Roundtrip Germany, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia…Italy

Heading towards Austria

After preparations we made our way into Germany on our next trip. Unsure of how the roads would be, we looked to get to somewhere around 18:00 and in this case was near Frankfurt. After a couple of abortive attempts to find a camperplace/sosta, we found Campingplatz Dreieich with good sanitiaires just south of the city. However, the owner seemed annoyed that we should bother him with our business and wasn’t really welcoming. We were given a simple uneven spot. It then rained most of the night, meaning we had to put everything away wet in the morning and because the ground wasn’t level, we had to improvise and put a bucket next to the awning, where the water streamed off to avoid big puddles.

 

Trying to Escape the rain…

The hotel on the same grounds as the camping

The next day did not begin much better. Leaving early, the weather was bad and rained most of the morning. Hence our original plan to visit the Romatische Strasse area was in ruins and we headed onto where it appeared to be dry and sunny. This took us into Austria and we eventually stopped at Camping Almtal near Wels. This has to be one of the best campsites we’ve stayed on and a nice welcome at reception! As the weather had improved (now 34 degrees!!) we went for a swim in the small, but very nice pool.

Next to the pool was a terrace and restaurant, where we had a nice meal with reasonable prices. The camping Almtal has all facilities for campers and even a dog shower facility. Superb new and clean sanitaires with big showers, washing machines and even a dishwasher.
Great spots with concrete ramps for the camper/caravan. Even a bike repair spot, as if you like walking, or biking, then this is paradise. Prices not too bad for August @ €45 per night for 2 with camper and electricity. This is a great campground for 1 night or many more and a perfect stop before driving into Slovenia or Croatia.

BTW they also have a very modern wellness with indoor pool and sauna (extra charge), so also interesting in low season. There is a hotel and lots of different holiday cabins, ensuring a constant and reliable source of guests. The mini market is limited, but they do have bread service.

After our meal in the restaurant we went for an evening stroll in the hotel gardens next to the camping. During the night we had heavy rain and thunder, but luckily our awning which we left out, stood the test. But, unfortunately the next morning we had to pack away wet stuff again.

Slovenia, lake Bled

Slovenia has magnificent scenery and friendly people, plus reasonable prices. We did not plan to stay long as adverse weather beckoned, but if it didn’t then there are many attractions to visit – The Vintner gorge, Bohinj lake and cable car, various waterfalls and numerous walks – if you have time, you will not regret it. We were sucked into the tourist haven of Lake Bled, which is fantastic, great ambience, travellers from everywhere. No regrets and would like to come back, best recommendation.

We stayed at River Camping Bled, which is a top camping, pool and excellent sanitaires, and easy enough to drop in at the end of August. Not cheap at €51, but quite acceptable with all there is to offer. Great for families too, although we preferred all the kids had gone back to school……
We tried to stay at Camping Bled, right on the lake. I think you have to book many months in advance to stay there, as low season is very very low, I would imagine. They don’t even let you get to the campground unless you already have a reservation.
You can cycle to Bled from River Camping in around 20 minutes or so, some hills, but easy with an e-bike. You can also walk in half an hour (so they say…..), but very feasible.

Postanja Cave well worth a visit

The next day we headed off as it was dry but with heavy rain forecast. This seemed like a good day for the Postanja Caves – very, very spectacular, over 1M visitors a year and easy to see why. An amazing construction with quite some history, well worth the visit. Postojna Cave was carved by the Pivka River over millions of years. There are stalagmitesstalactites, and formations called curtains or draperies that look like folded curtains.

While the cave system is 24 km long, only 5 km is open to the public. Of this, 3.5 km is traversed by a train that takes visitors in two journeys through the cave; the remaining 1.5 km can be navigated on foot and with a guide. The whole tour takes about 1.5 hours.

The temperature inside the cave is around ten degrees Celsius the whole year around.

