Sunday, 8 May 2011

Driving Through Croatia

Croatia, driving Croatia anyway, is forever linked in my mind with the beautiful turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea. That was how we first saw it.... driving for a couple of long leisurely days down the Dalmatian Coast.

The country's official name is the Republic of Croatia. It's another of the republics that came out of the breakup of the former state of Yugoslavia for those of you old enough to remember that. (I always liked geography, but you really have to stay on top of changes sometimes.)

We drove from Munich, Germany, through Austria and Slovenia then down the coast of Croatia all the way to Dubrovnik. It's been a few years ago now. At that time, the coast road was almost all a good two lane road. There is a highway building program going on all over Croatia, so by the time you get there, more highways will be open, but still be prepared for many smaller roads and slower driving times.

We started in Pula and explored its many Roman ruins.... Then we poked along the jagged coastline. With all the inlets and peninsulas they claim to have over a thousand miles (1,600 km) of coastline to explore and over a thousand islands just off the coast to entice you. We were contented just to explore a couple of the coastal towns before heading for Dubrovnik, but you might want to take a few days to explore.

We visited the city of Split on the way back north, then we headed inland to hit the amazing waterfalls in Plitvicka National Park and on to the capital of Zagreb. After driving Croatia, we made a loop back to Munich. Allow at least a full week for this. Two weeks would give you a nice amount of time to really explore.

There is a big police presence on Croatian roads. They spot check motorists for drinking and driving... never a good idea! The legal limit for blood alcohol content in Croatia is .05 percent. They also are out there manned with radar.... we know this for a fact.... we got a speeding ticket when we passed a bus. So be sure to watch your speed. Yes, that coastal road can be slow... but you're on vacation, make your drive leisurely.

There are hotels and some campgrounds all along the road, but don't leave your accommodations to late in the day. There are some long stretches that are blissfully undeveloped. It's beautiful to see that, but it means that you might have to drive a long way to find the next hotel.

Our rule is always to have your hotel by late afternoon. (We broke that rule twice on this trip.... and were a little concerned about finding a place to sleep. There was always something there at the end of the day, but who needs that stress? Holidays are supposed to be relaxing.)

There are plenty of ways to get into Croatia.... you can fly in, take the train, or you can join a bus tour. There are cruises along that beautiful Adriatic Coast. Croatia is worth a visit no matter how you get there, but we think driving Croatia was the best way for us to see it that first time.


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