Tuesday 29th July 2014 Week 162 Croatia.
Okay so time I told you what I know about Croatia. (This shouldn't take long. Ed) True, as a week ago, I knew sod all about the place, which'll come as no surprise to anyone who reads my ramblings.
Well to kick off they do seem a jolly nice bunch of people, they do appear a little more willing to return a smile than their neighbours, the Slovenians. I'd say this is the direct result of them being used to tourists. Croatia makes a fifth of its income from tourism and if you want people to return it pays to be nice to them. All this niceness has worked because it's made Croatia the eighteenth most popular tourist destination on the planet. That, according to Wikipedia. Over half the population can speak English, which makes my life a lot easier, and many that don't, speak German. This is because the Germans bloody love coming here and explains why I'm presently surrounded by them.
One of the biggest attractions, which puts Croatia squarely at the top of any money conscious globe trotters must visit list, is the prices. A bucket of beer is £2. It's not actually a bucket just seems like it as you wade through it. Of course the Germans, and here I’m not defiantly not stereotyping, blinking love their beer.
Hazel's shrinking condition seems to be getting worse.
Eating out is as cheap as chips. Which, if you're having chips, is good to know. We ignored our budget and took ourselves to the poshest restaurant in town -this after carefully checking the menu from the street- We had a top-notch steak and salad dinner with a sweet, coffee, listened to live music, and it came to £45. Not perhaps so amazing until I tell you the wine was a 2006 vintage at £18 a bottle.
The cost of living is low. This is reflected in prices across the board. Diesel is a pound a litre. Cigs £2 a pack. Food is cheap. And in particular fruit and veg. As a rough guide I calculated that if you spent five pounds on fruit and veg you couldn't physically carry them out of the shop, you'd need a wheelbarrow. Okay, perhaps not very scientific, but a point well made I fancy. And all that fruit would provide you with enough roughage to keep you regular while you sat in your rented three bed coastal villa for only £280 a month.
Here are my ten barely interesting facts about this country.
1, A Croatian truffle still holds the title as the world’s largest. Found by someone’s dog. It sold for a whopping £250,000. (What were you saying about food prices. Ed)
2, Croatia isn’t called Croatia by those that live here. They call it Hrvatska
3, The Dalmatian breed of dog originally came from Croatia.
4, The neck tie was invented here along with the ball point pen and the Parachute.
5, They have a frog Museum, dedicated to all things frog like.
We have a friend who bloody loves frogs, she'd love it here.
6, Croatia was the first country to offer nudist holidays. King Edward and Wallis Simpson were reportedly the first ones to get their kit off and swim naked back in 1930. On the Island of Krk, there are several nudist camp-sites.
7, They have the smallest town in the world, Ham. That’s its name. Oddly, its reported to have a population of 'approximately' twenty. Strikes me that that’s one figure someone should know.
8, They have free healthcare for all. (As any civilised country should have. Ed) She's off. Mad cow.
9, Croatia is half the size of England with less than half the population of London.
10, Over a thousand islands go to make up Croatia.
All, I think you’ll agree, mildly fascinating stuff
Monday 28th July 2014 Week 162 Croatia
Okay, lets set the record straight. I was perhaps a little too gung-ho with my criticism of the camp-site in the Slovenian capital last week. Someone emailed me and said they had a wonderful time there. I'm glad they did, I just said it was too noisy, too crowded and far too expensive. However, in order to be fair to them and offer a more balanced view, I should big-up one of the camps more unusual features, its weekly chess competition.
Here's the promotional flyer which was pinned up in the men’s showers advertising said event. Looks 'erm, interesting right chaps? I should warn you before you go ringing your travel agent, this is just regular chess. The photo could be accused of being what? a tad misleading? It seems to imply that this is some, as yet unknown, new adaptation of the classic game. Perhaps: strip chess, or wet T-shirt chess or bikini chess. Don't get me wrong, the photo is a delight and far better than one which would have shown a couple of old duffers playing the game, but with these two? I think that’s stretching it a bit. I've seen chess players, and none come with a decent cleavage, trust me.
I'd play if the winner got to wrestle the loser.
We moved on Friday and headed south. I'd picked a smaller camp-site, a little off the beaten track and away from the busy coast in the hope it would be less family orientated and therefore a little quieter. The route was just over a hundred miles which the sat nav surprisingly informed me would take us just over three hours.
Rubbish! I confidentially told Hazel, as I tapped it on the table to see if I could get it to tell the truth. One hundred miles: 2.5 hours, tops and that's with a stop for coffee.
Four hours later we were still not there. We took the coast road. It was, as you might imagine, as spectacular as it was beautiful but there wasn't one stretch that could be described as being remotely straight. It rose, fell, dipped, dived, twisted and turned like an abandoned hose pipe. I have to say this whole section of Croatia is squarely aimed at the tourist trade. Out of season this whole area of Croatia must close down and resemble a ghost town. However, it's a road I would take again if only for the upper body work out I got getting here. My arms felt pumped.
As we neared our destination we crested a ridge as the small historic fishing town of Novigrad came into view below us. We were mighty impressed. As I hope you are.
Could it look any more picturesque, of course not.
The camp site is just around the other side on the left. To get to it you have to drive through the car park of the local hotel. I was a little concerned I was being led up the garden path once again by the sat nav but it proved to be right.
Once again we are alone. There are no British here. In fact on the four hour drive we didn’t see one other GB plated vehicle. This camp-site is a German enclave. There are a sprinkling of Dutch, a French couple, us and everyone else is German. Personally, I'm not sure if, having driven 1000 miles to my chosen camp site and found it full of my countrymen, I'd be happy. I like some variety. But that’s just me.
(Ditto, but the odd Brit would be nice. Ed) I concur.