Slovenia may be a relatively new country that has emerged from the rubble of the Yugoslavia Federation although as a tourist destination it packs a serious punch.
In June 1991, Slovenia became the first republic to make the split and become an independent sovereign state. In 2004 it entered Nato and the EU, and from this point, this gentle and endearing country has grown as a serious contender for tourists’ affections.
Bordered by Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, Slovenia stands out amongst its neigbours. Dominated by the Julian Alps it competes admirably when it comes to winter sports, alpine scenery and dramatic gorges cut by the ice blue waters of the Soča river.And then there are its iconic views; the unforgettable Lake Bled with its island church, the Postojna Caves with its unique underground train ride and ancient Predjama, the largest cave castle in the world. And that’s before we mention is exquisite wine producing vineyards and charming coastline along the Adriatic Sea.
And yet it is Slovenia’s hidden gems that makes it so memorable for us and why we felt compelled to write this blog and share our little discoveries. Follow our visual tour will give you incentive to come visit this subtle powerhouse destination and seek out the magnificence of this gentle giant, soaring its way up through the world tourist ranks. Check out our Interactive Route Map below to see our routes, POI and overnight stopovers from our last two visits.
Surprise 1 – Kranjska Gora
I have never thought of Slovenia as a winter sport nation and yet on its northerly fringes you will find their ski-resort Mecca. Kranjska is a charming alpine village at the foot of the Julian Alps that tower above you. With ski-slopes, ski-jumps and toboggan runs this really is a resort that is putting Slovenia on the winter sport’s map. Even during the summer, the resort is used as a training ground for countries around the world. The sporting season aside, Kranjska with its mountain range offers hikers fabulous walks that will stretch the calves and cycle rides along the old railway that takes you across the border into Italy. If a less active set up is more your scene, then you can use Kranjska as a base for exploring Lubljana, Lake Bled, the Vrsic Pass and Bovec, all reachable by bus.
For camping stay at the Aire alongside the ski resort for €15 payable with the Easypark App
For a great meal go to Gostilna Viktor Pizzeria.
Check out our Gallery by clicking below.
Surprise 2 – Soca Valley
With its source deep in the throat of the Julian Alps, the Soca river with its ice blue water courses its way creatively through the valley. Carving deep crevices and gorges, the Soca Valley will delight those looking for a secret summer swim or perhaps even provide the thrill of some serious white water rafting in the spring season. The photographer in you will cry in delight as the valley navigates and snakes its way to Gulf of Trieste in Italy’s north east corner. If you toodle just down the valley to Kanal ob Soči, during steamy summer days you will see the young children jumping off the cliff into the inviting river below. It has so many different faces that driving from the Vrsic Pass following the river’s flow will give you such a great experience all on its own.
Travel across the Vrsic Pass, route 206 from Kranjska which picks up the Soča river at Bovec.
Stop off at the Russian Chapel that commemorates those Russian soldiers who died building the Pass.
Catch the bus if you don’t want to drive the pass in your car or camper.
Check out our Video and Photo Gallery by clicking below.
Surprise 3 – Bovec
Ljubljana and Lake Bled are obvious choices for a trip to Slovenia. And whilst they are undeniably beautiful they are tourist traps. The off-the-beaten-track alternative is to visit Bovec. This charming mountain village is nestled in the Alps and is the gateway to the Soča Valley. It can shout proudly about its own ski resort although it is its war memorials that are the greatest surprise. At the Tourist Office in the characterful old town, youcan pick up a map with all the Great War references in the area. Most notable are the Ravelnik outdoor museum which you can wander around as if the war ended yesterday, almost smelling the gunshots and sweat from the men in the trenches. The War Cemetery is a sobering visit and seeing the Fortress that played an important role in the Austro-Hungarian arm of the war, will fill in your War education jigsaw.
And if nature is your thing, then a hike to the Slap Virje waterfall will appeal to all your senses or a cycle down to the valley floor where the Soča masters its way through the rocks and pebbles. Bovec is a super place to explore.
There are a number of basic campsites in Bovec or the Aire at the Ski Resort has full services and facilities and a stunning backdrop.
