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The Recent Political History of Hungary

The Recent Political History of Hungary

October 23 1956

Stalin died in 1953 and the new chair of the Soviet party began a ‘de-stalinization’ process.

The fact that this narcissistic power was now forced to admit past sins and mistakes filled people living in Hungary and other Soviet-controlled countries with the hope that real change might be possible.

In June, workers in Poznan, Poland began demonstrations for better living and working conditions and demanded free elections.  The revolt was ruthlessly squelched by communist authorities.

University youth sympathising with the Polish workers organised a demonstration in Budapest for the 23rd of October.

Young people gathered at different locations in Budapest and many joined the peaceful processions during the day.  The crowd was closely lined up, remained orderly and had a cheerful attitude, but marched on with determination.  They numbered more than a hundred thousand when they reached Bem Square.  Many cut out the Soviet-inspired coat of arms from the Hungarian flag, creating a hole in the middle.  Under the cut-out, waving flags more and more shouted “Freedom, democracy and national independence!”

By dusk, the crowd counting two hundred thousand arrived at the Parliament building.

Late at night, Soviet party leadership in Moscow decided that under no circumstances will they allow their influence and power over Hungary and Eastern-Europe to weaken

Communist Dictatorship In Hungary

At the end of World War 11, Hungary was on the losing side.  “Behind the back” of the country, the victorious powers – the United States of America, Great Britain and the Soviet Union – decided that Hungary would come under the rule of the Soviets and their all-powerful leader, Stalin.

Being assured of the support of the Red Army, communist politicians within Hungary’s coalition government managed to gradually strengthen their power, thereby repressing the rising democratic developments.  By 1948-1949 the Soviet model of totalitarianism became reality in Hungary, its main characteristics being a single-party system, state life submitted to the communist party’s top leaders, mistrust and blame within the party due to the failure to produce expected economic indexes, intellectual and physical isolation of the country, forced agricultural collectivism, legal and material despoilment of the peasantry, forced industrialisation, planned economy, constant shop-shortage; cold-war hysteria; enforced worship of party leaders; state terror to keep the population in constant fear.

Siege At The Hungarian Radio

Late afternoon of the 23rd of October, a group of students marched to the Hungarian Radio to have their 16-point list of demands read off.  The leadership of the radio denied their request. 

They did broadcast communist part leader Erno Gero’s announcement on the same night.  In his speech, he disapproved of the revolt, denied granting of its demands and promised retribution to the participants. 

The atmosphere became more and more charged.  Many grabbed weapons from the military units ordered to protect the Radio but unable to get in.  Some soldiers joined the demonstrators.  First shootings were heard at about 9pm and the siege subsequently began.  The news ‘young people are being killed at the Radio” quickly spread throughout the city.  Many set out to pick up guns and ammunition at local barracks and armories.  The siege of the Radio ended at dawn with the victory of the revolters.

The peaceful demonstration thus turned into a revolt.  Later, as fights with powers loyal to the government and with soviet occupants (invited by Hungarian party leaders to intervene) began, it turned into a war of independence. 

Stalin’s Statue Pulled Down

A decree was issued in 1949 to raise a statue in Budapest of Stalin, the greatest communist leader alive.  The 8-metre tall statue weighing 65 quintals was inaugurated on December 16, 1951 on Felvonulasi Square that was built at the same time.  This square was the regular scene of the communists’ huge public events, parades and musters, where tens and hundreds of thousands of workers would be ordered to “voluntarily” and “enthusiastically” celebrate their parts leaders who would wave to them from the tribune raised on the pedestal of Stalin’s statute.

On October 23, a significant size group left the crowd that had gathered at the Parliament building and set out to demolish the statue of Stalin.  After several attempts they succeed: the statue, almost completely sawn at its knee was pulled down with the help of wire ropes, winders and several vehicles.  The crown pulled the hated monument to the side with trucks and cut it into pieces. 

Its bare torso, remaining on the pedestal – “the Boots” – soon became a symbol of the revolution.

The Revolters – “Pest Kids”

A symbolic figure of the revolution is the “Pest Kid” who takes on fighting with virtually no weapons and against all odds with youthful ardour, virtue and ingenuity.  It is a known fact that the armed fights in Budapest were fought mainly by teenagers and young adults in their twenties.  They fought fearlessly and uncompromisingly, so they are the ones to be thanked for the temporary victory in October. 

The Molotov-Cocktail

One of the simplest and best offensive weapons against tanks in the city guerrilla warfare is the Molotov-cocktail.  It was named after Molotov, Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs, one of Stalin’s intimates.  It became famous through the 1956 Hungarian revolution when it was commonly used against Soviet tanks.  The Budapest formula for Molotov-cocktail is a bottle filled with gasoline, fitted with a gasoline-saturated rag.  When it is set on fire and thrown at an object the flaming gasoline breaking out of the bottle can set even the smallest nook on fire.  Many tanks and armoured vehicles were disabled with Molotov-cocktails in Budapest. 

Ruined Budapest

Although the revolution spread to other cities, most of armed clashes between the revolters and the Red Army took place in the streets of Budapest.  As a result, the inner city and its surrounding districts were almost completely ruined.  Almost all buildings on major streets suffered some kind of damage.

Intervening Soviet troops, their artillery, air force and tanks ruined many buildings, vehicles, roads, military facilities, airports and railways.  Fights made public transportation, industrial production, trade and education impossible.

Victims Of The Revolt

Even though the routing of armed groups was finished by the 10th-11th of November, political resistance endured until the spring of 1957.

The revolution and the fight for freedom ended with a significant number of casualties.

Several thousand were killed, almost half of them under 25.  Casualties were approximately twenty thousand.  During the retaliation following the defeat, more than twenty-two thousand were imprisoned for participating in the revolution and 229 received a death penalty.

Some two hundred thousand people left all their possessions behind and escaped from the country.  Those that remained suffered harassment from the police for years or even decades to come.  Those publicly sympathising with the revolt or those that participated even to the smallest extent were not allowed to continue their studies or were forced to leave their jobs.  The expression “politically unreliable” was written on their record sheet that went with them everywhere and inhibited both their professional and existential advancement.

The Blood Of The Hungarians

(…) Hungary conquered and in chains has done more for freedom and justice than any people for twenty years.  But for this lesson to get through and convince those in the West who shut their eyes and ears, it was necessary… for the people of Hungary to shed so much blood which is already drying in our memories. (…) 

In Europe’s isolation today, we have only one way of being true to Hungary, and that is never to betray, among ourselves and everywhere that which the Hungarian heroes died for, never to condone, even indirectly, those who killed them.

Those Hungarian youngsters, workers and intellectuals, beside whom we stand today with such impotent sorrow, understood this and have made us better understanding it.  That is why, if their distress is ours, their hope is ours also.  In spite of their misery, their chains, their exile, they have left us a glorious heritage which we must deserve: freedom, which they did not win, but which in one single day they gave back to us.

Albert Camus
October 23, 1957, Paris

The Most Cheerful Barrack

From the 1960’s on the domestic situation in Hungary grew milder and the era of so-called “soft tyranny” began.  The control over planned economy gradually loosened up, public life was relatively peaceful and cultural life was characterised by a more or less open-minded attitude.  However, all those characteristics make sense only when compared to the rest of the Communist block.  Hungary was no more than – as the popular saying goes – “the most cheerful barrack in the peace-camp”. 

In the shadow of the Red Army stationed in Hungary, true democracy or rebellion against the party that was controlled by the Soviet Union was out of the question.  Citizens lived under strict limitation of human rights, with their freedom of speech and their right to travel freely outside of the country inhibited.  Information networks were present in all areas of life.  As a sharp contrast, people were obligated to march in happy crowds on communist holidays, cheering the “democratic achievements of socialism”.

By the end of the 1908’s it became clear – both in Hungary and throughout the socialist world – that the state party and its totalitarian control is no longer viable.  The new Soviet attitude – refusing to intervene – was a key factor in the political changes that were under way.  Mikhail Gorbachev rightly realised that his country as well as the communistic world order was in total economic and political crisis and the preservation of the Central-Eastern-European power zone would no longer be feasible.

Events

1987 Democratic anti-government circles declare their programs.  Society’ consensus: “Kadar must go!” (06/1987); Lakitelek Declaration: “… our nation has no common vision for the future” (09/1987)

27.05. and 12.09.1988 Demonstrations against the Bos-Nagynaros Dam mega-project on river Danube, expected to cause significant ecological damage

27.06.1988 A crowd of several hundred thousand demonstrate on Hero’s Square in Budapest against government sponsored demolishing of Romanian villages.

13.08.1988 Ex-prime minister Andras Hegedus (1955-56) called 1956 “a national uprising”.

28.08.1989 Minister of State Imre Pozsgay calls the 1956 events “a people’s uprising”.

15.03.1989 About a hundred thousand people demonstrate in Budapest on the anniversary of the 1848 Hungarian revolution and war of independence.  The events culminate when on the steps of the Hungarian Television headquarters there is a public reading of 12 points written by democratic opposition groups demanding democratic changes. 

Spring of 1989

10-11.02.1989 The central Committee (the legislative body) of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party declares that a multiparty system can be launched.

22.03.1989 The co-called Opposition Round-Table is formed.

25.04.1989 Partial withdrawal of Russian troops stationed in Hungary begins according to an international agreement.

02.05.1989 At an international press conference in Hegyeshalom, the demolition of the technically closed border, the so-called Iron Curtain, is announced.  Fences on the Austrian-Hungarian border are torn down.

01.06.1989 The abolition of socialist “competition of workers”

05.06.1989 The government decides: social and retirement status of citizens interned between 1949 and 1953 is to be restored.  Favourable decisions are made regarding cases of citizens that lost advantages due to political reasons as well as those that were relocated.  Another decision to ban censure on books and films is also announced. 

Summer of 1989

5-6.06.1989 Incommu, an independent group of artists places 301 traditional carved headstones (“kopjafa”), paying tribute to victims executed following the 1956 revolution, resting in Parcel 301, an anonymous grave in the Rakoskeresztur cemetery.

