Day 33 for the records. The new plan was to drive to Postojna in Slovenia, visit the caves which I had missed in Paklenica and then carry on to Grado in Italy and the next day to the “3 Zinnen” before returning to Haag.
Phase I was rather comfortable to drive up to Slovenia, pay the minimum road tax of 15 Euros and visit the Postojna Caves. Only the parking cost of 10 Euro was a bit disappointing. Paid then 25,80 Euro for the caves with German speaking guide. They take you on a small train about 10 minutes into the cave and then walk you for about one hour and back with the train. Needless to say the site enjoys UNESCO world heritage status and they deserve it to the full extent. Infinite numbers of shapes and forms and still similar in so many ways. As usual in sits like this, e.g. the Antelope Canyon in the US, there is not much time to take great photos. You have to be quick and creative to find the best angle… Then the next group is catching up with yours.
Back outside was a thunderstorm which reduced my desire to go back to the coast to Italy. I checked distance and arrival time to return to Haag today. All acceptable. Off we go. Went via Ljubljana, Villach and the Tauernautobahn via Salzburg to the Westautobahn direction east. All top highways and smooth sailing when you manage to stay concentrated all the time an top every two hours.
I reached Haag at about 20:30 and realized only at arrival that I drove more than 600 km that day. I surprised Ingrid and we had a good laugh.
Day 32 for the records. You cannot imagine what an eventful day this one would become. I was up early at the camp side and had an extended morning prayer. That is a great start into the day. Found my destination only in Google Maps, not in Garmin, it was the waterfalls of the river Una being the border between Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina. From the coast to the back country you always must conquer some mountain passes which always need attention and always are picturesque. I think I reached over 1.000 m altitude once more.
Google Maps mentioned that partly there would be terrible road conditions towards the Una river. They did not overstate. But if you know beforehand it is half as bad. Recorded a short video clip and had actually good fun. My expectations were that at the river would be quite some tourism structure and busyness. The closer I came the narrower the road became. Just to change into a sand one and later to forest pathway. The road clearance was only as wide as to allow me to turn around if necessary. When the road led downhill and had sharp bends I became a little nervous but carried on. It was now too late for any U-turn. Suddenly I saw a sign board with a display of the waterfalls. I did not think anything would come my way. A few meters later I was near the river and found a small parking area of about 100 m2. At this spot was no tourism structure or anything similar. Remember traveling means to compare our imagination with reality. What a day.
I parked my friend pointing towards the way back, took my camera and all important documents into the back bag an started to walk along the foot path, crossed thorough the railway tunnel and only then saw the river. From here it was a beautifully maintained garden like area very pleasant for the eye. Just nobody around. I recognized a CCTV surveillance system installed and carried on. It was now obvious that I was upstream of the waterfalls and my excitement grew slowly the closer I came to the edge.
Already at this point in time I observed a much better infrastructure on the other side of the river in Bosnia Herzegovina. They had various wooden foot bridges and paths along the river and the falls for a surely much better view. And later when I carried on to the town of Bihac it became clear it was only a matter of crossing the border and drive max. 20 km upstream. Maybe Google Maps could suggest this as an alternative route in the future. It kept me on the Croatian side.
Needless to say that words cannot describe the beauty of the falls. There are two main cascades and one coming from the side across splitting into many little streams and falls. A view for the gods producing a lot of endorphins in my body and soul. Actually there was a small hut like house exactly at the edge of the falls. Nobody to be seen still. I climbed the path upwards to catch photos from all possible angels including to walk a short distance on the rail tracks. Soon I headed back to the motor home.
I was about to start the engine when two police cars rushed down from the forest road stopping next to me. Ups, funny feeling but I remained quite calm. One of the second car first spoke to one from the first car and then came over to me. I had my passport and car and insurance papers already in my hand and got out of the car. What do you do here? Visiting the falls and taking pictures. Aha. Do you mind that I check your car? Not at all, please come in. OK. Do you know why we check you? No. Because of all the refugee movements. Ah, all clear. Did you like what you saw? Yes, VERY MUCH. Smile. Save journey. Thank you. The drive back up the forest road needed lots of attention, but less than the situation with the police.