Visit the Tourist Info for a map of the War Memorials in the area.
Book your kayak and rafting experience from the many companies in the town.
Check out our Gallery by clicking below.
Surprise 4 – Bohinj
Lake Bled with its iconic island church and castle are understandable draws when visiting Slovenia, although for a more authentic and more intimate exploration, head 30 minutes into the mountains to Bohinj. Here you will find fewer tourists and earthy campsites that give you full permission to soak up the silence of Mother Nature. This is a true haven and a delight to visit as an alternative to Bled.
We stayed at Camp Bohinj, which is an earthy and rustic site hidden in the forest with lakeside access.
Bring your camera and your kayak.
Surprise 5 – Vintgar Gorge
Tick off Bled for sure although don’t leave without visiting the Vintgar Gorge, just under 2 miles away (3km). A bus shuttle will take you there for 5€ or you can cycle the route if you have a bit of power! Vintgar is a return trip of 3 miles (5km) and for a 10€ entrance fee you will wind your way through the deeplycarved gorge on well built and safe boardwalks. The twists and turns of the river finally crescendo over the each in a spectacular waterfall making this a charming walk if you’re in the area.
My surprise of the caves were two-fold. Firstly as caves go this is one of the most spectacular we have ever seen. For sheer wow, it’s a must visit. With the train that takes you deep into the mountains and then a two mile walk through chambers created by Mother Nature in an artistic masterpiece. Stalagtites dripping from the ceiling and stalagmites rising from the floor with a texture like marble. Van Gough would have, I’m sure, been proud of the artistic talent displayed down here without any single intervention by man nor beast. This is one place that absolutely needs to be experienced and the train itself that carries into the heart of the mountains is an event all of its own. Resembling a Ghost Train at a Fun Fair, you trundle through the mountains by a living gallery of underground sculptures.
The second surprise of the caves were the crowds. Wow, we were part of a colony of ants, or so it seemed. Despite getting there for the fist train of the day, there were hundreds of people already gathered, jostling for position at the entrance as if they were about to miss the January sales. More and more we realise that the whole ‘shoulder season’ really is diluted these days as on our mistyand murkyOctober visit, at least 30 coaches were already in the car park lined upin wait for the return of their charges.
Get to the caves for the 1000am train and arrive at the entrance so that you can get as far forward on the train as a possible. This way there is less crowd management required.
Booking tickets on line is not necessary – so don’t worry if it says there are no tickets available. You can purchase at the Ticket Office just before the train entrance. It costs €25.80 per person for just the caves or €35.70 for a combination ticket for the castle’s inclusion.
Take layers and warm clothing as it is very cool down in the belly of the caves. Also sturdy shoes are necessary as it is quite damp on the walk ways. There’s little danger of slipping, although decent footwear is appropriate.
And whilst you are in the area, why not drive just just over 5 miles (9km) to see the world’s largest cave Castle of Predjama. Not a huge amount of parking available, although if you go early or later in the day it is doable with a camper.
Check out our Video and Gallery by clicking below.
Surprise 7 – Ljubljana
We’re not great city people on the whole, although always visit because all sides of travel need to be explored. And we are so glad, on this occasion that we pushed past our city prejudice. Ljubljana is a clean, compact and charming city that oozes a chill-out command. With its castle views across the northern landscape to its Triple Bridge linking the medieval old town with its new suburbs, we adored this city. We only had a couple of hours here as we were meeting friends although we saw enough to be endeared to the cityscape. From that point onwe vowed to give all cities a chance because they may surprise you.
If you are travelling in a camper, stay outside of the city and travel in by bus. We stayed 20 minsnorth of the city at a pub camperstop – Gostilna Pri Kovaču (46.031321 14.604002). There is a bus right outside the pub that takes you into the city.
3-5 hours is enough to get a good feel for Ljubljana.
Check out our Video and city Gallery by clicking below.
