Rolling Through the Hills: The Western Balkan Peninsula

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Part 7: Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Croatia

The Route

12 days travelling up through the Western Balkans, through the countries which only a few years ago made up the country of Yugoslavia. It is an incredibly mountainous area with more than half of the land made up of mountain ranges. The roads are a little crazy but we are pretty used to that by now, but the sharp corners on the mountain roads with even a touch of rain proved a bit of a mission (and got the better of many other cars we saw). The area is stunning though, and we were able to see some amazing views!

Most of the countries we travelled through (bar Croatia) are not yet official members of the European Union. Therefore we had many manned border crossings which were a bit of a tax, but it also meant a few stamps on the passport which is always a bit of a cool thing to get.

The Highlights

20180606_201234.jpgKotor Municipality, Montenegro

  • An area with an incredibly stunning landscape. Hidden in a beautiful fiord with magnificent mountains wherever you look. The town of Kotor has old historic buildings and small cobblestone streets, but the best thing to do here was to escape the tourists and get the beautiful views hiking in the mountains. The landscape is really the thing that makes this place incredible (just don’t pay the insane fee to climb up the castle walls, you can access them for free by entering from the path outside the town, shown here).

 

20180606_201513.jpgMostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina

  • A little town nestled in between the mountains of Bosnia. It is a beautifully authentic town with small streets leading around the river and several mosques spotted as the area is predominantly Muslim. It is a very unique spot unlike many of the other places we have travelled in Europe. To top it all off everything is also very cheap here, in fact all through Bosnia & Herzegovina it is incredibly cheap…

 

20180606_202040.jpgPlitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

  • One of Croatia’s stunning national parks with lakes of incredible colours and beautiful waterfalls throughout. We wandered on wooden paths that took us right over the water. A truly incredible area.

 

 

20180606_201948.jpgKrka National Park, Croatia

  • Another stunning national park, larger than Plitvice but with a smaller ‘tourist’ area (where some of the most picturesque waterfalls are located). The areas outside of the main 2km circuit were stunning as well and felt much more untouched from tourism, perfect for hikers like us.

 

20180606_201610.jpgBlue Cave, Vis, Croatia

  • The sun shines up through an underwater opening in the cave making the water inside glow bright blue. Unfortunately swimming is forbidden but it is an incredible hing to see.

 

 

20180606_201053.jpgLake Ohrid, Macedonia/Albania

  • A stunning lake in between Albania and Macedonia, surrounded by mountains and small towns from both countries. Ohrid is also a beautiful town located on the Macedonian side of the lake with some old architecture relatively hidden from the main tourist routes.

 

20180606_202106.jpgPula, Croatia

  • A beautiful old town with a relaxed atmosphere. It looked like a place that should be much more touristy than it is with beautiful ancient structures (including a massive and beautifully preserved arena) and colourful buildings throughout. It is also located right by the water with the islands of Brijuni just off the coast.

 

20180606_200926.jpgButrint National park, Albania

  • One of the most visited attractions in Albania, but you wouldn’t know it from walking around. We were nearly alone wandering around the ruins which are uniquely positioned within swampland. One thing that was great about this spot was the wildlife. Many turtles swimming through the waters, frogs hopping around the ruins and snakes slithering along the paths.

 

The Story

Day 55: Konitsa → The Blue Eye → Butrint National Park → Dhërmi → Vlorë

After driving through the mountain ranges of northern Greece for the last time we arrived at the Albanian border. This is the first time we have had a manned border in Europe, the first of many to come between all of the countries we are about to travel through. Albania (as well as many other countries in this area) are yet to be members of the European Union. They are currently candidates though so may soon be. It is going to be interesting dealing with some new currencies while we are just a short time in each place, but we have heard in most places you can use the Euro, so fingers crossed because that’s currently all we have.