13.06.-18.09.1989 talks between the Opposition Round Table and state party representatives are carried on regarding crucial laws on the political changes – also called “fundamental laws”.

14.06.1989 United States Senate unanimously votes in favour of a declaration saying “the 1956 Hungarian Revolution was a divide in modern history – the first important indication that the fall of Stalinism would be inevitable.”

16.06.1989 Memorial service and re-burial for Imre Nagy, Prime Minister under the 1956 revolution and his fellow martyrs on Heroes’ Square, with hundreds of thousands present. 

Pan-European Picnic

01.08.1989 Previously closed Western borders are reopened

19.08.1989 Pan-European Picnic, a celebration symbolising the rapprochement of formerly opposed countries is held.  Before celebrations began, some 300 East-German refugees appear at the sight, break through the fence and run to Austria uninterrupted by the Hungarian guards. 

10.09.1989 The Hungarian government opens the country’s Western border for East-German refugees.

Autumn of 1989

Political Changes In Central-Eastern-Europe

23.10.1989 The Hungarian Republic is proclaimed.

09.11.1989 Borders within split Germany are opened and the demolition of the Berlin Wall begins.

10.11.1989 Bulgarian Communist Party leader Todor Zhivkov is removed from his position.

22.11.1989 In Czechoslovakia, Milos Jakes, together with the leadership of the communist party resigns following demonstrations.

17.12.1989 In Timisoara, anti-government demonstrations end in bloodshed.  As demonstrations continue, they quickly spread to Bucharest, thus evoking a revolution and the fall of the Ceausescu-regime in Romania.

25.12.1989 The Execution of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu. 

Free Elections

24.01.1990 The Hungarian Parliament passes laws on freedom of conscience and religion, together with new church laws. 

31.01.1990 Press laws are modified.  Individuals are now allowed to found newspapers, television and radio studios. 

12.03.1990 The full withdrawal of Soviet troops begins in Hajmasker.

14-16.03.1990 The old parliament calls off all illegal lawsuits in the period between 1945 and 1963.

25.03 and 08.04.1990 The first free, democratic parliamentary elections take place after 43 years. 

02.05.1990 Statutory meeting of the Parliament of the Republic of Hungary.  The first decision of the freely elected parliament: the 23rd of October, the day when the revolution broke out in 1956 is to become a national holiday. 

October 23rd 2006

Furthermore, a symbolic event of great consequence will take place: The Boots will be installed only on the eve of October 23rd and exactly at 9.37pm on October 23rd 2006 the square will be inaugurated (since in 1956, 50 years ago it was exactly at this time that the statue of Stalin was demolished).  That night the square will become a memorial place dedicated to the Fight for Freedom and the Revolution, its axis defined by the Boots and “One Sentence of Tyranny”.  Not one word concerning present-day politics will be uttered from the speakers, only the striking music of Beethoven will be heard.  Everyone will be welcome to bring flowers or light candles at the memorial.  The Witness Square of our contemporary history will be open to visitors all night long, with people forming respectful and orderly queues.  With the help of web cameras, the park’s homepage will broadcast the celebration live, thus throughout the world people will be able to follow the course of events.

Hungary’s history is very recent as far as history is concerned.  If you were in Hungary when this was all happening or know someone who was please leave a comment below.  Thanks for reading this.

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Hungary’s 22 Wine Regions

Hungary’s 22 Wine Regions

Having been forearmed with the knowledge of Hungary’s twenty-two wine regions, it was always on our radar to seek out at least some of these areas and test out the wines for ourselves.

Having grown up with a father who enjoyed wine-making himself, I had been taught the virtues of being open minded when it came to wine.  Somewhere along the years that transformed into me liking just one wine, Chardonnay!  Sorry Dad.  That’s not to say I won’t try others, but I always seem to come back to the Chardonnay.

However in a country where the wine varieties have different, unheard of, let alone unpronounceable wine names, one must take this challenge head-on.  So that’s what we set out to do, and just as well because the Hungarian Chardonnay’s just don’t cut the mustard. 

If you are taking a trip to Hungary and are partial to some wine tasting yourself, then you can pick and choose the regions you might like to visit.  Below is a summary of what each region offers and a sneak preview of the conditions these grapes are grown in. 

 

#1 Badacsony

Fiery mountains, fiery hills.  It has an area of 1500 ha.  Protected by the Bakony, tempered by the Balaton, it has an average annual temperature of 11 C, 600-650 mm annual rainfall and 1950 hours of sunshine.  Basalt rocks and soils formed on Pannonian sediments.  Includes Badacsony, Szent-Gyorgy Mountain, Csobanc, Gulacs.  Well ageing aromatic white wines with high minerality.

#2 Balaton-Felvidek

Includes Keszthely Mountain and Kali basin.  It has an area of 1600 ha.  Climate is balanced, average annual temperature is 11 C and average rainfall is 650 mm with 2000 hours of sunshine.  Bedrock is limestone on the West (Cserszeg area) and brown earth with friable basalt on the East, therefore the wines have diverse characters.  Mostly producing white wines and this is the home of Cserszegi fuszeres.

#3 Balatonboglar

Situated in the Southern coast of Balaton from Balatonbereny to Balatonszabadi, it is 3300 ha in area.  Even climate, typically with long Indian summer, average annual temperature is 11 C, average rainfall is 650 mm, with 2000 hours of sunshine.  Soil type is deep earth formed on marine sediment with loess coverage at many sites.  Variable types of aromatic white and red wines are produced, from very light to full-bodied.

#4 Balatonfured-Csopak

From Zanka to Balaton-almadi and Kenese.  It has an area of 2200 ha and the climate is warm due to the protective effect of the Bakony, average annual temperature is 11.5 C, 2050 hours of sunshine, volume of annual rainfall is high, 700mm.

#5 Bukk

Situated in the slopes of the mountain Bukk, the once famous Miskolc wine region.  It has an area of 1000 ha, protected by the mountains of Bukk, average temperature is 10 C, and average annual rainfall is 500 mm with a lot of sunshine, 1950-2000 hours yearly.  The soil type of the wine region is brown earth formed on rhyolite tuff.  The region typically produces white grapes for selling to other wine regions.

#6 Csongrad

Sunny wine region.  It has an area of 1420 ha.  Its climate is warm, continental, there is a high risk of winter and spring frosts, averaging temperature is 11.8 C, 450-500 mm precipitation, 2200 hours of sunshine, droughts.  Soil types are moving sandy loess and alluvial soil on the North, and sand and moving sand on the South.  Sandy soils are immune to filoxera.  Light white wines and Kadarka are produced.  

#7 Eger

Home of Bikaver (Bull’s Blood).  It has an area of 5500 ha and is surrounded by the mountains of Matra and Bukk.  Average annual temperature is 10.5 C, average rainfall is 600 mm and average sunshine hours are 1980.  Diverse bedrock, mostly rhyolite and rhyolite tuff, which is the most suitable for carving cellars into it.  There is andesite in Meszhegy and rick limestone in Nagy Eged.  White wines are produced in Deleno area and red wines in the Eger area.  Main wines are Bikaver and Egri Csillag.

Eger’s old town will impress even the most discerning of tourist with its Castle and quant old town.  Make sure to include a visit out to the Valley Of The Beautiful Woman, not just for wine sampling, which is fabulous, but to look at the unique bars dug into the stone walls, and of course to enjoy some traditional Hungarian cuisine for lunch or dinner.

#8 Etyek-Buda

Vineyard of Budapest.   It has an area of 1660 ha.  Its climate is cold, windy, average annual temperature is 9.5 – 10.5 C, annual rainfall is 650-680 mm, soils are mostly calcareous brown earth formed on limestone bedrock.  Most of the raw wine for champagne making is produced in this region.

#9 Hajos-Baja

Friendly winemakers.  It has an area of 2050 ha.  Climate is warm, continental; average annual temperature is 11-12 C, average rainfall is 460-500 mm, with 2100 hours of sunshine.  Soils are mainly loess covered with layers of moving sand of different thickness.  Most typical wines are Hajosi Kadarka and Kekfrankos. 

#10 Kunsag

One third of the country’s vineyards.  It has an area of 22,700 ha.  It has a continental climate, average temperature on the North (Jaszsag) is 10 C and 12 C on the South (Bacska), rainfall is low, 400-500 mm annually, 2000-2200 hours of sunshine.  Main soil type is calcerous sand, partly earth and alluvial soils, that warm up quickly and does not hold water.  Mostly white wines are produced: Sarfeher, Ezerjo, Israi Oliver, Cserszegi fuszeres, Olaszrizling and Red Kadarka.

#11 Matra

Gyongyos, Abasar, Nagyrede, Visonta, Gyongyostarjan.  It has an area of 6250 ha.  It has a continental climate with hot summer and cold winter, but the region is protected from spring  and autumn frosts by the mountains of Matra.  Average annual temperature is 10.5 C, average rainfall is 550 mm, with 1950 hours of sunshine.  Soils on the South slopes of the Matra are rich in volcanic content.  Clear, fresh, full bodied white wines and diverse red wines are produced.

#12 Mor

Home of Ezerjo.  It has an area of 670 ha.  Its climate is windy, average annual temperature is 10 C, winter is milk, summer is sunny, annual rainfall is 600-650 mm.  Highly calcerous clay loess soil formed on loess and sand bedrocks.  Main variety is Ezorjo.

#13 Nagy-Somlo

The mills of this region looks like “God’s forgotten hat” – as a famous Hungarian poet described.  It has an area of 600 ha, and includes the regions Somlo, Sag and Kis-Somlo.  It has a temperature climate, average annual temperature is 10 C and it is windy with 600-750 mm annual rainfall and 1950 hours of sunshine.  Varied soil types were formed on Pannonian sediments with fragmentary basalt.  It’s most famous wine is Juhfark, the “wine of wedding nights”. 

