European Magical Mystery Tour Blog

A weekly blog to keep you up to date of my travels in the East

Czech Republic & Prague August 25, 2010

Filed under: Czech Republic & Austria 2nd - 8th August 2010 — european magical mystery tour @ 11:23 am

Adventures In Prague

2nd – 8th August 2010

Feeling a bit better we took to the streets of Prague. Noooooo! It was a complete let down. The weather was awful, chucked it down so all sight seeing was out of the question. We did walk through the old come new town, I say this due to the sparkling newly paved streets and perfect rendered buildings! It was all very nice and but swarming in tourists. This I do not enjoy and yes, I keep forgetting its peak season, but hell, some tourists are so dam annoying…

After getting soaked we took a quick dash over the bridge and resided in a pub upstairs for a few hours! The drink being cheaper than a bottle of water, I do admit, I partook in a few vinos and of course a Czech beer.

 Peering out onto the street and the rain getting lighter we headed back into town and walked around to see what we could see. And all I could see was SHOPs! High street shops, nasty tacky souvenir shops, Debenhams, frigging Marks and Spenser with mini food hall (yes, ok I admit to seeking cheddar) but they had none. Anyway, after having my fill of not only tourists but tourist tat we took to the outskirts of town to get a more realistic feel of Prague.

 Overall Prague was NICE. We strangely bumped into our Australian travelling friends that are doing the same type of route as us and they had hidden in the cinema for a whole day, just to get away from all the hype. “Over rated” is what Elise our Australian friend described Prague. Sadly I have to agree. It appears to be a beautiful city but the stag nights, Irish bar signs everywhere, tourist tat seems to have out done the probably once elegant city. Maybe when its out of season its brilliant, but still Budapest wins the day hands down, no tourist madness going on there even in peak season!

 After a mediocre day in Prague we headed home and ended up by a nice camp fire at the camp/hostel. We spoke to a heap of really lovely lovely people all heading to different countries, which cheered us up no end. It’s always nice to meet new people and have a good old yak.

 Heading out of Prague and over the border into Austria I was a sad knowing that was our last Eastern European country of the trip. Now we are heading back, back to the west side!

 The hills are alive with the sound of…..

 Austria is everything you would imagine it to be. Stunning mountain ranges, alpine forests, emerald green lakes, lush meadows and hills as far as the eye can see. The country is absolutely pristine. Everyone’s home is neat, tidy and carefully maintained with flowers handing from wooden balconies in the typical alpine style home. This country certainly does look after its environment and you can understand why.

 Heading south and struggling at times to find anywhere to stop for the night we settled on a small spot outside a national park. Looking out the window there are deer running in and out of the small wood across the field. Later that evening I actually witness deer chasing each other round and round the field and actually prancing!

 Later on that week we head to National Park Kalkalpen. Mark, after visiting the information office and seeing the bear and lynx spotter is convinced that we will meet a bear! I am convinced that I will be running the other way extremely fast if I even get a hint of a bear. We take a nice near vertical walk up into the hills.

Sadly the weekend walking activities are squashed by fantastic downpour that lasted till Sunday morning. This I feel, is not so much fun, and so I begin to suffer from the 25º temperature limit. My body will not function under 25º and so I quickly retreat to under the duvet until conditions improve.

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Slovakia Hiking & Polish Exploring

Filed under: Slovakia & Poland 26th - 1st August 2010 — european magical mystery tour @ 11:17 am

Leaving Hungary – Whistle Stop Tour of Slovakia and Poland

26th – 1st August 2010

 This week has been a mixed bag really. On leaving Budapest we spent a few days in the Bukki Nemzeti Park wild camping to save the pennies. Problem was it started to rain, and rain and RAIN and so far Saturday morning was the first day I haven’t woken up to the sound of torrential downpours outside.

 Driving into Slovakia we headed for Slovensky Raj National Park. On all accounts the book read that it had hiking that involved scrabbling over ladders and walking up wet gorges and waterfalls. This is totally my bag and I was not disappointed. Heading for the national park office we gathered some information about the different gorge walks and decided on the Sucha Bela. Well. Little did the park ranger or leaflet say anything about (don’t try it if you have any issues with heights, serious levels of exertion and heart defaults. Not that I have any of the above issues but I think some warning may have been required!) anyway, I stuck my walking boots on and headed for the gorge.

