Three countries in one day

A beautifully clear morning greeted us, and we could see the fantastic view from our pitch which had previously been hidden in the haze.

We headed out with a 4 hour/150 mile journey to do and almost immediately left lovely smooth, EU tarmac roads for bumpy narrow Croatian ones!

The van bumped and twisted for the best part of an hour. Roads narrowed and hairpin bends appeared. Luckily, in all that time 3 cars, a coach and one lorry passed on the other side. We were too busy watching the road to take photos but it was lovely. John wants to return in something sensible, like a Porsche or Ferrari.

As we drove around Rijeka, the Adriatic reappeared on our left, it feels a lot longer than two days since our drive along the coast.

Heavy rain and dramatic lightning faced us as our route took us up over the mountains and back inland towards Slovenia.

30 minutes from the border, we joined long queues to enter Slovenia where recent hailstones had been rather ferocious – luckily before we arrived.

Slovenia, not surprisingly, was much like Croatia, with rolling forested hillsides but instead of cheese and honey it was pig roasts which were frequently available at the roadside.

Then we were back in Italy with great views across the Gulf of Trieste.

Our plan was to stop at Castello Di Miramar. As we drove out of Trieste, it appeared in the distance on the headland.

The satnav delivered us to within 100m of the castle, down a very narrow road with parked cars and pedestrians. A parking attendant waved us down and told us to turn around. Scenes reminiscent of last year’s accident came flooding back. We had to turn around in a confined space full of parked cars. Luckily a lovely Italian came to our aid and, with lots of exaggerated gestures described the best way to turn around! There was a queue of cars waiting to follow us out. We’d failed in our attempt to do ‘culture’ and so headed to our overnight stop at Sistiana. The campsite runs alongside the Rilke walking trail and has great views back towards Trieste.

Ken’s back is still bad so John stayed at the campsite, keeping him company with a beer while Kim and Jacky walked the trail out to Duino to see the castle. There are many fortifications along the route created during WW1 and used by the Third Reich in WW2, that have been converted to viewing points across the bay.

Tomorrow were heading to Lazise on Lake Garda.

Plitvicka National Park

Today’s plan was a visit to Plitvicka National Park, one of the most Instagrammed places in the world. Helpfully, the campsite ran a shuttle bus for the 19k journey rather than pack up and take one of our camper vans.

We were up and ready in plenty of time when we noticed Ken walking in a strange way. His back had gone and he was unable to stand upright or walk more than a couple of paces. He was confined to the campsite, heroically declined company and we set off with Jacky.

We’d reserved entry tickets, Kim had read that, at busy times entry is declined and we didn’t want to risk being turned away. It was 9:15 and this is the scene that greeted us.

Luckily Jacky read the ticket booth signs so Kim joined the shorter queue and an hour later we finally gained entry.

The park is famous for 16 terraced lakes, joined by 400 waterfalls that drop 500m down a limestone gorge. It was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. The lakes are surrounded by boardwalks and hiking trails. Small electric boats ferry you up and down the largest lake and a bus service runs from one end of the park to the other – all for 100 khn per person (less than £12!)

We took advantage of the bus to get us to the bottom of the park and John was transfixed by the ability of a bus with two large trailers to negotiate very narrow winding roads. Talk about bendy bus

If you google images of the park, they are absolutely stunning and often heavily photoshopped. The water was crystal clear with light reflected in brilliant blues and greens. Our photos can’t capture the panoramic scenes adequately and stunning views lose their impact due to a lack of perspective but here’s a selection.

By the time the shuttle bus collected us at 3:30, we’d walked over 6 miles around the park, climbed 45 flights of steps, taken the ferry and bus between all their stops and felt that we’d made the most of the day. We were ready to head back. It was hot and tiring work avoiding coach parties on narrow boardwalks!

Tomorrow we head back into Italy, via Slovenia. Our wait at Border Control is rumoured to be lengthy….