Garmin led me to the nearby border posts and it was a smooth process again. Just on the Bosnian side I nearly fainted. Approaching the passage on the right side of the small building I hear a nasty scratching noise above my head. And I saw to customs officials looking up quite concerned. Immediately I imagined my upper side wall to be pierced or punctured or fractured and was short of a heart attack. I reversed away from the building with the two officials not looking less concerned. Then I went out to check. First I handed over my passport and looked at the gutter and found three brackets moved and the front closing plate broken with a big gap. Then looked at my car. Nothing to see. Hmm. I started apologizing and said I will have to pay for this. What followed was so funny that I lough my head off still today. The two had some conversion in their language. Then the one said: Camper OK. The other one came with a long broom stick and fiddled at the gutter which did not move. I said again, hmm, it is a big problem. The first one said, big problem? No problem and handed the passport back to me. I said again, I am very sorry. The second one answered, we are happy, that you are sorry. And all the three of us laughed heartily. What do you say? Can you imagine the worst case scenario?
Bihac was only a few kilometers away and I found a small parking lot near the main bridge over the river Una. To fit the motor home into the space was a peace of art with a little help from my friends (a student passing by). Had the coins for the meter and opted for a snack at the terrasse restaurant across the small street.
I realized soon that Bihac was only interesting in the vicinity of the bridge. Walking around lasted about 25 minutes and it was mid afternoon. Thought to look for the camping ground and relax for the rest of the day. Then I found out that relaxing I can do when I am old and decided to move back to the Croatian coast. I had not appetite yet to drive north west towards Austria.
Of course it is repetitive to write about driving back another two passes with stunning views before reaching the coast. Just at the first roundabout was the sign to the camping ground in Zengg. Moved into the passage, stopped because it seemed very narrow ahead. A couple in the distance waved that I can make it. They were from Australia and had hired a camper in Munich. They also were not excited about the many Germans in the camping ground. I found my spot in the second row back to the wall. In the first row at the sea side was such a bright reflection from the sinking sun that it was more disturbing than romantic.
Day 31 for the records. Short fruit and yoghurt breakfast at home and off to Trogir for a morning excursion. Parking well organized again. What can I say? Another romantic and charming small old town area with the morning preparations of the shop and restaurant owners. Choose a restaurant at the church square for the second breakfast and watched the Japanese tourists photographing their wifes and friends. Sometimes this is just a pleasure (see below). Set navigation to Paklenica National Park near Zadar and Starigrad. First stretch long uphill country road then the top highway A1. I cannot describe it differently than smooth sailing with cruise control.
As the road to the park became rather narrow I asked a couple in a restaurant garden. They were from Austria from the province of Steiermark. Later I met a dozen of them. They drove a motorhome as well and gave green light for the narrow road ahead. Reached the gate, went for the ticket only to learn that my main motivation to come was closed since half an hour, the famous “water dripping” caves. A little disappointed I asked for a hike achievable in the afternoon. A very charming lady guide gave me good advice and sent me off on a trail. Had to park 2 km inside and was a little proud of myself how quick and efficient I was prepared for the adventure.
Just at the very beginning of the trail were a dozen of Steiermark boys and girls busy at the “climbing garden”. Had a short chat with some, took the pics and headed off into the gorge. Buy the way, the rock walls were nothing short of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, just not that high and wide.
I went next to a wild water river and the gorge remained very narrow only widening later. Many more people came downwards, I overtook only a few upwards. The countryside stayed impressive all the way up. As a little “proof” of it, many scenes of the Winnetou films were shot here. Needless to say that at a fork I choose the opposite side from which I should have following the lady’s recommendation. So instead of about 450 m altitude I reached 620 m. A narrow margin anyway. Up there I met Adi and Robert who were part of the party of Steiermarkers, but of my age. Great company on the way down, great conversation and good fun.
Later I found the camping ground and a stand 20 m from the shore with a sunset from the fairytales. My stand neighbour without asking helped me to roll the vehicle onto the levelling blocks at the rear axle. He measured the water temperature at 14 dgr because of cold mountain streams coming in. I tested the waters, and he was right… Long chat to the owner of a Land Rover Defender. They can tell stunning stories. Sunset dinner.
Day 30 for the records. One month on the move. As I had a bad night I again started slow in the day. Decided to drive to the center of Split to look at Diocletian’s Palace and the surroundings in the city. After that my target was Solin where there are also Roman excavations and from early Christianity. For the late afternoon I selected Trogir, a smaller city on the shore, just nearby. I needed a slow day. It worked out all well.
