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By Motorhome to Croatia & Bosnia-Herzegovina

NB These notes are intended to satisfy a number of audiences: casual viewers, people interested in the Balkans, and motorhomers considering visiting this lovely country.. For this reason I have added information likely to be of interest to motorhomers only.  

"MSF" = "Miles So Far"

Tues 12th May

To Dover for the 1750 Sea France sailing, via Emmetts, a glorious NT garden in Kent with rhododendron and azalea in full bloom. A stiff breeze, and reports that the seawas rough, made us nervous of the crossing, but in the event the "rough sea" was no more than the normal English Channel sea state.

Once ashore, to the aire  de camping car (ADC) at Gravelines as usual. It is worth noting that the Camperstop satnav POI for this aire is incorrect by several miles. It is in fact: N50.98794 E: 2.12239

MSF (miles so far) 218.

 Wed 13th May

A grey day. A long drive, via Lille, Dinant, Luxembourg, Saarbrucken to an aire by the canal basin at Saverne. There is a working inclined plane 10 miles away that we looked at, but it  is purely a tourist attraction, very disappointing. Heavy rain in places, and heavy traffic. We made a mistake in trying to tell Sally (Satnav!) where to navigate us via - she knows best! And after dinner - a thunderstorm overhead.

MSF 571

Thurs 13th May

Heavy rain overnight. The plan was to walk along the canal to the town, but the aire we were parked in became overrun with French commuters and school run mums parking cars badly, and there was a strong chance we would be hemmed in for the rest of the day. Discretion being the  better part of valour, we made a run for it. After some discussion we decided to let Sally take us to an aire at Kiefersfelden, about a mile from the Austrian border. This was a much more relaxed drive, being almost all motorway. The ADC is the car park of a water ski centre.

MSF 875

Fri 14th May

Enough of Germany - Austria calls. And it's only 2 miles away. We bought our motorway vignette in Germany - €7.70 for 10 days use of motorways. Almost immediately the scenery was transformed to the stereotypical scenery of the Sound of Music. Glorious green fields covered with bright yellow flowers. The flowers were almost entirely dandelions, a weed at home, but here a major impact for the eye.

A 6 Km tunnel cost €10, but saved 80 miles or so. Diesel is the cheapest so far, and a good deal cheaper than home. By lunchtime we had reached our target, a campsite at Kals. The site supposedly had free Internet, but although I could connect I couldn't get it to give me Internet access. Frustrating!

The purpose of coming to this site, close to our trip over the Glossglockner, was to do some walking, but it seems winter was particularly bad, and there is a high risk of avalanche. Walking the wanderwegs and bergwegs  is decidedly ill-advised, so we walked the plains instead, in a mixture of clouds, sunshine and light rain.

MSF 968

Sat 16th May.

Walked 10.5 miles today, up past Lucknerhaus, to a height of 2066 metres. The weather was a lot better, and the walking more interesting. We were lucky to see a marmot from quite close quarters.

Sun 17th May

A lovely morning, leading into a lovely day. We have decided to move on because we have walked the available walk - all the others are closed for safety. Cost for these 3 nights, including tourist tax, €36 (with ACSI card that makes it cheaper in off peak season). A gentle drive on to Granz, near Lienz. Camping Ponderosa at Granz is a very pleasant little family site, with a very friendly welcome in good English, and we had a happy afternoon sitting in the sun. However we discovered there is very little to do here except sit in the sun, there being very few footpaths, so we resolved to move on tomorrow.

MSF 995 

Mon 18th May

Another fine day, and we moved on to Wertschach, where we had another ACSI site in mind. However, it was really quite tacky, and literally right beside it was a lovely little farm site, beautifully clean, and only slightly more expensive, which is where we ended up.

After lunch, a 5 1/2 mile walk, involving climbing 1000 feet or so. We should be fit by the time we leave Austria!

MSF 1037 

Tues  19th May

Today another 10 mile walk, climbing steeply to 1100  metres. Just at the farthest point, as we started to eat lunch, it began to rain. We had left the site in full sun, with hardly a cloud in site, so windows and vents were open, and washing was hanging on the line. In the event, the rain came to nothing, although it threatened a downpour all the way back. The site owner had taken in the washing, and the day ended with a hot sun blazing again. The overall cost for the site was €15 pn. 

Wed 20th May

Rain overnight meant our chairs were wet, but we awoke to a fine morning, and managed to leave the site soon after 9. We returned the way we came, visited a couple of Spar supermarkets, then headed over the Plockenpass to Italy,  with lunch at the very top. A useful place to overnight when travelling this way. Interestingly, although a  reasonable climb to the top on the Austrian side, it was a massively long descent on the Italian side. We joined the A23 autostrada at6 Tolmezzo,and came off near  Trieste for a cost of €4.80. Sally took us through to Trieste to where Camperstop said the             ADC was. All we could see was a dreary looking road with motorhomes all along it, interspersed with cars and lorries. Our heats sank! This was dreadful! We wouldn't dream of leaving Tottie here unattended! Just as we began to think the only option was to carry on through Slovenia to Croatia, Rosemary found the real ADC, round the corner under a flyover, with a security barrier and an attendant, and with stacks of spaces available. Phew. No sooner had we stopped than the attendant turned up with a sheaf of useful info on Trieste. Very welcoming. And there is no charge.

It is very hot here, after the cool freshness of the  Austrian Alps, but we are now at sea level (overlooking the docks).

Later, we walked into the centre of Trieste. Navigation was easy because the maps supplied by the attendant were excellent. A pleasant, unpretentious working city, with real docks and real ships.

MSF 1187 

Thurs 21st May

Today we did far too much, and I'm totally knackered! An earlyish start, a walk into Trieste, then a walk round and round looking at various streets. These are interesting but unexceptional, but there are some fine buildings scattered around. A "large coffee" turned out to be about 2 mouthfuls. That was because I had it white. Rosemary had hers black, and it was about 2 teaspoons full! A visit to an Internet cafe proved that Mussolini is alive and well - I had to produce my passport, and details were duly logged against my Internet login. Britain's "New Labour" home secretaries would think they were in paradise!