Sun, warm weather, dark clouds and thunder followed by downpours

Rovinj, Croatia

Rovinj

On leaving the caves we headed towards Rovinj in Croatia. Interesting area, acquired from Italy after the Second World War, and plenty of beautiful scenery. On arriving in Rovinj there was only one campground Camping in Rovinj, with good access to the town – this seemed to be a common theme throughout Croatia and Slovenia. Interesting camping on a hill, but only 2.5kms (ie: easy flat road bike ride) into town. Small spots, terraced, but decent sanitaires, bakery, restaurant somewhere onsite. The weather forecast was poor, but it stopped raining around 10:00 AM, so we decided to venture out. In fact I regretted not taking swimwear as it became very nice and warm (unlike the forecast) and in Rovinj there were many platforms for swimming access to the sea. Rovinj is a delightful town, lots of streets, which rapidly became quite busy. However, the sky was evolving so we beat a hasty retreat on the bikes back to the camping just in time before the heaven’s opened. Getting used to this now, we stayed in the camper and did some work. Eventually the rain stoped, and we figured we would make another break for the town for an evening dinner.

Thunder and lightning

Rovinj old town

The evening seemed fine. The rain stopped, and a beautiful sky beckoned. However, this is a seriously fluctuating Mediterranean summer. Stunningly beautiful sky sculptures were a wonder to behold, but also spread fear.

Undaunted we dined a very nice meal on the port side in Rovinj, accompanied by 3 families of Germans the table next to us, who were quite funny, even though we sat right next to their kids. But they were very well behaved and chatty. The sky blackened, thundered, and then flashed a bit more. As the meal finished, the heavens opened and it teemed down. I legged it off to the ice cream parlour opposite, whilst the waiters carried dishes through the pouring rain.

Eventually, it eased, we rode our bikes back to the camper, and there was a calm for a couple of hours. Then over night some rain of a biblical nature opened up and it teemed down for around 10 hours until the late morning. Finally it calmed down, and we had time to load the camper and decided to hit the road. We loved this part of Croatia, but the forecast was not great, and we had to get to Split for the ferry to Italy, so we decided to drive the 5/6 hours in the rain, and get to Split to meet up with our son, who was having a holiday with friends in Croatia. We did not misjudge the weather which again teemed down, albeit even with that, we still saw some truly magnificent country from the motorway.

Split

The weather calmed down and changed into mainly warm and sunny

On arrival at Split, we soon found only one camping in Stobrec. This seems a little too grand for us, but we really had no choice. The first night we stayed in a small place, the only one left! So our advise is to book in advance. The next day we moved to a nice big spot.

Not cheap, but very good camping with pool, restaurant, cocktailbar, private (almost) beach, a bit too much traffic noise in places, but otherwise a superb camping. Bus stop to Split just outside; we tried bikes but that was a bad idea as the roads, paths, etc are terrible. Over 1 hour later and we realised that a bus for €2 or an Uber for €9 was a distinctly better idea.

The camping had some very nice good sized pitches, its own beach effectively, and a very nice pool area and wellness.

Three Island boat trip

One day we took off on one of the numerous boat trips, which was very nice, supposedly 3 islands and the blue lagoon, but one wasn’t an island, another was joined at the mainland by bridges, and the third never materialised. But it was a nice boat trip that allowed plenty of time for swimming and we saw some nice spots, including the blue lagoon.

Trigor

On the Sunday we were taking the Jadrolinja ferry from Split to Ancona (can also go to Bari, but limited days meant Ancona was more suitable) which left at 20:00. To spend our day we ventured some 30 kms down the coast to Trigor, which tend out to be a delightful old town, in fact in such better condition that the old town at Split, with many really nice bars and restaurants. After a swim at the beach near the car park, in water that was both clear and warm, we had a superb meal at the Gastro, before shopping in the fruit market and heading for the port. There are 2 campgrounds within 10 minutes or 2kms of the town, which is well worth a stopover. Lovely place without all the noise, hustle and crowds of Split. I wish we had known about it earlier.

Ferry from Split to Ancona

And so to another ferry company, this time Jarolinja from Split to Ancona. Normally we would have gone Split-Bari but no ferries when we wanted, so we took the night ferry to Ancona costing some €40 extra, plus €80 for a cabin. I have to say that the organisation and signposting at the port puts the Italians to shame, and all was clean and efficient. However, the boat was maybe 60 years old, keys dated to maybe 40-50 years ago – card keys but with punched holes – no shower, and very small cabins. No roll-on roll-off either, so that is also how I guess at 60 years old, but maybe I am wrong. Left on time, arrived on time, but took quite a while to disembark, mainly because we had to reverse out (no roll-off……..). It was nice on deck on the food/drinks were not a rip off. Beautiful views of Split on departure. For some reason they had huge guetto blasters on the open decks at the back which was quite annoying.

