Coastal Istria has long been a holiday destination, with the Roman amphitheatre of Pula a major attraction, and the town of Rovinj offering cool sophistication. The countryside inland is relatively new to tourism but its forested rolling hills, topped with fortified villages, like Motovun, is startlingly attractive.
From war-torn to holiday hotspot in a very short space of time, Croatia's popularity with tourists is all the more remarkable given its very unsettled, very recent past. The wars only ended in 1995; walls pock-marked with bullet holes are still visible and when speaking with local people you are speaking to those for whom the conflict is a very fresh memory.
These floods have made the already dire situation of some animals even more difficult. Stray animals appear to be affected more than other animals. People who had to be evacuated in a rush had to leave their pets and farm animals behind. With the infrastructure damaged and the economy severely affected, the situation was a catastrophic emergency...
The best thing about bicycle touring is the contrast. You experience the discomfort of being outdoors in all kinds of weather, eat a variety of strange foods, both good and bad, and sleep in lots of unorthodox places. With the first leg of our bicycle tour, from Rome to Russia, behind us, Stephen and I have been reflecting on the best food, drink, and accommodation we've had.
Villa Orsula was built in 1939, in the Mediterranean style, using the local white stone for the walls and traditional red tiles for the roof. It was completely restored and refurbished for its grand opening in spring 2012. They claim that it's the most luxurious accommodation in the city, and I can't disagree.
Croatia's recent accession to the EU has given exporters cause to celebrate too, as the path to international trading with this exciting European market has never been smoother. As the EU's 28th member state, entry into the EU means an increase in the free circulation of goods, services and people between Croatia and the UK, as well as removing some of the existing barriers to trade.
Travelling through the Istrian region of Croatia, you'd be forgiven for wondering if you'd stumbled into rural Italy at first glance. Lush expanses of carefully preened produce are everyday scenery in this part of the world. Olive groves and vineyards stretch out in every direction, disturbed only by the occasional mountain and sea view.