Then lunch, and the best part of the day - a trip on the tram up to Opicina, high above Trieste. At one point the incline is 25%. At the top of the hill is a superb view over Trieste - and more walking. We walked 2.5Km along a dreary track, and back, although we did see lizards and at  one point, a deer that jumped onto the path just in front of us. It's a toss up over who was most surprised. Eventually, we caught a tram back to Trieste and walked back to the van. We had been out for 10 hours, walking for a large part of this time.

MSF 1253 

Fri 22nd May

Another walk into Trieste. This time Rosemary went  to the Revoltella museum, whilst I spent a couple of hours with a coffee reading New Scientist. After lunch at the same cafe as yesterday, a 20 minute bus ride to Miramare, the castle built by Maximillian in the 19th century. Max was the brother  of Emperor Franz Josef of Austria, and seems quite a progressive chap. He was prevailed upon by France to become emporor of Mexico after they had overthrown the revolutionary leader, mainly as counterweight to growing US power. Eventually the French abandoned him (does that sound familiar? WW1?WW2?), and Max was executed by Mexican revolutionaries. There is a famous painting of the event. Very sad - he  seemed a very nice chap. 

Sat 23rd May

A quieter night than last night - it's good of the Trieste authorities to make a free ADC within walking distance of the city centre, but it is underneath a fly-over and  beside 3 railway lines, so isn't the most peaceful location. So after emptying grey and black water, and topping up with fresh water, we headed for a motorhome dealer at nearby Muggia, just to see if they had any interesting accessories (it's always fun to get a new toy), but they hadn't.

Next battle, getting into Slovenia but avoiding their very expensive motorways. All crossings seem to direct you into a motorway, for which you have to buy a vignette for €35. As this bit of Slovenia is only a few miles wide, before we get into Croatia, this seems excessive if not crooked. After asking a Slovenian policewoman we managed to avoid the motorway by driving through a filling station, through a no entry sign, and on to the old road. Even here they kept directing you back to the motorway. 

However, after no more than 30 minutes in Slovenia we had crossed into Croatia, and made our way to Rovinj, again avoiding motorways. We hummed and hawed about which campsite, but eventually settled on "Porton Biondi", set on terraces amongst mature trees, and within walking distance of the old town. There is shade, a view of Rovinj (on a headland) and a cool breeze off the Adriatic. Over the road is a stony beach. I gather from the gasps of Germans who went swimming that the water was very cold! That will save me the trouble of finding out for myself.

After dinner, a balmy walk into Rovinj. Although decidedly touristy, it is charming and unspoilt. Looking at the cars in the car park, Austrians are the biggest visitors, followed by Germans, Italians and Slovenians. 

Sun 24th May

We wandered into town and spent this morning exploring the old town, narrow streets lined with shiny cobbles, colourful washing hung up high, glimpses of the sea, shutters, tiny bars in improbable cellars, cats and a cool breeze.. After a couple of hours of happily wandering we bought local sea bass and wandered back. We spent a lazy after noon writing and drawing in the sunshine, this site really encourages you to chill and watch the world go by.

Mon 25th May

Checked out of the site - 2 nights cost €22. A very pleasant site, convenient for Rovinj, shaded, cool breezes, English spoken (well).

Then a short hop straight across the Istrian peninsula to Brestova to catch the ferry to Cres. At least 10 miles of the main coast road from Plomin had been turned into a dirt track as the road was resurfaced - driving was quite  a challenge. This meant we just missed a ferry, and had to wait 1 1/2 hours for the next. There was none of the normal process of stacking vehicles that is standard at ferry terminals, just a free for all, with Austrians and Germans jockeying for poll position. A German wohnmobile that arrived after us was obviously determined to be first on board, and he was. 

The island of Cres is quite narrow, and so are some of the roads. The first campsite we headed for turned out to be non existent, the second, referenced in the 2009 Camperstop book, turned out to be accessible only on foot, so we were forced to find the HUGE "Camp Kovachine" at Cres (the town).This was truly enormous, a place for holidaymakers to settle in for a fortnight or more, not travellers stopping by for a day or so. Internet access cost 1 HRK a minute, approx £8 per hour expensive even by UK caravan club standards! 

We found a place in the shade, not far from the sea. After dinner, we strolled into town along the path by the seashore. A pleasant unpretentious little town, with a lot to be unpretentious about.

MSF 1338 

Tues 26th May

We didn't much take to this site, so by 0840 we were on our way to the ferry at Merag, to take us to the nearby island of Krk. This cost the same as yesterday's ferry, about £26. Then it was a short hop to an ACSI site on the North West coast, at Glavotok, Glavotok Camping. A pleasant site, but with many static vans. Here I took my first swim of the year, water warmer than I had expected, but I hadn't expected to step on a sea urchin, either, and Rosemary spent half an hour removing bits of spine from my foot. 

Here also we met Sue & Ian, who arrived a few hours after us in a Rapido 741. They have been out of the UK since January, and return the same day as us in July. we spent a happy evening drinking wine and swapping tales. As they've both had sea urchin problems in the past, and Sue is a retired nurse, I was reassured that there should be no complications. They have their trip up on www.motorhometrips.blogspot.com .

MSF 1354 

Wed 27th May

A grey window day with occasional showers. This wasn't expected! My sea urchin foot doesn't seem to be infected, thank goodness. Another pleasant evening spent with Sue & Ian. 

Thurs 28th May

Time to move on again. This site cost 250 HRK for 2 nights, about £30. There is still a stiff breeze, maybe even force 8 gale, but the sun is shining. We stopped for coffee in a lay-by with good view, and a steep drop, and the offshore wind was threatening to blow us over the edge, until we moved head into wind. The offshore wind makes for a very dramatic sea, it's unusual to see waves racing away from the shore.

