Slow Road to Crete: Via Ferata Style


A Travelling and Shopping Day


So a leisurely start.  Owners had absconded and so had most the campers.  We pretty much had the place to ourselves so we spread all our stuff over their cafe terrace to dry, having cleaned mud off first!  Kerstin manage a swim in zipped off shorts!  She didn’t loose these!

We didn’t leave till nearly mid day and since Decathlon was on our route … Kerstin now has a new cosie, but will she get to use it?  I bought base layers and hats for James and I.  We have these, but in Crete … never thought we would experience 5C at 6.00 a.m. in August and super chilly, moist evenings!  This is our SUMMER holiday!  Also tried to find a new electric hob … one ring had a crack and now it had started shorting out.  Amazing it didn’t trip the switch in the Glamping site!  Oh silly me … what trip switch??  

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New base layer, fleece and hat.

Our first choice of campsite could only accommodate us for 2 nights as he was going for a rebuild of the facilities.  Was this a lucky escape?  How much in need of refurbishment were they?  So a few miles on we arrived at a HUGE site on the edge of the Paradise Park!!!  Ooh err Mrs!    The web site states it has room for 600 tents … festival sized perhaps.  Initially we were not over keen … large site with chalets and tokens required for showers etc.  But it had hot water for washing up and you never had to wait for the toilet or shower.

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We’d carefully left space in the middle of our pitch for the table and chairs … they only made it out once … far too cold!

Poddling over Chata Podlesok


My back etc have been playing up.  Sleeping on and air bed?  Possibly.  Lack of Pilates – more probably.  2 months worth of un-stretch!  Kerstin and I were up and at ‘em.  Morning dew so we threw down our pilates mats (dog bed and reformed tyre mats) on the road.  Until a flat bed went past us, then returned with a chap sat on the rear, hanging onto a skip … Bin day!  He held up 2 fingers, in a nice way (!), to indicate 2 more skips.  So we decamped to the less flat and slightly damp grass.  I then braved the shower … 1 token = 3 mins.  It was a generous 3 mins but I didn’t brave a hair wash. 

Lots of walking directly from the campsite.  A helpful chap at the tourist information enthusiastically gave us lots of info … in German.  Fortunately I had my personal translator on hand.  We set off for a castle / monastery … not sure which as we didn’t make it.  Decided to take the river route there.  Had been warned there were metal steps, but not quite what we were expecting.  After the vertical short section where I had to shove CO2 up, there then followed steps high over the river … proper via ferata style.  Our mountain goat Corrie shot across and 40 m around the bend.  To start the steps had a criss cross weave, barely OK for a game Oscar. Still a panic for me.   But then they were like parallel bits of wire … and  a chap coming the other way said the rest of the steps were like this. No good for Oscar.  In fact, he really should not have been up there at all.  He is not agile like Corrie.  J wasn’t happy either.  Not sure if I was more worried about O hurting himself or us trying to rescue him!   I knew this was one of those situations where I should have listened to me head … so an about turn and back to terra firma.  

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 Ice cream for late brekkie on way up.

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This section was just fine!

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CO2 were shoved up here.

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The solid (!) steps.  Would have been easier to swim.

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Yes, do come back!!!

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Let’s all go back.

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Beer and lemonade machine back near the campsite!   We used it.  Beer was so good, apparently, K and J had two.

Then K and drove to Poprad for supplies … Mahoosive Tesco – even had sofas in stock.  Food for next few days.  Then after several stores, we found a single electric hob .. that’s fine.  Only EUR16 and I’ve a Remoska with me for stews etc.


Proper Via Ferata … ain’t it?


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CO2 veers patient waiting for J to arrive with breakfast!

Helpful chap at the tourist information had told K about the Sucha Bella gorge.  Ladder, one at 15m, and lots of metal steps.  Not one for CO2.  K wanted to do it.  No pressure on me … but there was … said I’d come too.  Can’t let the German grist beat the British!  J (Irish neutrality) nobly elected to stay at base camp for doggy day care.  But first, so J had a trip off site (and also Kerstin had been told a0 we may not have to pay if we did the gorge in the afternoon and b) it would be quieter).  We went to Levoca for a morning coffee.  Harassed by a beggar on arrival and all seemed pretty dead so didnt think we would stay long … but then it came to life and the sun came out.

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 The Cage of Shame, Levoca. Theives, murders, cheats and even gossips would be locked up on market day.  People would throw things at them … stocks were our village sport!  Apparently spittle was also thrown … thankfully K is just throwing leaves at J!

