We passed through the Czech, Austrian and Slovakian borders all within a few kilometres – 3 different countries, 3 different languages, 3 different cultures, 2 different currencies and 2 different Vignettes required for Ziggy
There was one border check where all vehicles were stopped – we had our Passports out but as soon as they saw the 2 old grey heads with GB registration and Aussie stickers we were waved straight through without having to stop – not so for all the other vehicles.
Decided as we were so close to Slovakia we would venture back because we did not see everything we wanted to see when we were here in mid May.
Our trip in Slovakia was cut short when we were called back to Poland to complete another step in getting my passport and citizenship finalised.
Camping place for Saturday & Sunday: Parking Danubio, Bratislava
Very impressed with NAVIE, our new Sat Nav. Her instructions are super and so easy to follow.
Bratislava has a population of around half a million, has been the capital of the Slovak Republic since 1993 and part of the European Union since 2004.
Bratislava is divided by the Danube river making the road system a maze of twists and turns around the bridges. A tourist drivers nightmare. I listened to NAVIE issue at least 10 minutes of instructions without drawing breath and wondered how my driver could follow them all.
All comments on our APPs rate this place highly and we were not disappointed. A free camping and parking area right on the Danube with views across the river to Old Town and the beautiful castle high on the hill. There are several motorhomes here so feels very very safe. Police on foot patrol at night.
Two restaurants on boats moored in the river – are only metres away. Obviously this is a city visited by the river boats – eg AAPT and from where we sit, there are 4 of these on the other side coming and going.
Night time is spectacular with the castle on the hill and two bridges fully lit as well as the buildings in Old Town.
Visited Old Town on Sunday morning – very quiet compared to Saturday. Not a huge amount to see compared to what we saw in Prague and easily walked though Old Town in a few hours.
Had a wonderful dinner on one of the restaurant boats (which had its own micro brewery on board) on the “not so blue” Danube. So pretty at night with all the sparkling lights across the river.
Left Slovakia for probably the last time ever on Monday morning and headed back across the border into Austria. We really loved this little country.
Goralsky Dvor – Another beautiful place just waiting for the summer holidays to start. No other mobile homes here yet. A farm style holiday camp with sheep, goats, chickens and one very loud snorting pig- though he did quieten down when we gave him some fresh grass to eat. They have cabins and caravans for hire. Bathroom facilities are great. They are located on a beautiful waterway (ideal for rafting and swimming in warmer months) and even have fire pits ready to go. They have a beautiful country restaurant here decorated with old wares and statues of angels, animals, birds etc carved out of tree stumps. Each timber chair in the restaurant has a face carved on the back of it.
First chance we have had to put out the tables and chairs for a long time. My best friend took advantage of the sunshine and took off his flanno shirt and exposed the chest to some much needed vitamin D. Think the sunshine only lasted for about ten minutes before the chest had to go back into hibernation for the day.
We explored the property which didn’t take long and then sat down and enjoyed the peaceful surroundings for the rest of the day. No exercise today.
Was going to have chicken on the BBQ for dinner but the storm clouds wre brewing so decided to test the chef in the restaurant.
Had 4 x half litre beers, entree, main, sweets, 2 coffees and two vodka shots while the storm raged outside. Cost a staggering $25 in total. Can’t believe how little things cost in both Poland and Slovakia.
We checked our emails and received word from Barbara (my Niece) in Biala Podlaska that my Polish ID PESEL doc was ready to be picked up so now we are going back for a short visit before heading north to Scandanavia for Part II of our adventure.
Saturday 13th May – Tarnow, Poland
Miserable day weather wise so was good to be travelling – we headed across the Slovakian/Polish border north and into Poland – once again no checks at the border.
Arrived at Camping Pod Jablonaimi. Not much to see here as it is still raining. Lovely campsite set at the back of a hotel. Again we are alone in the campsite. Camping spots are set amongst apple trees on grass but given the amount of rain, decided to park on the bitumen. Very safe and secure here but a little expensive for what it is.
Sunday – Monday 14-15 May – Sandomierz, Poland
Wow!!! Blue skies with not a cloud in sight. Temperature inside Ziggy was a warm 15 degrees – we were in for a warm day (for a change).
Again we travelled through some amazing countryside, though now things were changing. The alpine chalets and pine trees were replaced by small towns with farm houses and acres and acres of fruit trees. We had time to research a little before we headed off and selected Sandomierz because it had an “old town” and an underground and quite a lot of places of interest to explore.
Another one of those “hard to find spots” – just when the Sat Nav told you that you had reached your destination, you looked around and you were in the middle of new earthworks and new roads under construction – no campsite in view.
We saw the entrance only 50 metres away but there was no way to get to it without going down the wrong side of the highway.
