With the warm glow of an early fall sunset we drive across the Slovakian border to Hungary… The remains of the old disused ram shackled buildings lay testament to days past.. We are thankful for the EU and the ease of our travels, and the favorable exchange rate making all of Europe an affordable treat. Yesterday hiking the banks of the Danube and the day before taking in the glorious sights of Vienna.
Vienna.. sheer delight!! Opulence at its finest.. Stand back and drool folks!!! Dipping a big toe in the rather murky waters of the Danube reflecting its long journey to the Black Sea in contrast to ours!
Vienna could leave you cash strapped easily if you wanted to visit all the museums, galleries, and concerts. But it is very enjoyable to wander the streets and soak up the flavor and the magnificent grandeur at every corner and in every detail of the architecture. Numero uno city in Europe to date for presentation.
Slovakia… Bratislava… we were pleasantly surprised and enjoyed a wonderful day soaking up the history. They haven’t quite mastered wooing or wowing the tourists, confirmed by the very grainy and poorly sound dubbed video at the tourist centre. None the less the transition from WWII through the cold war era to today was fascinating to watch. No ‘Hop On – Hop Off’ bus here, just a tour through the narrow streets of old town on a small kids train reminiscent of a Disney World ride.
Things can’t always be sunshine and roses, this is where the fun ends and we are rather befuddled with… Hungary!!! They might as well have posted something at the border… “visitors not appreciated thank you!!!” There are ALWAYS exceptions, we met some very nice and welcoming people, and certainly in ‘Party Town’ Budapest they have learned how to greet visitors. But leave the big city…!!! In the rural areas it seemed hard to find a smile on a face, and Pumper may as well have been transparent.
According to Steve… one of the most frustrating days of our odyssey, including all of Central and South America. Getting the front end greased should be simple enough! Thank gawd I opted to hang by the lake and soak up the rather scrumptious sunshine while beloved spent an agonizing 3 hours getting nowhere at the local garage!!! (I have to live with him!!!)For those of you who know Steve well, he is not one to get frustrated… A rather laid back kinda fella in the most frustrating of situations… But this did him in!!
Fresh from the lake and a morning dip… Well, shower for us… we are on our way to Croatia and reading up in the lonely planet we are stoked!!
We didn’t realize we were leaving the EU and required to show passports and vehicle papers! Turned out to be one of the most amusing border crossings we have encountered. Taken by surprise at this official process, in a half-dressed state clambering to the back of the bus to retrieve documentation failing miserably in my efforts to keep my boobs in my bikini… immigration officers duly amused!! Kate (Duchess of Cambridge) thinks she has problems!!!
Waking up day 1 in Croatia outside a car parts place in Zagreb (www.drakarauto.hr), what a pure delight served a delicious warm sweet cappuccino from the parts store chaps!! Oh how I could have hugged and kissed those guys but the look on my face told the story and the cappuccinos kept flowing… Digging up token thank you gifts, wishing we could really express how awesome that small gesture was!! They didn’t have everything we needed for Pumper but what they did have they gave us free of charge!!! What a contrast, we have been welcomed into Croatia with open arms from everyone we have met, and so helpful!
Aaahhh our first swim in the Adriatic Sea… We in unison announce that yup we could live here (and giggle at the times we have said that!!) ‘stunning’ scenery and coastline does not describe it adequately!! Finding a Small bakery that served up the most delicious baklava we are set to never leave!!!
Camped on the shores of the Adriatic… Croatia is the first country we have experienced a strict ‘no free camping’ law!!! So at 110 Kuna a night ( 15 Euro) we are hunkered down at our first campsite in a very long while!
Hunkered down is the only way to describe it, as a mega storm brews all around us. They call it ‘The Bura’, the rain sheets down, Pumper is rocking and we have visions of the 3 of us being uplifted and dumped out in the bay!!! Craziness!!! 2 days and nights trapped in Pumper, all the time being thrown around and waiting for the big one to tip us over. Having exhausted our food supplies we are forced to make a move in gale sized winds, driving 50km to the next town Karlobag, rarely reaching 50 km/hr. and frequently pushed to the precipice of the mountainous coastal road. It was hair-raising and in retrospect, not at all safe, but we survived. We learn the road is closed and find a more sheltered place to park for the night, and given the circumstances the Police seem unperturbed at our free camping.
There are stores and restaurants and we are spoiled to be served local brandy by the restaurant owner, gratis. He apparently thought we tipped him too well as he also gave us 2 bottles of beer to take with us.
Still on tap… Split and Dubrovnik to soak up the history and medieval charms, but our hearts are sold on Croatia and the warmth of the people!!! This is what makes the ugly days worthwhile!!
A crazy start to the day, as Pumper rolls slowly back towards the Adriatic sea.. Steve shouting from the sidelines… HAND BRAKE! Nothing like a heart thumping experience to get the adrenalin flowing. Steve announces to the police officer he had been chatting to about the closed roads “… guess I left my hand brake off!!”
Faleminderit, Mnohokrat, Nagyon, Dziekoje, Dziekoje, Dakujem, Multumesc.
How to say ‘Thank You’ in Croatian, Albanian, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Slovak, Romanian!!
And do you think we even mastered one!!!!!
Now if the wind would kindly stop blowing we might be able to continue our journey!
Peace and Love… “… blowin’ in the wind.”