Thursday 3rd October                                                        Don’t go back!                                      35 miles

 

There may have been a lovely sky yesterday, but a storm raged all night, with thunder and lightning. It was still around in the morning, so this was the time to spend finishing the website (3).

It wasn’t long before we reached Saranda, where we’d come last year on our one day trip to Albania from Corfu. We hadn’t remembered what a vast sprawling town it is. It was unfortunate this time that a cruise ship had just docked, so there were lots of coaches and tourists around. It all just seemed big and busy.

We followed the taxi route of last year, looking across to Corfu on one side, and the large lagoon on the other.

The storm raged beach

 

At Ksamil we remember last year seeing motorhomes parked – it all looked so lovely in the spring sunshine. We looked around, settling on a campsite called Sunset Camping, with views down over the sea, but not as idyllic as we remembered.

It was our 950th night in the Ixi! We toyed with the idea of going over to the restaurant to eat, but Adrian had seen no-one there, and the unpleasant evening didn't entice us. Instead I cooked a stir-fry as the storm returned.

 

Friday 4th October                        Starting with a quirky ferry  and ending with a hot pool              103 miles

 

The storm woke us with overhead thunder and lightning in the night, and it was still raining in the morning. We couldn't face the basic shower block, with its 3 stand-up loos, so showered in the van instead. With the emptying and filling to do, it was after 9.30 by the time we were ready. It had stopped raining by then.

We stopped to get some diesel at the petrol station opposite. Adrian had a nasty moment when it refused his card, but it worked second time.

We headed for Butrint, an impressive ancient site which we had visited last year. We weren't going to visit this time, but I wanted to go on the primitive little ferry there. This we did, and it was certainly worth it for the experience! Adrian was surprised at the cost (€10) - it only went a very short distance (100m). We drove on, then Adrian was asked (with no English) to move back, so that the flap could come down far enough for the other car to drive on, then he had to drive forward again, so that we nearly drove off the boat! There was a girl cyclist on the boat. We passed her later - Adrian was sure that she was going to Greece, which is where the road led to.

Looking to Corfu on one side of us, and the lagoon on the other, with its mussel beds

Stormy weather in Ksamil

As we reached the other side, a motley crew of locals had gathered. A shepherd was herding a large flock of sheep, with the aid of a speedy dog and a shrill whistle. We soaked up the atmosphere of this characterful little area of southern Albania, which seemed poor and forgotten, although the ferry was well used. There was a little shack of a cafe, and ruins of more castles. A ditch ran behind, and today this was enhanced by many puddles!

The interesting ferry at Butrint, which had fascinated me last year

We left to drive across the levels, before ascending a bit higher. The road was really bad, with a lot of debris on it after the rain, which two men were clearing.

Chaos at the docks!

At Shkalle we looked at our route, deciding not to go into Greece. There were some tall lily type flowers beside the road.

The road we took north from here, the SH97, was a good road - what a difference! The sun had now come out, olive trees grew in the hillsides and everything looked better with a blue sky!

Our road then went through pleasant mountain scenery. We ate lunch just after the Muzines Pass (570m) while several dogs languished outside. It was then a very long zigzagging descent to the valley. We passed an elderly gent walking along with a staff. It was a good road along the wide valley, which had big rectangular fields. We reached Gyroklaster, which had a castle high on a hill, with the town stretching down. There were supposedly interesting 19th Century houses in the large town, but we just drove and viewed until the roads became too narrow!

The bad and the good road

Continuing on, the wing mirror my side got hit for the second time today. Drivers don’t like to pull over!

We now drove through superb mountain scenery, in a gorge, then after the large ‘local’ town of Kelcyre we followed a wide valley.

We came to Permeti, and turned north for 8km following a surfaced road beside the River Lenarica, stopping just before a charming little Ottoman bridge at Benja. This was to be our place for tonight. Apart from the bridge, the thing of interest here was a warm spring. To get to the hot springs was no mean feat! First we had to walk beside the river, on a very puddly path after all the rain. Then we had to cross the cobbled pack horse bridge before climbing down rocks on the other side! Not a problem for most people, but a big one for me! We reached the pools and lowered ourselves into the warm water. What a setting for a swim, with the little bridge up behind us.