As soon as we crossed the border we found quite a different landscape. The mountains that were densely covered in forest in Greece were now grassy with stripes of stone coming through from underneath. It also felt like a bit of a jump back in time with people in the fields hacking away at long grasses, horses with old fashioned wooden saddles and shepherds wandering with their sheep or goats.

Our first stop was at The Blue Eye, a natural spring hidden in the mountains. I thought it was beautiful, crystal clear water bubbling up from below the ground was very cool to see. But I hadn’t seen a spring like this before, Elric had and he thought the others he had seen in New Zealand were better. It was pretty cool in my mind though.

It was then off to Butrint National Park, the most visited tourist attraction in Albania (but you wouldn’t know it, most of the time we wandered around without another person to be seen or heard). Here are the ruins of the town of Bouthrotum, an area that has been inhabited since around the 10th century BC. The ruins are located in a swampland which made it quite unique from the other ruins we had seen, not only in terms of landscape but also meant the wildlife was very different too. Turtles were swimming under the bridges and lying on the stones of the ruined city, frogs were hopping over the ruins and we even spotted a black snake slithering right in front of us on the path. A very cool spot. The paths were also mostly shaded by trees which was a nice change in the hot sun.

We drove on north to Dhërmi. A spot with a beautiful beach with white stones and turquoise water. We lay on the beach looking out to the ocean with magnificent mountains shooting up behind us. Beautiful spot, incredibly hot though so we could not stay long.

The road going north was stunning. We zigzagged up the mountains with beautiful views over the coast below. On the way up Mount Çika we saw one car had overheated, I imagine it is very common with the continuous steep incline and boiling hot heat, but Olaf made it through!

We arrived at our home for the night, just south of Vlorë. Everything is incredibly cheap here so we got a pizza and beers at the local bar and watched the sunset.

Day 56: Vlorë → Pogradec → Ohrid → Skopje

Today we had a massive day of driving from the coast of Albania to the capital of Macedonia. Our first stop was in Pogradec, our last spot to spend all of our Lek before leaving the country as we thought this could be our last stop in Albania for the trip. The lake is beautiful with incredibly clear water, surrounded by mountains and with little boats lining the beaches. One thing that felt very strange in this town though was the absence if women. There were groups of men playing chess, groups of men in the restaurants and bars, men walking and biking through the streets but very few women around. Any woman you did see would always be with another woman, never with a man. It felt very different for us.

The border into Macedonia was pretty full on. Our documents were looked at vigorously and then we had a drug dog jump into the car sniffing through all our luggage. They were really nice border control people though, and no complaints about a lab jumping into the car.

On the Macedonian side of the lake we stopped at Ohrid. This is a beautiful old town with tiny cobblestone streets and some historic monuments hidden among them. It is known as having 365 churches located around the town, one of the most beautiful being the Church of St. John, a 13th century church located at the edge of the town overlooking the lake.

On the way driving to Skopje we were hit with pouring rain, and on mountain roads with no drainage, minimal visibility and cars and trucks passing on blind corners we had to pause and wait for the rain to calm down a little. There must be so many crashes around these areas, and many of them head on collisions surely…

When we reached Skopje we were pretty exhausted but our AirBnB was insanely nice which made us feel much better. We had a walk in the bohemian area of the town down Radnjanska street and stopped for an amazing cheap dinner and a much needed beer. Already liking this place very much.

Day 57: Skopje → Prizren

We spent much of the day wandering around Skopje, the capital of the Republic of Macedonia. This area is a place I had never really thought of visiting, partially because I knew very little about it but also because it is very hard to find information about things to see. The tourism advertising for many of the countries in the Balkans is a bit poor making it difficult to know where to go and what to see, but it also means there are next to no tourists which is ideal. The river is lined with large buildings with beautiful architecture and the city filled with huge statues and beautiful fountains. The Old Bazaar is the old section of the town and is crisscrossed with cobblestone streets and spotted with mosques and other beautiful buildings. The streets were a little quieter than usual at it was the beginning of Ramadan while we where there and a large proportion of the population are Muslim. A beautiful city.

