NB. This is a fairly long one so get a coffee!!!
The word had been that Krakow was well worth the stopover and disappointed we were not!
After setting up in the RV Park early in the afternoon we found ourselves indulging in a favorite combination, Blue Costello Cheese and a glass (or 2) of red! A fantastic smell wafted past, my tongue fell out of my mouth reminiscent of a thirsty dog slobbering after a run on the beach!
I mentioned to Jen that if we could locate the RV emitting the alluring fragrance we might be able to sneak in and obtain a taste! Shortly after this we were approached by Daniel, one of 2 operators of a whirlwind 2-week history tour from Sweden with a group of school students and teachers. They were travelling in a large pink bus.
A little while later and we realised it was Daniel’s cooking emitting the aroma that we were finding so pleasant so we wandered over with the intention of finding out what smelled so good and were greeted by a huge Paella dish loaded with a concoction of ingredients.
After obtaining an idea of what was in the dish we began wandering back to our camp, from behind came Daniels’ voice! Bring your plates we’ve got plenty to go around!!
An invitation that didn’t need to be repeated, we had dinner in the company of the students and teachers with Jen spending much of her time answering questions about our travels. And yes – it tasted as delightful as it’s aroma!
The blue sky again morphed into grey depressive drizzle during the night and our freshly washed clothes now found themselves hanging under the awning.
Blackness slowly lifting as morning approached, we lay snuggled beneath the doona with the Webasto heater idling in the background whilst listening to the constant pitter-patter of drizzle on the roof! Looking out the window at the saturated tent in the next campsite we were suitably happy with our decision to build our camper for this journey. After some 3 weeks of consistent and at times torrential rain I’m positive we would not have found ourselves in such an upbeat mood if our accommodations and gear were all soaking wet.
So a day of grey skies and rain in Krakow was in store for us. We didn’t have to force ourselves to do nothing; the weather did it for us!
Now that we’ve been on the road for a while we are finding that we need to have the odd day that pretty well consists of doing absolutely nothing, just relaxing and recharging, so a grey day provides an excuse to be still!
After doing nothing for most of the day other than warming a camp chair and enjoying free Wi-Fi, we found ourselves suitably relaxed and ready for our next history laden tour of an historic city! Our tenting neighbors arrived back from their day’s expedition of Krakow and were more than happy enlightening us with regards what to visit and the like! They were heading home to Normandy over the next couple of days and with details swapped we hope to see them there!
Krakow has a stunning central square surrounded by facades of ornate design with spires reaching hundreds of feet skyward! As well as the obligatory castle of course.
We even caught a glimpse of another celebrity – Colonel Sanders on tour!!
Heading off again we made for the town of Zacopane, nestled in the mountains along the Slovak border. On the advice of our friend Terry, whose house it was we were heading for in Slovakia, Zacopane proved to be a lovely detour. Most of Poland is very flat, but quickly gives rise to majestic mountain vista’s as you make headway toward the southern border with Slovakia. Nestled amongst these picturesque peaks Zacopane provides the visitor with the quintessential Alpine ski resort vista!
We had dinner plans with Terry and his daughter Bridget at 7pm and as we were a little late departing Krakow, ended up cutting it a little fine, arriving at Terry’s at 6:40pm! The house is nestled in the town of Hrabicov in the north of Slovakia in a delightful valley.
A fabulous meal was enjoyed as we caught up with Terry and Bridget. Returning to Terry’s, we enjoyed some cheese and wine before retiring for the evening!
After a morning of relaxation we were all heading for Vienna airport, tasked with ensuring that Bridget made her flight to London and the beginning of a stint working in the old country!
Now Terry is a little bit of a wine buff. Well maybe more than a little bit as he has a vineyard in the south west of Western Australia. So when he suggested a slight detour enroute to the airport for a little wine tasting, we didn’t really have any objections! So it was just inside the Austrian border that we found ourselves indulging in some lovely wines whilst enjoying the warmth of a sunny afternoon.
Post Bridget’s exodus, we stopped in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava for a wander around the old city and a bite to eat, another amazing old town with cobblestone streets and buildings that ooze history and charisma.
Speedway is a national pastime in this country and as such we were soon invited to the local racetrack for a few drinks whilst watching a live race meet occurring in Poland on the big screen, late into the evening we were introduced to the local Russian Style 9 pin bowling alley with marionette style pins, balls with no finger holes and all around 40 years old!!