The steep town of Gyroklaster, topped by its castle

! It was fortunate that there were hardly any people about while we had our dip, because just afterwards a large German group made their way over the bridge! (the picture in our guide book shows it packed out).

We made our difficult return journey to the Ixi, feeling very pleased with ourselves.

 

Lovely place for a hot pool, just difficult to get to!

Saturday 5th October                                             A ‘day trip to Greece’!                      172 miles

 

It was quite cold, but the sun was on the hills as we left at 9.00.

We had been deciding which way to go towards Korca. The road in Albania was supposed to be spectacular, but was single lane with a dreadful surface. Also it went high over a pass, and there was no barrier and many hairy bends. We opted for the route through Greece.

We drove back towards Permetti. As we reached Petran, we passed two men each sitting side saddle on a donkey. There were photo opportunities all around, with the fabulous scenery, and a little suspension bridge over the river. Green forested slopes came right down to the milky grey river.

In the stretch of flat land opposite, a tractor plied the field. The road zigzagged through this almost uninhabited land. The only problem in this wonderful landscape was when we met another vehicle and had to scrape past. On this remote mountain road, we passed an elderly gent walking with a staff.

Atmospheric Petran

At Carcove we reached the flat valley, where crops were being grown. At last we had a straight and good road! We were still following the River Vjoses, which is called the R. Aoos in Greece.

We reached the border with Greece at 10.30. It took a long time at the Albanian side. The official spoke no English. He wanted to see lots of documents, including the vehicle log book & green card, which we didn’t understand, as we were leaving Albania. He eventually was satisfied, and we carried on through the border area, which had arrows and ‘no entry’ signs, but signs directed us through the ‘no entry’!

The Greek border was just as amusing a bit like a Two Ronnies sketch! There was only one official on duty, who must have been having his break when we arrived, while the people from the vehicle in front of us waited. He was both ‘police’ and ‘customs’, and when he had finished at the first window, he moved along to the second! Adrian chatted to the pleasant German chap on a motorbike while we waited. The parking area for here was enormous.

The Albanian route was supposed to be beautiful, but this was lovely too, with green, uninhabited scenery. It was mostly a good road, with just the occasional ‘surprise’ stretch. We stopped above a wide stony river, which reminded us of Alaska, and ate spaghetti on toast for lunch.

 

We left here just after 1.30. Adrian had remarked that the rocks looked unstable, when we came across a big rockfall!

When we came down to flatter land, we shopped in the town of Neopoli in a small supermarket better stocked than those in Albania, but with higher prices. I even found some Lurpak!  Adrian also found an ATM nearby for some euros, which seem to be acceptable in most countries. It was very quiet everywhere

We were now wondering where to stop for the night, Greece or Albania, and discussed this while we had a cup of tea by a deserted little park. It was sunny but cool. We were still at 700m.

Greek time was apparently one hour on, but we weren’t bothering for such a short visit.

We decided to head back to Albania, so at 4.15 (5.15) we joined the motorway. There was a sign saying ‘Watch out for bears’. The motorway was fenced on both sides.

The Aoos River in Greece

The scenery near Carcove

The flattish land looked pleasant in the late afternoon sunshine. We had to pay a toll for the last stretch and extra for the height of the vehicle!

We had no hold-up at the customs, but it was after 5.00 when we left for Pogredic, on Lake Ohrid. We passed carts pulled by tractors or horses, coming back from the fields.

The last part of the journey was a long zigzag down to Pogredic, where at 6.15 we found Arbi Campsite, looking across to Lake Ohrid. It soon became dark and the temperature felt really cold!

 

We didn't see any bears!

Sunday 6th October

 

This was to be our last day in Albania. We only have green card insurance for the vehicle until tomorrow.

