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"Romania: catch it while you can"

 In 2004 we wrote: " So an overall verdict on Romania? Absolutely brilliant, despite the roads. A beautiful country with charming and resourceful people, and a great deal of potential. We shall return.

In 2005, we passed through on our way to Bulgaria, (but sadly, only in one direction). In 2007, we returned. We chose to return early because we were concerned that Romania's recent membership of the EU would destroy that special innocence that Romania has. One major observation is that people are much more self confident, and several talked of life under Ceausescu whereas previously this has been a taboo subject. It's as if the EU has guaranteed life will not go back to those awful days.

We cannot recommend Romania highly enough. If you are put off by language concerns, don't be. Communication there is easier than in France or Germany, there are so many people learning English.

Holiday Diary - fairly long, but if you're planning to to tour Germany, Austria or Romania there is probably some useful info. There is still some work in progress.

Thurs 3rd May

Left home at 18.30, a fine evening, and drove to Dover seafront as usual, to spend the night before an early ferry. As usual, we slept fitfully, never certain the alarms would go off at 0430. MSF (Miles So Far) 199

Fri 4th May

However the alarm did go off, and we caught the 0600 Norfolk Line sailing to Dunkerque. This journey is an hour and 50 minutes. The vehicle in front of us was another Rapido 746F, but we didn’t get to speak to the owners.

Once ashore we decided to let Sally Satnav (“Sally”, because she has a crisp clear and strong English accent) take us to Koblenz. She took us via Brussels, where we would have chosen Lille and Charleroi, however even the Brussels ring road wasn’t too busy. At one point I became so tired I had to get my head down for 15 minutes – something you can do easily in a motorhome.

At Koblenz we intended to stop at “Deutches Eck”, the junction of Rhine and Mosel rivers. There was a motorhome stellplatz there we have stayed at before, but we found it been replaced by a load of tacky stalls. That after having criss crossed the city trying to find it. (Sally only took us to the centre of the city).

At the Shepton Mallet show in January we bought a Dutch book “Camperstop Europe”, a directory of motorhome night stops. Later I paid for and downloaded the related Satnav points of interest (POI) for the countries we were interested in. These were €3 each, and well worth the money. Having failed to find somewhere to stop in Koblenz, we asked Sally where the nearest Camperstops sites were, and she directed us to Bechelm, where we parked in the car park of a restaurant. There we had a fine meal and a few beers, and spent the night in the car park. Pretty good, really. Total cost €21

The site is close to an ancient Roman wall called The Limes.

MSF 488

Sat 5th May

A short walk in the woods took us to “The Limes”, the 1st century Roman wall. In fact it is an earth dyke, and associated ditch rather like Offa’s Dyke, or a park pale.

Then on to drive beside the Rhine, not far away. We found an excellent spot right beside the Rhine, near Sankt Goarhausen. (E7 – 41 –15; N 50-10-16) Initially we were on our own, but soon a small community of motorhomes formed. An elderly Dutch dismountable just had to park very close to us, so he could spread out his table and chairs (illegally, as this is then “wild camping”, rather than “overnight parking”.) The Rhine here is quite narrow (just down stream from the Lorelei rock) and barges come quite close. Behind us, a railway is in almost continuous use, mostly freight.

MSF 503

Sun 6th May

Another fine day, left the site before 9 a.m., and followed the Rhine via Rudesheim to Aschaffenburg. Sally took us straight to the Stellplatze with no problem. This is a large site, completely free, and with good bunkering facilities. Electricity is available at 35p per Kw.hr. We seemed to be the only van without a satellite aerial, so they probably needed mains to keep the box alight! After an early lunch we walked into town – a pleasant place with many old buildings. Failed completely in finding an Internet café or wifi connection, though.

MSF 583

Mon 7th May

A marked change in the weather – cold and overcast. Left the site just after 8 a.m. How did we do this? Picked up the “Romantic Road”, and drove on to Rothenberg ob der Tauber, where there is another Camperstop listed site. This one costs €10 per night, and a nearby camper has just returned to find a parking ticket. Rothenburg is a lovely old town, with covered walls surrounding almost the entire town, and with very many mediaeval buildings. Many were destroyed by Allied bombing in 1945. It has the usual stack of tourist tat, but also some real shops, and we bought another road atlas for Germany, Michelin being much clearer than the ADAC one we have been using for a few years. The Tourist Information Centre had a free Internet terminal, so we picked up email, until it crashed! An email from Charlotte, apparently the Navy pensions has written to me saying the form I completed is now out of date, and I need to complete a new one. (But not for another 7 weeks as I’m out of the country!)

