European Road Trip in a camper van – Part 3

Our European Road Trip in a motorhome Continues!

Solar powered trees, flying roosters and record breaking fish soup. We experienced them all over the past week of our European Road Trip in a motorhome! What will the next five days bring? Read on to find out…

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European Road Trip in a motorhome: Day 11  [Total Mileage: 1850]

[Country: Romania]

Waking up by the lake was wonderful. Indeed, there is something magical about the sound of water lapping onto the shore. As a result, we sat with the doors wide open enjoying our breakfast with a wonderful view.

View from rear doors on our european road trip
Our morning view!

After breakfast and our morning chores, we took the opportunity to jump in the lake for an enjoyable swim.  We both really enjoyed Lacul Surdic and could easily have stayed for a week. However, we were on a tight schedule and soon it was time to hit the road once again. Our destination was Corvin Castle, Hunedoara.

Both Erica and I had been looking forward to visiting Corvin Castle since planning our trip!  It looked incredible in all of the photographs, however it was finally time to see it in person.

Hunedoara

The 100 mile drive to Hunedoara, Transylvania took just under 2 hours and we both enjoyed seeing lots of Stork nests along the way!  By the time we arrived, the car parks were full.  Consequently, we had to drive around a mile away from the castle where we parked on a residential street.

stork nest viewed from the motorhome window
We saw lots of Stork nests!

Corvin Castle dominates the skyline of Hunedoara with its numerous towers and rooms. As a result, we certainly didn’t need a map to navigate our way through the streets to the castle!  Finally we arrived at the drawbridge where we paid the 30 Leu (£5.60) entry fee. 

Corvin Castle, Hunedoara, Romania. European Road Trip
Corvin Castle in Hunedoara.

Once inside, we spent several hours exploring the many interesting rooms.  Luckily, there were many English translations of the room descriptions.  Indeed, we were both extremely impressed with the way in which Corvin Castle had been organised for visitors like ourselves!  We also took the opportunity to be creative with the camera and took over 100 photographs.

Corvin Castle, Motorhome trip around Romania
One of the many rooms inside Corvin Castle
Corvin Castle, Romania
A creative shot through a window

Eventually, we had seen all of the sights of Corvin Castle.  Consequently, we retraced our steps back down into Hunedoara and went for a wonder around the town.  There was not much to see from a tourist point of view and so after popping into some shops, we returned to the van.

Peștera Bolii

After a few minutes researching local points of interest, we discovered some interesting sounding caves about an hours drive away. Our route took us through some beautiful countryside and up a really narrow track where we soon arrived at the cave’s car park.

After paying the 10 Leu entrance fee, we descended a steep flight of steps to the entrance of the cave.  Once inside, we followed a winding path which crossed the river a number of times.  Furthermore, each of the bridges was illuminated in vibrant colours.

Peștera Bolii, Romania
Illuminated bridges inside Peștera Bolii
Illuminated Bridge, Peștera Bolii
Illuminated Bridge, Peștera Bolii, Romania

Lainici Monastery

Soon we were back outside in daylight!  After a quick look on the map we decided to drive to the relatively nearby Lainici Monastery. Sadly we were unable to take photographs inside the buildings.  The monastery had an extraordinarily peaceful feel to it and we enjoyed some quiet time sitting listening to some chanting in the background.

Lainici Monastery, Romaina
Lainici Monastery from the roadside

 

By now it was getting late and so we started to investigate local campsites.  Sadly we were unable to find one nearby.  Consequently we decided to cook dinner in the layby where we had parked before driving into Petroșani where we spent the night.

