Archive | July, 2011

21st July

21 Jul

Diesel price 5.00 zl  (£1.06 / lt) – Petrol is around 5.25 zl (£1.12 / lt)

After another night outside Birkenau (big thunderstorm) we drove on towards a campsite outside Krakow called ‘Smok’. Costs are obviously higher than the country campsites, but it is secure, has good facilities and is only 4 km to the city centre by bus and then tram. You can pick up the bus just outside the campsite.

Afternoon spent rearranging some of the storage in the camper and washing clothes.

During the afternoon we were reflecting on how different it is travelling in Europe as compared with Australia. There you can travel 2000 Km and the scenery hardly changes (in some places). Don’t get me wrong ….. its lovely but the distances between the places is vast in some areas. Plus each time you stop they still speak English ….. (well Aussie which is almost the same!). Here we have only been gone just over two weeks (I know that because I changed my T-shirt today 🙂 ) and we have travelled only 1444 miles (2311 Km) and have passed through 7 countries including the UK.

Hoping for a nice day tomorrow to visit Krakow.

20th July Auschwitz – Birkenau

20 Jul

Nothing can prepare you for the size of the concentration camps. The structures are precisely laid out in symmetrical shape around the railway siding that bought the prisoners in from all over Europe. Prisoners were sorted on arrival into those that could work and those that could not. Women with young babies, children under fourteen, the sick, the elderly and disabled were taken straight to the gas chambers to be murdered. The rest were put to work in such harsh conditions that they usually only lasted weeks. It is all so hard to understand as people are generally kind and look after each other …. why?

Although distressing, we would stongly recommend a visit to Auschwitz, it makes you realise that what ever little grumbles we have in our daily lives, we are very very lucky. It certainly puts things in perspective.

If you are making a visit here in a camper, there is a great new carpark just outside Birkenau. We actually stayed two nights as there is a lot to see. You can then walk over to camp 1 (Auschwitz) and pick up the tour there and they provide a shuttle back to Birkenau and a brief tour there. Cost of tour around £9 per person for about 3 hours. Camping for now is free.

Plan for tomorrow is to head to Krakow.

19th July – South West Poland

19 Jul

18th July

Internet not been quite as easy. Have been ‘tethering’ phone to computer to update in the comfort of our camper but not worked so far in Poland. So we are now sitting in Mc D’s!!

Crossed the CZ PL border with no problem or documents needed. Straight into lovely scenery and a National Park called Gor Stolowych. The rock formations were great.

Driving on towards Gluszyca where there are a series of huge tunnels cut into solid rock by 30,000 + POW’s for Hitler in 1942 ish. No one really knows what the plans were for the huge complex of tunnels but there were images of tanks and heavy artillery in the tunnels and so it may be that. The guide spoke in rapid Polish and so it was a bit difficult to understand. Once I know how to add sound bites I will show you what I mean. That along with the sat nav trying to pronounce long polish street names is worth a listen!

On the way to the tunnels we came across a little old lady who had driven into a ditch! I shouldn’t say so but I was quite pleased to have a chance to justify my bumper 🙂

Leaving the tunnels to head towards the lakes at near Nysa (… that looked nice on the map). The scenery was again really lovely.

Now on our way towards Krakow.

17th July

17 Jul

Still enjoying the Czech Republic! The scenery in the north close to the Polish border is stunning, with tree covered hills and mountains and quiet B roads. We headed to Nova Paka which is a town that I (Graham) know well from my work at SIFAM. We met with a friend called Jindra and had a really nice lunch that included a Czech specialty, garlic cream soup …. delicious but not very sociable! We also had dumplings and pork, again a traditional dish.


Thanks Jindra it was great to see you and thanks again for the Krkonosska Medovina …. it even sounds delicious! There are still no lorries on the road which helps and the sun is shining. It was up to 30 deg C today and even when we headed up to the mountains (Pec Snezkou) the tarmac on the road was melting. Having stayed in a cheap campsite last night we decided to try another one after coming back down the mountain road. We headed to a place called Upice and found a little campsite that used to be a reservoir or pound for a mill. It had since been filled with soil and turfed making it a really sheltered little spot. Having not done much exercise we took it in turns to run around the perimeter …. people must think the English are very strange. Only problem is we can’t find anyone to pay. The logos on the side of the camper have proved useful as the Czech people used to learn Russian at school and so can read the alphabet. Even when we were stopped by the police, they asked if we were driving all the way to Malaysia. They thought it was funny …. can’t think why!

16th July – Czech Republic

16 Jul

Diesel CZ Crn 33.30 (£1.19/ltr) Petrol the same


Don’t forget you can follow the link at the end of ‘Route’ to see exactly we where we have got to so far!!

or just here ……
Jumped straight on to the A4 this morning and headed straight towards the Czech Republic on a lovely sunny day. It was not on our original plan but it seemed a shame not to visit as Marjool has not been there and it is nearly on the way as we changed our minds and decided to visit the south of Poland. There were no lorries on the road as they are not allowed to use the roads on a Saturday or Sunday. It’s a great time to travel and feels much more relaxing. We are just about the slowest moving of vehicles on the road, sticking at about 80 k’s to keep the fuel consumption to a reasonable level. Cars rush by at twice our speed … at least! We are not in a rush.

We crossed the border without any controls, but were stopped just down the road by the police who wanted to let us know that the headlights should be kept on at all times. They also wanted to see our papers ( driving licence, V5, and passports). Marjool’s German came in handy as its the second language here. They were really friendly and smiley and so it was not an unpleasant experience.

