After a month or so spent exploring Bulgaria and Romania, it was time for Mike and I to head onwards, and start what was to be the final chapter of our European roadtrip adventure.
We had arranged to take part in a week’s seminar at Sieben Linden, a large sustainable community in rural Germany, and were both eager to ensure that we made it to the course on time. The next few days saw us begin to head west. We were to be moving fast through a number of countries – of course, with a few points of interest to act as breathers along the way.
Our first destination was the city of Poprad, in Slovakia. We drove quickly through Hungary, not once leaving the highway, heading north. Poprad is a city in northern Slovakia, set against the High Tatra mountains. The population of the city is about 55,000 people, and the city is a well-known tourist destination, with a colourful, quaint, city centre.
We had taken the detour to Poprad for a couple of reasons. Firstly, we’d read that not far from the city, in the Slovensky Raj (Slovak Paradise) national park, a series of waterfalls could be hiked, and climbed, via a network of increasingly steep and narrow metal and wooden chains and ladders. We had also stumbled upon AquaCity, whilst researching our route online – a geothermal waterpark, with a spa and sauna complex. Having had limited access to showers over the past few months, we were highly enthusiastic about the idea of an afternoon spent relaxing in restorative, mineral-rich, water.
With Poprad proving an unexpected highlight of our trip, we continued our long drive west. We journeyed through the Czech Republic, stopping briefly in Prague, where we took the opportunity to use a launderette – a strangely rare sight during our trip around Europe, and one we now know to take advantage of. The launderette happened to be conveniently placed next door to a waffle shop, with excellent strawberry and banana waffles, which of course, we had to sample.
A couple of days later, we found ourselves driving along the autobahn, in Germany. Before heading to Sieben Linden, we visited Tropical Islands Resort. You can read more about our slightly surreal day at Tropical Islands here. Our day spent inside the largest Air Hangar turned Tropical Rainforest in the world was an unique, and playful, experience. We enjoyed luxurious chocolate and honey mud masks, eucalyptus saunas, and Europe’s highest waterslide, which only Mike was brave enough to conquer.
Next, came Sieben Linden. Sieben Linden’s ‘Youth Experience Seminar’ was a calm, and educational, week’s course offering a glimpse at life, particularly for younger people, lived in one of the world’s most established eco-villages. We ate large organic meals of homebaked bread and homemade chutnies and relishes, locally grown vegetables and oats, with 20 other people sat around wooden tables. We discovered the german names of wild herbs, explored gardens and forests, and toured the community – meeting with residents and learning about the sustainable architecture, together with the philosophy, of the community. We enjoyed our week thoroughly, Sieben Linden proving one of our particular favourite eco-villages that we have visited together.
With our week at Sieben Linden out of the way, we had a choice to make. Would we drive east again, to Finland, before crossing the tundra of Scandinavia’s far north and driving south down through Norway? Or would we catch a ferry from Poland, into Sweden, and from Sweden explore Norway’s fjords, and mountainous west.
We found ourselves opting for the second route plan, for a number of reasons (mostly due to expenses and our time concerns). We hopped onto a car ferry in Poland, squeezing in with countless trucks, and six hours later, arrived in Sweden. We drove north through Sweden, and into Norway. We had originally intended to visit Norway first on our trip, but are immensely glad that we swapped our route around. Norway proved immeasurably beautiful, the early summer sun barely sinking below the horizon each night. We caught countless car ferries, and visited Trollstigen, Trolltunga, The Secret Rope Swing, and Preikestolen, amongst other places. You can read about our wildly magical, incomparable time in Norway here.
After several weeks in Norway, it was time for us to begin heading back to the UK. We spent a day wandering around Tivoli Gardens, in Copenhagen, before driving to the Hook of Holland, where we caught a ferry to the UK.
We had driven 30,000km on our trip, visited 20 countries, and had lived out of our Hyundai H200 for almost seven months. We’d traipsed around the Jemaa el-Fnaa square, the sound of drums and crowds of people chatting in Arabic, the wafting smells of tagines, turmeric, cumin, rising smoke from outdoor kitchens. We’d camped out in the transylvanian wilderness, dining on roasted sweet potatoes and bananas wrapped in tin foil, scaring eachother with stories of bears. We’d spent nights stranded in mountain-top villages, waiting for snow ploughs to clear the route ahead, and we’d met so many interesting, kind people. The experience had proven challenging at times, eye-opening, beautiful beyond belief and a wonderful, and alluring, introduction to life on the road.