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 Slovenians 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, for me. 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 nicer?
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.
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 incredable 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
Thursday 31st July 2014 Week 162 Croatia,
A tad unsavoury but.....
No internet yesterday. Knocked out by the storm, I think. A quick word about the camp-site as it deserves a mention for no other reason than the plumbing. It's unique. I'd blooming love to meet the plumber who plumbed the shower block. I'd ask him why, in a small toilet cubical where space is at a premium, did he think in necessary to include a urinal. So what? you'd have two pots to piss in?. I had to shuffle around the thing. Without going into too much detail the problem I then faced was: how to keep my face out the urinal bowl once seated. I had to lean back at some quite unnatural angle, fortunately I was assisted in this by loos seat which he'd forgotten to tighten. On the subject of plumbing I should also mention they do like foot showers. Three camp sites now have all had a queer arrangement where you can shower, or wash, just your feet!
The rest of the site is attractive, sitting as it does in a huge, almost land locked, bay. The small village, a mile across the bay, lights up each evening and sits in the shadows of the Velebit mountain range. Very pretty.
View from our lounge window
Last evening, as we were about to settle down and enjoy the twilight view, we were approached by a chap. I'd seen him talking to other campers. Like most locals they start with German, until we explain we're British. To this they all say, Ahhhhh British! in much the same way you say 'found em! when eventually finding your car keys in the fridge.
He set about, very politely, telling us a story about his house. Apparently, it has no door, no window...... only wall. This he mentioned several times. -Foreigners never seem to understand the concept of pluralisation, it ain't hard- He showed us photos of his house which clearly proved it lacked some of the more basic features we all take for granted. He came well prepared. As well as photos of his 'shell of a house', he had news items which appeared to mentioned either a river flooding, or a power station closing. We weren't sure which. The impression that I got was: he was in the middle of building a house when he lost his job at the local power plant. Hazel, got an entirely different impression. Thought his home had flooded, neither of us was really sure.
It was evident he was after a handout. Of course it could easily been a con but if it was he'd gone to some considerable lengths. We listened to him and nodded occasionally.
'No door, no vindow only vall, needs finishing' he said passionately. 'Zee government, no help'. He then used the word 'catastrophe' to describe his predicament but upped it to 'cataclysmic' when it didn't draw much response from us. He said if he could get a Euro off everyone he would be able to rebuild. Suddenly he rifled through his pile of paperwork, as if he'd just remembered he'd left the gas on. He then produced a photo of his son who he proudly announced was a famous foosball player. Now that’s not a misprint. That’s foosball!. The table top game. How that helped his cause I've no idea. Perhaps simply to point out the fruits of his loins were of no bloody help.
I reasoned he was either genuine or this was a very elaborate con. I decided genuine, and I'd give him a donation. I handed him five Euros wishing him all the very best with his future endeavours. He looked slightly stunned as though I was giving him the crown jewels and thanked me. He recorded the amount on a sheaf of papers, this was proof for his wife that he was doing a good job. What he didn’t do... was go away. The donation seem to spur him on further. More photos more news articles. Clearly there was a lot more to this saga he'd not covered. I eventually stopped him, took his hand and shook it. I wished him fair well and ducked inside. He took Hazel's hand and kissed it.
Con? or genuine? I don't know, but at least it does beat having someone just thrusting their hand under my nose and beg. He earned it!.
Friday 1st August 2014 Week 162 Croatia
What's on my mind?
Well, as it turns, out not a lot, so we're going to find out what’s on Hazel's for a change, a little bit of role reversal. I've handed the reins over to her so today’s offering is hers and I'll be the one out to get cheap laughs from making acerbic comments as the editor.
Novigrad (sun shining)
We left the camp-site yesterday to head south during a biblical thunder storm, not the cleverest thing to do. Before leaving Phil dashed into reception to pay, only to discover they didn’t take visa. We quickly drove to the nearest cash point to get some Kuna. Incidentally, their money, Kuna, is named after a furry little animal they have here. (See, I'd never have mentioned that, far too girly. Ed). Rather than returning to the camp Phil pulled into the parking bays along the promenade to make it easier to turn around. I walked all the way back to the camp-site to pay, with the rain pouring down. (Oh for the love of....she had an umbrella, wasn't that bad. Ed).
Our first port of call was Lidl in Zadar, twenty miles away. We headed off toward the main road. By now it was bucketing down again, thunder boomed and lighting flashed. The rain, the last couple of days, had loosened large rocks which lay strewn in the road, Phil took it very carefully. We thought when we got to the main road it would be better, it wasn't! Croatian road builders don't do drains, so it was actually worse!. Streams of brown turgid water ran along the roadside, sometimes running across the road and forming small fords. At the bottom of hills rain created ponds. The rain lashed down, it was scary and dramatic. Phil slowed right down but still managed to create a bow wave, either side of us, almost as high as the windscreen.
The road, submerged in places. Scary.
By the time we reached Lidl thankfully the rain had eased. I went shopping on my own as Phil had discovered a problem with the 12 Volt electrics. When I came out the sun was shining but Phil wasn't. The 12 Volt power supply to the habitation side of the motor-home had packed up. This controls our lights, step, fridge, our taps, the loo flush etc, nothing worked. There was nothing to do but plough on. Phil decided to take the toll motorway as he didn’t want to chance the coastal roads. (Sod the expense!. Ed). As we neared our destination camp-site owners tried to wave us into their sites. Phil ignored them saying he'd already pick one out. It wasn't until we arrived at Camping Marina I could see why he'd chosen this one. A large sign advertised 'Only 12 Euros a night'. (Absolute fluke. Ed). They too waved us in. Everyone was very friendly and smiley and we were escorted to a suitable pitch.
After a cup of tea topped up his levels, Phil proceeded to try and figure out what had gone wrong with the electrics. I asked, what can we do if it can't be fixed?. He didn't answer. Never a good sign when he runs out of answers. He managed to email the company that supplied the electric system to the Autotrail motor homes. Dave, a technician there, very kindly phoned him back within minutes and between the two of them got the system up and running again.
That's my man! (awww shucks, t'aint nothing. Ed)
Oh! and you all have a good weekend.