Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thorough planning.

We made a couple of errors with Krk, number 1 we didn't realise how far onto the island it was.  For some reason I thought it was a quick 10 minute drive into the centre of the island.  It was actually about a 40 minute drive to the other side and onto the coast (thoroughly researched) and number 2 Krk is a bit of a ghost town when its not peak season.  There was the odd cafe open but that is about it.  All of its quaint narrow alleyways which I'm sure are bustling with holiday goers and locals in the summer were dead and locked up.  All the campsites in the area are closed except one, which led us to believe there would be the odd camper van doing the same thing as us and running to the sun but it turns out no one did.

  All of the toilets in Croatia are the same as everywhere we have been recently, closed when not in peak season.  However rather than telling us this on arrival or locking the doors most campsites just seem to fill them with crap so you can't get in them.  It seems to work so I can't complain.

The last day in Krk we we're sat outside having lunch in the sun when a random 'Hello?' called out from the front of the van.  Someone did have the same idea as us.  Finally we weren't alone.  Svein had just come into his retirement so had some spending money.  He couldn't take anymore Norwegian winters so decided to run to the sun, my kinda guy.  After a quick chat Svein went into town to have a coffee and we carried on with our afternoon.  Around 5/6 that evening we were about to start cooking some tea when Svein came back to the van after leaving town and asked us if we would like to join him for a drink in his caravan.  5 hours later we left his caravan.  The drink of choice was the Norwegian drink Linie Aquavit.  41.5% and the whole bottle went.  Svein's catering for the non drinkers was energy drink.  A litre of the stuff.  I was awake most of the night.  A very enjoyable night though with lots of stories shared.

The next day we planned to move onto Plantaze which on the map was down the road.  No need to pack away during the night and no need for an early departure.  We left at around 12 saying bye to Svein before we left and hit the road.  When we left we looked at the trip duration... 4 hours.  Again another thoroughly researched part of the trip, we hadn't thought about the coastal roads being hilly and coastal roads aren't known for being straight.  I don't think we could have chosen a better road to drive on for 4 hours.  The drive was great, every turn revealed even better views of the coast and hills.  It was nice driving with some views and not dense fog.

At about 4.30pm we arrived in Plantaze our latest arrival at a campsite since Krakow.  We were camped on the sea.  I want to say that it topped off the nice days drive a treat but that sounds really lame. So have a picture instead.

Monday, November 26, 2012


The original plan after Maribor was to head west, as more campsites were open, but as it turned out we ended up headed south. The reason for this being, a friend mentioned that a mutual friend lived near Samobor, so we contacted Louis (said mutual friend) to see if there was any room at the inn.
There was room at the inn luckily, we didn't even have to sleep in the tent.

We got there with some very vague instructions. For those who know Louis will know that he's not very technology friendly, the quickest way for him to let us know where he was would've been a link on Google maps, or at least a postcode. But no, not Louis. Why make it easy. It was like an Easter egg hunt, a clue to the next clue. "if you come to Samobor we are 20 km west of Zagreb. I am really easy to find!! Park up in the centre Ask for Fontana 2cv PUB, run by my mates go there and they will tell you where the workshop is or direct you to my gaff"


So we park up in the centre, we ask for directions to the Fontana 2cv pub at the local bakery in the square, we head in the direction that the nice lady told us, we wander round looking in that area, we wander round some more, we leave that area as the pub blatantly isn't there. This wandering round goes on for a good 20 mins, and we are just about to ask for directions again (not from the same lady) when Vick spotted Louis walking towards us in the main square. I say she spots Louis, the first thing she spots is his bright orange Barbour 4x4 top.
So, having found our guide Louis walked us to the Fontana 2CV pub, which is nowhere near the main square, and would be difficult to give directions to an English speaker. 

 A quick coffee at the 2cv pub and then it was off to have a quick poke around and look at Louis' workshop.  Since leaving Holland at the van meeting we have probably seen around a total of 5 2cvs or related A-series.  In Samobor alone there are around 12 and they aren't even on the road.  Louis runs a 2cv workshop in the town where he builds chassis' for 4x4 and 2x4 2cvs. Quick mooch around his workshop and a look at the mahoossive ice cellar below we then went back to Louis' house just up the road outside of town.

