Actually, on our travel wish list Norway is at the top, but somehow the weather report was simply not here. After our wet Iceland holiday last year, we didn’t have the sense for new water games and so we changed the direction of our trip to the east: we wanted to go back to Slovakia and further south, which means that the five weeks summer holiday period wanted to be distributed among eight countries: Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland – Poland? This was rather a mistake in the nightly camping in the High Tatras – Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Austria – okay, that doesn’t really count, but you just drive through. Conclusion: the holidays could also be twice as long...
Given the distance ahead of us, it may be surprising that our first small destination was just half an hour away from home, but we wanted to make a comfortable holiday and so we moved breakfast to the Schmiedel Park, a large playground with animals and exciting play equipment in the best travel weather. The main thing is that we can still make it across the border to the Czech Republic today. There await us first beautiful forest, small beetles, many lakes, large and small birds (our oldest finds the great storks exciting, the youngest have rather liked the small duck chicks). Moreover (almost) no day goes by without a castle - for the beginning it should be Bor u Tachova.
We explored Prague from the full city camp on foot – 4 km to the center, which also had a lot of variety for our children to offer, especially the beautiful playground area in the city park, where the Czechs jog, cycle or inliner. Of course, we explored some obligatory Prague beauties in the old town, where Merida had done the cosy work on Charles Bridge – she just had to mix it up! On the nightly way back, we were surprised by a little hedgehog (or were we surprised by him?).
We did not leave the city without getting breakfast in a suburban bakery. So many treats! Packed with rolls, Berliners, poppy cakes and windbags, we left the shop and destroyed almost everything directly in the parking lot. Not only our saleswoman had to grin when we stood in the store again shortly afterwards to secure Naschkram for the afternoon coffee.
If you ask Google for our next destination “Iglau“, the first three hits are: swimming pool, zoo and medieval city center. Given the rainy weather when we arrived, we thought this order was sensible. Our contentedly snoring children confirmed this choice in the evening. You must have dreamed of the long, dark slide and the whirlpool pool...
We fell in love with the lovingly designed zoo years ago. Floor-to-ceiling viewing windows for small children are set into the walls of the enclosures and beautiful animal carvings surprise you in the most diverse corners and playgrounds. The animals themselves are embedded in different scenarios, so you can find the fauna of Australia on a replica Australian farm or South America’s wildlife in the tropical house around a plane that crashed in the jungle.
The city’s campsite, idyllically situated on a lake, offers a curiosity at the ticket booth: the vending machine has a lever for Pivo (i.e. beer for the big ones) and Brause (for the little ones), so that you can insert money at once and get a beer yourself and soda for the change can tap (or vice versa, depending on need).
Iglau was once for his huge marketplace from the 13th century. ==References== Unfortunately, the medieval charm is due to a fire in the 16th century. In the 19th century little remains and an oversized - closed - department store from the communist era does its rest. But as a family with children, there are quite different things to focus on, such as playgrounds that can loosen up any city tour, especially when they are in the moat!
On the surface, the town may not have too much to offer nowadays, but the 25 km long catacombs on three underground floors take you back to the dark Middle Ages when it was important to create hiding and storage facilities for supplies and treasures from the silver mining industry. Who knows what else is there...
The Czech Republic is world famous for its caves in the Moravian Karst area. However, we were probably a bit naïve when we spontaneously stood at the campsite in Sloup and thought we would just have a look at the Punkva Cave, which is described so enthusiastically in the travel guide. Luckily we took the hint to make a reservation by phone seriously. At least that’s how we found out that, ideally, we would have ordered the tickets six weeks ago. Then the world-famous cave has to forego our visit (by the way, children under three years of age are not allowed in, so that wouldn’t have been an option for us anyway). But the many other caves don’t let boredom arise - we decided to take a guided tour through the Sloup Sosuvka Caves and discovered a cave bear, Neanderthals and a former Nazi aircraft assembly hall in the wonderful stalactite passages and halls. Very varied. The way back to the parking lot leads along wildflower meadows with many interesting insects, so we were comfortably walking for a long time before we headed to the tourist center of the Moravian Karst, Skalní Mill with a full parking lot as a hub for hiking tours and cave tours in of the region. While we were denied entry to Punkva Cave, that didn’t stop us from walking beside, above, and around it. We were enchanted by stunned butterflies, grasshoppers and beetles on a valerian meadow, marveled at the 138m deep Macocha Gorge from above and below. In fact, we did experience part of Punkva Cave, as the gorge was originally a huge hall, the ceiling of which has collapsed revealing the now forested cave floor and the river that runs underground here.
