Croatia is different. It is Europe, a very nice part of Europe. The hospitality is not as forthcoming here, but as there are many tourists on the coast now, I guess this is to be expected.
The island of Vis is our third somewheredifferent destination. It is the furthest island off the coast and I think by far the nicest. It is full of yachts, 15th century houses, hidden little bays and loads of vineyards that have endless amounts of rather potent local wine!
On arrival we were told ‘there are no campsites here, we only cater for up-market tourists’. Ah… well we thought… stuff you, and parked right up in the middle of town and used the public showers on the beach every day. Penny did her best to keep us ‘up-market’ but we kept (ok just me) letting the side down. So my t shirts weren’t well ironed… but I ask, how am I supposed to be all crisp when we don’t have an iron or anywhere to plug one in if we did?
I really flew the Brits abroad flag on about the third day. The ‘poo pipe leak’ situation had escalated and I spent the day on my back pulling the piping apart with ‘black waste’ or what I would call shit put through a blender and then left to fester for a few days in the sun, dripping out all over me for most of the day. Our ‘up-market’ tourist friends were, how can I say, not impressed. Penny and Sasha would not walk with me in public for the rest of our stay.
I was always jealous of people who could wear those ‘another shitty day in paradise T shirts’ as it meant they weren’t there just for two weeks. Been there and done that now.
We have bought 7,500sq.m. of land on the east end of the island in a valley that is not overlooked by another (lived-in) house. A ten minute walk takes you down to a private little bay that can only be reached by sea and that most locals haven’t even been to. It has a perfect sandy beach surrounded on each side by classic Croatian coastline with crystal clear water and great snorkeling. It’s like being in a swimming pool full of sand and fish. We had the place all to ourselves for most of the day right in the middle of August – perfect!
Vis island was a military base until ’89 and so missed all the trashy ’70 hotel development that is elsewhere in Croatia, which is nice. There were 32 military bases on the island at one time and now there is one (ish) left, down the road from our land that has more sheep in it than squaddies. It is being closed down and doesn’t do anything now. On walking past, Angus wanted to take a closer look to see if they had any SFOR helicopters and tanks in there like they did in Bosnia. They were a bit thrown with having guests and went all formal on us. ‘You are not allowed in here… Army base. need special permission.’ Angus thought this was quite cool but wasn’t convinced. ‘Are you a soldier?’ ‘Yes’ ‘…you ever killed anyone’ ‘No’ ‘…do you have any bullets in your gun?’ ‘…..no’. ‘Mum can we go to the beach now?’
On leaving Vis we went to the island of Brac (not a touch on Vis) and then on to Split to see the lawyer. I though we were going to be in there for five minutes. I ended up in a notoriety’s office for two hours on my own with our rather fit and immaculate assistant Anna Maria and two other women. The looks I got started me to think that maybe I was wearing that same T shirt as I was on that bad poo day.
You know things are supposed to happen when you travel, you loose your passport or you have a blow out and all sorts of things start to happen. Well we had one of those ‘it just happened’ but we didn’t need to loose a tyre to get it. We got a call from cousin Charlie ‘Hey dudes, I hear you’re in Croatia? Where are you’ ‘We’re in Split’ ‘ Cool, just head for the biggest mast in the marina and I’ll be on deck’.
The tallest mast in the marina… nice one.
Split has a big marina and our expectations of what Charlie’s boat was like were kind of met. 40m (not feet) yacht made of mahogany. Instead of finding the local supermarket and dining out in the local port car park like we did on the way out, we were treated to ‘who wants to be a millionaire for the day on Charlie’s boat’. The kids OD’d on DVD’s, coke and chicken nuggets and suggested that we stay with Charlie for the rest of the trip and … well move in basically. Charlie was on fine form and it was really nice to blow the breeze with someone you know and like. Thanks Charlie…
Montenegro, very nice, like Croatia, lots to see and explore, got nicked parking in a bus lane and was let off by the copper in the end as we spent 30 minutes showing him we really didn’t have any euros on us. We didn’t… which was good as he wanted 20 of them. Sveti Stefan half way down has a hotel on an island that used to be a small village. Some one got there before us and bought up the whole place and made it a paradise. We parked in the car park, put on our best togs and blagged our way into the terrace bar. They have a huge restaurant right over the sea, very nice, but at 27 euros for one round of drinks, very expensive.
The kids have been a bit disappointed with border crossings so far, most countries look the same when you get into the new one (except Bosnia) and it takes a while for you to see the difference. On going into Albania they were not disappointed. You drive down a road in Montenegro for about an hour and you’re the only vehicle going either way. The border was full of ‘don’t look at me or I’ll puncha ya face in’ gangster types. We got stung 109 euros for more insurance and went in. The change was instant. The road would be ok and then suddenly stop and go off down a track, without warning. The first shop we saw was in an old van. Shite everywhere all over the place, plastic bags, cars, factories just falling apart, bridges out etc. etc. Yet EVERY car was a Merc. Really nice Merc’s, big 500 Mercs. Brand new big 500 Mercs… all flying down these dirt tracks looking very hard.
Albania is a very safe place, we had no hassle from anyone. In places like Egypt we will be a magnet to every local wheeler and dealer. In Albania I think if we were into drug dealing, EU fund stealing, Mercedes Benz smuggling… we’d get a lot of grief. But as we were just tourists, no one was in the slightest bit bothered about us. ‘You come to visit Albania, for holiday… with your children?’ and that ‘you could have gone to Disneyland instead’ look. They have a lottery in Albania, if you win; you get to live in America. How sad is that. It’s a really mashed up place. But the people are great and they love to give the kids big kisses!
We didn’t see the nice parts of Albania as they are further south and we have come over to Macedonia, so we cannot do it justice, the riviaria is supposed to be very nice and unspoilt, and Rothschild has apparently just bought 15 miles of the coast down there, it could be the future med destination… honest.. We have driven through some real end of the world places and seen stuff I have never seen before. We have driven down very old roads… and very new roads, so new the tarmac was sticking to our tyres as the guy who is supposed to wave us off down the other road went to lunch. The kids… have been totally unfazed about the whole thing. Luckily Albanians treat their animals well and so Sasha was not subjected to any nasty scenes. Sasha has sussed people are mad and live their lives in crazy ways, but if she sees an animal suffering, that’s not fair.
Macedonia; Lake Ohrid is very nice … and cheap. Internet cafes are 40p an hour, hence the travel log update. Dinner for 5 right on the lake with beer and wine last night was 15 quid. Nice.
I have swapped the day job for ‘keeping this 7 tonne lump of metal on the road’ which has at least one thing fall off it each week, the other day it was the fridge door… on my foot, and the table cracked in two when I sat on it. One careful owner…n’t. It is coping well and does not break into a sweat when climbing a few thousand meters in short distance.
We are all getting on and everything is a bit very normal. We haven’t really changed our ways since leaving St Albans, we still bicker, still loon about when we shouldn’t still have egos and still can be arseholes. Only now we are doing it with each other and not our peers, which is nice. We are hoping that one day we will wake up and be a united team and not 5 individuals who have been thrown together because we had this mad idea. We are hoping it will happen soon. And if it does the off-roading in a 20 year old camper will all be worth it!
See you soon.
I am just loving it…