It was sunny but cool. It seemed like the song that keeps playing on the ipod ‘It looks like the summer is over’.

I cooked pancakes for breakfast, then we put in a load of washing, as we intend staying here another day, so hopefully it will dry. The air is cool, but the sun became very hot. We ate lunch on the 'lawn', before walking along the lake for a short way in both directions. The pastel shades were pretty, but it was unremarkable.

Lake Ohrid, which is edged by Albania and Macedonia, is a tectonic lake, being formed where the plates meet. The deepest part is 300m deep. After 100m, the temperature is a constant 6°C Unusual fish live here, including koran, the lake trout.

When sitting back by our van, the owner and his son walked around the 'field', collecting up leaves with a 'spiker'. The boy (twelve year old Arbi, we found later), chatted/complained continually. He made me think of Manolo!

We phoned Paul, who was mowing the lawn. We spoke to both girls and briefly to Edward before speaking to Paul & Nicky, who had been pressing apples for cider this weekend. The line was unfortunately bad.

We had been planning to go over to the restaurant to sample the koran fish. The fish was good and well cooked, and we had a plate of excellent chips with it.

The parents from the campsite did the cooking, and the two children, Megan (?)17 and Arbi did all the serving. When I asked Megan afterwards how long they'd been doing it, she answered 10 years!

Adrian had warned me that the restaurant was cold, but even with extra layers, I still felt chilly!

The Dutch couple from the camper next to us were eating there, with a German man from near Munich, travelling alone with his large shepherd dog - his wife staying at home. We joined in their lively conversation. The Dutch couple also had a dog, so much chat was on that!

 

Enjoying Lake Ohrid

Monday 7th October                        Into Macedonia                                             21 miles

 

We did the emptying and filling, and left before 10.00. The Swiss family next to us, in a pop-up camper and with two children, had left before us.

We drove along beside the lake into Pogradeci. It was an unremarkable town, with no sites to see, and in some places was run down. A vital stretch of road in the centre was closed, which necessitated diversions around. It appeared a happy town, thronging with pedestrians, all in winter clothes! We had wanted to spend our last bit of Albanian money (£3), as it cannot be used outside Albania. We found a little store with fruit and veg outside. We didn't seem to be able to get rid of our money, as we kept adding more things to the cheery lady. In the end we were left with just 50p.

We drove back and had coffee beside the lake near to the entrance to our campsite, while we discussed the route that we would take through Macedonia to Skopje.

In a very short distance we came to the border with Macedonia, (now wanting to be called North Macedonia.) The cheerful official behind the police desk, told us of the vast monastery nearby, Sveti Naum.

We made our way there, and after paying €3 for the car park, entered the vast area. Adrian was pretty horrified that this Unesco site now contains a hotel and restaurants and lots of souvenir stalls selling trash. It made us think of Lourdes. It was now a big tourist attraction, with lots of visitors, including many parties of energetic schoolchildren. There were manicured lawns and flower beds beside the lake, and boats for trips that you could take - both on Lake Ohrid, and on the 'Little lake'. This contained a lot of springs which are the source of Lake Ohrid. The water was really clear. We walked as far as one of the many churches, where there was a fountain of spring water. A young lad told us that it was good for drinking, and asked if we wanted help with anything. A bit later, Adrian took a photo of him with his mates.

Leaving the campsite and driving along to Pogradeci

While walking along, we bumped into Markus (and his dog) the pleasant German from last night. We chatted a bit. He told us of nice walks into the woods here - if only!

We came out to the van and had lunch.

We left at 2.15 to drive on round the lake in an anticlockwise direction towards Ohrid. Sometimes we had nice views of the lake, but usually the trees had grown up. We were enjoying the landscape of just trees, and that there was very little traffic.

It felt quite mild at the town of Pestani, which was right on the lake, and really pleasant. Trees fringed the water, particularly weeping willows, and attractive houses lined it. Little boats lay in the water.

