Our 2017/2018 tour from Spain through Eastern Europe and down to Greece

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These two travel everywhere with us on the dashboard of our van, they have kept us safe through our European tours so far.

Our blog starts here despite the fact that we have been in Spain for four months already. The first few paragraphs will give a brief description of our stay so far. We took the ferry from Portsmouth on the 4th October 2017 and after an overnight stop at the animal park just outside Santander, we took two days to get down to Camping Cabapino. The route took us straight down through the outskirts of Madrid. Cabapino is between Malaga and Marbella and on a clear day you can see Gibraltar and the Atlas Mountains in Morocco from our pitch on I row, on the campsite. If there are no gales, then we leave here on the 5th of February and our next adventure starts then. Our 4month stay has been memorable and we have had a great time. We have travelled all around the area, many times by bus but for two separate months we hired a car, so we could travel further afield.
We haven’t exactly been on our own during our stay. We have met up with people that were on the site when we came here in previous years. We have met new people and we made firm friends with Jim (a Glaswegian) and his lovely Westie dog called Corrie. What a charmer and Jim was great company as well.

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I will never forget our St Andrews day celebration and the generous Spanish alcohol measures. Our friends, that we met in Fordingbridge, Jean and Brian and their dog Holly, arrived and we went out and about with them and spent lots of time in their company.
Then a motorhome with “Aussies on Tour” on the back of the van turned up and took a pitch on the same row as us and then the fun really started. It was our friends Wendy and Brian (they do not have a dog; just a stuffed Kangaroo and a stuffed Koala Bear).

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How good was it to have met this pair down in Croatia on a previous European tour? We have become firm friends and we were meeting up again to spend the Christmas and New Year together.
A British couple Janice and Allen, have been coming to Cabopino for years so were right in with the “in-crowd”. They kept saying how amazed they were just how many friends and relations that came to the site to see us and be with us. Pam and John, Sue and David from Fordingbridge, my brother Jerry and his friend Debbie, the daughter Lynsey and her husband, Gary and of course the Aussies all spent time with us on the site.
However, this blog is not about our four months stay. This blog is about our travels from now on.

Our Tour

The red line is a rough guide of our intended route

Our plans are that we will make a slow move up the coast of Spain to give time for the weather to get a little warmer. We will then travel around the French Riviera, so we can get to northern Italy. This time we want to do the coastal route of Slovenia so our route across Italy will take us past Venice. We will visit Bologna and Ravenna on the way. After Slovenia, we will take the Adriatic Road which is the toll road that connects Rijeka and Dubrovnik which is the most scenic route in Croatia. From up there on the motorway you can see the 1000 islands that border this wonderful country.
On the way down to Dubrovnik we will certainly have a look at a couple of places in Bosnia. Our route will then take us through Montenegro and then into Albania once we managed to get through the border control. We just hope that the extra paperwork we have brought with us is to the border guards liking.
Depending on our route through Albania we will either go straight into Greece or visit Macedonia and then drive into Greece. By that time, it should be quite warm in this lovely country and the anticipation of the golden sands, the clear seas, the wonderful Greek food and the friendliness of the people makes it very tempting to copy Wendy and Brian, the Aussies. They are going to drive to the port at Ancona, in Italy, and take a ferry from there straight down to Greece. As tempting as this is, we love to explore new places and our planned route will certainly give us that.
With no time frame in mind, we will head north out of Greece for a visit to Bulgaria and have a few “must see” places in mind. Romania, Hungary and Slovakia will be on our route to the next country we aim to spend some time in. We have had many great reports about Poland and the DK Eyewitness book shows many places we will need to see. By that time, we will be wanting to head back home to England so, after leaving Poland, we will head west across Germany and Belgium towards a port or the Channel Tunnel to get us home. We will aim to get home sometime in July and, by then, the awful weather going on the UK will just be a forgotten memory.

11th February 2018
We have left Cabapino after having said our goodbyes and spent two days wild camping by the beach at Roquetes de Mar and walked most of the promenade to the harbour and visited the modernised castle / art gallery. We then moved up the coast, passed Alicante to El Compello. Here we visited friends, Roy, Sue and their dog Murphy and had two good days in their company.

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The Australian pair, Wendy and Brian by this time were nicely settled in at a site in the centre of Benidorm. So that is where we are now. The main preoccupation here is people watching. I know it is a corny analogy, but Benidorm is like Marmite. You either love it or hate it. Like Blackpool on steroids, tacky is king. Walking down to the centre yesterday morning we watched eleven grown men file out of a hotel. One was dressed as Snow White and the other ten were all €dressed as dwarfs. What state will they be in when they return later. You can turn your nose up at the antics these groups get up to but we chose to smile as we enjoy the free entertainment they give us.

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We are probably going to stay here in Benidorm until Friday, so we will have time to have our fill of the town and the surrounding area. For those that have never been then let me give you a little snapshot of the place. There are basically two, totally opposite sides to the town. There is the “Spanish” side with the long promenades running alongside the beach. There are lots of nice looking restaurants, swings and exercise machines and no loud noises other than that made from the traffic that runs alongside. The Spanish do love to promenade.

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A very popular beach side bar

The “Brit” side is completely different. Bar after bar, all competing for custom. Loud music is heard from many of them and many sell a brandy and a coffee for €1.50 and we have seen a pint of lager for as little as €1.25. The side streets off the front abound with night clubs and huge bars and most of these establishments have people outside trying to entice you in with free shots. I do not think the concept of responsible drinking is given much credence in Benidorm.

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There are as many tandem mobility scooters as the solo kind weaving in amongst those walking up and down the front. Since we have been here we have had a really good fish and chips in a small restaurant for €3.95 and a great Sunday roast (our first for a long time) at the “Yorkshire Pride” café/bar for €6.95. Please do not tell anyone! We just love the place.
We are now going to stop here until Monday the 19th. As the further north we go, the colder it is getting, we do need to slow down and what better place to stay than Benidorm. We will get in another Sunday roast before we leave.

July 12th-18th..The last week of our tour

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July 12th ……Den Helder

In the last couple of years we have driven on some amazing roads that are nothing else but wonderful engineering wonders.  We have crossed viaducts that take your breath away and gone through tunnels that take you through mountains.  On the way to Den Helder we drove about 30 kilometers across a motorway built on top of a dam which separates the North Sea which was to our right and a huge man made fresh water lake that runs all the way to down to Amsterdam to our left.DSCN4869.JPGWhat an amazing feat of engineering.  Alongside the motorway, there is a cycleway and beyond that is a dike which keeps the ferocity of the North Sea at bay.  We stopped at the rest area on an island and read all about how it was all done and went up a viewing tower and got a really good view of the magnificent roadway

We arrived at the camper stop which was in the grounds of an old naval base.  When we went into the town there was a very busy street market and there were bands playing in different areas so it was a lively bustling town centre.  When we got back to the motorhome we finally had a decent Wi-Fi signal so we didn’t even go into the naval museum which was housed in all the large buildings all around us.  I worked on the last blog  and once that was published then I walked around the area looking at all the fascinating boats that were moored around there.

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DSCN4877.JPG In front of the whole of a battleship top half there was a well-designed structure in memory of those that had lost their life at sea.  When the sun is in the right place then body shaped shadows are cast onto the ground.

July 13th-14th…..Hoorn

The next morning we drove thirty seven miles to get to the beautiful town of Hoorn.  We intended to park on the harbour side but the gate was locked and a sign said there was a fault.  Despite the rain, Elaine jumped out of the van to try to attract the attention of the harbour masters office.  A German motorhome pulled up behind us but they gave up and drove on.  Elaine persevered and finally the gate opened.  The rain soon stopped and we walked the short distance into town.DSCN4880.JPG There was an international swimming competition going on and as we approached we could hear lots of bugles, drums and cheering as people were supporting the swimmers as they dived into the sea to start the 5 kilometers race circuit.

We walked on and reached the town centre and here there was another street market going on.  This was a totally different market to the one we had seen in Den Helder.  It was hard to see what the first stallholder was selling because the stall had ladies flocked around it.  Finally someone moved.  The stall was packed with wool of every colour.  Knitting, weaving and wool spinning must be very popular Dutch past-times as the whole of the long High street had stalls, one after another, mobbed by women of every age.

All around the town were some very old buildings and many of them were built in the 1600s.  The only thing was that the stalls were in front of them so I had to go back into town later on to get the photos I wanted.

Whist in the Netherlands it does seem quite noticeable that the Dutch may be great knitters but they are not dog lovers because it was rare to see someone out walking their pet.  Whilst in a chemist this very smart lady caught my eye because of the occupant of the push chair she was pushing around the store.

DSCN4890.JPG I just couldn’t resist the photo I took of her and her cat as they exited the shop.  Long live all eccentrics!

July 15th – 17th ……Amsterdam

DSCN4912.JPGWe had just three nights left before our drive to the Hook of Holland to catch our ferry back to England.  We went to Amsterdam for one day six years ago when we spent a month driving across the centre of the Netherlands so we decided to spend our remaining few days in this wonderful city.  We headed to the City Camp which is not the cheapest of options at 25 euros a night but its location just across the water from the city centre is just so convenient.  As it was only 21 miles we were soon set up and we were heading towards the free ferry that runs regularly into the heart of the city and the landing stage is just behind the main Amsterdam train and coach station.  Just across the tram- tracks from the station is the visitor information office and once armed with a map, off we went to explore the city.  In one of the squares an Australian lad was setting up a street show so we stayed to watch.DSCN4928.JPGNot only did he eat fire, juggle and sword swallow but he was so double jointed that he could bend his body into impossible shapes all the time keeping up a hilarious dialogue.

