Wild Camping Symbiosis
There is nothing more contentious than to throw the topic of wild camping into a Motorhome discussion group. It evokes the most passionate of views and opinions and it divides people more quickly than a scorching knife through butter. My view is each to their own – we all have our own camping strategies and comforts and I believe that no one approach is right nor wrong.
We love a balance of both wild and official camping as each play a role our full-time lifestyle. Although I’m not here to present the virtues of one camping style over another, as there is plenty of this on Facebook to last us a lifetime. I do want to share our perspective of what wild camping means to us and the symbiosis it creates with the local community, with whom we are blessed to share our ‘home’ for a night or two.
We have no camping rules; although we do like the freedom that wild camping and Aires offer us. Secluded spots in rural areas, off the beaten track; spectacular beaches with the sound of crashing waves at Scoobie’s feet; magnificent mountain retreats that somehow comfort us with their towering presence. Sometimes we share with other like-minded souls, other times we have stunning solitude that brings joy to our hearts.
Yet practicalities require us to take shelter in a campsite every now and again, to charge up or do washing. Sometimes we find that such is their draw, that they call us to stay a little longer than we ever anticipated. And let’s not forget how luxurious that hot, steaming shower can be that we can languish under for more than three minutes.
That said, wild camping is primal, earthy and brings out the inner child in us, as we share a bit of ourselves with the landscape and the local community as we get closer to the heart of their culture. For us, it always feels so important, that if we are offered something for free, that we reciprocate by spending our money in the nearest town or local shop. And this is where the symbiosis becomes so clear to us.
We never take anything for granted and so if a community offers a free place to rest Scoobie’s tyres, then we will search for ways to give back. Even if it’s only a baguette, some small grocery shopping or a beer in the late afternoon sun. And this week has been a great example of this symbiosis. Parked up on a dedicated motorhome area, (complete with facilities), in Murcia’s heartland, courtesy of the small village of Ricote, we have enjoyed two nights in the tranquility of the mountains on the Valle de Ricote route.
After walking around the village last night to soak up the atmosphere, it was clear how we could return their gift of free camping. A market, a Bodega for their local wines, a Bakery for a lunchtime loaf and a Supermarket for last minute essentials. I particularly love markets; I love how they buzz with calls of ‘Todo Euro’ and how local women trundle through the maze of stalls with their trollies picking up their weekly supplies. Market traders looking to make a deal with tourists and fresh produce just calling out to be sampled – the mind reeling with recipe ideas. Markets always make me smile and as long as I enter with an awareness that I am a visitor who isn’t fluent in their mother tongue, then I can reap the benefits of their offerings with humbling gratitude.
And so this morning’s job was to arm ourselves with our rucksack and enter the hubbub of street negotiations that would undoubtedly ensue. Fresh fruit purchased, new words learnt as we conversed as best we could in our pigeon-Spanish and we even found some fresh daffodils to bring an air of spring into the van. And that was before we found some local nectar from the Bodega; vino dulce (sweet wine, a bit like port) and a vino abocado (mixed sweet and dry) for €1.45 per litre. So we came away with six litres of the most beautiful wine for less than €10. And the best bit of our little shopping excursion? There’s absolutely no carbon footprint on any of our purchases today, so we’ve been environmentally friendly to boot.
Now this is what I call true symbiosis. They give us free camping and we spend money in their shops and receive the freshest, most local produce you can imagine that is also kind to the environment. Everyone is a winner and we’re utterly grateful for both the wild camping opportunities and the luscious food that is on offer.
If only more communities could see the beautiful symbiosis that can exist between the motorhome fraternity and local shop owners, then we would all gain a huge benefit. Whilst I recognise that there will always be visitors who don’t respect the pay-it-back system, the large majority of us are very willing to participate in this very organic and beautiful arrangement. Long live wild camping!
Camping Mauterndorf, AustriaCamping Mauterndorf – Gets a Five Star review from us! And it’s not often we can say that. As you know we love to wild camp and be in the heart of what Mother Nature gifted to us. Although from time to time we need some campsite love so we can catch up...
Eastern Europe Camping Highlights
Being in our camper allows us to change our vista every day, if we wish, and gives us the freedom to get into the heart of the countryside, in amongst nature.
Travelling is such a privilege and feels even more so when you can take your home with you wherever you go. Being in our camper allows us to change our vista every day, if we wish, and gives us the freedom to get into the heart of the countryside, in amongst nature. During our 18 months of full-timing we’ve encountered a range of ‘homes’ from wild sites on cliff tops, to fields that resembled nothing short of a glorified car park, to the charm of a five van Aire in a tiny French village in the middle of nowhere.
2017 has been the year of (ad)venturing further east away from the relative comfort of Western Europe. We left our traditional lives in UK to push the boundaries, to explore and find the road less travelled, so at some stage the call east was bound to resound. So what would Eastern Europe bring us, how would we fair camping in the Balkan lands? Shrouded in Communistic shadows and media spin, we had a little trepidation about what to expect. Today we want to put the record straight. The Balkans is stunningly beautiful section of Europe and needs us to indulge our curious spirits. Although my focus for this blog is more about camping in this eastern land rather than advocating the countryside beauty. Come read about our camping highlights; we stayed at lots of great spots, although these are our favourites and deserve a bit of publicity and promotion.
