Monday 5th – Tuesday 6th June
Woke up to a very pleasant morning in Bratislava, amazing view across the Danube towards the old city. The same city that Susie and I had had the best Photo competition last night with the town and Castle all floodlit.
Winning Submission below, ( susie’s).
As we wrote in previous post the first aim for Monday morning was to get a haircut and visit a chemist, having seen a large shopping mall just downstream from us the trusty steeds gave us an easy ride down the river promenade. Unfortunately, this mall is wall to wall designer name brand shops, and only hairdresser was booked up until Thursday.
Anyway a bit of a wander around and window shopping before heading back to Miss Stella and plans to head out into Slovakia today. Upon getting back to Miss Stella we find a Belgium Van and a French Van and their occupants parking fair and square in our front yard, See Below photos. Now this car park is about 2 acres and has a few cars and 9 other motorhomes in it including at least 2 empty spots on our right.
Not worth the language barrier as we are heading off anyway but was a classic feeling of our vans are newer than yours, so we can just take your view.
Our research shows not a huge amount to see or do in Slovakia, except for some outdoors stuff in the National Parks up on the Chech border, so that’s our direction of forward motion.
Quite a big day of driving on and off toll roads, a few observations of Slovakia below’
- The toll roads are amazing, however they just run out, finish, kaput, no more !! Then for the next few km’s there are these massive bridges being built with no roads to them yet.
- The normal roads are shocking, it gets to the stage you just can’t dodge the potholes and the edges are all just falling apart so roads are getting skinnier.
- The distance between the barriers and the bells beside the railway lines are quite a distance apart and you can find yourself on the inside of the barriers, (we did)
- Hundreds of little villages, 90km/hr, 50km/hr, 90km/hr,50km/hr, you get the picture
- The orange roads on the map are like, motorhome warning, skinny road with fast oncoming traffic and no chance of getting off the road, (ie, think seriously about finding another way)
- Some stunning scenery, hundreds of thousands of acres of crops, wheat, oilseed rape and maize, with paddocks of white poppies thrown in for good measure, and huge paddocks, (poppyseed filling of sweet pastries is very popular)
- The towns are so what I imagine Eastern Bloc countries to be, big concrete multistory apartment blocks, even in the little towns in the mountains have an area like this. It seems they are attempting to modernise/westernise with paint.
- For vehicle buffs, we have found the home of Tatra Trucks, Lada 4×4’s and Zetor tractors.
- Some steep assed roads up to and down from the various skifields, see previous note 5, these are also to be found on orange roads.
- Our GPS locations from our parking apps don’t seem to be very accurate, took us 3 goes to find our parking spot.
So if you are following on a map todays trip, Bratislava > Prievidza >Zilina 3>Ruzomberok with an overnight stop in someones back yard in a little village called Potok. By this stage we have made it up into the start of the Tatra Mountain range (Part of the Carpathian Mountain range that stretches through Eastern Europe).
A casual start to Tuesday morning as a really nice quiet spot just to chill out and read a book. But we eventually hit the road with plans stop in Poprad to continue search for hair cut. This we achieved which became quite an amusing situation, the English / Slovak conversation to get a number 4 buzz cut. Google translate came into play but first attempt on their side translated into English along the line of “an allover cut but no extensions”. Anyway went with it lots of smiles and thumbs up with Susie standing guard. Life now much better with short hair again, However I think Susie is absolutely dreading the day she has to get hers done.
From here we venture wilderness style, Poprad is the gateway into the High Tatrasthe tallest range of Mountains in the Carpathian Mountains and filled with Skiing in the Winter and Hiking in Summer Months. As well as the Slovensky Raj National Park, with one of the highlights here being the Dobsinska ladova jaskyna, (Dobsinska Ice Cav). Now this is a UNESCO listed Site with over 110,000cubic metres of ice packed into a cave.
Now only 20km from Poprad on a yellow road (#66& #67), so we attempted this one with a bit of trepidation assuming to get to Ice we would have to climb quite high. The Road was a typical Slovak rural road with gaps between the potholes that allow the snails to cross safely, and a daunting section of about 5km of 12 degree downhill, (have this sussed now and Miss Stella handled it with aplomb) On these roads however it is a constant shuddering banging crashing and squeaking.
Slovakia isn’t really great at promoting itself and roadsigns for these attractions/wonders are few and far between, in fact the big roadsign for the Ice Caves coming our way had been hit by something a while ago and was sadly missing. However we gathered we were there by the fact there were a couple of buses and a Campervan parked in a carpark. Duely pinged 8 euro by some guy to be able to park in the carpark we had the 20min walk (about 1km and 130mtrs vertical) to the Ticket booth, at this stage still no idea what we are going to see.
Holy Heck, Wow, Bloody Amazing, not really enough words to describe this phenomenon of nature. From the ticket office in front of the gate ( See Pictures) it would have been 20 degrees, when the guide opened the gate you immediately felt the cold air coming from the cave and within 10mts we were in a giant natural freezer. Unfortunately the tour was only in Slovak but the guide did speak a bit of English and I was able to work the following out,
- The Ice is increasing, (Global warming huh)
- It only changes by about 1 – 2cm between summer and winter, mainly the stalagtites.
- This is not in the alps/ summer snow line, the ice is so thick in this cave it essentially its own form of self freezing
- They don’t try and sell you bits of it in souvenir shops like everywhere else you go.
- Yet again New Zealand H&S policy does not apply and yet again past people going up there who are going to regret this walk for several days to come, especially the tour group who I think may have had a beer and lunch at the restaurant by the Carpark before they walked up the hill.
- There are brown bears in these hills.
This was a genuine surprise to the day and really proves to us the reason behind what we are doing.
Once back on the road we decided to carry on on Road #67 heading towards a town called Roznava and in between this drove the hillclimb road for the Rally of Slovakia, (down not up) it’s the old saying that whatever goes up eventually must go down.
Studying the map and Lonely planet this is pretty much Slovakia for us so are crossing into Hungary at the soonest possible opportunity and on our way to Budapest. According to the trusty map book we should have Road #27 exiting on our right and heading to Miskolc in Hungary.
Somewhere along the line Orange Road #27 on the map doesn’t exist in real life and we found ourselves heading into Slovakia’s Eastern most city of Kocise. Nothing to report here except this seems to be the worlds’ greatest air pollution all coming from this massive factory called “U S Steel”, I guess if you don’t do it in your own country then you cant cop the flak for it.
Anyway we are still heading for Miskolc and follow the road signs into Kocise , basically turn right and head out the exact opposite side of this bloody great steel mill. We have essentially travelled 50km in 1 direction to do a 355 degree turn and then head back the way we came but in a different country.
Now we thought the roads where bad in Slovakia, holy crap these Hungarian ones are bad, sat behind a truck for about 30km at about 50km /hr , he obviously had something on board that didn’t want to be shaken up, lets just say you wouldn’t want to open a bottle of coke to soon after its truck delivery.
Eventually came to Miskolc about 6.oopm, finding the city streets are in a worse condition than the open roads, the manhole covers are set about 50mm below the road surface and they are about every 10mtrs. The locals just weave.
Thanks to park4night we head to a parking lot just outside Miskolc by a very nice lake, only to find it chained off, a further 50mtrs up the road is another day park area so decide to free camp here.
Realising we cant get to Budapest easily, especially with the state of the roads without using toll roads I get on the internet and find my way around a Hungarian Internet site to purchase a 10 Day Vignette (Road Tax) for 10 euro. ( 140euro fine if caught without). This will get us through Hungary with a couple of planned no travel days off at Lake Balaton over the weekend.