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Thursday: presenting TheRoadRace retrospectively

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Berlin, Germany

I’ve just published all the posts for our RoadRace from Biser to Berlin.
We had Plan A as outlined on the blog.
We started driving and came up with Plan B.
Some days started with a Plan C, but we ended up creating a Plan D.
Take Tuesday, for example. The original plan was to drive from Vienna to Prague on this day. But on Monday we decided NOT to go to Vienna at all (taking the advice of friends who had told us it would take half a day just to get in to the city and another half to get out again, we elected not to make the Vienna detour and head straight on up towards Prague, so that we could spend the whole day walking round Prague on Tuesday – Plan B. Plan C was for if we encountered our third morning in a row of rain). Tuesday dawned clear, we were close to the capital and therefore arrived in time for the morning rush hour!! haha When will we learn? Having no Czech currency, we were unable to use the park and ride facilities, so we drove through the city, turned around, came back for a second look, circled again, took a wrong turning and did yet one more loop. There being no carparks (not at all surprising), we headed off to Germany, arriving before lunchtime (Plan D). What we thought of the city, you’ll need to read on to find out….

It’ll probably make most sense for the trip to be read chronologically, so to make that easy-peasy here are all the links in order.

(Please note there are only a few photos as we have lost our little camera, which the kids use – and it’s the kids who snap as we drive as the adults are usually busy driving. We lost it having NOT downloaded the photos – we’ve unpacked every single item from every single pack and know it is not currently in our possession. Hopefully, we accidentally sent it to Holland or Leipzig in one of the vans and will be able to recover it. More pictures to follow if we find it.)

Thursday…..nothing to do with the RoadRace, just our last antics in Bulgaria, previously unrecorded 

Friday: Biser to Border

Saturday: Three countries in one day (Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary)

Sunday: Budapest been and gone

Monday: Bratislava Birthday 
              (three more countries in one day: Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic)

Tuesday: winter catches us by surprise – IT SNOWS (yes, really)

Wednesday: we arrive, it’s over

Wednesday: we arrive

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Meissen to Berlin
In the vans from 1pm until 6pm with a half hour race round Lutherstadt Wittenberg in between


So it’s over. The RoadRace is finished and another chapter is ending.
It’s the last night we sleep in the two vans. The Other Van goes to a new owner tomorrow. We all squeeze in to The Bear Cave for a final night tomorrow, and then that, too, finds a new family.
We are back on the side of the road in Berlin where we started from in May. Back then the spring pollen was falling from the trees, looking much like snow. Now the autumn leaves are falling and yesterday we saw the first snow of winter.

It was a full summer.
We spent 157 days living in the vans (or we will have by tomorrow). That’s five crazy months and three days.
We stayed in 91 different places, only needing to pay for 26 of them. That’s 65 free.
We travelled 15,486 kilometres.
We visited 14 countries; Germany, Switzerland and Austria (albeit briefly for those two), Holland, Belgium, England, France, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, and the flying visits through Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
We didn’t get to Scotland or Wales, we didn’t go to Spain, we didn’t make it to Santorini. We were just up the road from Istanbul, but we went the other way, although we will get back there later. By bus.
We started off creeping along the motorway laughing at the signs restricting speed to 80km/hr – we’d have had to speed up to be going that fast. Today we had to slow down for them. The Bear Cave eventually got used to the idea that The Other Van (aka The Glowworm Grotto) would overtake on hills Just Because It Could, and the kids would all cheer.
We learnt to drive together – the back van pulling into a gap first in order to shield the front van. The Other Van even ended up leading a good part of the final RoadRace as we were depending on road signs and not the trusty GPS.
We sat in a seven hour traffic jam in Antwerp. We inched along The Riviera.
We were moved on by police twice (once from a night-time spot and once from daytime parking outside a diplomatic building).
We wound our way up and down mountains, in and out of the narrowest lanes.
We saw castles and cathedrals and cobblestones and archaeological sites.
We ate pasties and pastries and pasta and pizza and pickles.
We also ate the most amazing cheeses and breads and fresh produce – figs, grapes, watermelons, apples, peaches, persimmons, pomegranates, quinces.