The Balkans is stunningly beautiful section of Europe and needs us to indulge our curious spirits.
Finding good campsites is not difficult anywhere in Europe although their quality does vary dramatically. And interestingly that’s rarely to do with the country and more to do with the people who run it or who lovingly create it, we have found. Spending five months travelling through Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovenia (in 2016), we have been introduced to some great camping experiences; in fact some of our best ‘homes’ feature in this latest tour. Here we have taken the opportunity to show-case our favourite, must-visit Eastern Europe and Balkan camping beauties in the hope that they give you the inspiration and comfort to head over this way. *(All prices are for a MOHO, two people and electricity.)
Camping Nicholas II – Epidavros; Peloponnese – ACSI (37.630003 23.158203) http://mouria.gr/en/nicolas-ii/
This is one of two sites run by the same family, although in our opinion, this was the best. A small terraced site about 3km from Nea Epidavros on the eastern thumb of the Peloponnese. €19 out of season with ACSI. The site is narrow and pitches a bit tight to manoeuvre into if you have a rig longer than 7.5 metres, although it is a beautiful spot, right on the edge of the sea. With great shade to ward off the Greece sunshine, this site offers a relaxed place to rest up for a couple of nights with the town within easy reach by bicycle and the Amphitheatre not more than a 30 minute drive away. Good showers are available, with a restaurant next door that has a good reputation, although we didn’t eat there.
Camping ‘No Problem’ – Agios Galini, Crete ACSI (35.099947 24.694821)
This is another family run and small site that whilst, like many campsites in Greece, have little pitch structure, has a certain charm. Only a couple of minutes walk to the beach and only ten minutes from the delightful Agios Galini, Camping ‘No Problem’ is great for a week or two. Hiring a car from the town nearby, gives you easy access to the surrounding southern beaches and the campsite’s restaurant is superb, offering a high quality and good value meal. And the swimming pool is to die for, especially at the beginning of the season when you have the snow-peaked mountains as your backdrop view.
Camping Vachros – Kastraki, Greece mainland (39.713493 21.615812) ACSI www.campingkastraki.com
Meteora is one of those unique sites around the world that will never leave your heart. It gets under your skin and you find yourself transported to a very special place of awestruck loveliness. Staying at Camping Vachros right on the fringe of the National Park is a joy, especially when you see the view from the swimming pool. You are within five minutes walk to the village and only a 10 minute drive to the first of your floating monasteries. It is an incredibly special place and feels a privilege to visit. Aside from the pool, the campsite has plenty of pitches, decent shower facilities and a restaurant run by the family. It costs €18 per night.
Camping Kromidovo, Kromidovo (41.454460 23.3629940). www.campingkromidovo.com
After leaving our love affair with Greece behind, we wondered how life in Bulgaria would fare for us. In fact what would Bulgaria be like as an experience, altogether? Well after a simple crossing over the border, our fears were allayed immediately. Good roads, beautiful countryside with vineyards, rolling hills and a super campsite waiting for us within 20 minutes of arriving in Bulgaria. Result! English couple, Sara and John moved over to Bulgaria to set up this lovely campsite, which has more of a feel of their back garden than anything stuffy from a commercial site. With only eight or so spots, free wifi and fantastic shower facilities, Sara and John make you feel so welcome. Sat in the foothills of the Pirin Mountains, you have so much to explore as you ground yourself in the Bulgarian culture. Try Melnik, only 11km away, which is easily reached by bicycle, for a great introduction to the Bulgarian architecture and way of life – oh and a bit of wine! Low season €16, high season €17. Bargain!
Camping Alexandrovo – nr Haskovo (41.987199 25.726452) www.campingalexandrovo.com
Welcomed by Matt, a lovely guy from England, Camping Alexandrovo is a delight. Another site that is more like a back garden, Matt’s place oozes beauty, views and security. Whilst the village isn’t pretty and doesn’t offer anything much, when you’re behind his walled garden nothing else matters. It’s a great spot to just chill out after a busy Bulgaria tour of either the northern or southern regions. Just east of Plovdiv, this is a great spot for checking out the city or heading further east to Turkey, which is only a couple of hours away. And you have to get up early for the sunrise, which is something else! Hammocks, a brick built barbecue and great facilities await you here and we highly recommend this restful retreat. Only €17.50 in high season! Check out our Drone footage below!
Camping Dan – Danube Delta, Murighiol (45.040556 29.156389) www.campingdanpescarul.ro
This is a beautiful, homely campsite run by Nina and her fisherman husband Dan. You are in their back garden, which is so tenderly cared for, with good facilities and the opportunity to go out with Dan at 6.00am or 5.00pm for a trip on his fishing boat into the Delta. For €25pp for two hours, this is a unique experience that gets you into the heart of this precious ecosystem, which is the second largest delta in Europe. If you love photography and nature, then this is a must-do place for your travelling agenda. And all this for only €10 per night. Bargain.