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Before we could cross the border to Kosovo we had to spend 15€ on car insurance as the classic European insurance does not cover us here, and it is obligatory to have it. It was a little annoying seeing as we were just passing through but as soon as we exited the border we were rerouted onto a tiny mountain road with narrow sections of one-way gravel road on the edges of mountains that we shared with trucks, so maybe it was a good thing to have. The area is absolutely stunning though, a beautiful mountainous landscape. I never expected to find so many mountainous areas filling these countries, it’s incredible.

We arrived in Prizren for the night, another beautiful town hidden in the mountains with a fortress on the top of the neighbouring hill and a river separating the old and new town. A beautiful quiet spot by the river, however it was really hard to see the poverty and homelessness, in particular the children sleeping on the streets. It is really hard to know what to do.

Day 58: Prizren → Sveti Stefan → Kotor

This morning we were going to head off to Valbona Valley National Park for a hike between Valbona and Thethi (described in a blog here). However with heavy rain forecast for the next couple of days here we decided to give it a miss this time around. The area looks incredible though, what we saw from the road was beautiful.

So instead of hiking we did an indoor activity, eating. The Mrizi i Zanave restaurant had been recommended on a couple of blogs Elric had come across so we decided to check it out. It is in an area of farmland quite a distance from any towns so it is definitely a destination spot. The food changes each day depending on the produce available in the area at that time. Apparently there is a menu in Albanian but it’s better to just go with the chefs recommendation. We had heard it was not expensive but as the courses started coming out one after the other and all luxuriously put together I started to get a little worried about the cost. The food just kept coming. After the entrée there were several large platters of cheeses, veges, dried meats, olives and a whole lot of other things. Then came the massive main course followed by multiple desserts. It was way too much for two people but insanely good quality and beautifully presented, and all of that including wine and a homemade fruit drink at the start it was 30€ for two people. It was the only food we needed all day. I can see why it’s so highly recommended. What was even better was the fact that outside it was bucketing down with rain with thunder and lightning, so pretty glad we weren’t hiking.

After crossing the border into Montenegro we found the wet mountain roads quite a challenge. It seems there is next to no grip on the road so with a little water the driving isn’t the safest. On one occasion we completely spun out and ended up on the other side of the road facing the other direction, a bit of a slow motion unintended u-turn. Lucky there were no cars coming the other way because people also drive crazily. On a couple of other occasions our tires lost grip on the road, but at least we didn’t end up like several of the other crashed cars we saw…

We made it to Sveti Stefan for a small stop at the little old village on a mini peninsula just off the beach. It was just a quick stop though before we moved onto the main event, Kotor.

Kotor is a fortified town set in an incredibly stunning fiord surrounded by mountains. After checking into our accommodation (everything is also incredibly cheap) we had a wander around the lake as the light was disappearing. It was breathtaking, and the warm winds made it a perfect evening temperature. I can’t wait to explore a little more, we have already booked another nights accommodation here, something we never do…

Day 59: Kotor

The perfect way to make the most of the stunning surroundings was starting the day with a bit of a hike. We got up early to get a head start on the heat and headed off to a little path next to the old city of Kotor. The most famous walk in Kotor starts in the city and takes you up through the castle walls. We decided to start outside of the town, hike up in the mountains behind the town and then down through the castle walls that everyone talks about at the end (like described here). It turns out everyone who enters from the town gets stung with an 8€ entry fee, which is insane because it’s an area you can access for free, and the walls are definitely not the part with best views or nicest path (it’s also the busiest section). The path we took was stunning taking us to incredible views over the fiord, mountains and the orange rooved buildings of Kotor (you can also just cut in to go to the top of the walls straight away, for free, if that’s all you want to do). At the top you can even see over the cliffs all the way to the ocean. It’s a truly amazing area to experience.

