Thro Europe to Hungary
Tuesday 6th May 2008
Wednesday 7th May
What I think is remarkable is that in 1472 when this Castle was built, the Sistine Chapel was also built, that was the year in Russia when Ivan the Great married the niece of the last Byzantine emperor after the ridding Russia of the Tartars, the year that in James 3rd of Scotland married Margaret of Denmark thereby gaining the Shetland Islands for the UK, and that was the year that showed the final splitting of the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. For one family to survive for that length of time, with all of the wars and intrigues along the way and still be in a position to maintain such a fortress takes a lot of admiration.
We crossed back over the Moselle and on down the road to Burgen were we found the campground for the night.
Thursday 8th May
Every few kilometres we came across another small village or town which made up the town's of the Moselle which was a major tourist attraction with in Germany.
We passed many caravan parks that were packed, many motorhome parks which also seemed packed, I hate to think what things would be like here in July.
We spent the night in a area that was put aside for motorhomes to overnight at the princely sum of €6, there were motorhomes of all shapes and sizes.
Friday 9th May
Saturday 10 May
There was one interesting spot near Zweibrücken a very large factory outlet with all of the European and American clothing names there, being a Saturday there were lots of people there, and being close to the French border are a lot of French, I would assume saving money, as we left there was a very large bus from France just arriving full of shoppers, like factory outlets all round the world they seem to be very popular.
We stopped on the edge of a forest in a parking area a little bit east of Pirmasens.
Sunday 11th May
Monday 12th May
We stopped for the night at Fussen about 8 km from Neuschwanstein, the fairytale castle built in 1869 for the Bavarian King Ludwig ll.
Tuesday 13th May
There was a 1.5 kilometre walk uphill to the Castle, and then probably 140 stairs to climb once you are in the Castle, and of course the same number to come down.
Once we were out the Castle we took a 15 minute walk, again up a steep hill, to Marien Brucke, a Bridge that was over the waterfall in front of the Castle we had a magnificent view of the Castle and the surrounding area. A €1 bus ticket got us back down to the village and €7.5 got the motorhome out of the car park and were able to drive on about 3 km to theTegelbergbahn gondola which went to the top of one of the many high mountains round the area which gave you a magnificent view of the whole area on the flat, and when he turned round and looked into the mountains they seem to go on almost forever.
And of course was also a favourite spot of the hang gliders and the few minutes that we were there probably six launch themselves off the mountain to floated gently back to the base.
We then drove on to Oberammergau that is famous for the Passion play they stage every 10 years and of course for all the wooden carvings depicting everyday people and many religious scenes. The whole village is full of painted houses and shops making an extremely colourful vista. We got a photograph of the hotel I and friends stayed in 40 years ago on a long drive we did around the whole area.
We drove back towards the main Road for about 14 km and found a very small casual campground and we spent the night in.
Wednesday 14th May
We then headed all towards Berchtesgadener land, one of the most beautiful regions and all of Europe with a Lake which is almost 2000 m above sea level.
On our way here there was a Road closed for upgrading, we were waved off to the left, and as we were not aware of the German word for “detour” we wandered around quite a bit with the GPS telling us to do a U-turn, and in the end we had to drive about 30 km to get back on the correct Road, we started to recognize a German sign with a complex German word on it which we assume must have been “detour” but they had not placed this sign and enough corners to stop a Kiwi getting lost, assuming he knew what it meant.
Tonight we are high up in the mountains at about 600 m, with the roar of a mountain river reasonably loud, in a campground with no English signs, guess you must expect this in Germany.
Thursday 15th May
A short walk to the bus depot, where we purchased a return ticket, and then it was a 6 Kilometre Drive up the side of the mountain, along a road that had been carved out of rock, it was a one-way Road hence only being available for transportation by bus. At the top then it was 100 km walk into the mountain to catch an elevator which took us 124 m to the top. There was about 2 m of snow still there in the patio area with sufficient snow being cleared away for the restaurant to be in full swing and the guest shop to be able to relieve the tourists of the money. The further walk to the top of the mountain was closed off because of the snow. It was an incredible view from the height of 1834 m and the information says you can view up to 200 km in Distance.
We didn't really feel like sitting in amongst the snow to have an overpriced meal so we went on down, caught an earlier bus back to the starting point, and had a meal in our own restaurant.
