In 2008 we decided to do a small portion of Eastern Europe mainly because I have always wanted to visit Auschwitz in Poland. Two couples of friends who we mentioned this to, later rang and asked if they could join us. They both said it is trip they would not think of doing by themselves. We thought that perhaps it was a good idea as safety is usually in numbers. So it was arranged to meet up at Jodl Camping on the Ossiachersee, in Southern Austria, where we would spend 10 days to-gether before leaving towards the end of May.
Our fist stop was Vienna as none of the others had ever visited there and we stopped at what was an ACSI CC Site then on the Southern side of the City for more about Vienna go to Country Info:- Austria page. After a few nights here we then made for Hungary and Budapest.
Having had a conference about the trip before leaving Jodl. It was decided that we would travel in convoy between sites and Countries, we would cover about 200 miles a day have 2 stops enroute one for Coffee Break and one for Lunch. Two days before moving on I would email the next chosen site. (This would be on the route plotted on the ACSI DVD I had prepared in the UK before leaving, which everyone agreed with.) to make sure they could cater for an 8 meter caravan, a motor home and a smaller 2 berth caravan. All sites emailed back and said we were welcome and they were awaiting our arrival.
Another subject we agreed on was that all of the three couples would, if they wanted to visit anywhere the others did not want to, they should go on their own. This worked well because one couple wanted to visit the city centers a couple of times where the other two wanted to visit the country area's. Unfortunatly there were six of us, to many for 1 car, so we had to take 2 cars everywhere we went to-gether by car. At the big Cities we used the public transport. This incidently in Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Czech was all Free if you were over 60 years old and lived in Europe. This was on Trains, Underground, Trams and Buses you obviously had to pay for City Tours and Boat Trips. You just had to show your Passport if stopped by the authorities. I will take one Country at a time from now on being in order as we visited them.
We left Vienna and made for the Hungarian Border where we stopped for Coffee at a Service Station and bought our new Currency at the Exchange Booth and Vignette's.
The Currency in this Country is the Forint at this moment, but is scheduled to change to the Euro, in 2013.
Vignette for the Motorways in Hungary cost can be seen on the website http://www.oeamtc.at/ and can be bought for 4, 10, 30 days or a year up to date price on the said website.
A popular tourist area of Lake Balaton and there are many sites listed in Caravan Club Europe 2 or on the ACSI Site there were not many Camping Card sites in 2008 but they seem to increase over the years. We elected to go to Budapest this time round as it was on the route to Slovakia our next stop. There was one ACSI CC site there and that is Haller Camping www.hallercamping.hu Situated right near the City Center it was very convenient for catching the free tram along the river to shopping area of the City. On walking down here we came upon a very tiny Marks and Spencer, just had to take a peep inside and as it was so hot I bought myself a nice cotton blouse. We then walked on for a Coffee and then to the Bus Stop for the Tour Bus. This was very reasonable but lasted 3 hours which was an hour too long really. This fare included a free boat trip on the Danube so we all decided to do this the next day. The Boat trip was lovely, food and drink served to your table on board. We believe this is the best way to see the beautiful Parliament Building which is based on the design of our own UK Houses of Parliament. Don't think we would have seen so much of the City if we had not taken these 2 tours beacuse it was so hot and tiring to walk around much.
The Site itself was excellent, tho a little difficult to find. No organization for parking, outfits at all angles and some very close to each other. The guys in the office were most helpful with free wifi on pitch. including EHU and Water nearby. Washing Machines, Powder and Drier all free of charge. Showers and Toilets were a bit basic but very clean. Seperate Ladies and GentsI might add.
If we visited Hungary again we would definitely visit Lake Balaton. A couple we met on site, from Ipswich, can you believe, had been there and said it was very nice.
After a few days we packed up and made our way to the next Country on the itenerary. After the Border and the usual changing of Money and buying Vignette we had our Coffee Stop en-route in a very nice lay by. This we all thought was a much prettier Country than Hungary. Guess what!! going around a roundabout near our destination site was a Lidl's. Quite a large carpark so we decided to park and do some shopping with items we are familiar with.
Reaching the earmarked site of, who should be there already but the Ipswich couple from Haller. We decided, after we packed up to explore the Services which were not very nice at all, and decided our own in the caravan were to be used. In the evening, when all four couples got together we all decided to leave tomorrow morning and try the Tetra Mountain area. Found, what we thought, would be a good place to stop and aimed for it next day. Not to far on it was situated on a pretty lake near the village of Toilets, Showers, Washing and Laundry facilities were excellent and very clean indeed. Though washing up of the dishes was done by the men at the sink unit situated on the grass just in front of the van. The site was like a huge park with lovely trees dotted about and you could park as near or as far apart as you wanted. We decided on pitching along the road overlooking the Lake and our friends from Ipswich were on the other side of the road in front of us. First night was a communal barbeque with all 8 persons eating in our porch awning. It is a good job it is a large porch and takes 2 table's end to end. The lady from Ipswich had been given some places to visit in this area and it was decided to take 2 cars tomorrow and visit some. This was an excellent idea and enjoyed by all.