Louis took us into the outskirts of Zagreb to meet one of his colleagues.  We met Ante in the ''pit stop'' or as Louis calls it ''the Shit stop'' it was a roadside pub with flashy lights on the outside.  Where we were sat is where the pole is fitted on a Friday night so you know it was a classy place.  We were only there for about an hour-ish but I now feel we have added yet another 2cv face that we can now call a friend.  Ante we will see you in Spain 2013.

After the shit stop we then headed back to Samobor.  To make the night even better we then went to get takeaway PIZZA! (When I write about pizza on the blog it is as though we are obsessed with the stuff.  We're not.  Its funny how much you crave stupid stuff when its not as easy to cook or come by when at home.) Romi (Louis daughter) was kind enough to give up her room that night so that we could sleep in the sofa bed.  Thank you.   That night Vick and Louis got on the Croatian wine.  I have had to repeat a lot of the conversation that happened that night as Vick doesn't remember that much.  She struggled to get up the next morning.  Louis broke Vick.  She was OK at about 9pm the next day.

After a night in Samobor we then decided to head for Krk a little town on one the the islands in the north of Croatia.  It was about a 4 hour journey through the hills which means a 5 hour journey for a fully loaded van.  A last coffee in town with Louis and then we headed off to Krk. 
Driving through the hills would have been very nice in the summer I am sure but in November its pretty pointless.  We couldn't see a thing.  Visibility was around 10 metres tops even when we joined the motorway you couldn't see lorries in the distance until the last minute.  It was a little scary.  Towards the end of the journey we headed through 3 tunnels, and as if by magic on the third tunnel all the fog and crap weather had disappeared. 

Its funny how much you can perk up by seeing the smallest glint of sunshine. Even Vick's hangover eased up a bit. The wind was horrific but it was sunny!

The weather was warmer and nothing was freezing anymore. Happy days.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Maribor - The centre of European culture 2012.

An hours drive up the road and we arrived in Maribor.  We weren't originally planning on visiting but as we decided after this to head to Croatia we thought we should spend a few more days in Slovenia.  I don't like rushing through a country so maybe adding three more days makes me feel a bit better?
We arrived to the campsite with reception closed (another frequent happening in off season camping.)  We set up the tent and car and waited to check in so we could unlock the electric hook up.  It was very cold as we were in the hills what we really needed was the heater on in the van but with no electric we just sat in the van in coats and huddled together for heat.  We decided this was silly so went off in search of warmth. 
About 500 metres up the road from the campsite was a small ski village.  With no snow around it was a bit empty apart from the frequent surge of people from hotels in the area.  It was the world youth chess championships in Maribor.  There were people from all over the world there. I guess you would expect that at a world championship event.

After looking around and seeing the ski lifts and slopes we ventured into a little cafe for a drink.  Hot chocolate for me and a hot wine for Vick.  Its funny how a hot drink in a cafe can taste so good when its a treat.  Especially when you're freezing cold.
Eventually we made it back to the campsite to see if the campsite reception was open, it wasn't.  We went back to the van this time in the cold and dark.  I went back again a little later to see if they were open... they weren't but there was a key hanging on the door. The key for the electric had been there all along!  We just hadn't realised.

On Saturday we decided to not venture into Maribor and I thought it would be a good idea to climb one of the ski slopes.  Vick chose to sit in the warmth and draw.  It was a very nice day the sun was out and not a cloud in the sky.  There was however a brisk chill one where it burns the nose if you decided to climb a massive hill.  I thought I was going to die half way up this hill.  I was stopping for drinks and to take photos (catch breath) and people were running the hill... running!  I now know I am very unfit.  Downhill wasn't as easy either.  For some reason I chose to decent the professional slope.  Its very steep and if you start running there is no stopping.