 At first it was easy, stepping over large rocks to cross the small stream and crossing a few wooden bridges. Then it got a little more tricky. As the rain had been coming down the stream was a little higher than usual so you couldn’t literally walk up the middle of the gorge. This meant you were forced to take detour routes on the steep sides. There were no defined paths so it was totally up to you how you made it round! At times you had to scramble over vertical drop sides to get to the next stage. At one point I had to turn around as it was just way to dangerous, one slip and you be a goner 20 metres down into the gorge, but this in a weird way gave the hike its beauty. It was exhilarating on one hand and just so amazingly dangerous on another! We got to the first interesting obstacle. A metal ladder split into three stages which scaled a waterfall of 40m.

 There were no harnesses or safety devises here! Basically just don’t slip which is tricky when its still pouring down with rain! First ladder was fine, no problems. Then you climb on to a ledge with a metal chain to hold onto drilled into the rock. The beauty of this hike were the ladders weren’t all straight inclines, some were vertical others tilted so if you slipped off you fall straight into the gorge. Brilliant! As you move up the gorge you come across 500m long step-ladder bridges where you have to carefully balance on each individual step in case you fall through. Some parts of the gorge had metal chains to help you scale the rock face other times you were balancing on steps submerged under water. All in all it’s the best hike I’ve ever been on! What a shame we can’t have things like this in the UK. Anything remotely risky like this at home would have health and safety – CLOSED sign all over it!

 The rain was still coming down and we were becoming slightly depressed and damn right cold so we kept on going and drove up the north of Slovakia and crossed into Poland in the Tatras Mountains. I really wanted to take the cable car up and stand with one foot in Slovakia and one in Poland, but this unfortunately did not happen as the weather was just….well SHIT basically! I think the visibility would have been pretty much zero so we sadly drove on and hoped to find a place to wild camp for the night.

 We had on good authority that wild camping in Poland was fairly easy and had a wealth of places to stop. Well, we must have been in the worst possible region, as we have found none! We drove for miles in the hope of somewhere to stop in till we unintentionally met our destination for the next day, the town of Wieliczka. Defeated we saw a lot of campers were paying for overnight parking so we found cheap car park and stopped for the night. Next day off to the Wieliczka Salt Mines! I was a little apprehensive as to whether to go, as it was EXPENSIVE. But, I thought to myself “will I ever return to Poland just to visit these mines?” “No” I thought, so I may as well check them out now! The tour took two and half-hours and was mind numbingly boring! The mines had been made to cater for the thousands of customers that pass through their doors so on the whole everything was shiny new, clean and very unmine like if you get what I mean! (no big pit soot here!)The underground salt church was the highlight of the tour where the floor tiles, alter, sculptures, absolutely everything is carved out of salt. Apart from this everything else on the tour was pretty tedious especially the description of each bloody salt statue! On the whole, I wouldn’t really tell people to visit unless they have a crazy fascination with salt.

 Next stop Auschwitz. We tried to look for somewhere to stop and park up for the night along the way. This failed miserably again so we ended up staying overnight in the camping car sorry that’s French motorhome section of Auschwitz car park. I do hasten to say that fortunately we chose the car park to the left which was over the road from the Auschwitz so thankfully I didn’t have to look out of the window direct, which I think would have put me off my dinner. However, it was an eerie night sleep.

 Bright and early we were at Auschwitz entrance.  There were hundreds of visitors everywhere so after fighting past the swarms of group tours we took ourselves around Auschwitz without a tour guide.

Quite frankly it is darker than you could ever imagine it to be. After firstly walking around the buildings and reading different descriptions of what happened in such places as the mass execution shooting area, torture and execution yard and visiting the gas chambers and adjoined crematorium you really do have a strange feeling about you.  The prison blocks have been turned into separate exhibitions to tell you the full story of Auschwitz. As you move through each prison block you learn of the everyday life as a prisoner, living and sanitary conditions, what happened to prisoners in the death blocks and the methods of deportation. It is both harrowing and disturbing that people could have been not only been mass murdered in such a calculating and industrial way but also the way prisoners were treated by the guards to ensure they broke them both physically and mentally.

 There are thousands upon thousands of prisoners photographs hanging on the walls of the prison blocks taken as they arrived in the camp. Looking closer you notice surnames that are the same. Pictures of a father, lower down, on another row his two sons. Pictures are of both young and old. A very poignant prison block holds prisoners personal items taken as the entered the camp. Millions of shoes of men, women along with baby shoes, toys and clothes. Nazi guards took absolutely everything. Walking on you find mountains of combs, razors, brushes, shoe polish, reading glasses, suitcases, bowls and kitchen ware, prayer shawls, the list is endless. When the soviets liberated the camp they found seven tons of human hair used to make tailored suits and clothing. The stories and experiences of the camp make you quite sick to the stomach.