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K and I climbed the 216 steps of the tower.  Could see that the large square buildings had courtyards, some covered over.  But would give light to the interior rooms.

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J and I did the church tour.  In Slovak so given an English basic transcript … didn’t have to pay for this one.  The ticket last came to practise her English … explained that the town was part of a Pilgrim route … Camino do Santiago.  All because a lady called Elizabeth had a vision.  She was pregnant so could just have been a baby kick?!  A new church was built on the hill  During Communism less pilgrims but resurrected since Covid.   Other interesting church facts … All the main alter figures are carved from on piece of Linden wood.  The alter is the largest in the former Hungarian empire and has no nails.  A local sculptor was famous and one of his figures of the Madonna was the dace on an Slovak currency note.  Until the reformation, both Protestant and Catholics shared the church.

Once back at base camp, K and I loaded food, drink and chocolate and set off.  And yes, not fee and it was not too busy.  It is a 9km round trip.  At the top of the gorge one can rent mountain bikes, but we were pleased we hadn’t as the track was mostly loose scree.

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Easy peasey.

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Initially I didn’t like the rotten looking planks, but got a bit braver, unless up high.  Kerstin skipped across!

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I walked over some!

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If I could avoid balancing across, I walked the river bed.

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Old and new ladders.

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Which way?

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Series of ladders, the highest at 15m.  Fine on these as always 3 points of contact.

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Kerstin heading up.

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Lunch stop.  Followed by hocolate stops. 

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It was an altogether brilliant experience and I am so glad Kerstin suggested it.  




Slow Road to Crete: Banskas Banked

On the Move to Banksa Stiavnica


Took about and hour and half to strike camp and pack. Seems long with 3 people.  But J largely on CO2 duty and there are two tents and limited space to stash all our gear.

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Things never go in as well as the first time you pack them.  But we still had room for Kerstin, even with O on her lap!

Bit of a drive over to Banksa Bystrica … I’d rung to book and eventually they had returned my call.  Just as well, as later that evening the site was rammed.  It was a public holiday weekend.  It was billed as a Glamping site.  My arse.  Lovely British / Slovak couple who had owned it for 4 years.  Both teachers so this is what they did in the summer.  BUT no investment – at all.  One shower.  Only worked if no one flushed the toilet.  Toilets gradually rocked or lost their seat as our stay progressed.  Nothing to do with us … honest!  And one rusty steel trough with 3 taps all draining down the hill.  This was for washing self, clothes and dishes!  Thankfully only 3 nights and no desire to extend our stay!

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Pitch had some sharp stones so I lay in the mud and wedged a rubber tile under.  Kerstin was determined to catch me on camera in the mud!

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Kerstin and I wandered up to the small reservoir and had a few drinks whilst J napped.  So chilled up there, we collected J and had supper … lamb on noodles and cabbage … I was a bit unsure as I don’t like sauerkraut (it’s the vinegar), but eaten together it was delicious.

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The small lake / reservoir.  Kerstin swam a few times … preferable to the shower?

Banksa Stiavnica and Mine


I do like a good mine.  All mine, mine MINE!  And the attraction of this area was the silver and gold mine at Banksa Stiavnica.  It made the town one of the wealthiest in the Hungarian Empire in it’s hey day of 1770s.  I’d managed to book via email for the morning to join a Slovak tour.  But they emailed back that there was an English Tour at 1.00.  The mine was EUR12 pp and the English tour and additional EUR20 split by the number on the tour.  Another indicator that not many overseas tourists … we were 2 English, one German, one Slovak and 3 Hungarian with the daughter translating!

It was worth every penny.  Not some much for the mine, but for chatting to Emma our 17 year old guide.  A high school student boarding in the town, which apparently is dead out of season … students and old folk.  All her class mates plan to leave Slovakia for university and not to return. This was  confirmed by our campsite host … he thinks Covid may have slowed the brain drain from Slovakia. Unless you work for a global corporate, you cannot afford a house to rent or buy.  We may think there is a lack of doctors etc in the UK, but none here. At least a few 70 year olds who cannot retire as there is no one to replace them.  People do not have money for entrances … we observed crowds around the outside of castles etc but relatively few paying the entrance fees.  We tried to tip Emma … had to force a note on her …. nice lass.

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There was some film footage of the mine … Horses were force fed beer so they could be lowered down to work for weeks on end.  The humans didnt’ fare much better.

