Early December was spent travelling north to Bulgaria where we arrived on the 7th. Just over a week ago we enjoyed the nice (summer like) weather in Turkey, now it was winter. With temperatures just above freezing, showering outside wasn’t really an option. As we came past Sofia we dropped off our dirty clothes at a launderette and had a shower at swimming pool. Since we still had more than a month time left before we had to be in Antwerp, we decided we would travel through Serbia. We haven’t been there yet and although it would be too cold and wet to go for hikes etc, we could still do some sightseeing in the cities. So we decided to drive north from Sofia to the border. We had done a lot of driving recently so we took a break for a few days at a quiet place near the Serbian border. Here it was very cold and wet, we had some snow and in the mornings there was ice on the inside of our windows. We were trying hard to stay positive, but it wasn’t easy. Neither of us likes the cold and the van isn’t build for it either.
On top of that my skin was really suffering. I am used to having some eczema on my hands, but this was worse, they were red raw. And I now also had some kind of rash in my face (I normally don’t)which was red, warm and sore. It was bad enough to keep me awake at night. And then on Sunday afternoon the skin around my eyes started to swell! I thought it might be a reaction to the rather sudden change in climate, and hoped it would go away on its own. We started to have serious doubts about travelling through snowy and cold Serbia.
On Monday it was clear I needed to see a dermatologist. So we headed back to Sofia. It’s easy to see a doctor in Bulgaria. Just go to a hospital (with the right department) and they will help you quickly. The dermatologist told me I was actually having an allergic reaction to the cold! I got an injection and some medication and quickly started to feel better. Especially when we arrived 3 days later at the sunny South Albanian coast, having decided we’d drive North along the coast instead of inlands. This was a good decision, with bright blue sunny skies and temperatures around 16C, we both felt much happier. We stayed in the area of Vlore. We camped in the dunes near the ocean and at a rocky cliff. We had an enjoyable evening with a nice couple from France who happened to be camping in the same area as we.
We visited Vlore, a nice city but nothing special and we went out to dinner (zero covid restrictions) and also visited the Zvernec monastery. This monastery is situated on a small island in the Narta lagoon. It was build in the 13th or 14th century and is devoted to St. Mary. they’ve build a wooden bridge across the lagoon so you can walk to the island. There were quite a few flamingo’s in the lagoon.
We went on a few hikes and Kilian went for a bike ride. It wasn’t anything special but it was nice being able to enjoy a few outdoor activities in nice weather. After about a week we drove to Tirana so Binkie could have his yearly rabies vaccination in time (very important for a travelling cat) and we of course went to Cioccolatitaliani, where they have the most delicious cheesecake with white melted chocolate. These alone are a good reason to visit Tirana. Then it was time to leave Albania. Through Montenegro and Bosnia, Bosnia is beautiful and definitely deserves a (long) visit as well, so far we’ve seen little of it, but who knows, maybe some day we will visit Bosnia and Serbia.
We arrived in Croatia near Dubrovnik. Here the weather was still great, even a bit warm when sitting outside in the sun in just a t-shirt. 😁 We completely ignored New years eve and there weren’t any fireworks at all, which is just how we like it. Kilian also made the wooden divider in Croatia. This board prevents the driver (or anyone else) from the shipping company to climb from the front seats in to the back of our camper. The camper is insured against theft or loss (when the ship sinks) but our stuff in the back of the van is not. We have also made sure only the door on the drivers side can be opened normally from the outside, the rest is locked from the outside and the inside.
And then on the 3rd of January 2022 our relaxing days were over as we now had to drive to Belgium without delay. Again we had to deal with cold and wet weather and with grey skies. All in all it was a very long and boring week to be honest, we did nothing but drive, eat and sleep. We also worried about each border crossing, not knowing if the covid rules would suddenly change and cause us problems. Especially Austria has very rigid rules but they still allowed transit without any special restrictions. In Slovenia we got an extra worry as the front left suspension arm was making a lot of noise. They replaced it in Golcuk Turkey but they didn’t do a very good job. They replaced it on the only day Kilian wasn’t in the garage to supervise, so… We will have to have it replaced again in Mexico, which will be the third time for this suspension arm since we started travelling, perhaps there’s a curse on it or something?
But we arrived in Belgium on the 9th as planned without any serious problems. We then had a very busy day; cleaning the van inside and out (required for import in Mexico), throwing away left over food, emptying the gas tank and washing all the dirty clothes and bedding at a laundromat and packing all the things we need to take to Mexico with us in the plane. On Monday we installed the extra safety features to hopefully prevent any theft while the van is in transport. We arrived at the harbour and after some paperwork we left the van behind. It was strange leaving the van like that but also a relief that everything had gone well. We took a cab to the station and from there trains to Tilburg, were we could finally relax. You’ll be able to read about our flight to Mexico in our January blog.