All suffering slightly diminished motor skills at this point (must be the water), it was Jen that nailed the only strike of the evening and she made sure we were all aware of the fact!!
Sunday saw us back at the track for a local meet where we had a sensational day mixing with the Slovakian people and watching them cheer and scream as their local rider and third best in Poland came through with the win!
With lovely restaurants and day trips to medieval ruined castles we were quickly and easily becoming settled.
After nearly a week of thorough relaxation we departed Slovakia and made for the Czech Republic, enroute to the town of Valtice. The Moravian Region of the Czech Republic is renowned for it’s quality wines so a stop was without doubt going to deserve a waypoint in the sat-nav. I think it’s the fastest I’ve ever seen Jen enter a waypoint come to think of it!
We are still having good success in locating bush camps and this night’s was exactly what we needed – deep ruts full of rain sodden black mud that lasted only about 50m and then onto an old disused road and a lovely camp. Back in Krakow we’d been amazed when after one nights rain we were treated to the spectacle of watching not one but three moderately sized motorhomes unable to move off the lawn on which they were parked due to the lack traction combined with excessive throttle depression! I was surprised to see most drivers just sitting in the cab, holding the accelerator down with no real idea what the problem was! 50m of muddy ruts is never going to be on their agenda so once you are off the main road you are on your own!
Hopefully our luck holds and we can manage to mix paid with unpaid camps and keep the budget healthy!
Many of the campsites we’ve used of late have been in locations near Hunters Hide’s. Some even sporting drums of oats that the Hunters will sprinkle within view of the Hide over the days prior to using the site. After we realized just how frequent these towers are we have taken to having a really good look around our chosen camps to assess whether any are nearby and if they are, do they show signs of recent use. We don’t really have a desire to hear rifle fire whilst camped again!
We arrived in Valtice and headed straight into the main town square and our first tasting venue at the Podzemi (Valtice Underground) a series of underground cellars that played host to our first evening and make for an interesting wander through the labyrinth of tunnels.
The following day was devoted to “Salon Vin” – another underground cellar beneath the old castle containing what have been voted the top 100 Czech wines for the year available for tasting. As Salon Vin had been a recommendation from Terry we had a short list for tasting, and taste we did! Everything around and including those recommendations saw us suitably impressed with the afternoon’s indulgence!
September in this part of the world see’s a local favorite beverage on the menu, known as Burčak, possibly one of the most dangerous beverages in the Czech Republic…. It’s partially fermented wine from fresh grape juice, surprisingly easy to drink and can really pack a punch! Apparently the alcohol content continues to rise after consumption and from my experience that is probably true…..
A Burčak festival was in full swing as we departed our tasting session and the rest of our day was consumed listing to live music and enjoying the local favourite.
Too many restaurants and the waistline was suffering, so back into the scrub for a few days! Staying to the back roads we found our way to Punka Caves and the Macocha Abyss where we were treated to views of the entrance to a massive cave system. Jen proved to be as arsy as ever by managing to obtain the last two tickets for the days cave walk and underground boat trip. It’s all easy access with lots of tourists, but it was really well managed and well worth the visit whilst providing some well needed exercise.
Again majestic towns are one after the other, to the point where you just can’t stop in all of them so after a few days we arrived in Prague. We couldn’t find the entrance to the RV park we were looking for due to some major roadwork and ended up stopping at a kayaking club that also had parking available. No sooner had we parked than the heavens opened and torrential is the description. We settled in for the night and as the only camper’s on site, it was certainly quiet!
The famed romantic city of Prague occupied all of the following day, a stunning central square surrounded by a mixture of architectural wonders and buildings of old! It really is a stunning centerpiece for the Czech Republic but it would seem that a few other people had also heard of it’s allure for shoulder to shoulder tourists is not an unfair description of our time spent there.
One evening a large RV entered the camp ground, we knew they were probably looking for the campsite we’d originally been targeting and so as they stopped I decided to wander over and help them with some directions, the door opens and I spluttered out – English? To be met with an unadulterated Aussie reply of yep! And where are you from?
A German registered Motorhome with a family of 6 Aussies on board were now the only other residents of the camp! We certainly couldn’t believe it and the camp owner was more than bemused to have 2 loads of Aussies on his turf!
Jeff, his wife Jutta, sister in law Leanne, Megan, Matthew and Aaron were well into the type of holiday many dream of! Hiring a motorhome in Hamburg they’d been north to Norway before heading south through Berlin and Dresden to find themselves parked next to us! Their onward plans including Austria and Slovakia along with many other stunning localities that are so easily reached once you’re in this part of the World, It was lovely meeting them and we wish them well for their continuing travels.
