Greece!

It’s been a while since I gave an update – after spending quite some time in Bulgaria sorting out my vaccinations and getting an EU vaccination certificate as well, I thought it best to try and put it to the test…Greece and Bulgaria were both early adoptors of this certificate and I’ve always wanted to explore Greece a bit, so off we went, over the high mountains the separate Bulgaria and Greece.

The crossing took around 4 hours as they carefully checked all certificates and tests results (I did not need this, only the certificate) but once we crossed the border it became very obvious how breathakingly beautiful the Greek landscape is.

It’s very common to see lavendar fields in Greece.

Our first night was a wildcamping spot in a tiny seaside village where I engaged in quite a bit of conversation with an old sea captain who spoke really good English, and had some interesting stories to share. He was hoping to convince his wife to let them take up motorhoming when they retired, but from the sounds of it, I don’t think that’s going to happen…

It was apparent how hot and humid it was in Greece, I followed the road towards Sithonia, a peninsula south of Thessaloniki, based on multiple recommendations from fellow motorhomers, and I could see why they raved about it. It is a fantastic area to explore and even the very first, random campsite I choose was one of the best I’ve very been to – it felt like I was on a resort in Mauritius or similar, it was spectacular and offered some very good sunsets as well. Well done, Areti Camping!

Despite the heat we pressed on – one of the reasons why it became important to stay at campsites rather than wildcamping was to have access to enough power to run the airconditioning, especially for Olli as I could see he was suffering. He normally stays well out of the water so I know it’s hot when he decides to wade in!

We tried a few other spots and stayed in the small town of Kalamitsi for a few more days but then it became apparent we need to leave and seek cooler spots as it started to become unbearable. But what incredible views we had:

We’re now near the port town of Igoumitsa and hoping to get a ferry tonight from here to Ancona in Italy. I took the “camping on board” option despite some horries stories of being squeezed in between lorries – I’ll try and go early to get a good spot, but it means Olli and I can stay in the motorhome for the 15 hour crossing. The plan is then to go see my friend Andrea in the north of Italy, get the motorhome service done, stock up on Prosecco and see if I can then get over to Hungary to my usual summer camping spot on Lake Balaton. Fingers crossed they let us in!

Making some other than dog and cat friends for a change!

There’s more to Bulgaria than Sofia and Plovdiv!

I’ve been in, and through, Bulgaria many times. I even have a business based in Plovdiv, but I’ve never really spent much time in Bulgaria. Plovdiv is also very convenient as a stop before you cross over to / from Turkey, and after that, if coming back from Turkey, I would usually head for Sofia, then exit the country again.

At the moment I’m in-between Covid vaccine shots which I’m getting in Plovdiv, and whilst waiting I decided this weekend to venture out to the South Western parts, around Bansko – and I’m so glad I did! The roads there already promised a very different landscape than what I’m used to seeing in Bulgaria.

Just before I set off I got a new set of wheels for the motorhome, this time going for ones with proper grip, the BF Goodrich All Terrain’s – and they look very smart!

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I met up with a German couple (on insta as “oskarunterwegs2019”) who has a beast of a an overland vehicle, and they too are loving the countryside areas around Bansko.

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It became very green and rural, and climbed higher and higher, cooling down a lot from the very hot Plovdiv.

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Bansko itself was a big surprise – it’s pretty much a rather big skiing village, and there are thousands of apartments in classic Alpine style.

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I have a good friend who currently lives here, and it was great to see him – we had an impromptu barbeque using the bike rack, as it was quite windy but behind the motorhome it was nicely sheltered.

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After Bansko I was heading to a camping spot near a lake but drove past the “Thermal Camping Velingrad” and after reading about it online (apparently won a top prize last year), I decided to give it a try. It’s a very tidy campsite with super showers and other facilities, including of course, a range of sauna’s, steamrooms and outdoor heated pools, and still great spots along the mountain trails to walk Olli.

Time to treat myself for a few days!

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Turkey remains full of surprises

I’ve not written on here for some time – but during that entire time I’ve remained in Turkey, spending much of my time wildcamping along the south coast.

If at the start of my trip here I thought Turkey was a great motorhoming / wildcamping / get-away-from-the-madness destination, then all of that has been reconfirmed for me and I can with a lot of certainty say Turkey is one of the best destinations to explore in a motorhome.

The scenery can be quite simply, incredible.

Sunrise on Demre beach

Wildcamping is allowed, even encouraged in Turkey and water is readily available. On the spot I’m now – Mavikent Beach – there is even a toilet. And it’s all free. My solar setup has proved it’s worth and I am essentially living off grid, all the time now.

I also as of late now see more foreign campers and this weekend alone I met explorers from Switzerland, France and the Netherlands whereas before I hardly saw any foreigners. And we all swop notes on great places to stop at, or provide spare parts or tools where needed – what a great community the motorhomers are!

