Archive for the 'Camper Europe Trip' Category


Europe Trip – Southern California Part 2


Well, this second month we kept on sticking to the same scenario: the pool or the beach and playgrounds or parks almost every day. Together with plenty of birthdays, visits from friends and family as well as trips to amongst others Disneyland, made it a great time for the kids with plenty of quality time.

Enjoy our photos!


Europe Trip – Southern California Part 1


Well, we are not actually travelling in Europe anymore, but spending time with the American side of the family in Southern California. The weather is nice and sunny every day all day, which makes spending time in the swimming pool, at the beach or at playgrounds, very pleasurable. Exactly what we needed to recover from 8 months traveling.

Here are some pictures of our first month in perpetual summer weather.



Europe Trip – Austria & Germany – Heading home


Entering Austria, the weather was cold and rainy and the campsites were very full because of the long Ascension holiday weekend. We took one day to visit the super busy capital Vienna. Filled with historical buildings, museums and opera houses, we could just stroll along the many parks, streets and squares.  On our way out, we passed the famous castle Schönbrunn.

We then made a half-day stop in the little town of Melk, where the most famous monastery of Austria is dominating the hill. The Stift of Melk is an amazing baroque abbey built in the beginning of the 18th century, where the marble hall, the library and the church are the main showpieces.



In Germany, we spent a day in the nice medieval town Regensburg, containing one of the oldest stone bridges spanning the Danube, and a twin-towered cathedral which is one of the nicest in Southern Germany.

Our last stop before Belgium was the house of our dear friends Meike and Skip in Duisburg. We spent two days relaxing, catching up and playing games before the last 4 hour stretch to Leuven.


Europe Trip – Hungary – Highlights



Our first stop in Hungary was the lively university town of Szeged, on the Tisza River, and home to colorful palaces and museums. As there was a festival in town, we got immersed in the Hungarian party atmosphere.

Heading north, we drove through the wide Hungarian Grasslands or puszta, to Kiskunsag National Park and the small settlement of Bugacpuszta. There we saw the famous Hungarian cowboys ride and race their horses bareback, crack their whips and one csikos gallops five horses at one time while standing on their backs.  The whole experience, including the carriage ride through the plains to the Shepherds museum, was fun and really interesting, even in the sweltering spring heat.

The artist village of Szentendre, just north of Budapest, where narrow, winding streets are filled with arts and crafts galleries, was a good stop before heading into Hungary’s capital Budapest. Our campsite was in parkland outside of town, so we needed to take public transport to get to the center. The beautiful and huge Parliament building, right next to the Danube, is an amazing sight and dominates Pest. We spent the whole day on the Buda side of the river, exploring the amazing Castle Hill, where most of Budapest’s remaining medieval buildings are clustered. The Royal Palace, Matthias Church, Fishermen’s Bastion and all nooks and crannies in the historical center were a delight to explore.

We then headed westward to make our way through Austria and Germany.


Europe trip – Bulgaria – Full-on Eastern Europe


We entered Bulgaria through the southwest and after being scammed a double fee for the road toll vignette, we arrived in Melnik, one of the country’s most distinctive villages due to its traditional architecture, local wine and location tucked beneath imposing sandstone cliffs. The change with Greece couldn’t have been bigger as we went from warm temperatures to rain and cold, and the people went from friendly and open to closed, grumpy and unable to speak English.

We then headed further north towards Sophia on the ‘National Road’,(a two lane bumpy road where horse and cart, old Lada / Wartburg / Trabant cars, big trucks and busses all traveled on. We visited the amazing Rila Monastery, located in the Rila mountains. At 1200 meter altitude, it was cold (5 degrees) and the snow was just a little bit higher up the mountains. The monastery however, including the main church and four levels of colorful balconies, is worth seeing as the frescoes and interior of the Church of Rozhdestvo Bogorodichno were truly unique.

