Tuesday 22nd May 2018
I am sorry I haven’t been in touch recently; it’s been a bit harum scarum this side of the Adriatic, let me bring you up-to-date…
You left us in Kamp Njivice on the island of Krk. We liked it there very much, but we had places to go and so on Tuesday morning we continued our journey south heading for Zaton, a village some way outside Zadar. The 150 miles or so seemed to fly by. First we followed the coast as far as the town of Senj, Senj has an inviting looking castle and a history of piracy. Here we took a right turn and began to climb the hills that loomed inland.
The Senj to Vratnik road must be in a book of great bike climbs; it ascends 700m in about 10 miles and has more hairpins than a witch’s hat! From here we took an almost empty motorway through woodland all the way to the Zaton exit. You realise you are a long way from home when you see warning signs on the motorway to watch out for bears and wolves, and some serious fencing to go with it.
We stopped at the entrance to the Zaton Holiday Resort to be told by a very smiley security guard that the entrance was actually a kilometre further on. This gave us an inkling of the scale of this campsite as we drove past sports pitches, a trim trail, tennis courts and a nightclub on the way to the reception. Pitch 20 (of 1500!) was allocated to us and a very nice pitch it was too. Right on the beach, handy for the dog walking area and the beach bar, but almost four minutes walk to the loos!
The campsite had everything, not just a shop, but a street of beach goods, fast food, ice cream and fruit shops as well as bars, restaurants and cafes. There is a swimming pool, beach volleyball, boat trips (including a semisubmersible boat), a dive centre, pony rides and the ruins of a first century Roman port.
They even organise a bus into Zadar to see the sights. So off we toddled to book our seats into town for tomorrow.
“Yes that’s fine.”
Said the charming young woman at reception.
“But not the dog!”
Ah! We were ready for this;
“It’s OK, he has a muzzle.”
“No only dogs that can be carried are allowed.”
Well as calm and placid as Alf is, he is certainly not going to stand being carried for an hour on a coach with out some industrial strength pharmaceuticals. We needed a plan B.
That evening the fates conspired to prod us in the direction of Plan B. First, as we took our evening constitutional around the camp, enjoying the sunset and enjoying the excitement of children in fancy dress heading for the disco, Wendy put her finger on a problem. Zaton, and Njivice in a way, were too perfect and polished. They were too new and what we were seeking was ‘authenticity’, a horrible word I know, but the best I can come up with at the moment. Apart from the carefully manicured remains of the Roman port on the beach there was no evidence of a culture that is over 3,000 years old and very little that was not 21stCentury. We needed a campsite in a village with a ‘bit of patina’.
Next was the ‘children’s’ disco. We hadn’t been on such a busy campsite before, it may have been our position but there seemed to be cars coming and going all the time. When we returned to the van we could hear the disco clearly but weren’t too bothered as it was a children’s disco and it would be bedtime soon. Sure enough bedtime came. The trouble was it was our bedtime! It was almost midnight before the music finally stopped and the children and their parents made their weary ways home.
Finally, the forecast for tomorrow was poor, very poor; thunderstorms and heavy rain all day.
That’s it! Plan B is we will drive into Zadar tomorrow, take in the sights and sites and then drive on in our search for a campsite with more ‘authenticity’!
Wednesday 23rdMay 2018
Alf had been remarkably calm. The thunder announced its presence about two o’clock in the morning and the rain not long after, but Alf remained stoically in his bed, not feeling the need to alert us to the calamities that were happening outside.
It was still raining when we got up and only eased slightly as we nosed our way through last night’s, slightly bleary, revellers and off to Zadar. Taking a three metre high, two and half metre wide van into a city centre is not something I usually relish, however this morning I was feeling unusually confident. Last night we had been on the Park4Night website to look for possible places we could park up during the day and we had found a great one. A large car park, only ten minutes walk from the old town (so no seriously narrow ‘authentic’ roads to go down) and the photos showed motorhomes and coaches parked up with plenty of space. It was ideal for us to leave the van and stroll to the meeting point for the walking tour of Old Zadar that we had also found on the Internet (you know how we love a good walking tour).