Nothing prepares you visiting Auschwitz, but of course it is important to go and observe first hand what happened to nearly two million people only a stones throw away across the channel. Luckily for us we lived over that big pond but for everyone else who lived in main land Europe, life was certainly very different where first hand experiences of the war still lingers.

After my stomach churning morning we left Auschwitz and headed with heavy heads and hearts to the border of Czech Republic.

Poland was a little disappointing. Although you could see, driving through, the countryside is beautiful it unfortunately had zillions of houses running through every valley and field. When one village stops the next town or village begins. At no point did we find any countryside where you can stop and look out and see or hear nothing but fields and nature. I hope that central and northern Poland are much more unspoilt as I would only want to reflect on the small amount of the country we passed through. Maybe if we had more time we could of investigated further. On the whole the Polish people were a little reserved, and stern. Maybe this is down to their hard past. Who knows, maybe next time we’ll have better luck getting to know a lighter, happier, Poland.

We comfortably rolled into Czech Republic. First impressions, very pretty, typical green rolling hills with dense alpine forests. The countryside has a more Austrian/german feel with wooden lodge style homes darted about the countryside.

 We settled into the campsite and went for a cycle around. I am quite fascinated by people’s choice in food after watching the family next door to us consume a large quantity of big sausages with two slices of boring bread! Later on I spotted a guy picking up his takeaway order of exactly the same thing! This gets me thinking..are we western Europeans addicted to frills. I mean for example burger with salad garnish, different mayonnaise or BBQ sauce, melted cheese?! The eastern Europeans LOVE mayonnaise but apart from that I cant say I ever seen any food offered with frilly bits. Anway…

After looking around the Telpice Rock formations and feeling quite suffocated by tourists I made a quick escape to the nearest exit. The next day we headed deeper into the Czech countryside and found a place to stop the night by a lake. Unfortunately, the lake was not enjoyed as the next day I developed a massive dirty cold and felt horrible. For the next two days I took to lying down with paracetamol and a book, so Prague was postponed till better health.

 

Budapest Bars and all things Langosh

Filed under: Hungary Budapest 19th - 25th July 2010 — european magical mystery tour @ 11:10 am

Budapest Fun & Frolics!

19th – 25th July 2010

 This week has been, well, A-MaZinG!

 Unfortunately, I started off the week experiencing the most sleep deprived night ever. As the heat has increased so have the mosquitoes and I, quite frankly, have become a woman possessed by MOSQUITOES. They are everywhere and many a night I sit quiet and motionless listening to high pitched buzzing before SPLAT, I kill them. Well, as many as possible, before the buzzing ceases. That night however, the buzzing did NOT stop. I don’t know where the bloody hell these flesh eating monsters were coming from but my psycho killing did not stop in till 5am when I became so exhausted I passed out. But hey on a lighter and more exciting aspect of the week that following morning I woke up and headed for Heviz.

 Heviz, west of lake Balaton is home to the worlds biggest biological active thermal lake. Well this I had to see and after checking out the prices sounded well worth the £6.00 entry. Off we popped to the lake and WOW…This lake is the real deal. A whole massive five hectare lake at 33º with hundreds of grown adults floating about inside rubber rings….Huum, yes it makes a slightly strange sight. On top of the lake is a huge building that opens up to four large pools which you look down on. Outside there are hundred of balconies with sun basking bodies where you can plop yourself into the lake via steel step ladders. The Hungarians do enjoy a good medicinal therme!

 After quickly testing out the spa service down the corridor (very nice!) we headed for the lake. I lowered myself into the water a little apprehensive as, well, it is a dark, bottomless, deep lake. For a split second I did have some strange thoughts to what could be in it after my snake episode but I was happy to find just a few lucky tadpoles scattering about between the lily pads. After a few strokes I happily hooked myself on to metal bars that are scattered around the lake & made sure not to put my feet down on the radioactive mud! The metal bars were great so you can bob about instead of exerting oneself too much! I did find the smartly dressed lifeguard in his rowing boat slightly amusing, checking if the oldies hadn’t passed out in the heat!

 After sometime bobbing about I swam across the lake and saw some strange plastic flaps like the ones you see in big fridge factories with people popping out into the lake from inside. Just happens you could actually swim inside without having to leave the water! The pools were all interconnecting with different temperatures. Now and again you have a big whoosh of really hot hot water between ones legs! but later I found out that the hottest bits were on doorbell alarm systems. Yes, can you believe it but people would queue up and move systematically over the hot bits. Very cleaver, im guessing its so no old wrinkly could hog the best bits!