After more adventures on seriously potholed roads making travel sometimes frustratingly slow, we passed the second town of Bulgaria, Plovdiv, to arrive in Kazanlak. For the first time using a campsite, it felt like we were catapulted back fifty years: old electricity connections, gazebos and playgrounds from the sixties,… On the other hand, we received a private bathroom and toilet cabin and the campground only cost 8 euro.  We ate out in the adjacent restaurant, filled with locals having a great party at long tables filled with bottles of beer and wine and live folkloristic music and dancers. It was a great way to get to know the Bulgarian music (very similar to Greek at times) and the circular communal dances the whole restaurant participated in.

We then traveled through the Valley of the Roses where 60% of the world’s supply of fragrant rose oil is produced, to the beautiful Shipka monastery. It’s splendid, onion-shaped golden domes are visible from afar and they are beautifully framed against the green lush mountains in the background.

Following a 13 km long winding road, we crossed the Shipka Pass, where the Freedom Monument stands atop Mount Stoletov. At the other side of the pass is the little village of Etar, where the Etnographic Village Museum contained dozens of genuine authentic houses and dwellings from all over the country. Plenty of workshops were to be found there so souvenir shopping was a must.

The evocative capital of the medieval Bulgarian tsars, Veliko Tavorno is dramatically set amidst forested hills and the gorge created by the Yantra river. We first spent a night overlooking the town in the historic mountain village of Arbanasi, and explored the inescapable symbol of the town the day after: Tsarevets Fortress, one of Bulgaria’s most beloved monuments featuring  the remains of more than 400 houses, 18 churches and numerous monasteries, dwellings, gates and towers. We clambered almost the entire day on the site, Kyle got stung 5 times by a mad and solitary wasp and only cried briefly, and then saw the rest of the town with an amazing little shopping street filled with cheap quality souvenirs and great local eateries, serving all kinds of Bulgarian salads dishes.

To end our short (just under a week) visit through this strange but very interesting and adventurous country, we stopped in Rusenski Lom National Park, where the Unesco listed Ivanovo Rock Monastery (together with more than 40 other rock churches) was built in a cave 38 meter high. The well preserved frescoes dating from the 13th and 14th century, were something to behold.

Nothing could have prepared us for the shock of seeing a country still stuck in the Communist Era, with remnants of that age still visible and present everywhere. The country itself is slowly developing and as soon as a number of highways will be finished, economic activity will start to increase and the general standard of living will rise. It sure was a very interesting place to visit, very much off the beaten track.

Now up north to Romania!


Europe Trip – Greece – The northeast


Our trip further north on the mainland of Greece started off in Athens, where we visited the town for one day to see the most important site: the Akropolis. Together with the Temple of Zeus and a few minor sites in the vicinity, this was enough for us and the kids, as the trip from the campsite involved first taking a bus, then the subway and then walking.

We then saw the finest Byzantine frescoes in Greece during our visit of the monastery in Osios Loukas. The monastery contains two beautiful churches, with Agios Loukas the most impressive one,  and  boasts an idyllic setting with breathtaking vistas over the surrounding valleys.

After an amazing drive following the northern coast of the Corinthian Gulf, we spent the night in the relaxed seaside resort Itea. One of the suburbs was called Kira, quite funny!

The next days, we explored the magnificent site and museum of Delphi.  Built on the slopes of Mount Parnassos, the Unesco site has the most potent ‘spirit of place’ in Greece and was regarded by ancient Greeks as the center of the world.  The ruins were inspiring as the afternoon sun gave everything an orange glow and we could explore the site in peace (all tour groups were gone, and the kids were hunting the omnipresent huge grasshoppers). The museum on the other hand contained some amazing and well-preserved pieces and even the Kyra found it a remarkable place.