The main danger you have to look out for are the cyclists as you walk around the city.  I know that to qualify as a proper cyclist in Amsterdam you have to have a stern, miserable facial expression. You have to cycle at full speed at any unfortunate pedestrian that dares to walk across your path whilst ringing your bell furiously: demanding your right of passage.  All these cyclists probably compare notes about how many pedestrians they have cursed and sworn at during the day.

That first day we had a great time roaming the streets and there were photo opportunities everywhere especially when Elaine decided to try on a pair of wooden clogs.DSCN4944.JPG I do not know how she got the continental shoe sizes so wrong.  The  unique, tall, narrow houses that lean out over the streets and canals below are quite fascinating and I certainly wouldn’t want to be in the house removal business in Amsterdam where all the furniture has to be dragged up the outside of the house by rope and pulley because of the narrow stairs.

 

We had the whole day in the City on the Saturday and if anything there were twice the number of pedestrians and the cyclist army were out in force.  We went straight to the tourist information bureau and bought tickets for a full day, hop on hop off canal cruise around the city.DSCN4941.JPG

The added bonus was that whilst we were on the boat we were safe from rampaging cyclists.  Luckily the commentary was in English and we learnt lots about the history of Amsterdam and the canals.  In this way we got to see a lot more of the city than we had 6 years ago.  As the red light district is close to the main station we did have a wander around these fascinating streets but just because it was a really hot day I was surprised that so many girls chose to sit in their windows in just their underwear.  I was told that the rules have changed over the smoking of marijuana in “coffee” shops and foreigners can now participate without a permit.  I was surprised, however, at the number of cannabis cigarettes being openly smoked in the streets.

On the Sunday we just relaxed around the van and on Monday morning we drove to the port at the Hook of Holland and the sea was like a millpond and finally this year’s European tour was at an end as we arrived in Harwich.  After 9 months driving on the right hand side of the road, I must now get used to driving on the left again.  Since October 2015 we have driven 8,027 miles and have visited Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany and the Netherlands.  Thank you to all those that have taken the time to read the blog about our travels and if you should think that you would like to do something similar and would like to chat or correspond, then please contact me through the blog address.

 

July 6th- 12th…….The Netherlands

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July 6th-7th……… Leeuwarden

In 2010 Elaine and I spent a month touring the Netherlands and we drove straight across the middle of the country and loved every minute of our trip.  We met lots of Dutch people then and they all recommended that we should visit Friesland, the northern region of the country with all its waterways and lakes so this was our golden opportunity to do exactly that.  We came out of Germany and headed for a lovely, lakeside campsite in Leeuwarden.  Normally the first thing we do if we get to a campsite early enough is to settle ourselves in and then to rush off to see what the area is all about.  This was the exception.  The very helpful reception staff sent us off to a pitch right beside the river bank and the setting was so idyllic that the fishing rods were off the top of the van as soon as the canopy and windbreak were set up.

me fishing

Elaine keeps saying that if I was a cormorant then I would starve to death.  Despite showing her pictures of fish that I have caught in the past; she maintains that I am a failure as a fisherman.  I only had a tin of sweetcorn to use as bait but it wasn’t long before I was rushing in to our van to show Elaine the first fish I caught.  I will admit that I didn’t catch enough fish to feed the five thousand but there would have been plenty to feed Elaine and myself if I hadn’t carefully put each one back as soon as the hook was out of its mouth.  The Dutch couple in the caravan next door were very friendly and they gave us lots of places to visit.  Two English vans turned up later on and parked right behind us.  We all went over to the club on the site to watch the Welsh lose against the Portugal team but we were all proud of their performance.

What a shame.  Elaine decided that she needed to do a wash the next day so I was forced to carry on fishing.  I think I have mentioned this before.  My favourite song of all time is Chris Rea’s “Gone fishing” and now I was living out my dream remembering those wonderful words “Having nothing else to do; so I may as well go fishing.”  What a small world.  It turned out that the Dutch couple we were parked beside were best friends to another Dutch couple, Jan and Ricki, we had befriended during our stays at El Campello in Spain.

July 8th……….Giethoorn

This whole area is full of lakes and wide and narrow waterways everywhere and you can see boats in every direction.  My fishing licence had been revoked by Elaine so despite being parked right beside the waterway, I knew my fishing rods would stay where they were.

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DSCN4800.JPGWe walked to the bridge and crossed the river and walked down the waterway leading down to the village.  We are lucky enough to have gone to Venice and this beautiful village was such a great a reminder of what we saw there.  We passed countless places with boats for hire.  We bought a map at the information bureau and it showed us that we needed to walk down to the end of this waterway and the village proper extended either side, at right angles from here.

 

Just as we arrived, there was a huge cheer and countless red and white balloons were released into the atmosphere.  Please, if you ever get the opportunity then visit this beautiful, unique village.

July 9th……..Sneek

Basically, the best way to describe this whole area is to say that it is like the Norfolk Broads on steroids and added to the mix is a million bicycles with the odd windmill here and there to break up the flat landscape.  Our parking place for the night was at the rear of a hotel just south of the town and within easy walking distance of the town centre.  Half way into town we passed a Lidl store so how convenient was that.  The hotel had supplied us with a town map so we exactly where to go when we got to the centre.  You do learn patience when driving or walking around this area.DSCN4823.JPG“As there are so many waterways criss-crossing everywhere; when the traffic and the waterway meet then the roadway is lifted to allow the tall masted boats to pass causing the inevitable delays.

A lot of the buildings that line the waterways were obviously warehouses in the past but now most have been converted into housing, shops and restaurants so you have to look above the shop windows to see the magnificent buildings that house them.  The wider waterways around the town are lined with the larger boats, all moored ready for our inspection as we walk passed. DSCN4831.JPGAll the small craft, and the day-boats for hire line all the smaller, inter joining canals.  There are traffic lights to control the flow of the boats at each of the lifting road bridges and it was fun to watch the waiting boat owners trying to keep their craft steady whilst they waited for their turn to go through.

Whilst we stood admiring the Stadhouse, an 8 seater electric golf cart pulled up beside us and the sign said that we could get a free hour long tour of the town.  Unfortunately the elderly gentleman driver spoke no English but off we went.  Yorkshire Elaine was happy and had a huge grin on her face.  A tour of the town for free.  The fact that we did not have a clue what we were passing, we stayed on until the end.

DSCN4826.JPGWhat a great name for a pub!  We passed this and I just had to take this picture.  She says “Where are you off to?”  He says ”  I have seen the light.  I’m going to Heaven” How can she ever argue against that?

Boats and boating is a massive feature of the area of Friesland and we have seen so many different designs of craft sailing up and down the waterways.  We have seen fabulous glass fibre, millionaire play things.  There are work boats and traditional styled, single masted yachts and everywhere we can see the typical styled Dutch boats.     These boats have a unique design feature.

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On either side of the boat they have what looks like very large tear drop shaped paddle and they are mostly highly polished, lacquered wood.  To allow these boats to navigate inland then, just like our canal boats, they are shallow drafted and normally have a flat bottom. Especially for the high masted, traditional sailing boats, the “shield” is turned down 90 degrees so they now act as a keel for when they are out at sea.

We got quite wet on the way back to our motorhome because unexpectedly the heavens opened and our waterproofs were safely keeping dry back in the van.  After drying out we sorted out where we would go for the last week and a bit of our holiday.  So we have decided which places to visit and both agree we will spend the last three days in Amsterdam before driving to the Hook of Holland for our Monday afternoon crossing.

July 10th-11th……..Harlingen

Harlingen is right at the coast of the North Sea so we were looking forward to seeing how the inland waterways would join the open sea and also to see the dykes that surround the country keeping the sea from flooding the land.    Where a waterway crosses a road we have seen lifting bridges or the roads simply goes down under huge viaducts built so large craft have free passage without stopping the traffic to allow them to do so.  We were on a 130 kph motorway driving towards Harlingen.  Red lights started flashing and then a traffic light turned to red and all the traffic came to a stop.

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The man in the next car got out and got something out of his boot.  The road started lifting and soon the bridge section of the six lanes was standing upright. A series of boats passed both ways in front of us and then the motorway was made whole again once the bridge had slowly closed.

We couldn’t see the North Sea as we approached the town because of the huge banks that were between the road and the sea.  The camper stop we were aiming for was on the docks on the opposite side of the town so we got to see that Harlingen was a good choice for an overnight stop.  We fed the machine with €7.50 and soon we were striding off into town.  Waterways, of course are everywhere and again lots of the buildings were old warehouses.

Boats are moored everywhere so we walked towards the sea and the port.  Now we could see the huge locks that allow the sea going craft access the inland waterways.  In the harbour we could see many, high masted Dutch styled boats and from one of these craft we could hear and see a jazz band performing.  We walked down to have a look and Elaine couldn’t help herself and she was soon strutting her stuff to the lively music.

 

Elaine.PNGWe had a good look around the town and the ferry terminal where ferries carry people and vehicles to Vlieland and Terschelling which are two of the large islands off the Dutch Coast.

The next day we were going to move on but we changed our mind.  During the night the wind got up and I was woken with the shaking of the van in the near gale blowing in from the North Sea.  There is a motorway that runs for about 30 kilometers straight across the sea at the mouth of the Ijsselmeer which is best described as a huge inland sea.  Before the wind got up we had every intention of crossing this very exposed section of motorway to get us down to the west coast of the Netherlands.  The van was shaking so much standing still but I dread to think what it would be like crossing the sea.  We decided to wait a day.  If the wind does not calm down then we will drive south to get to Amsterdam that way.  Later on we discovered just how strong the wind had been.  I looked round the back of the van and saw that our two bikes were uncovered.  On closer inspection I found the cover was torn into 2 pieces by the force of the wind.