#14 Neszmely

Also called as the “pearl of Danube”.  It has an area of 1600 ha.  Balanced climate, the average annual temperature is 10 C, rainfall is 550-600 mm, there are 1950 hours of sunshine and the proximity of the Danube has a beneficial impact.  Soils are marl on the West, linestone, dolomite, sandstone and brown earth on the East part of the region.  Gives fresh, aromatic, mostly white wines.

#15 Pannonhalma

Anno Domini 966. It has an area of 660 ha.  Climate is balanced, the average annual temperature is 10 C, and average rainfall is 550-650 mm, with 1950 hours of sunshine.   The soil is Pannonian sedimentary sand, sandy clay, clay, and earth formed on these.  Elegant white wines are produced with fine acids and also Pinot noir. 

#16 Pecs

Home of Cifrandli.  It has an area of 780 ha, spreads from Dunaszeksco to Szigetvar on the slopes of Baranyai hills and Mecsek Mountain.  Climate is sub-Mediterranean with mild winter and warm summer and average annual temperature is 11 C.  Long, undisturbed growing season, annual rainfall around 660-700mm.  Soils are loess on the East, clayey earth to the West and werfen schist on the West.  The famous native variety cirfandli is grown here.  The region gives fresh white wines and full bodies red wines.

Pecs is not only a fabulous place to sample wines, but it has lots of reasons to visit showcasing 17 visitor attractions including exhibitions, art galleries, factories, museums, and much more.

#17 Sopron

“Blaufrankischland”.  It has an area of 1920 ha.  Its climate is windy and it rains a lot, although the annual rainfall is only 600-700 mm, and there are 1950 hours of sunshine.  The best parcels are the ones facing the lake Ferto.  The main variety is Kekfrankos.

#18 Szekszard

The Hungarian Burgundy.  It has an area of 2380 ha.  It has a warm balanced climate with Atlantic, Mediterranean and continental impacts.  There are 2050 hours of sunshine, 600 mm of rainfall, 11.5 C average temperature, hot, sunny summers and long, warm fall.  There are thick soils, brown earth formed on 20-4- metre deep highly calcerous loess base.  Famous wine types are Kadarka, Kekfrankos and Bikaver.

#19 Tokaj

Vinum Regnum Rex Vinorum.  The number one wine region in Hungary.  World’s leading natural sweet wine producer region.  It has an area of 5900 ha.  There is a continental climate, hot summer and cold winter, average temperature is between 9.5 and 10.5 C, 2000 hours of sunshine and a rainfall of 530 mm.  The area has a special microclimate that allows the process of shrinkage of grapes caused by a special type of fngi, the so-called “noble rot”, and the preparation of aszu wines from these grapes.  Soils are mostly clay soils formed on rhyolite, rhyolite tuff and andesite rocks, with loess coverage on the South part, and highly variable geological patterns.  The region became world famous in the 18th centure.  Main wine types are Furmint, Harslevelu, Sargamuskotaly, Szamorodni, Aszu and Esszencia.

#20 Tolna

The forgotten wine region.  It has an area of 2500 ha.  Climate is balanced, average annual temperature is 11.5 C, average rainfall is 600-650 mm, with 2000 hours of sunshine.  Most of the vineyards are in Tolna country, some are in Baranya and Fejer counties.  Mostly fresh white wines and produced, there are some large vineyards and many small ones.

#21 Villany

The Hungarian Bordeaux.  It has an area of 2800 ha.  There is a Mediterranean effect on climate, hot summer and mild winter, long growing season, hight risk of hail, 700-750 mm annual rainfall.  Mostly red wines are produced in Villany area and white wines in Siklos area.  Villanyi Franc is the most popular wine.

The Cute Wine Bars in Villany

#22 Zala

Hilly land.  It has an area of 1600 ha.  Climate is cool, with 9.5C average annual temperatures, rainy (700-800 mm) and free from extremities.  Characteristic terrain and North-South oriented steep-sided highlands, clayey soil, hard to cultivate.  Intense white wines with pronounced acid structure.  Fragmented vineyards and small cellars.

If you like wine…

Hungary will have plenty in store for you.  Just a word of caution however.  As an avid Chardonnay connoisseur I was expecting my favourite tipple to taste somewhat familiar.  It wasn’t.  I had to move onto a different variety and thankfully found one to my pallet.

So there you have it, 22 ‘other’ reasons to visit Hungary.

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Please also leave us a comment.  Comments keep us motivated to keep writing to bring you useful information about our travels.  Thanks.

eBook on Morocco (Free)

eBook on Morocco (Free)

Morocco by Motorhome eBook

So Morocco is on your radar to visit by Motorhome?  If you want to escape the cold English or European winter and stay out of the Schengen countries, then Morocco is absolutely PERFECT!!!

There’s always a sense of trepidation when visiting a new country for the first time, let alone a new continent.

Let me reassure you Morocco is a safe place to visit and you will wonder why you didn’t go there sooner.

So make sure you get your FREE eBook here by clicking the image below.

In this book we share all of the following:

  1. Tips on what you need to know before you travel
  2. How to overcome culture shock
  3. Language tips in French and Arabic to get you through
  4. Understanding the currency
  5. Moroccan food and what to stock up on beforehand
  6. The different costs of various items you are likely to purchase
  7. Our experience of the 27 different towns we visited
  8. Map of our tour
  9. A table of places we stayed the night (alphabetically including GPS coordinates, services offered and costs)
  10. The actual cost for our nine weeks in Morocco!

Plus lots more information and fun stories about our experience of this wonderful country.

Click on the image below to secure your FREE eBook today! 
We don’t want your email address, your name, or your first born.

 

If you would like a general, quick-read, overview of Morocco, click here.

Alternatively you can read our individual weekly blogs by clicking on the pictures below.

Fantastic Fes

Week 4

Week 7

Week 1

Week 5

Week 8

Week 2

Week 6

Week 9

Week 3

Argan Oil

8 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Visit Morocco

Please let us know how your trip went and if there are any updates we should consider in our book.  Thanks and safe travels. 

We love comments, so please drop us a comment below.  They keep us inspired to know someone is reading our stuff, so then we will write more.  

 

Eat These Hungarian Foods

Eat These Hungarian Foods

The day we arrived into Hungary we knew we were in a very foreign country.  Being foodies, we love to learn about different food cultures (not the yoghurt kind) and experience the different flavours that each country holds dear.

Hungary was no exception.

In fact it was from my cousin in NZ that I learnt Hungary was best known for paprika.  How did I not know that?  I guess that’s what travelling is all about – learning!

What I found out about paprika is that it was introduced to Hungary from the Turks in the 16-17th Century.  Ah, that makes sense, I love Turkish food.

This blog is about the different foods we tasted and what we recommend you try when you get to Hungary. 

I’ve categorised these into grocery items, street food, main meals and eating out venues.

Hungarian Foods to Try

Grocery Items

 

Patiszon Ledig

An unusual vegetable that greeted us in the Penny Market supermarket might have well been from Mars for all the relativeness we had to them.

It’s called patiszon ledig and is like a courgette.  We tried these grilled at a friends place later on in our travels and they reminded me of a marrow.  They are quite tasty.

Duck

Although duck isn’t traditionally Hungarian, we were thrilled to find this delicacy for a mere €2.86/kg.  Needless to say we enjoyed duck several times.  For a couple of yummy duck recipes click here.  Also to note is that pork is a regular favourite of this region and is well priced for those people looking for a bargain.

Yummy Thai Red Duck Curry

Vegyes Virag

We were sitting in our motorhome outside Lidl in Eger, minding our own business.  A knock on the door yielded a conversation (thanks to Google Translate) with Balog Csaba, a beekeeper.  He gave us a jar of his own, mixed flowers, honey (Vegyes Virag).  If you are in the region he makes home deliveries so give him a call on 06-30/2329-111.

Street Foods

At Lake Balaton we were accosted with the sights of food we’d never seen before at a street food vendor in Keszthely.

Langos

At Keszthely Park we were given this hot to brush a mixture of oil and garlic over the top. Then they took it back to spread sour cream over it and grated cheese on top.  Oh my goodness, these are great. They look like a heavy bread treat but in fact they are light, airy and are so full of flavour. You must try them.

Kurtoskalacs

Chimney Cake (Kurtoskalacs) were to become items of immense intrigue. They are like a cinnamon sugar donut.  Crunchy on the outside and warm and fluffy inside.  They are best eaten hot straight from the coals over which they are typically cooked.

Keszthely, Csik Ferenc setany 5., Hungary

Chimney Cakes

Kolbice

The next thing we found was Kolbice in Pecs.  This a bread casing with onion, bacon, duck sausage and red cabbage.  Unfortunately it wasn’t as good as the picture suggested.

What The Picture Looked Like

How It Looked In Reality

Hungarian Ice Cream

Although you can get this next food in lots of countries, I must admit that Hungary has delivered some of the yummiest ice creams we’ve had.  In fact, we even went back the next day for another round, which is most unusual for us!

Capri Cukraszda, Citrom u. 7, 7633, Pecs, Hungary

Toltott Kaposzta

We wanted to try Toltott Kaposzta, which as the name suggests (not!) is Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage Rolls. They were stuffed with rice and had a sour flavour. Sometimes you may find them stuffed with meat as an alternative.

Strudel

You must go to the First Strudel House of Pest” I read in a blog, so off we went, blindly.  The blog sung the praises of the attentive staff, the delicious food and the atmosphere.  The writer went back there a second time.  So we expected to find the same.  It didn’t happen!

What we experienced instead was uninterested waiting staff who saw us as a bother, extremely slow service and very ordinary food.  Drat, it’s such a pity that consistency is difficult to achieve with restaurants at times.

The strudel we had was cherry with curd and apricot with curd.  There was more curd than fruit and the light and crunchy multi-layered filo pastry I was expecting was soft like it had been heated in a microwave and the pastry just one layer.  At least the ice cream was nice.

There was interesting memorabilia inside the shop (we sat outside) and the hand-basin in the ladies toilet was interesting.

Sadly I can’t recommend this place based on my experience so there’s no sharing of their address.  However there are other places in this city that sell strudel so I urge you to hunt down a good one yourself.

