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RoadRace: Biser to Berlin

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Some people say we are crazy to travel the world with eight kids.
Some people say we are crazy to live in two motorhomes.
Some people say we were completely mad to travel by bus and train for days at a time.
These people may all be right!

Usually we blog about events AFTER they have happened, but we expect to be out of touch for the next week and so we are filling you in before we embark on our next spot of madness. We are about to attempt to drive the two and a half thousand kilometres from Biser in Bulgaria to Berlin in Germany in six days….and on the way to take in seven capital cities. We have heard of people doing similar distances in half the time, but they were not travelling with a bevvy of kids, who need some wriggle time each day.
So seven capitals in six days with eight kids sounds like a mission enough for us!

In case you’d like to follow our progress, here’s the rough plan:

First, the capitals:
Sofia ~ Bulgaria
Belgrade ~ Serbia
Budapest ~ Hungary
Bratislava ~ Slovak Republic
Vienna ~ Austria
Prague ~ Czech Republic
Berlin ~ Germany

We’ll drive to Sofia (or just past it) today (Friday). That’s a pleasant enough 300km.
Then tomorrow we’ll get up early early, cross into Serbia and try to make it to the top  of the country and out again into Szeged in Hungary in one day, no matter how long it takes. We expect it to be a long day – probably about 12 hours driving. Plus whatever hold-ups we have at the borders. The kids have big lollipops!!
Sunday up to Budapest.
Monday to Bratislava and Vienna. (We were going to do this on two separate days, but the new Bear Cave owners are chomping at the bit to get their van!)
Tuesday to Prague.
Wednesday to Berlin, if there’s time via Wittenburg to see the church door where Martin Luther pinned his 99 theses.
Thursday a guy flies in from Holland to take the orange van. We take our gear to the couchsurfing place we stayed at before, go to the station to book train tickets and squeeze into the Bear Cave for one final night.
Friday Rach takes the kids to a park or something for the day while Rob heads off early for Leipzig to do the paperwork etc for the Bear Cave, sadly say good-bye to it and catch the train or bus back to Berlin.
We’ll turn up at the couchsurfers at a reasonable time and stay there hopefully until Monday (if the ticket thing worked out) when we’ll be off to Poland.

A mini-adventure in the big adventure.

’nother netherlands night….

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

by Rach
Stellendam, Holland

….or day, as the case may be
(but that’s not very alliterationy)
even if those lines rhyme just right

but speaking of night
let me just say
it doesn’t last long
coz the sun shines all day

it’s up before five
while I stay in bed
and it’s still shining past ten
when I rest my head

Gotta love these no-night northern summer days! (and we’re not even *that* far north)

Anyway, we got off to a netherlandsy start with pancakes and apple sauce. The massive cast iron pot earned itself a permanent place in our family – it cooks pancakes wonderfully! As we ate at the picnic table in the courtyard beside our vans, horses neighed from their top-half-open barn doorways, a dim-witted pigeon circled around (please don’t accuse me of being too harsh about this bird – it has flown into our window once and today we watched it try to land on our sloping bonnet – that was never going to work – it really IS dim-witted), the sun shone and it was all just netherlands nice.