European Road Trip in a motorhome: Day 12  [Total Mileage: 2025]

[Country: Romania]

For the first time on our road trip, we didn’t sleep well! This was due to the fact that we had parked in a relatively busy area with a surprising amount of traffic. Consequently, we woke early at 06:30 and decided to get out of the city where we stopped somewhere  quiet to eat a full cooked breakfast! Although we were almost trapped in our breakfast stop as while we were cooking the road was closed for resurfacing and we noticed just in time to stop ourselves becoming stranded…

Erica and I agreed to head for the Spa town of Băile Herculane. Google Maps suggested taking Route 67, however we identified a more direct road. Route 66A was shown on the map as a main, named road.  Furthermore, it passed right through the centre of a national park.  Since Erica and I love driving through woodland and forest and so decided to ignore Google Maps and take the direct route! Sadly this would prove to be a mistake…

Route: 66A

Map, Petrosani - baile herculane
Courtesy of Google Maps

We started along the 66A which took us through some truly beautiful and dramatic scenery, including alongside a beautiful river for around 30 miles.   Furthermore, the road quality was excellent which made for some relaxing driving.

View from van window 66a Romania
The view from the van window!
66A Road, Romania.  European Motorhome Road Trip
We drove through some beautiful forest!

Unfortunately, after almost 70 miles driving, the tarmac road abruptly ended. Consequently, we were now less than 30 miles from Băile Herculane and faced with a dilemma.  Either continue along the gravel track and risk damaging the van or turn back and drive another 185 miles! 

We decided to park the van and take a walk along the track to establish how smooth the surface was.  Sadly, we realised that there were numerous pot holes and dips and therefore was impassable in the van.  We would have to take the 185 mile detour!

Before retracing our route back to Petroşani, we spent time exploring the beautiful woodlands and even got the drone flying.  That is until we lost communication…

Once we recovered the drone from some trees, we headed back to the van and continued on our lengthened journey to Băile Herculane!

End of the 66A, Romania
The end of the road! (unless you are in a 4X4)

Târgu Jiu

After a couple of hours driving, we decided it was about time for lunch. Because of this, we decided to divert into the town of Târgu Jiu where we parked up.  We spent some time walking around the town and visited the rather impressive Infinity Column. (Sculptural Ensemble of Constantin Brâncuși at Târgu Jiu). I was most impressed with how thin the 30 metre tall tower was, especially considering it had been there for over 80 years!

Sculptural Ensemble of Constantin Brâncuși at Târgu Jiu
The rather impressive Infinity Column.

After some lunch in the park, we continued on our journey to Băile Herculane along the 67D.  The drive was rather lovely where we passed numerous Wooden Churches and more beautiful scenery. Of course, we pulled over to take as many photographs as possible.

One of the  many Wooden Churches we saw on our Motorhome Road Trip
A Wooden Church along our route
Van parked in mountains, Romania
We stopped here for coffee and to enjoy the view!
River Cerna
Paddling in the River Cerna

Băile Herculane

Eventually we arrived in Băile Herculane.  Sadly the town was a little disappointing, full of crumbling 1960’s hotels. Consequently, we didn’t bother parking and instead drove a couple of miles back along the 67D where we found a small campsite.

The staff at the campsite were lovely, and we were given a warm welcome. Furthermore, it only cost £2.80 including electricity!  Once we had set up camp (and opened the wine) we waked to the nearby Thermal Spring and climbed in the 28 degree water!

We both thoroughly enjoyed bathing in the spring and the locals made us feel very welcome.  After 20 minutes, we had to vacate the spring as it was time for cleaning, however this was enough time as we were starting to overheat!

Once we had dried off, we walked down to a local restaurant where we had a lovely meal and a beer.  Amazingly, we calculated that the cost was actually less than it would have cost us to buy the ingredients in the supermarket!  

Eventually it was time to return to the campsite where we sat outside chatting, drinking wine and being creative with long exposures on the camera.  I also took the opportunity to catch up with the the logbook as you can see in the photo!

Campsite near Băile Herculane
Long Exposure at our campsite

European Road Trip in a motorhome: Day 13  [Total Mileage: 2186]

[Country: Romania, Bulgaria]

After a lovely and peaceful nights sleep, we woke up and had breakfast sitting outside the van.  We then took the opportunity to wander along the River Cerna where we made friends with lots of stray dogs!

