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Pockocks Travels from Turkey to Ireland PDF Printable Version E-mail

 

POCOCKS TRAVELS from TURKEY to IRELAND

Audrey and Graham Pocock
July 2012

Continued from: Pococks Travels in Turkey Part One and Pococks Travels in Turkey Part Two

We met Audrey and Graham in January 2012 at Camping Finikes near Finikounda in the Greek Peloponnese. A retired Australian couple, touring Europe and Turkey in their motorhome (Bruce) bought in the UK, they left Finikes at the beginning of February. Audrey sent us two accounts of their travels in Turkey and now continues the story with an account of their return to the UK and on to the Republic of Ireland.

Greece

We left Turkey and drove back to Greece for some provisions in Alexandroupolis, namely pork, bacon and salami, which we were looking forward to after 2 months' deprivation. 

Bulgaria

A quick shop and off to Bulgaria to the Sakar Hills campsite of Shirley and Martin, run by their son Matt, whom we didn't get to see. We spent a lovely couple of days there being hosted around by S and M and meeting their exuberant friend from the local constabulary. Also did some 4 wheel driving, something we had not expected to do in Bulgaria - at least we hadn't been told the roads were THAT bad! Just joking! We actually went to some historical site near to them, which definitely necessitated a 4 x 4. We were also introduced to some lovely Bulgarian Merlot, which we hadn't expected to be as good as it was.  Martin and Shirley proved to be wonderful company and we hope to meet up with them somewhere again, maybe Australia!

From there we left on the wobbly roads to the Black Sea coast, staying at Sozopol and Old Nesebar, both of which were lovely with plenty of character, if a tad touristy.  We were there on the first day that 2 skeletons were unearthed in a dig in Sozopol. That was a little bit different.

Then it was up the coast to Varna where we turned inland for Veliko Tarnovo, the former capital of Bulgaria. There we stayed at Camping Veliko Tarnovo run by a couple of English people, Nick and Nicky, for a couple of days. Beautiful though the town of VT is, what took our fancy the most was a church in the neighbouring town of Arbanassi. It was Orthodox with paintings everywhere on the walls and ceilings. We gasped at its beauty. To maintain it they have had to support its infrastructure on the outside, otherwise the paintings would have become damaged. One of the most elaborately decorated churches I've ever seen in my life.

Romania

And then it was goodbye to Bulgaria and on into Romania. We had been told about the roads in both countries and we had to laugh driving round the ring road of Bucuresti (the capital, Bucharest). It was completely warped and had taken on the shape of the trucks being driven on it. Quite strange. Actually the rest of the roads we drove on were surprisingly good and I guess with time this is what is happening with Eastern Europe having come out of its Communist sleep.

Most of our time was spent in Transylvania, which I loved. The towns are splendid, built of wood with white/beige being predominant in the architecture of most of the beautiful old turreted buildings, reminding me a bit of the wooden bridge in Luzerne and places in Bavaria too. The rest of the buildings in pastel colours. Towns like Brasov, Sinaia, Sighisoara, Sibiu.

Everything seems to have a clean coat of paint on it and is trying hard to catch the tourist dollar (good for them). We stayed in a beautiful campsite called Oude Wilg (= Old Willow) in Carta near the Carpathian Mountains. This campsite was to die for. We parked at the top of it with views over the mountains, beside a river complete with bridge and railway, next door to gypsies (is that the correct political terms nowadays)? with horses – it was almost like a film setting, so beautiful it was! I thought I was in Paradise. The Dutch seem to have embraced Romania, as we went to another campsite in Blajel run by another Hollander and he even invited us for a drink as soon as we drove in.  Danke Weil!

We were very impressed by Romania, a big change from the first time over 30 years ago, when we drove in and were confronted with queues at 5 in the morning for bread and about 4 items along the shelves to pick from.  I remember running out of the shop and back to the car crying and feeling so sad about the people who had to put up with this on a day to day basis.

Hungary

From Romania we drove into Hungary and on into Budapest, stopping for a few days there in a most beautiful city. We had been before from Vienna in Communist times and it was lovely even then, I have to say. This time it was much busier. It was hot by now, really hot and hard to sightsee, seeking the sanctuary of churches for the coolness they brought.

Austria

We crossed into Austria and only 20 kilometres off the motorway we decided to visit Burgenland again. We had so many memories of it. We used to drive there from our days in Vienna and stay the weekend, to visit one of the Pusztas in Illmitz with a thatched barn and drink the local wine. However the little Aire that we stayed in was owned by an ever watchful Burgenlander and as soon as he spied us, he ushered us in to do a spot of wine tasting, after showing off the nesting stork on his roof – he had a miniature camera mounted next to the nest. This in the middle of the afternoon! We managed to escape after a few glasses tasted in his cavernous cellar, thank goodness, buying some of his wine of course.