 

 

 

 

 

June 30th – July 5th…..Into Germany

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After our stay in the hotel in Prague, we stayed an extra three days at the campsite on the eastern edge of the city where we had left our motorhome.  We got quite friendly with a Norwegian couple that were parked right beside us and it was interesting to listen to their views and their travel experiences.  By now we have heard the joke so many times that we will need a visa to visit whatever country the comedian comes from that we do not even rise to the bait.  However, Roy Hodgson, Captain Wayne and his team of massively overpaid failures are responsible for me getting a lot of stick since the disaster that will forever be remembered as England’s night of football shame.  The Scottish chap parked at the other end of the site must have run to gloat about our loss to Iceland and now it is all I hear.  I have never been ashamed to be English but I am now.  My older brother and my youngest brother both married Welsh ladies.  Would that entitle me to put a Welsh dragon on the back of our motorhome?

We drove out of Hungary into Germany heading north towards Dresden.  In Germany it is free to drive on their motorways but the signs above us indicated that we were now on a toll road.  The German government would love to charge “foreigners” for driving on their motorways but the EU says if they charge then they have to charge everyone including their own people and even the Germans have to follow rules.  The other big difference is the speeds you can drive on motorways.   My satnav, as well as giving me directions, shows the speed I am doing and the speed I am allowed to do.  As soon as we got on the motorway the latter indication disappeared.   With the right car there is no speed limit!  At first the motorway had two lanes only.  Our speed warranted us to overtake the constant stream of heavy goods vehicles trundling up the inside lane.  A look in the mirror would show the nearest approaching car to be a long way behind.  Glance back as you pull out and that car is almost on you.  It isn’t every large car that drives that fast but whilst we have been driving at 70 mph, we have been overtaken as if we were standing still.  I did find that first day’s driving quite tiring because the concentration required keeping safe whilst maintaining a reasonable speed was immense so I was quite pleased to pull off the motorway at the Dresden turn.

June 30th…….Dresden

We pulled into a 10 euro a night site, just across the road from the steps that take you down to the River Elbe.  Later on we followed the path into the city full of magnificent old buildings.  I know the Allies pounded this city constantly during WW2 but I am sure that all the history we saw was not just clever reconstruction.

DSCN4698.JPG  The Elbe is a huge, fast flowing river and as we walked along the river bank there were lots of boats out on the water taking people for cruises up and down the river.  A little further on we had to get passed two coach loads of people being dropped off right by a Viking luxury river cruise boat.  The more we see these luxurious looking craft the more we think that we will take more notice the next time we see one of their television adverts.

DSCN4663.JPG Now we were getting closer to all the interesting buildings and all the spires and we were now opposite the large, substantial buildings on the opposite bank.

We instantly knew that we had chosen a must see, tourist destination as soon as we saw the first party of photo snap happy, selfie  stick wielding Japanese.  What they will they do with all the pictures they have of their own faces with a special tourist attraction in the background?  It is fun to watch them, especially when that important, special photo of a historic building or statue is not complete unless a family member is leaping up in the foreground.

As usual we got a tourist map from the information centre and we toured around all the fabulous buildings and unlike many cities we have visited recently; all the major attractions were in a relatively small area so we enjoyed seeing everything highlighted without having to walk miles to do so.  I will let the pictures tell the stories of what we saw there and we walked back along the river bank having enjoyed our first day in Germany.

Later that evening, when the light was beginning to fade, I walked back to the centre and took some pictures of some of the fabulous buildings now lit up against the night sky.  I got to the quiet road where there is a very long frieze of a royal hunting party, on horseback, all the way down the side of a building.

Tucked right up in the shadows of the building opposite stood a lady playing a violin and it made for an enchanting, magical moment.  It is something I will always remember.

July 1st…..Magdeburg

It was just as well I was getting used to the pace of the German autobahns.  I drove 148 miles, most of it on the motorway, to get to Magdeburg which is a small city and boasts to be the capital city of the German Land of Saxony-Anhalt.  This city also stands on The Elbe and the camper stop we chose was right in the city and the front of our van was only a few meters away from the bank of the fast flowing, river.

DSCN4730.JPG The designers of the tourist map had done their utmost to make this city appear to be part of the tourist circuit but the Japanese were nowhere to be seen.  There are some substantial buildings and there is a Roman excavated site that is worth seeing.

DSCN4727.JPGOn the main road, directly opposite the very old, highly decorated post house there are some statues of nude people who appear to be celebrating the state of their nakedness.

However we then came to the reason we had driven to Magdeburg.   We came to see “the Green Citadel of Magdeburg”.  Much of the city was destroyed in 1945 and the reconstruction of the city started in 1951.  For his last architectural work, the artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, designed this highly visible building with its uniquely different façades with golden globes, large coloured beads, 900 different windows and a flowering meadow on its roof top.

There are small shops, boutiques and galleries, coffee bars and restaurants and fancy being able to tell people you live in a fairy-tale palace.

July 2nd…….Celle

We wanted to see the real Germany away from the large cities and the tourist army that invade them.  We drove along a quiet motorway and as it was a Saturday then most of the big trucks were not on the road and we then took a single carriageway road, northwest, to the small town of Celle. Behind the main car park there is an area set aside for motorhomes and there are emptying facilities but no electric hook up.

In the town all the 500 half-timbered houses dating back to the oldest built in 1526 are all under preservation orders and have been extensively restored so modern shops are housed in these beautiful buildings.  There was a thriving street market taking place around the centre squares and the atmosphere around the busy streets was quite electric with lots of noise from happy, chatting people.

We went into the town church and then paid 1 euro each to climb the 234 steps to get to the top of the tower to get a view of the town and the surrounding countryside.  The views were definitely worth the euro.  I seem to be able to climb these towers quite easily but I always manage to feel giddy coming back down endless spiral stairs.  Later on we needed to get some provisions and the downside of the preservation orders is that the nearest supermarket was quite a walk keeping it well away from the historic centre.

July 4th…… Rotenburg

The less said about Rotenburg the better.  Elaine spent a long time studying the maps and the internet to give us the best route across Germany.  I suddenly announced that we should change the direction of our route so Elaine came up with fabulous pictures of the city of Rotenburg with lots of interesting places to see.  We arrived at a 5 euro a night site on the outskirts of the town and walked in to the centre.  None of the “interesting” things were there.  It was just a town with lots of shops.   Defending herself,  Elaine showed me again what should have been here.  We were at the wrong, rotten Rotenburg.  Germany is a bit like France.  They like to confuse!  There are 3 Rotenburgs in Germany and the one we wanted was way down south.

DSCN4782.JPGThe good thing was the site.  It was situated at the north end of a large lake and there was a beach area with nice sand, a lively bar / restaurant and a very well equipped , outdoor, gymnasium.  The German couple from the van next to us gave us some “nice” places to visit on our way towards the Netherlands and unfortunately we followed their advice.

July 5th ……Oldenburg / Papenburg

The first of their recommendations was to go to Oldenburg.  We pulled into a free Stellplatz (a German motorhome stop) right by a motorhome dealer.  The book said it was 3 kilometers to get into town so Elaine and I agreed that we should walk in rather than take the bikes.  Big mistake.  The 3 kilometers ended up being more like a 4 miles hike and the heavens opened on our way there so I have now had the second ever Kebab meal in my life because that was the nearest place to get out of the rain.  To be honest, Oldenburg was OK as there were a few interesting things to see  and probably the most interesting was the old looking church with lots of spires but the inside was the most modern interior I have ever seen.  Interesting and quite quirky but Oldenburg is not a place I would put on a need to see top 10.

We hiked back to the van and by that time the weather had improved.  Our German friends had given us a must see place just 15 kilometers further on but we decided that what they like is not to our taste.  Instead of staying put for the night we decided to move on so I drove on to Papenburg which is a very small German town just before the Dutch border.  We saw windmills, dykes and the typical Dutch lifting bridges as we approached the town and our stop for the night was in the grounds of a hotel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 17th-27th………Hungary, June 17th-27th…..Vienna and Prague in the Czech Republic

 

June 17th……..Esztergom, HungaryDSCN4333.JPG

We enjoyed Budapest and didn’t want to drive straight out of Hungary so we drove on to Esztergom which is 29 miles northwest of Budapest.  When we arrived we doubled the numbers of campers on the large site, just over the road from the banks of the mighty River Danube.  Just over the river is Slovakia and here, the river forms the border between the two countries.  The bathroom facilities on the site were best described as clean but in need of modernisation but the location just on the edge of the town was perfect.

Later on we wandered into the town which took us past a park where a group started rehearsing very loudly on a stage and we knew that if they were playing that evening then that may have been the reason why the campsite was so empty.  Perched on a hill there sat a huge church with a very large dome so we followed the steep paths which snaked their way up the hill.  Why on earth did such a small town warrant such a majestic place of worship?DSCN4339.JPG Later on we looked it all up and found that now the town has a population which numbers under 30,000.  However from the 10th to the mid-13th century Esztergom was the capital city of Hungary until the capital was moved to Budapest and we were right about the scale of the building.  It is the largest church building in Hungary.

DSCN4344.JPGWe saw the castle and lots of other statues and buildings that showed the importance this town had in the past.

When we got back to the campsite we found others had moved onto the campsite.  There were three separate lots of cyclists with their tiny tents and bulging saddle bags.  It was fascinating to hear about the trials and tribulations of the British pair that had set up their little camp right behind us.  The chap came over from a Hungarian van and it ended up that he and his wife were English but now lived in Hungary and he suggested a few places in Hungary for us to visit on our way to Austria.  Luckily the music stopped prompt at 11pm so we were happy but probably not as happy as the six cyclists in their tiny tents.