 After a super fabulous time at the lake and coming out thoroughly relaxed and smelling like a sulphur swamp we headed around lake Balaton to see some countryside.

 Budapest Adventures

Sitting with three maps deciphering the road and city systems we drove into Budapest early evening. We did pretty well for no sat nav! Got to the campsite with one wrong turn and a two minute detour drive around the block to Camping Hellar.

 After managing to get a three day pass from the lady at the tube station with some general pointing, head gesturing and finger pointing we headed for the centre. Getting off in the centre which is well, like any other capital centre full of contemporary boring stuff and loads of well known shop brands we decided to head to the riverside. Ever so slowly we plodded along and across the bridge to the funicular railway that gives spectacular views from the top. On arriving we decided against the price and so took the long, hot, treacherous walk up one billion steps to the top instead. (Well I suppose it saved the pennies!) Arriving at the top we found the palace with some brilliant views of the whole city. Well worth the slog in midday 37º heat.

 After more touristy sight seeing in Buda like the fisherman’s Bastion I was all touristed out so headed to the good old tourist information about some more interesting areas to have a delve and poke about in. On inquiring where some “Boho come hippy” areas were in the city the lady circled a few streets in the Jewish quarter, so off we went to see what we could see…and well, what was found was everything I LOVE about city living.

 On first looks the Jewish quarter was, quiet and unassuming. If you don’t look hard enough you could walk on by and think nothing is really there apart from beautiful buildings. AaHha! But look closely and you will come across ruin bars. They are quintessentially old massive beautiful buildings turned into studios for artists of all genres, music, paint, photography, you name its there for people to work in and present there collections. Wondering about I found high ceiling corridors that lead to swirly spiral stair cases. Rooms lined with different signs like “impro jam” and “street art talk 6.00pm” stuck to the door! These spaces are living, breathing and evolving. Unlike the UK where you visit these “art” spaces only to find a year later its closed as no one has bothered to make use of it, or no one has basically bothered to go see what’s there. It appears that people seem much more relaxed and free spirited in Budapest unlike their London counterparts, and I like it! All these mix mash of things in one building and to top it off they have brilliant gig spaces wicked funky music and bar set up with a mix mash of chairs and tables. To date my favourite is Tuzrakter bar with jumbo jet plane seats dotted about the place. Genius!

 Next poignant visit was to the House of Haza or House of Terror. I wasn’t really, lets say, looking forward to it, but its one of those things that is quite intriguing. The museum takes you round the full history of Hungary from WWII Nazi occupation to the Soviet occupation and them eventually leaving in 1991. Quite frankly I don’t how the Hungarian people managed to live under such a dictatorship but I supposed if you spoke out of line, or tried to leave the country you would mysteriously disappear to House of Haza to be tortured or executed. The whole country was so paranoid of each other and the crazy dictatorship moulding children into informers. It was all like living in George Orwell’s 1984 and that thought terrifies me.

 After feeling a little sombre I cheered up after savouring my first curry in about seven months followed by more Hungarian wine and going to watch some gigs at a ruin bar!

 The last day I savoured the delights of my first langos at the great food hall and felt the weight poor onto my hips with the deep fried bread smothered in cheese, sour cream and every topping you could ever think of! Taking it easy we walked around pest visited enjoying the sun and topped off the night with some more drinks!

Budapest was a brilliant, amazing city and has a similar feel to London I felt, however, without the rush. No one is in a rush for the tube or barging to get on the bloody thing! Everyone is laid back and really friendly. I will definitely return some day soon!

 

Driving through Hungarian Planes

Filed under: Hungary 12th - 18th July 2010 — european magical mystery tour @ 11:05 am

Lets relax and then relax some more….

Having a hectic ten days of so travelling from Bulgaria and up through Serbia we arrived in Hungary. Arriving at the border, things were friendly and orderly. I like it already! A quick search of the motorhome and a friendly customs officer, we were on our way. First impressions, of Hungary. Clean, orderly and everyone has pristine mowed gardens.

 A few days passed and we spent our time driving through the countryside stopping at various campsites along the way and fixing the motorhome up with new oil and filters. We stopped a night at our first therme campsite and took an evening swim, very nice. Yes, one would love to have their own pool to take a cooling evening swim, oh the good life hey, but reality hits back as we don’t really have 30º evening heat to deal with do we!

 Next morning we ventured across the campsite to try the murky depths of the medicinal pools to ease the aches and pains. Both were steaming hot and consisted of yellow browny water filled with the local oldies around the edge hogging the pressurised water jets and catching up on the gossip of the town! I can see the beauty of the thermes in winter as the water is terrifically hot, however, I did feel a little sick when the temperature outside is creeping towards the temperature of the pool!

