A week at a naturist camping resort in Croatia - sounds idyllic, doesn't it? Well, very nearly, however, and in the words of Robin Williams' indefatigable Genie: "there are a couple of quid pro quos...".
Let's start with the positive. The Adriatic coastline around Vrsar, our camping destination, is quite simply beautiful. Steep Limestone clifflets, topped with a tufty layer of bright green and brown foliage, plummet into a clear blue sea. A small flotilla of differently sized, but mostly small, boats flit up and down the estuary, and between the pets-not-welcome FKK resort at Valalta and the pet- and dog-friendly FKK resort at Koversada. We have Polly the Collie with us so we opted for Koversada. The scenery gets a very good 9/10.
I won't describe everything at the resort, you can read about the facilities on the well laid out website. Dog-friendly was, for us, most important, and so we were pleased to see an ample field for the use of dogs. Poo bags are one thing, but a sufficiently large and dedicated poo-meadow is altogether a bonus. Sometimes we even had the entire meadow to ourselves.
As far as the beaches go, the access is almost without exception across very steep and very sharp limestone. Looks beautiful, but one slip... There are actually a couple of beaches which have been purpose engineered with sand and families in mind, naturally dogs are not welcome there. There is also almost the entire coastline available for swimming, but you have to climb down a ladder into the water (because of the sharp rocks), or wade out along a specially built concrete pierlet. There's not much to be said for or against this, it's just how the coastline is, and on the whole I think the Koversada administration has done a reasonable job of making it available for the majority. However, provision for dogs in the sea is moderate to minimal. What this means is that there is one (1) beach which is appointed "dog-friendly", which is well and good, and on the site map it looks quite large, perhaps 20% of the overal available beach length. Unfortunately it's also the beach where the motor boats both moor and launch, so it's either oily or banked by sharp rocks, or both. In practical terms, and for the entire 1 million sqm. campsite, the *accessible* beach for dogs, with harmless gravel, is actually only about 15 metres long.
So, yes, the naturist camp site welcomes dogs, per se. And yes, there is a dog-beach, kind of. The dog-meadow is indeed excellent. I know taking a dog to any holiday destination can be an issue, not least to a naturist venue where dogs are largely banned (from many or indeed most naturist clubs). Maybe I'm just being fussy, and would have to say 5/10 for effort, as I just feel they could do more, please.
The camp sites themselves are fairly good, ample space, with water and electricity where requested. And sufficient, and regularly cleaned, toilet and shower facilities distributed through the camp. We have a VW T4 Westfalia pop-top with a tent on the side, and were very comfortable. There's sufficient privacy if you want it, with sufficient range for being able to chat to the neighbour if you like. This is about par for the course maybe, but I'd have to give at least 7/10 marks for the camp space itself. Very good!
Nudity? Now here's a strange thing, we booked into one of the oldest sites for naturist vacations in the World, in Europe, in Croatia. Koversada boasts this loudly on their own website. It doesn't matter how you define this, I'm expecting naturist=naked, NOT clothed! You're probably with me so far.
So, I'm camping naked, I go swimming naked, I walk to the shower naked and walk naked up and down the entire resort, I fetch fruit from a stand at the beach naked, this is all well and good, after all it's a naturist resort, right? Now, I go to the (small onsite) supermarket naked and get unexpectedly stopped at the door by a big sign saying "no naked!" Eh? Sure enough, you can't go shopping naked here, it's a naturist resort but to pick up your can of baked beans, or sun-cream, you have to get dressed first? WTF! I'm sorry, but this just threw me. We spoke to one of the camp regulars about this, expecting her to agree with our shocked surprise, but she just nodded, smiling, and said yes of course: "we don't want to be standing in the supermarket queue with a man's penis behind us, and another in front of us, do we?" I didn't answer immediately, I was in shock. I'm in a naturist venue, and I'm not clear on this, you're saying "we don't want naked people...?" I've been to La Sabliere in France, (and other resorts), where you walk naked into their supermarket and they don't have an issue of any kind with a man's penis, front or back. But wait, there's more.
So, I'm camping naked, I go swimming naked, etc, ..., after all it's a naturist resort, right? Now, I go to one of the onsite pizza cafe's naked, (I'm hungry), and get unexpectedly stopped at the door by the waitress: "no naked!". What? Yep, apparently, in this naturist resort, you can't eat naked either. There was some guff about hygiene which is rubbish as I don't sit on my plate when I'm eating, I sit on a towel and eat from my plate. (I don't get what's so complicated about this, it's basic hygiene). Anyway, we also discussed this (briefly) with the camp regular above and her response was, yes: "we don't want to see women drooping their breasts into the soup, do we?" I threw my hands up in despair, while my girl friend stalwartly pointed out that in other naturist venues it's quite common to be naked everywhere. The camp regular smiled beatifically as she reiterated: "so was wollen wir nicht, gell?" translated as: "we don't want that kind of thing here, do we?"