MSF 678

Tues 8th May

Heavy wind and rain overnight, but bright this morning, so we nipped into town for a few photos in sunshine, and also picked up emails at the TIC. Then back onto the Romantic Road for a couple of hours, to Nordlingen. This is another mediaeval walled town. The walls are complete, and circular. The town is situated in the middle of the biggest meteor crater in Europe. 15 million years ago a meteorite of approx. 1 Km diameter struck at approx 70,000 mph, releasing energy of 250,000 Hiroshima bombs, leaving a crater 25 Km in diameter.

In the town we did our mandatory circulation of the walls, then went up the tower of St Georges Church to see the views, and well worth the climb. Whilst were inside the heavens opened. Just great!

The Stellplatz here is completely free, and bunkerage is available. (10-29-01 East, 48-51-19 North)

MSF 727

Wed 9th May

The rain continued overnight, and right through the day (even heavier, in fact.). An early start, and we were in getting lost in Salzburg by 2.30. This was entirely due to us misunderstanding Sally’s directions, and she patiently got us out of the mess each time, although I’m unsure of the legality of the U-turn she had us do after we missed yet another junction. Eventually she took us right to the campsite, Camping Kasern. We’ve booked in for 2 nights, at €18 per night, and the plan is to “do” Salzburg tomorrow, and the campsite lady says we due for decent weather – we’ll see!

Somewhere near the Austrian border, we heard a bang, and a red light came on on the dashboard. Slightly worrying! 3 lanes of fast traffic with no hard shoulder in torrential rain is no place to stop, so we carried on to a service are about a mile away to investigate the symbol in the Fiat handbook. It turns out it indicates an injector malfunction, but can be ignored for a while if treated gently. In any case, the light disappeared when I restarted the engine. We also found somewhere to top up the gas (and for American readers, that’s propane not gasoline, and in any case gasoline and diesel do not a happy engine make!). We have used 6 litres in 6 days, and cost €4.22 – about £3.40, which is about 1/7th of our capacity.

MSF 908

Thurs 10th May

Sunshine again! We caught an early (ish) bus into Saltzburg, about 20 minutes. The bus stop is right outside the site. We expected to be accosted by lots of “Mozart muggers” as we were in Vienna, but in fact there were none. Saltzburg is a lovely city, stylish shops, squares, street cafes, gardens and fine buildings. It was also a good opportunity to stock up on supplies, especially milk – I can handle most things as long as I have a good cup of tea inside me, and that requires good milk. We also found an Internet café, very expensive, but very efficient, and cutting and pasting from a USB stick was no problem.

Fri 11th May

Asked Sally to take us to Hallstatt, on Hallstatter See. She did take us along some surprisingly narrow lanes, but very scenic. At Hallstatt we found the camp site by 11 a.m., and it was empty (Camping Welt, €17.50 per night). Weather was very hot, and it was an ideal time to catch up on the washing. After lunch we ventured a gentle stroll up the valley. Tarmacked roads gave way to gravel paths, and the path got steeper. We were following signs to   Waldbachstrub, not knowing what this was. It turned out to be a noted waterfall, visited by Emperor Franz-Josef. And as we reached it, the first drops of rain began to fall. Typical! On the way back we came across two slow worms fighting (or were they mating?). Luckily we got back to the site before the rain really set in, and the washing was mostly dry.

Sat 12th May

Long walk into hills

Sun 13th May

A chez nous, R walked somewhere

Mon 14th May

Left the site by 0900 – pretty good for us – and headed into Hungary, crossing the border at ????, and ending up at a site at?  We were obviously their first visitors this season. This was only a night halt, so we didn’t get to see the local area. Prices seemed pretty reasonable, at ???? (Hungary has got quite expensive since it joined the EU)

MSF 1340

Tues 15th May

And another early start, to get to Romania. Crossed the border at Oradea, with no problems or queues, bought yet another vignette, but cost only £1.50 for a month. Border areas are invariably awful, and this one was no exception. We hoped to find a site reputed to be near Oradea, but having found only 2 dreadful and overpriced sites we continued along the A1/E60 towards Cluj Napoca, and stopped at Camping Eldorado. A pleasant site, but right beside the main road from Istanbul to Europe, with heavy lorries passing all night. There are also lots of rules, especially annoying is the one that says you must pay before 9.30 on the day of departure or they charge for another day. This one nearly caught us out, as I paid at 9.25, which is when I saw that particular notice. We ate in the restaurant, and had a pleasant but unexceptional meal.

Here we met John and Hilary, an English couple from Scunthorpe towing a caravan, and spent a pleasant evening drinking their polenta mixed with cherry juice.