The ferry onto the island of Pag cost 188 HRK, about £25, almost as much as the Dover Calais trip cost. Much of Pag is like inland Cornwall. We came here on our last visit 9 or so years ago, but since then the towns have been "developed" (unsympathetically). We stopped at the site (Camping Simuni, www.camping-simuni.hr ) we noted last time as a lovely site to visit, but which is now a huge "camping village" (More of a camping city, really). We elected to stop in the camping area rather than the pitches that had electricity and water, because it was substantially cheaper. A large chunk of the area was taken up by one elderly Dutch couple in a caravan, who had spread all their kit around to stop any camping in adjacent spots. More chunks were taken up by 2 Austrian vans doing something similar. 

The nice looking beach, it transpired, consists not of shingle or sand, but rather sharp grit. The site is hard to get out of - being surrounded by barbed wire like a prison camp, and is a maze of unmarked alleys and streets, so much so that we got lost on the way out. This has to be one of the worst sites we've stayed on. We revised our plan to stay a few days, and resolved to leave the next morning.

MSF 1462 

Fri 29th May

Eventually we found our way out of the site. They tried to charge over 500 HRK, and give us back German passports, but when they got the right bill it was not too expensive by Croatian standards, 100 HRK (about £12.50). 

Nine years ago the main town on Pag, also called Pag, was quaint and interesting. In the intervening years it has been "developed", and is now unrecognisable. We decided not to  stay, but headed for an ACSI site at Nin, Camping Laguna. After we parked up, and were having lunch, the owner came and told us that pitch was reserved. He did indicate a pitch opposite, which we moved into. Almost immediately a peroxide blonde tumbled out of a nearby Austrian van to tell us that it was reserved for her friends who were arriving on Sunday - and there weren't even any beach towels laid out to reserve it! We stayed put, she marched off to see the owner, and later came back tell us it was OK.

MSF 1509 

Sat 30th may

We caught the 8.00 bus into Zadar, and spent the day wandering the streets and quays. It is a very old town, its main church is the circular St Donatus, built in the 9th century on the site of the Roman Forum and using many Roman stones. I climbed the bell tower for an aerial view of the town. We returned to the bus station and only just caught the bus having mistakenly waited in the wrong place- the bus took a totally different route home and confused us- such are the joys of public transport abroad- the adventure nothing compared with using Romanian public transport. 

Sun 31st May

Another grey day that turned to steady rain. After a brief look at a tiny and very old church outside of Nin, we moved on a short hop to a very nice site at Drage - Autocamp Oaza Mira. Large shady pitches, all with electricity and water, excellent facilities, all for €15 pn. Downside is they give you ID bracelets to wear whilst on site. Here we picked up the Internet for 24 hours on our Vodafone connection - it seems the UK is having a heat wave!

MSF 1544 

Mon 1st June

More rain, more cold! We went for a short walk, and came back soaked. A good day to stay indoors and play with out toys e.g painting, reading, listening to more episodes of "Daughter of Time", Photoshopping photos etc. 

Tues 2nd June

Heavy rain overnight which continued until about 11 am. When it stopped we decided to make a move - and it seemed half the camp was packing up. The Dutch couple next to us said prices went up to €35 pn on 4th June - a powerful incentive to leave. 

On our way we stopped off to visit Primosten. We passed this  little town on a glorious day on our way home 9 years ago. It sits on a small promontory, and it looked like a silver jewel set in an azure sea. We were looking forward to visiting- and what a disappointment! Featureless and characterless, not a patch on Rovinj, which is full of atmosphere. 

We veered off the main road a couple of times, looking for campsites that existed on the map but not on the ground, and finished up at large unprepossessing ACSI site at Vranjica, Vranjica Belvedere, with good views over the islands. a few miles from Trogir.  This is obviously an ex communist camp site, from the days when workers were bussed in from Czechoslovakia and East Germany. We apparently went to Trogir 9 years ago, but I have absolutely no recollection of it.

MSF 1608 

Wed 3rd June

At last, a sunny morning! Left the site early, and visited Trogir, a few miles away. It's a UNESCO world heritage site, an old town of very narrow cobbled alleys Car parking was 20 HRK an hour, about £2.50, so we only stayed 2 hours, but in that time we had walked every alley several times, and bought bread and fruit at the market. 

We were heading for Camping Baska Polje, near Baska Voda, a site we visited 9 years ago. Then it was a large rambling run down ex communist site, with a large city of tents with buses arriving from Czechoslovakia with happy holiday makers. Today it is exactly the same, except that the tents have gone, there are no buses from the Czech Republic, and the site is almost empty. The camp, despite being empty, has one of the best stocked shops we've seen on a campsite, and 2 English speaking shop assistants. We have decided to stay at least one night, for old time's sake. 

So after settling in, we walked down to the sea, then followed the very pleasant promenade into Baska Voda, about 20 minutes. BV is VERY touristy, with a nice little harbour. Then back, and continued the promenade beyond Baska Polje. The pines, with their thick shade, run right down to the narrow beach, ideal for doing the beach without getting hot, sticky and burnt. We also identified a few small coves (very small!) for skinny dipping, slightly secluded from the promenade. Having returned to the van for towels and beach shoes, we returned and skinny dipped.

MSF 1657 

Thurs 4th June

Today turned out hot and sunny. In the morning we walked left towards Makarska. Several information boards gave outlines of footpaths, but none indicated you could walk to Makarska. However, when we reached Krvavica it looked as though the path continued along the coast. We weren't kitted out for a longer walk, but decided to return the next day, weather permitting. So back to the site for lunch, and returned to "our" cove. Later we decided we were on too much of a fore and aft slope for the fridge, which was showing signs of thawing, so spent some time attempting, unsuccessfully, to make it more level. We assumed that once we started moving the fridge would work properly again. 

Today is county council and European Parliament elections in the UK, which we have missed. The polls are suggesting it will be a disaster for Labour. CC results should be known tomorrow, but the EP results won't be announced until Sunday. 