We then headed all to Salzburg, the park-and-ride was full, as we drove about I could see nowhere that we being a foreigner could Park, I guess that if I was a local I would know all of the tricks of the trade.
So we headed off to our next destination which was Hallstatt which was on the Road towards Graz. The GPS had been programmed for the quickest route without using a toll way took us through some interesting villages on what was basically a one-way Road most of the time. Eventually we came to Russburg a small village with a few shops, large church, information office, and what looks like a gondola as you come into the village.
I asked an information office, where I could Park for the night, and I was told to park anywhere.
Friday 16th May
We did a tour of the salt mine, so now I know how to remove the salt from the inside of a mountain, should anyone reading this have a mountain of salt in their backyard. A boat tour on this beautiful lake sealed the day.
Saturday 17th May
We drove on through the mountains, magnificent mountains on either side, and of course in front of us, almost all still with snow, to we felt like stopping and we found a old restaurant on a side road that was now abandoned, it had occupied an old house, there was about four stories high and must have had about 25 to 50 rooms, but the re-routing of a new motorway was the death knell for it, and was just sitting there totally abandoned looking for a new owner. We made good use of the 50 car, car park for the night.
Sunday 18th May
Monday 19th May
We elected not to visit another Palace or Cathedral that we could have accepted many offers from the salespeople trying to sell tickets for the opera, ballet, plays and what have you, if we had been in town and had transport for another couple of days. This is rather fortunate for a few people, as it is rather disconcerting, for the people that would have been sitting close to me, to have somebody sitting close to you that is fast asleep during the most exciting part of the performance.
Tuesday 20th May
After replenishing our supplies, we set out to carry on with our hunt for a camping site as we left the Tesco parking area we saw three motorhomes parked in the area ahead as we went round the corner a sign to a campground.
I should add, today has been a wet day and it looked like it had settled in for a week, so we booked into the campsite for two days hoping the second day would be fine.
Wednesday 21st May
Bratislava is not terribly interesting city, a two hour walk around the old part of the city seemed to cover all the main points. Looking at my guidebook on Europe Slovakia is not included!
Thursday 22nd May
Driving through Slovakia became very obvious that this was an agricultural country, with plain little villages, quite good roading, considering the traffic on the roads looked like a quiet day in the remoter parts of the South island.
We found not much of interest in Bratislava the capital city, we found very little of interest on the Road to the Chateau, and when we finally reached the village of Salgovce the Chateau was more or less in the middle of the village area.
If I was sinking as much money as David and Anne appeared to be spending I'm not sure I would have chosen a building to renovate in the middle of a farming area of Slovakia in an uninteresting village like Salgovce, I would certainly want something for my potential guests to do, or something to attract them to the area, I do believe there may be skiing in the mountains close by, but I would want something more than that!
All these thoughts will running through my mind as we were driving towards Salgovce and once we arrived in the village we realised that we were going to see probable disaster!
We rounded the corner and saw this beautifully renovated large building with a nice high concrete fence around it, a beautiful painted coat of arms with the word “The Chateau” facing towards the village so you would see it as you approached, and as we parked outside and looked over the fence at the grounds it was obvious that they had run out of money, but we were not put off that easy, so we locked the motorhome and started walking towards the entrance, which was not marked, so we walked around until we found to rather grand doors with some rather nice signs telling us that it was one of the fine hotels of Europe.
So we knocked on the door, the door was answered by a tall slim man in his late 60s, who invited us in thinking we had a booking, no he could not speak English, but he could speak German, which was no use to us, so I suggested Russian, and he nodded, so Luda set forth in Russian, which he understood slightly better, by a small margin, than English.
No David and Anne were not here and he had no idea when they would return. That, to us, said it all. I would think that there is a beautifully redecorated Chateau in Slovakia for sale to an interested party, at a good price, at this time.
So as we were not able to have dinner there we drove on to a small town called Hradok and we have parked on the side of the Road beside a soccer ground in a nice little car park.
Friday 23rd May
What our impressions of Slovakia, well to us they give us the appearance of being poor, they don't move fast in fact you may almost call them lethargic, but the houses we see in the villages that we passed through whilst most of them are at least 50 years old, they were kept in good maintenance, well painted, clean with nice curtains. Most have a substantial vegetable garden with a good variety of vegetables planted, religion plays or has played an important part in the community, with many religious statues to be seen throughout the country and very well-kept churches. The main religion is of course Catholic which seems to have survived the Soviet period.