We have a naturist resort where you can be naked here, but not naked there, and here you have to get dressed, and there it's ok to be dressed and there not, my head began to spin. Now you may feel I'm being unreasonable here, and I'd agree that every resort owner has the right to define their own rules. However, when you are boasting that the venue is "famous as the oldest naturist centre in the Adriatic" I'd expect some of those rules to be naturist oriented. Nay, naturist-biased I say. On my <a href="/newt">Naked European Walking Tours</a> we are quite often accepted as a group of maybe 30 fully naked people into a mainstream mountain Gasthof, and nobody has an issue with this. Having to get dressed to go to dinner in a naturist venue is quite simply beyond me. For nudity, I give Koversada 3/10.
There's an island off the coast of the Koversada campsite, described as a nature reserve. It's connected to the mainland by a short bridge, and dogs are, not unreasonably, not allowed entry, apparently the squirrels are rather special. It doesn't really matter what's the precise reason for the nature reserver designation, the concept is fairly simple. One would think cars would be banned too, and caravans, and tents, and tourists and cafes, ...no wait, I'm getting carried away. Tourists have money and that's why we're here, I guess. So, we sat with Polly on the unbanned side of the bridge and watched the nature reserve for a while. The entire time, maybe an hour or so, we saw car after car, then camper vans, then lorries, then more cars, all crossing the bridge and doing battle with the poor pedestrians who were also struggling to get across to the nature reserve, and back again. Mothers pushing prams past lorries delivering pies to the fastfood cafe, campers impatiently trying to push past groups of squabbling children and bicycles. It was a scene like something out of Breugel.
Our curiosity got the better of us, and while I kept the dog in check, Sandra went across to check out the nature reserve. What she found there was some trees standing stark surrounded by concreted over sections of beaches, caravans and tents, and bare scorched, earth. There were some trees valiantly doing battle against the forces of tourism, but mostly the impression was one of commerce, not nature. No idea what the squirrels thought of it all. It seems to me that if you're going to have a nature reserve, then you need to reserve it for nature. Naturally this costs some effort of will and maybe you even make a little less money (marginally less camp sites). It seems to me that Koversada is being disengenous, at best, by describing this travesty of a squirrel sanctuary as a reserve. It would be a, relatively, simple matter to ban all vehicles, caravans, tents, and to only permit visiting foot traffic. One could go further and propose de-concretion of the abused beaches and the closing of the cafes, too, or at the very least to limit delivery and refuse removal vehicles to 4 per day. Environmental awareness at Koversada gets 3/10.
When we first arrived at the campsite, I was surprised (this was clearly a forewarning of what to come) to see a large notice banning naked people from the reception area. Again: this is a naturist venue, what are these people thinking?! Ok, I had to revise my ideas a bit, and accept the possibility that the Croation people (at this campsite) are uncomfortable with nudity. The point is that Koversada is a naturist venue and while the tourists are generally fairly ok with nudity, as one would expect, the staff are very definitely not. I should point out that I don't really care if it's a religious problem they have with nudity, or an "inexperience" with nudity, or a moral imperative, or something else. What I do care about is that when I PAY to go to a nudist venue, I can be nude. It's not any more complicated than that. During our stay at the campsite, most of the staff did not look either of us in the eye, it was clear the majority were uncomfortable. There were exceptions, and we did indeed meet a number of friendly staff, with the proviso that one realizes one is on holiday as a paying tourist, and you're essentially paying people to be friendly towards you. It seems clear that the core attitude of any company is driven from the top, and that the overwhelming majority of the staff at Koversada have little or no sympathy for the nudists who pay their wages. I'm not expecting them to be naked, but neither am I expecting the majority of the staff to look down their noses at me while I'm on holiday. I'm not marking points for this deal-breaker any further here, but this leads me to my final observation.
We were at the reception, paying our bill in readiness to leave early the next day, naturally we were dressed... I handed over some cash, and was mildly surprised to recieve substantially less than I was expecting. I mean, I wasn't sure, what with the difference between the Croatian Shillings and the German Euros I'd presented, the exchange rate, etc. So I said: "I don't think this is quite right." and pointed to the bill and what I'd paid. And remember that this is the first time anyone in the reception area made eye contact. The woman behind the reception looked me directly in the eye and, without blinking or checking her figures in any meaningful way, said: "oh yes, I made a mistake, here." and handed me a 100 Euro note. I don't think I can give any marks for that.
Overall, while I find the scenery in Croatia beautiful, actually stunning, I'm not sure the other factors are able to rescue the case. Even so, although I'm disappointed with some aspects of the experience, a little tourist-fleecing is probably to be expected, and it should be said that we also managed to have a lovely week of naked camping on the Adriatic. On the one hand it's a good thing (imho.) that there are still naturist campsites around, even if they are struggling to make ends meet. Running any tourist business may not be easy I can see several reasons why they'd struggle, and am impressed that they persevere, but disappointed at the same time. I hope that someone from Koversada reads this, and takes on some of our experience as a learning experience pointing to what might be improved.
Finally, in trying to make sense of all of this, I'm able to generate a final score. The points system I've used above is admittedly fairly arbitrary, and I based them on "impression from this context" while writing, so please don't take this too seriously. However, this might still be useful for some. Using these scores, for the Koversada naturist campsite in Croatia, I get:
9/10 + 5/10/ + 7/10 + 3/10 + 3/10 + 0/10 = 27/60