Surprise 8 – Slovene Riviera
We have never given any thought to Slovenia’s coastline. With it giant competition either side, Croatia and Italy often seem to be far more of an attraction. Although what an incredible visit for the week it was. With Slovenia’s major port Koper at one end and Piran on the southern edge, you have a delightful coastline with nooks, crannies and rugged shoreline to play with. Harbours and street cafés, cycle and walking paths and nature reserves, this region is sublime. And Piran and Izola are just incredible medieval towns that has history and iconic Venetian beauty carved into their mortar. Back in from the coastline, the mountains are dominated by vineyards and olive groves and well worth a little diversion. It was such a delight and one place I would happilyreturn for a bit of RnR. For our full post about the area with detailed Trip Guides, click here.
Out of season is great in the Riviera, although even in October, when the weather is typically gorgeous, locals will all come out for the weekend. So bear this in mind.
For camping options, there is nothing at all in Piran. So we recommend staying in Izola which is halfwaybetween Piran and Koper and then use the cycle path that takes you from north to south effortlessly, to explore. We stayed at a Parking Area run by EasyParking and cost €11.30 per night payable with the app. Or you can pay €10 at the machine as long as you have coins.
Check out our Gallery by clicking below.
Surprise9 – Slovenia’s wine
Who would have thought that Slovenia would be a great wine producer. Well the vineyards may be newto the global wine stage, they are definitely worth trying. With fabulous soil and karst landscape it makes for outstanding wineries, which in the south particularly are seriously beginning to compete with established brands with their Italian neighbours. We particularly enjoyed the family run vineyard Saksida in Nova Goricia which has a fabulous selection of wines at reasonable prices. Theyalso offer a wonderful campsite and 5* restaurant open at weekends.
Also further south in the Slovene Riviera there is a fabulous wine tasting experience at Marezige Vinska Fontana. Up in the hills behind the coast youcan, for €8 buy a glass (that you keep) and 3 tokens that allow you to choose from four wine fountains. It is home to the Refošk Wine, well known in this region.
Practicalities of visiting Slovenia
The diversity of the country is enormous and deserves plenty of time exploring. Be mindful of the season you visit. Early spring and late autumn the weather becomes unpredictable and, in themountains you will often see plummeting temperatures and snow. This may impact on some of the mountain passes and you may need winter tyres or snow socks at the very least.
The currency of Slovenia is Euro.
There is generally very good English spoken in the main resorts, although as with every country a few phrases of Slovene will be appreciated. Try these; Havla – thank you. Doberdan – a formal hello.Govoriš angleško – do you speak English? Lahko dobim račun, prosim – can I have the bill please? Bye – Adijo
Although travelling around the country without going on the motorways is doable, sometimes it’s just easier to hop on for a quicker journey – especially if your time is short. So you will need a vignette which you can buy at most Petrol Stations. It costs just €15 for 7 days.
Take cash, as whilst credit cards are accepted, many restaurants will only take payment in cash.
Download the app EasyPark so you can easily pay your parking chargesfor either car or camper.
If you are travelling in your camper, please respect their no wild camping rules. There are plentyof campsites and Aire options and although they maybe more basic than western Europe, they make perfectly good bases for exploration.
If you are flying, Lubljana’s Joze Pucnik Airport is your main hub which is accessible from all over Europe, many destinations of which offer cheap fares. It is 16 miles (26km) north west of the capital so transportation will be required. A taxi to the city starts from €20.
Slovenia is an undiscovered marvel and we realise that we haven’t even scratched the surface. Although if you love nature, outdoor life, World War History, wines, coastline and stunning mountain scenery then Slovenia will not disappoint. For a gentle nation with a diverse landscape that packs a powerful punch, Slovenia will delight and surprise in equal measure.
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Bratislava – where in the world are we? Go on take a couple of guesses! In fact let’s turn question on its head. What is the capital of Slovakia? Until three weeks ago when we first entered this little known to us country, I think if either of these questions had come up in a Quiz I would probably have failed dismally. When it comes to Geography getting an A’ Level doesn’t really guarantee you knowledge about this sort of detail and, given when I was at school Slovakia didn’t even exist at the time, then perhaps I could be forgiven.