Gelarto Rosa

One place that was on our list that we didn’t get to was Gelarto Rosa. We were too full from the Cat Café to visit and the line was out the door and onto the street.  However, we saw plenty of people walking around with happy smiles on their faces while devouring these unique looking ice creams.  So if you’re in the area, pop this place on your list.  And you are likely to be in the area because it’s right near St. Stephens Basilica that you won’t want to miss.

Szent István tér 3, 1051, Budapest, Hungary

Gelarto Rosa

Check out the crowds!

Main Meals

Goulash

Having just tried Goulash at Tranquil Pines Camping, it was then time for us to try making this delicious meal in our motorhome.  We added some herbed dumplings for a bit of fun.  For the recipe click here.

Meson Plus Preparation

Cooked Goulash With Dumplings

Wild Boar Stew & Hungarian Pork Schnitzel

While in Eger we had dinner one night out at the Valley Of The Beautiful Woman.  It’s primarily a wine tasting area filled with adorable little boutique shops carved into the stone walls behind them.

While at dinner Alan tried slow cooked wild boar stew with noodles and it was a Hungarian pork schnitzel for me. Both were delicious.

Eger, Almási Pál u. 38, 3300, Eger, Hungary

Wild Boar Stew

Pork Schnitzel

Chicken Paprikash

Another traditional Hungarian dish is Chicken Paprikash shown here from a lovely restaurant called Ramazuri Bistronomy located near Matthias’ Church, (which you will want to visit).  It was served with noodles, which are similar to pasta, with a sour cream sauce.  At the Central Market Hall the dish of the same name looked slightly different.  Their dish had the chicken inside wraps.

My Lunch

The Same Dish At The Market Hall

Alan enjoyed the Beef Goulash Soup from the same restaurant.  I always thought of goulash as a stew, however it was originally a thin soup.

This is one of the national dishes of Hungary and a symbol of the country.  Its origin traces back to the 9th century to stews eaten by Hungarian shepherds.  These are hearty dishes and have modern variations.  We’ve made this on several occasions in our motorhome using two different styles.  One incorporated pork and Hungarian sausage, the other just plain beef.  Both are delicious, however the beef is a little healthier.

Ramazuri Bistronomy, Úri u. 30, 1014 Budapest

Eating Out Venues

Market Food Hall

While in Budapest we visited the well-known Central Market Hall.  This place is a foodie’s dream and the place to go to try the Hungarian gastronomic dishes.  On the top floor is the food stands selling all manner of interesting and enticing looking goodies.  Just a word of warning, it gets crowded so try to avoid it in the weekends and don’t take a pram.  You will want to bring an empty stomach with you and try a little bit of everything.

We had to try Langos again, just to make sure they still were delicious.  However, the first one we had in Lake Balaton took the prize for the most delicious (and it was cheaper).

We wandered around the markets taking in all the different foods, sights, and smells. Here’s a photo gallery of the things that piqued our interest.

Vámház krt. 1-3, 1093, Budapest

Click on the image gallery below to see more (20) photos of the Central Market Hall and the different foods available.

The Cat Café Budapest

If you’re a cat lover you’ve going to enjoy this next place.  It was called The Cat Café Budapest.  There were 14 cats, usually just sleeping or walking around who were nonchalant about us being there.  We got to have pats with a few (they are not to be picked up) and enjoyed being around cats again.

We treated ourselves to cakes (unusual for us) and had I known these types of cakes were so delicious I would have eaten more in my life.  My waistline thanks me for not doing so.  Mine was a light and airy white chocolate mouse sitting on bed of a crunchy chocolate biscuit base.  I was in heaven with every mouthful.  Alan scoffed a strawberry and white chocolate layered cake which was equally as delightful.

Révay u. 3, 1065, Budapest, Hungary

Click on the gallery of (14) photos below to see more… 

Szimpla Kert Ruin Bar

The next day we ventured out to lunch at the famous Szimpla Kert Ruin Bar.  Here we enjoyed the most interesting atmosphere in Budapest and some delicious BBQ buffalo wings and two glasses of wine for just €11.30.

Next door to the Ruin Bar is the Street Food Karavan, they have different morsels from around the world.  It’s a fun vibrant place, but is not cheap.  I imagine it’s here to cater for those who’ve come out of the Ruin bar at night looking for something else to eat.

Kazinczy u. 14, 1075, Budapest, Hungary

You can read more about this area in our post on Budapest (coming soon).  Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Szimpla Kert Ruin Bar

Food At The Ruin Bar

Street Food From Around The World

Goulash Station In A Van

Relaxed Atmosphere

Just A Sample Of The Food On Offer

New York Café

One place I recommend you definitely put on your list is the New York Café.  The architecture is divine, unlike anything I’ve seen before.  It’s opulent with a capital oh!!!  We popped in here just to soak up the atmosphere and ordered a plate of small cakes (again!).  We avoided the coffee and tea at €7.50 per person and headed straight for a small dish we could share and at €16 we ate slowly.

Erzsébet krt. 9-11, 1073, Budapest, Hungary

Click below on the gallery to see more photos (12)

Kertem

A couple of days later we enjoyed lunch at Kertem a relaxed, casual beer garden café in the park. They had cosy seating where people were just sitting under the sun soaking up its rays, or catching up with friends for the afternoon.  This is in the park near the Zoo and Botanical Gardens, and not far from Szechenyi Thermal Baths.  It’s also a stone’s throw from the Hero’s Square that you will want to visit.

The food was tasty enough but not traditional Hungarian, hence I won’t bore you with the details, other than to give you a couple of photos.

Olof Palme stny. 2, 1146, Budapest, Hungary

Hungarikum Bisztro

While in Budapest try the Hungarikum Bisztro for traditional Hungarian food.  We ordered the shared plate of pork knuckle, which was accompanied by potato wedges and sauerkraut.  Even without ordering an entree, this was a large meal and we needed a doggie bag for the significant leftovers.

Friends who visited here a couple of times had recommended this place and it lived up to its reputation.  The staff were attentive, friendly, smiling and just couldn’t do enough to please us.  Their mantra is “to create a place, a good place where a guest can truly feel like a guest would feel in our home, where the meals are prepared in a traditional, authentic way”.  They delivered in spades and I recommend you visit them if hungry while in Hungary!

They kindly gave us a booklet which included a recipe for Hungarian Goulash Soup.  Check it out here.  However, we didn’t think it was the best (as it was very thin), so I’ve also included our favourite goulash stew recipe for a tasty alternative, Easy Hungarian Goulash.

Hungarikum Bisztro, 1051 Budapest, Steindl Imre u. 13. +36 30 661 6244. www.hungarikumbisztro.hu.

Pork Knuckle accompanied by Potato Wedges and Sauerkraut

Valley Of The Beautiful Woman

Here’s a sneak preview of what the wine bars and their caves are like in the Valley Of The Beautiful Woman in Eger.  There are umpteen eating establishments here and of course plenty of places to sample the local wines.

Inside The Wine Bar

Check Out The Date On These Bottles!

Old Vintages Under Lock & Key

Well that’s it from us.  With bulging waistlines and clothes that seemingly shrink in the Budapest air, we’re off for another culinary adventure in Slovakia.  Who knows what we might find there…

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Tuscany’s Hilltop Treasures

Tuscany’s Hilltop Treasures

by Alan Gow  |  June 2019  |  Italy

Tuscany evokes alluring images of vineyards, olive trees, good food, picturesque towns and loads of sunshine.  There is a good reason why Tuscany is one of the most visited regions in Italy – it is absolutely gorgeous.

Siena, San Gimignano, Montepulciano, Cortana, Pisa, Lucca…. the list of spectacular historic towns is seemingly endless. Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano… the names of the unique regional wines just roll off the tongue as easily as the wine flows down the throat.

 

Tuscany’s Hilltop Treasures

We had three weeks, in May 2019, to nosey around this little patch of paradise and visit some of the well-known, and not so well-known beauty spots.  I confess that by the end of this time, seeing yet another ancient walled hilltop town ceased to be the thrill it was at the start.  There was always something however that was unique and made the effort worthwhile.

I’m not going to bore you with a detailed regurgitation of Dr Wikipedia’s facts about each place we visited.  Instead, there will just be a few pictures and maybe a sentence or two to explain the individual specialness (if that’s a word), that we found there.

For a change, we were not staying in our motorhome in Tuscany because Betsy was in for repairs. We stayed in AirBnBs in three towns and used them as bases for exploring others.

We will still give you some likely spots to park up your motorhome for free.  We found most of these, as usual, on Park4Night.  No guarantees but they looked good to us so should work unless the local authorities have an about face and start restricting the parking.

Colle Val D’Elsa

The views from this charming medieval walled hilltop town immediately captivated us.  The sturdy ancient stone walls, the delightful Tuscan countryside and the fresh vibrant spring flowers welcomed us to Tuscany. The low number of tourists visiting this less well-known jewel was delightful.

There is a large car park where you can park overnight near the old town (GPS 43.4226, 11.1140).  Most of the parks are better suited to smaller campers but there are some slots where you can reverse your overhang out over vacant ground (bring your ramps). Park4Night has some other places in the new part of town which may be better for bigger vehicles.

View of Colle from the old Convent

View down the beautiful Val D’Elsa Valley

Old Colle and the Church tower

Typical archways and narrow alleys

Plants anyone?

San Gimignano

The USESCO listed San Gimignano is one of the most well-known of the Tuscany hill towns and as such was brim full of visitors even this early in the tourist season (May).  The 14 tall towers that are a hallmark of the San Gimignano skyline were built by the rich families between the 11th and 14th centuries as a symbol of their power and wealth, and to provide protection from other families.

To watch a UNESCO video click here.

Not far from here we had a great day out at Ulignano truffle hunting, wine tasting and scoffing delicious food.  Great value and a special day out that we thoroughly recommended.

There is an authorised camper parking area at GPS  43.4521, 11.0556  however at €1/hour (€15/day) it is pricy for a longer stay.  You can use the services there without going into the parking and a free alternative parking can be found on the other side of town at GPS 43.4716,11.0285. This place looked like it would be fine for overnight however we stayed just a few hours.

