Before the trip we thought the better campsites would be the more expensive ones. Our budget is 70 Euros a day, this is for food, accommodation and anything else we need day to day, fuel is separate, any extra notes get rolled over to a fun fund which has so far been wiped out twice, once on a guesthouse and dinner in Lindau and more recently on chairlifts and scary adventuring in the mountains. We have tried to stay at a free van spot and alternate to a proper campsite the next night to save money whilst ensuring we get regular hot showers! The free spots have all been nice enough, ranging from car parks to bays in quiet locations; we have a guide to all the allowed spaces (thanks Claire). The campsites have ranged from 17 euros to 27 euros so far and the cheapest has been the best by far. It was in Inzell at the end of the alpine road, there was a lovely washing room with functioning and clean washing machines and dryers. There was a drying room with loads of space, a couple of airers, a wall of (not on) heated arms for towels in winter. The showers were in large private cubicles with a shower, sink and changing area in each all inside a really nice room with clean floors (no indoor shoes) and lovely views. In contrast today we are waking in a 21.50 euro site outside Vienna. It’s grubby, tired and worn out. There’s a horrible smell at the washing facilities, stagnant water, there are cabins for rent that look grim, there’s WiFi if you are at the office only. For some reason it seems to be popular with a group that I can only assume is the equivalent of the yacht-set when confined to a land locked country; they have 3 giant motor homes, all with massive decking outside and normal home furniture, a whole trailer for a kitchen, 3 Porsches and at least one yappy tiny dog. I’m not certain but I think the help has been brought along too, but all on a dingy little worn out site charging too much for mediocre facilities. Give me back the mountains, it might be spreading season but the campsites were beautiful and the neighbours didn’t try to run us over in their expensive 4wds.
Following the disappointment of Austria (skirting Salzburg and visiting Vienna probably don’t do it justice), we trucked onwards to Hungary, specifically Budapest, a city I was really looking forward to. What an amazing city, full of character and amazing buildings, for the first time on this trip we both wanted to stay for a while so we checked into a campsite with a vague plan of staying for 3 nights, we stayed for four in the end as we had so much to do, it was so full and fun we didn’t want to leave earlier. Having asked for recommendations we had an itinerary and our Hungarian Forints and off we went to the city. I’ve never done a city bus tour anywhere and the ones here include a trip on the Danube so why not?! We took the tourist bus first to the House of Terror, a museum of Hungary’s communist history, it’s sobering stuff and well worth a visit. After the dark museum we were glad to get outside and simply continued the bus tour to see the sights and get our bearings. Sampling food from the spring market we also took in the night tour bus (included in our 20 euro tickets) which gave us a spectacular view of Hungary from the Citadel, really beautiful. Budapest also brought an Aeropress into my life making van coffee so much easier (my old stove top is just too messy for this compact life) and a tripod as I’ve lost the plate for my old one, Budapest is winning! Since a great first day we have also sampled many local dishes, enjoyed a morning at a thermal spa, visited the Memento Park where the statues now live that were removed in 1990 after the fall of Communism in the country, taken a boat on the Danube, had a mini pub crawl through the ruin bars (our fave was the oldest one, Szimpla Kert)… A full on few days and we both hope to come back one day for more exploring!
Leaving Budapest I was quite sad but driving north through the Danube bend was beautiful, we visited some tiny towns, including Visegrad with a lovely citadel with an amazing view of the Danube and beyond. That night we had a spot by a hotel with a fantastic view over the town in the valley and a beautiful sunset, lots of barking dogs though! Our next stop in Hungary was Lake Balaton which is brilliantly turquoise when the sun is shining and the sky is blue, the cherry blossoms are out in full force at the moment so it really is a lovely sight. The weather for the days by the lake was great, not too hot but nice and sunny, it was a nice relaxing time after the hustle and bustle of Budapest. One of the days we cycled out to a thermal spa and had a very relaxing morning lazing on the lake, drifting between lilly pads and enjoying the sun.
I was sad to leave Hungary, it had been my favourite place so far on the trip, but my sadness was soon gone as we drove into Slovenia and the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen, lush greens, hills, forests and snow still on the mountain peaks. Our first night was in a free spot in a sports complex car park but whilst there I used the wifi and found out about a mountain bike facility in the north, so we planned an early start to go there the next morning. Arriving at the Eco Hotel in Prevalji we chatted to the host and found out about the trails, whilst talking he mentioned the bit they are turning into a motorhome park but is not yet ready, he took us round to see it, and I can only describe it as something straight out of The Sound of Music with brown and white cows on lush green pastures before dense woodland and hills with mountains beyond, I was lost for words, a first for me! Although it was not ready we are pretty much self-sufficient in the van with solar and water on board so I asked if we could stay and we could simply for a donation to the trails, DEAL! We ended up booking in for dinner that night and for 12 Euros we had a lovely meal with home grown organic food, the best meal of the trip so far, 3 delicious courses for a bargain price. I managed to fit in some biking too, sampling the All-Mountain and Enduro trails, all the ones I rode (I kind of mixed and matched them) were really good fun, they are all cut and managed by hand with no power tools, the surface is dirt, roots, leaves and feels really natural and wild. I rode scary steep stuff and had a blast, I even managed to fit in an extra descent this morning as Julie drove the van down the hill and met me, I think I rode mostly E3 but I can’t be sure! I hope to go back to ride there some more, I only just scratched the surface of the marked trails, there is so much more there, the hosts will gladly guide you if you are staying with them. The prices are cheap for the riding, accommodation and uplift that is on offer, I hope to get some friends together and go back for a week next year and take advantage of all they have to offer. There is also a nearby hill that offers ‘the longest flow trail in Europe’, it doesn’t open until the end of May so too late this time but I hope to try it next time, it looks ace. Check out www.bikenomad.com for more info, it really is a great place run by lovely bike folk.
Today we have driven on to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia and had a nice city day in the sun, up to the castle and along the river, tomorrow we head to Bled for more outdoor adventuring.