MSF 1806

Wed 16th May

We had planned a visit to Cluj Napoca, and headed in that direction. However the traffic was so chaotic and hairy we abandoned that idea. We did visit the brand new Cora hypermarket to stock up on groceries. Route then: E60 to Turda & Taru Mares & Balauseri, then 13A to Sovata, finally a terrible road to Camping Mustang at Cetatii. When we finally found it, it was a glorious site. Clean, spacious, peaceful, very friendly young owner with perfect English. This was only his second year of operation, and seems very commercially aware. (Lat/Long 46-40-65 North, 25-00-34 East.) We are the only people here. When we arrived it was very hot, but by about 6 pm the rain had set in. The joys of mountain weather!

MSF 1645

Thurs 17th May

The rain has stopped, but the weather remains overcast. Today we followed a marked trail to an overlooking hill, where there used to be a fort. On the way we passed a group of shepherds with their flock, and a makeshift settlement, which included a pig. Rather cleverly, we managed to lose the trail down from the hill, and blundered back to civilisation through a broad leafed forest. In the evening we ate at a local fish restaurant, at a small fish farm. This was apparently started in the 1920’s by the grandparents of the present owner. During the Ceausescu dictatorship it was appropriated by the state, but reverted to the original owners after the revolution of 1989. The menu was bi-lingual – Romanian and Hungarian, but we think we had grilled and fried trout respectively, with a pepper salad, a couple of beers, coffees and a cognac, for about £15. This is the 2nd time we’ve had chips in Romania, and we wouldn’t recommend them – very greasy. On the way back I made the mistake of fondling a puppy, which then decided it would take up residence with us. It followed us all the way back to the van, some distance, despite our attempts to shoo it away, or ignore it. During the night we could feel its tail banging on the floor. In the morning we discovered why he’d been so happy – he’d been chewing the handle of my walking stick! But at least he had got fed up and gone home.

Fri 18th May

Managed to pick up email today. The owner, Birtok Attila, invited us to use his Internet connection. We were also treated to coffee, cakes and polinka, made by the owner’s grandfather. Smooth and delicious, but strong.

We have now been away a fortnight, so some washing was called for. We have brought mainly stuff that washes and dries easily – there’s nothing to beat poly-cotton!

After lunch, another walk. 5 miles up a track and 5 miles back again. Tonight we ate in  different and very upmarket restaurant, called “History”. At least here the menu was in English. There was also a much wider selection. I chose “Gypsy style roast”, and Rosemary had chicken and ragout. Superbly cooked and served, very attentive young staff. This was much more upmarket, but still only cost £20 including tip.

Sat 19th May

We heard on the BBC World Service this morning that Romania has a referendum today on whether to impeach their president for abuse of power. I’m still not clear what impeachment really is, but I presume it’s a sort of formal bollocking. (The president survived with massive support. It seems he is attempting curb corruption amongst the Romanian politicians, and they don’t like it. I wonder if he would come to London?)

Sun 20th May

Left the site by 9.15, and moved a few miles to Sovata, a spa town in the valley. Here we stopped at Vasskert Camping, an older established site. It has a sign reading “welcome to our garden – the Vass family”. Cost is about £9 per night, without electricity. (46-36-28 North, 25-04-33 East.)

After lunch we strolled up to see what the spa was all about. This weekend they are celebrating the arrival of a salt lake 132 years ago, supposedly with curative properties. Looking at the water, I’d have said the converse was true! There were many children in national costume, and it seems we had just missed the festivities. There were many stalls, selling a varity of items, mainly national costume. One stall had a wood carver selling his wares, and very good they were, too, representing Hungarian folk lore. (This is a strongly Hungarian area). With the aid of Elizabeth, “a Hungarian born in Sovata who speaks Romanian” and excellent English, we had a long conversation with the the carver, and ended up buying a smaller of his carvings, for about £20. There are many old buildings, obviously dating from when the area was under Hungarian rule, and almost all looking derelict. There are also very many hideous concrete structures from Communist times.

Back at the site, we have been joined by a young Swiss couple in a VW camper.

MSF 1656

Mon 21st May

It had been our intention to leave early, having bought supplies at the market, and obtained Lei from the hole in the wall. This was scuppered when none of the holes in the wall would accept my cards. This necessitated a return to the site to collect passport, and waiting for the bank to open. Eventually 400 Lei found their way into my pocket, and we got under way at about 10.

Lonely Planet describes a pleasant area at Lacul Rosa – “the bloody lake”, and nearby spectacular gorge. So we  struggled up the worst road we have encountered in Romania this visit, over a pass an down the other side, to find the lake pretty pathetic, and the associated “resort” tacky in the extreme. Given the state of the road we did not feel brave enough to tackle the gorge, so retraced our steps, at an average speed of 15 mph, mainly in 3rd gear.

