Now I get it why people stop travelling when they get babies. It is just too much of everything – diapers, toys, food, clothes… suddenly a full-sized Toyota Landcruiser 80 isn’t sufficient anymore. But somehow we managed and on July 15th 2017 we commenced our Great Eastern European Journey. The plan is bold – at least 10 countries – Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Transnistria, Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, Albania, Montenegro and Croatia, counting our homeland of Slovenia, but not sure yet about Macedonia, Greece and Kosovo.
We started slowly – last few hectic days before departure took its toll and we were all quite tired. By saying “all” I refer to Polona and myself. I don’t think Kea Pika comprehends the meaning of “tired” yet, and Punky always expresses unlimited amounts of energy, especially when travelling. But having about six weeks to spend on the road we decided that the best start is an easy start. So we took it easy.
On the first day of our trip we drove a total of 185 km and the worst thing that happened was that I stuck my finger into the closing door of the car. When the evening came we enjoyed the company of our fellow offroaders at beautiful Kolpa river at Bilpa. Kolpa is always worth visiting, even dressed in barbed wire. Check out Bilpa here. The coordinates of the camp are N45° 30.657 E14° 57.851.
Day #4 of the trip finally took us over the border of Slovenia to Hungary. I found it strange, being a traveller for quite some time, that this was my first encounter with this country. We made it to the northern shores of Lake Balaton to Tihany peninsula. Way more popular southern shore of the lake with its resorts and polished beaches didn’t appeal to our overlanding spirit. Finally we enjoyed some proper “off-the-grid” bivouac between panonian oaks where doormice squealed. Luckily there were no deer or wild boars in absolute vicinity, or Punky would have gone ballistic. The day was very warm but the night didn’t bring any redemption – the heat was simply replaced with mosquitoes. I haven’t seen so many since Khartoum six years ago. However we found a beautiful spot with a magnificent view of Lake Balaton. It took us 656 km of driving from home to our first hungarian bivouac.
Most of the beaches at lake Balaton request an entrance fee, but we discovered a quite beautiful spot near the town of Tihany. Even free parking can be found. The coordinates N46° 54.388 E17° 53.636.
The 5th day of the trip took us over most of Hungary to Romania. First of all, Hungary isn’t nearly as flat as I have imagined. Western part, until you reach the Danube river, is quite hilly and pictoresque. However, once you cross the big river, it flattens and it gets really boring. Even too much beautiful sunflower fields can make eyes sore.
Some travelling tips about Hungary
Don’t rely too much on your cellphone signal, even if you are still in EU. Very soon after you leave larger settlements it fades. Even quite near very popular places of Lake Balaton I roamed the hills with cellphone in one and the notebook in the other hand, trying to send an email, just like searching for water with bioresonant pendulum in times of severe draught.
In Hungary, motorways, highways and certain sections of main roads can only be used against payment of a road toll, meaning that you must buy an e-Vignette. You can get it in advance online. We used this web service. I guess it must have worked, because no one bothered us.
Police are everywhere. Road checks, speeding checks, stationary radars, mobile radars. Stick to the speed limit. The traffic on highways is not very heavy. On the main roads you can average around 90 km/h easily.
The stops at main roads are quite frequent, shade can easily be found, as are dirt roads that you can take to enjoy some privacy while you rest. Though some require a bit of off-roading. The stops at motorways, especially the new ones to the east, offer no shade at all, except if you want to rest under a truck.
Except on motorways take extreme care at railway crossings. They are very frequent and though mostly signalised, some don’t have barriers.
510 km after leaving Lake Balaton we set camp in Romania. The border crossing was swift, so swift in fact that I couldn’t even notice which officials took a brief look at our passports. To be honest, that was partially due to the fact that two queues of about 30 vehicles each were formed at the border crossing – one marked “EU citizens only” and the other “All passports”. The third queue, again marked for EU citizens, was completely empty, but the green light was so inviting we took it. Only seconds after the officials came, took a look at covers of our passports, and we were free to go. I guess Hungarians don’t take that Schengen cage stuff so seriously as Slovenians and Croats…
So… we made it to Romania. Tomorrow, Inshallah, we start with Carpathian mountains.