Mavikent Beach

Olli is doing well and even had his updated Rabies shot here in Turkey, and he is loving the freedom of our walks here. He’s still getting used to all the dogs running freely but they are quite respectful of “home” dogs and tend to keep clear.

Post walk nap

I’ve now extended the legality of my stay in Turkey by getting a foreigner ID card (Ikamet) and can stay for now till June – I’m keeping an eye on the season in Europe to see if they will open for the summer before I cross back over into Bulgaria, but I can always extend my stay in Turkey if I wanted to. One thing I know is, even if I leave, I will be back! Turkey is a very special country indeed.

If you are on instagram, I suggest you follow me as #rvnomading there – I now post photos almost daily there.

Back in Turkey

I’ve been in the UK for work and catching up with friends but I was missing my usual escape to warmer climates over the winter months.

Whilst the pandemic continued to impact everything in most countries, more strict lockdowns were being re-introduced in Spain and Portugal and I also got word of some motorhomers being chased away or had their vans graffitied in Portugal. It also seemed difficult to travel through France.

So… I drove to Turkey! It was not as long a drive as you might think. I broke it up with stops in Germany, Hungary (where I could park in the garden of friends), Serbia, Bulgaria and then Turkey. I got lucky with the weather and only had a little bit of snow in Germany and no ice / freezing in the daytime.

Some might say it’s irresponsible of me to be travelling during a pandemic. I can understand that. However I’m on my own (apart from Olli obviously!) in the motorhome and have minimal contact with others. You can travel responsibly and safely!

First stop in Edirne

It is so good to be back in Turkey! I’ve been before, and it’s so amazing to again immediately experience the warm hospitality of Turkey. And they love my new motorhome! I get lots of honking and thumbs up from those driving past and wherever I park people walking past tell me how nice my motorhome is!

And of course Olli is the star again, the locals find it very funny that he gets such a luxurious ride. The customs officer at the border though basically did a backflip out of the motorhome after stepping in to inspect it without knowing about Olli. Ha!

Wildcamping is allowed in Turkey and safe. I always ask locals when I’m stopping in a neighbourhood if it’s OK and in most cases they will not only say it is absolutely fine, they might offer you food or check on you in the morning!

I skipped Istanbul (and ideally avoiding cities during the pandemic) by routing down to a ferry crossing at Canakkale, which was interesting (from a how many cars can we squeeze on here perspective!) but well worth it.

Now I’m heading down the Izmir coast and ideally get to my friends Erik and Joke near Manavgat for Christmas. You can follow my journey at http://www.polarsteps.com/rvnomading if you want.

There is an evening and weekend curfew here and so for weekends I’m trying to stay in campsites. The evening curfew does mean the parking lots are much quieter than usual which makes for a great night’s sleep, but does take away a bit of that Turkey vibe. Oh well.

Overall, it’s just so nice to be back in Turkey – the plan is to stay here for at least 3 months.

Olli is making plenty of friends again.

I wish and yours a very merry Christmas and a much much better 2021.

Back in the UK for a bit

Germany kept offering more motorhome stopover gems and Koblenz did not dissapoint. The motorhome parking in this city is on the river, and you are spoilt for choice of walks and things to see. Koblenz is where the Moselle and Rhine rivers join and the river is actually very active, making for some interesting and entertaining sights as the boats come by.

I would most certainly like to come back to Koblenz!

After that Olli and I routed quickly through the Netherlands to catch the overnight ferry from Hook of Holland to Harwich, and we are now parked at the house of a friend’s relative in the remote riverside village of Waldringfield in Sufffolk. I’m required to do 14 days of self-isolation and it can’t be much easier than doing it here!

Olli is familiar with the garden and surroudings here and I can tell he’s enjoying it despite the heavy rains to date which stopped for a while today allowing for a fantastic spell of sun.

Seems we did some good mileage in 2020 despite the pandemic, if Google is to be believed.

Anyway – the plan is to stay for a bit and ideally escape to the warmer weather of South Portugal before the winter really kicks in, provided there is not another lockdown!

Keep safe.

East to West

I’ve been very lucky in being able to travel around Eastern Europe as far as the Black Sea this season, but before I head to Portugal for the winter I have to go to the UK for two months.

Not the most ideal time to be going considering the state of the pandemic but nonetheless, it has to happen. I have a perfect, very remote spot there to isolate for the required two weeks.

The routing there takes us from Budapest through Austria to the south of Germany, as I will do a quick stop my motorhome dealer in Mannheim for a repair to my driver door handle.

Yesterday Olli and I left a Budapest that was clearly switching over to a rapidly approaching winter and en route I could not believe how cold it suddenly became! At one point it was six degrees and raining, whilst only two weeks ago we were enjoying upper 30’s!.. Time to dig out the winter coat in the garage, clearly.

