Monday 4th August 2014 Week 163 Croatia.
Camping, getting it right.
Someone asked, 'what had gone wrong with the electrics last week?'
Well thankfully it turned out to be just a fuse. However the culprit was buried under the bonnet, hidden amongst a mass of wires and not inside with all the other habitation fuses. I reckon driving thought the 'Noah like' deluge on Friday forced water into the electric step housing, under the van and shorted it out. It's okay now.
Full marks to Sargent, that's the company whose electrical system is fitted into the van. I emailed them and, within minutes, received a reply asking me for my phone number so they could ring me. Many thanks to Dave who was most helpful and pointed me in the right direction. I said I'd give him a plug, he asked if I could make it a three pin?. I think the phone line wasn't up to much.
August, traditionally, heralds the beginning of the end of the camping season. Many camp-sites will be offering discounts by the end of this month. By the end of next, some will start closing. This is something we'll have to keep a eye on when pushing further south into Albania, Montenegro and then Greece.
I do try and plan which camp sites we stop at rather than come across them by accident, as some do. But I have to say, regardless of what country you are in, they're all pretty much of a muchness in what they offer in terms of amenities. They all have the basics covered. Unlike regular holiday makers we're not concerned if a camp doesn’t have a bar or worried how far tit is from the beach, we're more concerned about the width of the approach road and the camp-site amperage. Our list of priorities are quite different from your average holiday maker.
At the moment most of the camp-sites along the coast are 'no go areas' packed, as you might expect, with families on holiday. Pull into your average camp-site off season and all you'll find are a few geriatric Dutch waddling about. The showers are your own each morning. Come nine in the evening we are all tucked up in bed and by ten you can hear a ant fart. Not so now. Whether it's little girls, whose screams equal that of a 747 engaging its thrusters, because their brothers threaten them with a worm or they have just discovered how wet water can actually be, or inconsiderate and surly teenagers, who think music has to be played loud enough so it can be heard within a five mile radius, youth, equals noise pollution. Because of this coastal camp-sites, at this time of year, are worth avoiding, and don't forget you'll be paying a huge premium to be annoyed by the sea. Of course if you have a brood of your own then I expect these sites are manna from heaven. You can forget you own kids while you're there.
Fancy a swim, yeah so did I.
Thankfully water entertains kids. They can spend all day leaping around in the stuff and I suppose there’s always the odd chance one might drift out to sea and of course the littlest kids like nothing better than moving sand around a beach.
Just an observation here but it amuses me to see kids play in the sea. I mean, parents insist their children get dressed up in all manner of protective clothing while riding their bikes! yet are happy to watch them splash around in the sea, home to one of man’s most feared creatures, the killer hunter shark. A creature for whom a child is merely something to have before it's main meal. The kids only protection? a pastel coloured inflatable ring. Go Figure.
I'll tell you tomorrow how to avoid all this.
Tuesday 5th August 2014 week 163 Croatia
Okay, so the simplest way to avoid these family camp-sites is not to go to them in the first place, move inland. Ideally near some ancient monument. Kids hate monuments. They have no interest in ogling Roman rubble disguised as history, so you're assured of some peace and quiet. If you doubt me then check out how many kids would choose say....., Lourdes over Disney. I'm guessing None.
Like us, kids are on holiday too and the last thing they want is a history lesson and can you blame them?. -Strikes me there's only a small window of opportunity where you can take kids on holiday and enjoy their company. They are either too young and completely disinterested in anything other than the beach, or too old and fill their days following the lives of their friends on social network sites.
A kind of giant photo electric cell. Collects the Sun light and plays with it at night how cool is that?. beats a bloody ole castle.
