We have an important date to keep in Germany (our good friend Ingrid has invited us to her 60th birthday party) so will speed our travels up a bit to get there in time. But first we head south to the Danube River mouth at Galati. Actually, we are surprised at how lovely and blue the river is. We decide not to explore the delta but head across country to revisit Bucharest. As usual we plan to get close to the city the night before so we can drive in and find a park easily as tomorrow is Saturday. We find a spot near some very dead factories and sit watching a lovely sunset. In the morning we still have 100km to go to get to the city, but there are still heaps of parking spots near the centre.
We spend a lovely day revisiting the city. Wander a lot, catch the hop on hop off bus, eat yummy food from a hole in the wall place and generally fall in love again with this city. Time to head towards the mountains. We are planning to drive the “Transfagarasan Highway” – a very famous drive that we couldn’t complete on our last visit in 2006 as the road was closed with snow. By dusk we find a carpark in the town of Curtea de Arges beside the famous Monastery there. We can not resist the chance to head in to a local restaurant for a traditional meal. Delicious.
Sunday morning the place is very busy indeed. It seems that everyone wants to see the lovely church. The interior is amazing, but so full of people during the morning service that I haven’t got a photo to show you. Finally, we head north towards our road. We spy an open supermarket (unusual here on a Sunday) so grab a few things. We have parked near a coffee shop, and when we come out the owner calls us inside. Her father has some No plates for John. We stop & chat and admire the coffee shop decorated with all things to do with cars. These unexpected kindnesses are so special.
So, we head up the mountain with countless other Sunday drivers. The road is narrow, winding & steep. We finally find a spot to pull over for photos. From here we can see the real Dracula’s Castle. On our last visit we climbed the 1480 steps to see it – not this time! Then on up to the dam at the top. There is even a tall lookout building for all of us to climb. As we continue we find more spots to stop, but then the mist rolls in as thick as pea soup. Bother! We decide to wait it out as we are near the summit, but after nearly an hour we give up & head slowly through thick swirling clouds. As we pop out of the tunnel we discover the other side is clear! After looking at the views & admiring a lovely alpine lake we decide rather than camping up here we will drive down the amazing hairpins tonight. Who knows what the weather will be like in the morning. So, we twist & turn down until we see a fabulous camp spot near the waterfall. Perfect! The wind picks up in the night – I can hear it roaring, but we are out of its blast here.
In the morning it is down through the forest to the town of Sibiu. We stop to explore this lovely fortified Saxon town. It looks more German than Romanian – and indeed it was German for a long time There is a lovely town square, lots of stunning churches, an awesome tower to climb up to view the city & lots of crazy bug- eyed windows that are exclusive to this town. Another scenic drive before heading towards the Transalpina Highway. We plan to drive it tomorrow – there is a small window with a slim chance of rain forecast tomorrow morning. With that in mind we head through the forested section & find a camp spot for a rather chilly night.
When we wake there is light snow falling. We head off hoping it will get warmer! As we climb there is more snow on the trees, & when we reach the highest part of the mountains & pop out of the tree line we discover even more snow. It is falling heavily now, but we carry on until we see a truck stopped. The locals are rounding up their cattle. The road is covered in snow & a layer of slippery ice. When GR2 slides on the ice we decide it really isn’t worth going further. We put GR2 in to 4WD, carefully make a U turn & ease our way back down. Phew! There is another route we can take – and this proves to be an incredibly scenic drive all the way to Petrosani. From here we head north. Ahead there is a detour to Corvin’s Castle at Hunedorea. From my markings on our map I know we visited it on our last trip, but we don’t remember it at all, making it a lovely revisit. It is one of those fairy-tale castles with a moat drawbridge & a row of lovely turrets.
But we need to keep moving. A few more miles before stopping just past the town of Brad near a soccer field & cemetery. Today is our last border crossing, but first a quick stop at the very underwhelming city of Oradea before hitting the border. There is a queue of trucks at least 6km long! But mercifully our lane is quick. After all both countries are in the EU. They only check our paperwork. We head across Hungary to the town of Eger where we stop beside a pretty lake, so we can head in to town tomorrow to revisit it.
