Venice / Croatia - 2004
I did this one-week trip during my
summer vacation in July. I've always liked Italy and when I
saw the Air Finland summer offers to Venice I booked the
flights. After some googling I realized that there are
frequent ferry connections to Croatia so decided to combine
these two countries.
Places visited (In Croatia - tour
started & ended in Venice):
- Plitvice Lakes National Park
- Cres / Mali Losinj
Check out the
Both countries left me with mixed feelings: Venice
and many spots in Croatia were absolutely beautiful -
but often fully packed with tourists. Croatia was
surprisingly western and more or less conquered by
The highlights of the trip were Plitvice Lakes National
park and the small village of Cres.
24.7.2004 Helsinki - Venice
I took the Air Finland direct flight to Venice (2,5 hours).
Never flewn that airline before, but it proved to be a
pleasant experience. The price of 220€ included warm meal
(no drinks though). Good service, attractive stewardesses -
and the plane the plane was half empty!
I arrived in Venice after dark and it was raining. After
some wandering around I found my hotel from the industrial
ghetto of Marghera that I would not recommend for longer
stays. I had booked the hotel in advance from Internet and
to my surprise my reservation was found immediately.
I walked back to railway station, which was surrounded by
numerous restaurants and chose a random pizzeria. After
consuming a quattro stagioni I returned to hotel and tried
to get some sleep. It was really hot and humid - therefore I
did not really sleep much...
25.7.2004 Venice - Rovinj
The first task in the morning was to move from the mainland
to Venice. Long causeway connected the isles and mainland
but after that it was not possible to move by car. The first
impression in Venice was the hordes of tourists. They were
everywhere! More than in Rhodos, Amsterdam or any place I've
previously been to! Unbelievable! The worst was yet to be
seen though, as I had not visited Piazza San Marco.
I left my backpack to the railway station and started my
walking tour. The city is actually really attractive but it
was also interesting to realize that most of the buildings
are in really bad condition. It is easy to get lost on the
narrow streets and often your path is blocked by a channel.
After a while the heat took its toll and I decided to
continue sightseeing by boat. That was a good idea since
that was really cheap and provided fascinating views of the
downtown area architecture.
The hell broke loose when I reached San Marco square -
the stunning buildings were shadowed by the countless
tourists that basically filled the whole area. I decided to
skip queuing and started walking to ferry terminal. The
ferry ride to Rovinj was fast but fairly bumpy. In Rovinj I
once again ran into huge masses of tourists - this time
mostly German people partying on the streets. The hotel was
somewhat difficult to locate - after 30 minutes I found it
from the outskirts of the town. It was quite dark already so
it was difficult to get a good impression of the
surroundings - anyway the big number of Germans felt
26.7.2004 Rovinj - Rab
When I woke up the sun was shining and I decided to leave Rovinj behind.
I took a bus to Rijeka, an uninteresting "transportation hub".
I decided to rent a car since there was not too much time to
wait for buses. This plan worked perfectly as the rental
agency was just next to bus station - unfortunately only
French cars were available. So I chose the crappy Peugeot
and I headed up to the mountains. Driving was quite an
experience - the mountains were really steep, there were
lots of tight curves and none or few parapets. Loosing the
control could easily have resulted in a fall of 100 meters...
My destination was the island of Rab that according to
Lonely Planet was "charming". I don't think that I have ever
disagreed more with my trusted guidebook - immediately when
I arrived I realized that the whole place is pretty much the
same as Rovinj with thousands of German tourists. The old
city itself was pretty attractive but once again so packed
with people that I got really pissed off. It seemed that
most of the hotels were also fully booked so I ended in a
overpriced hotel in the city center. Since I did not feel
like spending too much time in the buzzing downtown area I
had a cheap (and terrible) meal at a local fastfood / kebab
restaurant and decided to get some sleep and leave the as
the first thing in the morning.
27.7.2004 Rab - Korevice
My feelings were pretty bad when I woke up. It was cloudy
and raining. I decided to drive to the northern shores of
the islands - which proved to be a really bad mistake. I got
stuck in unbelievable traffic jams even though I was in the
middle of nowhere! Don't know where all the cars were coming
but all the main roads were practically jammed... When I
finally reached the beaches I realized that the whole area
was basically one big "autokamp" - a camping area for (german)
tourists. I turned back and had once again to wait for
roughly an hour before reaching the other side of the island.
I finally reached the mainland and was really relieved to
get going on the steep mountain roads. Even though I was
speeding slightly there were trucks that constantly kept overtaking me
- scary! As the rain (and wind) were getting stronger all
the time I decided to stop in the small town of Korevice.