June 18th ……Szentendre and the bend in the Danube

DSCN4318.JPGWe pulled into the town of Szentendre because this was the first suggested stop on the way.  It was a lovely little town with lots of churches and cute little streets and looking at the coaches lined up in the car park and the people in the streets thronging the many souvenir shops and the food and handicraft stalls then it is obviously a popular tourist attraction.  The other place we were told to visit was way up a steep, windy road to get up to a castle and to go into a hotel carpark which would give us the perfect viewpoint to see the famous bend in the River Danube.DSCN4328.JPG

The road steeply snaked its way up and we pulled into a lay-by very near the top.  It was well worth the detour.  Whilst I made the tea Elaine got into conversation with a pair of cyclists who had stopped beside us.  They were yet another pair of Aussies and we spent some time chatting with them whilst enjoying the magnificent view.

That evening we stopped at, according to the glowing reviews, the best campsite in Hungary at a little place called Sopron.  Far from it!  It was the worst campsite we had come across in our two years of travels.  Even the water had been turned off from the taps and I had to take the showerhead off the hose so that I could fill the watering can to get water for the van.  The Chinese woman who we presumed was the owner said no water and 17 euros for the night.  We would have moved on but there were no other sites close by so we just made the best of it there.

On the way the next day we bought a vignette for Austria and drove into the outskirts of Vienna to visit the city.  Some years ago Elaine and I took a five day Christmas break in Austria and have every intention of seeing more of this lovely country.

June 19th-23rd…..Vienna

What a contrast to our last night’s stop.  The camper stop is situated south west of the city centre and an underground railway station is just around the corner.  All the staff were just so helpful and they loaded us up with maps and information about their city and the facilities were spotless.  We relaxed that day so we would visit the city over the next couple of days.  The rain gods decided otherwise.  The next morning it was pouring and the rain continued for most of the day.  Just across the road from the site is a large Chinese restaurant so we indulged ourselves so we could escape the confines of our motorhome for a couple of hours.

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The next day the sun was back in the sky so we bought a two day travel card and headed into the city.  Elaine had used the previous day planning what we should see on our first day from all the maps and leaflets we had been given by the campsite.  What a wonderful day we had.

DSCN4384.JPGWe took a 40 minute tour in a very luxurious carriage pulled by two elegant horses around the beautiful city centre and it gave us a really good basis to know where all the important landmarks are situated. We used our travel passes to get around and managed to find all the places on Elaine’s list.

DSCN4370.JPG During our lunch we had an intriguing conversation with an Austrian man and a Rumanian girl about the referendum and they had opposite views.  He was hoping the British would vote for an exit because he and his friends want the same thing for Austria.  The girl just wanted everything to remain the same and seemed genuinely worried about her future if the UK votes for Brexit.  It was a hot day and we spent a lot of time walking from one beautiful building to the next and we were two pretty tired people when we got back to the campsite.

That evening we received a pretty awful telephone call from our Aussie friends Brian and Wendy.  They were on a motorway heading for Prague.  There were roadworks and they were in a contraflow where all the traffic were on the one side of the motorway.  Suddenly the car to their right attempted to turn across the traffic to go back the other way.  He smashed straight into their motorhome and has caused so much damage that it will probably be written off.  Their trip is wrecked but at least they are uninjured.  They have had to leave virtually all of their stuff in their van which is being transported to England, for inspection by the insurance company.  They now may be forced to fly back to Australia instead of near Christmas which was their original plan.  They told us they were going to a hotel in Prague to get over the shock and to think what to do.  We told them we will spend the second day in Vienna and then we will leave Austria and drive straight to Prague to lend them any support possible.

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The next day we caught the underground and went straight to the Schonbrunn Palace.  It is truly magnificent and the extensive grounds are a joy and the views from the top are magnificent.

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We then went straight across the city to go to the Danube Tower.  There is a 150 meter ride in an express lift to get to the viewing tower. DSCN4470.JPG The roof of the lift is glass so you can look up and watch your ascent.  From that height the children we had passed in the park just looked like ants from up there.  We then went up the lift again another 10 meters to the revolving café for coffee.

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From there we went back into the city to the Belvedere Palace and despite the fact that there was little colour in the large gardens the many statues and the magnificent fountains made the visit well worthwhile.  Vienna is a fabulous city but how lucky are we.  In no time at all we have visited Ljubljana the capital of Slovenia and then Budapest and now Vienna.  Although it is sad that we will drive straight back out of Austria we have decided to go to Prague and park our motorhome at a campsite and then to take a hotel break in the city somewhere close to the Aussies’ hotel so we can properly visit this capital city.

June 23rd– 27th ….our hotel stay in Prague

We bought another vignette just before the crossing the border and the motorways in Hungary are being extensively repaired and modernised all funded by the EU according to the huge signs, dominantly displayed along the stretches under repair.  It is nice to see where our money goes.  We drove 181 miles but it took us around 6 hours because of the many hold ups on the way.  Finally we got to a site where we felt safe to leave the motorhome for the four days.  You would think that by now we should be seasoned travellers and that we should be able to get about anywhere.  We had booked a hotel in the 01 district in Prague which is the centre and the girl at the campsite said a station we should head for we left the site at around 5pm.  We sat on the train; none of the stations we passed had the name the girl had written down.  It suddenly looked like we were leaving the city so we got off the train at the next stop deciding that we should travel back on the next train. We waited.  No train arrived.  A young girl felt sorry for us and suggested we catch a bus back into the city.  Finally we arrived at the hotel at 20.30 that evening having set off at 9 am that morning from Vienna.

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There are all sorts of tours you can take when you visit a large city.  There are free tours and paid professional tours.  All large cities have hop-on, hop-off bus tours and there are many more tour possibilities.  We took the “Aussie tour”.   The next day we met up with Brian and Wendy and they took us around all the places they had found the previous day.  They also pointed out the bars they had visited and it would have been rude not to have joined them.

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There are fabulous buildings everywhere just like in all the great cities we have visited recently.  The temperature got up to around 34- 36 degrees which is hot, hot, hot!  The difference here in comparison to our other recent cities is just the numbers of people that roam the streets.  Beer and cigarettes are very cheap here.  The only thing is: if you drink the local beer then when you ask for a large beer you will get a glass half full because the rest is the froth to the top of the glass.  However it is cheap so no-one complains.

The layout of Budapest and the layout of Prague are very similar in many ways.  Both cities have a wide river running through them and both cities have expanded out massively over the centuries on the side of the river where the land is relatively flat.  Both cities have a range of hills running almost down to river and this is where both cities have built impressive palaces and castles.

DSCN4616.JPG In Prague there are lots of bridges up and down the river but the most significant one is the, centrally placed, Charles Bridge which is a wide old stone bridge bedecked with large statues on either side.   Nice stalls are set out across the whole length and the special thing is that it is for pedestrians only.  Near the centre of Prague there is a large weir that runs across the river so the large and small tour craft have to go through a huge lock over one side of the river to be able to be able to get from one level of the river to the other.

DSCN4589.JPGThis leaves a large area of the river where families are safe to enjoy the multitude of pedal boats that are on hire there and what a colourful scene it makes.

We kept seeing kit car mock ups of old fashioned cars taking people for tours around the city.  Brian and I both liked the idea so we waited until it had cooled down a little and found a four seater and took a 40 minute tour for the four of us.

DSCN4547.JPGOur driver gave us a really good tour which took us both sides of the river.  All was good until we got to the hills and the car started to cough and splutter.  The driver had to keep stopping by the side of the road to try to get the thing going.  Eventually, he dropped us off at a park and said he would be back in 25 minutes so that he could continue our tour.DSCN4555.JPGIt was still very hot and just opposite we came across two small spa pools and there were people sitting all around them with their feet in the refreshing water.  So the four of us soon joined them and what an enjoyable break it made.  We went back to the arranged meeting place and there he was and the problem was fixed.  The good thing about the tour was it showed us all the places to see over the other side of the river.

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We didn’t stay with Wendy and Brian the whole time but on the Saturday we arranged to meet in the Irish Bar to watch the Rugby between England and Australia.  England needed the win to complete the tour whitewash over the Aussie team and despite feeling sorry for our Aussie friends over their predicament they were in; it was fun to celebrate the England win.

Over our four day stay in this wonderful city we spent lots of quality time with the two Aussies.  We learnt a lot about the recent times and the problems the city had with the recent Russian, oppressive rule.  It just happened that we were there in the city to enjoy the festival to celebrate the 25th anniversary of when the Russians finally left the city.

We saw the changing of the guard at Prague castle and accidentally stumbled across the most amazing Synagogue.  We have visited churches, palaces, the cathedral and most of the important and fascinating tourist attractions and were out in the city during the evenings to see great places lit up at night.  We did learn one very important fact about Prague that I will pass on here in case you come yourselves to visit the city.  The trams do not stop at pedestrian crossings.  Forget that at your peril!

I sincerely hope that you do not get”boared” reading about our adventures.

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10th-16th…last few days in Slovenia and then Hungary and Budapest

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June 10th……….Murska Sobota, Slovenia

The previous day we booked our ferry home for the 18th of July so we are now on the last leg of our European tour.   Our plan now is to have a look at Hungary concentrating mainly on Budapest.  We will visit Vienna in Austria with a few other stops before crossing into the Czech Republic to visit Prague.  We are still deciding on a route across Germany and then across to the Netherlands to the Hook of Holland for our ferry.  We booked our vignette for Hungary on our computer at the campsite rather than wait to get to a computer terminal at a garage before the border.  A one week e-vignette lasts for 10 days and you have to give personal and vehicle details as well as your bank account numbers so I think it is more secure giving all that detail privately rather than in front of other people waiting to use the terminal for themselves.

We have had a lot of good luck during our travels, by chance coming across special events taking place on the exact time that we are there.  We were struggling to find much to interest us in this town until I spotted a lady dancing exotically in the distance.  We made our way there.  Music was playing through loud speakers and an avenue with a wide grass centre ran down to a very large, palatial house.

