A Travellerspoint blog

Croatia

We have arrived in Paradise

Day 44, 45, 46 Sumartin to Makaskar

sunny 35 °C

Beautiful 45 minute ferry trip from Split to the island of Brać. This was never on our plans so a totally unplanned experience - the beauty of travel on the go.

We have got used to booking our accommodation 1-2 days in advance and there has been no problems at all. We disembarked the Ferry at Supetar and quickly headed off, following windy roads up into the hills. Very narrow at times down to a town called Milna. Just your typical fishing village. We went for a walk, and, as you do, dived in for a quick plunge. You have to experience how cool, and clear this water is. We relax and float about in the clear blue water with our only company being the millions of little fish swimming around us..

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Back in the car and Jen's turn to have a drive. Easy drive - no traffic, no traffic lights, except shear fall down the side of cliffs along barely more than single lane roads with no shoulders and the odd gravel truck to make it interesting. Although, one town did have a traffic light at each end of the only street in town because it was too narrow for cars to pass. She handled superbly and I got a chance to see the scenery. Lucky for me the scenery was spectacular, winding our way through little villages comprising a church and a few houses built into the hillside. As we came over the top of the island, we arrive at Bol with a sea side Peninsula of Zlatni Rat. This is where everyone goes on a hot day. The beach covers both sides of the peninsula and is again crystal clear, cool water with fishies and no current. We don our goggles and swim out to the buoys.
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Zlatni Rat is a classic European beach resort place jutting out into the ocean. Packed with people but when you can swim in such beautiful waters it does not matter.

Back into the car and then to our final destination Sumartin where we will stay for 3 nights. This place is a small village where the car ferry leaves from. Aside for the influx of cars a couple of times a day for the ferry, nothing changes much here and things get real slow. Our room was cosy and 300 m from the town and beach so this was the time to chill out.

The first morning after some advice from a Sydney lady now living with her husband in Zagreb and building a house on the island we found a little coffee shop out of town beach with the most spectacular lookout and cafe - only three menu options but it doesn't matter when the coffee is good and simple fresh food is on offer and the view is magnificent.

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We adapt to the beachside life very quickly - sleeping in, beach, fresh produce for breakfast, swim, walks, lunch of delicious selection from the Deli and fresh bread from the bakery, ice cream, swim, snooze, swim, dinner, walks, sleep. And repeat.

Often we were the only ones on the local beach or at worst a few local kids having fun.

This place is incredible, they even have magic boats that seem to levitate!
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Its HOT but fortunately the beach is usually only 100m away
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or we hang out, enjoying the breeze and view from our apartment balcony.
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We work our way down the strip for dinner options. Local restaurants with surprisingly extensive menus and staff eager to share their cuisine with us. One special meal was the fresh mussels. So fresh, that as soon as I placed the order, the waiter trottted outside, hauling up a basket and retrieved a bowl of mussels, which were promptly prepared and in front of me within minutes. Now that's fresh! Jen had a delicious gnocchi meal in a sauce that was mouth watering. The waiter was very friendly and gave us a complimentary shot of local made Raki, to aid in our digestion (of course) and we finished off the with a palacsinta dessert.
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With the fading sun, on the balmy evenings, Sumartin is peaceful and has been the perfect escape for us.
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The last day was pretty much the same routine. We broke it up with eating slabs fresh water melon on the water's edge with our feet dangling in the cool water feeling relaxed and very happy with our change in plans spending 3 nights in a very special place.

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We caught the 3 pm ferry back to the mainland to stay in a town called Makaskar. The scenery was spectacular as you got a great view of the rocky coastline that goes down the Dalmatian coast.

The ferries are also quite comical. The Sumartin Ferry only has room for 25 cars so arriving late can mean having to wait for the next one. There is usually a procession of cars, either left over from the previous departure or getting in early for the next, at the ferry stop. We checked out and parked the car as soon as the morning ferry departed to ensure we got on the afternoon ferry. Fortunately, its right next to the main street so we spent the morning, swimming, eating and hanging out.