Fri 5th June

An early (ish) start to walk to Makarska. We think it is 5.5-6 miles each way. Weather hot and sunny, but as reached Makarska a strong breeze kept things cool. Beyond where we reached yesterday there is a glorious bit of walking, firstly along rocks, then through a deliciously smelling pine forest. On the Makarska side it turns to a rather boring gravel drive, and gradually the holiday sprawl of Makarska impinges. I have to say I'm not that keen on Makarska, but it made a suitable destination for a walk. We returned the way we had come, in time for a cup tea before getting back to our cove. 

I decided to invest in another 24 hours of Internet, to see what's going on in UK, mainly about government resignations and reshuffles. Here we are , in the middle of nowhere, with a 3.8 Mbps Internet connection. At home we're sometimes lucky to get a connection at all. Seems the Brown government is holed below the waterline, with ministers jumping overboard. Yet nobody is prepared to tell the captain he's got to go! 

Sat 6th June.

We've been here 3 days, and we have itchy feet. Despite its faded & jaded appearance we quite like this site. As Rosemary said, "full of happy ghosts". We saw 9 years ago coaches full of East Europeans arriving for their summer break, this huge site covered with permanent tents, numerous shower and toilet blocks, and backs of refrigerated cupboards for visitor use. Of course, the time you pack to leave is when you start a long conversation with your French neighbours who have no English.

We left Baska Polje at 10 am, and by 11.30 we were in the ferry queue at Polce to take us to the Peljesac peninsula. The ferry was the  smallest we had been on here, and  we all had to reverse on, which made it interesting. The crossing was nearly an hour, and there was a stiff breeze blowing. On disembarking, we made our way to a charming little site at Divna Trpan, run by a New Zealander. Massively shaded with large olive trees, and in a very small bay between 2 hills, it has a bit of a run down air about it, but as we don't like the shiny all singing all dancing sites, that adds to the charm. It has to be said there isn't much to do from here. There is now a full gale blowing, and the sea is looking quite dramatic - we caught the ferry just in time.

Here we discovered the fridge was still quietly defrosting, and I spent some time in the remaining hour of our Internet connection looking for nearby Dometiq service agents. (There is one in Dubrovnik.) Whilst we debated what to do, I switched the fridge to gas, and turned the thermostat DOWN, in case by turning it right up we had gone past the top stop. Some 15 minutes later we discovered the freezer was freezing fast! Was it turning to gas? or was it the thermostat? My guess is the thermostat. Tomorrow, when the fridge is nice and cold again, I'll turn it back to auto to see if that recreates the problem.

MSF 1700

Sun 7th June

The day started off fine, but went down from there. We were told of a secluded beach the other side of the village of Duba Pljeska, a village about 2 miles along the coast, so set off to find it, The village has a nice little harbour, and it was again blowing a full gale. By the time we had found the beach, along an unmarked track, the sun had gone and it was quite cold. Discretion being the better part of valour, we gave up and headed back. 

Mon 8th June

Again the day started fine, but this time it remained that way. We negotiated the overhanging trees and tight hairpin bends at the campsite entrance, and headed off to find a site near Loviste point. Scenery on the way was spectacular, but very touristy. Eventually we found a small site near the village of Loviste. This a nice unspoilt village, just what we were after. The site is just over a small road from the sea - in a natural harbour.

MSF 1730 

Tues 9th June.

A cold night - we had to put our duvet on about 3 am. Clothes left out overnight were quite wet with dew. Cold night turned into hot day, and after catching up on some washing, we set forth  to reach the point at the end of the isthmus. (I have to keep reminding myself we are not  on an island, despite having arrived by ferry.) There seem to be no worthwhile walking maps, so went by trial and error. We found our way to a pleasant deserted headland, but it wasn't the point we were seeking. We spent a pleasant half hour on the rocks beside a clear  blue absolutely flat calm sea, before walking back for lunch. That was 2 miles each way.

MSF 1776 

Wed 10th June

A day of meandering and strolling.

Thurs 11th June

Today is a public holiday – don’t know why. When we told the proprietor we were leaving, he said it was a holiday and we should stay because he was putting on a fish barbecue for his guests. However, we are running at least a week behind our schedule already, so we declined his invitation.

We drove to Orobic to catch the ferry to Korcula. Once on the island we drove to the far end, past Vela Luka, to camping Mendal, near the end of the peninsula, in a nature reserve. First impressions of the site were not good – but in fact it was an excellent site, set amongst mature olive and almond trees, and withing walking distance to rocky coves in several directions.

Fri 12th June

Our practice of a morning walk, back for lunch and hide in the shade until 3 before venturing out again has become standard - it works quite well. So in the morning we ventured forth to reach the end of the island, but after 1/2 mile we found it was fenced off as a military zone. But nearby we did find a good sized slab of rock that sloped to the sea, worn smooth and very comfortable to sit or lie on, and an ideal backdrop for photos. We tried many other tracks and paths. Some just petered out, most degenerated into pushing through scratchy undergrowth or a rocky scramble to a shore with a difficult rocky terrain. 

Later we returned to the smooth rock to take some photos, and found some more paths to walk down. None were as good as our smooth rock, though. 

Sat 13th June

Because we wanted to get to Korcula town for the morning we rose early, and left the site at 0745. Korcula is about an hour away, and we got there early enough to get one of the last parking slots by the harbour. A pleasant old town in the standard Croatian tradition of tall buildings and narrow alleyways. 

Later, whilst Rosemary walked the streets alone, I sat in the van with a coffee. There was a knock at the door, and a German couple stood outside. They were disappointed to see me, as they had some friends with a van just like Tottie. I asked if their friends names were Sue & Ian - and they were! So I was able to tell them that they were catching the ferry to Korcula today, and gave them their mobile number. They were Ursula (Ushie) and Wolfgang, a thoroughly nice couple, and were camping on the mainland. They are also planning to visit Mostar, so our paths may cross again. Small world, or what? 

Rosemary returned, and we headed on our way, lunching beside the road with a spectacular view, then carried on to a tiny campsite at a tiny town, at Zuljana. 