 The countryside in Hungary is rather flat to say the least! Hungarian flat planes are really quite pretty though. Its not so open and vast as some countries we have driven through in the past. Plus it’s made up of both cultivated fields, woods, meadows and pastures. After a few days recharging at a lovely campsite in the hills we headed for Pecs.

 I had read a lot about Pecs being quite beautiful. The town is 2010 city of culture so it had an array of different shows on. Sadly we missed the suspended in air circus skills act just the night before! Arrgh, I hate it when that happens.

 Anyway, we took a walk around. The town has a sleepy feel to it even though there was different street acts and circus skills stuff going on, I later learn that in fact Hungary towns all have a sleepy feeling apart from the capital! The town itself was pretty but all the old buildings were newly painted and rendered, nothing was out of place. Perfecto I suppose. I like the old, crumbling buildings with faded paintwork and frescos. It all adds character to me. Unfortunately, none of that could be found here. To me the old town has now become the new. After wondering about the streets we ventured off into the countryside to find a place to park up.

 

Serbian Adventures

Filed under: Eastern Bulgaria & Serbia 5th -11th July 2010 — european magical mystery tour @ 11:02 am

Serbian Adventures and The Happy Policeman

5th – 11th July 2010

In the northern tip of the Bulgarian coast you will find Kaliakra Cape. Driving out past the resorts of Varna the road and scenery turns quite agricultural. Flat, endless expanses of sunflower and wheat fields.  At Kaliakra Cape I found myself on a small peninsula jutting out from sheer drop cliffs remarkably like the Dover cliffs! Here there were remnants of a 8th century citadel that wasn’t very exciting to say the least and strangely right at the top of the “fort” an army surveillance station covered in whirling satellites and aerials fashioning large KEEP OUT signs. However, it did have a church at the very end of the peninsula built into the cliff. There you could look out to sea and spot dolphins.

As we drove east our last wild camping spot in Bulgaria turned out to be a hidden gem on a little windy track. Driving along we spotted a strange asphalt road that had steps on the right hand side leading to, you guessed it, no where! so we thought we’d take a look. The road continued round and around in till we found a nice flat plateau. The views were amazing and we work out that we were looking over Bulgaria and Romania. Getting out and checking out the local surroundings we continued to walk up the spooky road till it opened out on to this big boy with a gun! Its strange what you find on un marked roads, up random hills.

Heading further east we stopped at Veliko Tarnovo and its gigantic high walled fortress that dominates the lower part of the city. The town had a nice vibe to it, probably due to the high volume of students I think! By all accounts it looks like this area has a growing number of British expats that reflected in the towns new English bookshop where we exchanged some books for new reading material. A quintessential requirement to all travellers needs! 

Belogradchick. Our last stop before leaving Bulgria. The book said the fortress is something from Lord of the Rings, so we thought, why not!

The area is quite amazing. Beautiful scenery and dark green alpine trees nestle between gigantic red sandstone rocks. At the fortress, you can clamber all over the rocks and take vertical ladders to the top where you find amazing views of sandstone formations dotted far in to the distance. This was my personal favourite highlight of Bulgaria and a definite must see. Quite, super spectacular.

FRISK…ED..

Driving from Belogradchick to the Serbian border we passed through many stunning traditional houses. We couldn’t find anywhere to stop for the night so we thought we’d press on over the border to the first Serbian campsite. Huumm, little did we know that only one hour later we’d be met by stalin-esque crazy border control man.

After getting thoroughly checked over by the Bulgarian vignette man (warning, make sure you keep the counter part to the vignettes) luckily for us, we’d kept them due to our in ability to throw those little bits of paper you store up on the dashboard. We rolled round the corner to Serbia.

Driving in to the border control. We met, quite frankly, the meanest border control people we’ve ever experienced who gave us a moody glare. Mark jumped out and passed our papers passports etc. First thing the border control officer complained about that we didn’t stop, where it says stop. We didn’t honestly see the stop sign, which was situated 100meters away behind us. But bearing in mind that there was not a sole in the control area plus we’d passed through about 18 other border controls in the same manner, we didn’t feel it a problem to stop at the allocated area!

After that, he proceeded to rip the entire contents of the motorhome out to have a look. I had no problems with it of course, but he seemed not to like me much as when he was searching through our things I made sure that I could see what he was doing.