When time comes to load the ferry a semi organised procession ensues. Fortunately we're one of the first on ahead of the RVs and trucks carting massive chunks of granite to the mainland.
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Again, beautiful ferry ride in the open water with rocky mountain backdrop.
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Our little car disembarked safely, dwarfed by the other passengers.
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It was stinking hot so we decided to go straight for a swim. Well, this town could not be more different from Sumartin. The 2 km beach was covered with tourists and the path at the back of the beach was filled with hotels, restaurants and tourists shops. Back to reality as this place is where the masses come to have a swim and a holiday.
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Well, that ended our sea side island hoping adventure that went way beyond our expectations. It was now back in land, heading for Mostar and Sarajevo. We head inland under the mountains (via impressive tunnels) popping out the other side to a complete change of scenery.
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We stop for breakfast on the edge of the valley, FO4A0213.jpgFO4A0215.jpg

And we're on the road to Mostar.
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Posted by tszeitli 22:20 Archived in Croatia Tagged food beer water beach sun paradise swim relax Comments (2)

Kayaking, Eating Too Much, Football and its HOT

Day 42 to Day 44 Split

sunny 35 °C

We booked a day’s sea kayak adventure two nights ago and arranged to be picked up this morning by a company called Red Adventure. Life of a traveller in 2016 is so easy compared with my backpacking days. All you need is wifi and a credit card, with everything arranged to perfection via email.
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Jen was looking forward to a kayak as it was bringing back memories of kayaking on the Dalmatian Coast in Kotor, Montenegro some 5 years ago. The weather was 35 deg C, the water temp about 25 deg C, the water was calm, the water crystal clear, so perfect conditions for us to enjoy a past time Jen and I love to do regularly at Rainbow Beach.
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We get out on the water with our guide, Marco, a couple of offsiders, and a lovely family - Mum was born in Glasgow, got married and moved to Iceland and had two children and now lives in Sweden with her two teenage kids.

Kayaking is Jen's Happy Place, so Jen starts paddling at 100 km/hr with the adrenalin flowing she gets over excited with the exercise, water and freedom! "Slow Down Buckaroo!" We have 8 hours of this. We get into a nice rhythm and paddled across to the island of Otok Ciovo. The sheer rock faces are spectacular. Marco's offsider (who spent the entire 8 hours in just those speedos...) is a rock climber and managed to haul himself out of the water (via short ropes anchored into the base) and pick his way over the sharp rocks up to about 10 metres.
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This day was also a big test for the GoPro with action shots on the kayak with some underwater scenes. The kayak trip went perfectly and can be summarised in the following: crystal clear calm water, beautiful scenery, paddling along rocky island water’s edge, snorkelling, beach lunch, diving out of our kayaks in the open ocean for a swim, engaging with other travellers and the locals, GoPro success, overall lots of fun! I will let the photos speak for themselves.
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That night we watched the Croatians lose to Portugal with a very different atmosphere to the time in Pula. The Split Croatians did not get dressed up and there was no central square to gather which kind of made it a flat night. There's a significant proportion of tourists - so the mood isn't as patriotic. That night we drank way too many beers and I had one of the best pizzas I have had for a long time, devouring a large Pizza all by myself. Let’s see if I get get a better one in Italy. The night was stinking hot so we were glad to end it back at our room in air conditioned comfort.

The next day was again a scorcher and we spent half the day wandering the streets and buying our ferry ticket for our next adventure until it got too hot and we retreated to the refuge of our air-conditioned unit.

Past the statue of Grgur Ninski (Gregory of Nin) a medieval Croatian bishop of Nin who strongly opposed the Pope and official circles of the Church and introduced the national language in the religious services after the Great Assembly in 926. Until that time, services were held only in Latin (being under the jurisdiction of Roman influence), not being understandable to a majority of the population. Seemed like a decent bloke, so we gave his toe a rub for luck, as is the custom.
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A little retail therapy, note the poor guy on the "Husband Bench".
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Then through the Place of Diocletian. It is an ancient palace built by the Roman emperor Diocletian at the turn of the fourth century AD, that today forms about half the old town and city centre.
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While it is referred to as a "palace" because of its intended use as the retirement residence of Diocletian, it more resembles a large fortress: about half of it was for Diocletian's personal use, and the rest housed the military garrison.

