1566-1568: Transit to Nice-Nis & Nasty-Nis

1566 cont.-:   Edirne

Friday 20th June 2020

Lunch after the Gallipoli tour was a pretty revolting doner kebab but it had to be done!  A few hours driving saw us in Edirne.  The main reason for coming here was that it is very close to the Bulgarian border, which we will cross tomorrow.   We met up with K and D at the famous mosque and eventually found somewhere to have a final glass of wine and something to eat in Turkey.  

It is a university town and close to the border, so we expected it to be quite Western … not!  Lots of places serving Cay (tea) but really hard to find a bar.  I asked in the Vodafone shop, thinking the staff there were quite young and would speak English … they had to phone a friend! Do they have Who Wants To Be A Millionaire here?  I got the name of the Patio bar, but imperfect directions.  We asked in a shop …. the next door show shop owner also owns the Patio Bar … really???!!  But we had a personal guide to its doors. 

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Karen and David elected to stay over night in the town centre, we elected to stay by the river as it was better walking for the dogs.  We slept pretty well as it had been a long day starting with the Gallipoli tour at 8.00.

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All, and I mean all, the streets had been dug up.  Piles of bricks and abandoned spades.  Quite why it was all a mess at the same time?

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The main attraction of Edirne is the Selimiye Mosque.  Built around 1570, it is considered to be Turkeys finest with a dome that it marginally larger than Istanbuls Aya Sofya mosque.   It had very clean lines and lots of light. 

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The marble sadirvan, ablution fountain.  Obviously not use enough as inside still smelt of stinky feet!


1567:  How Not to Tour Bulgaria

Saturday 21st June 

Turkey had imposed a countrywide curfew from 9.00 so students could get to their national examinations safely … although I presume they were all in big halls to sit the exams … would keeping people indoors make that much difference?  Consequently we set off at 8.06, slightly behind the scheduled departure of 8.00 as we had to clear up Corrie’s regurgitation of bones she’d snaffled the night before on her walk!

Although Danny and Lisa had crossed from Turkey to Bulgaria a few weeks before, we all had a slight sense of trepidation, so we met K and D at a petrol station and approached the border in convoy.  A complete lack of signage, so we led them down the bus / pedestrian route necessitating a convoy several hundred metre reverse!  Exit stamps for Turkey, only after the border control had made phone calls to confirm no penalty for overstaying our visas.  We had to sign a form to state that we agreed to 24 hrs to cross Bulgaria, and this is what we’d paid for on line motorway toll system … it even prescribes the route.

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Trucks stacked all over the place at both ends of Bulgaria  freight drivers must have to allow a day to cross the border alone.

We really only had a retina impression of Bulgaria … motorway across a wide valley and some ugly Communist housing blocks.  But our encounters with the people were a lot more encouraging … both at the coffee and lunch stop.  Fortunately both took Euros as we’d no Lev.  Welcome Break could really learn from the Bulgarians … we were given a huge choice of meat kebabs and it was freshly cooked; served with a huge munch crunchy salad … we shared a dish!  Super tasty and 19 Euro fed 4 of us!

The border to Serbia was similar … several stops and staff looking in the van, passports gaining new stamps.  At the moment Serbia is OPEN and we could stay 3 months … we won’t.  The plan is be tourist for up to 2 weeks, keeping an eye on the borders for the route home … likely to be transit through Croatia and Slovenia.

Our destination was Nis (pronounced Nish) sports grounds … lots of parking over the weekend, but it was chocker come Monday morning. We had a brief wander, mainly to find and ATM for cash and a Serbian Sim card.  The cash is going to take a lot of getting used to … Dinar 125 = £1.  There seems to be a huge number of 0’s on some of the notes and I’m back to counting them, like I used to count spots on playing cards as a child!  Should I confess that to David and Karen as I’m now the kitty holder!!!  Supper was close to the vans … a lot of restaurant choice.  Given our good lunch, we were guided by the lovely young English speaking waiter to select half portions.  He also helped with sorting out the Sim cards.  I wanted to adopt him, but Karen wanted to marry him … would that make me her mother in law!?!?

1568:  Nice-Nis and Nasty-Nis 

Sunday 22nd June 

I made use of the park by us, doing a couple of circuits for a run.  Corrie only did one circuit as she is now VERY nervous of other dogs, having had her bum nipped by Turkish canines.  J started, but stopped due to a calf pain.  And David is still off running due to shin splints.  That makes me the only runner … there’s a shock!

Over coffee we had a planning meeting … we pretty much want to see the main things and Serbia is not that large, so we will dip in and out of each other’s company.  We did a quick shop and then set off to be tourists.  With rain jackets  … it felt cold and rain threatened.  We are not used to this … please bring back the sunshine! 

