The month of May was a strange one. At the start it seemed like our Euro holiday in June was approaching with ample time to get everything sorted. A service on the van two weeks before we departed proved to be more expensive due to the fact a few minor issues needed addressing, but the cost bumped it up more from a labour point, than parts required.
The Bank holiday weekend prior was spent camping with friends, my sister (Ness), and nephew Oscar, and to be honest it was brilliant. So we weren’t surprised that our second holiday to the continent in as many years came rushing up on us. I must say we didn’t think that last years holiday to France, Italy and Switzerland could be beaten. How wrong could we be!
The links below will take you to dedicated destinations we visited, or scroll down and you will see all of the posts chronologically from start to finish. I hope you enjoy, and are inspired to follow in our footsteps.
We departed home on Thursday evening after work. An overnight ‘stealth’ camp that evening at Dover saw us up early enough to get a 6.45am ferry to Calais.
This put us way ahead of schedule where we arrived at our first destination, Bruges, just over an hour later. Both Mandy and I were really tired when we pitched up at the campsite, so the intention was to chill for the rest of the day knowing we were ahead of schedule. Judging by how tired I felt, this seemed like a distinct possibility.
However, after some lunch and a short nap we headed into the city. Wow! What a beautiful place.
I can certainly see what all the fuss is about. It’s an eclectic mix with waterways, ornate buildings and windmills bringing together the best of what Europe has to offer. We spent the afternoon wandering the streets with a stop at one of the numerous quaint restaurants. I sampled a cool cherry beer which went down really well after the walk, so this was swiftly followed by a strawberry beer… Long story short, 17,000+ steps later (according to my smart watch), we arrived back at the campervan. Truly knackered, but it was a brilliant first day.
We learnt a valuable lesson on last years holiday to the continent that we would have been far better taking our bicycles, than the storage box. Other countries seem to encourage cycling with there own lanes and free bike parks. Bruges Drivers of cars have lots of respect for the cyclist, quiet probably because they cycle themselves. So the second day we used our bicycles to reduce the strain which gave us a little more energy to explore.
We could have done with longer at Bruges, but I fear that this is going to be a common feeling as we move from location to location over the next month.
We left Bruges at 9am and literally drove for eight hours (666km). The sun was relentless but I enjoyed the traveling all the same. They say it’s more about the journey than the destination. Our next destination is Rothenburg, a picture postcard town in Germany. We didn’t get to the campsite until late afternoon so other than a little food and a trip to the local pub round the corner the day was really just over.
The following day we were awake by 7am when the sun was already warm. By 10am and we are seeking shade wherever we could during breakfast. Yesterday’s long drive, and the two days of sight seeing in Bruges had eft us feeling like we need a chill out day. However, we only have two nights here, and need to make a concerted effort to have a look at the town of Rothenberg. Once the coffee had kicked in and breakfast settled we started to feel a little more like exploring. We left the campsite on foot heading up a steep 2km path to Rothenburg. The sun was beating down and just after midday there was very little shade or breeze to make it any easier.
After half an hour we arrived at the town. Seldom do we research places we visit before we arrive, so it’s no great surprise that we often find ourselves in an area that doesn’t really do it justice. As we entered the walls of the medieval old town ready for lunch. We found a nice pizza restaurant which offered outdoor dining. It was nice, but pretty quiet which seemed odd.
However, it wasn’t until we moved on that we realised the best Rothenberg had to offer was just around the corner. Street after street of historic buildings, quaint alleys and amazing gardens.
Late afternoon I noticed a very dark cloud on the horizon. Knowing we had left the roof vents on the campervan open we made a beeline for the campsite just in time, before the rain arrived. It was unexpected, but it cleared the air and made for a more comfortable nights sleep. we could only afford two nights at this campsite so we needed to head south towards our next stop in Rothenberg to maintain shedule. So van packed we moved on…
The journey to Austria took approximately four hours with a single fuel stop. The weather is still fantastic and the van is performing brilliantly cruising at 80mph (120kmh). The last hour off the journey the landscape and roads changed noticeably as we moved into the Alps. We arrived early afternoon and had a great deal of flexibility as far as a camping pitch was concerned. There were trees dotted around which could offer some welcome shade, but with mountains looming all around I needed to make sure my solar panels could harvest enough power to keep the fridge working effectivley, so one was chosen free of tree canopy. Once the van had been set up we just chilled. I drank beer and Mandy read her kindle.
The following morning after breakfast and a shower we were slow to do anything meaningfull. I think we knew that we needed to start slowing things down. Don’t get me wrong we had enjoyed everything since we leaft the UK, but we needed to relax. I was adamant that i needed to update my BLOG as i travelled, because it was a lot more difficult to try and collaite all of the media and remember the experience if it was updated weeks after the event.