As a testament to this I can remember a family holiday I once had. My dad was keen on history and in particular battles sites. The first time I was asked if I wanted to see a battle field, I almost wet myself. Of course I did! I was a small boy. A battle field, Wow! How exciting. Problem was you needed the imagination of Tolkien to look at some old farmer's field and see it as a 400 year old battle site. I'm not sure what I was hoping to see, perhaps abandoned canons. Ripped flags fluttering in the breeze. The odd canon ball rusting away, bomb craters. I realised the odd rotting corpse was probably asking a bit too much but all I got was a sea of corn on the cob. That’s not a battle field, that’s ridiculous. Its like going to an art gallery, looking at a vacant space on a wall and being told a Rembrandt once hung there, it's pointless. Doesn’t work.
“The so-and-so troops took the high ground over there by that pylon my Dad enthused. Over there, by that tree stump, camped the third foot and mouth brigade. By mid morning this whole field was a scene of great carnage son” he said almost wistfully. Hundreds of men, bludgeoned to death with axes, speared, shot with arrows or put to the sword”. Little wonder I developed into a fervent anti militarist.
It's us older folk that get infected with this queer tourism bug. We're happy to wander around ruins. I think it comes from a desire to look at stuff older than ourselves. It's somehow reassuring to know that, at leasts some old stuff is valued which, if you're a 13th century church is more than likely, but sadly not if your an old codger.
Now I reported, last week that Croatia was the eighteenth most visited place on the planet. A fifth of its income comes from tourism. What I failed to mention was they seem to want that mostly from me. I paid seven quid to schlep around some old fort on Monday in Sibenik town. The young lady who took my money said cheerfully: 'enjoy your visit'. She may well have added: 'and if you find anything vaguely interesting please let me know'. It was the least impressive fort I've ever been in, and I've been in some mighty unimpressive ones I can tell you. Fair to say I'd demand my money back before I'd walk around it again. I'm sorry but you have to make these places a bit more interesting. The odd stick of furniture wouldn't come amiss. Half the castle was given over to an modern auditorium. So I spent my time watching roadies put up a stage. What's that about?
Now I'd like to tell you, or warn you, about another site. This, the biggest and most famous in Croatia, The Krka National park but I'll save that until tomorrow when I can give it the justice it deserves, besides, I've complained enough for one day.
Wednesday 6th August 2014 Week 163.
Seeing the sights
Here's an idea that might save you a chunk of change. Rather than traipse around checking out the sights, be selective. The things is, you’ve got to keep all this sight seeing nonsense in proportion. Let me explain. If you’ve been lucky enough to see the Grand Canyon it's going to be tough getting excited at visiting say, Cheddar Gorge. Same goes for Niagara falls. Once you’ve seen it, any other falls are going to seem something of an anti-climax. Now that I've seen Venice, the Grand Union Canal isn't going to look all that grand to me. And, I dare say, once you’ve cast your eyes over Seville Cathedral, the biggest and perhaps grandest in the world, all other churches are going to be something of a let down.
Having made that last comparison I should point out that churches are a special case. They are unique in as much as every church on the face of the planet seems to be famous, or remarkable, for something, no matter how tenuous. I've yet to come across a church or cathedral that doesn’t have some feature which sets it apart from all others.
I walk into what seems, on the outside at least, to be another ordinary church only to be proudly told it possess the tallest Lancet window of any church in Europe. Amazing. I then have to look up what a Lancet widow is. Turns out its the big window at the end. Or, uniquely, its central nave is built directly under the Apse, which like the Apse itself is a fact a little over my head ( Oh nice pun! Ed ). Or it has the widest flying buttresses of any mock Gothic church. Or the biggest crypt. Or some old Pope is entombed within it. There’s always something.
It's perhaps for this reason I visit them, or at least follow Hazel into them. The only churches she doesn’t visit are those that make a charge. This is one of her pet hates. And churches are dead sneaky here because it's not until you get inside do you find you're expected to pay, by which time the oak door has closed behind you, so it's not easy to shuffle out without drawing some attention to yourself. They don't put admission cost outside, nor do they have a ticket office. I think this is because they bloody know it'll look tacky and commercial. What would God think?