MSF 1841 

Sun 14th June

We continued driving down the peninsula towards Dubrovnic. At Ston, at the head of the peninsula, there is an enormous fortification, at one time the second longest after the Great Wall of China. As we drove past Dubrovnik, high on the cliffs overlooking the Adriatic, we could see several cruise ships anchored off. One was the honestly named “Costa Fortuna” – and I have a photo to prove I didn’t make it up! Our target destination was the border with Montenegro, just to say we had reached the end of Croatia. The area was rather disappointing, and we retraced our steps to Camping Monica at Molunat, a small settlement around a natural harbour. 

Mon 15th June

After a prompt start we drove 30 miles or so to Camping Kate, outside Dubrovnic. (I like the idea of going from Monica to Kate!). Arriving early (10.00) we had a wide choice of spaces, and found ourselves on the best pitch on the site, at the top of the steps down to the lovely little resort of Mlini. Near the site is a bus into town, and the bus  was always crowded.

We loved Dubrovnik, although it is extremely touristy. You felt you had stepped into the set of a Shakespeare play, despite the throng of tourists

MSF 1947 

Tues 16th June

Bus into Dubrovnic again, this time with the intention of seeing the rest of the city. We managed to get thoroughly lost, and there does not appear to be a “city centre” with shops and malls etc. Strange. We did find a tree lined avenue that led to a rather pleasant and shady bay. However it was all too hot, and we caught a crowded bus back to Mlini. 

Wed 17th June

Very hot  - 35 deg C. We found a nice secluded cove in the shade near Mlini, and kept cool in the Adriatic. Ian and Sue arrived later that afternoon, and we had a pleasant meal in a restaurant by the beach in Mlini. 

Thurs 18th June

A short burst of heavy rain during the night, and strong winds. I apparently missed seeing Sue rushing round the site in the nude stowing chairs etc away, but their neighbours were more fortunate! 

By the morning both wind and rain had abated, and we caught the small ferry from Mlini  quay to Dubrovnik, which took getting on for an hour. There were many hotels and resorts along the coast that had been bombed out, and remain derelict- seems strange 18 years after the war ended! It is going to be a hot day. Our primary target for the visit was to walk the city walls. These are complete, and over 2 Km long. To our surprise, it took over 2 hours to circumnavigate the city. Ian had been here before the war, and said it was now a shadow of its former glory, all the centuries old roof tiles having been destroyed by Serb shelling. It had been reported in the press that they had found a firm in Italy to remake the tiles – but these just look like plastic. 

Lunch - freshly made rolls in a sandwich bar, then I sat myself in a bar with a beer and a New Scientist to read while Rosemary tramped round even more streets - I think she missed her profession! Now the thing I like about continental bars and cafes is there's no pressure to leave or buy more drink, but after half a hour the young waiter turned up with another beer "on the house". Impressive, or what?

Then it was time for an ice cream before catching the ferry back to Mlini. Now V hot, so time for a quick dip on the FKK beach. These beaches are usually not the best beaches, but they are usually adequate, and quiet. 

After dinner, another long alcohol and chat evening with Sue and Ian. 

Fri 19th June

Left the site by 0900, cost about 98 HRK per night, inc electricity – about £12. This has to be the best site we've been on in Croatia, and the only one we spent 4 nights on. After spending the last of our Kuna at a Konzum supermarket, we headed north and crossed into Bosnia-Herzegovina. The bit we entered was Herzegovina, and was the infamous Serbian enclave of Republic Serpska. The border police demanded not just our passports, but also the green card for insurance - we have rarely been asked for this. It looks like details of the van were entered into my passport, just like in Bulgaria. 

A few miles further on, we stopped at Trebinje to get some BiH cash. (Haven't cash machines made holiday cash easy?) There are about 2.6 BHM (Marka) to the GBP. This rather dusty town is said to be the most beautiful cities in BiH (admittedly, by its own guide book), but we struggled with that (or maybe we have some shocks coming!). Then a climb up and over a spectacular mountain range. Slow work, as it was narrow, with a bend every 20 metres or so. There is a national park here (Sutjeske), and our intended site is situated within the park at Tjense. The info we got off the web claimed it had 11 washbasins, 20 WCs, 8 showers. In fact it has precisely 0 of all of these! There is a disgusting looking loo block, but it seems derelict and is locked up. On the plus side, we have yet to find anyone to pay - perhaps they are all too embarrassed?

Also on site is a convoy of Dutch motorhomes obviously on a guided tour. This seems very un Dutch like - we've always found them the most intrepid of travellers. About 7pm they all headed off to the nearby hotel for dinner, and came back later for a sing-song.

MSF 2043 

Sat 20th June

That was a cold night! We shouldn't be surprised, it's at 1800 feet, and well into the mountains. As we prepared to move off, a little man (literally) turned up with a badge that he indicated meant he was an official. I didn't understand a word he said, until he said "pivo". Got it! He was after a beer! So I gave him a small bottle of Croatian beer, and he went away happy. 

We left the "camp site", and dropped out of the mountains to Gorazde, a Bosnian enclave in Republica Srpska, looking for a restaurant that was said to have a camp site. We never found it! Instead, we continued along the road beside the river  Drina. The road and the river pass through some spectacular gorges, easily the equal of the more famous Gorges du Tarn in France. The road passes through many short and not so short tunnels. The contrast between the brilliant sunshine outside and the almost pitch black inside made you feel as if were doing 40 mph into pitch darkness. Even worse, the tunnels are dark and unreflective, so headlights are pretty ineffectual too! 

We turned off this road where the river Lim joined the main stream, and here the gorges were even more spectacular. Anywhere else there would be large picnic areas where you could enjoy the view. Here there were only small rubbish strewn informal lay-bys for one or two cars. 