There seemed to be an excess of energy due to the blue skies via solar pannels. So much so that after Mandy had used her hair straightners, she decided to ironed all her clothes.
We ventured out around 11am and had a walk to the local lake. We had seen photos on the campsite website of boats for hire, and this was also promoted in a small brochure they had given us after checking in. That said they were all locked up with no real way of being able to use them. It was a really nice day, and it would have been a different way to explore, but I figured that this would most probably be something that became available at weekends or as things began to spring into life in July, during the holiday season.
So we made our way around the lake on foot which took just over an hour. The vistas are truely awe inspiring. I have tried to capture this in the photos i took, but it doesn’t really do it justice.
Originally we planned to stay in Fernstiensee for 3 nights, but we have decided to try and break the journey up with only two nights here, then springboard into Croatia via an overnight stealth camp. This means we can enjoy our current location and explore for a day, knowing we will be on schedule without having to endure a whole day behind the wheel to get to Rovinj by Friday.
I would highly recommend this campsite. We saw this on the Cool Camping website: https://coolcamping.com/campsites/europe/austria/west-austria/tyrol/2849-fernsteinsee
https://www.camping-fernsteinsee.at/camping/stellplatzplan/ Address: Camping Fernsteinsee Fernstein 475 A-6465 Nassereith / Tyrol AUSTRIA Tel .: +43 (0) 5265 5210 E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
A long day at the wheel, but been through some amazing scenery which included the Dolomite mountain range.
We set off from north Austria at 9am, drove into Italy, Slovenia and Croatia arriving at Rovinj for 6.30pm. It was warm as we entered the campsite’s reception where we explained that we would like a pitch for five nights. We made enquiries before our trip, but couldn’t book in advance because we were staying less than one week. As it transpired, the feedback from the campsite at the time was such that we shouldn’t have an issue finding a pitch as it wasn’t high season.
The options were they could allocate us a pitch or we could find one ourselves. My concern was the solar panels having enough light as I like to live on free energy whilst camping and not using electric hook up if we can. Proof of concept and all that :). So we wandered around the campsite looking for the perfect pitch. A couple were in contention , but the one that Mandy was drawn to was in a line of three, newly created pitches overlooking the sea. It was right next to the main coastal road, which I said could potentially cause us issues from a noise point of view, but we committed to the location and we’re pretty happy, although it was narrow.
Our first full day in Croatia was fantastic. Beach lounging, swimming, and in the afternoon a walk into the town of Rovinj. The icing on the cake has been a climb to the top of the church of St. Euphemia. Really proud of Mandy for accompanying me as I know she struggles with heights, but we did it all the same and both really enjoyed it. We had to remind ourselves that since having the campervan, we hadn’t been this close to the equator as all of our holidays had been in the van. We had done some nice travelling don’t get me wrong, but this put us on the beach with crystal clear seas in temperatures of 30+.
On day three our neighbours left for their home in Switzerland and after a brief conversation with the campsite reception we found that their pitch was free for the rest of our stay. It was far bigger than our pitch for just a couple of Euros more per night. This gave us much more sunlight which was also good for the solar panels
Shortly after relocating we were approached by a couple of young Austrian guys who admired the van, and said that they had just setup on the campsite with similar age VW vans. I took a walk over to find they were both pretty rare. One a syncro multivan, the other a panel van that used to be used as a funeral van. Both in excellent condition. I was invited round for cold Austrian beers later that evening, but due to a decision to go paddle boarding sadly this didn’t transpire.
We had committed to a boat trip and were due to be collected at just after 11am. This was to view the 13 Islands close to Rovinj, and immediatly after we were due to head inland via an estuary to visit a local fishing village for an hour, with one final short stop to view some caves late afternoon before heading to port in the evening. This turned out to be a really good day out. We learnt a great deal and it gave us a better perspective of the town of Rovinj and its surrounding locations. Lunch was free as we had subscribed to two trips in succession, which also included wine throughout the duration of both trips. All for 70 euros (£63) for both of us.
In the afternoon of the fifth and final day we took one last walk into Rovinj. We were trying our best to be sensible to seek shade by the narrow streets in the heart of the town. We didn’t feel the need to do another boat trip, but the timing was right when we found ourselves on the harbor for the dolphin spotting, sunset tour. At 10€ each (£8) for two hours on the sea in such idyllic conditions seemed like a nice way to finish our five day stop in this wonderful location. Boy was it worth every penny. We saw dolphins, and although they were distant, we felt strangely humbled.
The following morning we got up knowing that we were moving on, so after breakfast we packed up, went to the local Lidl supermarket for supplies (very prominent throughout Europe), and headed over to our next stop some 2 hours away on the island of Krk.
Note: Currency for Croatia is the Kunar. Accept euros at some of the main attractions and fuel stops, but better to use kunar, or a card that lets you pay in their currency. Halifax Clarity card offers this functionality.