Nis has a lot to offer and a good vibe.  Constantine (Constantinople) came from here, but little evidence remains.  The main sights can be visited in a day … and we did!  Fortress, Concentration Camp and Skull Tower.

The fortress is a large area of small museums and restaurants … CO2 had another run.  We continued up to the Concentration Camp … it was in the not so nice area of Nis … taking a short cut two big black dogs attempted to take their owners fence down in their attempt to attack us … resulting in the owner shouting at us to take our F…ing dogs away.  Nasty-Nis!

At the Concentration Camp, I chatted to a school teacher … his 14 yr olds were on a trip postponed from April.  He made the comment that this generation does not have relatives that remember the war and therefore it has little meaning for them. I didn’t like to draw his attention to the Serbian ethnic cleansing.  It has crossed our minds that anyone over about 45 here may well have been involved.

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The Red Cross Concentration Camp got its name from the nearby rail station … it was a German transit camp. 

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Every time a German was killed by the resistance, 100 prisoners or locals were slaughtered.  The penalty for a German being wounded was 50 deaths. 

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A monument a few km away was erected for the mass killings by the Germans.  Most of the people deported from here ended up either in gas chambers or dying from the conditions of forced labour.

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Researchers have used some documents and personal accounts to attempt to verify all the names of the people that passed through here.

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David ‘dragged’ us to the Irish bar … a light lunch … pumpkin soup with the Serbian yogurt, a little like clotted cream.  J’s paprika chips were so good, he needed help!


After lunch David and I had a swim … I wanted a shower without having to empty the store cupboard that is our on board shower.  Only £1.55 with an olympic sized pool.  Think it must’ve been built in the 80’s and not had any work done on it since,  The showers seemed to be communal, given the lack of signage and the chap that stayed in the shower block I was in.  No stripping off here then!  The changing cubicles had most panels bashed in, so a peeping Tom’s heaven … potentially, depending on who they were spying on!  Oh. and I was the ONLY female swimmer.  Had it not been for a mixed group of teens on the poolside, I would have thought it was a male only swim session.  And don’t get me started on the state of the ladies toilets!


The Skull Tower was visited early evening … the heavy rain had stopped and David brought a brolly … a sure talisman to keep the rain away.    The Tower of Skulls is another revered testament to Serbian grit.  An uprising against the Ottoman occupation 1809 resulted in 4000 Serbian deaths.  The Serbs managed to wipe out 10,000 Turks by blowing up an ammunition store.  Retribution was the decapitation of the Serbs …. their skulls were embedded in a tower left to instil fear and subservience in the Serbs.  Of the 952 skulls, only 58 skulls remain.  Some Serbs took a skull to bury as a symbol of their own lost family.  The chapel likes building was erected some years later to protect the Tower.

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The chapel likes building was erected some years later to protect the Tower.

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912-918: Now Which Country Are We In?

912 – Wednesday 29th November 2017: And into Montenegro

Heavy rain (drizzle from Brizzle, or Spain?) – K did laundry – or laundwet?  Rigged up clothesline in the closed but covered restaurant patio. Some van cleaning – and I went to have shower….. well, the water temperature hovered between tepid and coooold!  A real ‘boarding school’ shower….. (K: I elected to use the one on board, having had J heroically test them!)  But lovely campsite owners, known by all the locals, including the bar where we took wine – to ward off the cold and damp…. and use the wifi.


913 – Thursday 30th November: And Further Down Montenegro

Some laundry had blown off in the overnight high winds … J collected it’s sodden mass.  Some had dried overnight in the van.  We had planed to stop at Kotor on our way south towards Albania … but lashing rain and road flooding conditions prevented this.  ‘Interesting’ wet and slow drive on empty roads.  Nothing for it but to head into Albania sooner, but needed to do some planning as we thought we’d be longer in Montenegro.  So to a campsite our Finnish friend told us of South of Budva.  Still peeing down, put a damp load of laundry on … no driers so all hanging in Jez – 3 days of Chinese Laundry in the van :(.  Walk along beach front … rat .. googled rat infections on dogs … and forum replies on rabies blood test … yes Oscar should have had it … vet knew our destinations and we (K:  that would be me, but J is too kind to point the finger!) hadn’t properly checked !!!  All to do with three tiers of rabies … rabies free, controlled and high … Montenegro and Albania are high.   We don’t fancy being stopped at Albania / Greece border …. so we will head back North into Croatia and investigate boats to Italy then Greece.  “The best laid plans of mice and men clang aft a-clay” – or something similar….

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Are we on a boat?  Little did we realise … not yet!

