We left Slovenia in sunshine and rode through some great scenery, on fun roads, for a couple of hours. Detouring into Italy (crossing the border in the middle of a housing estate) to ride along the corniche into Trieste was a bit disappointing as there were trees and bushes blocking the sea view all along the coast road. Trieste was a bit crazy with traffic but was a beautiful Italian, port city with a huge main square and a real Italian atmosphere. We both commented on how much we preferred it to Prague. Dave did a great job riding and navigating through the city, with the help of the GPS, under difficult conditions.
We crossed back into Slovenia for a while and felt impatient to see Croatia. On approaching the border, we were surprised to learn that Croatia is not party to the Schengen Agreement and there was a proper border crossing with guards, where we had to show our passports. Some Swiss guys in a sporty Audi were turned away, which made us a bit nervous (as border crossings are prone to do). We had no problems entering our 24th country on a motorcycle together though.
Almost instantly, the landscape became less mountainous and pine forests had turned into vineyards and olive trees, with a real mediterranean feel. We crossed the Istrian peninsula, which seemed totally devoid of life. We passed through a toll booth which seemed to indicate a motorway only to find we were on a normal, well surfaced country road, that clearly warrants a toll in these here parts. When we got to the other end of the toll road, it was free for bikes, so no complaints but still weird.
We checked into our lovely hotel Villa Annette for two nights, as part of Helen´s 50th birthday treats. A lovely room with stunning views over the bay of Rabac from the balcony. A bit of a change from camping. You always feel like a pair of tramps arriving at a nice hotel on the bike with all the gear and the smell of camping lingering. on entering the room, we instantly raided the mini-bar for cold beer and pretzels.We had a posh meal in the upmarket, hotel restaurant where the cutlery was too big for Dave to feel comfortable and the waiter kept hovering. They made a pretty decent attempt catering for a pair of weird vegans. Pudding was a champagne glass with liquid strawberries-delicious. We sampled the local wine which is made by the hotel- it was ok but came in BIG glasses. It was a lot better than the Slovenian beer. Croatian beer is pretty good too. We have a feeling that years of hardship have made drinking a higher priority for the locals here.
On our second day in Rabac, we ventured up the hill looking for a supermarket and found a wonderful Venetian town. Just our kind of thing. What´s more, the restaurant on the main square advertised vegan burgers. We had to change money, as Croatia is not in the euro. We changed 30 euros but found lunch cost only 10. We pottered around the tiny, cobbled streets and admired the sea views before stopping at the supermarket to take a big bag of beers back to the hotel.