Driving north, following the coast, we tried to explore Volos area and the Penion peninsula, but the roads proved to be too narrow, nerve-racking and time consuming to drive.. Next we stopped in Litohoro, a nice relaxed mountain village with great views on Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece. The beach a few kilometers down the road was awesome, as we had fresh water, showers and a big parking lot all for ourselves, with the double peaks of Mount Olympus unfolding before our eyes as the clouds parted.

Driving through Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, was a harrowing experience, as there are basically no road rules and all kinds of transport move around the double and triple parked cars, busses and trucks.

Our last stop on  our multi-month route following the Mediterranean coast, starting in Gibraltar in the beginning of February, was the ‘three fingered peninsula’ of Halkidiki. We only went to the Sythonian or middle finger (no pun intended) where the beaches were the most pristine, remote and resorts had not sprung up yet.  For the next four days, we followed the coastal road, skirting wide bays, climbing into pine-forested hills and dipping down to beautiful coves and lagoons. With temperatures around 30 degrees, nice fine sands and relative warm waters, no need to say we had a great relaxing time wildcamping on beautiful beaches.

In retrospect, Greece was a very nice place to visit as wildcamping is allowed everywhere, the people are friendly and try to speak English, and the nature with endless mountain ranges and beautiful beaches, is fantastic.

Next we are heading north towards the Eastern European countries, as we need to make our way back to Belgium. We have a flight leaving for California on June 12th, so we have no time to visit Turkey as originally planned.


Europe Trip – Greece – Northwestern Provinces


The ferryboat that brought us from Italy arrived 2 hours late in Igoumenitsa, so we only disembarked by 5 in the morning. We drove a few miles, parked behind a gas station and slept as everybody was exhausted.

Our first stop and capital of the Epirot province was Ioannina, set on a beautiful, placid lake and facing sheer mountains. It was a good stopover to get a first feel of Greece, do some laundry and adjust to the 1 hour time difference. It actually felt very much like Iran and the Middle East with terraced houses, hanging flowers, lush plants, and cars driving and parking everywhere.

With good weather forecasts, we headed across the Katara Pass, the only passable point of the Pindos mountain range, to Meteora, an extraordinary and otherworldly place. The Unesco listed area contains massive pinnacles of ancient smooth rock, topped by almost inaccessible monasteries. Our campsite was located right at the bottom of these rock formations, and in the next few days we visited three of these breathtaking monasteries, each of them built around a central courtyard. Going down and up hundreds of steps to access them, was a good workout for the whole family!

We then went back to Ioannina to explore the Zagorohoria, remote mountain villages guarding the Vykos Gorge, with its 900 meter one of the deepest in the world. Starting the steep ascent, the engine warning light came on again. Luckily, there was a Ford dealership in Ioannina. Sure enough, the EGR valve had given out again and we needed to change it, as it was giving us the extra power needed to climb the steep Greek roads. Not only did we have to wait two days for the piece to arrive, it also cost twice as much as in Italy! What a bummer.

By the time everything was fixed (we also had problems with the contacts for the brake lights), the weather had turned very rainy in the mountains, so we turned south to go to the most accessible island of the Ionean isles, Lefkada. Connected to the mainland with a causeway and moveable bridge, it is mountainous and remote in the centre and has some of the best beaches of Greece on its west coast. We spent time on Kathisma beach, where the sea had an incredible turquoise color, and explored the west coast further south going to Kalamitsa, Egremni and Porto Katsiki. What guidebooks and TomTom forgot to say, were the fact that some of these beaches were impossible to reach by camper (roads too steep, gravel roads with ruts,…), so at more than one occasion we were forced to do a 9-point turn with mountains on one side and steep cliffs down the sea at the other …

Heading further south, we spent some time in Messolongi and the motionless Klisova Lagoon, the largest natural wetland in Greece. The sandy hamlet of Tourlida, connected to the mainland by a five kilometer causeway, is home to the remarkable pelades or stilt huts, and it was fun walking in between them with the kids.

We then took the striking Rio-Andirio suspension bridge, connecting the mainland to the Peloponnese, home of some unique places…

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