Coffee Time in Slovakian Lay-by. View over the Tetra's En route.
My main reason for visiting this Country was to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau at Oswiecim, Near to Krakcov. I believe that this was what everyone in the party wanted too. It is certainly an experience that you will always remember. I cannot remember how much it cost to go round as I never got my head around the Polish money, the Zloty. After crossing the Slovakian/Polish Border we could not believe the deteriation of the, what they called Motorways, all lumps, bumps and holes.
Our Caravan Site for this visit was a few miles just before Krakov and on the other side of the dual carriage way, where there was a lot of road works going on. Luckily the Polish drivers, going in the opposite direction to us were very polite, and let our small convoy of three turn onto their side of the road to get to the Site.
Site Camping Korona, http://www.camping-korona.com.pl/ listed on ACSI main site http://www.eurocampings.co.uk/ turning onto a service road the reception/office was just inside the gateway and then quite a long drive down to site and pitches where it was right away from the road and very quiey indeed. Short grass and unmarked pitches, hedgeless with trees dotted about very nice indeed. Our Suffolk friends were parked on the opposite side of small road, having arrived the day before us. WiFi quite expensive with hire of router so we shared it between the three outfits. Toilets and other facilities very good indeed. A good base to visit all places of interest.
Auschwitz-Birkenhau is situated at a town now named Oswiecim we went there on the country road and came back on the Motorway. There is a good parking area at Auchwitz and not to expensive. The main visitor center was a very modern building with shops to buy souveniers, excellent toilets, and ticket office from which you proceed through another door to the entrance of the camp.
We walked through, under the famous entrance sign, and then proceeded to go through many buildings to view relics of the prisoners possessions taken off them when entering the camp. Passed the hanging place of Rudolf Hoss and the site where prisoners were shot. After a couple of hours we went back to the cars and proceeded a few kilometer's down the road to Birkehau. This place really brought it home to you, how awful this place was. Walking past the entrance with the railway running through it, we then went into the gate tower and up the stairs to view the area. It was a massive expanse of huts and in some cases just chimneys of other huts and gas chambers. We walked along the railway to look back at the entrance and to where the trains had stopped to off load the prisoners and then walked over the railway, back up towards the gatehouse to go into the huts that had been preserved in their original state. Some photo's below.
Another must visit place is the Salt Mine Danilowicza situated just outside Krakov We decided to visit these rather than go into the City just one couple went there so there were four of us. Parking the car was very easy and free. After getting your tickets you then proceed to the wooden stairs of which you decend to the bottom of the mine. Cannot remember how many flights there were but after each set you walked through caverns with lots of tableau's depicting how the mine' worked. Dont get worried though you will not have to walk back up. When you get to the bottom you will catch a double-decker lift back to the top again. On the way down you will see the lake, walk through the Cathedral, Function Room, Restaurant and lastly the Shops.
This is our second visit to this lovely Country, but before we went over from Germany so never visited this more Eastern part of the Republic. When we left Poland we knew that it was too far to get to Praag in one day so decided on a site near to Brno for a one night stop.
The site was very pleasant, not too big and full of Dutch campers. WiFi was Free the name is Camping Hana at Veverska Bityska. Very friendly owners and the website is http://www.campinghana.com/ listed in the http://www.eurocamping.co.uk/
Next day we journeyed on to Trio Camp*** Usteka, on the outskirts of Praag. ACSI Camping Card accepted and recommended by our Suffolk friends we met in Hungary. Use of the WiFi was free in the Office. There was a restaurant on site which looked good but we did not sample it. Toilets were clean but a bit basic.
From the site you just had to walk a few yards down the road to catch a bus that connected with the Metro to ride into the City center. In the center there are many City tour buses which is good as you visit most of the highlights. Get off the Metro at Wensleslas Square walk to the bottom past Debenhams on the right side and Marks and Spencer on the left. The tour bus will take you to view the Charles Bridge and up to the Cathedral and then drop you back to center and it is not too far to walk to view the wonderful Astronomical Clock. Praag is a wonderful City.
Our second day one couple went back to Praag but we went into the country with the other couple to show them the picturesque castle of Karlstejn which we had enjoyed so much visiting in 2005. Then we stayed at Camping Valek nearby and within easy reach of the City by Metro again. www.campingvalek.cz listed in Caravan Club Book Europe 2. This site had a wonderful restaurant run by the family who owned the site, toilets, showers and laundry were excellent and spotlessly clean.
Well that is my short review of Eastern Europe. We enjoyed the trip very much it was slightly awkward with three outfits and would never do another trip with any more than one other outfit. Having to split up into two cars made it disjointed on trips out. At the last site in Czech one couple decided to go back to Austria and we others travelled as planned on to Germany. I must admit I was glad to cross the Czech/German border where I felt much more "at home" Don't get me wrong but we had no problems on the road or in cities, no robberies or misfortunes at all but I do not think we will venture into that part of Eastern Europe again.
I am sorry I am not able to quote prices etc. but having to change money four times I lost track of the conversion rates. Obviously we took lots of photo's and visited many other places but it is difficult to include them all. If you have any questions please contact me.