Turned off the main road to stop for lunch in the middle of nowhere, but there was still a lovely church there in a style that we are not used to.

We carried on through the tiny B roads across towards Jicin, stopping to camp in a little campsite near a lake at Doksy. It cost about £6.00 per night but very basic with a cold shower.

Just as an aside to those looking at cooking options ….. we decided to cook using methylated spirit. It is the sort of cooker used on some yachts as a safety measure. It works really well but not sure if we will be able to get meths in Russia. If not we will cook on the wood gas stove or an open fire.

14th and 15th July

15 Jul

Diesel Euro 1.40, Petrol Euro 1.60 average. More on the autobahn.

Headed off from Holland packed with loads of fruit and vegetables, bottles of wine and Dolfs home made blackberry liquor. Our route took us through Eindhoven, Venlo, and into Germany through Essen, Dortmund and into Sauerland to a place called Battenburg. In Sauerland there are even some small skiresorts, one of the biggest is Winterberg.  The hills aren’t all that high though, only around the 700 metres.  We stopped the night in a camper stop (called a Stelleplatze) which are dotted around the country and are often free. You need to be self sufficient in most of these as there are often no facilities. Great for a quick overnight stop though.

The following day (15th) we drove through pretty villages (most of them very old, with tudor style looking houses), rolling hills and forests.  We are heading slowly east towards the Czech Replublic.  The weather hasn’t been that good, cloudy, very windy and cool. One of the small towns where we stopped was called Alsfeld.

The square was surrounded with old buildings.


Houses are mainly old oak framed structures and twisted with age.


Some of them are clad with wooden shingles.

On the evening of 15th we camped in the car park of the local swimming pool in Hermsdorf.

The twigs and woodchips in the carpark wer great for the woodgas stove. Boiled up water for tea and for washing … free fuel!



13 Jul

Last week or so


However much time there was to prepare, the last couple of weeks was bound to be when everything came together. The old 80/20 rule was proven once again with 80% of the jobs being done in the last 20% of the time! Marjool said that she wanted the last two weeks to be relaxing have completed all the jobs in advance … I just kept quiet ….. some hope!!

Helen and Tony arranged a send off party with a selection of friends from the village. Sarah M produced a Bon Voyage banner on which people wrote encouraging comments and messages. We were touched!

Last minute preparation included the fitting of luxury sheepskin covers. Let us know if you want any!

Final job before we left was to fit rubber wheel arch extensions as the wider tyres stood proud of the wheel arches.

9 July 2011
Fuel price in UK £1.37 / litre

Finally we leave home today for the start of our trip! The leaving date has slipped by about six days due to a few unforeseen issues with the business and car preparation. Still, there is no real rush as our only deadline is arriving at the Russian border for 15th August.

It is always hard leaving our village, family and friends, but it makes us appreciate them all the more when we get back! The fact that we have our sons looking after the house while we are away, and that our first stop will be at Marjool’s parents house in Holland, makes it a bit easier to go. It is amazing though how many things you have to think about and prepare for when you are leaving home for such a long time.

We set off for Dover at around 7.45 am and arrived at the ferry terminal 5 minutes before the last check in time (phew).

We set off the ‘spot locator’ to update our actual position (you can follow that on the ‘Route’ page. The ferry journey is only about 1.5 hrs and so by the time you eat a sandwich and drink a coffee it is time to rejoin the car.

We arrived at Marjool’s parents in the south west of Holland at around 7.30pm after driving through France and Belgium. We covered about 620km and used about 85 litres of fuel (one full tank to the time the warning light comes on). Hmmm glad it will be cheaper in Russia!



10 July 2011

Fuel Price in Holland Euro 1.31


Although I had just left home in England, going back to the country where I was born, and the house where I grew up, felt like ‘coming home’!  We had a lovely relaxing day in the garden with the family catching up with all the news. Graham continued to work on the car, doing all the odd jobs that he had left to the last minute. Including : fitting an extra fuse in the link between leisure batteries, fitting straps for storing fishing rods on the roof, changing headlights so that separate bulbs can be replaced, fitting hooks to stop maps falling out … the list goes on and on and on …. maybe he will never stop fiddling!

Not having done any exercise for quite a while now, Graham and I decided to go for a cycle ride in the evening.  Cycling is just so much fun here, so much safer with cyclepaths everywhere and it is flat!  No wonder so many Dutch people cylce.

11 July 2011


Another beautiful warm day, had our breakfast and got the bicycles ready for a ride to a small fishing village along the lake. This is a very agricultural area with dykes separating the different polders.  The dykes were built to stop the seawater (here we are 1 metre below sea level) and roads are built on top of the dykes so that you get a brilliant view of the surrounding countryside when you cycle or drive along.

This part of Holland had been badly devastated by the 1953 floods, which destroyed several villages and killed around 1835 people, many of which children.  That night, there were heavy storms over the North Sea, it was spring tide and the sea broke through the sea defence dykes and dunes in many places.  It took most people by complete surprise.
Farmers have been encouraged to grow a narrow strip of wild flowers on the edge of their crops to encourage wildlife and insects. Here are some of the flowers we saw on the way.

The edges of the corn fields had a mix of flowers and corn.

And beautiful sunflowers.

It is so nice looking at all the different Dutch style houses with their pretty window displays and their lovely tended front gardens.

12th and 13th July

Just spent some time shopping, updating website (not very quick yet …), seeing friends and getting ready to leave.

Thought we ought to have a windmill picture before we leave Holland. Here it is!


12 Jul