San Gimignano spotted through fresh spring growth

Typical towers of San Gimignano

Busy, narrow streets and arches

Siena

Described as one of the most perfect examples of a medieval town, the UNESCO listed historic centre of Siena blends almost seamlessly into the contours of three hills.  For us riding our electric bikes, it also seamed to have the steepest hills of any of the Tuscan towns.

To watch a UNESCO video click here.

A parking area just outside the walls allows an opportunity for campers to park overnight but there is a bit of a gradient involved so ramps recommended (GPS 43.327561, 11.335099).  We didn’t stay here but spoke with other travellers who slept here without problems.

Siena and the Cathedral from the Medici Fortress

Piazza de Campo famous for the annual horse race

Basilica Cateriniana San Domenico

World Class Siena Cathedral

Montepulciano

We spent several nights in an AirBnB just outside the medieval town walls and had several opportunities to soak in the sights and feelings.  Of special interest were the underground towns carved out by the winemaking families of the region.  These chambers with interconnecting passageways were (and still are) used for making and storing the famous local red wines and cheeses. 

Panoramic view from the town walls

Wine cellar in the underground city

Montepulciano main piazza

Enter the underground city here

One of the gates into the town

Montepulciano walls and houses

Pienza

Pienza is a little off the beaten tourist track but also features a historic centre listed by UNESCO due to it being the first example of Renaissance-era town planning.  The pet project of the Pope at the time.  This resulted in a beautiful town square while still preserving the older medieval structure and walls of the town.  Pienza has been referred to as the jewel of Tuscany.

To watch a UNESCO video click here.

There are a couple of potential overnight spots for campers including these authorised camper parking spaces at GPS 43.079949, 11.673309.

Pienza main piazza with the Cathedral

Inside the Pienza Cathedral

Stunning views over the Tuscan countryside

Spring flowers among the ancient buildings

Back streets and cafes

Narrow cobbled streets with few tourists

Frescoed gate in the town wall

Cortana

Another delightful walled town is Cortana with now-expected imposing walls, narrow streets and medieval buildings.  The unexpected highlight was the gorgeous interior of the Basilica Santa Margherita which was reached after a very long and steep climb up ancient stone roads and paths.  Our bikes could only take us so far.  We love being surprised when we walk into somewhere new and have that ‘blown away’ feeling.  There are some possible overnight parking spots for motorhomes as you drive up the hill. We found a small slot at GPS 43.2733, 11.9860. There was an authorised campervan parking here but that was closed for renovation when we visited and may or may not reopen (GPS 43.272985, 11.987823)

The view from the walls of Cortona 

Steep road by the walls leads to the Cathedral

The Basilica di Santa Margherita is worth the walk

Tuscan cobbled streets and art galleries abound

Old buildings and new flowers

Looking up the hill to the town is like looking at a fairy-tale

Arezzo

Arezzo was one of those pleasant surprises because you don’t read about it being a top tourist attraction.  However, it had everything you would want.  A great spot to park a camper not far from the entrance (GPS 43.4725,11.8831 ), a stunning cathedral, Medici fort and plentiful narrow alleyways, piazzas, old buildings, parks and shops.

The gorgeous Arezzo Cathedral

The Cathedral frescos are mesmersing

Monument of Francesco Petrarca

View from the Medici Fortress over the cemetery and beyond

Bagni San Fillipo

The small town of Bagni San Fillipo is famous for the natural hot springs that flow close by.  These have been left largely undeveloped (thankfully).  A visit here allowed us the rare chance to sit in piping hot thermal water, surrounded by trees and towering structures of thermally deposited minerals including the renowned “Balena Bianca” or White Whale.  The best part is that it was all free of charge (apart from the parking).  It is a popular destination but we arrived later in the day and spotted some English people we had met a few days earlier in Siena.  They invited us to sit in ‘their’ pool, which was the best spot.  Nice having friends in high places.

The massive “Balena Bianco” (White Whale) natural sculpture

Soaking in a warm stream of thermal water

Volterra

This was another of the less visited Tuscan towns and one that we immediately liked. We stayed high up in sports ground parking area not far from the walls (GPS 43.3976, 10.8616) and close to great views of the surrounding countryside.  The Medici fort here is still used as a penitentiary so we couldn’t visit.  The large weekly market and the fantastic outlook over the partly excavated Roman Theatre were particularly memorable.

Early morning views over misty Tuscan landscape

A well preserved Roman Theatre is a highlight

Baptistery of San Giovanni

The old Etruscan Gate

Where are the tourists?

Volterra views

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Your Questions Answered About Two Years Of Full Time Motorhome Travelling

Your Questions Answered About Two Years Of Full Time Motorhome Travelling

by Ruth Murdoch  |  16 June 2019  | Summary Blogs

Today, 16th June 2019, we’ve been touring Europe in our motorhome full time for two years.

Initially, I was going to write a typical post about all the things we’ve done and all the places we’ve been to.

But then I thought, is that what people would be interested in? 

So… Using social media (aka a couple of the more proactive motorhome Facebook groups I belong to), I asked the questions…

If you were to interview someone who has been living full time in a motorhome touring Europe, what questions would you have for them? What would you want to know?

So that’s how I’ve written this blog post.

Be warned, it’s a bit long (obviously there’s lots of questions out there).  And in order to give you in-depth answers, I’ve linked to some more information.  So where you see orange coloured text you can click on this to delve deeper into a different blog.

If you don’t wish to read the lot, then just scroll through the table of contents for the questions you want to know the answer to.

Alternatively, save the post and read it over several sessions.

This is written from our perspective and may not be how others see the world or would respond.

Below are the questions that were asked.

Your Questions

Before we get going, I thought an introduction might help to set the scene.

About Us

We are a married Kiwi couple, Ruth & Alan, who decided we wanted to spend some time exploring Europe. Our initial idea was to travel for one year, then it extended to two years and now the actual end date is undefined.  We will continue with this lifestyle while our health, finances, and circumstances allow.

It helps that Alan, my husband, has an Irish passport, which makes travelling through Europe easy once you understand the Schengen rules.

We wanted to keep a diary of our travels, to share with friends and family so we set about learning the art of website construction, blogging, and posting about our travels.  We are yet to perfect it and www.travel-cook-eat.com still has a long way to go but we are getting there slowly. We love writing in a way that makes life easier for other travellers.

We hope that if you are reading this you can learn from (and avoid) our mistakes, enjoy our locations, follow in our footsteps and set your own treasure of positive travelling experiences.

We have a website, Facebook page, Instagram page, and a few videos on our YouTube page.

We have deliberately decided to not monetise our website, so you won’t be bombarded with adverts throughout our blogs.

Betsy, Our Home On Wheels

What Are The Driving Skills Like [in Europe]?

From the 26 countries we’ve visited over the last two years, the overall standard of driving has been very good.

Slovenian drivers will stop for pedestrians before you even decide you want to cross the road.  It’s almost the opposite in Italy.

At present we are in Italy and I’d have to say the Italian drivers can be a little aggressive.  The roads don’t help though, as they are in very poor condition and are narrow, particularly around Tuscany. We have spent more than five months in Italy during different times and my opinion of the Italian drivers hasn’t changed. I confirmed my thoughts with an Italian friend who is a courier driver and he concurs. Italian drivers, however, are not the worst.

Whilst Morocco is on a different continent, the Moroccan drivers win the prize for the worst drivers we have encountered on our travels, hands down.  (But don’t let that put you off visiting Morocco).

If you want to take a look at some of our driving in Italy, you can have a laugh here.

Typical Loads In Morocco

Is Overnight Parking Readily Available?

We mainly wild camp and have more often than not found free spots to stay the night.

There are some countries, however, that don’t allow wild camping (Croatia and Slovenia) and one country where it’s not such a good idea (Morocco).

For us, wild camping just means that you are not in an official camper parking area or camping ground.  This could be beside a beach, along the roadside, in the bush or even in a supermarket carpark.

In some of the Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Finland and Norway) there are laws allowing the right-of-access to wild camp providing you follow a few simple rules.  These rules state you must keep 150 metres away from inhabited buildings, if you wish to stay more than two nights you must seek permission and above all else you must be considerate and thoughtful.

The best place we’ve wild camped was in Greece.  We would often wake up to million dollar vistas; from crystal clear oceans of Vourvourou right outside our door, to the Greek ruins of Delphi, and the mountaintop monasteries of Meteora to name a few.  It probably helped that we were there in the low season as during the summer many of our spots could be overrun with tourists and may have parking restrictions imposed.

Are There Many Campgrounds Available With Full Facilities?

There are plenty of camping grounds throughout Europe that have varying levels of facilities ranging from very basic up to virtually five-star with top-notch swimming pools, restaurants and entertainment.

If the camping grounds cater for motorhomes only then they don’t typically have cooking facilities. The industry is very seasonal in many countries and you may find in the off-season that the great majority of campgrounds are shut. 

We found this particularly true in Greece and Turkey and you should research online to confirm opening dates.

On the other hand, during the busy summer season, many camping grounds are full, particularly in the popular areas, such as coastal Croatia.

As mentioned, it’s illegal to wild camp in Croatia, so we chose to use camping grounds rather than risk high fines.  They offered showers (some good, some not so), toilet blocks, black and grey water dumping points and electricity.  We were there near the end of the high season in August 2017, and had some trouble finding a vacancy as we hadn’t booked ahead.

What is the General Cost of Travel?

Most people want to know what it costs us to travel and for this reason we reveal all our travel costs in a separate post.

In addition, below is some more in-depth information regarding some of the main expenses.

Diesel varies from country to country.  The cheapest place in Europe for diesel that we have come across was Spain where it varied from between €0.98 to €1.15 (NZ$1.67 – NZ$1.96).  The dearest place for diesel was Norway where we paid 16.15NOK – the equivalent to €1.65, or NZ$2.82 per litre.  While writing this I spied diesel for €1.72 in Italy (NZ$2.93) – however we wouldn’t be buying any at this price as we filled up at an Auchan supermarket diesel pump recently for €1.42. We use a website (https://www.fuelflash.eu/eu/) to find Europe’s cheapest local diesel and LPG.

