’s harbour is pretty and the Diocletian’s Palace is interesting. It’s also a world heritage site, and Roman monument with restaurants, bars and shops inside; an atmospheric area giving a flashback to Split life thousands of years ago.
Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
Croatia’s national parks have beauty that is on another level.
Plitvice Lakes is Croatia’s most popular tourist attraction, and it’s easy to see why. It’s been on my ‘must visit’ list for a while; the photos I’d seen of its 16 lakes linked by waterfalls made it look like a natural fantasy land.
Plitvice is very busy and quite developed. It is stunning, but don’t expect a watery wilderness: when we went in mid-September there were hoardes of people pretty much everywhere which made progress quite slow, the lakes are surrounded by wooden walkways and buses and boats ferry tourists around. Your entry ticket (€14.50 for each of us, but prices vary according to season) includes bus and boat rides.
On the plus side, the development of the park and well-signposted walking routes make it very easy to get around and see the main sights. We followed route B which took about 4 hours.
Expect to queue to get in: I think we waited for about 40 minutes. Sam decided to produce an enormous poo while we were in line so I ducked out to change him on the grass (there were long queues for the toilets too). I’m not sure it was the natural phenomenon visitors were expecting to see :)
While we were away I carried Sam in a Connecta Solar which I’d borrowed from a local sling library. We both found it really comfortable and the buckles and padded straps made me feel confident he was safe even when we were climbing and walking on rougher terrain in the national parks. It also has a hood which can go over his head if its sunny or he’s having a nap.
Krka National Park, Croatia
On our last day in Croatia we had a few hours to kill after leaving the campsite and boarding the overnight ferry to Italy. On a bit of a whim – believe it or not, I thought we might have seen enough waterfalls after Plitvice – we decided to go to Krka National Park.
I’m so glad we did. It’s still developed and touristy but Krka is smaller and although they’re busy, the walkways feel less like a conveyor belt. Here you can swim in one of the lakes below Roški slap waterfall.
What do you think to Croatia? Have you been, or would you like to?
Next stop, country number seven: Italy!