On the 5th May we left Krk island on a lovely sunny day. It has been too cool to sit outside our camper so it was better to be travelling with the sun on the van. We drove through Rijeka, a large city with a very Italian feel to it before proceeding down the “Istrian Riviera”  to the town of Pula in the far south of the peninsula. We were amazed to see the near perfect colosseum called the “Arena” smaller than the one in Rome but still very impressive right in front of our parking area. Apparently Mussolini wanted it moved to Italy but decided against it when he found it to be too expensive and left it where it was.  There were numerous remnants of Roman architecture in the old town and a lot of the signs were in Croatian and Italian which I found handy. Moving  from Pula up the west coast  we saw a large number of small olive groves, small and large vineyards and a lot of small market gardens which we hadn’t see before in Croatia.  The earth was very red and reminded us of the earth in the far north of Western Australia.  The only difference was that it was fertile and not sandy. We stayed overnight at Vrsar just past the Lim Fjord another impressive waterway. All along the road were wooden constructions which were vantage points to see  the ravine. These were to  entice tourists to the towers to see the view  and were directly beside stalls selling wine, grappa, olive oil and honey so I think they tried to make people feel obliged to buy something. The wine was quite expensive and not what we wanted so we went down the road to a house where a very rotund man welcomed us and took us to his shed which had large vats of red and white wine. This was what we wanted (wine without preservatives which would last 5-6months – not that we thought it would last that long as we only bought 4 litres for the sum of $20!  He spoke good Italian and told us that we were the first Australians that he had met. His parents moved from Montenegro 100years ago and he  had a wine shop in Rovinj. He sold the shop when his parents got old and moved in with them to the small village where he now lived.  He sold the wine in 1 and 5litre plastic bottles. There were numerous “Grill” restaurants along the roadside with their open stone woodfired ovens blazing and whole or large pieces of lamb or pork on a spit. We made our way back to Rovinj and walked around for a few hours before heading back to the van. We managed to find a parking spot near a nice little trattoria so had a wonderful meal of tuna and cheese salad and roast vegetables and a good cup of coffee “crna kava” in Croatian. When we want to ask directions (or anything for that matter) I always started with “do you speak English, Italian or German?”and have found that many speak some of one of the three languages as well as Croatian. There was a large number of German campers in all the camping areas and when passing shops the waiters out the front would always say good morning to Maurice in German! The parking areas for campers are usually much further away from town and in Rovinj the cost was again six times than that for a car – they are obviously not trying to encourage campers to visit. Pula was the only place where parking for us was near the old town and was only $1 an hour instead of $6 an hour. There was not a lot of choice of campsites going further north but we found an excellent one a fifteen minute walk from the town of Novigrad called “Sirena”.  Some of the campsites so far have been extremely well equiped with every kind of facility including restaurants, cafes,tennis courts, pools,canoes etc and all have fixed portable type cabins for rent. Many seem to be yearly holiday fixtures with pizza ovens and large  annexes. We still thought that the people in campsites drugged their children and dogs each night as we never heard a scream or a bark at all until after 8am and even then some were silent.  Maybe they were just all well behaved?? The only thing we did hear were the lovely birds in the morning. There was one strange bird which made a monotonous sound all night in a couple of the campsites but we couldn’t discover what it was.  We stayed here for a couple of nights.  The town of Novigrad was not soo touristy and we found a wonderful bakery serving coffee.  A loaf of bread and two coffees for $6.    The day after we arrived was cloudy and it rained overnight but luckily it  bright blue sky and sunny the next day. We wanted to go further north and over the border into Slovenia which was only about an hour away to the old town of Piran and we sailed through with barely a glance of our  EU passports.  After driving around and around with our camper, the only place we were allowed to park was 4km out of town and no one I asked seemed to know about buses into Piran.  We were prepared to walk around the town but after our hour’s power walk in the morning we did not want  another 8kms walk or to wait for hours for buses. I took a picture of Piran and we turned around and went across the border into Croatia again.  We had a lovely drive over the mountains to the west coast to Medveja which was the second closest camping site to Rijeka.   The Croatians were doing a lot of maintenance on the roads (which were mostly excellent) and building new roundabouts but they were not always good with giving an alternative when you had to detour around their roadwork.  We were not in a hurry and eventually found our way after discovering that one detour was just too narrow for the camper and we had to double back for a few kilometres. We found our camping site  just as it started to rain again. Seems to be a bit of a pattern – rain overnight and then brilliant sunshine for a couple of days followed by clouds and rain again. The 9th May was a blue sky and sunshine day so we walked the 3kms from the campsite into Lovran to have our morning coffee overlooking the sea. We walked up the hill and caught the bus which took 40minutes into Rijeka.  There we found one of the only tourist information offices that was open.  The only other one was in Dubrovnik.   We both loved the architecture and atmosphere in Rijeka.  There was a large pedestrian “Korzo” through the middle of town with many cafes and restaurants and shops.  We only came across one beggar.  There were very few anywhere in Croatia unlike  Paris where they seem to be on the steps of  every metro station.  We saw none even in Dubrovnik. There is a lot of  reconstruction of  the old ruins in the middle of the city which is the 3rd largest in Croatia.  It is located on Kvarner Bay, an inlet of the Adriatic sea. There is a channel which runs right into the city filled with many small boats.  We wandered around the city taking in the sights for about four hours stopping for coffee in a very innovative cafe with intersting white painted wooden benches.   The bus back to Lovran left on time and we then walked the 3kms back to the campsite and rewarded ourselves with a whisky.  Once the sun disappeared the temperature dropped considerably.  The nights and early mornings were still very cool. In the morning we drove up to Trsat castle where we had a wonderful of all of Rijeka.  The castle is under renovation but is quite distinctive and small by castle standards.  It was a beautiful day so we decided to make the most of it and make for Zagreb avoiding the main highways.

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