Sveti Naum

As we drove on, there were more hotel blocks. Adrian had noted a campsite, Divono, right on the lake. As we were driving past, a man came racing along to show us the entrance. He said that it cost 10 ‘evros’ (with electricity!) It was a really lovely place, set in a large park area, which must have been something in the past. We sat outside with a cup of tea, ignoring the one hotel to the side. We had a walk around, sitting on steps by the water and looking across to the town of Ohrid.

Pestani, on Lake Ohrid

On the way back we spoke to a Dutch couple in a 4x4 camper who made us realise that there’s always someone madder! They were returning from driving to China (with their dog). They said that it was ‘interesting’, but thought China a horrible country a police state where everything you did was watched and followed. They’d liked all the other countries that they’d driven through.

I cooked a fennel risotto and bread and butter pudding. It began to rain. We felt for the family who had arrived beside us in a small camper, with two children.

We were very saddened to receive an email from Renee to say that my cousin Gordon had died. We had both been very fond of him.

 

 

 

 

Looking to the town of Ohrid from our campsite

Tuesday 8th October                              Around Lake Ohrid then north                                         65 miles

 

It was a fine morning. We enjoyed our lovely view of the lake.

When Adrian went to pay the owner, he talked to him about the land. It had belonged to his grandfather, and after the communist era, his father had fought for 11 years to get it back. Now he wanted to keep it as ‘green land’, although a neighbour had built an ugly tower block on one side, and was planning to on the other.

We were heartened to see the energy of the two young German children from the next small camper, running up and down to the lake.

After doing the emptying and filling, it was 9.45 when we set off for the town of Ohrid. We parked on a street near the lake, paying for two hours. We walked first by the lake, which had well kept gardens containing several monuments. We were touted by the many boat owners to go for a ride on the lake.

We didn’t leave until after lunch (I.00 pm), by which time the sky was clearer.

We continued driving down the coast, usually high up in the rugged mountains. Sheep, goats and cattle wandered about. There were lots of olive trees growing, but then we thought that we’re not far from Greece. We had thought that we’d overnight just a few miles further on, but then the weather brightened, so we continued.

 

Ohrid has an attractive old town, with overhanging houses and narrow lanes paved with oblong slabs From the lake it looked rather like Berati. Its downfall is the fact that cars can still drive along the little lanes.

In the tourist info we asked for a map. The only one available you had to pay for. The nice young chap let us photograph it, telling us of the route to all the sites – much more than we could manage. He spoke excellent English.

It had been really quiet, but when we reached St Sophia church, we met the ‘groups’. We went inside the church, somehow avoiding the fee. Some of the walls were covered in paintings, and there were a lot of icons. We were glad not to have been on a tour!

 

The town of Ohrid from the lake

The walk to the 300 year old plane tree (unmarked when we got there) was along a modern street with western shops – smart clothing and jewellery mostly. Very disappointing! We were amazed at the enormous number of jewellery and pearl shops and stalls. People were in very western dress.

Ohrid and St Sophia Church

 

The 300 year old plane tree in the square in Ohrid

 

Our route now took us past a ribbon reservoir (again), with green mountain slopes all around. Sadly there were no stopping places, and again there was a lot of litter.

At the end of the second reservoir, we drove through Debar – a very ordinary town in an extraordinary setting. It was a large town, with a couple of huge factories.

The Christian town of Vevcani

It wasn’t long until Mavrovo National park. We were able to stop for the night just beforehand, surprised at the amount of traffic going past, including large lorries and a tractor, at what we thought was an isolated spot.

 

Driving around the reservoir

There's a sheep loose in the lane!

Wednesday 9th October                                  On past Skopje                                          90 miles

 

The sun hadn't reached us by the time we left at 8.30. We were very soon into Mavrovo National Park, with its steep wooded slopes all round, and a stony stream below. It all looked lovely in the sunshine, with the blue sky. We then went through a gorge of high, vertical bare rock. When we stopped to walk to the stream, the weather was still cold! The leaves were just turning.

We came to Mavrovo Dam, with a large derelict concrete statue from communist times. We were at 1350m.