Tolls vary greatly and are expensive in Greece, France and Portugal. Interestingly, Portugal and Greece are both poor countries and the locals cannot afford to use the toll roads.  Due to French protests, we bit the bullet and drove on their motorways.  It cost us €39 to travel for three hours.  Never again!

Wherever there are toll roads however, there are also alternative secondary free roads.  These usually take longer (in some cases, eg Italy, it’s a lot, lot longer).  These roads are less direct, not well maintained, narrower, windier, and often travel through narrow built up areas.

Nevertheless, in most cases we choose the free roads because we see much better scenery.  Plus we usually have the time for a longer drive and prefer to save money (even when calculating the extra diesel costs).  Most navigation systems (Google Maps, Tom Tom, Garmin, etc) have a setting for avoiding tolls roads so you can compare travel times and distance for both options.

We use the ViaMichelin app (ViaMichelin GPS, Route Planner) or website (www.ViaMichelin.com) to estimate the cost of travel and tolls.  A little planning beforehand can mean that you take the most appropriate route for you that day.

Food is our biggest cost at around €90 per week (NZD $156) for the two of us.  We rarely eat out and cook most meals from scratch.  And because we love cooking, we tend to eat well (better than many of the restaurants we’ve visited).

Fresh Prawn Straight From The Boat in Sweden

Is There a Breakdown, Tow Repair Insurance Available and at What Cost?

The subject of insurances comes up often on motorhoming Facebook pages and is a hot topic among UK travellers.

To be honest, virtually every thread you read seems to have people recommending some products and disparaging others.

In most cases, owners buy breakdown insurance as an add-on to their vehicle insurance, however, they can also buy separate policies.

There are two traps that are catching some people out.  Many policies limit how long you can travel for in Europe, either in a single trip or in a calendar year.  Some policies also limit the size of the motorhome they will cover for breakdowns and recoveries.  Make sure you are completely aware of the fine print and conditions.

It is a good idea to ask about other peoples experience on relevant Facebook pages to help make a short list of the better providers.

Betsy, our motorhome, is French registered, so we have French insurance with AXA.  This includes basic breakdown insurance and roadside recovery within the annual premium of €822 (NZ$1,412) per annum.  The coverage area is extensive and includes all of Europe, Morocco and Turkey. 

Thankfully we haven’t had the need to call upon this.

No Breakdown Insurance Needed Here

What’s The Best Time To Travel Throughout Europe?

The great thing about Europe is that there is something for everyone.

For us, we don’t like extremes of heat or cold, or crowds of tourist (even though this is us), so we plan our travels accordingly.

During the heat of summer, you will find us in the northern countries, such as Scandinavia, or Poland (where we are heading for now). 

During the winter the best destinations are the south of Greece (including Crete), the south of Turkey, south of Spain/Portugal or Morocco

Staying north during the winter is not so good unless your motorhome is properly winterised, with winter tyres, and double floor insulation with ‘wet’ type heating.  Ours isn’t so we head south before it gets too cold and the snow sets in. Planning travel around anticipated local conditions is one of the fun challenges of being full time on the road.

We absolutely loved travelling through Norway in the autumn, where our photos are stunning with the yellow and red leaves against the snow-capped mountains and fjords in the foreground.

It is a good idea to avoid the real summer hot spots during the high season as they can be totally overrun with tourists and locals.

The shoulder months of April/May or August/September can provide great weather but a more relaxed experience.  During our first winter, we went to Greece and Crete.  For our second winter, we travelled to the south of Spain before taking a ferry across the Straits of Gibraltar to enjoy the winter warmth of Morocco in North Africa.

Betsy in Norweigian Snow

Autumn In Finland

Stunning Autumn Colours Norway

Stunning Scenery From A Warm Winter in Morocco

Are People Hostile to Motorhomers or Friendly?

Throughout Europe the locals have been either friendly or neutral towards us.

When we engage others in conversations we nearly always receive a friendly and interested response.  Part of that is probably because as Kiwis travelling Europe, we have a point of difference and people want to find out who we are and what we are doing on their side of the world.

Some countries are well set up to accommodate motorhome travelling, e.g. France and Germany have a nationwide system of ‘Aires’ or ‘Stellplatz’.  These are areas set aside for motorhomes and typically provided by the local authorities.  They offer water, dumping stations and even electricity for free or a small charge.

Spain and Portugal have historically been havens for motorhomes with literally thousands of places you can park for a night or ten, provided you don’t engage in ‘camping behaviour’.  In recent years the local authorities and police have started cracking down on this due to the massive influx on motorhomes during the winter.

Some areas are banning motorhomes, or the police are moving motorhomes on, or in some cases, people are being heavily fined.  Generally though, as long as you are respectful, don’t stay too long, don’t set out your chairs, hang out washing or show other ‘camping behaviour’ Spain and Portugal are still great places for motorhomes.

Morocco in Winter on a paid site, just €1.50 (NZ$2.40) per night

What Class of License is Needed to Hire a Motorhome?

The typical motorhome available to buy or rent has a maximum allowable laden mass of 3.5 tonnes, which is the total weight of the vehicle including the driver, passengers, fuel, and water. 

A standard drivers license in Europe allows the license holder to drive a vehicle up to this maximum weight. In Australia and New Zealand the car drivers license allows up to 4.5 tonnes and 6 tonnes respectively, however, you are unlikely to be able to rent anything over 3.5 tonnes.

Many countries also require a foreign driver to have an IDP (International Drivers Permit) that is issued by an organisation in your home country, such as the Automobile Association, the Royal Automobile Club, or your local Post Office. 

The IDP is used together with your national driver’s license and acts as a translation into an agreed international format.

So in summary, you should have your normal national car driver’s license and an International Drivers Permit when you hire a motorhome in Europe. 

Betsy In The Sahara Desert

What Size Is Best?

 

There is a reason why motorhomes and campervans are made in all sizes, from under five metres to over ten metres.

We all have different preferences, needs, and ideas about what is best. For us, we believe our motorhome is sized perfectly. 

Betsy, our motorhome is 7.4 metres long, 3 metres high and 2.2 metres wide and is considered a big (but not very big) motorhome.  She is not so large that we can’t tuck into [two] car parks for a quiet night’s sleep while giving us room to move around.  She has separated living and sleeping quarters and a decent sized separate shower and toilet (which we love).

A smaller motorhome is more manoeuvrable around tight roads and small villages and can park in [one] smaller car park.

A campervan type vehicle is narrower, which gives less space inside but is also easier to drive and park.  Some campervans are deliberately set up so they don’t look like campervans.  This is so they can be stealthy and sleep overnight in spots that don’t allow motorhomes to stay. 

We have electric bikes so we can avoid those parking problems and explore some amazing old town centres by bike.  We didn’t want to be overly cramped and haven’t regretted going bigger.

In fact, we recently drove a 6m motorhome and felt it was just too small for full time living. 

The very big motorhomes can be limited in where they can drive and free camp but of course, can be really nice inside.  They obviously cost more to buy, run and maintain.

In summary, you need to decide what suits your personality, the type of travelling you want to do and the places you want to visit.  Another important consideration is how will you use your motorhome?  Is it just for the weekend, or will you live in it full time?  Then rent a couple of motorhomes before buying to see if you can cope with the size you are considering.

What Happens If Your Van Breaks Down Or Need Repairs And Is Not Usable For Days?

Great question.

Most motorhomers have some type of breakdown insurance.

Depending on the insurance policy you may only have vehicle recovery or possibly a replacement vehicle or even accommodation supplied.

If the worst happens you will need to find somewhere else to stay, alternative transport if you need that and adjust your plans to suit the reality of your situation.  

We have just experienced this exact situation.

Our motorhome needed some repairs, which meant that we were without her for two weeks. Our dealer generously loaned us another (6 metre) motorhome but we found this to be too small and cramped for our comfort. 

We, therefore, spent this time staying in AirBnB’s throughout Tuscany, Italy and used the loan motorhome for transport only. 

Had we not been given a loan vehicle we would have hired a car and still stayed in AirBnB’s.

Making the most of our time in Tuscany, Italy we indulged in some truffle hunting.  

What Happens If You Any Health Issues?

Life and health issues still happen, especially when travelling long term and it is certainly more difficult to get medical treatment when you are in a foreign country.

If you are a European citizen, you will have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which gives access to state-funded medical treatment while travelling in Europe.

Other countries have reciprocal agreements with some European states to treat each other’s citizens.  It is wise to make yourself aware of any that may assist you (see also the next question).

We have both been sick at different times.

We’ve had to find doctors, get blood tests taken, find specialists, and even had a recent experience in a public hospital.   Luckily there has been nothing serious so far and we hope it stays that way.

For us, to return home to New Zealand for medical reasons (relating to our health) would be a huge blow so we try to stay as healthy as possible and avoid risky activities.

We have the time and flexibility to just stay put if we need some recovery or downtime. 

Luckily, we can and do both drive which is fortunate should one of us sustain a physical injury like a broken leg.

Preparation and planning are important.

Take all the medication with you that you expect to need as well as any relevant medical records. Find out about how you can get repeat prescriptions filled if necessary or stock up. 

Also it’s not a bad idea to bring doctors scripts with you as you may get them filled, depending on which country you are in.  Have any dental checks and work completed before you leave home.

I’m asthmatic and needed some Ventolin.  I walked into a pharmacy in France with my empty inhaler and they [reluctantly] replaced it with a new one for about €5 (less than NZ$9).

We hope to look this good by the time we finish travelling!

What Insurance Can Be Put In Place To Cover Health Issues?

When we visited a hospital recently we were pleased to learn that Australia has a bilateral health agreement with Italy

That meant that I could be treated free of cost as I had the required documents due to having lived in Australia for many years.

Our health insurance with QBE from Australia covered us for the first two years. It wasn’t cheap but gave us comprehensive cover (which we haven’t had to claim on, fortunately). 

