Istria region, Croatia

Rovinj, Croatia – lovely

It is really hard to know what to say about this part of the world. It is lovely. It is historic. Towns and villages are really interesting, and the coast and waters are beautiful. I can’t begin to tell you about every town and village that we visit, it is enough to say that most of them are on the waterfront, with history, beautiful views, boats, restaurants, little stores and more. Most if not all of these towns are hundreds of years old. They have really narrow streets with three-storey buildings. Many of these buildings are not painted and the stone and plaster has fallen off in places. At home they would probably look run-down. Here they simply look historic. Although a lot of places are really old, that doesn’t mean that the country hasn’t kept up with technology. Mike sat on a bench the other day that was made out of solar panels. The bench had outlets for charging your telephones, it was also a free wifi hot spot, it had lights and more. Why don’t we have some of this technology in North America?

Mike and I have spent almost one month on the Istrian Peninsula so far.  12 days in Slovenia and two weeks in our current campsite in Croatia.  An interesting fact for those at home is that we are currently camped 176 km or 109 miles NORTH of our home in Canada.  The weather here isn’t hot by any means but it is warmer than Toronto.  I remember when we were looking into this trip being really surprised to find out that Toronto is about the same distance south as Marseilles in southern France.  Not what most people would guess.

Narrow streets in Rovinj

Mike and I took a great full-day boat trip to three towns in the area. We stopped for an hour or two in each town. We were told that in the summer there are 20,000 people in the various campgrounds, how awful. The internet talks about “mobs” of people in this area in the summer. The paths that we use when we go biking are used by both pedestrians and cyclists. I wonder if it is possible to cycle on these paths in-season when there are that many tourists. Right now, although most of the campgrounds are closed there are still quite a few tourist attractions open. Since Mike and I aren’t into lying on the beach it is a super time for us to be here. The temperature has been in the 60s most days, occasionally getting a little higher or little lower. Until today it has been sunny but hazy. There have been a few people in the water and quite a few sunning themselves. I am wearing a sweater while others are sunbathing in bathing suits. A lot of the campground and beaches in this area are for naturists, the Croatian English translation for nudists. One long bike path Mike and I took on the water’s edge went through a lot of these naturist areas. I am not sure if the path would have been open to us in the summer or not. Even at this time of year we did see a few men sunbathing without clothes although that was not the norm at these temperatures.

Yesterday, Mike and I biked along the coast to the historic town of Poreč, about 20 km from where we are staying. The waterfront path went through a lot of the closed campgrounds. Mike and I rapidly found out that some of the campgrounds have open gates to let you ride along the path whereas others close and lock their gates. We were doing a lot of backtracking every time we came to a locked gate until we were passed by three professional looking riders. They were going in our direction so we decided to follow them. Even with our electric bikes Mike and I had problems keeping up, how embarrassing. Luckily these riders must have known exactly which gates were open and what route to take. We had a great “fast” ride along the coast. Coming back, we deviated slightly at one point. That was a mistake! The path disappeared, and we were in a tangle of tree roots, rocks and gravel. Mike made it through, but I fell. I tore a wire controlling the pedal assist on my bike. Throttle mode still worked so we made it back to the campground OK. As I am writing this, it is pouring rain outside and has been for the last 12 hours. Luckily our RV is big enough for Mike to bring the bikes inside to work on. Mike couldn’t find anything to attach the wire I disconnected to. We are wondering if some small component came out when I fell. When we were home last, Mike bought a bag of extra parts for the bike. The extra part for my pedal assist doesn’t match the one on my bike. We may actually have made things worse trying to fix it. Needless to say, my husband isn’t in a great mood. He is trying to put my bike back to the way it was after I fell so that I can at least use the throttle for the rest of this year. We will see what happens when we talk to the bike shop when we get home. When the e-bikes work well we just love using them. I am afraid that most of the problems have been with my bike. So far, we have put about 1,500 km (930 mi) on our e-bikes this year.

Mike and I had been to Poreč at least three times before we biked there. There is a UNESCO World Heritage site that we had been trying to see but we always arrived too close to closing time. The Euphrasian Basilica complex is considered to be the best preserved early Christian cathedral complex in the world. The original church was built in 313. The main complex today was built in the 500s. One of the really striking features are the mosaics from the 6th century. The complex has a bell tower with a great view of the area. I think it was the last bell tower that I will be climbing. My knees have been getting a little worse and climbing and descending that many steps isn’t worth it any more.

My last Bell Tower

A couple of days ago we left the waterfront and drove through the countryside. It was fascinating seeing all the small villages perched on the top of ridges with their churches standing out on the horizon. Mike wants to know how they ever got the rocks for building, and water for living to all these homes in the past. It must have been a rough life.

I was lying in bed one morning when I heard what sounded like someone throwing small balls at the wall of our bedroom. Mike came in to tell me that they were harvesting the olive trees in the campground and the noise was stray olives hitting our motorhome. We had seen a lot of olive groves in the area and had watched people harvesting the trees from a distance. This was close up and personal. The workers laid a large blanket or net underneath the olive tree(s). They then vibrated the tree with a specialized tool, or, beat it with a broom handle if they didn’t have a vibrator.  The olives then fall into the blanket. Once on the blanket, the workers separate out the twigs and most of the leaves and then transfer the olives into buckets and bags. The major products that we see for sale here are wine and olive oil. There are more types of olive oil than you can believe. Wine is also very big, with wine routes and tours through the wineries very common.

Olive Tree Harvesting in our campground

Croatia reduces its road tolls considerably off-season. A lot of the pay parking lots are now free. I guess they make their money from the “mobs” of tourists and the citizens benefit for the rest of the year. Not all parking is free. We were in one parking lot recently that must take a picture of your license as you enter and get your ticket. When you leave you go to a machine and present the ticket. It comes back and shows you your license plate number and how much you owe. It was really quick and smooth. We were surprised that it handled Canadian license plates since they are quite different from the European ones. We still don’t understand all the road signs. We saw one sign the showed a car underneath a shower head with water coming out of the shower and a line through the sign. Something wasn’t allowed, but we have no idea what.

Mike and I are currently camping almost half way down the Istrian Peninsula next to the town of Vrsar. We expect that we will leave our camper here over the winter. We had expected to get much further south, but it doesn’t look like that will happen. We are not sure if we will stay where we are for the next few weeks or take our RV to the bottom of the peninsula about an hour away. As per usual, we will play this by ear and see what happens. Either way we will continue exploring the area. Croatia is supposed to have about 1,250 islands. In the summer time the islands are really popular. I hope that we get a chance to visit a few of them. It is easy to understand why Croatia is such a major European tourist destination.

Mike and I in Vrsar near our camper
Beautiful sunset from our campground

 

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