Day 29 for the records. Took it easy after the late arrival yesterday and the shorter night. Used the Wifi to catch up some recording and left for town about 11:00 am. After one larger circle found parking near old town for 5 Mark / hour = 2,5 Euro. Paid then 7,5 Mark. Walked to the Bazaar and passed a chess game in the park and the usual pedestrian zone scenery. Asked for direction to “The Bridge” (another one if you check yesterday). But the Latin Bridge in Sarajevo is hiding tons of tragedy. On or around it Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in 1914. The resulting events are all too well known.
I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the inner city very much, took my time to stroll around and found (again) a posh coffee restaurant with excellent Wifi and did some work. I re-visited some alternative sites for the way back home and made some changes to the routing (again). Instead of country roads in Bosnien Herzegowina to Bihac I voted to do country roads, but back to the coast first, to Split. Then to National Park Paklenica and after that to National Park Una. Only then to Bihac, Zagreb, Graz and Haag.
Paklenica is supposed to host magic caves an Una waterfalls and gorges. As I had to pass the National Park in Rumania I thought I can catch up with some hiking.
The drive to Split led back to Jablanica along a big dam-lake with stunning scenery. And then into the gorge of the river which feeds into the dam. I reached 1.250 m altitude later. And anywhere up there was another lake which had a very curvy shore line, islands and villages around. Even in dull weather, it was a feast for the eyes. Up there I put 100.000 km on the clock of my motorhome and took the pics and video. Filled up diesel short of the border back to Kroatia and had a very quick passing. Just the customs lady, who spoke with accent free English (maybe her husband is an expat somewhere around), asked whether I carry food with me. Tricky for a motorhome driver. She settled with my promise that the amount of cheese I have, is REALLY SMALL 🙂
Towards the end of a stage I usually switch the navigation to Google because faithful Garmin has very little camping sites on record. Google’s one do not always exist, but if, the guidance is perfect. Found a very professional setup near Split and work in the restaurant on my records.
Day 28 for the records. We left our apartment around 09:00 am and headed towards the airport. In Google Maps I located a bistro near a beach on the way. We found parking and walked 15 minutes to it. First guests, best service, had great omelette breakfast, great coffee.
Time to say good buy at the airport. Ingrid’s capacity for motorhome living was exhausted.
I moved on north bound to Mostar. At a traffic light stopping behind a car I realized that my right headlight does not work. So I stopped high up on a hill at a side bay and started the procedure. User manual, tools, spare bulbs. Took me about 20 minutes, all done. Is a much better feeling to have your house in order.
First little hiccup
Simple border passing, arrived in Mostar around 15:30 pm. A bit tricky to find parking, payed the famous 5 Euros for 24 hours 2 km from the old bridge. Used it only for 2 hours, but so what. Walked over, found the Japanese Tourists en masse, took the same photos as them. The special ones are from down at the river up to the old bridge. All around but not too many are the usual stalls with souvenirs. I liked the copper works.
Then Google Maps disappointed me. The camping site was under development and on the other side of the river, no bridge, and suggested to walk the last stretch??? Drove to a fuel station, consolidated my position, decided to buy some snacks and drive on to Sarajevo. Can reach it in daylight. Which worked out just, not at least for the very good road condition. I trusted Maps again and also this time it was a challenge to hang in on the long uphill road above Sarajevo. A simple but clean set up made me feel at home immediately.
Day 27 for the records. Slow start into the day, bus to town again and a wonderful breakfast just outside town walls in the midst of the international crowd.
Phase II walk the city wall. Cost 27 Euros / person for about 2.000 m walk. 13,5 Eu/km. I was worth every Penny. Every meter the view changes from better to best, from beautiful to stunning, from impressive to insurmountable. One cannot stop trying the impossible, catching the moments on photographic images. We were so blessed to experience time standing still same as in Kotor the day before. What more can you ask?
After the wall we walked to the small harbor and before the drizzle started sat in a fine restaurant for our next coffee. Later we found the same ice cream shop as yesterday, whose product was addictive. Just walking in the rain a little we reached the bus terminal and headed back home.
Later walked down the road to a Pizzeria for dinner and back up to our apartment block.
Day 26 for the records. We left the camping garden early towards Kotor and found parking a few hundred meters outside the city. On the way we crossed the fish, veg and fruit market. The small streets and squares were nearly empty and one could have had the impression of a lost city. Good coffee and cake nearby. Walking further and finding the path up to the castle. Unfortunately only I went up. Ingrid gave it a miss. With every meter upstairs the view changed and become overwhelmingly awesome to say the least. Reminds me that no photograph or video can transport the life impressions and emotions when you are there. Reality surpassed my imagination by far. When I reached the bottom again, the lost city was full with tourists from around the world.