On this routing we stopped at a car park site listed on one of the apps I use (search for sites) and it’s perfect. Effectively €1.50 for the night, and real close to one of the best city parks I’ve ever seen.

It offers endless paths to enjoy with lots of local dog walkers, all in spectacular scenery. It’s incredibly hard to believe you’re in one of Europe’s big cities.

We had a really good night’s sleep and only 4 hours from Mannheim, where we will go back to a camperstop there we used before. I have to say, Germany knows how to treat their motorhome visitors!

Studentenstadt Park and ride, Munich

Exploring Romania, Bulgaria and the Black Sea Coast

After my (shorter, thanks Covid) summer holiday in Hungary this year I ventured out to Plovdiv in Bulgaria where I had some paperwork to do. I decided to route via Romania and explore a bit off the beaten track.

My route followed the Serbian border and I went to a camp at a lake in the South West corner of Romania near the town of Hunedoara. The camping is right on the lake and was spectacular.

From there I routed south of Bucharest and initially tried a crossing into Bulgaria that Google suggested, but that was shut. I had to reroute and cross at Calafat. The roads were narrow and slow going, with some interesting traffic, but it was relaxed and easy.

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Once in Bulgaria I headed straight for Plovdiv and I was so deligthed to hear about a new camper stop that opened there. It’s about time! Here’s a video I did about it:

Then it was time to explore the Black Sea Coast. My friend Vera who lives in Bulgaria now gave me a ton of wildcamping and campsite recommendations to explore and so off we went.

The first stop was on a cliff edge with amazing views of the ocean, where plenty of others were also wild camping. An absolutely super stop – Dyuni beach, south of Sozopol.

Just look at this sunset view!

From there I headed up further north and found a super little municipal campsite just below Topola, in a quiet resort and fishing village. Again, with spectacular views, and at €15/night it was well worth it.

It really is a super little town and offers superb scenes almost anywhere you walk.

Olli and I are staying here for now till this weekend and then we’ll explore the Romanian side of this coastal route a bit.

Overall, I’m so impressed by the Black Sea Coast – I really had no idea what to expect but I did not expect the scenery to be so great. We’re also very lucky with the weather – averaging 30 degrees in the day and cooler evenings.

I will certainly come back to this part of the world, and if you’ve not been, I highly recommend it.

Tesa Autolevelling for my motorhome

I’ve always been very keen to get an auto-levelling system installed in my motorhome but I’ve been put off by the high cost and weight of the default hydraulic systems.

I saw an electric solution developed in Italy called Tesa and contacted a few UK dealers about this, but they were all quite booked up with appointments. As I was driving through Italy on my way to Hungary I tried my luck and contacted Tesa in Italy, who immediately put me in touch with a dealer near Milan called Carrozzeria DI.VI.CAR.

They were excellent – in the video I mention them again but if you ever need this system installed and you can do it in Italy, go to DiVi Car, you will not regret it. You can stay there the night before (as indeed some other people where doing) and Leonardo, the owner, will give you excellent advice overall on your motorhome’s suspension and more! I actually ended up getting rear air suspension put in as well which I can now control from the driver’s seat, and it makes for an incredible difference in the quality of the ride, not to mention the safety aspect.

They have power, water and drainage facilities there including chem toilets and really could not be more helpful. Mirko will reply to your email inquiry and speaks good English.

Overall I’m really happy with the system – it’s lightweight, bother-free and works really well, and the end result of having your motorhome on a levelling system is just incredible. It’s so stable!

You can contact DiVi car on info@carrozzeriadivicar.it or visit tesalist.eu/en for possible other locations.

Via Switzerland to north Italy

After Holland I routed via Switzerland to get to just north of Milan in Italy, where I was going to get an electric auto-levelling system installed.

My good friends Bryan, Sheila and their dog Ziggy have a house in Grimentz, Switzerland and so I routed to pass near them and we met up in the village of Sierre for a quick breakfast. It was super to see them again.

We took a pic of the dogs but not of us!

I found an incredible municipal overnight stop in the village before which offered a spectacular 360 view that was priceless.

Whilst it was fantastic to be back on the road again, I did encounter an issue with my new compressor fridge. Essentially, I did not tie down the thinner gas line and with the vibration of the driving, it snapped.

I can recall smelling quite a distinct smell and it must have been the freon escaping from the system. This means I was going to loose the frozen seabass and other goodies in my freezer! I gave Bryan and Sheila two of the seabass and tried saving the other food. I called ahead to the Italian dealer that was going to do the auto levelling for me and he put me in touch with a Vitifrigo technician that was near them. (Luckily, the fridge is an Italian brand!)

I managed to find him after a few very tight turns in neighbourboods I’m sure I was not supposed to drive in. He promptly re-attached the gas line and refilled the compressor with gas right there on the side of the road! All sorted.

Then I went on to the auto levelling installer – but about this I’ll write in the next post.