Having arrived in this lovely capital after an all too brief encounter with Slovakia, we wondered whether it would be the icing on the cake to our trip or a damp squib. In fairness it was neither, thanks to a bout of gastric flu which had both of us bed-bound over the course of 48hrs. So if we’re honest the enthusiasm to do anything more than just a perfunctory tour was firmly tucked up under the duvet. Still I felt compelled to go visit – I think this is one of the few downsides to travel writing; when you’re blessed with being in a new place, it feels important and necessary to comment on your experiences. No bad thing, yet it is this passion that drove me to leave my beloved in bed and go experience Bratislava, for my very own Brief Encounter. And I’m glad I did as it was very pleasant.
Let’s start with an atmospheric build up to get you in the mood. Picture the grey-blue waters of the mighty Danube river, which crosses through four country capitals en route to its Romanian Delta and Black Sea homecoming. A river that buzzes with long, square hotel boats that cruise its fast flowing waters with the odd jet-ski braving its engine powers against its forceful flow. Riverbanks that equally vibrate with a throng of people as they sit on make-shift, artificial beaches, play volleyball and promenade with their kids along Europe’s second longest river after the Volga.
Add to that, the vision of a fusion of ancient and modern culture as you are welcomed into the city’s beating heart by a UFO bridge that looks like something out of a Star Trek movie, with the backdrop of a castle placed atop of a hill as if put there by a child making a LEGO model. That really messes with your mind.
Then finally throw in for good measure that this 18th century city stands at the cusp of two other countries; Hungary and Austria – the only national capital to border two sovereign states. This creates a multi-cultural feel to this compact and bijou-style capital that has charm, architecture and a myriad of alleyways that set to intrigue the visitor as we look to master the secrets of this place. Click on the Gallery below for some more images.
Tour around Bratislava
First things first. I love photography and so you will often find me guided around a city, or any place we visit come to think of it, for its photogenic quality perhaps rather than its factual and historical characteristics. And so this is what I present to you today – photographer’s insight into Bratislava.
Taking myself from our parking spot for the night, which was right on the Danube river edge, it was just a short walk across the Stary most bridge towards the hub of the city. My first image of modern Bratislava caught my eye at that moment. Looking down the Danube with the view of Apollo bridge in the distance, the magnificent body of water edged by office blocks and the life that buzzed in, through and around it. Whilst not necessarily pretty as a picture, they do represent modern city life. Whilst the old town sector always capture my imagination more powerfully, I do love these abstract images of city life.
My next port of call, was to seek out Bratislava’s answer to the latest global trend of Umbrella Art. Streets all around the world started to follow Portugal’s lead three years ago when each July they celebrate the Ágitagueda art festival with a display of coloured umbrellas. We saw our first display at Rupea Castle in Romania and so when I caught a glimpse of Bratislava’s very own offering, it was very much on my radar.
Inspired by the beautiful cross-stitch embroidery from Vajnor’s surroundings and the paintings of Ľudovít Fulla, Bratislava makes its first 2018 appearance onto the Umbrella Art stage and can be seen at Nedbalka Street from 30 June until 30 September. Now I’ll be honest that it didn’t wow me as some of the images I’ve seen around the world of similar exhibits and in truth I don’t think the museum who sponsored it did it any favours with having scaffolding up, although this small exhibition sort of summed up Bratislava for me. Small, discrete, understated and, just cute.
I’m not a great historian nor do I have a great fancy for museums, although my photographer’s eye does seriously appreciate architecture and this is something that Bratislava has in bucketloads. In fact between its medieval, baroque and gothic designs, you will have neck-ache with the constant gazing to the skies as you, like me search out the real truth of a city landscape. Bratislava has a good range of buildings that give a historical backbone to the city; Michael’s Gate is the only building preserved from the medieval fortifications and stands as a strong iconic symbol to this city, palaces appear on almost every street and churches take their lofty position as they guard the city’s spiritual well-being.
And aside of the Old Town square which is full of life and vibrance from its café bars and fountains to its robust and ancient buildings, there are a multitude of alleyways that just call you to wander. And the beauty is that you never get lost. Click on the Gallery below for some more images.