That night the tent froze.  It was at that point we decided the cold should be no more... to warmer climates!!!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ptuj - Pewtujjy? Pa-Two-Eee.

We rocked up at the Ptuj campsite which is right next door to a massive swimming baths and outdoor slide area (outdoor area closed off-peak), and found a place near the toilets. Unfortunately the toilets were locked. After setting up the tent and with full bladders we went in search of some open facilities. The off-peak toilets were attached to the (closed) reception building. A lot of the campsites we have been to have 2 toilet blocks, a main larger one for the peak season and then a smaller building which usually has a couple of showers and a couple of toilets in. But they are usually wet and warm so no complaints.  I guess it saves the amount of cleaning needed.

We had a look at reception for opening times, and found a notice on the door directing us to check in at the hotel over the road (the campsite/ pool and hotel were all managed by the same company.) Its been a while since we've been to a hotel so we weren't really sure if this was a posh one, nevertheless, we have never felt so under dressed in our lives. Neither of us had showered that day, Vick hadn't brushed her hair (not that she usually does), I was wearing 2 week old shorts, Vick in her squeaky flip flops and dirty brown old man cardigan.  I'm sure a few people milling about the lobby pulled their handbags a bit closer as we walked in.

We checked in and were told we had free access to the swimming pool and could each visit twice a day. Bonus. We enjoy swimming, and we enjoy swimming even more when its free.  So we walked back to the tent, happy campers.  Happy that is until it turned dark and we got into the tent later that evening.
We have slept under some lights in our time but this one was ridiculous.  It was like the light you see before you are abducted (not that I ever have been) It was daylight inside the tent.  It couldn't have been any brighter, which isn't  a major problem for Vick as she can sleep almost anywhere, under any condition.  I on the other hand, well, I'm very good at sleeping in, not so great at falling asleep.
I must have fallen asleep eventually as I woke up at the usual time of mid-morning.

Our ACSI book described Ptuj as "one of the most beautiful, small, old Central European towns where culture and nature are entwined." Think they bigged it up a bit too much, or maybe we were expecting something different, but after walking around for a while we both agreed that we had visited much nicer places.  I guess that's why we like to discover places ourselves and not research anything prior to visiting, you find yourself being disappointed less that way.  Don't get me wrong it was a really lovely small town, and I imagine it has a completely different vibe in the summer, but it wasn't our favorite place. 
We visited the swimming pool the day before we left. There were a couple of school groups using the swimming pool, but everyone else was in the jacuzzi, us included.  A quick blast down the slide isn't really the same when its just yourself and no one else but I still did it.  Free swim over we headed back to a brew and some food.

The next morning saw us heading back on the road so we packed up our kit and went back into the hotel to pay.  The nice lady took our swimming cards and asked "how many times did you use the pool?" A strange question to ask when free I thought but still replied "once." The pool wasn't free. It only cost €5 each but it still wasn't free.  If you ever get told the swimming is free in Ptuj its all lies.  Don't believe them.  Thank god we only went once.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Slovenia

After sadly leaving Budapest we started to head south aiming for (hoping for) warmer climates.  We only drove for around an hour and a half so a short day on the road.  If you ever want to come to Kék-Duna Camping (N 46°48'44"  E 18°55'36") and your in a camper van make sure you don't follow the sat nav.  It takes you down the smallest cobbled street.  If your in a large camper van then take a spare pair of pants.  However we were OK in the van so we just drove straight on down it.   The campsite is just a stones throw away from the Duna river so wasn't a bad view.  There's warm showers and toilets and its only 3000 HUF a night.  And its was our own private site as we were the only ones there.

Our next stop was Heviz. We didn't know what was in the town before we got there (we aren't the hottest at doing our research) - to us it was just another open campsite. Our general way of doing things is to pick a place/ campsite and then explore it once we are there. Others like to research a place and then go if they like the look of it. The way we do it works for us, we have come across a few hidden gems this way (and also some scary shit.)