Early morning in Mavrovo National Park

Then we went down, down, down and out of the park.

We took the road towards Skopje, passing vast cement works, where everything was white. We remembered Split like this in 1967.

At Gostivar we took the alternative road to Tetovo, not the motorway which started here, thinking that it would be rural, with a nice place to stop for coffee. Gostivar was a very workaday town, but then just led into one town after another, a bit like the Bethune area of northern France.

Instead of the early coffee we had been hoping for, it was a late pull-off onto a rough area which appeared to have once been a market. Old agricultural machines lined the field.

View from Mavrovo  Dam

As we drove along, the white minarets looked dazzling against the blue sky, but from a distance could be confused with the factory chimneys! Logs were stacked up outside houses, ready for winter. Buildings weren't generally smart, but one town had tried to liven things up with newly planted trees all along each side of the road.

We reached the town of Tetovo, which we had driven through in 1967. It must have grown a lot since then, and the amount of vehicles was mind-boggling. There was no chance of us parking, or even stopping. Cars were double parked all down the streets - people just got out and left their vehicles! I snapped the pretty Pasha's mosque as we passed.

Disused market stalls

We took the motorway to Skopje from here, but now wanting somewhere to stop for lunch, we pulled off by a petrol station, and on to a minor road (thus unwittingly avoiding the toll booth!) Adrian had joked 'what we want is a picnic table in the shade, by a stream' (we have seen no picnic tables). Lo and behold, when passing a junction, he said 'I can see a covered picnic table'. We had to back-track, but with difficulty we got to the table. The road here had been newly tarmacked, but there wasn't a way down to the table, except on a steep slope. Having negotiated it all, we sat at the table for lunch. It was now warm in the sun. Afterwards we filled our waterbottles from the spring, which had been recently built around.

As we got back into the van and put on our music, we wondered what had happened to Roy Bailey's recording, when we realised that it was the Call to prayer accompanying it!

Pasha's Mosque & Isa Beg Hamman in Tetovo

We got back onto the motorway on an unmarked ramp. We paid the toll and turned off to Skopje, which we'd driven through in 1967. I'd also come through on the train in 1963, just after the earthquake, and remember the devastation. Having been told that Skopje was a concrete jungle, it was more pleasant than we'd expected. There were masses of tower blocks, but plenty of green spaces too, with nice gardens. Bright red buses made us think of London. Again there was nowhere to stop so we just drove through.

A covered picnic table!

We had some options of what to do for tonight. There was a car park and also a lorry park in Skopje where we could stay. There was an expensive campsite with poor reviews nearby, or a nicer sounding campsite 60 miles on, in Serbia. We didn't fancy the carparks. We tried the nearby campsite - adjoined to Bellevue hotel. It was spacious, with just one other motorhome there. It certainly appeared unloved, but seemed the best option tonight. For one thing, it was sunny and hot, now that we'd come down a bit from the mountains. We settled ourselves in.

 

 

 

 

 

Driving through Skopje

Thursday 10th October                                                      Into Serbia                                81 miles

 

We awoke a bit late to a fine morning. We sat on a wooden seat for breakfast, while a watery sun shone down. Someone came to sweep out the loos. This site is nicely laid out, but neglected. While Adrian was doing the 'jobs', I walked across to the artificial lake by the hotel. The water was clear and there were a lot of ducks, and some large fish. A beautiful little chapel/shrine stood nearby, completely covered with paintings inside.

We didn't leave until 10.30, and headed for a small supermarket not far away. Adrian had just said that he was missing 'out of town' shopping centres, as you can always park there. This proved his point! He spent a long time trying to park in the little side road next to the shop. This was made difficult by other parked vehicles, by a large pile of chippings and rocks along the side of the road. Having parked and gone inside the shop, I came back out to the van. A delivery van pulled up beside us, and I had horrors as it got closer and closer, before finally giving up and parking in front of the shop.

