Vespa World Days Croatia #2 | FEATURE
Having left the snow capped Alps and sunny Austria behind us it was time to get the holiday started. A few miles ridden and more countries ticked-off and we were supping cool Croatian Pan beers on a sandy beach by mid-afternoon. One of the best things about an overland touring holiday is the extremes of climate, scenery and cultures possible in such a short space of time.
A trip like this is accessible to anybody and it doesn’t need to cost a fortune. We saved money by camping most of the time and usually just turned-up on spec rather than pre-booking. It meant if we found somewhere special along the way that we’d prefer to stay, or if we fancied an extra day somewhere we could please ourselves.
Day six, KRK, Croatia
After leaving our Austrian lakeside campsite we would end up in Croatia by the afternoon. Just 172 miles to our destination but it was the hottest ride so far. Lush green scenery, endless tunnels and raised motorway bridges took us into Slovenia; again without a border to let us know where we were. So far we’d not had to show our passports anywhere since leaving home. Already it seemed like we’d been on the road for weeks. After munching a few motorway miles we took a junction and headed onto the ‘A’ roads through Slovenia. We’d been told by a couple of bikers that it was beautiful and yes it was green and pleasant, but after the previous three days it had a lot to live up to. Like Shania Twain, it didn’t impress us too much, although the roads themselves were actually great fun to ride. We still weren’t quite sure if we’d got in to Slovenia though and roadside Croatian Kuna exchange booths confused things further. We asked at a roadside restaurant over lunch…yep we were in Slovenia. As it happened the Croatian border was easy enough to spot when we got there, with passport control exiting and entering. We finally had to get our passports out; although they didn’t open them and we were all wearing helmets anyway.
The overhead temperature signs read 38.9 degrees and rose to almost 40 as we headed towards our overnight stop, melting in the heat and passing the first few foreign Vespa riders along the way. A sense of camaraderie, excitement and belonging shared with a frantic wave. We spotted a lone female GTS rider gesturing frantically at us from the side of a motorway. It was Ali, a friend from England who we’d arranged to meet. Her other half, Trevor had got lost somewhere. As Ali jumped on her scooter and took it off the stand she managed to roll into a deep rain gulley running alongside the hard shoulder and dropped the scooter. Thankfully she was fine and the scooter only suffered superficial scratching so we headed off towards our planned destination. Trevor managed to find us as we queued for the bridge toll; just as well because he had no cash or passport on him.
Our campsite for tonight was on a pretty little island called KRK, accessible only by crossing on the new bridge, or old ferry. As with all the campsites we used, this one just waved us on and told us to pay afterwards ‘Use as few pitches as you like and pay for what you use’. The pitches were on gravel rather than grass but luckily our tents are easy to pitch without pegs. We were just glad to relax a little, especially as it was dirt cheap, had a pool bar and was right on the beach. In fact we were so relaxed that the next morning none of us wanted to leave, so we had a vote and all decided to stay an extra day, rather than ride down to Biograd for Thursday’s start of the rally. Croatia is so cheap, around £5 for a main course meal served in a fantastic restaurant overlooking the stunning Aegean Sea and just over a pound for a bottle of beer. We all spent another nice day chilling by the pool and swimming in the sea, it gave us a chance to do some laundry as well. Most campsites have a washing machine which means you don’t have to take too many clothes (I must remember that next time).
Day eight, Biograd
The sound of a tent being packed away very noisily right next to my ear and the crunching of gravel woke us very early the next morning. The ginger member of our party wanted to get on the road before it got too hot. Reluctantly we packed up and left the site before nine to try and avoid the worst of the heat. The overhead temp gauges were already showing 29.1 and our ‘safety’ gear was soon downgraded to factor 15 ‘Kevlar’ sun cream and shorts. Not something I’d usually do but it would be more dangerous to try and ride in full riding kit in that intense heat. Today was a very memorable riding day; try to imagine 160 miles of perfectly-surfaced twisty roads with endless corners running alongside the bluest sea. That’s exactly what we got. You’ll love the coast road from Rijeka to Biograd. Fantastic riding, although the heat got to us by the afternoon and we were forced to cool off in the Adriatic. I ended up soaking my tee shirt in the sea just to help keep me cool when we started riding again; others went in as they were dressed.
Scarred buildings from the civil war became more prominent the further down the coast we rode, a stark reminder of the recent violent past in such a beautiful place. War looks even uglier amongst such beauty. We eventually arrived in Biograd. We’d been seeing groups of scooters for the last 150 miles, excited Italians and Croatians waving frantically as we passed, swapping scooter club stickers like black market currency if we saw them in a layby. Arriving in Biograd and registering at the Vespa Village made us realise just how big this event actually is. Thousands of Vespa fans from around the world, scooters bearing legshield banners from as far away as New Zealand, Japan, Africa, Australia…it really is a worldwide event.
Vespa World Days
For the British contingent Vespa World Days consisted of two days and nights of partying amongst like-minded Vespisti. With bands, discos, fireworks and a gala dinner for 3,000 people; there was something for everyone. During the gala dinner some of our fellow Brits did us proud with a rousing rendition of God Save the Queen. In stereotypical good form, serviettes were used as makeshift handkerchief hats, drunken antics ensued and even a late night diplomatic incident occurred.
The weekend event also included the biggest scooter ride out I’ve ever been involved with. It made the Isle of Wight look like a club ride out, massive isn’t the word, countless scooters passing in a seemingly never-ending hazy procession. Some riders dressed in national costume, flags flying, excitable helmetless Italians, classic Vespas of all types – two-stroke smoke hanging in the scorching hot air. I’m not one for ride outs myself but I’m glad to have been a part of this one.
A marque with respect
A World Vespa event like this makes you realise just how important the marque is to so many people around the World. It’s more than just a form of transport, this is an iconic brand with a fantastic lifestyle and great comaraderie amongst fellow fans, no matter what age, sex or nationality.
Although Vespa World Days was the reason we’d all ridden to Croatia the rally itself was just a small part of a much bigger adventure and a destination to plan an exciting holiday around. Having two days tied to an apartment in the same place made me want to get back on the road again by Sunday morning. I was missing seeing new places so it was nice to pack the scooter up again and head off towards Split for an overnight ferry to Italy and the final part of our trip.
If you missed part 1 click here: Croatia part 1
Coming up next Sunday in part three…
We encounter hurricane force winds, battle fearsome reptiles (armed with flip-flops), survive Biblical storms and most frightening of all – risk Italian beer prices.