In the city's the Soviet style apartments are very obvious and some are now painted in bright colours which makes them look not quite as drab as concrete grey. Once you leave the city's the number of cars drops dramatically and old Lada's and Skoda’s appear to be the cars of choice. Agriculture appears to play a big part in their economy.
It is very interesting to criticise the Soviet style apartment blocks that were built in the 50s and 60s but I wonder what the English would have built, perhaps the housing estates that are so commonly featured as crime centres on the Bill! If they all did what I saw done in Poland a few years ago, paint them with bright pastel colours then they no longer look the Soviet style apartments.
We crossed over into Hungry without any fanfare, and the first thing we saw as we crossed the border was a Tesco shopping centre, it was once said that the English are a nation of shopkeepers, and seeing how Tesco have made it in to Eastern Europe that statement was probably right even if they managed their automotive industry into oblivion.
I stopped at Tesco to change some money, you don't realise how convenient it is with most countries on the Euro how you can just crossed borders without any worries. These new entries into the EEC, I understand I due to go over to the Euro with in the next 12 months.
We found the camp ground in the centre of the city without any problems, there were motorhomes in caravans from most places in Europe, there, and there was about one space left which we took which means with a six minute walk we can catch the Metro into the centre of the city.
Saturday 24th May
Sunday 25th May
When it was time to stop we had the choice of two campsites one large one with 560 sites in a small one with 129, the small one I might add was a naturalist campsite at thought it might be just a little too much “in one's face” there for three days, so we took the coward's choice and chose the larger campsite which was almost deserted with perhaps 10% of the sites in use, next month will see a big change to this we have been told and of course July will be bedlam.
There are over 30 campsites around this large Lake that has an area of about 673 sq km which is just slightly larger than Lake Taupo in New Zealand. It's interesting camping here, there's nothing really to indicate we are in Hungary and we could really be in any part of the world and has a flat terrain and that we could be in parts of New Zealand that has an European variety of trees, which is rather sobering after driving such a long distance. However tomorrow is another day and another range of scenery's which at least will be viewed under the Northern summer sky's.
Wednesday 28th May
We programmed our destination into the GPS and when we turned in towards the lake on the GPS’s instructions we assume that we were either going to be crossing a bridge or paying for a Ferry, naturally with our luck the latter was the case, but it obviously reduced our travelling time substantially. While we were waiting for the ferry Luda photographed a 2 m long snake swimming in the Lake, this being the second snake she is seen in the last three days she becoming quite unimpressed with this country for some reason.
So we are travelling over what was now typical Hungarian landscape with every major town having signs showing us the way to the local Tesco.
At our destination, surprise, surprise there was a Tesco, so in we went to do our shopping and as we came out low and behold there was a sign to a campground which we followed and found a small camp ground in the middle of a laden cherry orchard, there are motorhomes from Germany and Holland, after Vienna we have seen no more motorhomes with the UK sticker. No doubt there are British that moved out of their comfort zone in the centre of Europe but we very seldom see them.
Thursday 29th May
We wandered back to the campsite at 12 noon, packed up and headed to our next destination which was Szeged and the route would taken us along the Serbian border.
Again normal Hungarian villages and agricultural countryside with the occasional horse and cart, today we experienced some of the worst roads we've been on for some time, and Luda complimented the GPS for finding a these roads for us. We find as we travel through Europe lots of red poppies growing on the side of the road and often whole fields of them growing in with some other crop. Hungary seems to have a very large number of these poppies and I can't help wondering if they are considered to be a pest.
As we rounded a bend we saw a delightful camping site on the side of the road so we pulled there for the night, we overlooked the fact that there was massive roadworks close by where there were some of the noisiest trucks in Europe about to descend on the bend, but we gained comfort from the fact that they would not be working at night so we had a restful nights sleep until it was time for the trucks to start their work again.
Friday, May 30th, 2008
We passed through many kilometres of vineyards, there was not that much traffic on the Road away from the major cities, but there were many crosses decorating the sides of the Road, and after a few Hungarian cars passing us in what I would call impossible situations we did start to understand the meaning of the crosses!
