Camp Krka

Owned and operated by the Skočić family, Camp Krka is perfect for the road-trippin’ camper. Be sure to chat it up with Momma Skočić. She speaks English and is a wealth of info. Photo by Nathan Van Schaik, USAG Bavaria Public Affairs.

ŠIBENIK, Croatia — Ask any German who Winnetou was and you’re bound to get a smile.

 

The fictional character Winnetou was a Native American hero based on the books by Karl May, one of Germany’s bestselling authors. Later, in the 1960s, the character was played by French actor Pierre Brice in western movies wildly popular in Germany. And those movies were primarily shot in Croatia. And it’s no wonder why.

 

As soon as you hit the southern panhandle of Croatia, the sky stretches out from left to right. The air becomes hot and dry. It’s like driving through Arizona. As an American it’s liberating. Camping these parts is worth the 10-hour drive.


 

As Americans, it’s easy to criticize European-style, and, more specifically, German-style camping. It seems that European campers have different priorities than their American counterparts. While Europeans often prize convenience and access to things like restaurants and showers, Americans often desire little more than the rugged outdoors. So while your German neighbor might opt for having satellite television on a camping trip, you might just want isolation, a compass and a hatchet.

 

But I say: not so quick! There is something to value in European camping. Consider the great land mass that is the U.S. Now consider squeezing a third of the American population into one state and you get an idea of the challenges posed to camping in solitude. Germany, which is made up of about 80 million people — and roughly a third of the U.S. population — is area-wise the size of Montana. All things considered, Europeans are quite civilized in their camping style.

 

And while not all camp sites in Europe advertise on the Internet, they are as plentiful as American convenience stores. Consider a camping trip to Croatia. Drive as far south as Krka National Park. Krka is about a 10-hour drive from Grafenwoehr. Stay the night a couple of nights. Head back north and spend a day or two near Plitvice National Park. Return home and camp either in the Austrian Alps or find a cheap hotel in Graz, Austria.

 

To reach the sweet spot of Croatia from Bavaria, take the 93 south toward Regensburg and head toward Passau, Germany. Alternatively, you can head southbound through Munich but you’re liable to hit heavy pockets of traffic. Make the decision just prior to departure with traffic updates at www.bavaria.army.mil/transportation.

 

Take the 93 south toward Regensburg and hop on the A3 toward Passau. From Passau, take the A8 into Austria all the way to the city of Graz.

 

Stay the night in Graz. Put simply, Graz is just a cool, friendly city. English-speaking DJs on the radios, great restaurants, bars and a chic town center. I’m not sure why I’m surprised by the friendly service industry here, but I can say that it’s different than what you might experience in the Oberpfalz.

 

From Graz, stay on the A9 through Slovenia and follow the signs toward Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. Stay on the A1 to the E71 toward Split — another great city to visit in Croatia. Take the exit to the D56 and follow the signs to Krka National Park.

 

A few notes about Croatia. Croatians officially refer to their homeland as the Republic of Hrvatska, abbreviated HR. You’ll see the HR adorned on things like bumper stickers. The country’s tourist website, for example, is www.croatia.hr.

 

Croatia is part of the European Union. The country, however, does not use the euro currency. Instead, it uses the Croatian kruna, abbreviated HRK. Ten euros will buy you about 75 kruna. Ten U.S. dollars will buy you about 70 kruna. Many restaurants and toll booths near the Slovenian border will accept the euro. TIP: Exchange euro for kruna early or withdraw kruna from an ATM.

 

KRKA NATIONAL PARK

Krka National Park

Krka National Park boasts one of Europe’s best yet most unorthodox beaches. In fact, it’s a rocky “beach” is situated beneath this breathtaking waterfall. And yes Mr. Safety Officer, there are life guards on duty, so as American service members and family members, you are allowed to swim there. Photo by Nathan Van Schaik, USAG Bavaria Public Affairs.

GPS: Krka National Park, Lozovac, Croatia
COST: 110 HRK (about 15 euros) entrance fee per adult.

 

Krka National Park is a real gem. It’s family friendly, cheap and easy to transit. You can hike it or opt to ride a bus along the Krka River. 

 

This national park boasts what I think is one of Europe’s best yet most unorthodox beaches. In fact, it’s a rocky “beach” situated beneath a breathtaking waterfall. And yes Mr. Safety Officer, there are life guards on duty, so as American service members and family members, you are allowed to swim there.

 

But what about camping? You have options.

 

CAMPING AT KRKA: SOLARIS

GPS: Solaris 1, Tar-Vabriga 52465, Croatia
COST: 150 HRK (about €40) for one night for two people in one tent.

 

Solaris is a camping resort. I arrived here on accident. But for parents, it may be the best thing to offer kids. It boasts beaches, water parks, restaurants and bars. It’s pricey but its facilities are clean, convenient and state of the art.