Illmitz is one of the towns famous for the nesting of storks and the locals usually put up a few cart wheels to help them build their nests.  I managed to find a few of them nesting with their young. They also have a Wildlife Centre but of course in the usual Austrian (we are the centre of the Universe) fashion, with not one word in English. Some things never change!

Germany

From there we drove on through Austria and into Germany, where we had been invited to spend a few days with some lovely people we had met in the campsite through the Winter in Greece (Camping Finikes), namely Erica and Hans, a truly lovely couple. They live in Landsberg, a part of the Romantische Rheinstrasse.  We had visited this area before, at the more famous Rothenburg. The town of Landsberg is quite beautiful I must say and our friends went to great trouble to show us round about the area as well as the town.

They drove us into the mountains to a lovely little village, Kochel am See, which housed a famous art gallery called Franz Marc. They had a few German Impressionists in the collection, Marc being the most famous. Erica and Hans have a lovely house with their daughter and partner living next door. We stayed in our camper but used all their facilities. Erica cooked lovely food for us, it was really enjoyable to be there. They always spend 7 months of the year in the campsite in Greece, enjoying the warmer weather through winter and the other 5 months back at their home in Bavaria.

Luxembourg - France

When we had said our goodbyes, we drove madly through Germany stopping at Luxembourg and into France to arrive at Dunkirk docks, where we slept through the night until we crossed early in the morning to Dover. It's wonderful to be able to sleep at the docks when waiting to cross, something Dover has still to dream up. The difference when you arrive in England to see these poor trucks squashed into laybys to sleep for the night, compared with anywhere in Europe - be it in Turkey or Hungary. Well, what can I say!

England (for a flight to Lithuania)

Having one day before I left for Eastern Europe, we drove more or less straight up to Stansted where I left Graham while I flew to visit Vilnius, Warsaw and Krakow for 10 days. Graham in the meantime MOT'd the motorhome (passed, phew!) and spent some valuable time with his now widowed mother and his sister, which was great for all of them.

Lithuania

I flew to Vilnius and spent a couple of days there in a small hotel in the old town. I had missed it last year, when we had to drive back quickly to London to fly to Australia to be with our son. I had a couple of days sightseeing this lovely town before catching the bus to Warsaw. The bus fare cost 3 Euros! I thought they had made a mistake but apparently it was the first 500 tickets that were going cheap, as it was a new company.  How good was that?

Poland

We drove to Warsaw and I was met at the station by a still handsome man that I remembered from living in Vienna all those years ago. This had been orchestrated by another handsome man in England, who had emailed the said man in Warsaw to “Take care of Audrey”. Off I was whisked in some beautiful car to the suburbs, where I was wined and dined by his wife and himself, then driven the next day into Warsaw, where I enjoyed the sights of the old town. I enjoyed tasting some beef steak tartar again, which I haven't tasted for years.

Next day back into Warsaw and to the wonderful Museum of the Warsaw Uprising. This is a thoroughly modern museum and is absolutely wonderful. Unfortunately, I didn't get to spend enough time there and would like to revisit it sometime. It is a highlight of Warsaw and one needs a few hours to get round it properly. Incidentally, Warsaw has a good Aire, which we had stopped at with the motorhome while driving through on our way to London last year. A very friendly one, I seem to remember.

After saying my goodbyes, it was off to Krakow (this just before the European Cup, being held in Poland and Ukraine). I stayed in the old town and did the usual sights. However, I could not bring myself to go to Auschwitz and opted for a Salt Mine instead, which was really interesting. Krakow is a lovely town, with the Market Square one of the most seductive in Europe.

England

Next day I flew back to UK and met Graham. We travelled up to see friends of ours in Norwich for a few days over the Queen's Jubilee Weekend. The host and hostess were having afternoon tea for all their neighbours and the hostess had done a wonderful spread with lots of cakes, cream and, to top it all off, a beautiful Union Jack Cake. I think everyone enjoyed it very much.

While in Norwich, we were taken up to the bracing north Norfolk coast where we had British Fish and Chips and went on a Seal Sightseeing trip. On another day I, having never ever seen a 'Broad' before, was shown four beautiful ones. To finish our few days we had a wonderful guide to take us through Norwich, which I have to say is a very lovely city and certainly has lots going for it.

After that it was round the coast to visit friends in Essex, Hampshire and Southampton, where friends of ours are preparing to sail back to Australia on a 57 footer. Good luck guys! Then on into Somerset, to the final lot of friends there. It was lovely seeing everybody after being by ourselves for so long, but then it was time to head off to Devon and Cornwall trying out our new Brit Stops book.