From Georghiou we took the A12 to Miercurea Ciuc, thence the 12A to Comanesti, where we found Camperland, Camping Trotus Valley. This site is run by Julia and Nikolai, 2 Dutch speaking Romanians. There was also another Dutchman with excellent English – he’d spent a long time diving off Portland, and another Dutch couple. We were made very welcome with home made spirit. All the entries in the guest book are in Dutch, so ours will be the first English entry.

Later Harry, the English speaking Dutchman knocked on the door to tell us he had just heard that the Cutty Sark had been destroyed by fire, and how upset he was.

MSF 8345

Tues 22nd May

A lovely morning, and we were delivered some delicious bread – by far the best we’ve had in Romania. Romania has many wonderful things, but until now bread has not been amongst them!

Time to catch up on washing, followed by a leisurely morning. I’m hoovering through my books much too quickly, and just started my last one – “The Devil’s Disciple” by Richard Dawkins. I have just finished, and can thoroughly recommend, “The Seven Daughters of Eve”, Brian Sykes. Coincidentally, this was recommended to me by an English couple in a tiny and very old campervan in Timisoara 2 years ago.

In the afternoon we walked through Plopu, a typical Romanian village, that is, completely unpaved roads, wells every 20 yards or so. Here we  met Serbu, a 16 year old girl who practised her English on us. After 45 minutes her English had improved markedly. She said we were the first English people she had met. We have swapped email addresses, and have promised to keep in touch.

Wed 23rd May

Walk through Lapos village to hills beyond. Lapos was notable for its nodding donkeys and oil derricks. According to Lonely Planet, the first ton of oil ever was extracted in Romania.

Soon after we got back, a spectacular thunderstorm arrived. This didn’t put a damper on the Romanian meal put on by Julia, which included lots of home made wine & spirit.

Thurs 24th May

Left the site, to head towards Brasov. We’ve given up going to the delta, defeated  by the terrible roads! Similarly, we gave up the attempt to reach a railway inclined plane when cobbled road that seemed to go on for ever threatened to shake Tottie to bits. Another battle with cash machines. It seems that Banca Carpatica can handle UK cards, but Banca Transilvania can’t.

So instead of wild camping near the inclined plane, we headed for the most famous Saxon fortified church at Prejmer and spent the night in the car park. In the evening, a small boy was kicking his football about. One high kick hit some overhead wires, and there was a spectacular shower of sparks, that over a period of 30 seconds or so, worked its way along the wires, disappearing round the corner of the street. Retreat of small boy carrying a football, as lights went out in the village.

And also today, Bobby had his last exam.

MSF 1934

Fri 25th May

Another longer visit to the church, including a complete perambulation of the covered battlements, before heading off to yet another fortified Saxon church at Harman, only 6 Km away. This was less impressive.

Next on today’s culture tour were the 2 royal palaces at Sinaia – Peles castle, built by King Carol the 1st, and Pelisor, built for his adopted son Ferdinand and his wife Marie of Edinburgh, grand-daughter of Queen Victoria. These are recent, around the end of the 19th century, and are truly spectacular. Well worth a visit. The route included tackling Brasov, the second city, and A1 to Sinaia, then on to Bran, via a pass to Rasnov. At Bran the there is a Dutch campsite, “Vampire Camping”, where we found yet another Brit motorhome.

MSF 2005

Sat 26th May

Today we caught the bus into Rasnov, about 10 miles away. Cost 2 Lei, about 45p, each, each way. At Rasnov there is an old citadel, overlooking the town. It is a substantial climb, and we were rather disappointed with what there was to see. And we had to wait 50 minutes for a bus back. Back at Bran, the local supermarket (“Wolf”) was hosting a party, and there was an excellent group playing and singing local music. We recognised the style from Maramures 2 years ago.

Another bonus, the site has Internet access, 4 Lei for an hour, so we were able to catch up on 10 days emails.

Sun 27th May

Bran Castle is only 15 minutes walk away. For some reason this has become known as “Dracula’s Castle”, although Vlad Tepiz (“Vlad the Impaler”) never used the castle. It is a lovely castle, given by the city of Brasnov to Queen Marie in 1920 or so, and decorated by her in various styles, including Art Nouveau. Marie was Queen Victoria’s grand-daughter, and the pictures of Marie’s daughter are the spitting image of Princess Margaret.

There were more events at the supermarket, this time singers and dancers in national costume. It seemed to be a competition, and it was striking how many of the local youths joined in the country dancing. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHbZWqRIlRU

We had an interesting evening with a Canadian couple, touring with a tent. A tent must be miserable in a thunderstorm, so we invited them in for the evening.