Arriving at Ancona and once again we savour the delights of an Italian port. Terrible signposting, all a big mess, conflicting with Google Maps, have to drive through Ancona to eventually get to the autoroute.

Arrival in Puglia, Gargano

We stayed at Camping Internazionale in San Menaio, the beach resort of Vico del Gargano. Nice campground spread out over a hill, €35 per night, but huge spot (almost empty camping, early September), good sanitaires, swimming pool. Short walk to the beach and some shops.

We spend 6 days here to spend time with Antonietta’s father.

Leaving we started the trek north to The Netherlands – but in true camper fashion, this was to take at least a week, maybe more.

Assisi

This should be an obligatory stop for all campers. First the campsite Fontemaggio is an old farmhouse style estate laid out over a hill. In fact it is a hotel, large restaurant with grand reputation, some rental houses, agriturismo, plus the camping, all nestled in a very green and tree’d environment with fabulous views.

Large spots, showers with no buttons to press or coins to insert, just lashings of warm water. Nice little bar/shop for breakfast, croissants, yogurt, etc and plenty of well priced souvenirs. Very friendly, and high season €33 per night, low season €24. What is there not to like? No toilet paper or soap, and could be cleaner, little run down, but nothing to prevent us ever going back. Really one of the best. Then from there it is a 10-15 minute walk down to Assisi town.

Anyone thinking of by-passing Assisi should think again. Even when you think you have seen enough Italian medieval towns or villages, this one is not to be missed, and is kept superbly maintained and clean. Great ambience, but not overcrowded, in early September anyway, and reasonable prices (A beer and an Aperol spritz for €8).

Perugia

The following day we decided to press on and went to Perugia. Again, plenty of old stuff to be seen again, narrow winding streets and also grand promenades. All a bit chaotic, as Italian towns can be, parking is a challenge, and whilst the architecture is splendid and much of it very old, you have to consider that there has been 700 years of some pretty lousy town planning as a lot just doesn’t seem to blend well, or even make sense. Nevertheless, also great views and some really nice places to visit.

Another day, another overnight, this time at Lake Trasimeno and Camping Rivalago. At first this appears to be somewhat run down, but don’t let appearances deceive you. Very friendly and helpful owners (gave me some of her eggs), lent us a long cable for electricity, and a splendid view of the lake. €20 for the night. The biggest attractions were Wilma (7 year old Golden retriever, that just needs a lot of petting), and Mimi the cat who comes to play and invades the camper.

Siena and Castellina

And so on we went to Siena firstly, parking at the bottom of the escalator series that takes you into the old town. €2 per hour, which seemed reasonable, height limit of 2M10 was a bit close, but we made it (2M08). Siena is a beautiful medieval town, well kept and featuring many architectural masterpieces dating back to 1300. However, it is well known, and has a lot of tourists. The main circle (rather than a square) Il Campo has high prices and is overwhelmed in summer. Tuscany at times may be over hyped.

We stayed the night at Castellina in Chianti, which was a small village, very cute, some 30 minutes from Siena, and had a delightful meal with friends. We stayed on the sosta for €12. The costa has a grey water waste (not working), public toilet (not working), water and a camper wash (might have been working), we plugged into the electricity (broken, not working – but were able to connect to a camping source on a cable slung in the hedge (2 of them). A bit of greenery to sit and enjoy a drink. Could be a great sosta if maintained, useful anyway. BTW, creditcards did not work on the payment machine, so make sure you have cash.

 

Time to go back home

Time for a big hack, and we headed 400k north for Switzerland and Lugano. Change in weather, drastic change in prices, low season €60 per night and €20 for a lasagna at the take away. Enjoy. Nice clean showers ate at Camping Lugano Lake and very friendly staff. Sometimes you take it on the chin.

After lake Lugano, we headed to the St. Gotthard tunnel, but realised the tunnel was closed because of fallen rocks inside. This meant taking the Gotthard pass! We started driving up somewhat apprehensive. But it turned out to be a beautiful route, with amazing scenery. The road, alltough very high, was pretty wide and save.           

And thereafter, a long hack home with a 1 night stop on a Dutch camping (by accident). Great trip, so much variety of places (and weather), need to seriously collate the photos.