Eventually we found a way around and arrived at the most amazing destination. Situated between the river and just below the historic town, Camping Browarny again was so beautiful. Set amongst beautiful lush green trees with birds chirping. Everything was well maintained and with the sun shining and the temperature warm for a change, we put on some summer clothes and ventured through the back gate up the hill. 89 steps (not that we were counting) and then more hill to climb, we turned the corner and there we were in the middle of the square in historic Sandomierz. Being a Sunday afternoon, the square was alive – people everywhere, restaurants and entertainment and the old historic buildings and churches to explore.
They had the changing of the guards every half hour which was a spectacle by itself. They were clad in full armour and were happy to pose for photos.
Everyone was eating these amazing ice creams and nearly every second person had one. All types and colours and they were enormous. Had to have one, so dropped in to a shop just behind someone who was walking away with a soft serve chocolate and vanilla, ice cream standing about six inches above the cone. I pointed and said “one like that please”. Rob didn’t want one as he was wanting a beer – but managed to eat half of mine anyway! I think it cost just over $2 and was so thick and creamy.
We eventually rested in one of the cafes and sampled the local beer and of course some local Pierogis and watched the passing parade.
We returned just before dark and after a light dinner and some reading hit the hay.
Woke up Monday morning to another beautiful day. Hoping this is the beginning of summer here – certainly has taken it’s time coming.
For the first time we have other motor homes here. Mostly Dutch people who all speak excellent English. Enjoyed some conversation with them before we took the bikes off the rack (first time for six weeks) and hit the streets. There are great bikeways here though they are not as long as we hoped. We followed the river as far as we could and came back through the local markets. Streets and streets of stalls with clothes, shoes, handbags and fruit and veggies of course. Bought some and then headed back home for lunch.
After lunch we headed back up the 89 steps (though we were not counting!) back to the square to explore the many heritage buildings here. The square was not as exciting today as the locals had gone and were replaced with bus loads of school children.
Spent the rest of the afternoon there and headed back down the hill for the night.
Woke to rain, wind and cold so stayed put for a short while to see if it was going to change. Not happening today so at around lunchtime we opted to move from Zakopane to Slovakia and back to Euros as a currency.
Hard to believe we have only been away two months today. Feels like we have been away a lifetime – seen so much already and still have 22 months to go (maybe, or maybe longer).
It was so noticeable when we crossed the border in to Slovakai. It was like someone put a line on the road which went from being reasonably good on the Polish side to absolutely woeful on the Slovakian side. Fortunately after a few kilometres it improved, somewhat.
Slovakia is only a small country with 80% of it being farmland. Once on the other side of the Tratras Mountains, the sun appeared and the countryside with its beautiful hills and valleys took on a kaleidoscope of greens. From Autumn shades to pale lime green, rich lime green, luscious green green to emerald – so many shades of green all together. Tried to capture this in photos but none I think could do this sight justice.
Had a couple of hiccups trying to find our camp for the night. Firstly the sat nav took us off the main road and up some unbelievably narrow dirt roads. We stopped at the first opportunity and checked our co ordinates – nothing like we had keyed in. We started again and had to backtrack 30 or so Klms. Then, I am sure, other fellow travellers have experienced the next moment when we arrived at our destination to find a notice on the gate advising it was closed due to reconstruction. My driver remained calm (on the exterior only, I think) while we looked for the closest camp for the night. Time was moving on and it was around 6pm at this stage.
Our Polish SIM cards do not work in Slovakia so this made researching an alternate site for the night more difficult – thank heavens we have purchased a couple of Ipad Apps which incorporate off line mapping
We arrived at our alternate site, Autokemp Drienok, Mosovce at around 7pm. It was still light but the cold was setting in quickly. Yeah! The gates were open but no one was anywhere to be seen – no campsite attendants or no fellow travellers. We parked and had a shot or two of our new found drink to warm up – vodka with dash of raspberry juice and a half dozen or so drops of Tabasco – warms up the belly in no time.Monday 8th May – Mosovce, Slovakia
This place would have been amazing in its hay day. A massive ground with 50 or so cabins and grassy spots for around 100 or so campers and motor homes. We opted to park on the bitumen – less chance of getting bogged. The grass was overgrown, the cabins were very run down, the pool was empty and growing shrubs in the middle of it. Looked like the place had not been occupied for a very long time.
We found out later that it was a left over camp from the Soviet era – when the Soviets completely controlled their workers – across the road from the camp there were a couple of buildings – one a factory and one an office block of 4 levels with about 40 rooms/level. Apparently the workers worked in the 2 buildings and the families were housed in the cabins.
The further east we have travelled the more evidence there still is of the remnants of the soviet era – the drab bare grey concrete buildings and poor construction methods, atrocious roads and rusting relics in paddocks – farmers driving 40 year old tractors down the roads at 10klm/hour – and Russian is either the first language or definitely the second.
We ventured into the small but quaint village only 200 metres away and found pretty much the same story. A couple of kids on bikes, a stray dog and an old lady. The pizza place was closed on Mondays so no luck there.