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After the mine, we had a second attempt to park in Banksa Stianvnica … had failed this morning.  Got the last space!  Did another App guided walking tour.  The town was much larger than we anticipated … but less than a third of the size compared to its heyday.  So many huge and attractive buildings, again in various states of shabbiness.  Actually i do like they they have not all been ‘renovated’ to sterility.

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Every town has some monument erected by rich and thankful plague survivors!

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Do love a good rooftop view.

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Bojnice Castle and Banksa Bystrica


Bojnice Castle – the most visited Slovak Castle.  Quite sure it doesn’t merit Best Castle Award.  National Trust property presentation takes some beating. Again, lots of folk outside but few paying to enter.  It was remodelled in the style of a Loire Chateau … Count Palfi seems to think a couple of Towers makes it French style!  He had inherited it with little money, but still managed to travel and collect items and ideas.  He rebuilt one side with the plan to open it to the public, but died before completion.  I guess his numerous relatives inherited or sold the contents as very little of his furniture remains.  Lacking information on the life and times of the Count and before … all a bit dry.

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Kerstin had a chance to be tour guide!

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Do love a tiled fire.  They had opening at the back so the fire could be stoked by the servants from outside the room.

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Opulent decoration of the Turkish room.  The best room.

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Not many castle have their own caves underneath.

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As well as a tower.

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DRAMA!!!  Kerstin has lost her swimming cosie.  In fact, we reckon it was stolen!!!  She won’t be able to swim again in the lake!  Or anywhere.  Nearest Decathlon is Banksa Bystrica, so thence we headed.  Bugger – forgot is was a public holiday, so shut.  Oh well, since we are here, we will wander into the town.  This one made its wealth from copper mining.  Managed to get parked and followed the thud of the music.  National Uprising Celebration.  Decathlon may have been shut but the town was properly open.  Bustling.  The National Uprising was when all political parties came together to fight evict the German occupiers.  The uprising was swiftly crushed by German military efficiency, but the day is still celebrated.

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The National Uprising Museum.
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 Wreath laying.

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Couldn’t see the stage, so I watched the Slovak State Traditional Dance Company on the VTR.  Later in the evening it was opera.

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We started to watch the Uprising reenactment, until they set off the cannon.  I guess we should have known it would be noisy … boys and guns and all that.  Had to scarper pretty damn quick as CO2 quivering.

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The main square.

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A pre-dinner drink and then I fetched dog food from the car (we keep it here now so O cannot help himself!) so we could have a spontaneous supper in town.

Slow Road to Crete but Fast to Slovakia


Being Legal … Barely




We have had Jez in Crete with us since February.  Whilst this is (probably) illegal as we have Greek residency, and Greek law presumes that if you are avoiding road tax if you drive an overseas vehicle, this was a risk we were prepared to take.  Police are much less likely to check the credentials of  motorhome drivers than a car.  However, risks we were not prepared to take are:

a) Our insurance specifies a limit of 6 months in Europe.  And give our ex pat status I could only find one insurers for our UK registered van.

b) EU law used to be 6 months visit per country before you had to register/import the vehicle.  Since Brexit it is 6 months for the EU.  Grr!


We drove back arriving on 20th July and we have mostly stayed in Jez on woodlands Farm near the Aged P’s in Chichester.  I flew back on 28th July to fetch the car and camping kit, driving back with Gillian … Girls Road Trip.  J had 2 nights in Dublin to see family.  A quick 4 nights in the east country to see friend and collect a few items from the Devon house shed. 


But today we left Jez with Abacus Motorhomes in Andover.  They are an Adria dealer, service centre and motorhome sales and hire. Our insurers specify Gold standard, but given the £ooo’s of stock held here, they have accepted Abacus as our storers.  It works OK as they can pull Jez in for work whenever parts are in / they have time.  And at £65 per month, it is a lot more than we paid in Greece, but cheaper than most Gold storage.


We have largely emptied Jez, so our storage box at the Aged’s is full.  And the Greek car is also full.  Full of essentials we need to take back to Crete, a few want to take and we still managed to leave enough room for Kertstin, who will be joining us.  With roof box moved to the side and 3 x camping chairs wrapped in a tarp, we managed to fit most essentials in!


We had a last meal with the Aged P’s and Maddy & Jordan.



And we’re off




Ferry as used it coming across with the Greek car  – a lot cheaper than the Tunnel if you want a Flexi ticket.  With the ferry they will accommodate you on the next available 48hrs either side of your booking.  But never again.  Seemed to be at Dover for hours and then hours on the ferry.