Aware that we needed to leave the campsite before lunch, we headed back to the van, packed up and departed. Unfortunately the site didn’t have any drinking water, however we found a natural spring a few miles down the road where we topped up.

Campsite near Băile Herculane. European Motorhome Road Trip
Departing the campsite near Băile Herculane

Both Erica and I were thoroughly enjoying our time in Romania. However, in order to arrive in Greece for the wedding, it was time to head further south into Bulgaria.  Consequently, we agreed to spend the night in Belogradchik and visit some interesting places along the route. The first stop would be Drobeta-Turnu Severin.

After departing the campsite, our route took us out through the beautiful national park and along the River Danube which formed part of the border with Serbia. Luckily there were numerous lay-bys along the route where we were able to stop and take photographs.

View of Serbia across the Danube
View across The Danube towards Serbia

Drobeta-Turnu Severin

The drive to Drobeta-Turnu Severin was only around an hour from Băile Herculane and there was little traffic. Luckily, we managed to park right next to Severin Medieval Fortress.

The remains of the fortress was open to the public was enjoyable to wander around.  Furthermore, the views from the top were rather impressive across the Danube towards Serbia.  I can imagine that it would be rather beautiful at night as there were many floodlights around the site.

Severin Medieval Fortress.
Severin Medieval Fortress

Once we had finished exploring the fortress, we walked to a nearby square beside the Cultural palace.  The fountains were rather impressive including numerous motorised jets that caused the water to dance (known locally as the Artesian well). Furthermore, the cool spray from the fountain was a lovely respite from the increasing heat of the day.

Luckily, we found a bar near to the fountain where we each bought an ice cream that cost precisely the value of our remaining Romanian Currency!

Artesian well and Cultural palace, Drobeta-Turnu Severin. Romania
Artesian well and Cultural palace

After a little more exploring of the city, we returned to the van and continued on our European Road Trip towards the Bulgarian Border.

Entering Bulgaria!

Unfortunately, as we approached the border, the traffic began to slow and eventually stopped altogether.  Strangely a constant stream of local cars began overtaking us on the wrong side of the road.  Eventually a helpful lorry driver spoke to us and explained that we needed to do the same as apparently border control was currently holding all freight traffic.

After a deep breath, I began following the locals over taking the lorries, pulling in regularly to avoid on-coming traffic.  This was rather scary, however it was clearly the right decision as the queue of lorries went on for around 5 miles!

Eventually, we arrived at the Border which we sailed straight through without any problems at all.

Once in Bulgaria the traffic greatly reduced and we had an easy journey to Belogradchik.  A spectacular fortress dominated the skyline of the area and we were surprised to be able to park literally next to the entrance.

Belogradchik

Belogradchik Fortress is built on top of massive sandstone rock formations which looked beautiful in the late afternoon sunshine. We bought our entry tickets in a local shop before entering the fortress grounds. Surprisingly, a stage was under construction, however we soon learned this was for a forthcoming Ballet.  I can imagine this would have been a stunning location to watch ballet!

After taking some photographs, we began to climb the many steps up to the top of the fortress.  Safety barriers hadn’t yet arrived at Belogradchik and so we were able to climb right to the top of some of the rocks!

Eventually we found a vantage point and sat for over an hour and a half,  just enjoying the incredible scenery.  We both agreed that this was our favourite place so far.

Belogradchik Fortress, Bulgaria
Belogradchik Fortress
Rocks of Belogradchik Fortress, Bulgaria. European Motorhome Road Trip
The rocks of Belogradchik Fortress
Inside Belogradchik Fortress
View inside Belogradchik Fortress

At around 19:30, we decided to make our way down from the fortress and up to a second sandstone hill.  Consequently, we were rewarded with an impressive view back across Belogradchik Fortress.