Most of it is converted into shops and restaurants. Its lovely to wander the cool laneways and window shop.
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Parts of the place are open spaces and a grotto are cool - literally, much cooler than outside.
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I am fast coming to a realisation that Jen is an ice cream addict (she never told me that before the wedding) and unless she gets one a day she gets a little edgy!
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Lucky all the countries we are visiting are also big ice cream fans. Happy Wife Happy Life.

There is also an excellent smoothie bar in a breezeway that offers a cool oasis from the heat.
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The night was sadly watching Hungary get thrashed by Belgium 4 – 0 but still a great effort. Great to see Hungary being competitive and holding their heads high. Dinner was a grilled whole fish and salad. Whole fish is always tricky but it is cooked to perfection. The meals we have had in Split have been delicious and great value normally with a litre of local beer.

The next morning, we packed up and got back on the road to commence a three night stay on the island of Brać. Jen again perfectly navigated to the ferry terminal in Split and we hit chaos. The organisational skills of the locals and directions around the ferry terminal are unclear and we circled the area a couple of times. Finally, after some stressful moments of u-turns and stops and starts we were semi confident we were in the right queue to get to Supetar.
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Fortunately at the allotted time the ferry pulls up and the vehicular dance of cars and trucks commences. We drive on board without scratching the car and head upstairs for breakfast, looking forward to Island Hopping.

Posted by tszeitli 10:37 Archived in Croatia Tagged kayaking swimming hot ice_cream happy_place saltwater_therapy airconditioning Comments (2)

The Great Dalmatian Coast Road

Day 40 and 41 Pula to Split via Zadar

sunny 35 °C

Our plans have changed slightly as getting to Split in one day is too far so it's onto the coastal town of Zadar. It has been rated European Destination for 2016 so our plan is to stop for one night.
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Rivalling the drive along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria or Cairns to Port Douglas, the drive from Pula to Zadar is truly magnificent. We set off early, bidding adios to Pula making our way to Rijeka. From there, the D8 Highway hugs the coastline as we wound our way to Zadar.

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As soon as we hit the coastal road Jen and I were both in awe of the beauty. The water is a crystal clear sapphire colour and each inlet has dead calm waters. You can see the many islands off the coast and the road weaves sometimes high up on the cliff edges or down at the water level. The coastline is scattered with small little villages, Each one, with little fishing boats bobbing at the water's edge, would be ideal for a weeks' summer break soaking up the sun and swimming in the cool clear waters. We stopped for lunch at Novi Vindolski, another small village, right next to the water edge and the weather in the mid 30's. What better place to open the boot, pull out the cheese, bread, salami, tomato and capsicum in true European style.

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We arrived in Zadar, and quickly made our way to the local beach. I use the term beach loosely in comparison to an Australian beach. Whilst the water is divine (although no waves) the beaches here have rocks and pebbles instead. Our feet obviously aren't toughened like the locals. There is no elegant, way especially for women, to get in and out of the water, maybe that's why they just sun bake. Imagine walking over an entire toybox of Legos. It does force you to jump in quickly but the pain on your feet rapidly vanishes as the cool clear water takes over and you float away.

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We tried to do a quick trip into the old part of town but parking is a nightmare and unbeknown to us we had to have local coins for the parking meter, and the local shops are well rehearsed at saying "No" to tourists seeking change. Oh well we head to the marina, where parking is plentiful, found a local restaurant with a darling terrace balcony and devoured a meat platter and local beer.

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Sonia - the ćevapčići were delicious!
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Jen and I felt very relaxed, beautiful early evening, overlooking the marina, lovely food and much on our own and no real set plans.

We decided over night to do the Krka National Park today while on our way to Split. The park is known for its water falls and swimming areas so we though it being so hot, lets go inland as it's easy to get to with a car. This meant a quick stop into the old part of town of Zadar as we make our way down the coast.

