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The Wilsons Return to the UK PDF Printable Version E-mail

 

The Wilsons Return

Brenda Wilson October 2010

Edited by Margaret Williamson

In March 2010 motorhomers Brenda and Adrian reported from Camping Thines at Finikounda in the Greek Peloponnese (where we had first met them in May 2006). Brenda described their difficult outward journey from the UK via Albania. Now she covers their return journey to the UK through Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria, with several new adventures and exciting future plans!

Brenda writes:

Well, we had nearly as many problems coming home in May as we did going out but all the time in between was good, especially the thermals once again in Greece. (Presumably at Thermopylae, 20 km SE of Lamia, where we've stayed at a quieter time of year!) We spent a whole week there, which for us is quite something - normally we only manage a couple of nights anywhere, at most. I just couldn't keep out of the hot waterfall! It was heaven. You can camp there free - everything is free, with fresh water too.

Lots of Bulgarians, Turks, Romanians and even gypsies had all set up camp, partying and BBQing the night away as it was a public holiday. We were a bit worried there might be trouble, but at least we could get far enough away to sleep anyway and they all seemed to be having a great time. We didn't get disturbed.

We also saw other places in Greece that we hadn't seen before, some very nice too. Some we liked in particular were Epidavros, Pylos and Nafplio ports (in the Peloponnese) where we stayed right on the front and they were all lovely spots. Unfortunately there are very few places in Greece that sell LPG (as you informed us) even though ALL the other countries we came through sell it, and we were shocked to find just what the price of petrol was: more than in the UK and much more than 4 years ago when we were last in Greece!!

Anyway, after Greece we ventured into Bulgaria (1st time) and found an English-run campsite (Sakar Hills Camping at Biser) Although we were only planning to pass through on our way home, we ended up staying there for 3 weeks and buying a small property/piece of land in the hills with lovely views. (The first time we called at Sakar Hills for a short break on our way back from Turkey, we stayed 3 months!)

Mind you, it's not habitable but bought for the location really. It will be somewhere to stop when we are travelling around (if we can get our camper up there) and it has plans passed for a rebuild when and if we decide to. It's actually classed as a small vineyard but as we probably won't be there much, the grapes won't get looked after and may have to go (which would be a pity really). God only knows how we will manage with the language but as there are quite a few English people around, no doubt someone will be able to help us out, as and when needed. Certainly Matt, Shirley and Martin (the Jeffes family at Sakar Hills) were a great help to us - well we would never have bought anything if it hadn't been for them. We'll see how we get on anyhow!! The Bulgarians are very poor, as you know, but despite this seem to be lovely, happy, contented people.

Coming home, we decided to go through Romania and Hungary. The downside to Romania and Bulgaria is the state of the roads. Well, not all of them, as they are working on it and we were told that they are considerably better than they were a few years ago - but when they are bad they are really bad, so it takes you forever just to travel a few miles and our camper does NOT like them!! Whilst we were in Bulgaria we tried to reach Veliko Tarnovo (en route to Ruse and the Friendship Bridge over the Danube into Romania) but gave up after halfway and drove back. This was the first time we had ever done that!! I don't know how you got on but maybe you would have taken a different route!!

We had to get a ferry across the Danube into Romania (from Vidin to Calafat, where a bridge is actually under construction and scheduled to open in 2011) and although it was only a short hop we were charged 125 Lev, which was over 50!! Won't be taking that route again either. Didn't like their attitude. A big lorry directly in front of us had a tyre blow-out getting onto the ramps and they didn't care whether the ramps were positioned in the right places or not. The lorry still had to get on and they spent the whole way trying to change the wheel - they couldn't get the nuts undone - and it was bang, crash the whole time. We were very worried about getting on and off after that, so I got off first with the pedestrians to watch Adrian come across but they didn't like him watching me and not them. They just kept shouting orders!!  

However we did manage to find somewhere to stay the night nearby, when we got into Romania. So in the end we were able to appreciate the Danube, as we could see it from our camper and even saw a lovely sunset that night. We wonder what damage has been done to the Danube and all the other rivers now, in the light of the chemical spill/flood (in Hungary).

Eventually we drove through Hungary (round Budapest, which was very busy), Austria, Germany etc. In fact, in total, 14 different countries (with too many different currencies) and we did get fed up with all the border crossings where they always seem to want money for something extra every time, apart from vignettes (and when you ask what it is for they often change the amount)! As for Austria, it meant a 'go box' for us as we were classed as an HGV! That was another nightmare as they wouldn't speak English and didn't explain to us what it was all about, but that's another story. (See the article on this website about the Austrian GO-Box).

We are just awaiting the MOT on our camper, so hopefully we can start packing to go back to Bulgaria. I really don't want to leave it any longer as it will get too cold: the cold was really awful in February this year!! We had planned to go via Slovakia and Poland this time (wanted to visit Auchwitz) but as we will be towing an estate car AS WELL (to leave in Bulgaria), and as we find Poland is very very mountainous, we somehow don't think this would be a good idea, especially after last time. Maybe on our way back. We'll just have to cough up for the motorways and vignettes etc once again.

Of course it does get very cold in Bulgaria in the winter but we were told that last Christmas the temp was up at 26 degrees. I wouldn't be surprised if our son decides to come out for a visit over Christmas too. As our place (above Harmanli) is very close to both the Greek and Turkish borders too, we hope to go down to one or both of these countries after Xmas, then back to Bulgaria about March time before coming home again around April or May.