We had a long drive from Venice, Italy to Split, Croatia. It was too much for one day so it was decided to stop in a small coastal town along the way to break up the drive.
The toll highways in Italy were stupidly expensive so we took the coastal route to Trieste instead, opting for a longer drive but with spectacular Mediterranean views. It took much longer than expected because the countryside roads passed through several small Italian villages and towns.
It was actually a blessing in disguise as it allowed us to see a simpler and quieter side of northern Italy. If only we had more time to do some wine tasting!
Once we finally arrived in the former Slovenian city of Trieste we were pleasantly surprised at how beautiful it was. In hindsight, we would have loved to spend a night there but it wasn't far enough down the coast, making our second day of driving far too long for captain Ed (Maybe next time - it's definitely worth another look!).
We were told the Croatian coastal highway was an exceptional 'must-do', so that was our plan. But we first had to cross through Slovenia. We were unsure what to expect. It can be a little nerve-racking entering a new country in a rental car. Slovenia is a member of the EU so it seemed like it should be borderless, similar to when we crossed into Austria and Italy.
As we approached the border there were many 'border and immigration ahead' signs, leading us to believe that we'd need our passports. We didn't. It was so bizarre. The highway literally passes right through the former immigration booths! It was interesting seeing the results of EU membership in action.
We had a similar moment flying from Greece to Germany - it was treated like a domestic flight and we didn't need to stamp in or out, no passports required. It's a fascinating time for Europe as it slowly breaks down its sovereign borders.
From what we saw, the small nation of Solvenia is a picturesque country with rolling green hills and remote hillside towns. We stopped in a small café for a quick break and it was evident that not many tourists come through that area, but the cappuccinos were cheap and delicious!
Croatia is not an EU member, so crossing the border would require immigration and passports. It was actually very fast and easy - almost too easy. We were stamped in with not a question asked by the guard. There was no getting around paying a toll in Croatia so we cruised down the first-class motorway at 140km/hr until we reached the turnoff for the scenic coastal highway; we needed to make up the time we lost in northern Italy.
We randomly selected the coastal fishing town of Senj as our day's accomplishment. It's a small town but big enough to have a choice of accommodations and restaurants. The town was very cute and accommodations were easy to find… in fact, they found us!
As my mom and I priced out a harbor front hotel along the main strip, my Dad and Cameron had a few locals approach them and offer a room in their house. It seems like a popular thing to do in Senj so we figured "why not?"
They actually thought we were from Germany because the rental car had a German license plate. Luckily my dad is still fluent in German so he was our translator. We needed him to because the owners spoke very little English. Surprisingly, many of the Croatians that we ran into could speak better German than English. We agreed on 50 Euros for two separate rooms… not a bad price for Europe!
The evening was spent exploring the waterfront town and dining along the harbor. It's a cute and humble town, a perfect place to rest during our coastal rooadtrip through Croatia.
October 3rd, 2009