Girls in beautiful costumes were spread out evenly down the whole length to the house and each was dancing but each had their own distinctive way of interpreting the music.  The girl furthest away from the house was playing a violin totally ignoring the loud speaker music.  Near the house drinks were being poured ready for the expected important visitors.  We asked an official photographer what it was all about.  He said a large company had just finished electrifying a railway line and this was a celebration for the officials and the local council workers.  We stayed around taking pictures but didn’t get offered a glass of bubbly to help with the celebration.

June 11th……. Lake Balaton.  Hungary

We set off and then crossed the border.  It is quite odd driving on their motorways without the comfort of a vignette stuck on the inside of your windscreen.  It wasn’t long before we passed police cars parked facing the oncoming traffic and then the doubt creeps in.  Did I fill that form in correctly?  It is said that the fines can be enormous for anyone caught trying to cheat the system.  They do say that you have to keep the receipt for two years.   Why would that be the case if the system is without its problems?  A week’s vignette lasts for 10 days and because even goods vehicles have to have an e-toll ticket then the motorways are totally clear of toll booths. We did stop at a garage to get some Hungarian currency but there was no cash machine so would have to wait to get into a town somewhere.  I knew the rate was £1 = 400 forints so it wasn’t going to be too difficult to work out what thigs cost.

Lake Balaton is a huge lake so as Hungary is a land locked country this vast lake is used as the locals’ sea side.  Many campsites surround the lake and a cycle trail joins them all and if you wanted to cycle all around the lake then you would have to go without me.  The circuit is 218 kilometers.  We chose Balaton Tourist camping and Bungalows which is about 7 kilometers from Keszely at the far west end of the lake.  This was another campsite where there are no English travellers and the girl in the reception said that they have very few English speaking people stopping there.  She studied in London so she loved chatting with Elaine at every opportunity.

We then cycled off to town to have a look around and to find a bank.  I drew 150,000 forints from the hole in the wall.  Some shopping cost us 8,000 fts. and at first we both took a double take until we realised we had just spent the equivalent to £20.DSCN4190

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DSCN4197.JPGWhat a lovely town and we were both quite impressed with everything we were seeing there.  The main squares and the pristine church and grounds surrounded by impressive looking buildings were a joy and we went up the high street to the top where we came across a large palace with extensive grounds.  On the way back down towards where we had left the bikes we sat outside a bar and people watched and just took in the atmosphere in this, new to us, country.

We cycled back to the campsite and our good fortune didn’t desert us.  No sooner had we got back to the van when there was a huge crack of thunder and the heavens opened.  Our beautiful, hot, sunny day was gone and we had only just made it back in time.

We could have quite easily moved on the next day but instead we relaxed and I even got my fishing rods from on top of the van but luckily didn’t catch anything but just enjoyed the peace and quiet sitting by the lake side.   The afternoon reminded me of the Chris Rhea song “Gone Fishing”.  The song I used to think summed up my life.  Elaine spent part of the time studying where we would go in Budapest which was our next port of call.

The next day, as we were driving near a town on the way to Budapest, we went round a corner and there in front of us was a huge Tescos.

DSCN4214.JPG Immediately we both had the same thought……proper bacon.  We certainly didn’t need any shopping but we hadn’t seen one of the big four supermarkets since October.  I didn’t need to turn the wheel but the van just drove into the car park on its own.  We could have bought motorcar tyres, a dishwasher, washing machine or a refrigerator.  There were quite a few English foodstuffs and a whole stand of tomato sauce but what a disappointment……there was not a single pack of “Danish” bacon to be seen.

13th-17th June…….Budapest

The campsite we had chosen for our visit to Budapest was right in the city itself and we knew that if you stayed for three nights then they give you the fourth night free.  That appealed to Yorkshire born Elaine so it meant me driving right across another busy capital city.  Near the centre of the city we needed to cross the River Danube and the traffic was nearly at a standstill.  Then we found that a police car was stopping the traffic on our route and the city was virtually gridlocked.  Somehow, we eventually managed to make our way through to Campsite Haller which was not the greatest campsite we have stayed on but its location within the city limits was superb.  When we finally pulled up, to our surprise, we found Brian and Wendy (the Aussies) were there.  Elaine left me to set up everything; she was too busy catching up with Wendy.  That evening we ended up as a party of eight, dining at the excellent camp restaurant.

Budapest is a city made up of two halves.  The western side of the city is Buda and the eastern side is Pest and they are separated by the might river Danube.  After the two Aussies had left the next morning we made our way to the underground station and we needed to take the tube for 5 stops to get us to the centre of the city.  Some of you will be shocked to hear that Elaine and I have reached pension age.  The rule in Budapest is that any EU citizen can use the buses, the trams and the underground for free once they are over pension age.  Even though, like Peter Pan, I do not show my age, I put my driving licence in my wallet for when I was challenged to show my ticket.  I have now come down to earth!  We got to the tube station and the man checking peoples’ tickets just nodded and waved me through.

Knowing that we were going to be in and around the city for a few days we followed Elaine’s plan and crossed the bridge to Buda because on top of the hills on that side we could see, lined up, all of the impressive buildings and the map showed us that there was far more to see over this side.

We crossed over the “Chain” bridge and in a square we could see a very long queue waiting for the funicular railway ride up to the Royal Palace and the National gallery.  At first we got to the back of the queue until Elaine got chatting to a chap who was selling sightseeing tours.  He was English and had bought a flat here some years ago.  He told us not to bother to wait and pay to go up and then pointed us to a point a little way off to the right.  He told us that there were free escalators all the way to the top or we could catch the number 12 bus just over the road up to Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion and from there it was a pleasant walk to the palace.  We caught the bus.  I am going to let the pictures do the description of what we saw up there and the fantastic views of the Danube and Pest on the other side.

Over the next days we got to know Budapest quite well and found the tram system as well as the underground was excellent for travel in, around and back out of the city.  Impressive buildings line the streets all over the city and statues can be found virtually everywhere.  The centre of the city is a tourist’s and a photographer’s paradise.  Near the elegant, beautifully designed parliament building we saw a building where the bullet holes have all been marked from the time of the 1956 Revolution.  We try to learn about some of the history of the countries we visit and Hungary’s recent history about the Pet Boys:  teenagers that took on the might of the Russian army sparking the successful revolution forcing the occupying Russians to flee the city is such an impressive story.  Mind you, they came back 2 years later with massive force and many Hungarians died in 1958.

We took a boat ride along the Danube on the last night of our stay and we both agree that this is a city we could come back to in the future.  We were given good advice of places to visit on our way out of Hungary as they used to live here and come back a visit the city every year.  They told us that we would pass a bridge which we only had to cross to get into Slovakia and we could then boast another country visited on our trip.  Elaine and I agree that our tour has never been about counting countries visited.  When we visit a country we want to know about the country, the people and some of the important historical facts and we wouldn’t be doing that just by visiting the village just the other side of the Danube.

 

 

 

 

1st-7th June…..Slovenia

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1st June……..Postojna

Before driving over the border from Croatia to Slovenia we pulled into a garage and bought a seven day vignette as our van is weighted at 3.5 ton.  Any van weighted over our weight has to stop at all the toll booths to pay their toll as they go.  We also used the card machine there as we were back in the land of the Euro and we had precious few of those left.  I was really pleased with myself because, paying for the vignette,  used up virtually all the Kuna notes and coins we had after our stay in Croatia.

We have been to lots of caves during our travels and have seen our share of stalagmites and stalactites so why were we heading towards the Postojna Cave?  Elaine knows best.  Her research paid off again.  We pulled into a camper stop right by the car park for the cave complex.   We bought our tickets and were told we had to be at the cave entrance by 5 pm. for our tour to begin.  There were lots of things to look at and plenty of eating places so the waiting tourist is well catered for. They even hire warm coats for people to wear during their tour underground.  We showed our tickets and all the waiting people were sorted into groups depending on what language they could understand.DSCN3905There are 24 kilometers of underground passages, galleries and halls so we got on a train that took us 8 kilometers underground to where our walking tour would begin.  Tourists have been coming here for over 200 years but those early visitors would have had to walk the whole way round.

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The journey on the train was worth the entrance fee.  We then walked, took pictures, stopped to listen to the guide for the next hour.  The sheer scale and size of the galleries and the endless paths taking you from one wonder to the next, all took our breath away.  When the walking tour ended we boarded the train again to take us back to the surface.  What a great start on our tour of Slovenia and by the look of the things we had seen already on the way there then we were in for a treat as we tour further.

2nd-3rd June…….Slovenia’s capital city, Ljubljana

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The countryside we saw on our 38 mile journey looked lush and green and the houses and farms we passed gave us the impression that Slovenia’s economy is doing well and the large houses dotted around look very much like those you would find in Austria or Switzerland.  We soon got chatting to our neighbours once we had set up our motorhome and started to get a similar story from those that had travelled down through France and Germany to get to Ljubljana.  They were all complaining about the rotten weather they had on the way down to here.  We have had such great weather during our month in Croatia with only the odd night of  bit of rain and the one storm.  We gave the leaflets and a book on Croatia’s  lakes to a Scottish couple.  In the reception of the site  we saw a free, English speaking, walking tour of the capital advertised for an 11 am start every day of the year.

So the next morning we caught the bendy bus into the city and made our way to the main square.

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There were a lot of people waiting by the steps of the pink church.  We joined them and were soon put into three groups and we had Janez as our guide for the next two hours.  What a great way to find out about the city, to have the main sites pointed out to us and to find out about the history that had gone into making Ljubljana what it is today.  Janez was not only very knowledgeable but he had a great sense of humour to go along with it.  He must have been good.  In a large square there was a food festival taking place where all the hotels and restaurants had stalls selling take away food and the smell was so enticing.  As we walked through not one person dropped out of the tour, overcome  by the temptation of the delicious aromas.  I took some pictures on the way round and now we knew the places to go back round again to take the images I had seen during the tour.  We gave a good tip as the daily tours are funded by voluntary contribution and said goodbye to Janez.