As darkness fell, we headed into town where we found a local bar for a drink.  Luckily there was a power failure and so the village was silent and peaceful! Finally, we returned to the van where we cooked dinner and settled in for the night.

View towards Belogradchik with the fortress to the right. Motorhome Road Trip!
View across Belogradchik

European Road Trip in a motorhome: Day 14  [Total Mileage: 2350]

[Country: Bulgaria]

We slept very well in Belogradchik and woke around 7am. The mountain air was refreshing and cool and so we sat outside on the grass with our morning coffee.  Our original plan was to head to the Magura Caves where we had read about some cave paintings. However when checking the opening times, we realised that they were temporarily closed.  Consequently, we looked on the map and discovered a local alternative!

Venetsa Cave

The drive to Venetsa Cave took just 20 minutes and we arrived just as a tour was about to start.  We were handed hard hats and headed into the cave via scaffolding along with a large group of Bulgarians.

Once inside, we made our way through an extremely narrow tunnel into a large chamber with huge waterfalls of calcite and massive pillars.  Furthermore, it was all floodlit in slowly changing colours which created a nice effect.

Our guide explained in great detail to the group, however neither of us speak Bulgarian, and he spoke limited English.  Evidently the guide was quite knowledgeable as he got a lot of questions from the group! Luckily, as we both have an interest in caves and a background of studying Geology we were able to figure out the key points of interest! Even if we had known nothing about geology, just being able to descend into the caves was well worth the ticket price.

Our tour took about an hour in total, including visiting 4 separate chambers with plenty of time for questions and photos.

Venetsa Cave, Bulgaria
Venetsa Cave.
Viewing platform inside Venetsa Cave
Viewing platform inside Venetsa Cave

Junk Museum!

Erica’s gran had recommended we visit the Rila Monastery as she had visited over 50 years before on a similar European road trip!  After a quick look at the map, we realised the route to Rila Monastery would take us right past the capital Sofia. However sadly we would not have time to visit both. Consequently, we decided to drive straight to the monastery, some 150 miles south.

A short distance from Rila, we passed a very strange looking Junk Museum.  Obviously we needed to know more and so parked up and paid the small (voluntary) entrance fee.  Unsurprisingly, once inside we were faced with lots of junk! From stacks of antique tv’s to motorbikes, the museum had everything.  We both enjoyed wandering around the collections of strange items before returning to the van for some lunch.

Junk Museum!
Junk Museum!

Rila Monetary 

After lunch, we continued the drive up to Rila Monastery where we parked up right outside at around 4pm.  Consequently, it was rather quiet in the grounds and the perfect time to visit.  With vibrant colours and stunning frescoes on the ceilings, the buildings were beautiful and clearly very well looked after.

We wandered inside the main church, however unfortunately cameras were not permitted. Instead we sat quietly in silence to reflect on its beauty.  After lighting a candle, we headed to a nearby cafe for a nice coffee.

Rila Monestary, Bulgaria. European Motorhome Road Trip
The Rila Monastery
Rila Monestary
Rila Monastery
Painted Ceiling. Rila Monestary
One of many beautiful painting ceilings.

Rozhen Monastery

Our final destination of the day was to the wine region of Melnik. Upon arriving at 7pm, we decided to continue along the road up above the town to watch the sunset.  The road was winding and took us through some beautiful countryside. Eventually we arrived at  right at the top of the hill, passing an abandoned church before coming to a stop in a large gravel car park a short walk from the Rozhen Monastery.

Both Erica and I agreed that this was actually more impressive than Rila, simply because it was not in any way touristy.  Furthermore, there was the haunting sound of singing prayers played through a loudspeaker system throughout the site.   We walked inside the central church to find the source of the sound. Beautiful.

We respected the request to switch off mobile phones and refrain from using cameras. As such we have no photographs which added to the memory of this magical place.