Then while I beavered away on the internet searching for going-home options, finding airfares from Berlin, trying to work out where and when to sell the Womos, finding airfares from Frankfurt, wondering whether it would be snowing in Romania in November (surely not – what? it probably will be? No! Yes?), changing plans coz we’re not driving in the snow, finding airfares from Rome, finding airfares from Istanbul, wondering if we need Turkish visas, dreaming about real doner kebabs, corresponding with people we are about to stay with in England and ones we are trying to stay with in Romania, comparing airfares pre-Christmas and post-Christmas, finding bus and train options from Berlin to Krakow to Budapest to Brasov to Bucharest to Istanbul, looking for apartment rental in Romania and Turkey, finding a fantastic hostel in Krakow, checking out Auschwitz, discovering Interrail is only for EU residents, discovering Eurail doesn’t travel to the countries we need it to, looking for caravans on (don’t even ask! let’s just say we were exploring all the possibilities short of visiting India or South America), changing plans again, wondering how to get CastIronPot home if we sell the motorhomes early and train around Europe for a few weeks, making enquiries about extending travel insurance…..(I’ve been at the kitchen bench or computer All Day Long and haven’t even made a start on promised personal emails, and I can’t see it happening, because tomorrow is the day Rob has decided we book our Going Home Tickets. For months we avoided the conversation altogether, pretending time was not racing by. About the supposed-to-be-halfway mark we knew we were not ready to be on the coming home stretch and so an email was dispatched to work requesting an extension to the Leave Without Pay. When this was successfully granted, we were able to avoid the Going Home Discussion for a few more weeks. But airfares are going up and in the interests of being able to feed our children upon our return, we are now having to be responsible adults and face the future. Which we are doing grandly in a total of two days. You would not believe how many options we have considered just today even! And right now we have hardly any more idea than this morning of what is going to happen – other than we will not be motorhoming through Romania in November – by the way, is this the longest ever bracketted sidetracked comment? Back to the original sentiment that while I was researching…..)

While I did all that the others washed all the silk sleeping bag liners and strung up a Chinese laundry, rode bikes around the campsite (which is actually a small roaded village in a completely rural setting), completed Sudokus, kicked balls around (the one we fished out of the Rhein and the rattan one we bought in Laos), scribbled some maths, journalled, discussed the scientific method and went for a walk.

When they all got back we had to google “Stellendam 1 February 1953” coz you don’t look at a monument like that without finding out the details. It was as we guessed, and then some. The dikes to the north gave way (both of them), flooding the town completely and suddenly. Additionally, a tidal wave swept in from the south. What hope was there? Sixty-nine people perished. That’s a lot of people in a small town.


Sunday, September 7th, 2008
Rob doesn't like doing things for the sake of it; he likes a purpose. Of course we already have a purpose for our Great Britain leg of the trip, but as I have contemplated cycle touring, I have come across some ... [Continue reading this entry]

an organised tour

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008
Well....kind of. We have some good friends meeting up with us for three weeks, and so to make the most of our time together, we have plotted out a very loose and flexible plan. In case we lose the piece of paper it's ... [Continue reading this entry]


Sunday, June 8th, 2008
"Maybe you guys could escort us on our first ever out of western civilisation trip." So suggested good friends a couple of years ago when we were tentatively dicussing maybe possibly perhaps going to the UK via Malaysia. They would come ... [Continue reading this entry]

itinerary updated

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008
The published itinerary now reflects the metamorphosis our ideas have gone through from starting with three months teaching in China to what is now a full six month excursion around the whole of South East Asia. The Mongolian winter has been whittled ... [Continue reading this entry]


Tuesday, March 11th, 2008
Do you see our little tickers up there? They will track our progress at raising funds to support the work being done in Laos by the guys at Big Brother Mouse. Our first goal is to be able to [Continue reading this entry]

from expo to embassy

Saturday, February 2nd, 2008
I came away from today's Travel Expo with an armful of glossy brochures for the children to cut up (coz there's no way we'll be booking on any of those tours!) and one important piece of information: it is nigh ... [Continue reading this entry]

attraction, beckoning, China

Friday, January 25th, 2008
At first we thought the Chinese officials who were saying accomodation was a problem were perhaps looking for a way to back out of having our *large* politically incorrect family turn up on their campus (without losing face). But we ... [Continue reading this entry]

a month old

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007
Pilgrims' Progress is a month old. Time to celebrate! So far 798 *unique* people have visited, stopping off at 6233 pages. Now that may not sound like much in comparison to how many visitors Bill Gates or Brad Pitt get, but they have ... [Continue reading this entry]