Stalin dictator control man was now opening up every rammed cupboard and riffling through without even any gloves, dirty bugger. Me being a little untrustworthy  wasn’t going to let some nutter start planting things in our stuff. It was pretty hot inside the motorhome so I was a little fidgety. The border control man didn’t like me staring at him so shouted to his colleague, then proceeded to tell me to go outside. I did, but a little wary, thoughts crossing my mind of being taken away to be anal probed or something strange…anyway, the female officer, did her little frisk, told me to empty my pockets (which had nothing in them) and prodded her fingers into my pockets and looked at my belly! She shouted back to the nasty Stalin officer who was still looking at me suspiciously. After making a right mess of the motorhome they processed our passports inside the office at the speed of a one-legged tortoise, reappeared a while later, and actually shouted GO!

I think Stalin border control man had serious issues…!

Welcome to Serbia! After our welcoming encounter we were driving down the road and feeling a little wary of what to expect. Our first town, the directions seemed fairly straight forward to follow and roads not in too bad a condition. Then in the first ten minutes we were flagged down by the police. Great. After the Stalin episode we were a little apprehensive. Dobre Dan! The police officer said, we responded back. “English” he said, “yes”, we replied. Ah! The other police officer came across and said “how can I help you?” Well, obviously we didn’t really need help, seen as they were the ones stopping us on the road, but we said “campsite Bor” and the police officer proceeded to tell us full directions! We thanked him and were on our way. All very strange stuff. Driving on, we got to the next town and again the police flagged us down. We stopped and the police officer started jibber jabbing in what I think was no language at all as the bloke behind him was smiling. Then we asked if he spoke English. The police officer shouted to his colleague who came around popped his head in and said in a very well spoken English accent “How can I help you?!” Well this seemed a joke, but again we said camping and the police officer reeled off the correct way to get there, we thanked him and off we drove. This happened amazingly once more. By that time we were getting accustomed to the friendly and helpful police officers of Serbia!

All in all it was a very strange evening in Serbia. By the time we got to the campsite (after getting a little lost) we arrived at Camping Bor.

The staff were exceptionally helpful and even offered alternative spot right on the lake (in front off everyone else’s view) but we happily took the a small spot by the side of the entrance as there was no space as the campsite was literally busting at the seems! After the evening we had, we were happy to take it. Problem was, we had no cash! After getting stopped by the police so many times, we got a little distracted as to locating a cash point and so hoped we’d spot one along the way but of course there were none. The campsite owner was a nice man and said no problem for us to get cash the next day.

Next morning we were giving the campsite owner a lift into town. We had mentioned registering us with the police, but he said he didn’t do that but to our surprise he had the official forms with him to register us. In town we popped to the cash point, he went a register us at the local police station. After paying him for our nights stay we thanked him and went on our merry way, plus without the hassle of registering with the police, yehay!

Travelling through Serbia the scenery is very much like southern eastern Europe. Typical rolling hills, meadows and woods and endless forests. As we drove through a number of villages and towns I noticed that they seemed at little more affluent than there Bulgarian counterparts. Modern houses, well kept gardens and neat and tidy towns and streets. Unlike Bulgaria which has a rough and ready feel to it. No one’s seen mowing verges there!

The countryside was beautiful but I did notice that everyone is on the big grid! In Bulgaria they have very small, local town electric stations, which means there are no massive steel pylons. However, in Serbia all the countryside had big steel electric pylons running valley to valley.

Our second day in Serbia we headed north towards the Hungarian border. Having decided not to stop in Belgrade we took a detour around the city in search of the campsite. This was interesting to say the least! We spent hours. I seriously mean hours to find it. It took us the whole afternoon and early evening in till dusk 9.00pm to find the campsite. This was stupidly our faults, being a little unprepared I had only jotted directions of the campsites in Belgrade and no more! Having changed the journey we were purely looking in an area with a vague address of the campsite. This little journey showed us just how lovely and helpful the Serbian people were. In total we asked around six or seven people directions that day, the first country where we’ve actually had to ask because we were totally lost! Everyone we asked was friendly and helpful. In fact, in hindsight, I think the Serbian people are one of the most friendly and happiest nation of people we have travelled through. Don’t believe what people have written. We had preconceptions of Serbians being mean and grizzly from what we had read from people’s blogs. This is total rubbish, having spent time in a few countries now I see the French, and Italians as far more moody and rude than any of the Serbians we met!