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We jogged down the castle walls into the old town. The tiny streets are beautiful but the beauty of the surrounding area definitely takes the cake for me. The old towns can be very much tourist hot spots, and with a couple of cruises docked while we were there the streets were packed with foreigners with cameras. It was still beautiful though, but an hour or so including a stop for lunch was all we needed before heading off to explore more of the stunning surroundings.

We drove over to Perast on the other side of the fiord. It is a beautiful tiny town placed in an equally beautiful area with far less people, and as the evening came the tourists that were there headed back to their accomodation in Kotor.

After a drink at the water-side bar we dived in for a swim. The water was the perfect temperature, we could have stayed in for hours.

We spent sunset wandering around by the water. The sky was so many shades of orange, purple and blue and seemed to last forever. It’s got to be the longest sunset I have seen, maybe because the sun itself was hidden behind the mountains just leaving behind a canvas of colours.

After the light had truely disappeared we headed back to the bar for a last drink watching the lights reflected on the rippling water. I love this place.

Day 60: Kotor → Dubrovnik → Trebinje

Our AirBnB had a stunning view to wake up to looking out over the fiord. A beautiful start to a busy day crossing through 3 countries.

Just off the shore of Perast are two tiny islands one with the monastery of St. George and the other with a church named Our Lady of the Rocks. For 5€ we got a boat out to one of them and snuck in with a tour group to find out about the history. Legend has it that fishermen found an icon of the Virgin Mary located on the rocks. They took it back to the mainland but when they went back to the island the icon was there again. This was thought to be a sign that they needed to build a church on the land. The island was artificially made by dragging rocks from the mainland and dropping them in the ocean until a church could be built. Now once a year people come together and throw rocks into the water around the island meaning technically the island is still in the process of being built today.

Crossing the border into Croatia was a bit of a mission, being the weekend there were very long lines both to exit Albania and to enter Croatia. But once we finally got through we boosted off to Cavtat just south of Dubrovnik. A really beautiful place situated in a tiny harbour that seems to be quite popular with super yachts. After another meal that would last us all day we wandered around the water where we could see Dubrovnik hiding in the distance, our next stop.

Dubrovnik was pretty busy and pretty hot but was still a beautiful place to see. It’s a great place to get lost in the little streets as it seems most people stick to the main drag. To get on the castle walls it was an excessive price of 20€ per person. I think we could have easily snuck on at half way, but in the heat it didn’t seem like the most pleasurable activity, even in the shade of the streets it was a bit of a struggle and it’s not even summer yet.

Needing a swim to cool of we wandered past the harbour by Tvrđava Bokar, where people were getting their Game of Thrones tours, to a little rocky swimming area on a little peninsula. As the sun was getting low on the horizon we headed off through our last border crossing to Trebinje in Bosnia & Herzegovina for the night.

Day 61: Trebinje → Blagaj → Mostar

Trebinje was not a place we had planned to stay, we chose it more because accommodation was far cheaper than in Dubrovnik and it was on the way to Mostar (both places we had on our list to visit). But in the morning we had a wander and it turned out to be a lovely place. It was a Saturday so the streets, parks and cafes were full of locals smiling and relaxing together in the sun. It was a really nice homely vibe which was a nice change to the very touristy spots we have been in recently. We had a coffee in the main square and a wander around the market where people were selling hand made clothing, home grown fruits and veggies, and home made cheeses in bags (made from animal skins). A true local environment.

On the way to Mostar we had a quick stop in Blagaj. Here there is a monastery at the base of a large cliff with a cave that gives rise to a beautiful turquoise river. There is a little path behind the buildings opposite the monastery that leads to the best viewpoint. The path was a little hidden so we were lucky to have the view all to ourselves.

After our quick stop we headed of to the town of Mostar. A really beautiful town hidden in a valley. We checked into Mirror Hostel for the night (really great hostel with the nicest people, and one of the cheapest too, definitely recommend. Should have said I was vegitarian at check in though as it turned out there was a lot of meat in the free breakfast) and went to explore the town. When we first arrived around 3pm it was quite busy with tourists, but it still felt relaxed. Unlike the old town of Kotor where cruise ships would bring truckloads of people rushing around all at once, people just felt like they were relaxing enjoying the environment, and after we had a bite to eat we wandered the streets again and there were not many people at all, something hard to find in beautiful old towns like this. Everything is also far more affordable, and really traditional. Not to mention the beautiful mountains towering over the town. Definitely a highlight location.