It’s always great to see how a city interprets art – we obviously see so much of it etched into the fabric of its buildings, although the type of art I’m talking about are the statue, monument and paintings type of art. I didn’t find a huge amount in fairness, although Bratislava has huge competition with Poland’s Wrocław – now they seriously know how to do art. Although there were a couple of elements to reveal to the curious tourist and Instagramer.
I found a bronze statue of Napoleon soldier in the Old Town square. Legend has it when Napoleon’s army was in the city in 1805 that Hubert decided to stay after he fell in love with a local and became a wine producer.
Second is Cumil – which is translated as ‘Communist era worker who is simply not bothered’, created by Viktor Hulík in 1997. Touch the man’s head and make a wish – it is said to come true.
This wall art was hard to miss on the outer edges of the Old Town.
And what city would be complete if it wasn’t for its musicians. These guys were something else – their passion written into the lines on their faces.
Bratislava’s Old Town
I’m not, if I’m really honest, a city girl. As an introvert traveller the frenetic energy of the crowds, the tourist traps and the traffic are just too much for me to bear – well for too long anyway. So you’ll only ever find us in a city, or even a town come to think of it, for half a day. That’s normally enough for us to soak up the feel of a place. Then we retreat back into the heart of the countryside to recharge our batteries.
That said I am a bit partial to an Old Town. They capture the essence of history, the locals who lived there in a bygone era and, I think they stand as a testimony to the scars, battles and victories. I also love the photogenic quality they offer me to see the people interacting around the city’s heart.
Bratislava’s Old Town is based around its main square – Hlavné Námestie and where you find its Japanese Embassy, City museum, Old Town Hall and of course an obligatory fountain with pigeons. This has a lovely feel to it and from here the town has arterial veins that spur off in all directions, enticing you to follow. Alleyways that intrigue, streets that implore your gaze and archways that just have to be walked through. Of course you could just follow one of the many walking tours although that’s not so fun. Here’s some of the images I found that I think sum up the soul of Bratislava. Click on the Gallery below for some more images.
Bratislava’s Bold and Old
I just love contrasts that the world presents to the willing viewer – for me they defy logic and structure. And in a world that often demands conformity I love that contrasts stick a right royal two fingers up to that notion. Bratislava I thought had plenty of contrast weaving throughout its streets. In particular I loved how its magnificent castle holds its rightful place overlooking its kingdom, proud and strong. And right opposite it in direct contrast you have the most boldly designed bridge I have ever seen. The UFO Bridge seriously competes for centre stage on the Bratislava vista.
Now the castle is a thing of beauty although at this point in my tour, my energy had run out to visit inside, so I admired from below like so many of its past subjects. Heading back across the bridge of many names was my final goal. This is a pretty unique bridge; it is the 7th largest hanging bridge in the world and its top is shaped like a space ship, hence its UFO label – you can even eat up there, which must be a terrific experience. With a 45 second lift ride up to the Observation Deck where, after parting with €7.40, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the city and beyond – on a clear day. The bridge is also significant as a memorial to the Slovakian Uprising of 1944, hence its secondary name the most SNP bridge or New Bridge if that is too much of a mouthful. It is a serious work of art and definitely worth putting on your Bratislava itinerary.
On a return trip to the city four days later with a friend, we had the chance to look around the castle grounds and it is seriously beautiful and the views spectacular.
It’s easy to stay enslaved to a city’s beauty and be captured within its walls never seeing outside its confines. And yet there is so much more to see within such easy striking distance. For one, stretching north you have the Small Carpathian mountains for hiking pleasure. You have the many vineyards that gently cling to the rolling hills to the east, west Austria’s Vienna calls, no more than an hour drive and a little bit further on you can reach the charismatic Budapest in Hungary. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a city that has such a great central hub for visiting other places.
Although my final sharing for today is not quite that far afield – just a mere 12km away up the Danube towards the Austrian border. Devín and its castle are definitely worth a detour. At the confluence of the Morava and Danube river, a stronghold settlement has been here for over two centuries and from 13th century the castle began its evolution. Although destroyed by Napoleon, its remains have become a National Cultural Monument and for €5 you are able to enter the castle grounds to learn about its yesteryear tale.