We made a beeline back to the food festival and sat on the steps opposite eating succulent, lamb cutlets with spicy potato wedges accompanied by a glass of a very nice, local red wine.

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After we walked around the city we waked towards the castle that dominated the landscape as it sat imposingly on top of the large hill overlooking the town.  It was a very hot day and we had done a lot of walking already so we paid for a ride up in the funicular  railway instead of walking up to the top. We got some good views from up there and enjoyed looking around the old stone fortress.

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We caught the bus back to the campsite after a great day and put a glowing review about Janez and The Free Ljubljana Tour on Trip Adviser.

4th-5th June…..Lake Bled

Unlike the paid motorways in France, Spain and the like, the motorways are quite heavily used because once you have a vignette then there are no further costs involved in travelling around quickly.  quite heavily.  When we got to Bled we had to drive around the huge lake to get to the campsite that is right by the shore at the opposite end of the lake to the town.  There is an island on the lake and in the centre of the island is a church. Many locals earn their living by ferrying visitors to the island.

DSCN3981 It is said that if you go onto the island and ring the church bell then you will have good luck.  Elaine and I think we are lucky enough as it is being able to visit so many beautiful countries so we didn’t take the crossing.  Instead we set off to walk to the town.  It was quite a walk.  Half way round we came across an artist with small pictures of the island for sale and they were 4 euros each  We picked one we liked.DSCN3984.JPG

He took the picture and then painted himself, Elaine and me on the reverse side of the painting and chatted and giggled the whole time.  What a character and what a great keepsake.  He put another cardboard frame around that side and we all parted with handshakes and smiles as if we had known him forever.

Near the town we came across the way up to the castle.  No funicular railway this time so we just had to walk up the windy path to get to the top.  What luck!  Around the base of the castle there was a mock up of an old soldiers camp.  There were all sorts of stalls and people were dressed in traditional, medieval costumes.

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There were soldiers in armour and different groups took turns in playing old instruments of the time.  All around in the different encampments there were lords and ladies, Turks with their curved swords and Royal knights practicing their sword play. We paid to go in the castle and  the performances were just about to start.  Despite the big crowds, Elaine and I got good places  at the front to stand and watch.

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First we watched a display of medieval dancing and then we saw an exciting performance about a camp of noblemen and their ladies.  Then a band of Turks came rushing in and after a very boisterous sword battle they ran off with the ladies.  Then we were in the Turks’ camp so there was belly dancing and fire eating.

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Then back into the arena came the knights.  During the the very energetic sword battle the Turkish leader fell over backwards  and Elaine nearly became one of the fallen….skewered by the Turk’s scimitar.

We walked back to the camp the other side of the lake and relaxed that evening after a barbecue.  The next day I took the bikes off the back of the van and we went off to follow the map to Vintgar Gorge.   The start of the Gorge was only about 8 kilometers from where we were camped and the windy, narrow roads went up and up and in the end we locked our bikes up behind a farmer’s hay bails and walked the rest of the way.  The gorge runs for 1,600 meters and the Radovna river, in places, roars through flanked either side by steep slopes overgrown with beech forests.

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The whole run is full of small waterfalls, lots of rapids and the deeper parts where the water appears to slow down.  How the trail that is attached to the rock  face was constructed in 1893 is beyond comprehension.  There are bridges that take you from one side to the other and brown trout can be seen swimming whenever there was calmer water.  When you get down to the far end of the gorge you just have to turn round and walk back.  However you are now viewing the water flowing towards you and in lots of ways the view is even better.

6th-7th June…….Ptuj

The planning committee (Elaine) has been hard at it and a rough plan is being formulated so that we will take in Budapest in Hungary, then Vienna in Austria, then Prague in Czechoslovakia followed by a route across Germany to the Hook of Holland in the Netherlands for our crossing back to England sometime in July.  We still have plenty of time so our journey to Ptuj which is in the Eastern part of the country is perhaps the first small step towards home.

When the natives say the name of this town it definitely sounds totally different to the way it is spelled.  However you say it,  Ptuj is a beautiful town.

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We walked into town along the bank of the very wide, fast flowing river Drava and came across 3 bridges, one after the other.  The first is a footbridge, then there is a very busy road bridge and the third bridge is the railway crossing.  We crossed over the first bridge and had a good look around the town.  There were lots of interesting buildings and a very interesting ice cream parlour and in the interests of helping the local economy we both had our 5 fruits of the day accompanied by lashings of ice cream, topped by whipped cream, nicely  decorated with a rich chocolate sauce.

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The monastery near the end of the town was used as a weapon store by the Germans during the second world war.  Subsequently it was virtually destroyed by the allies.  Instead of trying to build a replica of what was there before they built a modern replacement and what a beautiful job they did of it.

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Another castle meant more climbing and this time a lot of it was up slippery cobbled streets.   We paid our 4 euros and went around all the exhibition rooms set up on the different floors of the castle.  Ptuj is the centre of the masquerading region and the display in the castle made sense to some of the things we saw for sale around the town.

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The gallery area was fascinating and the old armoury was authentically equipped just as it would have been hundreds of years ago.  The living quarters were well displayed and you could imagine the old lords could be back any time.  Our favourite was the rooms full of old musical instruments.  Each time you stepped into the next room the lights would go up and the appropriate music would start up.  On top of that each room had a clever machine so that in the brass instrument room, for example, you just pressed the button to hear a bugle dominating the tune.   We were the only ones in there so it was fun to walk from room to room and then back again to hear the different music.

We have had a relaxing day today in the sunshine and tomorrow we will move slightly back upon ourselves to Maribor.

 

 

 

So the next morning we caught the bendy-bus and found our way to the main square and the English speaking tour would start from there at 11 am.  There was a large group of people collected there so we were split into 3 groups.  We were put into Janez’s group and off we went.  Janez was very knowledgeable

25th May-1st June….visiting the 2 largest Croatian islands

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25th May-1st June…….the Island of Krk

We looked at the map and our destination for the day was going to be Krk Island.  We knew that we could pay a few Kuna, drive up the motorway, to get there quickly.  The other option was to follow route 8 up the coast.  We took the coast road.

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Most of the way the road hugged the shoreline.  Round every bay, round sharp bends, up hills and our reward for taking this slower route was 200 miles of views over the sea to the many islands that looked as though they had all merged into one.  There are over 1000 islands and islets on the coast of Croatia and 40 of those are inhabited islands.  On top of that there are peninsulas like the one we took the ferry to avoid driving across Bosnia.

Krk and Cres are the two largest islands.  So we arrived at the toll bridge which would take us across to Krk.  The weather was glorious and the forecasts were telling us that it was going to stay that way for the foreseeable future.  We had had a strong recommendation to stay on Camping Bor in the town with the same name as the island.  Although it is the first campsite that we were to stay on that was not right by the beach, we were told the short walk into the centre and the views from the camp easily compensated for the distance from the seas edge.  We set up camp and soon learned just how friendly and helpful the staff and the management are towards their guests.  There is quite a well-stocked shop and the bar and restaurant is excellent.  If you like wine then you are in luck here because they make their own excellent red, white and rose and people are regularly seen leaving the shop with their 5 litre plastic bottles of the colour wine of their choice.  There is so much care here keeping everything spick and span and all around there are pots of plants everywhere to keep everything looking beautiful.  When you arrive at the site you will get a ride around the site on their electric open car so you can choose which pitch you would like.

DSCN3741.JPGKrk is a beautiful seaside town and we thoroughly enjoyed our wander along the promenade by the smallish port.  There are some interesting shops in the side streets then we went into the small castle and got a nice view from the top.DSCN3750.JPG

While Elaine sampled a glass of the local wine under a sunshade in front of a nice looking bar I did something that I have never done before.  I paid for a 40 minute ride in what they call a submarine.

When you go downstairs there are large round windows on either side and the top of the windows is about 2 foot below the surface of the water.  On the way out I got a great view of the town from out at sea.  They took us out to a little bay and as soon as the boat slowed down the views in the very clear water were superb.  Whilst we were close to the shore two lads dived into the water and did some energetic turns under water for our entertainment.  A little further on the guy driving the boat started throwing bread into the water.  Fish came from everywhere.  The few children watching, alongside me, whooped with joy.  I wanted to join in but I forced myself to act my age.

A little later on we looked for somewhere to have lunch.  We only wanted something light and walked past a small take-away café and there were people outside eating doner kebabs. I have never been tempted to try food like that thinking that it would be much too fatty for my liking.  Wow!  Another first!  What have I been missing out on?  Krk is a lovely town so we will stay here for a few days before moving on.

We got an email from our Aussie friends  Brian and Wendy, and they said they were on their way to join us.  When they arrived they parked on the pitch right behind us and said they would stop there until the replacement for their stolen credit card arrived from their bank in Australia so we decided to wait with them.  The four of us hired a car between us for three days to make it easier to explore the whole island.  The campsite booked the car for us and that evening one of the managers of the site sat down with us and marked our map with all the places to visit here and on Cres, the neighbouring island.  I do not know many sites where you would get service like that.

Off we all went the next day and headed for St. Lucia which, we were told, would give us examples of the ancient lettering that was used centuries ago.   We then went off to Baska which is near the most southerly point of the island.  Baska is a very nice seaside resort.DSCN3799.JPG

As it was a Saturday and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky it was the first time in our travels this year where we were looking at packed beaches and people swimming in the sea.  From there we went up the east side to Vrbnik and past the bay where we were advised was the best place to swim around the island.  After lunch we carried on following the recommendations.  A lot of the roads were very narrow especially when we went to some of the smaller villages and yes, we could have taken the motorhome but parking and driving up single carriageway roads was much better in the car.  For the 3 days hire my share was going to be £60 with insurance and we knew that we had all had our monies worth after the first day.