After we drove off, we were almost immediately on the motorway, although we'd wanted to stop for coffee. No chance of a 'service area'- we stopped by a petrol station. There was a cross on the hill behind us, and a pretty Orthodox church plus several little shrines. We sat on a concrete plinth, but in sitting down, I knocked over my coffee! The land here was fairly flat, and very dry.

The  chapel and pond at Bellevue campsite, Skopje

Setting off again, it wasn't long before we came to the border with Serbia. There were dozens of lorries waiting to enter Macedonia. We had some Macedonian money left, and Adrian assumed that it would be easy to change it at the border. Not so! The first 4 people didn't want to know. Adrian did find someone who exchanged it, but gave a ridiculous exchange rate.

As we didn't expect to see any rest areas, we turned off to stop for lunch. The straight roads made this impossible - we ended up opposite a petrol station at 12.50. The land around us was flat and arid, with the hills of Kosovo in the distance. Adrian bought some tonic in the service station shop, then we continued north, joining the motorway after a while. The land became hilly, and more attractive, with trees. We saw that there were parking areas, but with long spaces for lorries, and a portable loo at the end of each!

At 3.40 we stopped by Motel Pretejane  a similar set-up to last night, only this time it was just a carpark. However, it only cost €10 with electricity! We had views of hills around, and of the motorway traffic disappearing into a tunnel. There was unfortunately a coach parked beside us, running its engine, but the driver turned it off when Adrian approached. We sat on the grass with a cup of tea. There was a motley group of dogs who greeted each new arrival.

Later we had drinks outside looking across to the tunnel entrance and enjoying the general atmosphere.

The cross on the hill behind the motorway 'parking'

Overnighting at Motel  Pretejane, Serbia

Looking across to the road tunnel entrance

 

The walk to the 300 year old plane tree (unmarked when we got there) was along a modern street with western shops smart clothing and jewellery mostly. Very disappointing! We were amazed at the enormous number of jewellery and pearl shops and stalls. People were in very western dress.

The plane tree was in a ‘square’. In a shop edging it, Adrian bought a loaf (forgetting that we had some rolls). By now we’d overstepped the mark, and I found the trail back to the van very trying. We had just time for a quick swig of tea/coffee before leaving. We'd got an impression of the town, but had only glimpsed the castle, and not seen the walls or the amphitheatre.

We stopped for fuel, in the outer town, which was the usual mess of tower blocks, although there was a lot of greenery.

We drove along the lake to Struga, a very ordinary town consisting of tower blocks. We stopped by a park near the lake, but found that you had to pay here too. Teenagers were coming along in groups, just like any modern young people the girls with long hair and some wearing torn jeans, the boys with cropped hair. We'd heard shrieks, and realised that there was a large swingboat behind us.

We left here at 2.00, but found it really difficult to get out of Struga because of the one-way system. We had debated whether to take the fast road to Skopje, but the owner of the campsite had persuaded Adrian that the winding road near the Albanian border was more scenic.

We set off on this , diverting early on to visit Vevcani, a Christian village in the hills, in the midst of a Moslem area. Adrian had a short walk around and up to the church, while I waited in the van.

Our route now took us past a ribbon reservoir (again), with green mountain slopes all around. Sadly there were no stopping places, and again there was a lot of litter.

Friday 11th October                                         To the Blue Danube                                     197 miles

 

We were up early. There was already a lot of activity around the hotel. Several coachloads of teenagers had been dropped off and were walking around - this would appear to be a stopping place on various routes.

We left at 8.45, and soon got on the motorway to Nis (written HͶШ in Greek!)

It was a good road and the agricultural land was flattish, and there was very little traffic. There was some autumn colour, but it was rather drab.

We scouted round Nis, and took the cross country road to Zajecar. The only pull-offs were hardly wide enough for a car. We stopped in one a little larger for coffee, then very soon afterwards we passed two (litter strewn) viewpoints with picnic tables down to Knjazovac .

The road descended to Knjazovac and through it, crossing the Timok River. There were a lot of cars in the town. We weren't far from the Bulgarian border, and when we pulled in beside a little used but rebuilt railway, we noticed that the houses looked more Romanian/Bulgarian.