Pensuinea Alpin Ranch – Zarnesti, Transylvania (45.578274 25.344021) www.alpin-ranch.com/ro/
This was a gorgeous little find, hidden in the hills behind Zarnesti and so much nicer than the touristic Bran’s Castle about 20 minutes away. We loved it here. Whilst the approach to the Guest House owned by Constantino and Otilia is steep and a bit tricky to navigate, it is doable and their lower garden area is beautiful. With Zorro the Shetland pony to entertain you and an afternoon tea perhaps from Otilia, you will feel very much at home. The facilities are a little basic, although the charm of the owners (who speak English and German) and the surroundings absolutely make up for it. And for only €14 per night, it’s good value too. You can cycle or drive to the Liberty Bear Sanctuary, which is only 15 minutes away, which is a very humbling experience. Check out our blog here.
Hungry for Hungary
Camping Makó – Makó (46.203451 20.456136) ACSI www.campingmako.hu
Run by a Dutch couple, this motel and medium sized campsite is a perfect stopover en route to or from Romania, being only 30 minutes away from the border. There’s no structured pitches and basic facilities, although it has a non-commercialised and informal feel to it. As you drive in you are welcomed with Hungarian flags and their own church, which has some interesting history! Underneath the trees you get great shade and you are not far from the river where you can hire a boat or two. They have a restaurant offering local fare, although we didn’t eat there. There are plenty of walks just outside of the campsite and you are only five minutes drive away from what looked like a charming thermal town with its own Spa and Baths. Well worth a look around if you have time. €18 per night.
Camping Haller – Budapest (47.476100 19.083640) ACSI www.hallercamping.hu
Whilst this site wasn’t salubrious and has a commercial feel to it, it was ideal for visiting Budapest. You are only a 15 minute walk to the Danube and museums, from which you can then pick up trams and only 10 minutes walk from the station where you can buy your travel tickets for getting around the city. Tram number 24 stops right outside the campground. The facilities aren’t great, although there are plenty of parking spots and a restaurant if you don’t fancy cooking. We found an amazing restaurant in town, close to the Parliament Buildings, which we highly recommend. Click here for our review. Surprisingly, Camping Haller is not as noisy as you might expect from an inner city campsite and at only €18 per night and really cheap washing machine facilities – it’s a super place to explore the city.
Camping Hintohaz – Somogygeszti (46.544304 17.944119) ACSI www.kempinghintohaz.nl
Our final and best camping spot in our brief sojourn in Hungary was Camping Hintohaz. Run by Dutchman André, you will be greeted with a friendly and informal welcome, a drink from the bar and a wonderfully terraced campsite with excellent facilities. In fact one of the best shower blocks we have seen in Eastern Europe. André has put a huge investment into the campsite and with its beautifully grassed areas, you have tranquility, countryside views and comfort. There was no ‘locked gate until you pay’ policy here, unlike another campsite we experienced in Hungary. We highly recommend coming to this campsite if you’re close by. Whilst there isn’t much to do in the surrounding area, sometimes this is just what you need. André is keen to share a bit of Hungarian history, which is wonderful and his warmth is palpable. And only for €10 per night. This is an absolute must visit.
Check out our Drone footage here:
After seven weeks in Poland in the summer of 2018, we were blessed with 34 different places to stay, of which 12 were campsites. Sites here are often eclectic, although always delightful and our spot best sites were:
Camping Polana Sosny – Dunajec (49.40475, 20.33288) ACSI www.niedzica.pl
This was a super campsite nestled in between Dunajec Reservoir with its grand historic castle and the fast-flowing Dunajec river. At just £10 per night, which even in August has plenty of space, this is a steal. 2 miles away from the castle, just up on the dam for a gorgeous sunset and you can book river kayaks from here too. We did a 22 mile cycle that took us left from the site into Slovakia and then we followed the river path for 14 miles before crossing the bridge and then coming through the forest. What a stunning location.
Camping Kaputy – Warsaw (52.2305, 20.7919) ACSI www.camping222.pl
A super ACSI site that gave you a 10% discount even though it was summer season. Attached to a hotel, the grounds were well managed and the facilities excellent. A bus stopped just outside the campsite for Warsaw although it looked a bit of a trek, so we moved to the secure parking on the day we wanted to visit the city. Highly recommend this lovely spot.
So, what can we say? Central and Eastern Europe are full of treasure, warmth, incredible sights and experiences and wonderful places to stay. If you love wild camping, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia are particular good as long as you abide by the values of discretion, respect and giving back. Recent history may well have tarnished the countries’ reputation, although they are rebuilding their lives, growing stronger and with their resilience are fight back to earn their rightful place in people’s affections. Central and Eastern Europe are not to be feared – they are only to be loved. Cost of living is a bonus to the experience of travelling through these wonderful countries and we cannot recommend more highly some time in these delightful, unassuming and peaceful places. Come East, you’ll not regret it!