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Don’t know why we had to have a yellow Pet sticker, it didn’t seem to make much difference as to where we were loaded! 


We arrived late in Belgium and erected the small new to us tent in the dusk.  Just as well I’m expert at erections!!!!  Grew up camping!  Supper was excellent at the Camping / leisure centre bar / resto.  Until we came to pay … no cards.  Cash only.  Opps, I had about EUR3 in coins only.  2km to the nearest ATM.  I was about to walk it … tired and the the post supper feeling of well being deserting me, when J said, I may have some Euros left from my trip to Dublin.  Yay … I went back and paid up, telling the bar man that my husband was hiding money from me!


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This looked so comfy and was! 

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Our diddy tent is not so diddy.

Put to Work!




We managed a cup of tea on arrival at Kerstin’s and a dog walk, before she dragged me out to work!  Why is it that she always seems to have a property project on the go?  We left Amsterdam early one summer to spend 2 weeks stripping wall paper and washing down when a tenant had left one house in an unbelievable condition.  This time, Kerstin has an inherited elderly relative’s apartment to clear.  She needs all the years of accumulated stuff sorted and boxed so the decorators can come in, before she can let it to students.  A wonderful old building with great features but stuffed to the gunwales.  She did treat us to supper though.


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And we’re off




Before leaving, we headed into a TUV, despite reducing the Greek car registration document to scant MBs, it would not upload to get the Unwelt Plakette.  So we headed off to a TUV (MOT test centre).  Nowadays it is rare to get good service, let alone something for free.  Got both here!  Happy.  The the pet store for dog food (Oscar had helped himself when we weren’t looking and what should have lasted for several days, was no more!) and a water bowl … left ours somewhere in Belgium … 1st casualty! 


We managed to cram Kerstin, her bedding, a rucksack AND her numerous food supplies … she’s a grazer … into the car, and even dropped off some plums at her work!.  Then decided to just keep going to Slovakia and the campsite north of Bratislava.  A long drive and only one misdemeanour form Oscar.  He found Kerstin’s special sausage, gifted by a neighbour,  and ate the end!  We left Germany in temperatures of 22C and it slowly dropped to 14C and started to rain.  We put the tents up in the dusk / dark … and drizzle.  It was late by the time we ate!  And it rained all night!  


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CO2 are like the princess and the pea  hardly any headroom.  And some of Kerstins food supplies!

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Camping Karpaty.  Home for 5 nights.

Bratislava:  Castle and Scrap




Easy morning.  K and I walked around the small lake.  Commenting on how lush and green it is … must be all this rain!  First muddy puddle I’ve seen since April!  No supplies sourced yet, so much was dog-eared (not dog aka Oscar this time) cup-a-soups with the promise of an afternoon snack!


Lots of stops planned, not all made.  And not by all of us, all the time.  First stop was Devin Castle.  Nicely told … No dogs.  J elected to snooze in the car with them.  It is a huge ruin on the Austrian border, overlooking the boats on the Danube.  Numerous owners until Bonaparte blew it up.


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 The Danube.

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Charred Roman loaf  might have gone down well with our meagre cup-a-soup!

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Views across to Austria.

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The most interesting part was the well. Yes, it did look deep, but you had no idea just how deep.  Until a bucket and tap were deployed.  You filled one with the other and tipped it into the well.  Waited.  And waited.  Waited some more until, finally … splash.  The acoustics amplified the sound of the splash too. The water separated into millions of droplets as it descended.   It was addictive, we and others had several go’s.

Long awaited … drinks and hotdogs (ice cream for me as I’m on me holidays!) at the base of the castle.  We tried to get close to the missile base but the road was blocked and it was too late and we didn’t have the energy for a 9km hike.  


So we moved onto Snot Park.  No, I misread this … it is Srot Park.  Kerstin and I had been discussing if we were born again (not the the Christian born again type!), what skill or talent we would like.  She would be someone who could construct long lasting beautiful and functional buildings.  I said I’d like to have vision.  To be able to create beautiful things that elicit an emotional reaction.  This park is by someone who has Vision.  He started it in 2019.  Animals and cartoon / fantasy characters made for bits of steel.  Loved it.  No one on the gate, just an honesty box.  And sadly one laminated photo of an owl, some b’stard had pinched.


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A slight detour on the way back home took in the VW factory car cable car.  No pix as I was driving and it was not in operation  Supper up the hill at the restaurant overlooking a small lake.  Traditional roasted lamb with small noodles and sauerkraut … actually delicious.  And the wine weren’t bad either!