Mon 28th May

Caught the bus into Brasov, Romania’s 2nd most visited city, 3 Lei each, each way. This only took us to the bus station, and we had to catch a 2nd bus into the centre. Both to and from Brasnov we had to stand all the way, about an hour. And it was hot and sticky.

Brasnov has a lovely central square, beautifully restored, and we enjoyed people watching from the pavement cafes.

Back at the site, Toni the site manager has a virus, or more likely spyware, on his PC, so much of the evening was spent trying to clear it – unsuccessfully as it turned out. However I gave him so pointers on how to proceed.

Another English couple have arrived, in a caravan. They are unsure about Romania – “I can see all this in Scotland and Poland!” (But when we met them at other sites later on they were as enthusiastic as we were.)

Tues 29th May

Left Vampire Camping, with Toni still trying to clear his PC, and headed into the mountains and the Bucegi National Park. We had hoped to stop at Panorama Camping, but found the track into the site too steep, rough and rutted to get into. A pity, because it lived up to its name. Carrying on, we joined a queue of stationery traffic, and sat there for 15 minutes. Eventually the police directed cars to overtake the lorries, and we took advantage of this, only to find a large crane blocking most of the road, attempting to recover the remains of a lorry that had gone over into the gorge. The gap was barely wide enough for a car, let alone us, but we got through, with lots of directions and encouragement from the workers. I’m still amazed we didn’t scrape the van, or drop into the ditch. Many miles of very rough road later, we still had not found anywhere to stop for the night, so headed back towards Brasov. The plan was to get to Sighisoara, but Romanian roads are so tiring – you have to concentrate hard all the time – that exhaustion overcame us, and we stopped in a lay-by for the night.

MSF 1738

Wed 30th May

An early morning , and we are enveloped in low cloud. This made driving even more tricky. Luckily , as we dropped off the hills it became clearer. We retraced our steps past Bran, to Brasov, where we breakfasted again in the Real supermarket car park, before stocking up on groceries. Then up the E13 to Sighisoara. On the way we stopped off at a couple more Saxon churches. At Sighisoara we found Camping Vila Franka, the site we failed to find 3 years ago, up a very tortuous track to a hill overlooking the citadel. The English caravanners we met at Bran gave up when they smelt burning clutch.

It is a strange site. Only 2 toilets, (1 male, 1 female), 2 showers, and no water. Water you have to get from the bar. Cost 40 Lei per night without electricity.

At about 9 pm 2 elderly German vans arrived in convoy, and parked right beside us.

MSF 2172

Thurs 31st May

Another early start, and we walked into Sigisoara. It is quite a hike from the site, but you can save a mile or so by crossing the railway tracks. In the citadel itself we found that almost every street had a large trench in it, as the EU is funding new water and sewer mains. The weather was overcast as well, so it is as well we saw it in bright sunshine and undug 3 years ago. We spent many hours walking round the streets, found an Internet café, and caught a taxi back.

Back at the site, we ate at the restaurant, very cheap, but discovered the town was being twinned with ?? in Bavaria, and the celebrations were being held at the site that evening. A load of Germans with name tags arrived, and Romanian dancers performed, very well. But after about 5 dances the heavens opened and a thunderstorm took over. We also met Gary Cook, a professional travel photographer, touring Romania and living in a small tent, so we invited him in to shelter for a while, and share a drink or two. We had all retired, and were well asleep, when fireworks were set off right beside us – exciting!?

Fri 1st June

This is a strange site – there are no fresh water taps anywhere! We had agreed with the owner we would fill up from a hose in the bar this morning, but no one was around. After about 30 mins someone turned up, and we got our water and left.

More about this site

On leaving we went to see the site we stayed at 3 years ago, another strange site. This appeared to be still there, but non operational. Very strange.

Central Camping

Made our way slowly along some terrible roads, via ??  ?? to Camping Auld Willge, a Dutch site at Carta, near Sibiu.

MSF 2247

Sat 2nd June

Spent day on site, catching up on washing.

Sun 3rd June

Keith & Helen took us up the Ceausescu road - spectacular

Mon 4th June

Took train to Sibiu

Tues 5th June

Walked from site. Lost nerve trying to cross a footbridge

Wed 6th June

Left Aude Willge, and moved to another site near Sibiu, Camping Ananas. This is nowhere near as good as Aude Willge, and more expensive. 45-42-44N, 24-06-30E

MSF 2282

Thurs 7th June

Visited Paltinis, high in the Cindrel mountains, and lunched at an excellent spot for wild camping. Then on to the folk museum at ?? just outside Sibiu. This is huge, and excellent. Then a battle with Sibiu’s rush hour traffic to get to the wild camping spot we used 3 years ago, near Orlat. (In fact just past Gura Raului) 45-43-01N, 23-56-58E. Here we encountered a young Dutch couple, also wild camping. She was beginning research for an MSc in Romanian accordion music.