We were heading for a "river steam train", a boat that sailed the gorges. Eventually we found where it should be (Setihovo), but the service can't have started yet. Having failed to find the rumoured "camping ground", we parked up on the large area of waste ground near the quay, near where  number of cars were parked. The quay had a nice covered area, so we took ourchairs and drinks and sat admiring the river. Rosemary had just said "it would have been nice to have seen the boat" when it came round a bend in the river. There was obviously a party in full swing, with a piano accordion accompanying a general sing song. 

The boat berthed alongside with a crash, and tied up. The passengers started drifting ashore, then setting up tables and chairs from the boat on the quay. 2 young ladies asked us where we from. They said they were Serbian teachers celebrating the end of term, and would we like to eat with them? Beer, wine, and home made spirit was flowing, and barbecues set up on the shore. We were introduced to another English teacher, a chap who spoke excellent English. He was worried that some of his expressions, such as "raining cats and dogs", "chop chop", & "nooks and crannies" were outdated. Following a discussion on beer - he didn't like beer because it all tasted the same, I gave him my next to last bottle of English ale – that definitely doesn’t taste like lager!. 

It then transpired that one of the teachers had lost his bag with his phone & wallet, and the police had been called. A policeman duly arrived, said he was not going to search anyone, looked in the boat, then left. After this the party broke up, and they got in their cars and headed back to Serbia. It is obvious from the way they spoke that they consider the Serb parts of Bosnia (which seems to be half of Bosnia Herzegovina) as an integral part of Serbia. 

Later, as it was getting dark, a police car drove alongside and checked us out, gave us a wave and a thumbs up, and departed. As we went to bed, it started to rain and we discovered the ceiling was alive with midges and mozzies! The ceiling now looks like a large Garibaldi biscuit!

MSF 2120 

Sun 21st June

The longest day - and it's overcast and raining, low cloud and mist, so we saw nothing of the dramatic gorges as we retraced our steps (going on would have taken us into Serbia). A5, A19-3, A19 to Sarajevo via Rogatica. A notable feature were the wild and fierce dogs roaming many of the lay-bys, but otherwise very attractive. The route through Sarajevo to the campsite gave us an excellent view of the city, which is long and thin because of the surrounding hills (and from which the Serbs fired over a million shells into the city during the 1992-95 siege). The last leg was along the infamous “sniper alley”. 

Finding the site once we were within striking distance was another matter! The directions off the Internet were hopeless, and directions on the ground even worse. Eventually we found it, a REAL campsite, cost €15 pn inc electricity. For future travellers the position is: N 43.82896, E 18.29686. 

After lunch we caught the no.3 tram into the old town. The tram terminus is about 10 minutes walk from the site, and one way cost 1.6 BAM, about 75pence. Trams run every 3 minutes. (Buy the tickets from the driver, make sure you punch it in the nearby machine. There are frequent ticket checks. When catching a tram back, catch it on its outward journey (it just circles round a loop) as it fills up rapidly after that). Sarajevo has a lovely warm feel to it, especially the old Turkish quarter. Most of the worst scars of the Serbian massacres of the 90's have been tidied over, but  most buildings still sport bullet holes.  

MSF  2200 

Mon 22nd June

Overnight a very large Swedish Hymer arrived, to join us and the small Dutch caravan. The Swedes were wandering off in the wrong direction, so  we walked them to the tram. As we sat on the tram the Dutch couple arrived, so we sat in a group and chatted (in English, of course). Naturally, it is raining casts and dogs. 

The only guide book we could buy in London was by Tim Clancy, an American aid worker who settled in Bosnia and lives in Sarajevo. The book describes a walking tour of Sarajevo, and we planned to follow it. The highlights  so far (we didn't complete it today): the spot where Crown Prince Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914, starting the first world war, and a 2 hour tour of the Sarajevo war tunnel, used to bring supplies to the city when it was besieged by the Serbs between 1992 and 1995. This has been the most moving city I have ever visited. I remember the Bosnian conflict well, but I had never really understood it, or what it really meant. After the WWII holocaust we all said "never again", and then we allowed the Serbs to get away with genocide, aided and abetted by the UN. We could have stopped it with a click of our fingers (or the administration of air power) but we let it go on. When NATO did get round to doing something, (bombing Belgrade after the scandal of Srebrenica,) peace was achieved within months. Our guide was a 10 year old schoolboy when the Serbs attacked, and has a shrapnel scar in his leg to prove it. 1600 children died in Sarajevo, and over 11,000 people in total, mostly civilians. He also described the food aid they'd received - he'd eaten American biscuits dated 1968, and tins of rancid Italian meat - I'd heard before that much foreign aid was dumping rubbish, or tying the recipient to spending the cash in the donor country. Our guide, a Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) said the weather here is continental - very cold winters and very hot summers - and I'm sitting here in the van in heavy rain in midsummer wearing a sweater and with the heating on! 

Tues 23rd June...

... and the nights are beginning to draw in! I took the morning off, having been cultured out, and Rosemary went into Sarajevo alone. I went in later and we met for lunch. From campsite to city centre is an hour. More rain, but warmer and with some (few) sunny periods. A cup of Turkish coffee, with lukum (Turkish delight) and a glass of water costs the same as a wee in the public toilet -  1 Kuna, about 40 pence.

Back at the site, the Swedes and Dutch have been replaced by 3 Germans, a Pole and a Swiss. 

Wed 24th June

Left the Sarajevo site at 0900, and found we were only a few hundred yards from the main road to Mostar. This would have been MUCH easier access than the circuitous route they directed us on! We took the E73, driving very gingerly because of warnings about police after backhanders. However we STLL got pulled in by the police, who demanded to see all our documents - insurance, green card, logbook, driving licences, passports, then walked round the vehicle until he could find something. Eventually he discovered that we didn't have an "80"  plate on the back. This must be the only country in Europe that has such a requirement of motorhomes, and we later noticed that even tiny vans, eg van variants of cars, carried such a sticker. He actually DREW an 80 in biro on the van gel coat - and so far we have been unable to get it off. He also started demanding money, we never did ascertain how much. We were trying to find out how to say we required a receipt, when he suddenly changed his mind and said we could go, and waved us out into the road. I suspect he had realised that his pen wouldn't wipe off, or maybe the communication difficulty was just too great. He asked if we spoke German, so we suspect he was expecting to pull in a German van where he could extort a bribe more easily. Later we met a French couple pulled in for speeding, who found they could escape a speeding ticket by handing over a backhander. It's a great shame, Bosnia is a beautiful country, the people are friendly and helpful, there is very little crime - and most of it is committed by the police. We have seen more police patrols here in a few days than in 4 weeks in Croatia.