So, by the time we reached the campsite we were welcomed by a chatty gentleman who was the owners friend and translated that in fact the campsite was free! Yep, gratiut. Which was a nice surprise of course. Whoop whoo money saving! We worked out that he must offer the small park up space for foreign motorhomers for free. To be honest, its not like you get many travellers in Serbia apart from Belgrade so this was a nice gesture. Camp Jebuko Cvet was a lovely campsite in very pretty surroundings and the area was flat as a pancake which made excellent cycling opportunities from the well marked EU cycle route running through it. Its well worth stopping by if your on the East side of Belgrade.

Serbia on the whole seemed a very friendly country and we wished we had stayed longer. The only down side to Serbia is having to register with the police every time you change address/area. Maybe for hotel and hostel stays its easy but moving around daily with a motorhome, we found it really time consuming trying to find a police station only to move on and by the afternoon needing to register again at a new address. Hopefully this policy will change, but for now it makes travelling around Serbia a little difficult and generally a pain in the butt!

 

Bulgaria Wild Beaches July 8, 2010

Filed under: Bulgaria 28th - 4th July 2010 — european magical mystery tour @ 6:47 am

Bulgaria Black Sea Coast

28th – 4th July 2010

Everyday this week I have woken to the sound of waves breaking on the shore of an idyllic golden sand beach. I sleepily open my windows & front door and look out from my bed onto a green sparkling sea as I drift in and out of sleep. This is my week!

Most days this week I have been chilling out and thoroughly relaxing from my hectic busy lifestyle of…travelling.

Swimming in the sea, spotting my first dolphin, well a dolphin fin anyway! And completing yet another book has been the main aim of the week. However, we did venture off in search of water, but luckily Marks new quad biking friend advised us that there was a spring 1km away on the dirt tracks. Its great as Bulgaria is riddled in fresh water springs. Later on we realised there are springs all along the beach trickling into the sea. Good news for us as it meant we could stay a little longer, yehay.

Later on this week the beach has become busier, mainly at the other end to us. Taking a long long walk to the other end we found people are camped out on the beach and in the trees behind. We got chatting to George the homeopath (who burnt his bum nude bathing later on in the week) anyway, he explained that people come from all over the country to camp long and short term. Apparently, loads of people from the capital take the slow 8hr train and hitch hike all the way to the beach. As the week rolled on more young hippies and groups arrived. I love it. A free camping holiday! It’s so unfair that at home were not allowed to camp where we like, no pretty lakes or beaches.

My favourite camper of the week is a bloke camping alone with his Scotty dog that dives in the sea after his owner. Most of the day he stands about giving us full frontal, which is fine as there are plenty of nudists here, its just, well, he stares at his bits for ages! He certainly enjoys checking out his sugar lumps or tanned sugar lumps by now.

Anyway, by Thursday we had run out of supplies so headed to Varna in search of a new beach which we heard on the grapevine is also a wild camp beach, so off we hopped, fought with Varna traffic and stocked up in the supermarket. Off we drove in search of the beach with high hopes only to be sadly squished. When we arrived the beach had a few bars dotted along it and a campsite nearby. We were thinking that it didn’t look very wild camp to us but we headed on up the narrow pot holed track in till we hit sand. Mark took a walk and found a free camp spot but it wasn’t very nice. The beach was quite pretty but had rubbish pilled up in spots. We decided instead to head to a campsite and return to our last location!

After returning to our original spot Mark chatted to George who noticed we’d left and highlighted that the beach we had returned to was actually very special and a rare hidden gem on Bulgaria’s coast, there aren’t may places like this one left by all accounts.

Well, we shall be enjoying the hidden gem for a few more days then get the revs going and chug off to our next destination.

 

Bulgarian Mountains & Coast. In Search of Wild Beaches July 7, 2010

Filed under: Bulgaria 21st - 27th June 2010 — european magical mystery tour @ 5:47 pm

South Bulgaria and Black Sea Coast

21st – 27th June 2010

This week has been interesting to say the least. After a quiet night free camping at Borovets Ski Station we headed to our first Bulgarian city of Plovdiv. Well, huum, not much to report there. Yes, it had a super looking roman amphitheatre and cobbled streets in the old town but unfortunately not too much to write home about apart from the town having a serious amount of shoe shops. After cursing lonely planets over zealous write up’s that have come somewhat of a regularity we took a two night respite at Saka Hills Campsite.

Feeling rejuvenated we drove into Rodopi Mountains which were A-mazing. Steep sweeping valleys rolling as far as the eye can see. Dense giant forests untouched, it is vast and beautiful.

We drove literally around the whole Rodopi mountain range, oops!  But this may have been due to the lack of sign posting or poor map reading skills on my part, I’m not sure! It was fascinating to find that the countryside is so untouched apart from small farm holdings with small crops and freshly cut grass meadows making huge hay stack mounds. I can hardly think where I saw a telegraph pole let alone those steel mass electricity pylons.