MSF 2333

Fri 8th June

An early start – left the site by 8 am, heading for Timisoara. Much of this route we have followed before: E68 Sebes, Orastie, E79 Hateg. Here we dived off to see an unusual church at Densus, built of stone reclaimed from Roman buildings. Then onto the A68 to Caransebes. Caransebes is a thoroughly uninspiring town! We also looked in on some Roman ruins at Sarmizegetusa, however these were not original, but had been rebuilt recently. Disappointing. Thence onto the Bucarest- Timisoara road, E70, via Lugoj to Timisoara. This road has not improved at all since we first used it 3 years ago, and now the traffic has at least doubled, and many more heavy lorries. There is a massive road improvement programme right across Romania, mostly funded by the EU, but there are so many terrible roads it will take a long time.

At Timisoara we stayed again at International Camping, an old and large site, that has been largely empty each time we have visited. Perhaps the high cost and bureaucracy has something to do with it?

MSF 2524

Sat 9th June

An early start, and we caught a taxi into town. Only 5 lei, and it saved the hassle of buses and where to buy bus tickets. Changes to in Timisoara have not been as dramatic as in Sibiu, but then, it wasn’t getting ready to be “European Capital of Culture 2007”.  We looked into the Orthodox Cathedral – every time we’ve looked into an Orthodox church a service has been in progress, and today was no exception. The sounds are simply glorious, something like Gregorian chant. As there are no pews, the acoustics are brilliant, all sonorous. The service goes on, and people come and go as they see fit. The cathedral is early 20th century. Not old, but richly decorated.

The weather was hot and sunny, and there are even more pavement cafes than 3 years ago. Lunch covered 2 ½ leisurely hours, overlooking the opera house and square where the revolution started in 1989. The food was excellent, as good a meal as I’ve had anywhere, and really good value for money. We must return to Timisoara just to go to Lloyds Restaurant (“founded 1935”) again.

Another visit to the central market – mainly to see the flowers, but also to stock up on fruit and veg. Then, whilst picking up email in an Internet café, a thunderstorm broke overhead and the heavens opened. (So far, just like Plovdiv 2 years ago!). Another taxi ride, right to our front door. We had left the skylights open, so certain were we that it wouldn’t rain!

On site, we found that Keith and Helen, whom we had encountered at various Transylvanian sites, had arrived, and we spent a pleasant evening swapping stories.

Sun 10th June

Another early start, beginning the long trek home. We had Pecs in Hungary as a suitable place to stop for  a few days. We lost an hour or so in a Metro supermarket, spending the last of our Lei. At the checkout we discovered it was a cash & Carry, and we had no membership card. Fortunately, the supervisor took pity and allowed the sale to proceed. We had underestimated the cost of it all, and had to remove some jars of jam in order to pay for it.

Eventually, we reached the border. Leaving Romania was a doddle, but getting into Hungary was the usual hassle. They seem to have forgotten we are all part of the EU now. Did we have any cigarettes? (“Certainly NOT!”) Alcohol? (“A small amount of wine”). What happened to the Customs Union? I attempted to buy a motorway vignette at the border, but the lady selling them would only accept Euros, not Hungarian Forints, which I had. I protested that I thought we were in Hungary, and she looked embarrassed, but wouldn’t relent. That’s a throwback to the Communist era, when tricks like that were pulled to bring in hard currency. It’s little things like that that lead me to dislike Hungary. (And it’s also flat and boring.). Anyway, we didn’t buy a vignette out of principle, and avoided motorways.

A long drive to Pecs –“European Capital Culture 2010” – to find the proposed camp site full of a convoy of French motorhomes. You rarely see French outside of France, so it must have been a well armed convoy to give them the confidence to go so far from home. Anyway, there was no room for us, so there was nothing for it to continue westwards. By 7 pm Romanian time we had failed to find a campsite, but did find a portion of road that had been bypassed, and blocked at one end, at Poganyszentpeter, southeast of Nagykanizsa.

As we had had to switch to our second gas canister we filled up, taking 20.85 litres. This averages about 1 ltr per day.

MSF 2795

Mon 11th June

Another early morning, heading for Slovenia. Our plan was to use the motorway, for which we had to buy a vignette. Supposedly you buy them from petrol filling stations, but we couldn’t find one that sold them. So we took the minor roads instead, to the minor crossing at Pince (in Slovenia). This saved us £4 or so, and we spent all our remaining Forints in a small shop near the border, mainly on wine.

