Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Driving To Croatia Day 4 – We’re There!

Croatia Camping Guide - Camp Slapic

You can read all about the last day of our drive to Croatia from Suffolk on sister site, Croatia Online , together with a few final tips on the journey. Only 1,000 miles from Eurotunnel, we arrived at Camp Slapić (pictured), in Croatia, in four easy days after plenty of fun and a few great campsites on the way.

As reported in the above mentioned posting, we decided to stay at Camp Slapić, rather than continue along to the Istrian coast, for no better reason than because they announced themselves periodically on signs on the motorway and it saved us having to think about when and where to stop. Not only was it well signed on the motorway but signage and directions were pretty good when we took the turn off indicated – just as well really because it’s quite a long way and not the 5 kilometres they suggest. And I’m sure that about 5 km after one sign saying it was 5km away there was another sign saying exactly the same thing! We began to lose heart a little as we went through a tiny village and seemed to be nowhere very special but on we went. Our persistence was well rewarded and it turned out that the first Croatian campsite we had turned up at, serendipitously, just happened to be the 4 star winner of the Croatian Camping Union’s Best Campsite Award from 2012 to 2015 inclusive. Nothing like starting at the top, and the way we meant to carry on.

Not only was it a high achiever in terms of awards but also reasonable value for money, costing 125 kunas in total, broken down as follows: pitch, camper - 55kn; adult – 30kn; electricity - 20kn; dog - 15kn; local taxes – 5kn It’s a family owned campsite and the young man who welcomed me was full of smiles and a can do attitude. This was illustrated by the relaxed attitude to the following day’s departure time, on the basis that they were not full so it didn’t matter too much - a far cry from the cool, stuffy and formal response you might find in the swish receptions of some other allegedly upmarket Croatian campsites.

The facilities are great – clean and modern – though it was a little weird that all toilets had locks that needed keys on them and each camper was given a key to unlock them. Must be a real pain for the cleaners. There’s also an ok restaurant and bar surrounded by rushing river water. The food was fine and the waitress service was pretty good, though she brought my food out and left it, while I was dashing back to my camper for a jumper, even though I had forewarned her I would be absent for a couple of minutes. That was made slightly more irritating by the fact that the chef had taken an age to cook it, even though I seemed to be the only one eating at that time.

As for the location, that was pretty special too, right by the river River Mrežnica about 50km south of Zagreb and 10km away from Karlovac.. Canoeing, kayaking and cycling are popular leisure activities and there are mobile homes if you haven’t brought your own camping accomodation with you. You can find pretty well all that you need on site with a couple of small villages near by.

However I was not  impressed when, the next morning, the waitress from the night before, who was at the bar a few yards away from the restaurant balcony, must obviously have realised (not least by my shouts to the dog) that I was wading, waist deep, through rushing water, rescuing my dog from an ill judged attempt to cool down, but turned a blind eye. Worse, a rather large eastern European guest, sitting right by the water and within two yards of the location of my dog rescue beneath him, also looked the other way and said and did absolutely nothing. OK, I probably should have taken more care to prevent my dog from getting into trouble, but surely a few words of “encouragement” would not have gone amiss as I manfully waded from one handhold to the next, to rescue a rather shaken mutt who nonetheless had the good sense to obey my screams of “STAY” after he managed to paddle onto a mound above the level of the rapids. Neither of the silent observers would meet my eyes as I dripped back to my campervan to change, and the whole episode delayed our departure by an hour. Fortunately I had my waterproof Craghoppers on and my mobile phone, despite being in a submerged thigh pocket, remained mostly dry. Looking on the bright side, the dog normally has a near death experience on our big trips (and no, I am not a reckless or careless dog owner) so I was pleased to get it over with early.


Croatia Camping Guide - Beware Fast Flowing Water

This picture shows the scene of the adventure but does not do justice to the speed of the water flow – the rescue was achieved by hanging onto the bottom of the restaurant balcony (on the right of the photo) , manoeuvring round, using a series of handholds on the overhanging balcony structure, to a mound the dog had managed to clamber onto, lassoing the dog and then dragging him back to dry land  using the same hand holds. This was now much against his will as he had no wish to re-enter the deep and fast flowing water.