The countryside near Knjazovac

We turned off the road to find somewhere to stop for lunch, ending up at the entrance to what would appear to be former communist works. The sky was clear blue, but the wind was fresh.

We left here at 1.45, and at 2.30 we reached the (blue) Danube. And today it really was blue! Blue and wide. We passed a little beach. The good road had become patchy. They were ‘working on it’, and we had to stop at eight lots of traffic lights for a lengthy stretch each, plus a diversion! It was taking us much longer that we’d imagined.

We stopped at a litter strewn viewpoint, enjoying the view of the river. We hastened on to the overnight spot which Adrian had sorted. He was surprised when it wasn’t where he expected it to be. It was then that it dawned on us that it was across the river, on the Romanian side - even though the map reference was this side! We’d been looking across, and remembering our drive along that side in 2014, when the weather had been so bad. We never imagined then that we would be looking across from this side in the sunshine.

Now we had nowhere to stay for the night, but a bit further on we came to two viewpoints. We chose the second, as there was a (ugly) barrier. A picnic table to sit at for our cup of tea, with our marvellous view. A local lady spoke to me and asked if I liked Serbia. It became rapidly cool as the sun went down. Nevertheless, we enjoyed sitting out with our drinks, with our exquisite view down to the Danube

 

 

 

The Blue Danube!

One of the many roadworks!

Wonderful overnighter above the Danube

Saturday 12th October           Following the Danube, then on to Belgrade                     140 miles

 

What a beautiful view to look down from when we woke up! The mist did then come up,  and didn't clear until the sun came. This was too late for us to sit outside for breakfast - until then it was very chilly!

We left at 9.10, stopping for more views of the gorge. The valley soon widened.

At Donji Milanovac we went into a busy and well stocked little supermarket, stopping soon afterwards by the river for coffee, sitting at a picnic table in the warm sunshine. There are lots of parking and picnic places along the river. We stopped again to look at a big barge, reminding us of the Mississippi.

The mist clears, then we have glorious views of the Danube

We drove through dozens of small tunnels, and over a lot of bridges. The red autumn colour looked great against the white rock.

We wanted to stop for lunch before we left the river. Where we did stop was on a bend, so the river looked really wide. A fortification stood on top of the hill, but had been made into a tourist attraction, so we steered clear!

A Danube barge

Early autumn colour

 

Another British motorhome had pulled in. The lady driver came and spoke to us. She was driving, and her friend, another lady, was cycling. They were doing the ‘Iron Curtain route’, and had been travelling since May. They were from Aberdeen. They had started in Norway, and were finishing at the Black Sea! She had cycled 5,000 miles so far. Then in the New Year they were going to Australia for a couple of months! More adventurous people! She had friends who’d recently travelled to China, and didn’t feel ‘watched over’ like the Dutch couple we’d met.

We left here at 1.45 and drove on flattish land towards Belgrade. We got some fuel before the motorway section. We'd passed an IKEA store.

The motorway was very bumpy Adrian felt that we should have been paid for driving on it! The country was very rural until we were hit by Belgrade, which had some ugly tower blocks and a few monstrous buildings. Adrian expertly drove through much of the city until we reached the place where we were to stay. We'd seen trams, trolleys and ordinary buses, and lots of traffic.

Golubac Fortress

! At 4.15 we reached Camping Club Serbia, which had a few spaces for overnighting amongst some rental campers and a small furniture shop. In fact we parked right next to an Ixeo Time, but not the same as ours. We're right on a busy road, so don’t expect a quiet night!

 

Welcome to Belgrade!

Sunday 13th October                                                             Belgrade                                   20 miles

 

It was a sunny morning, but cool. We left to visit Belgrade. A bus stopped outside, so we thought that we would either take that or a taxi.  No taxi came and the bus was a long time coming, but it was a free ride, as we had no means of paying. An elderly gent gave me his seat on the crowded bus. We didn’t know where to get off, and had horrors when we went into a tunnel, but in fact alighted close to the citadel, which was the prime sight to see. Belgrade was nicely quiet on this Sunday morning. We thought the buildings rather austere.