Four nights had left our thirst for Prague sufficiently quenched and it was time to depart. In the meantime we’d been liaising via email with another intrepid Aussie couple who had just driven from Malaysia through China, the Stans and Iran then onward to Turkey and the list goes on! We were going to catch up in the city of Cesky Krumlov in the south of the Czech Republic. I’d first heard of their plans when we made contact via “The Hubb” chat forum whilst we were all in the planning stage! Only to find they reside a stones throw from our home in Fremantle. 6 degrees of separation!!
Sticking to the back roads we headed south through stunning scenery, with roads meandering along deep dark rivers interspersed with eye catching towns and all the while hemmed in by majestic tall dark forests! Really sensational.
We managed one of our nicest overnight stops so far, dark forest with undulating hills provided an almost fairytale like feel to the terrain. Littered with mushrooms of all sorts, shapes, colours and sizes, many exceeding 200mm in height it was an extra ordinary camp.
Jen now with her new iPhone App on mushroom identification spent hours out amongst the undergrowth attempting to discern the tasty from the deadly. Mushroom picking here is a huge and well patronaged pastime. Everywhere there are cars parked with locals wandering along carrying wicker baskets brimming with tasty fungi. Jen has been quite adept at identifying many of the fungi to date however we’ve steered shy of actually ingesting any so far, not quite that brave just yet!
Cesky Krumlov came into view through the blur of sweeping windscreen wipers and we camped in a tour bus drop off area that has a section set aside for motor homes, no facilities but really cheap and 200m from the center of the old city!
Into the city square we ventured and sent an email into the ether alerting Catherine and Simon of our arrival. A little while later and we were all swapping stories and destroying plates of local cuisine whilst ensuring the restaurant would need to reorder beer the following day! Meeting for coffee the following morning we again spent some time wandering the cobbled streets and seeing the sights before we eventually went our separate ways having had another lovely time with Aussies in a far away land. On the road now 8 months these guys will be back in Perth with their trusty Prado for Christmas Day turkey!
West and into Germany and our first night of free camping in Germany proved a little hard to find. They obviously have a large sign making industry and plenty of those signs say no entry and find their way onto the entrance of every track! Not deterred however, we were finally successful.
Meandering at the now slow pace we are enjoying saw us pull into an RV park late in the afternoon in Kesselberg. Fortune it would seem was again smiling upon us for we were shown to a great campsite on the lakes edge. Wandering into the restaurant for a relaxing drink we found ourselves sitting next to our neighbours in the campground! Manfred and Ute (pronounced Uta) quickly took us under their wing and we found ourselves receiving translations of the menu, which we sorely needed!
The following day they were taking a cable car journey from our current elevation of 800m to 1780m and had we not met these intrepid Germans we’d have had no show in organizing this day out as tourist info in English in these more out of the way villages hasn’t been all that easy to obtain so far. We were soon invited along and the following day was planned out!
Manfred had organised free bus tickets for us, provided to guests of the Park if you know how to go about it. We woke the next morning to heavy fog in the campsite but as the sun rose above the mountains, it soon receded and we were met with a beautiful warm sunny day perfect for our day’s plans. We climbed aboard the extremely modern public bus before enjoying the cable car ride that soon deposited us amongst magnificent views of the Bavarian Alps along the Austrian Border
We had a lovely lunch at the mountain restaurant before Manfred suggested we take the 2.5-hour walk down rather than the cable car. Majestic views combined with blue sky made the descent more than memorable. (Although the calves and shins were complaining a little in the following days.)
RV’s are really popular throughout Europe and Manfred and Ute’s was more like a 5 star hotel than a Motorhome, parquetry flooring to boot!!
Anyway they can fairly move along on the highway, some of them cruising at over 140km’s an hour! The autobahn helps make their transit around Germany fast and smooth.
We don’t have the lavish space and comfort they offer and at times it would certainly be nice, but when we slip into 4×4 and navigate the dark sloppy soil’s of the forest tracks and find peace and seclusion only minutes off the main thoroughfare, we quickly embrace our vehicle selection! Not to mention the savings to date in not paying for camp grounds in Europe.
With some sadness, we departed from our new friends and headed towards more striking Bavarian scenery. Garmisch and Fussen were on the itinerary!
Back soon with tales from beyond!!