 

TIP: Try any of the restaurants. They stay open late and open early. The restaurant in the middle of the campsite has a wood burning stove and serves piping-hot greasy and gooey pizza (paired well with cold beer after a long drive).

 

CAMPING AT KRKA: CAMP KRKA

GPS: Skocici 21, Šibenik  22221, Croatia
COST: 180 HRK (about €25) for one night for two people in one tent.

 

Owned and operated by the Skočić family, Camp Krka is perfect for the road-trippin’ camper. Located just one mile from the national park, it offers everything you’d need: peace and quiet, a functioning toilet and shower and local food cooked by the Skočić family. Plus, it’s super cheap.

 

TIP: Chat it up with Momma Skočić. She speaks English and is a wealth of info. The family also runs a camp site even closer to the national park, but it’s barren. Stay here if you wish to sleep among sagebrush and buzzards.

 

PLITVICE LAKES NATIONAL PARK

GPS: The Plitvice Lakes National Park, Plitvička jezera 53231, Croatia
COST: 180 HRK (about €25) entrance fee per adult.

 

When I talk among my German buddies, I always get the feeling that they’re more well traveled than most Americans. But the same can be said about Americans living in Europe: You’ve probably seen more of Europe than most Germans. Well, add Plitvice Lakes National Park to your list. While I found it more touristy than Krka, you won’t be disappointed. The park is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It will shake your soul. Unfortunately, unlike its counterpart in Krka, you can’t swim here, legally.

 

Read Rick Steve’ review of Plitvice Lakes National Park

 

Camping at Plitvice: AC Korana

GPS: The Plitvice Lakes National Park, Plitvička jezera 53231, Croatia
COST: 180 HRK (about €25) for one night for two people in one tent.

 

The AC Korona campsite — about 2 miles from the national park entrance — is different from most campsites in one regard: it’s spread out and spacious.

 

TIP: Pick your own site to pitch a tent wisely. Scout out sites along the edge of the cliff. There’s no one there. Afterward, trek down the cliff and take a dip in the shallow pond. It’s clean. It’s cold. It’s refreshing. Watch out for the trout!

 


 

DO’s

  • Bring your international driver’s license. If stopped, it’s good to flash to the authorities in Austria, Slovenia or Croatia. If you need an international driver’s license, you can get one at the office in Amberg or Eschenbach. See: www.bavaria.army.mil/transportation.
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  • When discussing your tales of Croatia with your German buddies, ask them to tell you the story of Winnatou.
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  • It’s a great idea to have an account with ADAC, which is Germany’s equivalent to AAA. ADAC provides roadside assistance from Germany all the way to Croatia. Having a registered ADAC accounts runs about €120 a year.
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  • Exchange money near the Croatian border. The euro is used in Germany, Austria and Slovenia. But Croatians use the kuna. About €10 will buy you 75 Croatian kuna. There are many tolls along the Croatian highway.
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  • Try the wine in Croatia. The dusty climate in Croatia yields fabulous red and whites similar to those found in Spain, Greece and Italy. Croatian wine is best drunk in Croatia, which is probably why it’s rarely exported.
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  • At your campsite ask if you can order bread for the morning. Many campsites throughout Europe offer this great service. But you’ll need to reserve bread the night before.
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  • You often have to stand in line for something when at one of Croatia’s national parks. Always be aware of what the line is for. TIP: Station one person in line and send a buddy to recon up ahead what the line is for. Often times, to your relief, you don’t need to be in line.

 

DON’T’s

 

  • Avoid driving to Croatia the last week of July and the first week of August. This is when vacation begins for many in Germany, Austria and Italy. What should only take nine-10 hours to drive can be doubled due to road congestion. If possible, drive to Croatia in June or early July.
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  • Don’t forget to bring your passport. Customs agents check them at stops along the highway when entering Croatia.
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  • Croatia is Europe’s melting pot for vacationers. Don’t get irritated by Europeans who may appear to be cutting in line. Queuing in line is as characteristic to a culture as its language and cuisine. While the English have queuing down to a science, Italians seem to have a secret code to it. Collect yourself. Gather your cool and simply tell the line-jumper, “Excuse me, I was here first, so please go to the end of the line,” and most will acknowledge and abide.
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  • Don’t build a campfire in Croatia. Croatia’s dry climate is susceptible to forest fires. Camp fires are prohibited. I know, this is one of the drawbacks of European camping.
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  • Don’t forget shower shoes. Most campsites have showers, but you don’t want to come home with toe jam. By the way, it’s in your interest to ALWAYS travel with an extra role of toilet paper. Screaming for your spouse to fetch TP is disgraceful and embarrassing.
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  • Don’t drink and drive, and don’t drive with a cell phone. You can be fined with as little as 0.5% of alcohol in your blood. Plus, drivers are not allowed to use mobile phones while driving in Croatia. These are the laws.


Categories: Travel