Melnik

After our visit to the monastery, we retraced our route down the hill, parking in the field below the abandoned church to admire the sunset. 

We sat by the van watching the incredible golden sandstone cliffs disappear into darkness.  Of course, it was the perfect place to get some photographs of the van.  A local photo bombed the first picture, however the second attempted worked just fine! 

Horse in front of the van
Photobombed!
One of our favourite photos of the road trip. Standing in front of sandstone rocks.
One of my favourite photos!

Eventually we returned to the town below where we parked up in a motorhome friendly car park. We confirmed that we were able to stay overnight before walking around Melnik.  It was certainly a lovely place to spend an evening, filled with lots of restaurants and wine merchants.

Melnik
Melnik at night

We spent some time trying to work out where to have dinner as every restaurant looked inviting. However we eventually settled on an eatery with an inviting terrace area.  After a quick browse of the menu, and taking some advice on portion, we ordered a local dish of meat and cheese. The dish was served on a sizzling dish, a local speciality for which the internet cannot provide a recipe to recreate! This was accompanied by paprika dusted bread served with some local wine (it was after all a village famous for its wine).

Evening meal, Melnik. The best food on our European Motorhome Road Trip
Delicious food!

It is actually very unusual for me to eat out as I really enjoy cooking. I am however very glad that we chose to in Melnik as the food was incredible.  Indeed I actually think this is the best meal I have ever eaten!

We stayed in the restaurant for the rest of the evening before retiring to the van for the night.

European Road Trip in a motorhome: Day 15  [Total Mileage: 2550]

[Country: Bulgaria, Greece]

After a good night’s sleep, we had a lazy start before going for a wander through the town.  It was very hot and so kept to the shady side of the cobbled streets.  Our route took along the river and up to a remote church where we sat in the shade for some time.

On the way back, we stopped in a number of shops to buy wine (all very local in a mixture of glass and plastic bottles) using up our remaining currency. 

Wandering through Melnik on our Motorhome Road Trip
Wandering through Melnik.
Church above Melnik.
We walked up to a remote church

Melnik was a lovely place, however it was now time to visit yet another country on our European Road Trip in a motorhome!

We made our way back to the van, packed away the wine and hit the road!  A few miles before the border, we turned off the motorway to fill up with fuel as it was very cheap in Bulgaria! Whilst in the queue for petrol we got chatting to an interesting British Biker who was riding from Cape in Norway to Cape Hora. This made our motorhome road trip seem a little tame in comparison!

Greece!

Once in Greece, we turned off the motorway and headed towards the town of Rentina via country roads.  When we were about an hour from the coast, we decided to pull over for some lunch in the countryside.  As soon as I turned the engine off and open the door, the heat hit us! As to be expected, Greece in July is hot!

It was too hot to walk far and so decided to just sit quietly with the rear doors open.  Erica read her book whilst I did some programming that I had wanted to get on with since before we left!

Our first glimpse of Greece on our Road Trip
A lovely view for the afternoon.

After several hours of relaxing, we continued along the country road until we arrived in the coastal town of Stavros. From here we continued along the coastal road winding around the mountainous headlands.  The scenery was absolutely stunning and so we stopped numerous times to just sit and enjoy the view.

Lerissos

Eventually we arrived at Lerissos and parked up in some woodland behind the beach accompanied by numerous other Greek motorhomes!   Now, usually I am not that keen on the beach. However, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon swimming in the sea and just relaxing on the beach.

As the light started to fade, we returned to the van where we cooked dinner before sitting outside and watching the sunset. A truly beautiful evening.

Our Road Trip took us to the beach! Lerissos, Greece.
The Beach!
Lerissos, Greece.
Our evening view.

European Road Trip in a motorhome – Where Next?

Monasteries built on Rock Pillars, ancient Archaeological sites and stunning beaches.  There is so much more to read about our European Road Trip in a motorhome! Click the link to continue!

European Road Trip – Part 4

 

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Further Reading.

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