Former harbor to the Habsburg fleet!
We left Kotor with the feeling time stood still for a while and avoided an endless queue of cars before Kotor and chose an alternative route from Garmin. We ended up in front of a ferry terminal and were not sure whether they would take our motor-home. From a distance the vessels looked rather small. Later a big truck with trailer stood alongside us. We payed 9 Euros for the transfer. That was reasonable. Just before leaving the ferry I opened the handbrake too early and rolled back into another car. It had a small but clear dent on the bonnet and we stopped at the harbor. One of the ferry coordinators came as mediator and asked for 50 Euros to settle the case. I agreed immediately, because of avoiding the claim, etc, etc. A bit hurtful after losing my bike.
Following Garmin and the advice of my wife Ingrid I did not go towards Ulcinj on the red road which would have been a bit more distance. The road we found was the yellow one and soon demanded all my driving skills and tons of patience. Narrow, pothole staccatos again and bend after bend, centimeters between oncoming traffic, etc, etc.
When we joined the red road coming from Ulcinj I nearly lost my temper and nearly threw out my toys. Nearly…
The next challenge was to find a reasonable hotel in Dubrovnik. In view of the primitive camping last night we agreed to upgrade ourselves. I stopped several times in heavy traffic and light drizzle and Ingrid inquired. After a couple of unsuitable places we checked the camping site. It was a very good one and cost 40 Euro / night. We decided to check a bit longer and could come back in case. Just around the corner then we found a small but fine apartment for 55 Euro / night and book 2 nights. All happy.
Later took the bus to old town, found restaurant for dinner, best ice cream in the world for dessert and had this leisurely stroll we looked forward to.
Day 25 for the records. Heading south again although next destination was north. Tirana is a large place and traffic increases with every km towards the center, naturally. Circled quite some time and bravely entered a small side passage. Parked and payed 5 Euro for two hours to the “manager” of the place. Police no problem…
Started the exploration from there and found a wonderful restaurant with coffee terrasse attached to a Casino after 5 minutes. Again only the brave… Had to draw cash and exchange it. Drew 10 Euros from a machine, payed 5 Euro commission. No commission at the exchange. Payed the coffee with mixed feelings…
Walked further through the park to a church and later back to the car in a busy and even picturesque side street. With the remaining cash we bought some fruit and left after about 2 hours as negotiated.
Below is a fine coastal road which we enjoyed for some time. But later we decided a specific shorter route and were caught on a narrow pothole staccato path which was challenging and fun at the same time. NO chance to take pictures… 🙂
At the entrance to Kotor I was so tired that I decided to turn left to the closer camping site against the recommendation of the Germans in Tirana. It was narrow road stopping every 500 m to pass oncoming traffic. But we found a great fish restaurant, but the camping site had only cold water. Not to the pleasure of my Ingrid.. 🙁
Day 24 for the records. During the night Ingrid woke me up, she heard a noise. I did not, but I climbed down the bunk bed and shouted “hey!”. No reaction, silence. I did not leave the vehicle. You never know. Could not sleep for some time. Felt a definite shaking of the motorhome about half an hour later. Thought must have been a wind gust. Did not hear any wind. Thought all will be well….
In the morning I had to look for the bicycle immediately after waking up. Bad news, it was gone. Looked to the rack and found the wire lock cut precisely but fixing straps were opened carefully and not damaged at all. Gentlemen thieves. Ingrid might have heard the cut, I must have disturbed them and they came back later to lift the bike off when I felt the swing. Went to reception, they were apologetic and pointed me to the next police station 12 km to the south. As we were heading north to Pristiana it was a short discussion, but we decided to report the incidence.
Nasty surprise, Mountain Bike stolen during the night.
We had to wait about 45 min until the administration started office but then were treated with Turkish coffee and a rather swift procedure. Back to pass Skopje with mixed feelings now towards Pristina in the Kosovo.
Pristina did not reveal its charming side…
Weather rainy and NO = ZERO chance to find parking near an old town. Tried hard settled for a few shots from the car, looked for a fuel station, had some coffee there before turning south.
WE had our camping guide and Google Maps agreeing to the position of our choice. But the approach road was more than adventurous. We had to ask and still had our doubts. But we made it.