The countryside just goes on and on. And so did we. We drove for over six hours due to the main road not providing any fee camping spots so Mark literally veered off down a random single track road and kept driving till we found a whole host of wild camp spots! We ended up stopping in the mountains with spectacular views and no doubt a shock to the locals of the nearby hamlet of a motorhome with kabooming orange beacons for kayaks outside their hamlet.

The next day we took a short walk around Garbishte (nice name!) that was untouched and totally peaceful. When the dogs barked it echoed around the whole valley! I’ve noticed as the week has progressed that Melnik must have been a hidden treasure as houses in Bulgaria on the whole are not the prettiest. They actually remind me of good old 60s council housing, which makes sense, as Bulgaria was under communist control. Every town has the same style red tiled roof, crumbling pebble dashed concrete exposing prettish red brick underneath. Everyone has a small plot for vegetables and animals all stemming from the mass movement of peasants from the countryside to town and the need for additional grown food due to communist rationing. The eastern bloc certainly had it tough.

As Mark continues his hunt for the perfect Bulgarian property he was a little disappointed to find that 99% of properties are in towns, villages or hamlets. You’d be hard pressed to find many properties standing alone in the countryside. Again stemming back from communist days of mass movement from the countryside to urban jungle living. This led to a conversation where we were told that most villages/towns had inside local KGB informants keeping an eye on everyone’s business. Sounds like scary stuff to me, but then I realised big brother is watching us all the time anyway!

To the coast we go! After venturing off the day before on to the maps white roads  and finding that we still had suspension and wheels on the vehicle we took the smallest white roads that our map had to offer all the way to the coast. That way we would definitely be seeing the nooks and crannies of the country that you miss on the big burther roads. The countryside again was just so unspoilt, no heavy agriculture only vast fields of yellow wheat and barley and my favourite so far, sunflower fields. Millions and trillions of sunflowers all doing the vitalite neck swaying dance….Sing it people. Wake up in the morning wantin me breakfast…oh ohh vitalite. Totally brilliant!

Feeling refreshed by our countryside sights we headed for Sozopol in the hope of finding somewhere along the coast to free camp as we have done in pretty much every country…Hell bells. It’s a developers dream out here. Its just so sad, as we drove out of sozpol we were taken along a speedy bypass road that takes you down the coast of what I shall call hell! There are apartments, hotels, houses of every shape size and colour, in any and every position! There has been no thought of road system. I think Bulgarians skipped town planning at GCSE geography. Literally, someone has bought a plot of land and built what they fancy! It is hideous, its like benidorm on acid! After a long drive we found the one 4km strip of coast line that hasn’t been built on and stopped for the night.

Venturing further down the coast with some dodgy information from a news paper article about wild beaches and past conversations with other travellers about “hippy” beaches we set off for something more rural and authentic.

First night we found Irakli beach, which apparently had eco warriors permanently camping on the beach to stop the developers, strangely a British ex MPs “eco complex”. However, when we arrived there was little warrior activity going on and a big metal fence with Eco Complex sign above. Oh dear, the developers have got here too. After exploring, we found loads of little clearings above the beach where Bulgarians go and camp out for the whole summer. The track being a little inaccessible for 3.1 tons we asked the local beach shack owner if we could stop on some scrub land for the night. Yes, he proclaimed camping here, no problem after us deliberately asking how much. Next day we head up the road and the owner stops us,“Ten pounds”. “WHAT” we say “camping is 20levs” he says, this then changes to 30 levs. After getting a little annoyed and me telling him he’s dishonest we scrape all the change we have, hiding the notes of course and offer him about 8levs which equates to about 3.50 and tell him we have no euros and no other cash. He must have been little offended or disappointed that we wouldn’t so easily pay up and so proceeded to snub our offering of pennies and waved us away!

We ventured forth to Byala, another supposedly hippy ish nude wild beach, we have read. We drove past all the beach resort and centre signs and headed outwards when we spied a little lane. Mark took the turning but by accident went up onto a dirt track.

After practising some Bulgarian he went off and asked a local farmer checking his vineyards where the Karadere beach was and luck had it we were on the field that took you there! After some deliberating about which track to take as there are hundreds and doing a swift reverse up hill and managing to turn around we found an amazing little bay attached to the bigger Karadere. No houses, no apartments, no café beach bar or shack. Just vineyards, rolling fields as far as the eye can see. Just a wild beach. Excellent.