11th to 19th September, 2019
Croatia was quite different to whatever preconceived, uninformed idea we had. It wasn't bad, it was really good. Just a different kind of good.
The train from Postojna stopped and our compartment door was opened for a perfunctory visit by border guards, and that was it. We were in Croatia. The land became drier and more rocky as we came closer to Rijeka. The sky seemed lighter and more washed-out, and the trees more stunted. Hand-made stone walls started to appear, bordering terraced olive groves. Slovenia had been greener, with houses showing their kinship to neighbouring Austria and the alps. Croatia was closer to Italy and the Mediterranean. The temperature was a good ten degrees warmer.
We'd travelled through Slovenia by public transport but, in terms of getting places, it had been limiting. Since we were going to be in Croatia for over a month, we'd booked a car from Rijeka airport. The airport was actually on the island of Krk, the closest bit of flat land available. A taxi was almost the same price as a bus, and got us to our hotel non-sweaty and non-stressed. We enjoyed a few hours in the sun and a coffee, before our room was ready. Tourists promenaded by, and the odd boat cruised past. Our horizon was of bare rock, and the steel of a tank farm. Even so, it was nice and quiet by the sea, and promised a slower pace than Slovenia.
The next day we collected the car, bought some groceries, and then drove to Vrbnik. On the way through Soline, we saw a group of bathers scooping the legendary healing mud from the beach and spreading it on their exposed bits. Apparently it invigorated your immune system, or made your farts smell like roses, or some other thing. We didn't stop, and remain ignorant.
We parked up and, not being able to check in yet, found a cafe. The waiter there was great! He was a caricature, with a bushy grey moustache and apparently lugubrious nature, until you saw the sparkle of dark humour and realised the feeling of welcome that he gave us. But he must have been so sick of tourists by this time of year. Vrbnik was a real destination, especially for Germans. They were everywhere, in dark Mercedes saloons or white camper vans, driving and walking like they owned the place.