Walking around the area is beautiful although it has a cloak of darkness veiled around it. You will see memorial stones and monuments that have been erected to commemorate those who died during the Cold War. The Iron Curtain was drawn right on the edge of the Danube riverbank in-front of the castle and it is said that over 400 people died trying to cross it in a bid for freedom on Austria’s western shores. These tributes serve as a cold reminder of times when persecution and dominance still had not been healed from the horrors of WW2. Click on the Gallery below for some more images.
Top Tips for Bratislava
Based on our two trips, whilst my first impression was I am sure jaded by my virus, my return journey nailed my adoration of Bratislava. So based on our experiences, here are our top tips for making the most of the city.
If you can visit on a Sunday, the crowds will be significantly reduced and you will have more space to explore.
Visit the Castle grounds, which are free of charge – so if you’re on a budget then this is a fabulous way to not only see the whole cityscape, you also get a peak into the grandeur of the grounds.
Do allow at least half-a-day, as by the time you have wondered, visited the castle, had a coffee/beer and visited a museum or two, you will need that time to really feel the city’s heart-beat.
Parking in the city is tricky, so head over to the opposite side of the river and park in the free parking area by the Stary Most Bridge.
Walk over the Stary Most bridge through the town and then back across the UFO bridge for a really good all round view of the city.
Stop at one of the many cafés and bars; first it’s incredibly cheap and secondly it’s great to just watch the world go by and feel the city’s pulse.
Do buy one a Gelato ice-cream – they are something else.
Take your phone-charger cables as they have just installed charging benches along the Promenade by the old town. So if you have been spending too much time on Social Media and run out of juice, why not take a load off and take a charge.
Why not take a hydrofoil to Vienna, for €40-70 and just 80 minutes of your time, you get to see the Danube in all its beauty and get to see two cities for the price of one. How’s that for a super travel experience? Check out up to date prices here.
And so there is your photographic journey through Bratislava, seen through my eyes and my lens. It may not be a weekend break type of place, although it certainly deserves a visit en route to Budapest or Vienna. I enjoyed what I saw and thought that a half-day excursion was well worth its value. I hope you enjoyed the ride too.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Slovakia actually a perfectly sumptuous place to wild camp and in our three weeks there we only had five nights in a campsite. Although this one is in the heart of an amazing National Park, which if you love challenging hikes, is a must.
The campsite is a bit uneven although with chocks is ok. There’s a number of hook up points up at the top of the campsite. You need to buy .50c tokens for the washing machine and shower (which lasts 3 mins) The same token does a 1hr wash. For a night and two people with EHU it cost €17.50 in August and with walks directly from the site, it really is an ideal spot.
Camping Podlesok Paradise National Park.
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!
For some people eating is a passion and cooking is a work of art; for others, it’s just a necessary evil. Whichever is true for you, there’s no doubt that seeking out a traditional restaurant is one of the best ways to get a true flavour of another country’s culture.
We don’t eat out often because when you have the luxury of your own home on wheels, eating in is so easy. Although we do love to try local food and experiment with regional delicacies; yet finding a restaurant that serves up authentic fare and not just a tourist designed menu at exorbitant prices, can be hard. Let’s face it we are visitors to a strange land and whilst we may well be armed with the latest Travel Guide, finding a place that suits our budget and our palette can be like looking for a needle in a haystack – especially in the heart of a throbbing city.
So when someone can share their personal insights of an outstanding restaurant with great food and service, then it surely must be done.
Hungry in Hungary
With our flying visit through Hungary and a pit stop at Budapest to rendezvous with friends and family, we were introduced to a restaurant that looked too good to be true. Our research took us to their website that promotes their unique approach to dining, offering traditional Hungarian recipes inspired by Grandma’s family kitchen. And unlike lots of websites that often don’t uphold their promises – The Hungarikum Bisztró most certainly delivered – on all counts. And we liked it so much we went back twice.
So how can I take you on a gastronomic journey that imparts our experiences and inspires you to visit?