We pulled into the car park without a navigational hitch only to find that our secret parking space was known to hundreds of Zadarians too! It was rammed. There wasn’t the space to park a bike. Never mind, we’ll find another place.
An hour later we pulled into the car park of a supermarket on the outskirts of the city. We had crawled around the city centre attempting to sniff out a spot and then moved further out in our search. Seemingly without warning we found ourselves in the middle of a major roadworks, road after road was sealed off or being relayed or in one case being built! We were gingerly creeping across all sorts of surfaces only to find a barrier forcing us to complete five, seven, and nine point turns. How we got out of the mess was as much a mystery as how we got in. By now the sun was fully out and the mercury was climbing so by the time we left the van we were hot and sweaty, this wasn’t helped by the fact that we were wearing long trousers and sleeves as we had been advised by the walking tour organisers because of the churches we were going to visit.
Now we had a five-kilometre route march ahead of us and the clock was against us. Despite our best efforts, and those of the ferryman who rowed us across the harbour, we arrived hotter and more bothered ten minutes late and tour long gone. What’s more my phone, which we were using to navigate (good old Maps.me), was almost flat, how will we find our way back to the van? The day was slowly falling apart. There was only one thing for it – time for a beer! And a delicious beer it was too, in a square in front of the Town Hall.
The recuperating powers of Croatian beer are not widely known, but ours did the trick. Armed with a very informative map from the Tourist Office we followed our own tour. Zadar is a city that has been in existence since the 9thCentury BC and being handily placed on the Adriatic has been invaded and ruled by wave after wave of civilisations, starting with the Romans and ending with Yugoslavia at the end of the 20thCentury. We began with the Venetians legacy at Five Wells Square with the remains of the cistern feeding the five wells and the Captain’s Watchtower, moved on to the Forum and the extensive Roman remains (much of which is evident in later buildings where the stone was recycled, such as the Basilica of St Donatus) and finished with the modern day Sea Organ a ‘sculpture’ of pipes built into the marble promenade in such a way that the waves lapping at the prom force air through the pipes to create a deep, melodic sound. All of this convinced us that Zadar is a wonderfully romantic place that was well worth the trouble to find a place to park. Talking of parking, where did we leave our van?
It was back to the ferry and retrace our steps. Soon we became a little lost; the trouble is that much of outer Zadar was built in the communist era with block after block of anonymous apartments. Time to switch the phone back on. We arrived back at the lovely Plodine supermarket who had been caring for our van just as my phone gave up the ghost. We had completed 18,283 steps too; Wendy’s Fitbit was in paroxysms of delight.
Our satnav, one of Garmin’s finest, has a chequered history, which did not improve in the next couple of hours. It has an ACSI app that contains the details of all the campsites in its discount scheme and we used it to find our destination, Kamp Dalmacia. With only a few tense moments and harsh words between us (mainly from me) we arrived at our destination – only it wasn’t! It was another campsite completely, which wouldn’t really matter if it didn’t look really ropey and was miles away from anywhere so we made our excuses and left. With the aid of Google maps and the vague directions in the ASCI handbook we found our way to the real Kamp Dalmacia, down some very narrow roads with no passing places so Wendy was holding her breath most of the way.
Kamp Dalmacia was a disappointment; it looked very similar to our satnav’s previous mistake. Despite signs saying it was open it still looked under construction. Again we waved a rueful goodbye and turned back to a site we had passed on the way that was slightly nearer civilisation and more complete. It was late by now and Autocamp Jazina, just outside Tisno, was not terribly inviting, but there was a group of very friendly Italians who had just arrived in a convoy of five motorhomes who guided us in to a spot near a hook-up. We were five days too early for the shop to open, so bread was a twenty-minute walk away, and the toilets were a bit smelly. This is a little more authentic than we anticipated. We are moving on first thing in the morning.