Mostar is the most visited place in Bosnia Herzegovina, day trips from Dubrovnik, or from cruise liners calling at Dubrovnik. In our view it is vastly overrated. It has the famous and beautiful (and rebuilt after the war) bridge, and some nice old buildings around the bridge, but these have been wrecked by tourism. There is tourist tat everywhere, and touts for all manner of things pester you. When you stop at traffic lights you are pestered by whinging gypsies carrying babies - and here of all places, where everybody is poor, they have no excuse for carrying on their lucrative trade. Car parking is ludicrously expensive - we paid €3 per hour. We had an hour, saw the bridge, walked around the town, which was extensively damaged by Croat artillery, had an ice cream, and left. We don't expect to return.

Leaving Mostar, we headed for Blagaj, where we had a campsite planned, "Mali Wimbledon". However we thought it expensive and not too pleasant, so moved further into town to find River Camping, a delightful tiny (4 vans only) site, run by an ex Bosniak soldier and his father. It was expensive - €18 pn - but it was in the village centre, and within easy walking distance of the source of the Buna and the Dervish house. We strolled out to these as it got dark, but didn't go in. That's for tomorrow in the daylight. Just over the river are 2 restaurants where you choose your live trout from the tank. As it was raining, we didn't eat here.

The owner was very interesting to talk to. He was Bosniak, but not Muslim, and was upset that the world regarded Bosnia as a Muslim state. (www.camping-blagaj.com) 

MSF 2280 

Thurs 25th June

The Dervish house, still owned by a Dervish sect and situated where the river Buna bursts out of a limestone cave, is a major tourist attraction. Coach trips take people to Mostar, then on to Blagaj for lunch, and there are numerous posh restaurants beside the river. We walked there by 9 am, long before tourist buses arrived, and had a very pleasant and quiet tour of the house, and the area. On the way back to the van we visited Velagic, a private owned complex of houses built in 1776. Entry was only 1 mark, about 40 pence, and we were shown round by the owner. He was very interesting to talk to, too. 

As we left the site the site owner held traffic up for us to leave (it’s a very quiet road!), and we headed back the way we had come (via the Mostar by-pass), then turned left at Jablanica to Prozor. Here we took a left to wild camp outside the monastery at Scit, an isthmus on a large artificial lake. Already here was a large French van, a converted mobile library, en route to Greece. The young owner spent 6 moths making Languedoc wine, and 6 months travelling, and the van was his home. He had the biggest dog we've seen for years, and with the deepest bark. They should have no trouble with gypsies! They too had had trouble with the police, and found that they were being asked for a bribe to get them off the speeding ticket. Later a small Hungarian van arrived for the night. We did have some minor hassle with small boys hanging around as it got dark. Finally they knocked on the back of the van, and they disappeared when bellowed at.

MSF 2342 

Fri 26th June

The Hungarians had gone by 0700, but the French were still asleep when we left at 0915. The weather is still overcast, and soon turned to heavy rain as we drove via Bugojno and Donji Vakuf to Jajce. We had intended to go and see Travnik, but the heavy rain put us off. 

Jajce was heavily knocked about in the war, firstly by the Serbs and later by the Croats. There seems to have been a deliberate policy of destroying ancient Bosnian buildings, especially mosques. Even the church where the last king of Bosnia was crowned was destroyed. Many houses remain as they were at the end of the war in 1995 - burnt out, roofless, and wrecked. There is an impressive waterfall in the town, but not that impressive. 

The campsite is a few kilometres out of town, and is listed in ADAC 

Sun 28th June

Left the site at Jajce, and drove to Bagna Luka. BL is the capital of Republika Srpska, the Serb dominated area. and Bosnia's 2nd city after Sarajevo. But what a comparison! Sarajevo is bombed out, the people poor and seem malnourished, but has a lovely atmosphere, and people very friendly. BL is completely the opposite. Largely undamaged, and I guess the damaged houses belonged to Muslims (from the style and location), people are obviously very well nourished, and generally snappily dressed - no shortage of funds.  Wide boulevards and grand shops, I found it smug and detestable, and I couldn't get out fast enough. 

We tried to find 2 campsites, at the first at Krupa. This looked like a good site, but was full of gypsies, and had a most uncomfortable atmosphere. As the rain came on and got steadily heavier we looked for the site at Zelenkovac. We found the place, but the advertised site did not appear to exist. It was all in a very gloomy wood, with very rough tracks. In desperation we headed back towards the site we had left this morning (and the rain got heavier). However at Jezero we found a nice little site attached to a cafe. The ground was waterlogged so we stayed on the car park, and for 10 BAM (£4) we got free wifi as well. The only fly in the ointment was the barking of dogs through the night. Good to get wifi, though, that saved us a £10 mobile connection.

MSF 2521 

Mon 29th June

Today we investigated the Janj and Pliva valleys around Sipova. The rain has stopped, but it's grey and the forecast is for more heavy rain. These 2 river alleys are certainly unspoilt and gorgeous. About 4 Km from Sipovo, beside a beautifully clear, broad shallow river we stopped at a tiny fish restaurant. It had no signs or name as far as we could tell, and had trout, chips and a beer for 25BAM - about €10. Delicious. After we had finished the owner's wife came over with a piece of paper with her daughter's address on it. She had married a Welshman and they lived in Salisbury with their baby son. That's only 30 Km from where we live. Now is that a coincidence, or is that a coincidence? Luckily another visitor to the restaurant had recently returned from Australia, and was able to translate between us. 