In Slovenia, we fairly quickly got lost, and found ourselves about to cross back into Hungary. A quick U-turn got us out of that. Prior to that we had passed through a small village where a number of police cars were clustered around a shop, and 2 black tarpaulins covered what can only have been bodies. What had gone on, we’ve no idea.

We reached our target, Camping Selinje, in time for a late lunch. The site was full of Dutch caravans. Full – because they spread themselves out. The Dutch seem to be taking over from the Germans, with their towels on the pool chairs.

MSF 2950

Tues 12th June

Walked from the site, but found there was no interesting walking to be had.

Wed 13th June

Headed up the valley to ??, a national park. The intention was to stay in the area …

Ljubjana, evening,

MSF 3019

Thurs 14th June

Caught the bus into Ljubjana

 Fri 15th June

Left the Ljubjana site early,and took the A10 motorway to just East of Trieste,then North to Stanjel. I have been reading "Peace and War", Wanda Newby's biography. She was brought up here,in the 1920's, so it seemed a shame not to see what the village looked like now. Whilst clutching the book, we encountered the lady who translated part of it into Slovenian.She gave us Wanda's address, and we sent her a postcard to show we cared. (NB Wanda is the widow of Eric Newby, the travel writer.)

 Then via Nova Gorica and Tolmin to Kamp Korita, in the Soca valley, near Soca. This is a small and informal site, and a great deal cheaper than others nearby.

MSF 3152

 Sat 16th June

Walked up the Soca Trail for a few miles, along a very  attractive gorge. We discovered that the Slovenian map of the national park is pretty useless and unreliable, despite being 1:50000 scale.

The site is also the base for "Adrenalin Check", outdoor activity holidays. These looked good value, until you saw the tiny tents visitors had to sleep in. At 5 pm there was more torrential rain, but the thunder was only in the distance.

Sun 17th June

Another Soca trail walk, this time downstream, about 10 miles in all. Typically, the heavens opened when we still had 2 miles to go, and we got drenched. My brand new and expensive Rohan waterproof isn't!

Mon 18th June

Time to continue homeward. Leaving the site we head north over quite a hairy pass. Narrow roads and very tight hairpins. After  Kranjska Gora there is a pass straight into Austria. This looked even hairier, and we decided discretion was the  better part of valour. Instead we took a longer route via Italy, entering Austria near Arnoldstein, then following the scenic A111 to Kotschach, then AQ100 and A107 to a small site at Dollach, just south of the Grossglockner-Hochalpenstrasse, a major pass rising to 2504 meters (8138 ft).

MSF 3258

Tues 19th June

Left the site at 0815, to get onto the pass early before the coaches arrived. I was awake for an hour during the night worrying about the pass, having had some heart stopping moments on other passes. In the event, the pass was reasonably easy, and certainly spectacular. I hadn't realised people visit it just for the spectacle, especially the Franz Joseph Hohe, overlooking the Grossglockner glacier. Car parks here are enormous, and there appears to be a waiting area too. We saw marmots, and ibex, but no golden eagles or bearded vultures. As usual, the descent was worse than the ascent. Even staying in 2nd gear, and averaging only 15 mph, a smell of overheating brakes told us it was time for a cup of tea to cool down.

With some difficulty, we found the dear little camp site at Mittersill (Camping Schmidl), run by an old gentleman (Herr Schmidl), cost per night only €10, and no formalities like ID cards, passports etc. I do recommend this site. Lovely.

MSF 3325

Wed 20th June

We had planned to move on today, but the site is so nice, the valley so beautiful, and the weather so perfect we decided to stay on another day. We could also catch up on a backlog of washing. The weather was perfect until 7pm or so, when a series of thunderstorms swept through. We saw a spectacular strike on a schloss on the opposite hillside, with no apparent damage. As the rain eased, about 10 pm, a small German car arrived, and a family of American got out and started erecting 2 small tents. They rejected our offer of coffee - perhaps they've had English coffee before!

Thurs 21st June

Planning on an early start, we woke early, to find the Americans were already up, and trying to dry out tents, mattresses and sleeping bags. They were on high dry ground, and the rain had not been heavy, so we (and our Dutch neighbours) surmised that their tents were not very waterproof. They again refused our offer of coffee - I can't believe they're tea drinkers!

With an "auf wiedersehen" to Herr  Schmidl", we took the A161 to Kitzbuhl, the B170 via Hopfgarten to Worgl, the 171 to Volders, where we took off on minor roads to find the site at Rinn, southeast of Innsbruck. Once settled there, another thunderstorm came through. The site cost €13.50 for 1 night.

