Marg and Leigh's travels around the world

We are two retired women from New Zealand, busy travelling the world. Our quest is to experience other cultures before they are changed beyond recognition, and see endangered animals and environments before they disappear. We hope you like our blog and enjoy our exploits. We sure have had fun getting here.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Slovenia & Croatia

After leaving Italy, we moved on into Slovenia which, together with the north-western part of Croatia, is known as Istria. This area was in Roman times, and still is, the food basket for Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. There are lots of great vegetables and fruit, including olives and grapes which of course make fabulous olive oil and wine. We particularly enjoyed the style of white wine known as ‘malvazija’ which is a cross between a chardonnay and pinot griggio. There are also very nice chardonnays and merlots in the area – speaking from experience of course! 

Marg & typical Istrian street
We found this part of Slovenia to be very beautiful, clean and sophisticated. The first few towns we drove into seemed to have a maze of narrow streets and colourful houses – they were absolutely lovely...but, they had no parking for slightly large vans! Unlike Italy, where there was usually designated parking for big vehicles, the Croatian and Slovenian towns do not cater for campervans! We were initially going well in Koper, a harbour town, but suddenly found that we were in a dead-end street so Leigh stopped the traffic and Marg carefully backed out to a turning area, then out we went. Not sure what the locals thought but they were very tolerant and other drivers who got out of our way never tooted once!  
Leigh in Isola
The next town, Izola, was a small and quiet seaside village with lovely colourful houses around the harbour. Again we had trouble finding parking but managed eventually to find a spot in the main street. We weren’t sure that we could get out of this spot because the street was narrow, busy and parked-out.  However, on our walking tour of the town, we checked out the street width and in the end managed to fit through with no problems, and drove on out to the other side of town. 

Our major problem was in Strunjan where we were trying to get down a very narrow 2-way street - we came face to face with another car and there was not enough room to pass. We, being much bigger, waited for it to go up the footpath so that we could get through. Trouble was that the footpath was far too high to mount and there was a very large stream of traffic behind it. Seeing as we couldn’t go up the footpath either, we had nowhere to go. So we reversed all the way back down the street with Leigh moving the traffic behind us out of the way. Great fun & more tolerant people. We didn’t get to see Strunjan in the end! 

Marg in Piran
Leigh in Piran
We moved on then, and found a lovely campsite right on the beach front at Portoroz, a very modern Adriatic town, where we relaxed for a few days. While there, we caught the local bus to Piran, a very cute harbour town full of medieval Venetian style houses huddled close together around the bay, and  with a beautiful piazza. Vanni would certainly not have fitted into this town!  

Croatia again

The border into Croatia was just a short trip out of Portoroz so on we drove down the Istrian coast, stopping at Savudrija and Umag before getting to Porec. Here we did a couple of loops of the town before eventually finding paid parking in a car park. We then walked in the heat (38O) to see the town which was very, very cute. Luckily for us, by the time we returned, the parking man had gone off for the usual afternoon siesta and we ended up parking for free.  

Marg in Porec Bell Tower
A real highlight in Porec was a visit to an amazing Euphrasian Basilica which is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its age and fabulous mosaics. Our tour of this included testing our leg muscles up and down a very high bell tower - it was just amazing and so, so old (6 BC). We had a very yummy seafood lunch in a relatively non-touristy part of town that had shade and was on the waterfront (all the flashy restaurants were on the water but in the hot sunny side).  

Leigh in Rovinj
Rovinj was our next stop & again, we had parking problems. We were moved on twice by a parking chappie on a scooter before he patiently led us to a bus parking area – this was great except that it was quite a trek into town in the heat. It was worth it though because Rovinj was very pretty with its houses clustered around the harbour, many of which seem to grow right out of the sea. 

View from campsite
By this time we were getting a bit tired so moved on to the Pula area where found a very large campsite right on the beach front in the little village of Fazana. We got a park 1 back from the beach thinking it was shady but the very hot sun streamed in the next morning. However, we spotted vans moving on and so changed sites & got a wonderful site looking straight out to the sea and in the shade....aaaaah!  

Leigh by Pula amphitheatre
We liked it so much here that we stayed for a week and spent our time swimming in the crystal clear sea water, walking, reading & visiting the village of Fazana. We also caught the local bus into Pula which has a wonderful Roman amphitheatre that in our view, rivals the Coliseum in Rome.  

Fazana village houses
The weather continued to be hot here & everyone lazed on the beach. We had a group of 3 German couples who set up each day right opposite us. They would arrive wheeling their chairs and sunbathing gear, have a swim, go and shower & then sunbath for the rest of the day - they were very friendly. After Marg took her computer toward them to show our lovely view to Mike, Andrea and Callum on Skype, they became our best buddies. On our last morning they came by on their bikes and called out goodbyes – nice people.  
Marg by road to Opatija-Brestova

We had a spectacular storm while we were there with lots of thunder and lightning. A huge wind blew in and took us unawares and we nearly didn’t get our awning in in time.  Luckily, the guy next door came and helped us and all was well! It was very windy and wet and definitely cooler for 24 hrs. By the time the sun came out again we were ready to move on so we packed up and headed up the coast on the other side of Istria toward Opatija – our last stop in Croatia before moving into Slovenia again.

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