After two years, our options were to find alternative cover or self-insure. The insurance cover we are considering is called World Nomads. It’s not as good as our original insurance, which means that we have a certain amount of self-insurance but on the positive side it was significantly cheaper.

Best, Worst And Funniest Stories

Our best story would have to be the time when we saw the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) in Norway.

We arrived into Norway on 17th September 2018 and were told it’s far too early in the winter season to see the lights.

Not only did we see the lights that night for several hours, but earlier in the evening we witnessed a rare and stunning sunset that is only possible two or three days of the year (weather permitting).  To see more photos or read the whole story click here.

The worst story would have to be the time when I got locked in a toilet in Greece.  It was the most frightening thing that has happened to me on our travels.  Here’s the story.

The Worst thing that happened to us both was getting stuck in a snowstorm driving in Norway.  We had full sunshine in the morning, and by 6pm we were in serious trouble.  Here’s the full story.

The funniest story was when the locals in Sicily, Italy coaxed us on.  We had to ask a  local man to move his car so we could get through to Ancient Noto. For the full impact make sure you watch this video through to the end.

How Do You Budget Your Money?

We use an app that’s loaded on my iPhone called MoneyWiz to record every expense (both cash and card purchases). 

We don’t leave the shop until the expense is recorded. With this app, we can quickly see our spending for the month, both overall and individual categories. It also handles different currencies easily (eg Morocco, Russia, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Croatia, Turkey, etc).

We have a set monthly budget but only loosely watch it to ensure we don’t overspend. All our costs are published on our website and in different blogs.

Knowing what countries are cost-effective helps too, as we can plan to stay in those places to compensate for other times when we travel to more expensive countries.

Turkey, Morocco, and Greece are low-cost places to spend the winter months.

We are heading up to Hungary, Poland, and Czechia this summer and we understand these countries are cost effective.

Having said that, we don’t shy away from the more expensive countries, such as Norway

We did plan our trip and made sure to stock up on supplies in the neighbouring cheaper country of Germany.

Do You Work While Travelling?

Alan has been working remotely part-time while we’ve been away, however that has now stopped. We spent eight years planning this trip and saved up hard to ensure we would have enough money.

While at home we would sacrifice going out and spending money on the weekends, while we watched our friends socialising, eating, drinking and going on holidays. Our business in Australia was teaching people how to value their money and spend on what’s important to them. 

We denied ourselves for years and even now we are careful about where our money is spent. We don’t eat out often but thankfully we like cooking and attend cooking lessons in different countries.

We do spend money on experiences; for example, we hired a yacht in Greece and went sailing for a week.

We are currently exploring options to earn money and supplement our savings while staying on the road longer.

This little fella was working hard planning for his winter

How Has It Changed You?

It’s true what they say about travelling.  It will change you.

When attending school as a teenager I was not at all interested in history.  That’s changed now and I love learning about what happened to the people in the countries we have visited.  I like learning about the different battles the countries had, the rise and fall of empires, who took them over, how the people used to live and what life, in general, was like.

It makes me sad to see beautiful countries spoilt by rubbish.  As Kiwis we were brought up with the slogan “Be A Tidy Kiwi”.  That meant that littering was a big no, no. 

We find ourselves wanting to leave the countries, towns, and parking spots in a better condition than we found them.  That often means removing rubbish the locals have left behind.  We hate seeing rubbish left lying around, particularly when there are rubbish bins available within easy walking distances.

Alan (and I) collecting rubbish left over from other campers in Greece

What’s The Scariest Thing About Travelling Full Time?

The fact that we may not want to stop and we could find ourselves nomadic for many years to come.

The thought that something might come along and stop us travelling forever, before we are ready to stop is scary.

The concept that we might have to return to the real world one day and have ‘normal’ lives and jobs is downright petrifying.

We are often asked about how safe we feel wild camping in Europe and is it scary?  We have a routine to ensure that we are as safe as possible, which you can read about it by clicking here.

What On Earth Will We Do After Brexit?

Since we are from New Zealand, Brexit doesn’t affect us.  And as Alan has an Irish passport, we both travel freely together throughout Europe as mentioned earlier.

On that note, Alan spent months researching the legalities of Schengen and has put together a comprehensive blog that includes correspondence to the different embassies and the actual documentation that we travel under.  For Kiwis and Australians travelling to Europe this is worth a read.

Even if you are from the UK, you might find this blog well worth reading.  You could even find that there are some loopholes that allow you to travel long-term in Europe post Brexit.

The Schengen Countries (click to enlarge)

Are You Satisfied With Your Motorhome?  What Attributes / Accessories Do You Wish You Had?  What Could You Do Without?  What Gear Is Necessary?  

I expect that what we think is necessary, others might think of as a luxury or totally unimportant.

However, we believe we have the perfect setup for our long-term travel and have thought long and hard about what we believe we should carry or have on board. For example, we wouldn’t be without our solar panels. 

We are self-confessed power hungry travellers.  We need power for our laptop computers, phones, electric toothbrushes, TV, blender and other appliances.  So making the decision to install two solar panels, a large inverter, and an extra leisure battery came quite easy.

Other things we wouldn’t be without are our electric bikes.  Given Betsy’s size, we cannot always park near the city or town centre, so we find a parking spot outside and use the bikes to explore.  That way we get some exercise and have easy freedom of movement to sightsee.

The only item that we thought we needed but don’t have is a gas oven.  This was supposed to be installed but for various reasons that never happened.  It’s a long story, however, we have ended up with an Omnia stovetop oven and thankfully it’s lightweight, easy to store, and can do about 90% of what a full sized, heavy and expensive gas oven does.

We purchased a microwave/convection oven at the beginning of our travels because the oven we ordered hadn’t been installed.  We only ditched it about six weeks ago after lumping its weight around for nearly two years.  The occasional use didn’t justify the weight and space it took up.

Oh and I nearly forgot.  One thing we had fitted was an external gas point so we could BBQ outside.  After having used the BBQ once only, we gave it away.  I don’t know why we thought this was necessary because we never BBQ’d at home (I hope I’m not going to lose my Kiwi citizenship by admitting to this fact).

If you would like to know how we have achieved the perfect set-up, have a read of our blog

Our Omnia Oven

Do I Miss A Bath?

One of the all-time luxuries for me is to have a bath and yes I do miss this.

Therefore if we are staying with friends who have a bath we will ask to use it.

Or if we are planning a stay in an AirBnB or a hotel, a bath is the first criteria we look for.

Our hotel in Russia only had two rooms available with a bath and we requested and were given one of these. 

Likewise, when staying in Tuscany recently, all of the AirBnB’s we stayed in had a bath.

Sometimes big sacrifices need to be made to enjoy the bigger picture.  This is one.

Why Did You Leave Me Behind?

I’m happy to share the secrets of how anyone can have the same lifestyle as we do. In fact, it’s not a secret at all, it’s dedication and hard work. It starts out by having a desire to want something different in life.  And wanting it badly enough that you will sacrifice the here and now for something in your future.  We call it delayed gratification.

Interestingly it is, in fact, cheaper for us to live on the road than to live in our home back in New Zealand.  True story.

Okay, we don’t have some of the ‘things’ around us that we would have at home but it’s all a matter of choice.  Imagine living rent-free, with no water or power bills.  Imagine being able to go into shops and not be tempted to buy anything – because you just don’t have room to store it.  Life on the road can be quite low cost.

So here’s how you can achieve this lifestyle too.

Start with a plan.  Work out when you want to travel, what you’re willing to give up to get it, and then work out how much it will cost.  It doesn’t matter if it takes you ten or twenty years to achieve it (providing time is on your side).  What matters is that you have a goal, break the goal down into manageable pieces, and then start a plan towards achieving your goals.

Most people will give up because it’s too hard, then look at others thinking how lucky they are.  Luck has nothing to do with it, plan, plan, and plan!

We have met lots of people on the road who have in fact put a plan in place and then executed it. 

If you want to read a blog of someone who has a very similar story to ours, then take a read here

What is that saying, if you can visualise it, you can achieve it!

Has It Changed Your Views About Climate Change And Recycling And Plastic Usage?

We have seen first hand how damaging plastic usage is to the environment.

We made a conscious decision to try and avoid drinking water from plastic bottles and use our water tank for all our water needs.  We have reusable bags for carrying groceries so very rarely need to use plastic shopping bags.

When in Morocco recently we were thrilled to hear and see that plastic bag usage has been (largely) abolished.  They need to go one step further with plastic drinking bottles as these are an eyesore.

In Scandinavia, the recycling of cans and bottles (plastic and glass) is encouraged financially.  When you buy products in these containers, a deposit is added to the purchase price.  People turn up with bag loads of bottles, feed them into a machine located at the entrance of each supermarket, and receive a credit for their deposits.

Sweden has one of the lowest footprints in the world in terms of its refuse.  In fact, Sweden is so good at recycling that, for several years, it has imported rubbish from other countries to keep its recycling plants going.  Less than one per cent of Swedish household waste has been sent to landfill since 2011.

In order to answer the question about climate change, I don’t think that travelling for just two years to only 26 countries is long enough to form an opinion about such an important issue.  I will leave this one for the experts.

Rubbish is a sad fact of life, especially in Palermo, Sicily, Italy

Do You Miss A Permanent Home?

Yes and no.

We do have a permanent home in Auckland, New Zealand, which is rented out.

What I miss (apart from the bath) is having a garden where I can grow and then harvest fresh herbs, fruit and vegetables.  I do know of some motorhomers who have set up small herb gardens in their vans though.

I don’t miss the maintenance, however, like mowing lawns, trimming hedges, painting houses.

There is some comfort in knowing that our house will always be there when or if we return.

The advantages of living in a mobile home seriously outweighs any desire to be in a permanent home at this stage.

Are You Happy?

In a word, YES!

We sometimes have to pinch ourselves to make sure that where we are is real.  We look back on some of our photos and can’t believe we’ve been to so many wonderful places, seen so much, had lots of different experiences and met so many amazing people.