In the evening we watched the final of the champions league, all of the bars were buzzing with it!

Day 62: Mostar → Kravica → Vis

After a free breakfast we set off towards Split in Croatia. Before crossing the border we had a few last stops, the first at the supermarket to make the most of the cheap food and our remaining KM (this country is one of the cheapest we have travelled through), followed by a couple of small walks, one to a castle tower and the other to a waterfall.

In Pocitelj we climbed the steep stairs of the small tower to get a view over the neighbouring mosque and turquoise river below. The tower was part of the ruins of an abandoned fort built some time around the 14th century when the town was an important administrative center to the region, while the mosque and neighbouring structures are remnants of The Ottoman Empire from the late 15th century to late 17th century. This whole area is so full of towns that display such a mixed history. A very unique Europe indeed.

In our last stop before travelling back into Croatia we wandered to the Kravica waterfall. Being the ultra cheap travellers we are we didn’t want to pay the 3€ each to enter through the main entrance (our bank accounts are getting very low as our first big roadtrip comes to a close, and as planned we should finish with nothing left before working again in the summer). So instead we drove to the other side of the river and walked down a little track through the bush to the base of the waterfall. We got the same view as everyone else so the only reason it would be worth it to pay is if you planned to stay for a decent chunk of time, go swimming and hava a drink at the cafe. On our side we also got to see a snake, loads of butterflies and several frogs hopping around the puddles. The waterfall itself is beautiful, worth a bit of Bush bashing for sure, and maybe a bit of a sneak peak of the beautiful waterfalls yet to come in the Croatian National Parks.

Once we arrived in Split we parked in the closest free parking area to the ferry terminal (By Aci Marina) and hopped on a ferry to head to the island of Vis (the town itself will have to be explored when we are back). By the time we arrived it was dark so we had a surprise to await is in the morning!

Day 63: Vis

The main attraction in Vis is the blue cave. You have to take a first boat to the island of Biševo before hopping on a smaller boat that can just fit into the tiny artificial cave entrance. There are lots of companies running the same route and every one for the same price so the best option was the smallest and fastest speed boat that would get us there close to midday. The cave is the bluest at midday on a cloudless day because of the way the sun reflects of the ocean floor. The trip there was a lot of fun and we were lucky in that our boat operator had a card that could speed us through the line on the island (we would have otherwise had to wait around 30 minutes).

We entered the cave through a tiny entrance in the black rock face, only just big enough for us and the boat if we ducked our heads. Inside it was stunning. Crystal clear water glowing blue with the sun coming up through a little opening below. A really beautiful sight. And it seems we were there at the perfect time, not only good timing for the bright blue water but also we were lucky enough to be the only boat in the cave (apparently this very rarely happens). It was a little expensive, and you only get around 15 minutes in the cave, but we both thought the whole experience was worth it.

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In the afternoon we had a bit of a wander around the coast just east of Komiza. There were several beautiful beaches only accessible by foot, and all with only a couple if people. At the end there was also a naturalist beach which was a bit of an ‘experience’ I guess you’d say. We swum in the warm water for ages before lying in the sun until late evening. A perfect quiet place to relax.

Day 64: Vis

After spending way too much money to hire a car to explore the island we headed off for a day of beach hopping, first stop – Stiniva. It is a beach everybody raves about, voted the best beach in Europe in 2016. It was a decent climb down to the beach so we thought surely this would mean the beach would be hidden away from the crowds of people, but unfortunately I think everyone pays to get there by boat. Although the cliffs surrounding the green water were pretty, the small beach itself was crowded with noisy tourists and there was only a tiny bay for swimming as just outside this area sheltered by cliffs the water was filled with boats of all kinds. I definitely would not call it a highlight (nor would I think it would come close to being one of the best beaches in Europe) but there are plenty more beaches to see today!