We walked into the old part of town across the foot bridge eyeing off the marina and the dollars associated with the boats.
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Zadar is an ancient city, over 3000 years old. There is even a centuries old stone tablet "title deed" for a private residence. It was often destroyed and pillaged. Variously it was controlled by Greece, part of the Roman Empire in 59 BC and then under Venetian rule. In 7th century, it became the capital city of Byzantine province of Dalmatia. Burned to the ground in the 13th century by the Crusaders and the Venetians. After Venice, the Austrians took over, then the French between 1806 and 1813. The Austrians came back until the end of the First World War in 1918. With the Treaty of Rapallo in 1920, Zadar came under Italian rule, until the the end of World War II, with 70% of the city destroyed by Allied bombardment. Almost destroyed and abandoned, it came under the control of the Republic of Yugoslavia and therefore collaboration with USSR. Unfortunately, Zadar and its hinterland was ferociously attacked in the Civil War in 1991. The city was surrounded and shelled, with the historic infrastructure taking significant damage.

We could feel this history in the air as we wandered the streets. Century after century (up until the 20th) it has been destroyed and rebuilt, so one has to marvel at its magnificence and enduring efforts of its citizens to rebuild every time.

After a fantastic breakfast - a gem of a find in a quaint lane, we made our way to the Sea Organ on the south west corner of the town.
At first, I scoffed at the idea but as I approached the concrete steps I heard the noises of whale like sounds. The waves push air up through tubes in the steps which generates the noise, hence the name sea organ pipes. Jen just loved the noises and a very novel idea.
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Just along from the Sea Organ is an art installation entitled Greeting to the Sun a 22m diameter circle with 300 glass plates covering solar panels which light up and display messages around the circumference. It is said the aim of the artists is to communicate with light, as the Sea Organ communicates with sound. Whilst we missed it, it is designed to be viewed at either sunset or sunrise when it comes into its element. It was a pleasant change from the usual monuments featuring some dead military dude on a horse.

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Continued the walk and meandered around, taking in the sights.
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Overall a really nice place but we headed off to the National Park.

The park is famous for the water falls and we caught a tourist ferry boat to the lakes and falls. Its hot so Ice creams are in order...sadly all good things must come to an end...

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On arrival it was obvious that this is the place to go on hot days with 1000+ other people on a Friday. However, the swim was well worth it. Fresh and crystal clear water and just the place to chill out for the day.

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After our swim and cool down, we headed on the largest coastal town, Split.

We were met by Ivan at our apartment, making sure we had everything we needed (and more) and fortunately he found a free park for us - parking in most cities is a nightmare, so after spotting one from the balcony, it is a mad rush to grab it. He is a wealth of information, giving great information that leads us to the decision that our next step was to go to the island of Brać. He also gives us great tips for getting away from the main tourist restaurants with overpriced average food. We head off to his favourite restaurant area. Ivan didn't disappoint. In a little laneway bistro, I had one of the best Spaghetti Bologneses I'd had for a long time and Jen had amazing pizza. Streets and restaurants are full of Aussie Retirees and Backpackers. That distinctive Aussie Accent catches our ears regularly! We luxuriated over dinner (and a litre of excellent house wine). Our friendly waiter treated us to a house Grappa gratis that went down perfectly at 9 pm and still 30 deg c.

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Overall an action packed day, plenty of variety and now we can settle in for three nights. Tomorrow it's a full day in a sea kayaking.

Posted by tszeitli 04:58 Archived in Croatia Tagged waterfalls road_trip coast views grappa damation_coast Comments (5)

Born to be Wild!

Day 38 and 39 Zagreb to Pula

sunny 28 °C

Get your motor runnin'
Head out on the highway
Looking for adventure
In whatever comes our way

- Steppenwolf

Today was all about picking up the car, getting out of Zagreb and driving to Pula in a manual left hand drive car and driving on the right without a scratch, 250 km's away. We are in our Road Trip with no firm plans" phase of our holiday. We walked to the car rental and pick up our super machine.....brand new Ford Festiva with 6 km on the clock. Maps-Me app at the ready, we head for Pula and we were "looking for adventure, in what ever comes our way"!