We found out that the restaurant on the other side of the entry gates to the camp site was where you had to pay for camping. We dropped in on the way back – walked right into the middle of a bikies meeting – about 30 bikies stopped their meeting and stared at us – they didn’t say a word and neither did we – time to go for us!!! so we headed out the door at quite an alarming pace.
The camp site bordered on a national park, so after lunch we hiked off into the rolling hills and through the beautiful trees to the top of a very large hill. The view was breath taking. Still a sunny day but still very cold. Saw some horses and riders enjoying the countryside.
Headed down the hill back in time for dinner.
Tuesday 9th May – Brezno, Slovakia
About 7km outside Brezno we found this amazingly beautiful farm – Sedliacky Dvor (web: www.sedliackydvor.com). So vastly different to the last place we stayed. We were met by chickens at the entry followed by sheep with new little babies and a goat or two. Thought we were at the wrong place at first but were met by a lovely young man who spoke excellent English. This place is first class with beautiful bathroom facilities, washing machine, camp kitchen and gardens and wi-fi. Everything is so well maintained and the hosts Monique and Deon, were just delightful. For the first time we had other campers to talk to – both couples were Dutch (as were the owners).
They have a community library housing books and tourist information including walking tracks in the area. The sun was still shining and with no rain in sight (has been two or three days now) we decided to take advantage of the weather (though still cold) and go exploring.
The track we selected took us by farm houses and chalets through the beautiful hills. Some parts of the track were quite steep and rugged and in some places, we had to cross little steams.
We came upon a small house on the side of a hill where we saw a woman about 40 metres up the hill at a sink washing dishes. The house was some 5 metres away from where she was, but there she was washing dishes in the open countryside. Strange sight to see. We waved- she waved back and said something we could not understand. Next thing her husband popped his head out of the house and spoke to us in German. Now my German speaking husband driver, flew into gear and the next 15 minutes were spent talking about everything and nothing. They invited us to have coffee with them on our way back.
We dropped in about a half an hour later and headed up the hillside to a little three sided hut with table and chairs which overlooked the mountains and valleys below. The dish washing tub was about 5 metres away. Simon and his wife Margareta made some traditional strong coffee and after an hour or so, opened up a bottle of champagne. Margareta, was a Czech and spoke Czech only, and so Simon had to translate for her. She sat quietly and asked questions through Simon.
Simon (who was 68) had lived in the area all his life and he gave us his version of life in the area pre during and post Soviet rule – very interesting indeed.
As the afternoon moved on, it became quite cold on the hill in a hut exposed to the elements, so we said our good byes with hugs and photos and headed back to Ziggy on dusk. The temperature tonight was predicted to be minus 6 degrees so we fired up the heater and sat and reflected on the wonderful day and people we had met.
Wednesday 10th May – Tatranska Lomnica near Vysoke Tatry, Slovakia
As we travelled higher and higher into the mountains, we could see the snow capped mountains of the High Tratras. There are 24 or so mountains here above 2500 metres. We arrived around lunchtime and settled in at the back of the Pension Slnecny Dom which is right in the heart of the village. Only 4 spots here but again we were the only travellers. Again a sunny day but can’t say a “warm”sunny day. After lunch we headed into the village to find out some information on what is still open here as were we hoping to take a chairlift or gondola up the mountain. Sadly we found out all lifts are not open now. One MIGHT be open on the weekend – no guarantees – depends on the weather, she said. We are only here for another night. No internet at this campsite so we dropped in for a local beer at the Pension where we are staying and then back to Ziggy for a quiet night.
Thursday 11th May, Tatranska Lomica near Vysoke Tatry, Slovakia
Bought a pack of 40 eggs at the supermarket for around $4 yesterday so had a feast of scrambled eggs with Uncle Mirek’s home made Polish Sausage this morning. Why 40 eggs you might ask? Because they came in a pack of 40 and were on special!!! Not much of this sausage left now, have frozen this so should last a little while longer. We are really enjoying the different foods, even have my driver eating sauerkraut now.
Everything here is so cheap compared to Australia – have been buying 500ml stubbies of beer some as high as 10% or 12 % alcohol content for around $0.60AUD for a single bottle buy – beautiful bottles of white wine for around $4/bottle.
Spent the morning catching up on writing the blog – was 4 days behind so if left any longer this grey haired old lady would forget things.
Caught the bus almost at the front door to Stary Smokovec (beautiful little ski town) and from there took the cable car (funicular – cog wheel train) to Hrebienok. Very touristy here and people everywhere.
There are some beautiful walks from here through the forest and we so ventured on one that took us down a steep rocky track and came across some beautiful waterfalls.
Then trekked back to the top. There is a magic palace made of ice here but didn’t have time to see this as the last cable car was about to leave.
Headed home by cable car with some 100 school kids and then back to Ziggy by bus – interesting negotiating 2 bus tickets from a Slovakian bus driver who doesn’t speak any English and we are not sure where the bus is going anyway – hopefully in the direction we are wanting to go – about the last bus of the afternoon so don’t want to get caught out in the freezing cold air.