The next day we headed down to the small port that would take us over to the second largest island called Cres.  You do not have to book ferries to get onto the islands; you just turn up, pay for your ticket and wait for the next available ferry.  Cres is virtually the same square kilometers as Krk but is long north to south but with little width east to west.  Driving on Cres was a completely different driving experience.  This is where hiring the car came was such an advantage.   When you come off the ferry there is just the ticket office there and a couple of cafes.  We then climbed and climbed past all the cars and other vehicles waiting to get on the ferry we had just vacated and then we turned right onto the main road that runs from the south to the northern most point of the island.  We were heading for a little place called Beli.  The narrow, endlessly windy road then took us to the village that is perched on top of a hill.DSCN3825.JPG It was like going into a living museum except for the locks on the many wells. The streets are so narrow that vehicles are prohibited and every house and cottage looks as though they were built hundreds of years ago.DSCN3818.JPG  We couldn’t visit the church as there was a service going on.  The only sign of life were two young boys who were hanging around the church as if they had snuck outside to escape the priest’s sermon.

Next we drove back down the ridge of the narrow northern end of the island and then across extremely narrow roads to get to Lubenice.  This is again like going back through the centuries.DSCN3831.JPGThe beach is way down but, despite the road network to get there, the tourist is catered for.  There is a sheep museum and a view point at the end of the village with great views over the sea to neighbouring islands.  We went and sat in the garden of a restaurant and ordered a meal when suddenly the wind started blowing strongly and the rain started with a vengeance.  We ate the meal inside and sat chatting until the sudden storm had abated.  The clouds still looked fairly threatening so we decided not to drive down to the south of the island and to cross the bridge to Mallosinj which is on the small island of Losinj.   This is a very popular beach, holiday destination and is the reason for most people taking the crossing onto Cres.

For our third day of our car hire we decided, first, to go to the catacombs at Rudine.  As we arrived a large party of school children were just getting off a coach ready for their tour of the caves.  We paid to go in and we were asked to wait so the children could go in first.  Then there was a small party of Germans and the four of us tagged on the end of the tour.  The guide spent a long time explaining whatever it was to the school children and then had a question and answer session with them.  We just waited.

Elaine said she had water dripping on her head.  I said that if she stands there for much longer a stalagmite will start growing on her head.  The children went back upstairs and then the guide spoke in German to the second group but their explanation was much shorter than that of the school children.  By the time she got round to us her speech was even shorter.  We four smiled at each other, then took a few more photos and then climbed back up to the sunshine.  We continued our drive around the island and the last place we visited was an inland village/town called Dobrinj.DSCN3854.JPG

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What a joy.  This was another walk through old, historic Croatia.  Stone built houses of all different shapes lined the narrow streets and near the top of the town was the church.  Attached to the bell tower there was a 2nd World War Memorial naming the dead from the village and these scenes telling the story of what happened during the German occupation.DSCN3851.JPG

It has been an absolute joy spending time with Wendy and Brian.  We have twice enjoyed meals together in the campsite restaurant and each evening we have spent the time sitting in or outside theirs or our motorhome.  The 31st of May was Elaine’s birthday which turned into a good day for Brian and Wendy as well because the replacement for their stolen credit card turned up.  As a birthday celebration treat, Brian took us to a cake and ice cream parlour right by the sea’s edge.  On the way back we all decided that it was time to move on so we enjoyed the rest of the day and the evening together.  So the Aussies went on their way with the hope of meeting up with another couple they had met on their travels and Elaine and I have today driven into Slovenia and will spend some time here before going into Austria.

We have thoroughly enjoyed the month we have had in Croatia.  We  will definitely come back to Croatia  in the future.  Everyone has been so friendly and the ones we have spoken to all seem proud of their country and are keen to talk about places we should visit. I have never seen Croatian wine on sale in the UK, but if you do, then try some.  We have enjoyed the food here and the service everywhere has been lovely….. (sorry if I am sounding like a travel agent).

19th-24th May…Dubrovnik and the drive back north

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19th-22nd May ……..Dubrovnik

We are missing our travelling companions, Tom and Jo.  What a shame they had to cut their tour early.  We no longer get the messages on our walkie-talkies we used to get as we travelled together.  Discussions about any planning decisions always bought our Captain Cruwys plucking from somewhere suggestions of places to go.  Now it is just Elaine and I travelling without his great suggestions.

We have had lots of discussions about how we would visit Dubrovnik.  One option was to miss it out completely and take a weekend fly package later in the year.  The coach tour from Split cost a lot and meant six hours on a coach, there and back, with 4 hours in this wonderful city.  We stopped at a camp which advertised a bus connection only to find that from there we would still be on a bus for 3 hours just to get there.  The next option is to drive straight through Bosnia.  The problem with that is we were specifically told by our insurance company that this was one of the countries where we would be uninsured if we drove through.  You can buy insurance cover at the border but it is expensive for motorhomes.  Lots drive through uninsured and boast that it is no problem as it is only 20 kilometers.  I opted for the sensible  option.  I have never driven even 1 mile uninsured and I didn’t intend to start now just to save a few pounds.  So we opted to take the ferry onto the peninsula of Pelijesac that takes you past the short coastal front of Bosnia then through Ston where you join up with the coastal road down to Dubrovnik.

DSCN3609.JPGSo we made our way to Ploce, bought a ticket and waited for the ferry.   The crossing took about an hour on the very modern car ferry. Almost as soon as we got off the ferry we came across mile upon mile of burnt forest as far as the eye could see. DSCN3725.JPGThe answer to our Google enquiry told us that there was a devastating forest fire in July 2015 and blackened bare trees stand everywhere right up to either side of the road.  Once past where the fire was stopped we were soon on our way on the pretty roads up the peninsula until we came to Ston.  I just had to stop to take a photo and luckily found a spot by the side of the road.

DSCN3611.JPG The guide book says the walls are 15 kilometers all around the protected area and we have decided to go back and get the exercise of walking the walls on our way back through.  We pulled into a lovely, friendly campsite and our pitch is right down the hill overlooking the sea and all the islands in the area.DSCN3619.JPGWe caught the bus the next morning to Dubrovnik and got off where the bus driver told us.  It was quite a walk down to the old town and the walls that surround it so we followed the signs that took us down narrow streets and uncountable steps.

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DSCN3624.JPGThere were the walls and up the hill to our left was the Fort Minceta and down to the right was the equally impressive Fort Boker.  We went through the pile Gate and there was Big Onofrio’s fountain.  Unfortunately this historic fountain was under repair and was shrouded by scaffolding and canvas.  The square just inside the gate was packed with tourists and guides were everywhere trying to collect up their guide groups.  I went straight off to get tickets so we could tour the walls thinking it might be good to get ahead of the large groups that were collecting there.

The views from the walls are amazing and thank goodness they have a one way system for walking around the walls.  Especially on the narrower parts, it would be chaos otherwise.    A large section of the walls are under repair.  The route did continue.  A scaffold path had been built about 8 foot above the original walkway and this ran for about 100 meters.  Anyone not liking heights would have found this very scary indeed so I was really proud of Elaine when she just strode over it without a care and even stopped at one stage to take in the view.  We walked on a bit and I continued taking picture after picture.  We had just climbed down yet another set of stone steps when I heard a familiar Aussie voice calling out my name.  What were the chances of that?  It was Brian and Wendy so we finished the rest of the tour of the walls together before we went off for coffee and a great chinwag.  We went off on our separate ways and we all know we will meet up again before we leave Croatia.  It is hard to choose which photographs to show the walls because I took so many.

Elaine and I went off to the small harbour just outside the walls and decided on a fish restaurant right by the water’s edge.  We chose a fish dish for two which included local muscles, calamari, squid, huge prawns, mackerel fillets, sardines and swordfish steaks.  I ordered a small bowl of salad to go with it  As we started to tuck in a young couple came and sat beside us and having seen what the waiter had brought us, they ordered similar but with a large salad.  We got chatting.  Sebastian and Sam (?) are from London and unbeknown to Sam, Sebastian proposed to her on the walls around Dubrovnik the previous evening.  He did say that he had had a panic attack when they crossed the scaffold section that I mentioned earlier.  It was lovely to hear from them about their lives in England and the prospects of their lives together.  He talked about the 26 days holiday a year they got plus bank holidays from their employment giving them lots of time for holidays.  They both took a double take when we told them we had been touring since October.

Dubrovnik relies on the constant stream of tourists that come into the city and everywhere there is the hustle and bustle of happy people touring the old city.  What would be the odds?  We just happened to be on the exact part of the walls to meet the Aussie couple and wandering round the corner, ice cream cornets in their hands, were Debbie and Peter.  These are a lovely English couple we met up with when we first came into Croatia and, again, by chance are staying on the same camp site as us.

 

We toured the beautiful old city.  We visited the cathedral and some even more delightful old churches.DSCN3666.JPG

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Considering the damage this city received from the endless bombing this city underwent during the recent war then it is amazing how most of the damage no longer shows (except for lots of new roofs) thanks to the millions that have been pumped into this country from the EU.  Boat trips to and around the islands leave all the while and there are some very modern glass bottom boats taking tours out to see what is under the waves.  There is a cable car ride you can take up the mountain that towers above the City.  Looking at the postcards in the shops, the views from up there were magnificent but we decided that we had had enough excitement for one day.  Dubrovnik is a beautiful, fascinating place and we thoroughly enjoyed our day there.

Why we ended up having to take a taxi ride back to our campsite instead of the cheap bus fare I am not going to go into here but I know we have seen parts of this city never before visited by a foreign visitor.  Part of our extended tour of the city took us past the port where the cruise liners moor up.  Yet another coincidence, the Queen Elizabeth cruise liner was coming into the port there on the Sunday morning.  On board were long term friends of Elaine, Pam and Malcolm.  Their email told us they were taking the tour of Dubrovnik in the morning so we probably could have met up with them at some stage.  Elaine didn’t like to say why but we did not go to meet them.  We just couldn’t stand the thought of getting lost again on the way back!