We have been invited back later for food and drink after we have visited the sources of the rivers Plive and Sokocnica, not far away. This entailed a walk of half a mile or so for each, and each was spectacular. The Plive in particular, the river rushes full bore out of the mountain, through a jumble of rocks. 

Back at the small bar we have an interesting but exhausting evening being fed bean soup, slivowitz & beer, and making conversation with non English speaking Serb Bosnians. We talked by phone to their daughter in Salisbury, whose diction is flawless. Later, the son arrived and he was able to translate for us.(Considering he was only 15, translate very well!). We spent the night in the road beside the restaurant.

MSF 2555 

Tues 30th June

After coffee with the family, we set off towards Bihac. Eventually we came to a Bosnian region. In the Srpska cantons all the road signs are in Cyrillic script, with no translations, which makes navigating very challenging, as our map gives everywhere in Latin script. It is however significant that very often that is all the Cyrillic there is- all the adverts and shop signs are in Latin! As we reached the NW of the country there were wide open plains with little settlement, ringed with more distant hills, very different from the rest of Bosnia. The outskirts of Bihac had even more ruined buildings than we were used to, in places as much as every other house or business.

We tried to stop in Bihac for a look around, but the centre was being developed, there were road works and when we had gone past the sign which said 3 tons- (we are 3.5) a second time and struggled through horrendous roads with no sign at all of anywhere to stop, we made for the outskirts and eventually stopped at Orljani campsite beside the Uno river, so called because a Roman soldier looked at and said it was  Number 1, the most impressive river he had seen. We had an evening meal at a restaurant by the river- trout again, with Paul from Avignon, who was cycling to Turkey and hopefully on to Syria and Lebanon. 

Wed 1st July

We started by having a final chat with Paul the French cyclist, showing him our route and sites. As we chatted another cyclist appeared at the door wanting a chat, British this time. He was on his way back to Croatia and Slovenia having toured Bosnia. He also wanted to chat motorhomes as he's interested in getting one. Turns out he spoke fluent French, and as we left for home he (Rob) and Paul were chatting like old mates. 

So after another transit of Bihac we crossed into Croatia, and followed a minor road past the Plitvice National Park to the coast at Senj, where we picked up the Adriatic highway to Rijeka. The challenge was to get into Slovenia without being forced onto a motorway, and pay loads of money for a vignette. Getting out of Rijeka on the right road was another challenge, as roads were closed and there were diversions. Eventually we crossed into Slovenia at Rupa, and crossed into Italy above Trieste. Here we took the A4 and A23 motorways (cost €4.60) then the S52 to the Plockenpass - our route in several weeks ago. As we neared the Alps a thunderstorm broke, and the heavens opened - but the view of the Alps was magic. We're now at the top of the pass, intending spend the night here. That was a long drive from Bosnia, along some mostly difficult  (narrow and twisty) roads. We also discovered our Nationwide credit card expired yesterday!

MSF 2930 

Thurs 2nd July

During the night I managed to set the intruder alarm off, which gave Rosemary a shock at 5 am. The border is only 100 yards away, and is now manned by Carabinieri, with impressive uniforms with a broad red stripe down the leg. When we came this way 2 months ago the border was unmanned. Last night they were looking inside car boots, but this morning they just checked our passports and waved us on. 

Having descended from the pass in Austria, we turned left along the 111.This looked tiny, but scenic. And it was certainly both tiny and scenic - narrow, twisty and steep, so the driver didn’t to see much of the scenic bits. Not a road to do when tired! Shortly after the 111 joined the B100 we stopped at Camping Lienzer Dolmiten, an ACSI site at Strassen. A pleasant site, excellent facilities in a glorious location.

MSF 2978 

Fri 3rd July

Grey and overcast, but not actually raining, we set off on a 12 mile walk, which started off with a steep scramble though woods, rising 500 metres. Most of the walk was on road or track, and we didn't get too lost too often. 

Sat 4th July

Managed to leave the site by 0830, taking the E66 back into Italy - where again there was an Italian police presence checking vehicles and occupants, then the S12 over the Brenner pass. The township at the top of the pass is seriously unpleasant, rather like Andorra in the Pyrenees. Here we made the mistake of going onto  the Austrian motorway, having bought a vignette for the privilege, only to find there was an €8 toll as well. The queue for the toll booths negated any benefits from using the motorway - we shall avoid the Brenner pass in future! 

Just before Innsbruck we turned left along the Stubaital valley to an ACSI site at Neustift.

MSF 3069 

Mon 6th July

...and it's raining. What a surprise! Time to start the long trek home, and we left the site at 0730, to shop at the neighbouring Billa supermarket. We were somewhat shocked to find they didn't take credit card, but we did have enough Euros left to pay for it.

The motorway past Innsbruck is yet another peage, €2.50 this time. It seems that even though you buy a vignette to use Austrian motorways, there's always another wrinkle to take cash out of your pocket.

We took the Fernpass over the Alps and into Germany, then A7, etc via Mannhein, &  Hockheim, to an ADC at Worms, getting there at 5 pm. We've both read so much about Worms in history books it is good to see it. Much of its history was obliterated in WW2, including the Jewish community, which the guide pamphlet says starkly "was exterminated". But the Jewish cemetery is reckoned to be the oldest in Europe.

MSF 3379

Tues 7th July

The penultimate (and longest) stage of the journey home 360 miles to our usual ADC at Gravelines, near Calais. It may have been longer, but it was almost all on motorway, and so a good deal easier, even the Brussels ring! Gravelines also has a very well preserved fort, complete with moat, always worth a visit. We saw the big banner "Don du Sang", and assumed there was an exhibition on, but on investigation it turned out to be a blood doning session.

MSF 3735 

Wed 8th July

… and so to Calais, and the ferry to Dover, and home by 2 pm UK time. Normally we come home to waist high grass, but this time we had a jobbing gardener come in every few weeks to give it a trim. However we did have some enormous weeds in the front garden that rather proclaimed our absence. Next time we’ll add that to his list. 

Overall distance 3955 miles

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