It had rained a lot quite recently, apparently, and some of the grass pitches were a little muddy, with not a lot of hard standing pitches. However they were a good size and nicely delineated with trees and bushes. All in all a really good place to stay unless you need to be rescued from the surrounding rapids! And on that note I would say in mine and my dog’s defence that it is/was quite easy to fall in on the then broken boardwalk that surrounded the restaurant terrace. However in the interests of fairness and in the defence of Camp Slapić, I was too wet and worn out to challenge anyone after our adventure and just quietly slipped away to change and then leave..

For more information on Camp Slapić go direct to their website Camp Slapić

For more information on the Croatia Camping Union’s Best Croatian Campsites go to Croatia Camping Union Website

Monday, 25 July 2016

Driving To Croatia Day 3 – Austrian Campsite

Croatia Camping Guide - Campsite Putterersee

We’ve never stayed overnight in Austria before and the scenery is so stunning we decided to stop a little early to admire it for longer. So, at about 4 15, and after consulting our ACSI App (see the last but one posting - Croatia Camping Guide - Day 1 & ACSI Card), we arrived at the magnificent location that was Camp Putterersee – lakes, mountains, green grass, sunshine…..all it needed was the von Trapp family running down the hill singing The Sound of Music.


It’s by a small settlement called Aigen im Ennstal, near Liezen, between the two main motorways – A9 and A10. According to Wikipedia, it was one of the locations in the classic film – Where Eagles Dare. - and if you’re interested in the journey on Day 3, and how we got there, read Croatia Online - Driving To Croatia Day 3.

Reception at Camp Putterersee did not open till 7 but, with the guidance of another camper, we chose our pitch, connected our hook up, and wandered down to the lake. It really is a lush and spectacular setting and the facilities were clean and modern. There are some nice touches too, including a dog shower and pedestals under the water taps so you can put your bottles on them.

Croatia Camping Guide Putterersee Pedestals

It was not the cheapest of our campsites though, the total cost coming to  €16.6 which broke down as follows: pitch (including electricity @ €2.9) - €7.6, adult - €5.7, dog - €2..1, community levy €1.2. However it seemed like pretty good value and certainly it attracted a very friendly bunch of campers.

For more information, go direct to Camping Putterersee or have a look at what Acsi says about them on ACSI Details and Reviews

Next stop Croatia Smile

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Epic Croatian Road Trip – Sneak Preview

Croatia Camping Guide -  Paklenica To St Michael

We’ve just come across an article about an even more epic road trip than ours – a Guardian journalist, Kevin Rushby, trying to cover a large part of Eastern Europe in the same amount of time as we spent on the whole of Croatia.

Kevin calculated the distance of his trip at about 5,000 miles, 1,000 miles more than ours. Like us, he spent quite a bit of time on Pag and though, of course, he only spent a small amount of his total time in Croatia, his article will give you a real taste of what’s to come on our site. Read all about the Croatian leg on The Guardian - Great European Road Trip 2015

Today’s picture is of the view from the road heading back home from Paklenica.

Driving To Croatia Day One – Campsite & ACSI Card

Croatia Camping Guide Eisenbachtal
We left England with quite a few reference materials but one of the most useful for the journey to Croatia was the ACSI App covering 1242 campsites in Europe. It didn’t need WiFi like some maps, though it’s best to have a good WiFi connection to download the frequent updates, and so when we started feeling like it would soon be time to stop, we just had a look at the App and found out where there was a choice of a couple of campsites not too far from the motorway, roughly where we thought we might end up in an hour or so.

The App, which you have access to for as long as your ACSI subscription lasts, provides plenty of useful detail on the campsites, including reviews, tells you the distance from your current location and gives you directions on how to get there. So it eliminates all the stress of trying to plan each day to be at a certain place in a certain time slot. Brilliant. Of course you have to pay the annual fee for your ACSI card, but that got me a few discounts even though it’s really aimed at couples rather than one woman and a dog. You also get a couple of meaty directories with all the campsite details in print – I did have a read before I left, and took them with me, but I did not look at them once on the trip. It’s also often possible to leave your ACSI card (which has your name and address on it) with reception instead of your passport (this happens a lot in Croatia) and you know that if you’re staying in an ACSI listed campsite you have a pretty good idea of how much it’s going to cost in advance and that the cost is not going to be excessive.

For more details go to Camping Card ACSI and if, like me, you want as much freedom and flexibility as possible, this is one of the best tools for finding the kind of campsite you want, when you want it, and well worth the roughly £19 investment.