Debbie and Peter came round to our van the next day and we heard their difficulties getting back from Dubrovnik.  They didn’t get back to the campsite until a quarter to eight having started queuing for the bus at a quarter to five.  They were going on the same ferry as us the next day.

23rd May……heading back up Croatia.

We met up with them again on the ferry and the journey flashed by as we chatted and laughed the whole crossing.  The motorways run down past Zagreb across to Pula and the A1 runs down a lot of the way to Dubrovnik.  It is fast, does cost and if you need to get somewhere in a hurry then it is the obvious choice.  I am told some of the stretches have pretty views.  However if you have the time then take route 8, the coastal road that runs from Rijeka all the way down to the south of the country.  Now that we are on our way back up the country we have done almost driven this entire fabulous road.

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For approximately 400 miles this roads hugs the coast and only deviates inland as it passes some villages, some towns and larger cities like Zadar and Split.  The views are unbelievable.  If you are travelling south the rugged mountains run most of the way to your left and the sea and all the islands are your view on your right.  There are so many islands that you get the impression that they all merge into one and it is another country just over the water.  Round a bend there will be another view of a pretty coastal town.  I found driving this road had nothing to do with getting to our destination for the day.  The joy was in the driving.  I do love driving but I was envious of Elaine because I had to concentrate on the road where as Elaine eyes were always on the views.

We pulled into a small auto camp right on the water’s edge just a few kilometers from the fabulous Trogir.  We wandered into the pretty village and then walked back along the coastal path to get back to our van.  We are going to spend another day here as the only firm decision is that we are going onto the island of Krk.  So the maps will be out and some plans need to be made.  In the off season we use ACSI sites where we get discounts and soon sites will be charging their full summer rates.  We want to be in France before that happens as long as they have sorted out the problems with the unions and the fuel distribution.

In 3 days’ time it will be seven months exactly that we have been out of the UK and we have done 5,985 miles so far.  This trip we have spent about £25 on toll roads when we were dashing out of Portugal to get away from the bad weather there.  Just consider, unless we are out and about, Elaine and I share a space that is 7 meters by 2.1 meters.  How is it going to feel when we go back to living in a house and with toilets that I do not have to empty?  We have played hundreds of games of Rummikub and other games and watched very little television in all that time.  We haven’t even finished watching the box set of a series we brought out with us which we keep saving for a rainy day.  So far during our 2 years of travels I have published 91 blogs and have typed around 170,000 words doing so, so perhaps you can see why television is not important to us.  Thank goodness for Kindle.  Elaine and I have read countless books, Elaine far more than me.  Thank goodness also for the cover that we bought for Elaine’s kindle.  This Kindle has lasted much longer than her others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

15th-19th May…..Split

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15th-19th May……Split

We left the beautiful Trogir and drove just 17 miles to get to Stobrec and we booked into Camping Stobrec.  We chose this site because it is an easy bus ride into Split and our Acsi book description was showing it to be a luxurious site.  When we arrived the large notice board showed that this site has won the award for Croatia’s best campsite for the last 4 years running.  It is quite easy to see why.  This seaside site has had beaches (tiny pebbles not sand) landscaped around three sides of it and there are even a couple of diving boards.  We got a large pitch with its own tap and drain.  There is a shop which is very well stocked and the prices were not much different to the larger supermarkets that were within easy walking distance to the campsite.  The landscaping of the site itself was excellent and there were young chaps tending to the plants and keeping everything spick and span.  The toilet blocks were luxurious and the lady cleaners were constantly beavering away polishing everything that didn’t move.

We have seen many different motorhomes, camper vans, tents and caravans whilst we have been touring around.  We watched streams of people stop outside the pitch of our next door neighbour.  Some just stopped and stared, lots took photos and many of those got their loved one to pose beside this man’s tow vehicle whilst a photograph was taken showing them and this German man’s pride and joy.  The object of all this interest certainly wasn’t the fairly ordinary looking caravan.

DSCN3552.JPG All stopped to look at the immaculate, bright green John Deere tractor.  Apparently this man’s father worked for John Deere designing the first tractors ever made by the company and our neighbour owns three different models and he is travelling around Europe enjoying the attention he gets everywhere.

We were sitting in the sun relaxing after our strenuous drive when up popped Doug and Lois.  This is the Australian pair that we made friends with the evening that we returned from visiting Plitvice lakes and spent that evening in our motorhome.  They invited us to visit them in their motorhome later on and we had a lovely evening swapping stories about our travels.  They had already been down to Dubrovnik so it was good to hear where they had stayed and they told us about where we had to buy the ferry ticket so we could avoid Bosnia because our vehicle insurance strictly forbids us from crossing  the 16 kilometers of this country’s land.  Doug and Lois were moving up Croatia the way we had come down so we gave them reports of the places we had stopped at.

The next morning the Aussie pair came and said their goodbyes and Elaine and I walked up to the bus stop to catch the number 25 to go into Split.  As the old bus pulled up at the stop the brakes made a horrible grinding noise and actually ended up halted a couple of yards past the first person in the queue.  Elaine and I smiled to each other and I said to the German couple, also from the campsite, that maybe it was not a wise thing to do.  The journey into Split took about 25minutes and the grinding of the brakes and the shuddering continued all the way.  The driver was using engine braking a lot and he would pull up to a bus stop very gingerly to give himself the best chance of stopping at the right place without too much noise.  The funny thing was that all the locals showed no reactions to the un roadworthy state of this bus  even when a vehicle in front pulled up to a set of traffic light and it seemed touch and go whether we would stop in time.  It was only the German couple and Elaine and I that kept nervously smiling at each other at each attempt to stop the vehicle. DSCN3557.JPGSplit stands on its own separate peninsula around a spacious bay and is the largest city on the Croatian shore of the Adriatic and is Croatia’s second largest city.  Apparently there is evidence of much earlier settlements here but from 293AD to 305AD the Roman emperor Diocletian built the huge palace and a fortified castle and the walls of the city protected an area of 17,200 square meters.  We got off the bus just opposite to the busy bustling market and we immediately came across the Silver Gate which took us into the remains of the Palace of Diocletion.   Looking at the pictures of what this huge palace looked like back in 305 AD then what an impressive walled city this was.  Lots of bits of it remain and the walls and the impressive gates, the underground vaults have all mostly survived the years.  As soon as you get into this historic area you cannot stop yourself from being overwhelmed by the grandeur of the historic, Roman architecture. DSCN3561.JPG

Having said that, commercialism has influenced what we see now.  You expect to be canvassed by the guides to entice you to take one of their tours and you would have to be surprised if the chaps dressed as Roman soldiers weren’t there ready to pose for photos at a price.  It did seem to have gone a little far when descending the steps to the very impressive catacombs to find the whole area is taken up with stalls selling tourist mementos and cheap looking jewellery at high prices.

DSCN3567.JPGUNESCO gave the Palace and a lot of the surrounding narrow streets of the old city World Heritage status.  They got this recognition in 1979.  Outside the walls of the palace, wandering around the surrounding narrow streets is an absolute joy but of course, in places, modern, false stone shop frontages have been tacked onto the old historic buildings which makes photography a little difficult.

DSCN3571.JPGTake this picture of the west gate of the city called the Iron Gate and the Clock Tower.   This photograph is just like airbrushed photos of models.  I deliberately took the picture cutting out the squares that had been cut out of the beautiful building on the right where take away pizza and Coca-Cola were on sale.  You can see the girl on the right  ordering her lunch.   The more modern cathedral is magnificent and well worth the few kuna to go inside.

We walked around the four sides of the walls of the palace to see the gates.  Near the north wall were lots of stalls selling antiques and we did look for something very old to remind us of our wonderful day in Split.  We saw nothing suitable but there were lots of Nazi German mementos despite the atrocities inflicted on the Croatians during the war.

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DSCN3575.JPGOutside of the north gate which is called the Golden Gate is this giant statue of bishop Grgur from Nin that was made in 1929.  You can gauge from the people by his foot the size of this statue.  The odd thing about this statue is that the big toe that is extended towards the steps has been polished to a beautiful, shiny copper colour where people sit and stroke his feet.  We lunched on the recently constructed promenade on the waterfront and from here we could see where the cruise liners were moored and where the many ferries lined up to take passengers to the many islands.

We had a great day and before we went back to the bus stop we went back into the market to get some things we had spotted on the way in.  Lots of different numbered buses use the one stop but we didn’t even have to look up to know that the number 25 was pulling in.  The sound of the juddering brakes told us our ride was here.  The good thing is most of the way back was up hill so the bus stopped easier and we managed to get back to the campsite in one piece.

The next day the sun shone all day and it was the warmest day since we moved into Croatia.  Elaine declared it to be a great pegging out day and our washing was totally brought up to date and hung up on the washing lines I put up between the trees on our pitch.  Later on Elaine and I took the chairs to the beach area and I went snorkeling.DSCN3604.JPG Although the water was crystal clear there wasn’t much to see I went out quite a long way but the bottom was just sandy with only a few wispy weeds here and there.  I did see a puffer fish and left that well alone.  The only other thing of interest was a yellow golf ball but as I hadn’t brought my golf clubs on tour with me then I left it to sit where it was.

We hadn’t been back at the motorhome long when Brian appeared.  Brian and Wendy are the other Australian couple that are touring Europe in an English motorhome.  We met them at Novigrad and here they were parked almost directly behind our pitch.  We spent a wonderful evening with them and Brian opened one of the large bottles of rose wine they had bought on a site they had stayed on.  We have learnt an awful lot about life in Australia from Brian and Wendy and the other Aussie couple Doug and Lois.  I wonder how long it will be for Elaine to start looking into a trip down under.