Epic trip back.. (Sept 2008)

n549775618_1811593_4694.jpgI always knew that it was going to be a smoother ride back to Slovakia, the drive home had been an education, this time it would be different. For the return voyage, I had the pleasure of having my Swedish girlfriend Lisa by my side, Darwin was no more. I was leaving nothing to chance, having lots of spare parts with me meant we were ready for almost anything, in addition to this we had a few extra days to play with, an essential ingredient for a more relaxing journey. We avoided the UK by catching the Ireland – France ferry, this was an 18 hour overnight crossing, we booked a sleeping cabin, so it felt like a mini cruise. After a smooth sail we were delighted to encounter a playful dolphin swimming around the ferry as we docked!

Following this bright start the plan was to head in a south-easterly direction. We done the wine tours and seen the castles, but in reality it was nature we desired most, the mountains were calling once again, the French and Swiss Alps lay deliciously in our path. We hiked in the shadows of the mighty Mont Blanc, the highest peak in western Europe, before moving onwards to  Switzerland’s classic Matterhorn, where the thrifty chamois, another of my wish list animals was encountered.  Italy lay temptingly ahead and offered us charming lakes and historic cities. Verona’s pink marble Roman amphitheatre was a sight to behold, whilst Venice was just like you might imagine it to be, although the crowds were sometimes overpowering. Eastwards we continued, Slovenia was next to be discovered, and what a discovery it was.

Throughout the trip we became experts at parking and sleeping at very beautiful and isolate locations, Lisa was adamant that we should avoid campsites if possible and find shelter in nature. This added a certain element of danger and excitement to the journey. It would be late evening, almost nightfall perhaps, our driving would be over for the day, then the search for the ultimate campsite began! Despite driving in some remote areas, its surprisingly difficult to get off the road and park, and there is always the possibility that some angry land owner will rise up against us. Woodlands always provided the best cover, we found that forest tracks that had ‘vehicles not allowed’ signs were ironically the most accommodating.

And so it was that we awoke in the forests south of Paris and slept in the shadow of the Matterhorn. Italy proved quite a challenge, the lakes and cities were so crowded that Petrov was forced to sleep within the confines of a campsite. Slovenia was a welcome reprieve, It was night time when we crossed the border so we just left the highway, got on the secondary roads, and searched for a dirt track. The VW was amazingly graceful on these mini off road adventures. The high clearance underneath and rear wheel power ensured that we always got to our chosen plot. Ideally a lake or river would be nearby, and the morning often started with a very brief, very cold, but ultimately refreshing swim/bath!

Slovenia has it all; deep caves, rocky mountains, dense forests, spectacular waterfalls, and raging rivers. And it’s a small country too so it was a relaxing way to bring our trip to its conclusion. Off road parking became free and easy once again. After spending a few days in its western half we continued eastwards and crossed into Hungary. We took shelter someone’s field, its tall crop protected us from disclosure. It was to be our last night in the wild, as the bright lights of Budapest were not far away and there we would dwell with friends. Two days later we found ourselves back in Kosice, we had made it, we had gone there and back again, just like Bilbo Baggins!

I will try give a rough summary of expenses… You must bare in mind that I chose the most expensive time in the history of mankind to embark on a road trip! For example, in July 08 petrol cost 1.60euro/liter in Germany. Combining both journeys, we spent a month on the road, visited 10 countries, and drove some 6700kms. On petrol I figure we spent about 500euros each way, 1000 in total. Petrov was doing 8.5kms per litre, at an average price of 1.30 a litre. Then you can add road tolls on top of this. Ferries were an additional expense, the France – UK one was the best value at about 70euro. Campsites were variable, the most expensive one was in Vienna, they charged us a massive 35euro because the Euro2008 football final had saturated the city with German motorhomes! Campsites cost around 20euros in the alpine regions, but as I earlier explained, the best camping spots were free. Food is tricky, you want to dine out in a local restaurant and sample the regional dishes, but van cooking is much cheaper, the choice is yours. Hiking is free, the nature is out there, but if you visit the high profile tourist places, you are going to have to spend money to access the nature. But ultimately its worth it. We have seen sights that will stay with us forever.

Life on the road can be tough, the weather may turn bad, the road wont always bring you where you intended to go, your engine may let you down. I was lucky enough to have wonderful travel companions, nice weather, and a faithful van. Ok we had some small troubles on the route home, but in the end these troubles actually enriched the journey. On the way back I was heavily armed with spare parts and nothing happened, it was a trouble free journey, no drama! Its strange, but I must admit that I almost missed the hardship, the uncertain future, but most of all the joy of overcoming the problem and getting back on the road once again.

Would I do it again?? Sure I would 🙂 In fact at the moment we are planning to embark on a voyage northwards in Summer 09. The proposed route is Slovakia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, from where we will board a ferry and cross over to Sweden. I graduate from Kosice veterinary university in June 09, so I really must experience as much of this beautiful part of the world now, as I might not get the chance again. Life is an adventure, choose bus!


  1. kathleen and gary

    Well Simon, thats an epic tale,.were very jealous,sounds like an amazing trip,no doubt the next one will have as many highlights and stories to be told over many guinness ,s …well done faithful Petrov……looking fwd to joining you on the trip to.Spring Podmitrov 09…
    your old faithful crew (minus Old David ..hehe)

  2. BigFoot

    Great trip mate, we’ve done dublin-kosice 2 times 😉 Well, not with the bus, but still great journey though. Are you still in kosice? Don’t you fancy a cold guinness in the irish pub? 🙂

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