MSF 3374

Fri 22nd June

Not a good night! A band played in a marquee only 50 yards away, finally ending at 1 a.m.

So we rejoined the 171, through Innsbruck, then the 179 over the Fernpass. This pass is really easy - wide road, broad hairpins and not very steep. Between Reute and the German border, it may have become a motorway requiring a vignette, although it certainly didn't look like a motorway (and we certainly didn't have a vignette!). Must check this in case we come this way again. And Tottie has just done 10,000 miles.

At Fussen, just inside Germany, Sally took us to a wohnmobileplatz, where again the heavens opened.

MSF 3476

Sat 22nd June

Deutches Alpenstrasse to Meersburg

Text from Charlotte - "Don't come home! Bring an Ark! Torrential rain and flooding all over....Slugs have eaten all my basil!"

MSF 3560

Sun 23rd June

Followed a very attractive road (mostly the B31, but some local roads) via Geisingen to Eisenbach, near Neustadt, in the Black Forest. There is a very nice wohnmobileplatz beside the sports centre. Cost €6, including electricity.

After lunch, we followed a marked "Panoramaweg", to discover the Germans do not mark their paths as clearly as the Swiss or Austrians, and got lost at the first junction.

We can now just get BBC Radio 4 on long wave, very faint. Weather forecast is bad, but Blair is about to go, so some things are looking up!.

MSF 3629

Mon 25th June

Another day, another country. Crossed the Rhine into France at Breisach, near Freiburg. Followed N415 t6o Kayserburg, then up to the Col de Calvaire, having failed to find an Aire de CC at Orbey. Lunch at Lac Blanc, when it began to rain. And we've just had text from Bobby with his results - a 2.2, good enough to start an MSc. And a text from Charlotte, on her interview at Research Machines.

Failed to find the Aire de CC at the Col du Bon Homme so we carried on to an aire at Gerardmer, being described as a "lively lakeside town". This proved to be untrue - most of Gerardmer was closed, either because it was Monday or because the owner was on holiday. I hope this isn't the case in the rest of France - I'd hate to say "we went to France, but it was closed"

MSF 3726

Tues 26th June

Heavy rain through the night - a taste of what Britain is currently getting. It was raining too hard to bother with finding a boulangerie or emptying the loo, so we set off early for our next night halt, at Stenay. The road took us through Verdun, scenes of carnage in WW1, and we passed a lot of very moving memorials, enormous cemeteries, and lines, fortifications, artillery pieces, and whole areas left covered in shell craters. It was all beautifully cared for, and very moving. It would do politicians from all nations a lot of good to visit, and ponder their policies

The aire de CC at Stenay is down by the canal, a very nice set up, costing only €6 per night,including electricity. There is a museum of beer - but it was closed!

MSF 3884

Wed 27th June

The boulangerie is closed today! After a chat with an Australian who's taking his 100 year old barge round the canals of Europe, we headed off for our last night in France, at Catillon-sue-Sambre. We are now close to the Belgian border. Arriving at lunch time, we lunched on the plat du jour at the only cafe in the village. With drinks, this cost €40, and was not at all special. The aire here is also by the canal, and is free. Whilst walking along the canal bank we saw some creatures that looked liked large water voles. Must remember to look these up.

We can now get BBC Radio 4 Long Wave quite clearly. Tony Blair has resigned, and Gordon Brown is the new prime minister. He can't be any worse.

MSF 3974

Thurs 28th June

To Dunquerqe for the midnight ferry. Sally took us on a direct route, avoiding expensive French motorways, and I must say it was much more interesting driving through countryside, villages and towns instead of bombing along a motorway. Sally's route took us right past our usual Cora hypermarche, to top up- with wine, tarte aux fraises, etc. Then on to an aire overlooking the beach, to await our ferry. It was a glorious evening, and we could not help but consider how different it must have been 67 years ago, when 350,000 troops were evacuated from the beach in a few days, under constant air attack.

We where booked on the midnight Norfolk Line ferry, so set off at 10 pm. It is a surprisingly long way from Dunquerque to its ferry port, about 2 miles, unlike Dover where the port is right in the town. Sally's planned route did not end at the port, but extended 5 miles into the sea. This is presumably because maps show dotted lines into  the sea to signify ferry routes.

There was a stiff breeze blowing, and the crossing was quite "lumpy". We bought our first newspapers for 2 months, all full of the Blair/Brown handover.

After disembarkation we drove straight to the Dover town centre long term car park, and settled there for the rest of the night.

Friday 29th June

Very heavy rain - we must be in England! Arrived home at 12 pm

Overall miles -

Diesel used

Average mpg -

Average miles per day -

Gas used - cost -  average cost per day




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