We really have had a taste of a European summer.

But this morning it was no longer summer. We were parked in a motorhome park that would have been most appealing a few weeks ago – huge grassy fields with tall shade-giving trees, outdoor table tennis tables, swimming pool, petanque court. Today it was simply cold. Thinking it was wonderful to have such an outdoor area, we sent the little kids to play outside while we packed. Surely that would be better than us all tripping over each other while we tried to get packed up in Berlin. But it was not long before four of them were crying! It was too cold. Their hands hurt, their feet hurt, their noses were dripping. Realising it was only two degrees, we insisted they must wear the hats we had got out at breakfast-time, and issued gloves as well, and sent them back out! By the end of the day they would be happy. Berlin would be a toasty ten degrees.

But en route there was one final sight to see. Lutherstadt Wittenberg. In our eagerness to get to the source of the Rhein at the beginning of the Road Trip, we had missed it. Of course, we never made it to the source either – not with that roadsign jumping out to attack the van. But today we detoured to a real Pilgrimage spot. We saw The Door. Well, actually, it’s the doorway; the door has been replaced – now there is a metal door in place of the wooden one. Luther’s 95 theses are, however, still boldly declaring the truth. We also saw the chapel where he made his appeal to old Leo. And Luther House. And Melanchthon’s house too. We only had half an hour, but we raced round the town (a charming town it is too) on foot and took in these places we have read so much about. It would have been nice to spend more time, to linger, to go into the museums, but again, we were thankful for what we COULD do rather than grumbling about what we were missing out on.

Berlin beckoned. Berlin with its cream taxis and ubiquitous deafening ambulances and intersections that you sit in the middle of waiting to turn. And it all felt quite familiar when we got there. As if we were coming home. Only we weren’t – we were just preparing for the next adventure. An adventure that will not involve repairing exhaust systems on the side of the road or bashing out dinged canopies or replacing hinges and catches or sewing torn upholstery or finding someone to fix a chipped windscreen or mending a broken portapotti or wondering how a broken fridge started again or filling holes in tables or pushing a van out of the sand in Greece or or……We may, however, still be repairing (again and again) our non-too-cheap-but-useless-quality bought-in-Vietnam shoes!

Tuesday: taken by surprise (winter arrives)

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009
almost at Prague to Meissen, just past Dresden, Germany 296km In the vans from 9am til 1pm, then another hour or so later Yesterday we watched the temperature drop from 16 degrees to 6 degrees. Today it went down another six. Yes, ... [Continue reading this entry]

Monday: Bratislava Birthday

Monday, October 12th, 2009
to infinity Bratislava and beyond 320km In the vans from 9:30 to 5pm, with a couple of hours in Bratislava Tomorrow I will turn forty. Tomorrow we plan to be in the Czech Republic sans local currency. And so today – but when it ... [Continue reading this entry]

Sunday: Budapest been and gone

Sunday, October 11th, 2009
Budapest, here we come….and go…. 328km In the vans from 8:15am til 5:15pm, with a stop for an hour and a half in the capital It feels like we’re *almost* back in the Central Europe we left in spring. Is it merely ... [Continue reading this entry]

Saturday: through Serbia from Sofia to Szeged

Saturday, October 10th, 2009
Sofia to Szeged, more or less, and all of Serbia in between 580km In the vans from 7:42am to 12:30, then 1:20 to 5:46pm (border crossings: 40 and 20 minutes; did not have to leave the vehicles at all) A foggy mist laying ... [Continue reading this entry]

Friday: Biser to Border

Friday, October 9th, 2009
Biser to Sofia and beyond a bit – almost to the Serbian border, in fact 302km In the vans from 10am til 5pm, with an hour’s stop for lunch Autumn is here. We have felt the mornings grow colder, now we see ... [Continue reading this entry]