I'll often ask: 'Is it free?'. If they say yes, I'm in like a shot and stay there till I'm asked to leave as they want to lock up.
Now this brings me onto the point of today’s rant. Which you'll know, if you read my meanderings regularly, is a recurring theme.
Yesterday we visited possibly Croatia's biggest tourist attraction, the Krka National Park and waterfalls. On arrival they wanted a staggering £22 entrance fee from us. Now you might think that sounds okay, so allow me to put this sum in some prespective. Twenty two pounds, or 230 Kuna, buys you five gallons of petrol. Or a three course lunch. Or two bags of groceries. Or ten pints of beer. Or seventeen! bottles of cheap plonk here. It is, in short, a lot of dosh.
Not unsurprisingly then this pissed me off. (Doesn’t take much. Ed) Obviously we paid, but come on. Behind me was a Croatian chappie. Less than twenty years ago he was a young man perhaps dodging bullets in the Croatian war of Independence. Fighting for a free Croatia. Now he's being charged to go and look at bits he perhaps defended. Am I the only one that finds this annoyingly odd. Who gives these Herbert’s the authority to throw up fences around just about any land mark and then charge people to go and look at it?
Okay, Krka park was pretty spectacular. It's considered to be one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Europe, but come on it ain’t no Niagara.
Thursday 7th August 2014 week 163 Croatia
I must be quackers?
I have to give this little camp site a plug before we move on to be fair to it. If you ever get this way, do yourself a favour and add this place to your itinerary. Before coming I viewed it from google earth and, quite frankly, it looked pathetic. It's situated on top of a bleak, rock strewn barren plateau in amongst a few stubby pine trees. The reception resembles a shed that has seen better days. The site is small, less then forty pitches. My concern was, would they have room? But, to be honest, it looked so unappealing I couldn't believe it had ever been full. I found myself warning Hazel that this next camp-site, was going to be well.....a bit basic.
I should sell this pic to the owners, makes the site look quite inviting.
Oddly, after being here a few days it's totally grown on us. Some do. It has the basics right. Decent and clean showers. Free wifi, albeit a bit hit and miss. Waste and water are close to hand and, as Hazel mentioned on Friday, it's excellent value for money at 12 Euros a day which, I admit, was what originally drew me to it. But you need to remember here, I have to exercise fiscal prudence. I'm the keeper of the purse strings. -Obviously I don’t have a purse, that would be a bit effeminate. No, I'm mostly quite manly, so have a wallet-. I occasionally take flack from Hazel about my apparent lack of enthusiasm when it comes to spending money. But as I point out to her, this is a bloke thing, it's not because I'm tight. I was genetically preprogrammed on a molecular level to be prudent with money, us blokes know no other way to be. This is a known, gender specific, phenomena and explains why there’s never been a female chancellor of the exchequer. She'd spend all our taxes on shoes. (Careful!. Ed). I should point out that on rare occasions Hazel will admit, somewhat begrudgingly, she’s glad I'm the thrifty type, every family needs one.
Anyways at a tenner a night this compares remarkably well with the nearest coastal camp which will set you back a mighty £33 a night. If I had to pay that! I doubt I'd catch a wink of sleep. There are four camp sites in this area which I expect explains their competitive pricing and why they wait by the roadside to try and flag you down as you pass.
Doh!...Shes managed to squeeze in the shot
We did, the other day, finally come come across a British family. Unfortunately they all looked a bit glum as they lumped past me looking for a pitch, so I resisted the temptation to rush up, throw my arms around any of them and shout:
“Livingstone I presume”.
The only negative are the chickens and ducks. They keep about thirty of the creatures in an enclosure at the back of the site. Ducks, you may have noticed, quack like this: Quaaaaaack! quaack quaack quack. In a kind of decreasing tone. It's as if they’re laughing at a joke.