The next beach we went to in Srebrna was much nicer. The beach itself was covered in white stones which looked beautiful against the turquoise water as well as the dark volcanic rocks lining the edges of the bay. There were also far fewer people spread over a larger area in comparison to Stiniva making it a very quiet and relaxed spot. Probably a favourite spot around the island.

Next stop was Zaglav. The first sandy beach we came across on the island which was nice. This was a really beautiful spot but unfortunately I found it hard to see past the rubbish lining the shore. One thing that has really stood out through our travels is the impact humans have had on the environment. We have created some spectacular things, but we have also caused a lot of destruction to our landscape, littering being one way we have done this.

The town of Vis was our last stop before heading back to our home in Komiza. The port town has some beautiful old buildings (and of course another beautiful beach), but I think overall our town on the other side of the island is a nice spot with a bit of everything (and away from the cruise ships).

Once back in our home village we headed to our homespot for a swim before watching the sunset. Tomorrow it’s back to the mainland!

Day 65: Vis → Split → Krka National Park → Plitvice Lakes National Park

After a 5am start it was on the ferry back off to split. We did a rough plan of our day and booked accomodation just out of Plitvace National Park (thinking that would work with what we wanted to see today…).

By just after 9am we were wandering the streets of Split. It is a really beautiful place with small streets which at this time of the morning were quiet and relatively free of tourists (by 10am you could barely move there were so many people). Before it got too busy we climbed up the old clock tower to get a view over the town and the Croatian islands in the distance. It’s a very cool view, a sea of orange rooves leading to the ocean with some castle walls and ancient architecture thrown in there too.

As we were relaxing in a cafe using the Wi-Fi to plan our route for the day we had a shock to find that going all the way to Plitvice today would mean we completely skip Krka National Park, an area with stunning walks over waterfalls and emerald lakes (serves us right for making plans and booking accommodation for the night, we should have stuck to our ‘no plan’ mentality). But we decided if we ran back to the car and boosted to the park we would have enough time, just arriving a little later in Plitvace than expected. So that’s what we did.

The main entrance to Krka National Park was in Lozovac, so we thought that was a good place to start. We rushed into the park where we found a wooden path taking us over the emerald waters. The park is really well put together with an easily accesible path taking you over all of the beautiful lakes and waterfalls that the park is so well known for. It was also a great walk on a hot day because most of the route was under the cover of trees. It was really stunning, quite busy, but beautiful.

With limited time we chose two other entrances to explore. The park is quite big so to see the other sections you need to drive between the entrances, take a ferry or do a full day of hiking (I think hiking it all is a bit of a challenge even with experience), but it appears next to no-one takes any of these options as the rest of the park was nearly empty. The second entrance we went to at Roški Slap was beautiful however it felt much more classic than the main entrance (I don’t think it would be worth the entry fee, however no-one was checking for tickets anywhere except the main entrance so you could easily enter the park for free). The best spot here was potentially the view from the Oziđana Pećina Cave. After climbing 500 or so stairs we had a view over the whole valley with the river striped with rapids.

With thunder banging at our heels we headed of to our last stop near the Burnum entrance. Just as the rain was starting to spit we took the short walk down to Manojlovac waterfall. The view here was incredible. A tall stringy waterfall surrounded by the green of the forest and steep white cliffs. This would be an area definitely worth some more exploring. But with thunder and lightning on the way we started our drive off to Plitvace.

We got very lost with directions from MAP.ME ending up on roads of gravel and mud with our little car in the middle of a storm (This app really struggles to see the difference between a main road and a 4WD track). But luckily a nice Croatian lady who didn’t speak a word of English managed to lead us in the right direction. The area was really beautiful though with flat green farmland nestled between rolling hills, a place very much off the beaten track.