This is the second year of Brit Stops and it has proved to be a valuable friend. We have used it on countless occasions now. The book features Pub stops, Farm stops, Wine and Beer Breweries, Cheese making etc, etc. The idea is a bit like the French Passion book, in that you stay at one of these stops overnight and visit their shop, pub etc. Graham, being a real ale aficionado, was more than happy to try out each local beer and I was more than happy shopping in the farm store or buying some cheese. This is a great way to motorhome and see Britain and we hope it continues to gain popularity. The web site is: www.britstops.com. (see also Margaret's article on this website).

This was the first time I had ever visited Devon and Cornwall and I did enjoy it between showers – rain showers naturally! Anybody having been in the UK in the month of June this year (2012) will know what I'm talking about. However, we did get some nice days in between, where we managed to see some lovely little Cornish villages and splendid Devon countryside.

Some of the roads were hairy to say the least, with a few where both wing mirrors  of the motorhome were touching the sides - quite scary and I don't know how other vehicles wider than ours would fare. I imagine they just don't travel on them.

Wales

From the south-west of England we drove to the south-east of Wales and along the south coast, via the Gower Peninsula and St David's and up to Snowdonia (that we missed as it was completely hidden by mist, so we will just have to see it another time). We drove up to the north coast and along it, visiting Llandudno, a very well preserved Victorian seaside resort complete with pier.  I got the feeling this town was for older people who didn't like travelling overseas.

England again

From Wales we drove back into England and down to London, to stay with more friends for a few days of relaxation before depositing the motorhome in Barnet and taking London Transport to Wimbledon. We had bought a little tent in Athens to stay overnight in but sadly it had perished, being in the shop too long probably, and so in the middle of a wet night we had to pack up and retire to the ladies' toilet demountable to dry out and wait until morning.

BUT… we managed to get tickets for the quarter finals on No 1 Court and saw Djokovic and Tsonga playing with their various opponents – YES! This was a dream come true for me. We had the best seats, right behind the service line in the second front seat. Wow!

After a long, tiring but fabulous day we had to travel back to North London exhausted. Trouble is, I would like to do it again. Spoiled now!

Scotland

From London it was back on the road again and up north to Scotland and Stranraer, to cross over to Larne in Northern Ireland. 

Northern Ireland

Crossing over at 4 in the morning meant that we were absolutely shattered and decided to spend 2 days outside of Larne in a place called Carrickfergus, where we slept and watched the Ladies' and Men's Finals at Wimbledon on the TV at the local pub. This Aire in Carrickfergus is a real Aire just like in France, down on the harbour with shops nearby, in fact everything. Very handy.

After that we were ready to continue with our tour. We drove back through Larne and along the beautiful coast of Antrim, stopping overnight in a forest where the gatekeeper locked us up for the night and where we saw 2 beautiful red squirrels. We had the park all to ourselves and left the next morning, once the gate had been opened, to continue up along the coast of Antrim, stopping at all the lovely little villages. Graham visited the Bushmills Brewery for the medicinal purpose of comparing the benefits of Scottish whisky and Irish whiskey! He would definitely like to continue this research and indeed a trip to Islay in Scotland is probably in the pipeline.

Next day we went to the Unesco World Heritage Giant's Causeway. This is amazing and a must-see in Northern Ireland. There is a fantastic new Visitor's Centre with the coastline etched out to view. You are given audio equipment to take with you while you walk down to the Causeway, explaining everything as you go. Very well done and certainly worth the money (only £7 for oldies like us if you take the park and ride bus, leaving your vehicle in the car park in Bushmills).

Next day we drove on through Londonderry, finding ourselves in the Bogside quite by accident. Whoops! We never did find the centre of town.

Eire (Republic of Ireland)

From there it was on into Eire. The trouble with Eire is that nobody knows where you are talking about. 'Eire' I said to the hairdresser doing my hair in Bushmills. 'Oh you mean down south?' she said. (Is Donegal down south? Looks like due west to me!) So it appears that one says down south, or south of the Border, or The Free State or the Republic - but not Eire.  Weird!

Donegal was spectacular. The Ros Guill Peninsula, which is the 14 kilometre drive called the Atlantic Road, is amazing. We got to stay on the Peninsula and watch the lovely sunset with all the locals out with their cameras. The roads there were once again like being back in Cornwall and we could not believe our eyes when in front of us we saw a truck complete with HOUSE on top coming along toward us! YOU HAVE GOT TO BE JOKING! With a car behind us and the truck driver intent on getting past us, it was touch and go. We were pressed up against the fence, as was the truck, and the only thing that got him through was the fact that the house was of a height that cleared the fence on his side. Shock, horror and then relief. Would not like to go through THAT again!

So here we are in beautiful Donegal, although I have to say the weather has not been beautiful. In fact the worst since we started our trip, excluding January in Greece.

Continued atPococks Travels in Ireland and Scotland