Such as: A Duck goes to see a psychiatrist because he thinks he’s quackers,
Quaaaaaack! Quaack! Quaack! Quack!. Hysterical if you are a duck, believe me.
Listen to them long enough and you soon find yourself giggling (Time to up his medication I think. Ed) It's true. In amongst this lot are two cockerels who crow at the merest hint of daylight and seem hell bent on trying to outdo each other.
Other than that the site is excellent. It's close to the Krka National park The charming lake side town of Skradin and the city of Sibenic which incidentally was, as Hazel has pointed out to me several times, the first city in the world to have electric lights.
All fascinating stuff.
Friday 8th August 2014 Week 163 Croatia
What's on my mind?
Do you remember the good ole days? I do. The days when you could go to the pictures and watch not one, but two films? A 'B' film, and then the main feature. In between those you'd see something called 'Look at life' or 'Pathe News' -that's the one with the cock crowing-. D'you remember any of that? Halcyon days indeed. Back then you got value for money. Two films, maybe a cartoon and a bunch of other stuff. You'd be gone for a couple of days.
You'd turn up, any old time, thanks to the local bus time table, buy your ticket and were then escorted to your seat by an usherette, a lady with a torch. It was quite normal to walk in on the last twenty minutes of the film. You'd see who murdered who but not know why. You'd then sit and wait for it to be re-screened so you could make sense of the bit you did see. It was really quite bonkers.
Back then the only thing you could buy was an ice cream, a lolly, or a Kiora orange drink which, when you think about it, is odd. I mean, that’s fine if you're sat on a beach, but a picture house?. Its not like they were particularly warm places. Our local flee pit, the Classic, was always freezing. I remember people shouting: 'close that bloody door' as you entered.
As a lad this is what I aspired to being but I didn't have th legs for it.
During the interval the ice cream ladies would appear. They'd stand down the front with a small tray hung around their necks. For a short while I thought they had the perfect job. Selling ice creams and lollies in a cinema sounded like an ideal career to me. As she appeared you'd turn to the girl you'd brought and ask: 'Do you want a lolly, an ice cream or both?. You could say both safe in the knowledge shed only want one, but it did make you look as though money was no object. If you didn’t fancy her you’d probably not ask and hope she got the message.
The curtains would open and the evenings entertainment would kick off with maybe a cartoon. Then the B film. Often a western where oddly all the cowboys were very smartly dressed. Roy Rogers always looked freshly laundered which is no mean feat when you're living with a horse on the range. Then we'd get 'Pathe news' or 'Look at life', which would show you what life was like inside a bottling plant or similar. There would then be an intermission before the main feature.
Going to the pictures back then was something. A mini event.
The last film Hazel and I saw at our local Showcase, cost us £25 to get in. That was the price of the tickets and two pairs of 3D glasses. What's happened to those cardboard 3D glasses they once loaned you?. Now they sell you things that make you look like Buddy Holly, which you can then take home. This wouldn't be such a bad idea if the lenses didn't fall out while sitting in a drawer.
I sat there surrounded by people slurping and sucking on huge cokes, chomping through hot dogs and giant buckets of pop corn. Some do pizza apparently. You'd wonder if their money wouldn’t have been better spent getting a meal somewhere, but no.
The lights dim and you're treated to adverts. Normally for the local tandoori and a wedding car hire firm. Then we get the warnings. Shush No talking! Turn off your mobile!. Stop chewing! Stop being an annoying twat? -Okay the last two are mine-. Then you’ll get the FBI warning about video piracy. You'll be told that illegal copying of this film promotes prostitution, human trafficking, animal cruelty and general all round nastiness. If caught, you could be fined $10,000 or do time in a state penitentiary where, because you're not really a criminal, just a knob with a handy-cam you'll end up someone’s bitch.
I tell ya, going to the flicks, ain’t half the fun it used to be.
You all have a good weekend.