On walking to the citadel, we stopped in a little children’s play area to get our bearings. I heard a voice speaking English. It was a young American woman with two tiny girls who were having a swing. When we spoke to her, it turned out that her husband was doing a PhD on former Yugoslavia, and they were travelling with him around the old universities until Christmas!  The girls were excited that their grandma, from Wales, was soon coming to join them.

We hadn’t expected the citadel to be in a large park, where a lot of people had come to enjoy their Sunday. It wasn’t at the top of a hill, as we’d expected but a bit like Hyde Park. We played our top trump when we saw a ‘petit train’. As neither of us can walk very far, this was the perfect answer. The 25 minute ride took us all around the park, including through the ruins of the old castle and with views of the confluence of the Danube and Sava Rivers. Top job for £1.15 each!

Exploring Belgrade

Afterwards we made our way to the pedestrian street. Needing a break, we sat at one of the many  pavement cafes and shared a ‘4 cheese toasted sandwich’ with our Earl Grey tea/small coffee. (I’d asked for a long one, but was happy with my tiny one and a glass of water.)

Monday 14th October                                                     A long time going nowhere!                              100 miles

 

It was a lovely morning. Adrian did the emptying and we left at 9.45. As we drove on, there were non-stop villages along the road. It was more like Hungary, Romania or Bulgaria, with low level houses and a ditch in front. We shopped in a little supermarket but Adrian had no luck in getting any marmalade!

As we've found in all the aforementioned countries, there is never anywhere to pull off. We ended up in the parking area by a petrol station to have coffee. It was hot now.

Belgrade's citadel by 'petit train'

We walked on some more before seeing some taxis. This was our downfall! Things had been so cheap everywhere that we failed to ask the price! The really pleasant driver pointed out many of the buildings which we were passing.

Time for a break after walking around

We had trouble getting out of Belgrade, but then we likened it to getting out of Central London. We made our way to the motorway and headed out across the flat landscape, turning off at Donanovci, where we made our way to a camping spot in a front garden rather like CLs of old. No-one appeared to be there, but then a teenage girl called Melissa let us in, saying that her parents were away, but she had stayed to look after the site. We relaxed under the trees, while children played in an adjoining property, and goats ambled about. As usual, it was hot until the sun went down. We enjoyed sitting out in this rural idyll with our drinks.

Then, when we got out, he dropped the bombshell of the ludicrous price for this short journey.

It was 12.30, so we ate the sandwich we’d made earlier, in the van. We spoke to a nice young Dutch girl staying here. It was her first trip in a motorhome, so everything was exciting.

By the time wed done the emptying and filling, it was 1.50, and very hot.

 

The Parliament building

Leaving Belgrade

Out of Belgrade to a peaceful idyll for the night

    

We continued along the straight roads, which were sometimes tree-lined, through agricultural country before coming into the Fruska Gora area, which was more undulating.

We drove around Sremski Karlovci, which was supposed to have a lot of attractive buildings. We glimpsed some nice churches, but all the parking was by phone, so we weren't able to stop.

The flat land of northern Serbia

The roads into Novi Sad were all blocked with traffic, so we gave up and  turned back on another road and were able to pull in beside the road for lunch a bit further south.

We left at 2.20 and headed for Novo Hopovo monastery, but it is Monday and it wasnt open! It was in a hilly, forested area.

Sremski Karlovci

We headed south through Irig, which had a big square, and single storey houses all joined together. We drove on through Ruma, before joining the motorway west, driving through very flat land and turning off to Sid. We passed a big park as we came into the town. Again all the houses were low level. At 4.30 we stopped in a carpark for the night. There was a children’s playground behind, and what appeared to be a sports hall. We had a short walk into the town.

 

Novo Hopovo monastery

Overnighting at Sid

On to  northern Croatia tomorrow!

Borsch, Albania to Sid, Serbia