Nigel DonnellySee other Blog articles filed in ‘Editor's Blog’ written by Nigel Donnelly
CAMPING LATERNA IS, for all intents and purposes, the site you’ve always dreamed of. Stunning pitches, loads of stuff to do, easy to find and in a part of the world blessed with great weather. But there was something about the place that didn’t delight me in the way that it should of.
The site itself is great although it is on an unbelievable scale. To the extent that when we asked the lady at reception if we could have a look around to choose a pitch, she said tersely ‘Yes, but a maximum of two hours’. And believe it or not, it was scarcely enough time to see it all.
Some pitches at Lanterna have restricted access...
Too good to be true
In terms of the quality of facilities, there was nothing at all to complain about. We had a pitch looking at the sea and were sharing our washroom block with a German couple. This gave the four of us an average of 2.5 toilets each. Despite this, a cleaner arrived twice a day and washed the place down from top to bottom. The floor was clean enough to eat your dinner off, if you could live with the faint taste of bleach on your salad.
The site shops, cafes, market, bakery and all the other stuff we didn’t even find were impeccably presented and despite the fabulous seaside access, there was an excellent pool. Some of the pitches were tight to access but other than that, it was difficult to fault. It wasn’t even expensive, given the range of facilities on offer. Yet neither Mrs Donnelly or I were sad to leave.
Our washblock had 10 toilets and only four people using it.
One factor in that was the staff. Efficient, numerous and very well turned out in matching uniforms, they were a little short of charm. There were quite a lot of rules and regulations posted about the place too. Nothing too oppressive, but it did give a place a slightly ‘open prison’ feel. And when we arrived, the main gate to the site was manned by seven blokes. To give them the benefit of the doubt, it was lunch time, so maybe they were just relaxing by the gate house, but it felt a bit like were crossing the Iraqi border, rather than checking into our site. I’m pretty sure there were more staff than guests on site.
So lovely as it was, we found ourselves on the road to Senj. Around 150 miles further south than Lanterna, we wanted to see a little more of Croatia and when we checked our Caravan Club Europe 2 site book, we purposefully chose the site which was listed as ‘…small, friendly, helpful owner, stunning views, small bar on site…’ We felt sure that the personal touch was exactly what we’d been missing at mega-site Lanterna. Perfect.
Arriving at Autocamp Sibinj, there was no denying it was smaller although with around 40 pitches, it wasn't tiny. Tucked just off the main R8/E65 coastal road, the owner was strimming the grass when we arrived. He helped us nudge the Sprite onto our chosen pitch and told us in good English to pay and sign-in later. We’d planned a trip to the stunning Plitvice National Park for the afternoon so took him at his word and disappeared immediately.
We arrived back on site in the evening and the small personal site had lost a little of its appeal. Whereas Lanterna was largely silent, the R8 remained busy most of the night. The exposed coastal position meant the van was also battered by a strong wind most of the night.
Small sites mean bars and restaurants are rarely open in low season too, so we ate one of our ‘emergency’ caravan dinners over a glass of wine before I announced that I was off to the washroom for a shower. I hastily returned to the van. The dingy, barely lit cubicle was not an inviting prospect. I decided it might look better in daylight.
Autocamp Sibinj has stellar views, a private beach but is a little exposed
The next morning arrived, and the combination of typhoon winds and consistent road noise meant I’d managed nearly an hour of sleep. Still, the view across the water to Krk island was enough to invigorate me. After breakfast, I returned to the washblock to do what a chap does in the morning, extending a cheery wave to the owner as I made my way across. And then I stopped dead in my tracks.
It hadn’t occurred to me that we might find the traditional ‘squat toilet’ on tour, but I checked all the cubicles, and it was the only option. It was at least clean, the light worked and there was a supply of lavatory paper. But I would not class the situation as ideal.
Having been the recent recipient of a hip replacement, I had to do some hasty calculations. There’s a certain amount of posture and balance to weigh up when using these toilets and I’d never though to ask my consultant about when was safe to use one.
We had discussed various post-surgical activities and using that information as the basis, I decided using the squat toilet was probably less risky than on-piste skiing (allowed) and, unless something went very badly wrong, was not likely to constitute contact sport (not allowed). So I made use of the ‘facility’ such as it was, returned to the van and started winding up the mains cable ready for departure.
If we left soon, we could be back at Lanterna by lunchtime.