Further east you get an idea of what it used to be like when agriculture was organized in collective farms: fields to the horizon; We don’t know that from the rather small-scale Hunsrück.
Slovakia welcomed us with the best weather and friendly people. Directly behind the border we found the beautiful ruin of the castle Beckov. As so often it was already much too late and the time until it closed its gates was limited. So we hurried to explore the morbid rooms and are deeply impressed by the castle and the local people. A place to come back. As here, we always meet young people in Slovakia who are motivated to experience the past in historical treasures: whether with falconer demonstrations, original house and farm animal breeds, which are kept in historical walls as petting zoos or with guided tours in medieval clothes. In addition, we enjoyed the setting sun on a small walk around the castle and found a female deer beetle in the evening light.
With the castle in our backs we returned to camp Opatovce: huge, almost empty and with an idyllic lake in the middle (that’s not all: a pool and a lot of children’s toys are also included – we felt right at home). There we met the folk hobby of many Slovaks: fishing.
This place has been remembered for two reasons: For dinner we got a visit from a little girl with whom our children lovingly shared their potato porridge. We had a little conversation with the parents, even though we didn’t speak Slovak and they didn’t speak either German or English. We were able to clarify without any difficulty that it would not be a problem if the little girl was with us and also what the names of our children are. But when they introduced us to their daughter (we thought at least), we were a little astonished by their name “Slovakia; that seems to be quite nationalist people, these anglers. Meanwhile, we are convinced that the child is called Hanna and that the parents wanted to inform us that we are now in Slovakia.
The second reason is feathered nature: our breakfast was interrupted by pirols and a cuckoo – so our early departure had taken place and we spent a few hours watching the birds.
Unexpectedly comes often. We experience this again and again – this time the campsite near the castle Bojnice was dense due to the expired lease and it was really too late for today to visit the famous fairy tale castle. The next camping is on a public playground with swimming lake and is accordingly loud and treble. We made the best out of it and looked for a spot away from the hustle and bustle directly at the lake, went to the Langos-Essen on the hustle and bustle and enjoyed ourselves deliciously while pedal boating. For the ultimate swimming fun it had to be a pedal boat with slide and the wet things got dry again at the small beach camp fire.
On the day after that we made our way back to Bojnice Castle. Unfortunately, we have not seen the princesses and fairies promised in our guide book; most likely a fairytale figure resembled our little Merida, who mimicd a heck of a devil and made sure that the visit for us ended prematurely in the castle courtyard.
Conclusion, yes, it is an impressive, snarling wall with its own stalactite cave in the cellar, but we liked the ruin of the castle Beckov better.
On the way, stop for coffee in Čičmany, a village with painted houses that look like gingerbread houses or straight out of a cross-stitch craft magazine.
The traces of the robber captain and national hero Jánošík meet us everywhere in the Little Fatra. Over the town of Terchová watch its imposing stainless steel statue and on hiking trails such as the robber’s path one can trace the exhausting predator’s life when the thighs of the Kraxelei stretch between the steep rocks. At the top it began to rain – with the consequence that the paths now turned into a proverbial lubricating soap and we slipped and slid with gejohle. To the rain we probably also owe the great fire salamander, who crossed our way and of course had to be taken by all children and be amazed before we let him into the undergrowth.
In the evening we indulged ourselves a little “luxury“ and warmed up again with hot cocoa with spray cream at the fire.
Was it still quite lonely on this predatory path and even a little “wild“, we were instructed the next day again that it is worth considering tips from the guide: The canyon Janosikowe Diery is the “hiking mecca“ of Slovakia – we are here, it is summer holidays and it is Saturday. So everyone else is here. Already while we packed our seven things in the parking lot, people from several rice buses passed by us and we got a bit perplexed into the human snake, which poured into the ravine. Over ladders and piers the path winds into the really grandiose canyon, but no trace of pleasure with us, we were wet sweated with stress and felt like on the cash line in the overcrowded hardware store at a “only today’s 20 percent-on-all-action“. However, with the difference that people constantly ran out of the gorge in the opposite direction, since most wanted only to a certain point and then back again. If you still have a toddler in the sling, it is a somewhat delicate feeling to maneuver on the narrow back in the opposite direction. Actually we were done with the nerves, when we came to this turning point, but since from here the path was clearly freer again and one could actually perceive the nature again, we took the long circular path through the gorge and were rewarded with wildflower meadows, singing children’s groups and varied climbing parties.