Location, Location, Location
The Danube, Budapest
Let’s start off by the Bisztró’s location. So you are two streets away from the Danube and the bustling vibrance of cruise boats, ferries and tugs gliding up and down the waterway. You are only four blocks away from the most stunning of Budapest buildings – the Parliament Palace and in the same vicinity you have the M3 Underground Metro, making it position perfect.
Now, I’ll be honest, the building that the Bisztró calls home is not magnificent from the outside and has a very understated feel about it, so your initial reaction is one of caution and uncertainty. A discretely branded sign hangs inconspicuously above the door, giving you little hint to the splendour of what is behind. And then you walk through their entrance…
The minute you enter you are transported into a home-from-home room that feels like it could be your own personal dining room, offering no more than forty covers, yet giving you an immediately intimate feel. You are then struck with panic – will we be able to get a table? Your fears are soon allayed, as the girls study their booking sheet and soon have you sat down, even if you have to wait for just a few minutes. In our two visits, the restaurant was full although no one was ever turned away.
Decorated in comforting autumnal tones of deep red and golden yellows, this delightful restaurant creates a warm ambiance that penetrates your tourist weary souls and you feel this wave of restfulness wash over you. And that’s before you have even looked at the menu of simple Hungarian delights. Red checked cloths grace the tables and bookcases of paprika paste and Hungarian wines decorate the walls – you really do feel at home.
Food, Glorious Food
Then you get your menus, in the language of your choice accompanied by a tablet that shows you each and every plate of food so that they can tantalise your imagination as well as your tastebuds. So the difficulty now is what on earth you will eat. Will it be the crispy leg of duck with Hungarian red cabbage or the plaited pork fillet with paprika sauce and cabbage dumplings? Perhaps it will be the Special Dish of the Day – strips of beef fillet in a traditional goulash style sauce and fried potatoes.
And in that gap between your tantalising expectations and your first mouthful, that is so often filled with an emptiness that has you chewing on your fingernails, the girls come out with a complementary appetiser of delicate chunks of Hungarian bread baked with bacon and a piquant paprika dip that will have you reaching for a glass of wine to dowse the heat building in your mouth. The local wines I’m told are delightful and the beers, I am happy to report are scrumptious.
During our first visit, my greedy ego just wanted to taste everything, so I indulged in a platter of Hungarian tasters of bacon and chorizo styled sausage and breads, which was delightful. Although, as so often is the case, my eyes were too big for my tummy and by the time the main course arrived with big smiles and a warmth of your closest friend, I was already quite full. Although nothing was going to stop me from enjoying the deliciousness of my crispy duck. It was heavenly, as was each and every meal on our table. Simplicity and hearty plates of food draw you in seductively to their regional charm.
And with satiated appetites, the girls finally bring you a complementary glass of Grappa; a blast of fire water that alights your mouth with an explosion of taste, rounding off this divine restaurant experience with a sensory finale.
Hungarikum Bisztro Team
We must not go without a mentioning István and his team; both behind the scenes in the all-important the kitchen and the front-of-house. The food is cooked with loving care and consistency and it is delivered by a team of angels. They treat you, not like visitors or tourists, they engage with you like friends and there is a sense of their desire to give you a great experience. The team is picked with care and they each uphold the restaurant’s values that puts authentic cooking and service as its priority.
So as you leave the sanctuary of this friendly and warm restaurant back into the buzz of Budapest, you take with you memories of gastronomic delights in your belly and an eating experience that goes deep into your heart, however you happen to feel about food. This is one place that not only promotes the tastes of Hungary, it also represents Hungarian’s hospitality perfectly and we implore you to put this on your Budapest tour.
You arrive as hungry visitors and you leave as friends of Hungary.
Address: 1051 Budapest, Steindl Imre Utica, 13, (47.503462 19.048057)
Telephone number for recommended reservations: 36 30 661 6244.
Hi, Karen & Myles, The Motoroamers here. We are a fun-loving couple travelling full-time around Europe in Scoobie our trusty camper. We're driven to deliver seriously entertaining travel through our blogs, photography and humorous videos. We hope to inspire you too to travel.