After finally arriving at our acommodation for the night we went to dinner at the Chinese restaurant we saw on the road in. Something I have really missed from New Zealand is Asian food restaurants, and in fact all varied ethnic food. In Europe, as a general rule, individual countries tend to stick to their own cuisine and it’s quite hard to find anything else. This was great at the start, but it’s also nice now to have a change for a night when the opportunity presents itself. It was a great end to a busy day for sure.

Day 66: Plitvice Lakes National Park → Pula

Our goal was to be hiking in Plitvace National Park by 8am but our insanely comfy bed trapped us and we weren’t on the track until just after 9:30. The national park is incredibly expensive to enter through the main entrances so our entry was a little sneaky to say the least, but we didn’t want access to the ferries and busses that come included in the ticket price, we just wanted to hike (there really should be an affordable option for people like us, this blog helped us out with getting in). For a whole day out though the fee would be worth it, and the ferries and busses do save you a lot of hiking if that isn’t your thing.

The whole park is absolutely beautiful. It is quite small so even with our ‘extra’ hiking sections we had covered every path in the park within 5 hours. It was an incredible day with stunning views, we both thought it topped Krka National Park. Even though Krka is much larger all of the tourists condense on one 2km circuit track from the main entrance which made it feel much more crowded (and this section probably is the most beautiful). Having said that though in the rest of Krka National Park there is next to no-one which makes for great hiking whereas in Plitvice a lot of people do the longer trails as they are more manageable for the average person meaning you are always in reasonably close proximity to other groups of people. It’s a spot really worth sharing though, with incredible waters that change from turquoise to deep blue to emerald as you move from lake to lake. There are several stunning waterfalls too, the largest being Veliki Slap at 78m high.

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We head off just as we started to hear thunder pounding in the distance. We have had some pretty amazing storms through this part of Europe and our next drive was no different. Pouring rain flooded the road, huge hail stones sounded like they would smash through our windscreen and streaks of fork lightening filler the sky with booming thunder to follow. However, as it has always been through our travels, the storm was short lived giving back the bright blue sky and boiling hot temperatures within an hour.

We continued on to Pula for the night, staying in a really cool alty AirBnB where the entrance way was adorned with mannequins and medieval battle armour, all of the rooms had beds on stilts and the walls were all painted crazy colours. Great spot.

Day 67: Pula → Koper

Pula was a very cool town to visit with a really relaxed atmosphere. Right in the centre is a large Roman Arena from the 1st century AD, the most well preserved ancient monument in Croatia. It’s quite an impressive structure to find in the middle of a relatively small town.

As we walked into the main square in front of the Temple of Augustus we found a group of people acting out activities from ancient times. There were men chiseling stone sculptures, making wooden bowls, as well as gladiators training for fights in the centre. It must have been part of some kind of festival but we were unable to find out what it was. A very cool thing to stumble across by surprise though!

The rest of the town was full of beautifully coloured buildings with the odd ancient monument thrown in the mix. A small town with some great history and a relaxed atmosphere (we were even here on a weekend and it was not overcrowded at all with tourists!).

The border crossing into Slovenia was the quickest we have had so far, even though it was the beginning of the weekend. It was still a manned border but both the security to exit Croatia and enter Slovenia were in the same booth making it really efficient (and I still got the 2 stamps on my passport which was great). It would have been great if the other borders had been this easy, but with not yet being official members of the EU and the Yugoslav Wars occurring in such recent history it is understandable that they are strict.

The first town we visited in Slovenia was Koper, a small town on Slovenia’s small portion of coast (they only have around 20km). Another relaxed little town with coloured buildings lining the streets. Our hostel was a bit of a disaster though, but I’m sure our review did it justice… (first negative review we have ever placed…) But a very nice town!

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Tomorrow it is off to explore the rest this stunning country; the mountains, the lakes, the valleys, the towns and everything in between (we have been looking forward to it since the beginning of the trip)…


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