October 20- 30th, 2021
We left Slovenia with no clear community to go to next. Much of Eastern Europe has either not caught on to the Eco-village movement, or is just still so rooted in it’s authentic traditional communities that it doesn’t need them. This combined with our deadline to get to Greece by the end of November kept us from a longer stay. Nevertheless, we didn’t want to just zoom through and miss it all, so we meandered down the entire length of the Croatian coast, which dominates much of the Adriatic Sea.
We did some wild camping, which is to say, illegal parking in random places, and sometimes stayed in Airbnbs when cities didn’t offer good options for campers. Ben turned 33! We spent a lot of time in Louis on the same long, curvy, coastal road, driving a few hours here and there after Ben was done with work. We spent 10 days here total, and despite the warnings that Croatia is extremely touristy, we found late-October in pandemic times to be a perfect season to visit. The weather was divine.
I won’t have as in-depth a post here, but I also didn’t want to completely skip over this chapter of our trip, which was lovely and filled with so many pomegranates, elephant brand pretzel crisps, and roadside produce stands piled high with oranges.
Sunny Hill- abandoned road near Novi Viondolski
Abandoned Road- Camping on Waterfont in forest near Vrsi
Zadar- Sibenik/ Krka National Forest
Dubrovnik- Biejla (Montenegro)
We did two nights of off-grid camping along the coast, waking up to incredible views out our little camper windows. Our general rule here is to do this when it seems ethical. During peak season we heard Croatia has a real problem with too many people camping and not paying for it, leaving trash everywhere. Don’t do that. We left no trace and found places where we were alone. “Two nights off-grid, one night on” is our general rule.
Northern Croatia is rocky, dry and SO windy! The whole coastline is dotted with islands that look like another planet – haunting and seemingly lifeless. This wind is such a big deal here it even has its own name: Bura– the cold, northeastern wind. It’s INTENSE, like a hurricane with no rain, and prevents many plants from being able to survive and grow, which in turn makes the wind stronger without any windbreaks from trees!
A strange city with a lovely little old town nested on a peninsula with settlements dating back to Neolithic times. The modern part, where people actually live now, still echoes with the suffering it experienced during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 90s. We stayed in a not-quite-yet-open “campsite” owned by an old retired Austrian national Football Player in his yard. Super nice guy! We also visited the ancient glass museum, which made me emotional to see how such fragile little things can miraculously survive 5 thousand years without breaking... *sniffles*
Krka National Forest
A welcome break from all the dry landscapes! This park is actually gushing with water from every possible direction. We stayed in Sibenik and got lucky with catching the ferry from Skradin right on time. We spent the afternoon wandering through all the waterfalls and changing leaves as part of Ben’s birthday celebration.
For Ben’s actual birthday we stayed in a lovely Airbnb across the street from the sea. Having our bikes with us allowed us to bike into the city within 15 minutes, but still be near a quiet beach, which was ideal. Ben got to go snorkeling for his birthday– a first, and we really enjoyed the maze-like old town and all the culture that comes with a bigger city. Public circus performances in the ruins of an ancient Roman Emperor’s palace, and amazing thrift stores, for example. We didn’t love that it seems like the city just dumps their sewage pipes directly into the sea. Toilet paper visible and stinky in the port…
We briefly passed through the Markarska Riviera, which was astonishingly beautiful and we hope to go back someday to stay for a while. This is apparently where the Julian Alps meet the Adriatic. We had a picnic lunch here and got yelled at by a police officer who threatened to ticket us if we tried to camp there. Yikes.
Between Split and Croatia you have to drive through Bosnia and Herzegovina for about 20 minutes. It’s the only coastline Bosnia gets, and it divides Croatia into two parts, separating Dubrovnik from the rest of the country. It feels weird and a bit depressing, and we don’t feel in any way that we’ve actually visited B&H after this brief encounter. All of these areas in Dalmatia really suffered in the war that happened just 25 years ago, but the enormous restoration efforts mostly hide that dark chapter these days.
The city of green shutters and stairs. I expected Dubrovnik to be a Game-of-Thrones tourist disaster, but it was actually quieter than Split. We decided not to pay 30 euros each to walk the of the wall circling the old town, but just meandered around on our own and found some super dreamy little corners. I’m such a sucker for clotheslines and love seeing a glimpse into who the people are that live behind those closed doors. We also found what I expect to be the coolest basketball court in the entire planet. Lots of steps. Lots of swoons. Sunset on rocks by cliffside bar. Vegan restaurants. Plazas that reminded me of fancy Galicia. Nearly died of heart attack trying to park Louis here.
On our way out of Croatia we picked up a French hitchhiker who was a paragliding instructor also named Ben. He passed over the border into Montenegro with us, then we said adieu and continued down the dusty road…