Turns out Heviz is home to one the biggest biologically active lakes in the world.  As far as Vick and I were concerned it was just a lake, we couldn't understand why everyone was swimming with a load of lily pads and fish.  Bit of info for you though - the water never drops below 24 degrees and it is said to have medicinal properties.
We didn't go in it though. We could've gone in for free as there was a canal that ran right behind the tent which was exactly the same water, but after hearing something rather large jump into it one night when we were in our tent it freaked us both out a bit. We dipped our hands in and that was enough. (There was nothing wrong with my hand unfortunately so I can't tell you if the medicinal water stuff is true. Sorry.)

We walked around Heviz to find a mass of shops selling swimming costumes and floats, I guess you get your target market and settle, we weren't looking for any of this so we headed off in search of the post office to post a postcard. Yes, just one. 

Because we liked Hungary so much we decided to try and stay another night on the border near Hungary and Croatia.  Arriving at the camp we were greeted by the owner who came out. i caught the words "wasser" and "nicht".  I just thought she meant no water for drinking etc.  I said ok and started to pitch the tent and settle in, then Vick came back from the toilets.  There was no water... anywhere.  Not a splash. And by the looks of it it had been that way for quite a while. So we decided to move on and head for Slovenia.  The satnav doesn't have a ''Are you sure you want to cross three countries?'' option so we ended up driving back out of Slovenia and into Croatia.   Our first time we had to show our passports since Harwich.  Me and the border guard into Croatia didn't bond very well when I didn't stop at the STOP sign.  He then decided to drag out his check for as long as possible just to be as awkward as possible. Croatia was nice for the fleeting 15 minutes we were in it. We then crossed back into Slovenia, stopping at all stop signs we came across. 15 minutes into Slovenia we were pulled over by the police, who just wanted to check our passports and documents for the car. In total that day we had to show our passports 6 times. It wouldn't have been so bad if we didn't have a Tinkerbell passport holder (mine, not Vicks. Don't ask.) Another thing that made it hard was everyone who stopped us asked us where we were going. If anyone can tell me how to pronounce Ptuj then please go ahead. We resorted to pointing to the satnav a few times. And even once the police officer/ border guard told us the pronunciation we would forget it almost immediately.
A long day considering we only planned on driving 30 miles down the road.

Monday, November 05, 2012


We arrived in Budapest after the cold and snowy Papa and we were expecting more snow and more cold weather, so we went with a plan to stay for around four nights-ish maybe and then move back down south.  We leave here on Wednesday after 8 nights. It's not the most modern of campsites, but it has been one of the best campsites for friendliness and generosity since we've been on the road. When we got here we were warmly welcomed and sat down with the owner of the campsite who spent quite some time highlighting points of interest on the city map and providing any information we might need. There was no pressure to tell him how long we were going to stay, as at that point we couldn't decide, so he just told us how much it was per night, and asked us to pay before we leave.

There have been many perks, free wi-fi, free washing machine (when you are living in the back of a van a free washing machine means the world), free/included in the price electricity etc And as nice as all of that is, it's all made even better when you get out of your tent in the morning and the owner spots you across the field and gives you a massive grin and waves like a mad-man.

Budapest is a very nice place.  The campsite we are at is Camping Arena (GPS N 47°30'15"  E 19°9'30") east of the city and very central.  The main reason we have stopped here for longer is becasue its so easy to get into the city with public transport.   Its not expensive either 7 day passes on all transport for both of us cost around 9200 HUF which works out at about £15 each.  We would usually spend that on transport for 1 day so it's been a bargain for us. But 1 bus and 1 metro and bam, you're in the centre.

Not only are we near to the centre, we are also just down the road from a big shopping centre, cinema, bowling complex and IKEA. Not that we are looking to buy any furniture, always handy for a cheap ice cream or hot dog though.
Budapest itself is lively day and night. Vick and I went in last night (Sunday) at about 7pm and were both surprised at how busy everything still was.

For the past few days we have done the usual, mooching around, getting a feel for the place, however this time it's felt a bit more relaxed as we have allowed ourselves more time here. We will both be sad to leave this place, however warmer climates are calling us.