Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Day 26 Montenegro to Croatia

We left early, and drove a short distance to the border into Croatia. We had another really easy border crossing, though this was the first time the authorities actually wanted to view Hayden and Sarah and check them against their passport photos. There was a long no-mans-land between the two borders for some reason of about 1 km. We were driving to Dubrovnik – a beautiful old town with high fortress walls and towers, which have been well maintained. These walls were shelled in 1991 by the Yugoslav army, and lots of damage was done, but the locals have repaired it all, and it is as good as new. The usual problem in these towns is parking, and this one was no different. We saw lots of NO CAMPER signs, so felt a bit put out, but finally managed to find free parking down by a bus depot. It was a couple of km to walk back to the city, but mostly downhill, so easy going. The old down of Dubrovnik was a buzzing place, even at that time of the morning. There were lots of cobbled streets, stone shops and little alleyways, all surrounded by the giant wall. The souvenirs were quite nautical themed. We managed to go into an art exhibition. I forget the name of the Croat artist, but the paintings were excellent. Brightly coloured in quite a modern style with lots of splashes of paint, but from a distance, were quite traditional scenes of woodlands, boats, and trees etc. Very impressive. I thought the prices were very reasonable too until I realised they were in Euros, not Kuna (the local currency). We came across a market, selling handmade goods, and after much taste testing, bought some candied orange peel (a local delicacy), and some dried figs (a favourite of Richard’s.)

It was a beautiful day, and it was getting hotter, so we decided to go up to the top of the walls and walk round the city. It is about a 2 km walk with lots of steps going up and down, and turrets to climb. The views were magnificent, and it was also neat to look down into people’s gardens who lived in the old city. There was even a school we looked down into, where the boys were playing soccer, kicking the ball against the walls!

Finally we made it back down off the walls, and back into the main square. There were quite a few buskers, which added to the atmosphere, and we sat for a while, watching the kids (and Richard) trying to stand on the sloping gargoyle thing next to one of the big old doors. Hayden was the only one that was successful! Apparently it is very hard for adults to do, but easier for kids. It was after 1, so time for lunch. We were aiming to eat at a restaurant recommended in Lonely Planet, but the one we thought it was, actually wasn’t, but had nice pictures of their food, so we ate there instead. Fish is the speciality in this area, so we decided to go for something a bit different – Richard ordered stuffed squid (filled with mussels, rice etc), and I ordered frogs legs (yes, I know we are not in France, but you don’t often see them on the menu). They were interesting, but quite flavourless I thought. They looked really cute lying in pairs around the plate. Hayden tasted one, but Sarah was horrified! Richard really enjoyed his squid, and the kids had fairly safe food – a vegetarian platter, and spaghetti bolognaise.

Our next mission was to find camping. Most don’t open till 1 May, but there were a couple advertising that they were already open. We drove a long way out onto a peninsula on the way to Split. It was a beautiful drive, but quite late (after 6 pm) when we reached our camping. It is a high quality place, right above the sea, with very nice facilities. The kids went for a big swim in the swimming pool, and stayed outside playing for ages. It was such a nice night, we cooked our dinner and took it down to a table overlooking the sea, and watched the sun go down.

That night, there was a full moon, and the moonscape over the sea was captivating. The wind got up in the night, and buffeted us a bit (because of course we chose a campsite that we could have an uninterrupted view of the sea from!)