After a short, commuter-busy drive out through the straggled University campus of Trieste, our crossing from Italy into Slovenia was marked solely with abandoned border-control buildings artfully lit by glorious morning sunshine.
Beyond this slightly underwhelming but uninterrupted entry into another world, rolling hills layered to the wide horizon, all covered with a peculiar verdant close-knit forest, a bit like footballer Kevin Keegan’s 1979 permed hairstyle – just a lot tighter and, well, obviously a hell of a lot greener.
There then followed another seemingly very short thirty-minute drive across country (literally) where Slovenia’s main fascination became the number of roadside restaurants offering outdoor hog-roasts. At the time of morning we sailed past these were being diligently tended by moustachioed and ragged-apronned chefs, whose bellies were clear testament to the simple rustic fare they were preparing – as tantalising aromas of barbecuing pork and hot herbs drifted through our open windows.
Back out of Slovenia and into Croatia through a cursory passport check by a bored Customs official who waved us through as we waved our passports, without us ever needing to come to a halt, so our passage into Croatia was unimpeded, unremarked and therefore again slightly underwhelming (in marked contrast to our eventual exit from the country, about which more another time.)
Well, shout hurrah for Croatia, but more importantly, hats in the air please and three rousing cheers for the Reader Of The SatNav Runes; Navigator Par Excellence; Part-time Weather Girl and Chief Finder Of Excellent Locations Where We Might Possibly Stay The Night. The island (Otok) of Krk lay a little way off our intended route but a detour to a previously-noted beach-side campsite seemed worth the effort, so after safe passage over an impressively arched and clearly recently-constructed toll-road bridge, we arrived at Njivice Resort – a combined hotel and large-scale, highly agreeable campsite complex.
Cheerful, welcoming English-speaking receptionists offered us a selection of plots dotted around the shady site, which, in exchange for holding one of our Passports (we let them choose the best-looking one, I lost) we were allowed to trundle around the site to pick the location we liked best. Easily done as site reference IP 208 was a mere 150m from a delightfully compact beach – with plenty of mature trees providing dappling shade and which was already bustling with happy families ranged around the lapping edge of a wondrously clear azure-blue Adriatic sea.
Van parked up; reclining chairs deployed; electric hook-up plugged in . . . yadda yadda, you get the picture (we’re becoming such a well-oiled machine at this campsite lark.) On the olive- and fig-tree shaded walk back up to reclaim the Good-Looker’s Passport, we pass an onsite supermarket, a bakery and a colourful fruit & vegetable stall plus a Beach Toy Purveyor who seemed to have on display most of China’s entire inflatable-plastics-manufacturing output from about 2007 to present day.
Judging by the plethora of ‘D’-marked number plates on the vehicles parked-up around us, our neighbours were mostly German (a comparatively easy drive, we guessed) and indeed, we were soon engaged in conversation with Heidi (and husband) from Stuttgart, who spoke English well enough for us to understand that they had been encamped for four weeks and were visited occasionally during this sojourn by grown-up grandchildren who popped over to join Groβmutter und Groβvater for a few days am meer.
Bliss. A swim in the clear sea. Freshly baked bread and pastries. Sunbathing. At last, it seemed the wheels could be left unturned for a while, as we transformed ourselves from travellers to holidaymakers, albeit (and slightly sadly) just for the one day. As such, further discretionary expenditure on dinner ‘out’ became wholly justifiable, as we unhooked the bikes and cycled a short, winding and gently pedestrianised coastal path around our swimming bay to the local village of Njivice for a waterfont dinner of freshly-cooked fresh-fish followed by outlandish ice-creams from the next-door parlour, as the sun set on us from across the Adriatic.