Saturday, 11 August 2007

Goodbye EU...

I think that we managed to soak up some of the Transylvanian atmosphere in Romania. It rained most of the time so the hills were very misty and eerie. We visited the alleged birth place of Dracula, Sigisoara, and the beautiful city of Sibiu. Sibiu is sharing the role of European City of Culture with Luxembourg this year and the Romanians have gone to great lengths to present it in its full glory- it is spotless, unlike the rest of Romania. On our way to the Bulgarian border we drove over a mountain road through the Fagaras Mountains and for once we were treated to a view from the top. However the rubbish was disgusting. I understand the area to be a National Park, it was so disappointing. On our way down we did see some workers clearing some of the rubbish but they were just making little bonfires out of it- there was too much to transport away.

Band on the street in Sibiu, Romania

Romania is a beautiful colourful country with something to interest everybody in every corner; however, I did become weary of having to clean up the area every time we stopped.

Mountain pass, looking down the hanging valley

The final stretch to the border was via a rather rickety and isolated road made much worse by the rain. It followed a railway line and we passed numerous what looked to be derelict large Collective Farms.

Again in Bulgaria the roads were washed out but the police were very efficient in diverting everyone. We headed for the Black Sea Resort of Varna and then a little further south to camp is a Special Reserve area of forest right on the beach. Again we are not sure what the Special Reserve was for. Not wanting to moan but again the litter was pretty foul. Luckily the part we chose to camp on had just been the subject of some flash flooding so I think all the litter had been washed into someone else’s patch. After it started to rain again, our neighbours, Dianne and Mark, played host to us in their “White Box” until the wee hours of the morning with the help of some fine Bulgarian wine.
Breafast stop, first morning in Bulgaria

We found a better beach further down the road at Sozopol. The town, despite being extremely touristy was delightful and after regular dips in the Black Sea to cool down we made a move to find a secluded shady spot where Gavin could do some maintenance on the car. I will let him explain about this in more detail, but needless to say it did not go to plan and those pesky flies were attracted to every orifice on ones head. Finally, with Gavin’s patience holding out the task was a “good ‘un” and we were on our way again.

The road to Turkey was through a hilly green and lush Natural Park, home to many types of oak and periwinkle and fly- tipping.

Now we are finally out of the European Union and I had to pay for my first visa, Gavin’s was for free. So far Turkey has been delightful and the Turkish people have been so courteous. Initially the road down through the hills from the border to the first big town, Kirkareli, was full of villages and babbling streams. Kirkareli was stuffed full of different grocery shops and little eateries. The whole place was simply bursting with life.

We are now cooling off at a beach campsite right on the Sea of Marmara before heading into Istanbul.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Recovered Photos...

Have finally managed to recover photos of Croatia from the memory card, and have added a few here. A bit more interesting than photos of stork nests and Land Rovers... The first photo shows the wind on the water north of the Dalmatian Coast. The last three were taken at Plitvice Lakes.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Happy Birthday Mum!

Last year from Russia, this year from Bulgaria.
All the best.
Love from Gavin and Catkin

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Croatia, Hungary and Romania

Roof tents are great – when it’s not too windy! After our last post we headed south-east to the northern Dalmatian coast (and we even saw a Dalmatian dog!). Quite early on in the day, however, the winds picked up to gale force, whipping up a frenzy on the sea. People were sent scattering from the beaches, trying to maintain control of their inflatable dinghies, and the road was closed to motorbikes and caravans. Not Land Rovers though, so we carried on past the barrier arms. Man, was it windy. It looks like it might be like that quite often, too, as there was hardly any vegetation above four feet tall. As the day wore on our thoughts turned to our camping situation. At an altitude of six feet above ground level, the roof tent tends to cop the wind a bit. "Maybe we should use the dome tent on the ground?" Catkin suggested. "Just wait until the sun goes down, and I’m sure the wind will drop," I tell her. "We’ll be fine." When the wind actually picked up after sunset, the dome tent was looking promising, although I’m not sure if that would have withstood the gusts either. Finally at around midnight the wind did drop to satisfactory roof tent levels, albeit with the fly tied down, and even then it was still a pretty noisy night. On top of all that, I don’t think we really ventured far enough south to get the best of the coast.

We had a more important mission. With our newly acquired insurance green card, mentioned in a previous post, we had a small window to get through Romania, so back north and further east for us. Stopping at the Plitvice Lakes (on another tip from Marcus), we spent an afternoon wandering around the boardwalks marvelling at the turquoise water. Took heaps of photos, but so far the memory card has refused to release them for public exhibition… Instead you get to see a picture of a stork nest on top of a power pole. The nests are massive, and are quite a common sight.

Crossing into Hungary we made for Pecs for a few essential purchases and a night in a great little family-run campground, and then onto Szeged. Over the last few days our focus has changed slightly, in that we have been covering a lot more ground and seeing a lot less touristy sights. Consequently we’re taking fewer photos, but have included a night shot of the Camel in front of the Tisza river in Szeged, Hungary.

Since then we have made it into Romania and the roads have got worse (and the driving). We spent the first night at another family-run campsite, Route Roemanie, were the owner was very helpful in giving us advice on routes and things to see in Romania. I think he was a little disappointed that we were driving through so quickly, but understood when we explained that we had to get to New Zealand.

Last night we chanced our arm on the shore of a fishing lake in Transylvania. We got a few odd looks from the locals, and I think we may be camping at one of their best fishing spots.

We've currently in Sighisoara, where Dracula was allegedly born, and have just had a delicious lunch at a small cafe, although what was delivered to the table bore no resemblance to what was ordered!