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Off we went, Jen perfectly navigated us out of the city and we hit the highway, feeling quite pleased without ourselves. And stop, crap, toll gate and no Croatian Kuna and we did not organise automatic tolls. With a tricky manoeuvre, we had to do a U-Turn and found a shopping centre to get some cash. Okay back on the highway and we were off, take 2. We discover though that the toll gate is the entry gate where you only collect a ticket and can pay when you pass through another zone, or exit later on. Oh well. By the end of the trip we're experts at the process.

We were on the A1 and it is a great road - quite new and our civil engineers back home would be very impressed.. Speed limit is 130 km / hr but in reality the locals treat this as a guide, whizzing past me at something more like 150 km / hr or more. Me, I was happy with our Buzz Box revving the crap out of itself at 120 km / hr and letting the BMWs and Audis fly passed me.

We arrived in Pula, our apartment was in a great location, a "Lovely" apartment and Valter, our host, greeted us with a bottle of home made honey schnapps.
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We are quite chuffed with our location, about 50 metres from restaurants, icecream cart at the door which makes Jen happy.

Croatia plays Spain, so we head out for dinner and to watch the game.

It was one of those perfect holiday moments, sitting in a restaurant taking in the atmosphere, friendly waiter with a blankie for Jen as a cool air comes off the water, watching the sunset while the town kids play football in the square.
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We had a delicious fresh fish and seafood dinner that was amazing - eat bite was sensational. At half time we headed down to the "Forum" to catch the second half along with 2000+ Croatians all dressed in red and white checks. The score was 1-1 and a great game. The atmosphere was huge! When the Croatian keeper saved a penalty and the crowd went nuts - beers sprayed in the air, flares and firecrackers. Croatia only needed to draw, and the crowd was happy with that, but with two minutes to go Croatia scored a magnificent goal and the Square erupted with beer, flares, fire crackers, cheering and dancing, ecstatic with their win. Great fun and luckily Croatia won. If they had lost it might have got ugly!

Next day we are back on the tourist trail. After getting our bearings with the nifty scale model, and went to the Colosseum - conveniently 400 metres from our Apartment.
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I had visited 30 years ago and when Jen first saw it she could not believe the size. Amazing piece of architecture and the second biggest Colosseum in the world. Jen and I wandered around and inside and Jen took some fantastic photos. It was a place where we could feel the history, both standing in the middle of the arena, where gladiators battled to death and many many many innocent souls were lost for the entertainment of those that would have occupied the galleries above.

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The Arena is now often used for Rock Concerts and a stage was being erected. We not sure if the HSSE inspector was having the day off or existed at all...
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After local pastries and coffee with an okay view,
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we wandered around the cobble stone streets, quaint narrow lane-ways, through the now quiet Forum,
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Up to the small Roman amphitheatre and to the look out.

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears

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Our apartment is about two doors from the chimney structure. We wander the waterfront, marvelling at the clarity of the water. Tonight we decide to have fish for dinner.
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(fortunately these guys were safe)
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It was nice not having too many tourists around but we knew this won't last as Florence and Rome will be over run with tourists.

Tonight we have a date with the European Cup. We donned our Hungarian soccer shirts on and made our way down to the square to watch Hungary vs. Portugal game.

Happy Hour is rather good...
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We found a restaurant with a TV and devoured a great meal and put down 0.5 l jugs of beer. It was a great game at 3 all and this meant Hungary moved into the next phase. well done Magyars!

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After the game, being so close, we could take some very special night photos of the Colosseum, the shiploaders on the dock that are lit up at night in a clever light display and walk along the waterfront..

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Pula was a great first stop and that night we also decided to throw our original plans out the door and head down the coastal road towards Zadar. Ah the beauty of travelling on your own, make the plans as we go.

Posted by tszeitli 22:49 Archived in Croatia Tagged football adventure driving car seafood roman_ruins tolls european_cup Comments (3)

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