We left Viaport Marina near Istanbul having paid a deposit for an annual contract, and started the long trip back to the Netherlands in our campervan.
After our night on the side of the road in a lonely and rather desolate location, we headed for the Turkish border with Bulgaria.
When we arrived there we suddenly realised we hadn’t suspended our Turkish phone accounts so we decided to turn round and visit a phone shop in the nearby city of Edirne.
We discovered (with the help of a lovely Turkish lady who had lived in London for a long time) that the SIM cards would still work for three months without us having to top them up, making our turnaround totally unnecessary! We were very pleased that we had retraced our steps however, because Edirne turned out to be delightful.
Edirne is famed for its many mosques, domes and minarets. The Selimiye Mosque is particularly stunning and one of the most important monuments in the city. Built in 1575 it was designed by Turkey’s greatest master architect, Mimar Sinan.
Wandering along the pedestrian-only streets was very enjoyable – there was a bustling atmosphere, with numerous baklava shop windows to peer into and great sights to discover such as the gorgeous doors of the sixteenth century Rüstempaşa caravanserai (roadside inn).
Stopping off for a tasty savoury pastry with Turkish çay at a tiny cafe, we watched the world go by until we realised time was ticking by and we should get back to our road trip.
We set off for the border again after enjoying our last experience of Turkish culture for a while.
There were no problems at the border going into Bulgaria – we didn’t even have to show a Covid vaccination certificate! However we did have to drive through a special disinfection station which sprayed our van from every possible angle!
Towards late afternoon we caught sight of some snow on the side of the road but apart from that the weather was pleasant.
We stayed that evening in the same tiny little van park in Sofia that we’d stopped at on the way to Turkey.
The owner was on holiday in Austria but he was able to see us on his smart phone and unlock the gates for us remotely.
There was quite a lot of ice on the ground in the van park but nothing compared to the deep snow and compacted ice we had encountered last time.
Around 10am we left the van park and by 11.45 we were already approaching the Serbian border. Before we arrived we had to drive over the most appalling piece of “highway” that we’ve ever come across.
It was unsealed, muddy, narrow and had diversions over huge potholes. It seemed that there had been no progress with the roadworks since we had encountered them a few months earlier.
Fortunately we weren’t held up too much and were soon across the border and in Serbia where the roads were in a lot better condition.
Just as the sun was setting we arrived at the beautiful Lake Palić where we had spent the night on the way to Turkey, a few months previously.
We were able to go for a wonderful long walk around the peaceful lake while the setting sun produced a stunning light show on the glassy surface.
The following morning we arrived at the Austrian border after just over an hour’s drive.
We were planning to visit Vienna but Austria was still in the midst of lockdowns and travel restrictions so we decided against it. Instead we kept driving and found a good spot to stay the night a little further upstream of Vienna on the shores of the glorious Danube River.
The river was lovely but it was biting cold so our evening walk was a short one!
Driving for long distances day after day could become boring but we keep ourselves entertained by listening to podcasts, recorded books and by noticing the quirky and /or interesting architecture, historical buildings and other landmarks that pop up along the way.
In Austria we were intrigued to see the thought put into decorating the roundabouts (traffic circles).Within 15 minutes we saw one with a jet plane rising over it, one with some massive anchors on display, another with a mini arboretum in the centre and yet another with (strangely) a mini silo advertising a sugar museum.
The last country we drove through before arriving in the Netherlands was Germany. We spent the night at a delightful campsite near Würzburg in the Bavaria region.
We were able to camp right on the banks of the wide River Main and watch the massive barges carrying massive loads, ply their way along this important corridor.
Apart from having difficulty with getting water (the pipes were frozen) we had a good night and woke up the next day excited at the prospect of arriving at of destination of the Netherlands the following day.