We left Northern Italy on a mission – to get to Athens, Greece, as quickly as possible. The reason for our haste? We were going to look at a boat – a Lagoon 420 Catamaran to be precise!
Despite a stop at Lidl to stock up on food after leaving Venice, it only took us a few hours to reach the Italian border with Slovenia.
Slovenia was quite pretty but rather unmemorable and for the first time since we had set off a month previously, we had grey and drizzly weather.
Amazingly we were at the border with Croatia within an hour and we were through passport control and customs quickly as both Slovenia and Croatia (Hrvatska) are EU countries.
We made for Rijeka, a port city on Kvarner Bay, where we were going to stay the night in a 24 hour car park near the water.
Unfortunately we didn’t get the best impression of this city as firstly we couldn’t find the car park (naturally all the signposts were in Croatian but the one way system was also very confusing). Then there were a surprising number of people openly sleeping rough, others staggering drunk and one poor person lying passed out in the middle of an area round a monument.
We have of course seen homeless and drunk people in many cities around the world but for some reason it felt more confronting here perhaps because it was so “in your face”. We couldn’t help feeling that life was very tough for a large part of the population who appeared to be living in poverty. Later we did some research and it seems that a massive and shocking 19.5 per cent of the population live below the poverty line in Croatia.
The events of the next day didn’t help our mood. Quite early (for us anyway – 7.30 am) there was a knock on the door. A shabby looking man asked as to turn the van around as the space we were in bordered a section where cars were being brought in by a tow truck (parking violators possibly?). Jonathan said that we would be going in 20 minutes and the man then asked us to pay the 25 Euros for the parking and he would issue the ticket.
As we had no change we gave the man 50 Euros and last we saw he was heading over to the ticket office. Well that was the last we saw of him. The person at the ticket office told us he didn’t work there but gave us an exit ticket anyway without argument. We wondered if the two of them were in the scam together.
It left a bit of a bad taste but we didn’t begrudge the money as the poor man looked so impoverished that we felt he probably needed it more than we did!
Croatia really redeemed itself after that. The coast road was absolutely spectacular- probably one of the most beautiful coast roads either of us had ever driven on. There were quite a lot of twists and turns – we thought a perfect road for motorbike riding but a bit scary when cars cut the corners and you’d suddenly be confronted by a one heading straight for you. Thankfully there wasn’t too much traffic of any description!
Towards evening we started to get a little anxious because all the camping places we thought we could stop at were closed (too early in the season). The sun was beginning to set and we hadn’t seen so much as a car park to stop the night.
Then that travelling magic happened and we saw a sign for a camper van stop that had “open now” emblazoned on the sign. It wasn’t only open but it was absolutely beautiful with fabulous views of the ocean and the Croatian islands on the horizon.
We had really lucked out again and agreed that we would have to come back again in the future and stay a little longer. In the meantime, we had an appointment in Athens to keep!