So…after not very much sleep and a very early start in Folkestone, and despite a quick nap on Eurotunnel and a couple of leisurely stops in Belgium, we were flagging at about 6pm, consulted the ACSI App, and arrived at Campsite Eisenbachtal in Girod, Germany, just 5 kilometres from exit 41 of the A3 motorway.

Met by a very charming, laid back and helpful owner, we quickly installed ourselves in our allocated pitch (one of the few campsites on this trip that actually allocated a pitch rather than leaving us to find my own) and proceeded to explore. Barnie the dog was quick to jump into the big lake (there’s also a smaller one) and we discovered two hotels on our twenty minute walk around the lakes – one very posh one that gave the distinct impression that campers were not overly welcome, and one completely the opposite that also made their WiFi available for campsite guests (WiFi was not available at my pitch). Just by our campsite were lambs and horses and there were plenty of walks signposted so it would be a great spot for a longer, rural type, stay with the two nearby hotels providing alternative food and drink options.

The pitches were great and had mesh in the grass to keep them well drained. Also individual water pipes though I was a bit confused as to which provided drinking water – probably just me. The facilities were also fine though the showers needed tokens costing fifty cents which provided 4.5 minutes water. The owner gave me a free token when I arrived so at least I knew the situation – elsewhere, most of the time, I was left to find out myself when I arrived at the showers without any

Overall I’d say, not least by the number of children and play areas, that it’s a good family stop for a few days and not so much a transit stop. It cost me €14 all in, including electrics and dog – not the cheapest of the trip but pretty good value and an excellent first night find.

For more information on Campsite Eisenbachtal have a look at the information on the main ACSI website Eurocampings Germany Girod Camping Eisenbachtal Interestingly the entry on the website is a little different from the App both in content and format.

Perfect Last Breakfast Spot In England – Day 1

Croatia Camping Guide - Back Road To Folkestone

The image above shows our breakfast stop on our last day in England for seven weeks. We overnighted in Canterbury but could not stay at a campsite because we had to leave too early so we found an ideal spot for a prolonged rest but sped away quietly so as not to disturb anyone..

Winking smile

It was a cold morning but sunny and we had a spectacular drive along the B2368, from Canterbury to Folkestone,, watching the mist clear to reveal the rolling Kent hills. About 40 minutes along our route, at about 6 15 in the morning, we found this gorgeous picnic spot with a Bluebell wood just behind me.. It was ideal for breakfast but maybe not for a longer stay as the car park was not very flat. Then it was off to catch  Eurotunnel and an easy crossing.

You can read more about Day One of the drive to Croatia  on Croatia On Line - Driving To Croatia Day One 

Watch this space for details of the campsite for our first night’s stop in continental Europe..

Monday, 11 July 2016

Croatia Camping Guide – Getting There

Croatia Camping Guide -Eurotunnel car park

Time to dispel a few myths - the common reaction when people find out that I’ve been to Croatia in my campervan is – “you’re brave”, when the truth is I’m really not. Plenty of people holiday in Germany or Austria and if you get to Austria then Croatia is not much further. And its certainly quicker and easier to get to than the Costa del Sol in Spain. The fact that you can fly to Croatia in a couple of hours, rather than the three plus it can take to the south of Spain, should give you an idea of the comparative distances.

If you want to get there quickly – and it’s “doable” in two days -then its motorway pretty well all the way -  just go to Brussels and through Belgium, diagonally from north west to south east  Germany, though Austria via Graz, through Slovenia and then you’re there! Check out sister site Croatia Online - Driving To Croatia Day 1 for more details of the journey.

Despite Croatia’s rapidly increasing popularity, there still seems to be an impression that it’s “remote” or a little “wild” or very “foreign” – well I’ve just done a return trip to the Lake District, with a bit of local exploring while I was there, and I could have nearly got to Croatia on the same number of miles.

Croatia is now in the EU (which, until Brexit, used to be a good indication), English is widely spoken, it has a great newish motorway running down the coast, and to Istria and Zagreb, it is now covered by most insurance and recovery policies, it’s in the Pet Passport Scheme, it is GORGEOUS and varied, so what’s not to like?    

Despite all that, we Brit campers are a rarity and most large campsites are awash with Germans, Austrians, Czech, Dutch and Belgiums in roughly that order. So our mission is to encourage you to swell our numbers so that we don’t have to learn German just to be able to converse with fellow campers when we are there.. So come on, let us help you pluck up your courage and make Croatia you’re next camping trip.