The only hotel in the town was overpriced so I decided to
try local home accommodation ("sobe"). A couple of
kilometres outside downtown area there I found a cosy place
to stay overnight. Since it was still raining heavily all I
could do was to enjoy a good steak in a local restaurant and
read a (lousy) book. Hope the weather gets better since
tomorrow I'll be heading to Plitvice Lakes National Park...
28.7.2004 Korevice - Plitvice - Senj
In the morning the rain had fortunately ceased. I started
the 20km drive to Plitvice and easily located the park
headquarters. Admission fee was really high high (about 20€)
but that was no longer a surprise since the price level was
actually pretty high in Croatia. Surprisingly the tour
started with a compulsory bus ride during which I saw the
first glimpses of the lakes. The turquoise colour seemed
just unbelievable and somehow unreal. When the bus stopped
near the shoreline of the first lake I fully realized the
unusual beauty of the lakes. Having travelled quite a lot
I've never seen a place like this. The place was an
interesting mixture of Middle European forests, waterfalls
and more mountainous territory with its pine trees. The
paths were clearly marked and it was not allowed to wander
outside them. I later realized that only the main paths were
the crowded ones - if you chose the smaller paths you could walk in
Even the huge crowds of people could not ruin the
experience. I shot dozens of photos and the scenery
became more and more impressive as I got closer to the
bigger waterfalls. I quickly forgot the hard feelings from
Rab and Rovinj as I was staring at the awe-inspiring natural
wonders. I spent several hours in the park - most of the
time just sitting on a edge of a cliff enjoying the sunshine.
When I finally left the park I headed back to the coast
towards the small town of Senj. This proved to be quite a
relaxed place with only a few German tourists. I found a
cheap sobe to stay overnight (with balcony) and spent the
rest of day hanging out in the beachfront area having dinner
and enjoying the laidback atmosphere.
29.7.2004 Senj - Cres
Today it was time to drive back to Rijeka and return the car.
It felt much safer to drive on the right lane closer to the
mountain bank. I had some orientation problems in Rijeka's
city center. In Rab a crazy Italian driver had hit my car's
mirror that almost fell apart - fortunately nobody noticed
it at the rental agency... I took a bus to the town of Cres.
The bus drove through Opatija - the local "Riviera" - which
really resembled its French cousin with its early 20th
century hotels. A place worth visiting I would say...
After a couple of hours of travelling I arrived in Cres.
It was a relief to realize that the place was just what I
had been looking for - a picturesque and relaxed small town
by the sea. I found sobe accommodation hosted by an old
lady. I decided to check out the local beach - which
unfortunately proved to be once again a pebble beach like
most of the beaches in northern Croatia. Water was
surprisingly cold but refreshing. I returned to downtown and
had an excellent seafood risotto in an Italian restaurant.
In general the town had a strong Italian influence and quite
a few Italian people as well.
full day in Croatia. I spent the day by making a cycle trip
to nearby village of Valun. Actually it was quite a journey
there (a total of 15km in one direction) - and the first 5
km's were a steady ascent to the top of a small mountain.
After a couple of kilometres of flat terrain there was
another even steeper descent and shortly after that an
equally steep descent of over 3 km's. Fortunately the bike
was in good condition and the brakes were good!
Valun proved to be a picturesque small village where time
more or less stood still. There were two pebble beaches - I
decided to do some sunbathing on the less crowded one. The
pebbles hurt my bare foot so going for swim was
quite painful. Therefore some people wore sandals while swimming! I
spent the whole afternoon in Valun and started my sweaty
journey back a couple of hours before sunset. Fortunately
most of the journey was now downhill. Back in Cres I spent
some time on a local "concrete beach" (a concrete platform
by the sea with sunbeds and ladders to sea). I watched the
sunset near the harbour and moved to a seaside restaurant to
enjoy fresh fish (which was excellent and included free
grappa). Then it was time to go to sleep since I had to get
up early (5.30) in the morning!
31.7.2004 Mali Losinj - Venice-Helsinki
I took the morning bus to the neighbouring island of Mali
Losinj where the catamaran was waiting. The town was still
sleeping but looked pretty impressive at least in the
morning sun... The ferry trip to Venice was uneventful and I
had still some 5 hours before getting to the airport. I took
a ferry to Lido - which proved to be interesting but
somewhat rundown "beach paradise" from early 20th century. I
did not do any swimming since all the public beaches were
unbelievably crowded (and the private ones more or less
I missed the airport bus as I took the slower ferry so I
had to take a taxi to airport. 25€ was not too bad though.
The plane was in time and again half empty.
In general this was a good trip - especially when it had been
raining quite heavily back home. If you are looking for
sunshine and beaches I would not definitely go to northern Croatia
but if you prefer hiking and beautiful nature then it is the
place to go.