Well Eger doesn’t disappoint. We park beside the castle & head down to the old town – very pretty & touristy. Then off to the Valley of the Beautiful Women to see the wine caves we visited years ago. We even find the ones we visited previously & a whole new tourist area. Then it is on to Slovakia & The Czech Republic, avoiding toll roads as we haven’t purchased a vignette. It is getting late when we start hunting for a camp spot. Ahead there is a castle. Perfect – a carpark with a great little restaurant with amazing smoked meat (really must try making this at home!)
Continuing in the morning, still avoiding toll roads we stop at the truly adorable town of Telc. It is a walled town with castle, churches & a delicious row of pastel houses on the town square. Very touristy but oh so cute. But we must move on – we need to be in Germany tomorrow. It is getting harder to avoid the toll roads and we think we are on one for about the last 60 km out of the country. Signage is unclear but there are some serious looking cameras – so we hold our breath and decide to wing it (very naughty), make it to Germany at dusk and find a camping platz at Moosbach for the night.
Saturday, we drive the last leg to Hilpolstein & do a few chores before arriving at Konrad & Ingrid’s place. Tonight, is the party and what a lovely night. We have an amazing time, even though our understanding of the German language is pretty minimal. These Germans know how to party, we don’t get home until 2am Thankyou Konrad & Ingrid for such a lovely time. Sunday is spent relaxing, and Monday finds us heading off on our final adventure for this trip.
The weather is cold. In fact, it is a chilly 8 degrees all day and I am wishing us back in sunny Brisbane. We haven’t quite got enough time to head to the islands in Croatia or to meander through Italy (2 ideas I have come up with) so we decide on Johns suggestion of the racetrack at Nurburgring. We head off, meandering along back roads and stopping occasionally to explore. Germany is perfect for motorhome travel, with heaps of RV parking, lots of camping platz & seriously cute towns. As we head north I remember that our good friends Joel & Cindy (from USA who we meet in France in 2006) were near Cologne a few days ago. So, we contact them and YAY they are still there & will wait for us to visit them. Back on the motorways to get there quicker. A lovely free parking platz, an amazing dinner cooked by Joel & even better hours of chatting. They have now been “on the road” in Europe in their RV for 18 years. Wow!
We both have to leave, so after more chatting we head off & south to Bonn to the very impressive Hans der Geschichte museum they recommended. We are truly impressed – a great audio in English & brilliant exhibits – the reconstruction of Germany from 1945 to 2018. By now it is getting late, so we find a camping platz beside the River Rhein. In the morning we follow the edge of the Rhein until it disappears in mist, then head to the hills towards the racetrack. A quick detour to an Abby at Maria Laach before we arrive….you will never guess what!! There is a race on tomorrow. John is as happy as a Sandboy. We camp with heaps of other RV’s right on the edge of the track. Not bad at 8 euros. We sit in the deckchairs & on the roof. Time trails in the morning and the 4-hour race in the afternoon. A perfect petrol head day - a fair trade for a day at Bathurst, held on the same weekend back in Aus!
At the end of the race would be “boy racers” can pay to take their cars on the track. Naturally John checks if we can join in the fun – but the answer is: “Definitely no way with your truck!” Instead we find a quiet spot for the night away from the revellers who are still camped near the race track. Wake to cold misty day – winter is really on the way. Time for us to head back home – so we head to the Mosel River for a day of meandering alongside the river. There are literally 100’s of RV’s camped beside the river, heaps of picturesque towns & zillions of grapevines stretching up both banks of the river. Finally, we find our own spot beside the river for the night.
Our last full day on the road – heading across country on back roads. We literally stumble across the airplane Museum at Flugausstellung which has an amazing collection of aircraft. Finally, we decide to return to the motorways to speed up a bit. But one last stop for the day at the huge German Racetrack at Hockenheim ring. (Sadly, for John he will miss the race which starts the day after we fly home) Eventually we reach Hilpolstein where we pack, clean & winterise GR2 before catching the train to Munich. Then it is the long flight home.
Just a few facts and figures from our 2018 trip:
In over 6 months we have driven more than 50,000kms. Used about 9,500 litres of diesel ranging in price from AUS$0.20 to $2.20 a litre. We have broken 3 springs & blown out 2 tyres. Visited 27 countries (7 of which were new to us) and endured 21 serious borders – each with 2 sides – we must be crazy!
More travels to come next year – a new continent – Africa.