RV Roadtrip Croatia – The Istrian Peninsula Part One
After our lovely time in Venice we needed to exit the Schengen zone and reset our visa. We fired up the rig and pointed her towards Poreč, the first camping inside of Croatia that was open all season. Our route took us over the last bit of Italy, across a tiny sliver of Slovenia and then into Croatia. Slovenia uses a vignette system rather than toll booths and there was no single day vignette available and the shortests duration is 7 days. So keep that in mind if you are just transiting through. We should have taken a side trip up to Lake Bled!
Entering Croatia we had to supply all of our paperwork for the first time and we were a bit anxious. We had actually saved a couple of days on our visa timeline in case there was a problem crossing and we needed to sort out the paperwork. Our fears were completely unfounded and we crossed without issue. (If you decide to undertake a similar folly we do suggest you opt for the French registration and insurance. As we’ve learned, the British system may initially seem easier but there are some issues with the “Green Card” proof of insurance that is required as you cross into some countries. The British system also requires a visit back to the UK once a year for the road worthiness test where as in France it is every two years.)
The skinny bit through Slovenia was on pretty poor roads, a single lane each direction, and quite a bit of curves. It had us yearning for the wide-open toll roads we had in Italy! Once on the Croatian roadways we were pleasantly surprised at the good quality and as we would discover, the toll roads in Croatia are fantastic!
Our destination was Camping Polidor, just outside of Poreč and near Funtana. Right next to Polidor is a massive camping village but it was all bundled up for the season. In contrast, Polidor is quite small but the staff are very friendly and the bathrooms are absolutely amazing! The facilities are five start resort quality, the nicest campground bathrooms we’ll likely ever see. It’s funny how important the sanitary facilities become when you live in a 23 foot long RV fulltime.
The camping is in among the trees and just a short walk to the water where during the prime season there are beach bars and cafes. I imagine in peak season it would be total mayhem, especially with the mega resort just next door.
As it was the off season we nearly had the place to ourselves, a few other camping cars in and out and some locals milling around. Now that we were in Croatia our pace of life was set to dramatically change. No more racing from place to place changing campsites every day or two. Our plan was to chill and unwind for a bit.
Our first adventure out from the camping was down the trail to the beach. The coast in Croatia is stunning, from top to bottom it is all equally amazing. The water is clear and the jagged shoreline makes for some incredible views. The sunsets aren’t too shabby either!
After settling in for a few days we took a walk over to Funtana, just a few kilometers from the camping.
Again, things were mostly buttoned up for the season though there were a couple of mini markets open and a bar or two for the locals. We explored the small marina and the church on the hill before calling it a day and heading back to the camping car.
Unbeknownst to us, this was set to be the wettest year on record for the last 60 years. And boy did we get some rain while pitched up at Polidor! Some absolutely amazing rain and hail came out of the sky and lightning lit things up in a stunning show from Mother Nature. Pretty cool stuff.
Our next big adventure was a supply run in the camping car. There is a Lidl (discount grocery with other very random things that seem to change daily) just a few kms from the camping. We had also noted that there was a large camping supply shop that warranted some attention as well.
I hate shopping at Lidl. Actually, the shopping is just fine. Since it is a Europe wide chain there is a bit of uniformity to the product selection which ends up being nice when you don’t read Croatian but you bought the same thing in Spain or France where you could make out the ingredients. The problem with Lidl is that generally there is only one or two clerks on the registers and lots of bargain hungry shoppers in line. Checkout is like a race trying to pack your bags as the clerk rings you up. You don’t want to make your fellow consumers wait too long while you fill your bags to the gills. No dilly dallying! I might be overly sensitive about this but if you’ve shopped Lidl you know what I mean. You get some serious stink eye if you aren’t on top of your bagging game.
Our last big adventure from Polidor was a walk to the Poreč marina and old city that dates to ancient Roman times. One of the key sites to see in Poreč is the Eurphrasian Basilica that dates from the 6th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
According to Lonely Planet, the basilica is one of Europe’s finest intact examples of Byzantine art. “What packs in the crowds are the glittering wall mosaics in the apse, 6th-century masterpieces featuring biblical scenes, archangels and Istrian martyrs.” Yep it has all of those, not that Sebastian would know, dogs are not allowed.
There are also bits of ruin from the Romans as well as the old city walls and ancient cobblestone streets to wander down. We found the waterfront to be quite nice and enjoyed wandering the old part of town quite a lot. Worth a visit for sure.
Our expectations were definitely exceeded by our visit, neither of us was expecting the old town to be so neat. Old school Europe with ancient cobble stone streets is hard to beat!
Stay tuned as we move a few kilometers down the road to Vsar, learn more than we wanted to about Casanova and hop a bus to a city called Rovinj; one of the highlights of the Istrian Peninsula.