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Islands in Kotor Bay almost submerged.  Water level definitely high as we spotted a beach volley ball pitch of very short people (are we allowed to call them midgets?) … poles only a couple of feet high.

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Windscreen wipers could hardly cope with the torrent. 

914 – Friday 1st December: Then Back Up To Croatia

We traversed back through the mountains to Bosnia and Herzegovina – some stressed and successful border crossings – ’nothing to declare,Sir…’ (not even the 10 bottles of vino and 6 months supply of e-juice) – a big shop in BiH at mega low prices – and into Croatia (again) – back to the sanctuary of Camping Stobrec – one of the best sites ever! Only 9 hours travel….. What a day – phew… Oscar had to be ‘invisible’ at the border crossings, just in case!

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Better weather coming North and better views around the Kotor Bay.

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In BiH, ancient Necropolis … we used their carpark for a driver change.

915 – Saturday 2nd December: Sitting Still in Croatia

Well – how to start a quiet day? – ‘embracing the moment’ in bed….then one of the site managers knocked on the door – and the moment was suddenly ‘disembraced’…..not quite ‘in flagrante disrobio’ but close….  We compared costs about routes to Greece and decided to drive to Ancona in Italia and ferry to Greece.  Booked Minoan Ferries, with a members discount as advised by Viamare booking agent saved us £62 (excellent service, if anyone is planning to book – lovely people on the phone) + pet friendly cabin….. 18 hour sailing. Our new friend Outi from Finland, who has a house in Estonia and overwinters often in Monetnegro, has never had a border issue with her dogs….but we prefer to be risk averse.  

More handy laundry and a good breeze on our clothes line… for once not inside!

As often happens – a line of poetry comes to mind – very apposite in our circumstances!

“And a good south wind sprung up behind

the albatross did follow

and every day for food or play

came to the Mariner’s hollow”

‘Ryme of the Ancient Mariner’ – we are the not so ancient mariners and we need a good south wind…..


916 – Sunday 1st December: North to Italy

A big driving day – 8-ish hours with spectacular scenery – and heigh ho – we’re back in our bellissimo Italia, again!!!  Is there a nicer place to be?  Circumnavigated Trieste (James Joyce residence during the war, I recall) – avoiding the infamous road ramp that nearly nobbled us a month ago…. we paid up for the Slovenian vignette (ERU15 for 20 mins) and stuck to motorways.

Lovely free aire to overnight – we jump started a French van – twice! The 2 lads and 1 lady looked about 12 years old….maybe we are the ancient mariners?  Oscar says – ‘feck off, youze – I’m not a mariner!’  I think he missed something there…  sunshine beams on us – the righteous? But -4C overnight!

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Heading North to Italy – the cloud filling in between the mountain peaks.

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Views looking out to the Dalmatian islands.

917- Monday 4th December: And a Little Further South 

Drove most of day to Fano …passing some places we’d stayed at on our Italy just over 2 years ago.  The aire had tatty permanent caravans ….we wonder at the stories behind these single men.  K walked into town and along beaches with Oscar – I made sure the bed was still horizontal – it’s on my checklist…..Still sunny, yummy.

918- Tuesday 5th December: Fano and Onto Ancona

Walk and breakfast in Fano – lively old town. Had to have a pukka Italian coffee … no where else comes close.  Combed the beach front looking for a chandlery to sell us a replacement electric cable to Euro 2 pin (having left ours Dubrovnik and we’ll need one for the ferry for Electric Hookup)… three places on drive south … everything but in one and two no longer existed despite web presence … we’ll use the UK socket adaptor and a three to two pin … a bit Heath Robinson, but all under cover on the ferry so no wet risk .. If the cable does get wet, we’re in serious trouble!  Onto Auchan supermarket outside Ancona (15 mins from the ferry port) with free dedicated spaces for motorhomes … K did a big shop including Oscarfodder.  And we had another Italian coffee … needs must.  

Another lonely man and dog in a decrepit caravan on the parking.  We settled for the evening, we thought…. About 8-ish, a ‘domestic’ stared outside – 4 men from the decrepit caravan – a bit of ‘handbags’ but too loud. So, discretion being the better part of valour, we moved all of 200 metres – to avoid the unseemly racket.  

Looking forward to the mariners’ trip to the cradle of civilisation…..

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Fano had a lovely busting shopping area … but buildings had kept their original facia.  Christmas Panetone anyone?  All the decorations are up in the shops … wondering when we should put our up?  Just before my birthday?

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Walk along the harbour wall to the ‘David’ … funny how the statue’s bits had been rubbed shiny … but no effect on their size!

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The river had two areas controlled water flow with warnings about sudden surges.