Again away from the major centres we have seen very many Russian Lada cars both parked on the side of the road and indeed moving in varying directions. In Poland and Romania I saw very many horse and carts being driven in the rural areas but we have not seen that here, perhaps the Lada's the next step up in revolution chain.
Today when we felt like stopping for the evening we drove down a side road which just led into the countryside and parked on a little layby in the middle of acres of grassland. There was no traffic noise, no animal noise, just delightfully peaceful.
E-mails have always been a problem when I have been traveling and I have solved that problem on this trip very successfully. I have a small USB memory card on which I had my e-mail program all set up to run with all my e-mails and addresses. I plug the card into an Internet cafe computer, run my program, and all of my e-mails waiting for delivery get loaded onto my memory card. These can then be loaded onto the laptop at my leisure, reply is made if necessary, and they get saved on the memory card to be sent next time I go into Internet cafe. This is far superior to carrying a laptop into an Internet cafe where there is at least a 70% chance you will not be able to plug it in and they do not charge you a premium rate for the pleasure of connecting your laptop. Another advantage is of course the memory card is very small, but you have to be very careful that you do not lose it and possibly attach it to your key ring.
Saturday 31st May
Today we changed our destination from Debrecen to Eger a city that is extremely prominent most guidebooks. Was 160 km away so we arrived in Eger and about 12 noon. We stayed off the motorway for this trip and consequently went through a lot more of rural Hungary, a lot of the houses in the villages had no running water only a on the street at the end of each block and from this they can fill buckets of water for their domestic use.
We pulled beside one of these and filled up and water tank, not quite the clear water we are used to in Christchurch but we saw many drinking directly from these taps so assumed that was the least suitable for washing.
Going through these villages was extremely interesting however to get to these villages we did experience again some of the roughest roads we have experienced some time, and there was one interesting rail Bridge that has traffic lights at each end to allow Road traffic to use it as a one-way bridge, but the train has preferential treatment so we waited about 20 minutes whilst the train took its turn and then the traffic from the opposite direction that we were travelling followed the train so eventually it was our turn to cross is interesting Bridge.
Another interesting experience was arriving at what the signs made me think was a Bridge that could swing up to let a boat pass through to find that no, that sign in Hungary, meant a ferry. This was a ferry that would take the motorhome plus one car, went from one side of the narrow portion of the Lake to the other using a wire rope to pull the boat across the water this cost us €2.5.
The roads remained quite deserted outside the major centres and besides the old Lada's we had been seeing there was quite a number of the East German Trabants chugging their way around.
The Internet has really arrived in Hungary particularly in the villages, there are roadsigns within the villagers making people aware of just where there are is a Internet cafe and one village we counted five of these signs.
On arrival in Eger we found a car park quite close to the city centre so walked the couple of blocks to get into the downtown area, where we had lunch, walked to the information office, which was closed, missed by five minutes the Road train that would have taken us round the city telling us all about it in Hungarian, and as the temperature was about 30°C we decided to do the abbreviated tour of the whole part of the city on foot, we decided not to venture into the Castle, and the tall minuet left over from the Turkish occupation that had 100 steps leading to a wonderful view over the city, we decided after looking at some of the people that he emerged from the confined space that looked like they had been in a vigorous Turkish bath or Finnish sauna that today with us high-temperature was not the day to climb the minuet.
So we wandered back to the motorhome, went out to the Tesco to replenish our supplies, and we were just taking things into the motorhome and large drops of rain started falling, and now we have experienced a electrical storm and everything is wonderfully cool. Were spending the night in a new to Eger motorcamp that is not on our list and tomorrow it was back to the mountain regions of Slovakia to see if that is more interesting than the flat.
Sunday 1st June
With nothing more to hold us in this thriving metropolis we headed off this time to this Slovakia border by GPS again avoiding motorways, this took us down a lot of interesting narrow roads, as usual, through a beautiful part of the area that was a little bit mountainous and finally we found some artificial lakes that were stocked with fish that people could camp at or stay in apartments. If you're inclined to go fishing you could do it in comfort with deck chairs, and beach umbrellas, unfortunately you still had to get your line into the water without extra help.
Professional wedding and portrait Photography, right through Hungary and in major towns we had been taken with the quality of wedding and portrait photography on display and it seems to be uniformly of an extremely high standard. The quality was such that you would only see portrait photography of this standard in New Zealand in very few cities or towns.
LIKE to receive my travel journals as they are written just click