Castles, Hamlets and Borders
Were it not for a fence, a gate and a guard, the passage from Slovenia to Croatia would have just been another country lane tracing the slow transition from mountain to sea.
Instead it was nearly another border boondoggle as the guard demanded Kit produce his documents. This included insurance for Croatia that he didn’t have and couldn’t buy near by. Why all this trouble crossing from one EU state to another?
Finally, after taking pity on Kit’s predicament, the guard let him through with a promise to buy insurance in the next major city.
Taking the most indirect route possible to this ‘next major city’, Kit wandered the countryside, repeatedly getting distracted by it’s rustic towns and historic castles.
To the sea
After 2 weeks in the approaching winter of the Alps and Dolomites, the warm sea air of the Mediterranean at Pula was the promised land.
Sitting by the fire, watching the sunset over the Adriatic, Kit couldn’t help but feel he had turned a corner.
In a way, he had. Expecting to meet Kyle somewhere around Albania in two weeks, a steady pace south along the coast was in order.
Rocky shores where the mountains meet the sea.
Following the coastal road as it hugged the rocky slopes above the ocean, it was easy to see how this region was so popular among tourists in the summer months. Thankfully the late October roads were empty of motor homes, the road-side campgrounds closed, devoid of campers.
A week of wandering down the coast eventually led Kit to the city of Zadar. Obviously a tourist mecca (and cruise ship stop) in the summer, in late October cheap accommodation was plentiful and traffic reasonable.
A cheap hostel in old town affords you an easy walk to the historic churches, Roman ruins, and modern art installations (like the sea organ) that are plentiful in the old town.
If this sounds like a travel advertisement, that is because it is. Smack in the center of a route from Pula to Dubrovnik, Zadar is an excellent stop along a 2 week traverse of Croatia. Just don’t try to visit in July or August unless you like huge crowds. Tourism is in the top five industries in Croatia and nowhere is it more apparent than along the Dalmatian coast.
Camping in Croatia
Another benefit of visiting Croatia in the shoulder season is easy access to the best campgrounds. Wild camping is difficult here and many of the bigger campgrounds are just gravel lots directly on the side of the highway. But once in a while you spot a gem.
Campground Sirena was just this. On a point of land jutting into the sea between Split and Makarska, the secluded location offered Kit a chance to camp directly on the water. With few other guests around, the kindly and garrulous owner was eager to invite Kit to drink his various flavors of home-made brandy (that he called ‘medicine’) and chat while his daughter and her husband prepared delicious meals in the Croatian style.
One night was particularly memorable in that the owners were throwing a sort of ‘end of season’ party for all the seasonal workers who helped manage the crowds in the Summer. With Fall well under way most of these people were preparing to leave to find something to occupy their winter months, but for this night everyone was just celebrating their months spent together.
Kit walked home with head lightly spinning but heart and stomach full
A whole pig roasted all day on a split started the festivities. Two of the crowd pulled out their guitar and mandolin and broke into a mix of Croatian fold songs. More beer eventually led to brandy and before Kit knew it, it was 3 am. Thankful for the short (but steep) stumble back to his tent, Kit walked home with head lightly spinning but heart and stomach full.
Sunset Speed Flying
With another week to kill before he was scheduled to meet Kyle in Dubrovnik, Kit extended his stay in Sirena. Many happy days were spent paragliding mountain launches in the afternoon, landing on empty beaches at sunset, and returning to hearty food, drink and conversation at camp.
Getting more and more familiar with the Mirage (speed wing), Kit was finding it to be an excellent tool for travel. Particularly because it’s huge glide range enabled taking off from shallower launches and landing at further LZs than a standard speed wing would. All while being stable and predictable in flight, even through light turbulence. Certainly this was a wing that lived up to the hype.
Dubrovnik Rendez vous
Chimerical days of mercurial hike and flys in the afternoon sun, followed by hospitable nights full of drink and dialogue were over all too quickly as November rolled around and Kit was forced to leave this Nirvana and continue south to meet up with Kyle, who had returned to Rome and was headed East at full speed.