Croatia

Crossing the border and bathing in the sea – Thursday

We can tell that we are not far from the border by the huge line of cars in front of us. It takes us 30 minutes of queue to cross the river Mur -the natural border between Hungary and Croatia- and an additional hour and a half to pass the Croatian police check. After two hours of queue, we change the remaining Hungarian forints into Croatian kunas. However, not being able to change the coins, we decide to give them to the first Hungarian people we find. M gives the coins to some guys in a van. After a few minutes they come to us and give us a can of coke and a bottle of water. We thanks them a lot, even if we would have rather refused plastic bottled water and coke…

The climate and the landscape changes drastically in some 50 kilometres. From the Hungarian green countryside we deepen into the Mediterranean brushwood and the semi-desertic scrubland. To the horizon the flat and blue sea. We drive along the border of Paklenica National Park towards Starigrad -a small village on the coast, not far from Zadar. From the high promontory where bushes and goats survive in between the harsh rocks, we descend towards the sea, where the only vegetation surviving are tufts of grass.

In Starigrad we find the cheapest camping -which, as we will realize in the next days, is also the nicest-, park the van, and bath in the sunset light. We then buy some vegetables from the truck of an old man, and M cooks an amazing ratatouille. The lady running the camping is happy to receive us, we are the only clients apart a couple of Czechs. This is something extremely rare on Croatian coasts during summer, an ‘enjoyable’ -at least for us- aspect of the epidemic climate we are living into.

The night is fresh enough to sleep well.

Swimming in the sea is the only break we can take from the extreme heat – Friday

Yesterday we decided to postpone our visit to Paklenica National Park of one day in order to get some rest. It was a wise decision, it was the only cool night in which we could sleep late.

G wakes up and go for a morning run with the objective of finding the entrance of the park. When he’s back we have a large breakfast and decide to go snorkelling. The shore is some 300m from the campsite. The water is fresh and is the only way to bare the heat. Standing in the sun for more than 10 minutes without bathing is just impossible. Our day goes on chilling and trying to get through the heat.

Paklenica National Park: a treasure of trees and rocks – Saturday

We arrive at the entrance of the park at 7:30 am. We had never paid to enter a national park before. The two of us and the van have to pay 130 kunas, which makes about 17 euros. We will realize that it’s totally worth it. After a very hot and sleepless night is hard to start walking; however, the cool breeze and the amazing view of the canyon motivate us to deepen in this wild nature. We decide to reach Paklenica Dom, the oldest hut that was built in the park, it’s a 10km round-trip that allows us to explore Velika Paklenica, the most impressive canyon of the park. The whole trail develops in a tunnel of trees and is fresh and shady. The karstic nature of this area gave origin to an impressive system of canyons, caves and gorges. These characteristics make this park a bats’ paradise. Indeed, here live at least 21 species of bats -which is a lot knowing that in Europe we have discovered 45 species of this flying mammals so far. The park also hosts the largest Mediterranean forest.

These canyons also offer a great terrain for alpinists and sport climbers. Not having trad material with us, we have to opt for single pitches. We walk back to the parking, get our rope and climbing material and install in the most popular sector of the park, at the very beginning of the main canyon, 5 minutes from the parking, we are feeling lazy.

The amazing thing of this climbing spot is that when in Starigrad we would be burning in the unbearable heath, here it’s shady and cool. We climb all afternoon until we are exhausted on the nice limestone.

Once back in Starigrad we enjoy some more snorkelling in another beach, where we can spot a lot of fishes, some yellow corals and a few Pinna nobilis, the largest bivalve mollusc in the Mediterranean sea. Refreshed, in the sunset, we enjoy a beer and the remaining ratatouille. The night will be hot and full of mosquitoes. M will wake up with swollen eyes because of mosquitoes bites.

Towards Split, visiting Sibenik – Sunday

Sunday morning is hard. We both didn’t sleep much and M was eaten alive by mosquitoes. We enjoy the gas cooker and the fridge of the campsite until noon, when we leave -waving at the old lady owning the place- for Sibenik. This was the first town Croatians built on the Adriatic sea, the first document found about it dates back to 1066. Saint James cathedral and Saint Nicolas fortress are included in UNESCO world heritage list. Saint James cathedral, according to UNESCO, is the perfect union of Gothic and Renaissance’s styles. After a few hours exploring the city we are too hot and decide to drive until the camping we are planning to sleep at tonight, in Zaboric, a village on the coast.

Once there, we are kindly welcomed by the owner that places us in a pitch in the sun, our van will be burning the next morning… After a bath and a beer we are ready for the bed. The night is just too hot.

Krapanj Island and its underwater beauties – Monday

Another sleepless night and a breakfast under the bit of shadow our camping pitch offers start a long and hot day. A good side of the heat is that we are drying figs that we collected on our way to Sibenik, they look tasty.

After a failed attempt to catch a bus from Zaboric to Brodarica, we wait an hour in the shade of the bus stop hoping to catch the next one. At 1pm we finally hop on the bus. After a few minutes we realize we are going too far, when we manage to stop we are further than the village and the bus driver manages to get 20 kunas from us without giving us a ticket, a recipe or an explanation. Frustrated, we walk back to the village centre, descend to the coast and take a ferry that in a few minutes drops us on Krapanj island. This tiny island is famous for its sponges and its lively underwater world. It’s for the second reason that we are here. We walk until the northern coast of the island and start snorkelling. The sea here is shallow for hundred metres from the coast, which means a lot to discover with our goggles. We spend a good hour swimming between fishes, spotting corals, sea urchins, algae and crabs. There is little people on this part of the island: we can enjoy the spot as well as a bench in the shadow all the afternoon.

Back on land, we reach the bus stop of Brodarica. A bus stops by, we ask if it stops in Zaboric, but as soon as the bus driver realizes we speak English he starts saying “no, no, no…” and leaves. After a few minutes trying to hitch-hike -even if we are pretty sure it won’t work in Covid’s days-, we decide to walk back. We walk 40 minutes on the side of the road with cars passing by all along. A bath in Zaboric beach refreshes us as well as the beer we enjoy after showering.

The night is almost fresh and a few drops of water reach the dried soil.

Visiting Split before taking a ferry to Ancona – Tuesday

We are happy to leave this campsite. Even if this is not the best summer season for Zaboric, the camping was almost full, the village still crowded -mostly with Croatians- and the heat is just unbearable.

Saturday night we managed to buy a very cheap ferry ticket Split-Ancona, that will allow us to reach Italy avoiding passing by the places we have already visited on our way to Slovenia. The ferry is leaving from split tonight at 7:30pm. Therefore, we decide to spend the early afternoon exploring Split, Croatian second-largest city. Here the Roman emperor Diocletian built its palace in the year 305. The city later become Byzantine and then was controlled by the Republic of Venice. Later on it was Napoleonic time, then the Austrians, annexed to Italy during World War II. After the Socialist period, under Yugoslavia, Split, and the whole country, got finally independent in 1991.

Today, the city-centre is a UNESCO site worth of protection. Practically, the Diocletian palace now hosts restaurants and souvenir shops.

After a few hours waiting to board on our ferry heading to Italy, we finally leave the coast in the sunset light enjoying a last glimpse of Split. We try sleeping in the kids’ playground of the ferry, it’s the only soft piece of flooring.

Heading back to Italy...

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