I do miss my family and friends back home and do my best to keep in touch through social media, phone calls, and I even write postcards occasionally (particularly to my elderly father who isn’t online).

Where Do You Go When You Have A Fight?

I am lucky to be travelling with my soul mate and we just don’t fight.  The key to this, I believe, is due to clear communication.

That doesn’t mean we always agree with each other.  Sometimes we have opposing opinions, but it doesn’t get to the point of fighting, as we know to allow space and let the other person have their own opinions that differ from ours.  We accept this.

As a life coach in my previous life, I specialised in relationships and I used personality profiling and NLP techniques as tools to help couples understand themselves, as well as each other.  Learning to communicate in your partner’s value system will provide a more harmonious life.

I often taught people how to identify the VAK communication style.  People have a preference for how they see the world, either visual, auditory, or kinaesthetic (feeling).  Understanding your partner’s style this can go a long way to improving communication.

To find out more information about this you are welcome to contact me, free of charge and I can explain more.

If you are contemplating travelling full-time with your partner and you argue a lot, disagree a lot and frequently need your own space and time, then maybe you should think again.

What Was The Inspiration / Catalyst For Travel?

Initially, the inspiration was to celebrate my 50th birthday in Venice enjoying a gondola ride with my husband.  This had been an eight-year dream, one we talked about regularly.  I visualised every part of that day and it turned out perfectly.

Another catalyst for me was to tick off a bucket list item.  I’ve always wanted to learn a foreign language and knowing myself I felt I should live in a country and surround myself with that language. 

While travelling we’ve been learning Italian and Spanish (and French for Alan) and have just recently decided that Spanish will be the language of choice.

We plan to spend more time in Spain so I can attend language classes and delve deeper into achieving my goal.

Do You Feel Divorced From Society And If So, How Do You Counter It, Without The Use Of Social Media?

I think our ‘society’ has shifted.

I don’t feel divorced from what others would consider as society, but have made a new society, being the motorhome community, which is very large in Europe. There is often someone you can talk with who understands your lifestyle choice.  Social media is certainly a big part of this.

We also make an effort to engage in conversations with other motorhomers wherever we park.  We particularly like to see those motorhomes with GB (English), NL (Netherlands) and/or D (Germany) registration plates, as we are usually guaranteed an English conversation.

Food is something that brings us together.

As mentioned we like to cook and share food with others.  Occasionally I will cut up some fruit and hand around the platter for others to enjoy, or share cake or cookies.  If it’s cold outside, we invite people in for a drink (usually BYO).  Food is friendship.

In Finland last year we turned up at a free parking spot with about 10-12 other vehicles.  It was cold and getting dark and I knocked on the door of everyone inviting them over for a drink and conversation after dinner.  Not everyone came (thankfully as Betsy would have struggled) but those who came enjoyed themselves (at least we think they did).

As we don’t have English TV channels on our TV (our choice) and we can’t read local newspapers, we are often behind in hearing about world events.  But guess what?  It doesn’t matter.  Most of the news is bad news anyway and us not knowing it isn’t going to affect anything one way or the other.  If it’s important someone will let us know.

How Do Friends And Family React To Your Choice Of Van Life?

For the most part, our family tells us to enjoy it while we can.

They know how hard we worked to get this far and are encouraging of our lifestyle choice.

My parents-in-law travelled a similar route in the 1950’s and it’s fun sharing our locations with them via Skype.  Sometimes my mother-in-law will pull out her diary and read paragraphs from the same location as we are in.  It’s amusing when they ask if the same bar or store is still on the corner.

We know van life isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but we are sure our friends are happy for us.  

What’s The Most Common Question You Get Asked?

Three things;

1. How can you be retired so young? A: Planning.

2.  Did you win lotto? A: No.

3.  How much does it cost?  A: Not as much as you expect (see our earlier answer about costs). 

We Donated A Kiwi Tea Towel To The Boomerang Cafe In Turkey

If You Wash Your Underwear…How Can You Dry It On The Go, Or Outside Without Arousing Unwanted Attention?

We have our own washing machine, just a little thing we bought from Amazon, which is fantastic.  And actually, my husband does all the washing and given we mainly wild camp we find spots where hanging out washing won’t be a problem. We pick our spots carefully to not offend others or attract attention from the police (hanging out the washing is seen as ‘camping behaviour’ and banned in many areas). As long as we have a water supply close by, and sun to supply power to our batteries (and dry the clothes), we can wash everything without needing a laundromat. They can be expensive in Europe.

Do You Ever Miss Sitting On A Proper Toilet?

It’s not something I’ve really thought about.

While travelling we’ve noticed the toilets throughout Europe are all different.  I think I could write a book on toilets alone!

That said, it’s funny how many times when I sit on a normal toilet that I find myself reaching down as though I have to open the hatch.

The toilet in Betsy is very comfortable and the toilet space is relatively generous, so no I don’t miss a proper toilet.  Thanks for asking, Andy Spencer.

How Do You Decide Where To Go?

We have a loose plan of where we want to travel.

Typically we follow the birds and travel north for the summer, thereby avoiding the sweltering summer heat, and then south for the winter trying to avoid the cold and snow.  We don’t carry winter tyres or chains so this restricts our time in certain countries where there are legal obligations about chains and tyres.

We use a very good app called Park4Night to find suitable stopping points for the night.  We are often attracted to the coast or lakes (we are water people) and oftentimes other travellers tell us places we should not miss.

Our travels are fairly fluid, meaning we can chop and change on a whim.  We can stay longer or move on should we wish.

Where Did You Buy Your Motorhome?

We bought Betsy from a motorhome dealer in France, located not far from Paris.

She was built in Italy and we collected her, brand new, from Genola, a small town in northern Italy.  Betsy has French registration, an Italian flag in the logo, and New Zealand decals on her.  That confuses people but typically we will have people say bonjour to us. 

Alan speaks a little French so he converses until they realise we are English speaking.

The process we used to select and purchase a French registered vehicle without actually having a French address can be found by clicking here.

Betsy’s photo of us Wild Camping on Lemon Beach in Greece is on a 2019 calendar

Do You Miss Having A Connection With The Same People Regularly? For Example The Mail Person, The Grocery Store Clerk, Familiar Faces?

Having been away from our home country, New Zealand for ten years, we are used to not having that connection so this feels quite normal for us.

Having said that, when staying in one spot in Istanbul for four weeks we began to feel like locals and were soon recognised by the local shopkeepers. 

That was a nice feeling.

We hope in future years to spend much longer spells in one spot and feel part of a local community.

The service type person I miss the most is my hairdresser.  I hate having to find a new hairdresser in different countries.  They do their best but it’s often hit and miss whether I get a good haircut or not.  Although you know the difference between a good and bad haircut, don’t you?  Two weeks!

While living in Perth, Western Australia, we didn’t really connect with our locals like folk do in English villages.  I envy the English for having that special connection with their local greengrocer, etc.

Do You Miss Not Being Able To Do The Conga During New Years Celebrations With The Neighbours?

I might have to come to the UK for New Years Celebrations to experience the Conga – that’s a new one on me.

When living in New Zealand we had a street party each year on Guy Fawkes night and I was named ‘Little Lucifer’ for my interest in pyrotechnics.  I miss those times for sure.

What Contingency Plans Do You Have Should…

1 – your vehicle get damaged

We would get it fixed and take temporary accommodation if necessary – we have a four-year mechanical warranty on the vehicle from Renault and insurance that will pay for accommodation while accident repairs are carried out.  We had this happen recently and stayed in AirBnB’s for a couple of weeks while Betsy was getting some love and attention from the manufacturer.

2 – your partner is taken ill or dies?

We have both been sick and just stayed put until we felt better.  We have travel insurance that will repatriate us to New Zealand if there is a major medical problem.  We’ve talked about what would happen if one of us dies.  You never really know until the time comes, but if I were the surviving partner, I would relocate back to New Zealand.

3 – the money runs out?

We have insurance to cover us for big costs that would affect our savings.  We watch our money carefully and live within our means so that it doesn’t or shouldn’t run out.  However, if that did happen, we would go back home and get jobs.  We are both in our early fifties and are university educated with good corporate skills.  Let’s hope the New Zealand economy stays strong, just in case.

 

How Do People “Survive” With No Fresh Water Supply?

When travelling full time and free camping in a motorhome you have to be very mindful about fresh water supplies.

You have to become very good at foraging for water and it is everywhere if you know where to look.  Motorhome service points, public water taps/fountains, beach taps, service stations, friendly people or businesses, cemeteries, streams…. there are many options.

Sicily was the most difficult place to find water as most of the public fountains had been disconnected to save money (we think).  One of the few times we had an issue trying to find fresh water was in a place called Aqua Dulce.  This literally translates to sweet water, only there wasn’t any.  We found a cemetery on the outskirts of town and topped up there.

We carry 100 litres of water in our tank, which with mindful usage, lasts for about 3-4 days.  This includes a daily shower, cooking, and washing dishes.  It doesn’t include laundry usage.

We carry an additional 20 litres in containers in our garage and we use a funnel to empty these into the tank. Our spare water containers can be carried on our electric bikes, and on many occasions, these have been used to ferry water back to Betsy from public water supplies which have been up to 2 km away.

The Park4Night app we use identifies many locations with available water so we look ahead and top up.  French Aires always have water

Once in Greece we asked for water from a tap located outside a Taverna and paid €5. Camping grounds have water but we haven’t yet needed them as they usually want you to stay the night (quite reasonable really) if you want to use their services.

Fortunately, the great majority of water in Europe is safe and good to drink. 

However before filling our main tank we will taste the water and even make a cup of tea with it.  If it passes the taste test, we fill up.  The water goes through one filter before reaching the tank and there is a second filter after the water pump. 

We have been caught out a few times with poor quality drinking water.

That’s all folks.

So these are the questions you’ve asked and I hope the answers have satisfied your curiosity.   If you have any other questions, please feel free to leave a comment below and I will do my best to answer them.

Safe travels if you are on the road and you see us please toot or come over for a cuppa (or vino).

Please feel free to PIN and read later.

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