Heading south along the coast from Slovenia and into Croatia, we experienced a minor queue at the border (which thankfully was nothing compared to the 2-3 miles of traffic headed in the opposite direction) and then began to hunt for a suitable coastal campsite where we could rest our rolling tyres for a couple of days and begin to enjoy a seaside holiday.
At the first site we thus stumbled across, our innocent enquiry of a smartly-dressed Receptionist in a smartly-presented Reception was met with a wry smile (he clearly enjoyed this bit of his job) as he suggested we could indeed have a pitch for a couple of nights – if we were nudists. Which we weren’t. And still aren’t, despite the temptation of a waterfront pitch in the shade of lofty, resinous pine trees. Onwards. As reported elsewhere, the camping sites all seemed vast, with no sign of the smaller, less sophisticated and therefore more intimate ‘autokamps’ of our previous experience, so we just trundled on along the coast, peering without enthusiasm through perimeter fences at acres of massed caravans; chalets and motor-homes – until, worn down by their frequency, we pulled into just such a site marginally south of Novigrad.
The Aminess Sirena Campsite had no less than 577 numbered pitches; 24-hour Reception; a resort hotel; two bar-restaurants; watersports; a tennis centre; bakery and newsagents, as well as hundreds of German-plated motorhomes and caravans. After a spot of bilingual negotiation and reassurances about dress-code, it also had us. For two nights please. For two people. No, no pets. No children. By the sea. With electricity. Clothed. Yes please. Thank-you. Hvala.
And so it was we took up camping, Croatian-style. The sun shone and it was hot. We had immediate access to the site’s private beach (albeit all stone, rock and concrete); the sea was crystal-clear and full of snorkellable aquatic life; our pitch provided mottled shade and foreign neighbours all round (so no-one felt awkward about not being able to talk inconsequential bollocks to each other for ages over the perimeter hedging.)
The nearby ‘miniature’ walled town of Novigrad is described as a gem of the Istrian coast, but – without wanting to sound too tiresome here – almost all of them obviously are. Not quite a case of “seen one, seen ‘em all” but our initial inspection of the town inspired marginal interest, as opposed to full-on, let-us-at-it enthusiasm. It was an agreeable town, compact and easily navigated, with no crucifying climb to a dominant church on a hill. We’d also espied a gently unassuming back-street Konoba (Tavern) Gatto Nero (Black Cat) which was just setting out tables as we cycled past and we therefore logged its existence for a possible subsequent visit.
Both campsite and Novigrad grew on us during our brief stay and we did in fact enjoy a typically Croatian meal with friendly staff on our subsequent return to Konobo Gatto Nero where rustic, slow-cooked and deeply flavoursome beef-cheeks were served with mashed potato and a rich, wine-dark gravy; goulash and gnocchi – all rounded off with a digestif of choice (as long as your choice was grappa.)
Despite the premium costs, the site was well-serviced and maintained; our pitch was perfect and we enjoyed the environment, the atmosphere and the ease of accessibility to this miniature gem on the Istrian coast.