Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland and Germany

To escape the heat in Budapest, we headed north, towards our ultimate goal of Sweden, and meandered through Slovakia, a corner of the Czech Republic, up through western Poland and then into Germany. Here’s our highlights… 

Wrocław, Poland

Can anyone outside Poland pronounce the name of this fantastic city properly? It’s not ‘rock-claw’. Something like ‘Vrosh-wav’. Anyway, we stayed in a car park right in the centre and had a fantastic time. Trundled around the islands, couldn’t do the Botanic Garden with the dogs, but we saw the cathedral, stopped for beer and pancakes, saw the main square, checked out some bars, and some gnomes. I went to see the Taylor Moore band at the Vertigo jazz club – great band, great venue! Next morning, Bev went round the Botanic Garden, then – our 24hrs up – we moved on. Loads more to see I’m sure, I’d happily return.  

Kamenná brána rock window, Bosanov, Czech Republic

The Broumovsko Protected Landscape Area is a reserve full of natural sandstone rock sculptures. A typically askew adventure – we went hiking with the dogs, and of course took Marra’s wheels for when he got tired. Passed a Dutch couple on the way who said, “Turn back, you won’t make it.” One thing about this trip – we really don’t like going back on ourselves. Only done it about 3 times in 4000 miles! And, of course, we have that stubborn, plucky, can-do attitude and a large dose of “I think I know what’s best for me”. So, 16.7km and various scrapes and increasingly bizarre challenges later, we made it back to the site with just 6 minutes before the site bar stopped serving. Ice cold beers and a dip in the natural swimming pond to celebrate. This route was not wheelchair friendly, but it is an amazing place!

Mecklenburg lake district, Germany

The land of a thousand lakes lived up to its name, unlike the land of a thousand storks in Slovenia! We wild camped, swam, paddleboarded and ate by the lakeside. The dogs loved roaming free, tramping down the grass to make a nest to doze in the sun. Idyllic. We will definitely be back. 

High Tatras, Slovakia

The mountains looked amazing, but we could only get so far with old Marra. There were a few wheelchair friendly walks – we did one to the mid station ski lift up the mountain of Lomnický štít, one of the highest peaks in Slovakia. We managed to avoid the wheeled toboggans careering downhill on the same path! We also did a gentler trundle around Štrbské Pleso, very picturesque with stunning views of the mountains beyond.

Travel notes…

We’d heard stories about rural Slovakia – along the lines of ‘they send kids out into the road and pretend you’ve run them over, then rob you when you stop’. There was nothing like that. Some scrappier towns in the borderlands maybe – Bev says Stephen King calls it ‘slippage’ – but that’s true of most places. 

Crap signal for data in Czech Republic and the German lakes, while Poland we had good 4G coverage. 

Big generalisation but we think Dutch-run campsites are cool – Stayed at a few (Brezno, Czech Republic and Uciechów, Poland), nice atmosphere, good facilities, etc.

We passed two convoys on mad driving challenges: The Barrel Challenge, a Dutch competition where teams pimp their cars and undertake challenges along the spectacular route to an unknown destination, somewhere between 2000 and 4000 km!

And, the Baltic Sea Circle – another Dutch race – 8500km in 18 days in a car over 20 years old, no GPS and no motorways…

Looks like fun!

The names of things…

A common quirk of campervan and motorhome owners is naming their vans. I resisted at first but Bev won me over and we took to calling our first van Voyager (the number plate ended ‘VYR’). For the new motorhome, we agreed straightaway on a name: Stargazer!

Mostly because it has a fantastic huge skylight window and we pictured ourselves sat snug and warm watching the stars slowly circling above, maybe the northern lights dancing.

But also after the song (and album) by the American songwriter and guitar player, Jesse Terry. We’ve seen Jesse a handful of times – he’s a genuinely lovely guy and one of a handful of successful independent musicians that have inspired and motivated me to make some changes in my life.

Here’s the official video for the song – filmed at an iconic North East location!

Then there’s this gem – a stripped back version with Alan Fish on acoustic guitar and some lovely bass guitar.

The song always gets me to the brink of tears as it makes me think of our oldest whippet Marra who has started to stare off into space for long periods. He had a mystery health issue a year or so ago, maybe a small stroke, and has really slowed down. Sometimes when he comes into a room, he’ll just stop as if he’s forgotten what he came for, and stare. Doggy Alzheimer’s, Bev thinks. We’ve had to really come to terms with losing him at some point. Like the lines in the song, maybe one day he will choose a different universe. Until then, I’m grateful for the chance to spend more time each day with him.

Anyway, after that, everything had to have a name. So, I give you…

Moonraker! Bev’s B’TWIN folding bike, for nipping to the shops for fresh croissants.

Mars Rover! A dog stroller/jogger so Marra doesn’t miss out on any adventures. He still loves a walk but starts to drag his back legs after a while. We put him in when he’s had enough, and before he scrapes his claws down till they bleed.

And for aquatic missions: Sunseeker! An inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP).