There was a much better start to the day this morning and there were blue skies to report after the early morning weather watch duty had been carried out and completed. After breakfast we checked out of the Skadinski Buk Hotel and took the sign-posted road to Split.
The short drive to the motorway went through some small villages where almost every house and property had some degree of war damage. Most had bullet holes in the masonry but the most extreme were completely destroyed and shelled out. These were the homes of the Serbs who had lived in Croatia before the war of independence and having found themselves no longer welcome were now abandoned and looking forward only to terminal deterioration and eventual demolition.
It was only a short journey to the new motorway and on joining I was horrified to find a toll booth between me and progress to the open road. I tried to understand the instructions that were presented only in confusing Croatian and as I dithered about a line of traffic drew up behind me and began to get impatient. Actually it was really quite simple and all that was required was to push a rather obvious green button and take a ticket and move swiftly on. That was easy enough but I had drawn up too far away from the button for my short arms to reach up out of the small car’s window to complete the process. When it was obvious that there was no one in the booth to assist this involved maneuvering the car backwards and forwards into a better position which didn’t exactly improve the humour of the driver directly behind who once through the toll himself overtook me in a theatrical sort of way with a lot of head shaking and looks that could kill to leave me in no doubt of his great displeasure at having been held up by an inconvenient tourist.
The motorway took us over an impressive new bridge with good views of Skradin below and its turquoise blue lake and rows of yachts and boats moored up at the water’s edge. Shortly after that there was an exit for Šibenik and as motorway tolls always seem to me to be an unnecessary expense we left the motorway and headed for the old coast road that it has been built to replace.
Once past the industrial suburbs of Šibenik these turned out to be a very good decision indeed and the old main road took a scenic route that was never more than a few metres from the sea and the shingle beaches with good views over the Adriatic Sea and the inviting looking islands. Except for the fact that the road wasn’t at a high elevation with imminent danger of crashing over the side of a mountain this did remind me a great deal of the Amalfi drive in Italy. The road ran directly underneath the limestone mountains that rose dramatically just a few hundred metres or so inland and snaked along the coast with its inlets, yacht harbours and picturesque coastal villages.
I was a bit uncertain of the driving rules and the speed limits so repeatedly checked that my lights were on and kept diligently to just about fifty kilometres an hour. I was sure that this was actually a bit too slow because after a short time I managed to get an impressive build up of traffic behind me but at least it gave me the opportunity to do my Lincolnshire tractor driver impression and pull over every now and again to let things pass. I felt a bit like a cork in a champagne bottle because every time I pulled over there was a rush of appreciative traffic speeding past in an effervescent flow.
We passed the pretty town of Brodarica and stopped to take photographs of the little harbour with its red tiled houses framed against a backdrop of green pine trees and a blue sea. It was delightful but a kilometre or two around the coast there was a shock because here there were hectares and hectares of burned out wooded hillside with black and charred trees and no sign of life whatsoever. This had occurred the year before in July 2007, which according to figures from the European Forest Fire information system was one of the worst ever years on record for forest fires.
The summer of 2007 was exceptionally hot and dry and as well as here in Croatia there had been huge devastation elsewhere in Bulgaria, Greece and Italy, as well as countries like the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania and Turkey. There was a serious amount of damage down the coast here and there was even more that we didn’t get to see further down near Dubrovnik that had come very close to undoing all the good work that had been done in the preceding ten years restoring the city after the damage of the war years. This was a shame and it looked as though it was going to take some considerable time to recover.