20 November – 17 December 2009 (27 days)
Trip distance: 2776 miles (excluding Home to/from Dover)
Trip cost: €1141 (c. £1026 ) – €41 or £37 per day
|Parking (see Wild if overnight stop)||5.00 €|
|Essentials (laundry, household)||17.00 €|
|Aires (or equiv)||9||16.00 €|
|ACSI Site||0||0.00 €|
|Camping Cheque Site||2||35.00 €|
|Other sites||0||0.00 €|
|TOTAL||Total cost||1,114.00 €|
|Days away||27||41.26 €|
Hmmm. Not one of our better trip to date, but most of that is probably due to WHEN we went rather than WHERE. We knew going out of season was always a challenge, and so we called this trip “Budapest and Back” and just seeing what we fell into on the way. It is a shame that in late November and early December most of the smaller and nicer towns and villages along our route (with exceptions!) were closed down and not really atmospheric and some of our “must see” sights were also closed. Most seem to gear up for the summer holidays and some for also the ski season which is mainly post-Christmas. So the time we went was fairly poor and, in fairness, to be expected.
Most campsites were closed, most “paid aires” were closed, and thus we wild/free camped most nights which suited us fine. It meant we could and did stop where we wanted rather than where the campsites were. We did actually stop in places that we’d not describe as picturesque or great and on previous trips we’d have found somewhere nicer! But as it was dark before 5pm convenience was the order of the day, so as long as it was safe and convenient we took it.
Hungary and SE Austria were the only problems where we had to plan where we’d change water/waste – but apart from that we had enough options – most free – to keep us going.
On this trip, German is the most common language – even in Hungary I had French people trying to speak to me in German (thinking I was I guess) – so best I could do was respond in French! Think that confused them a bit! That said, our German has improved a little and we can get by, but it isn’t our strongest.
We like Germany and its history is most interesting. It is a very clearly a very western country but maintains its own identity fairly well. Austria does feel like Germanys sister, and Hungary indeed like a very close cousin.
Hungary was our first taste of “Eastern Europe” and to be fair we entered it a little nervous with concerns over security, safety, and generally how things would be. In truth – we needn’t have worried at all. We do have concerns for Hungary in that since communism has gone it has been trying to become more westernised – and it does appear to be doing this at a fairly budget level – but apart from the cost their identity is being eroded. More than once we stopped and could not see a single thing that identified it uniquely – we could have been in pretty much any mainland Europe country. Contrary to our guidebook we would say we found Hungary to be entirely safe; very clean; the driving wasn’t that bad (it was better than the Belgiums!); and we didn’t get any hassle or grief from anyone. Our only complaints would be the condition of some A/B type roads and the lack of “tourist friendly” signage, parking and picnic areas which other countries seem to provide. Their motorways were smoother than some autobahns in Germany and Austria!
This trip has opened up our eyes to the start of Eastern Europe and we will explore Hungary and its neighbours again, and in our view Hungary and especially Budapest are worth visiting.
Towards the end of the trip we did find the cold weather particularly bitter – feeling different from the cold we get when snow-boarding. Wearing up to 5 layers and 2 lots of gloves when going out was getting a bit tedious!
We WOULD recommend this trip to anyone considering it – though we would suggest you completed it between April and October when most things would still be open – else you may not get the best possible experiences.
How was the van?
This trip was probably the biggest challenge to the van as the latter half of the trip the temperature seldom got above zero. This means of course that frozen pipes etc are cause for concern. Previously we had made modifications to the van to cope with snowboarding but in the main then we were on hook-up, whereas this trip we only had 2 nights on hook-up with the rest wild. This meant everything was heavily used in all conditions and apart from a fuse blowing – fault free.
Our insulated cab-curtain was essential, and the automatic 12v tank heater kept the fresh water defrosted. The gas heating was on pretty much all the time, and if you know us, you’ll know the van was very snug indeed when we were in it! We did leave the heating on overnight and with the van unattended on a low setting to ensure no problems. This meant the gas was gobbled quickly and we probably used 40 litres in total – so without refillable LPG we’d have been a little stuck!
With the 12v tank heater, the main heating fan, lights, TV (24 series 5!) then the batteries (2x100AH) did take a hammering. Driving seemed to keep them topped up enough but we did feel they needed a boost at the first campsite as they seemed to not quite get a full charge from just driving. Considering they hadn’t been on hookup for perhaps 2-3 months they were doing pretty well!
The poor van has around 32,000 miles now (20,000 since we left on our tour!) and is probably in need of a wash and a new set of tyres – the original tyres weren’t quite up to European winter standards and we did need snow-chains to get us up a slippery snowy hill. That said the interior is pretty much pristine which is still astounding considering the use its had.
Overall, we’d say the trip as it was had some good peeks, but would probably only score 6.5/10. However, at a warmer time of year when things were open it has potential to be 8.5-9.