Often it is the encounters that make our experiences unforgettable – here it was the nice grandmother on the train trip to Orava, who extended our vocabulary to mačička (kitchen) and sliepka (chicken) when Merida showed her our photos on the camera. On the other hand, you sometimes meet people in whom chemistry is just right from the start. On the beautiful small backyard campsite Šip in Parnica there is a snug cottage, which became free after our relaxing arrival weekend. The children absolutely wanted to sleep in it one night – but unfortunately she was already directly pre-booked again. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t really happen, because the family that moved in there for three nights was a big win for us. When we returned from our train journey to the Orava Castle in the evening, we met Danka with her husband and the four children who are about the same age as our three. You saw each other, laughed at each other and understood each other immediately – also because Danka was an au pair ten years ago near Trier, speaks great German and Yvonne, as an old Mosella woman, directly harbored sympathies. The children were immediately very thick and the evening ended wet cheerfully with lots of Pivo and Becherovka on the cozy seating group at the hut.
During our trip to Slovakia a visit to one of the many open-air museums should not be missing. On the way there we bathed in a thermal lake, visited one of the famous wooden churches from the outside and then explored the Zuberec Museum, where we marveled at the many wonderfully prepared farmhouses and the garden.
In search of a campsite in the High Tatras, we made a nocturnal odyssey with an accidental detour to Poland, where instead of the campsite shown by Googlemaps, we found a ski jump (there is a small campsite in another place, but since we didn’t want to get extra złoty , it drove us back to the Slovak side of the Tatras).
The nightly odyssey already reveals that we were a little unplanned at the moment. So we lowered our inner compass to Košice to visit Danka and Borus. On the way to them lies the Evangelical wooden church of Kežmarok, which has been standing since 1717, even though it was built entirely of wood without the use of iron nails.
The ice cream here, by the way, tastes wonderful. The ruins of the enormous castle Zips – after all, Central Europe’s second largest castle complex – we only roamed for a photo, as it moved us to Košice. You have to leave something to come back!
It’s so good to talk to other parents about everyday life, work, dreams and life and we had such nice conversations and a lot of fun at the bathing lake, riding, at the campfire and celebrating Hanicka’s name day. We are very happy that we have been able to share in your life and are eager to see you again!
The hiking trail with the seven waterfalls, which Danka had recommended to us in the area, was a welcome farewell gift from Slovakia before we made our way to Hungary.
Hungary was only a transit country for us, because the time was slowly running out and the children absolutely wanted to swim on Croatia’s coast. So this time we decided on the highway and were a bit shocked, what you have to reveal when applying for the vignette – actually only shoe was missing – and basket size. Also the driving feeling was different than before, the cameras on the highway were constantly noticed and we wondered which poor sock would have to evaluate the whole picture material? A bit of what we wanted to see from the country with the exciting language also beyond the big streets and the choice fell on the Kiskunsági National Park. Hungary is a wide, flat country and we have easily underestimated the route dimensions when we thought about taking the lookout in the park on foot or by car. More by chance we decided (fortunately) for the car and made small walks where we liked, in the Ried in search of waterfowl, through the dry meadows or pine forests. What we didn’t know before: In the park itself there are many small settlements and camping possibilities – next time we would go looking for a place to stay.
Rainy weather and the longing for the beach drew us to Croatia that same evening. Once again we arrived very late at a Croatian-Dutch campsite in the hills near Zagreb. We still like to remember the nice reception we received at this square, when we were warmly welcomed, tired from the day and stressed out from looking for a place for the night, with a fine plate of Croatian cheese and sausage specialties. Looking back, that night was the proverbial calm before the storm, not only because it was cloudy and rainy all of the next day and we roared to the coast. Once there, we found that the rules here were different from the ones we had been playing by before: the high-season campsite prices almost brought tears to our eyes - a night on the Istrian coast is worth a whole week in Slovakia. It felt like there were just as many people romping about here in this indisputably beautiful spot as we met on the rest of the trip. Actually, all the signs were pointing to escape, but we had promised the children three days right here. So we gritted our teeth, paid the overnight price and wandered around Cape Kamenjak in search of a free square meter of beach among the countless people frolicking in the sun. Again we tried to suppress the escape reflex. What a stress - but you should have known, Croatia has been all the rage since the TV series Game of Thrones! Cheers to the off-season, then you certainly have the opportunity to enjoy the real beauty of this nature reserve(!) under appropriate conditions. Exploring the well-preserved amphitheater in Pula was actually more relaxed than on the beach, when our children turned into living lion statues. The ice cream tastes good here and it is very worthwhile to buy delicacies in a “normal“ bakery - our leftover money of around 10 euros was enough for three days’ catering.
Actually, we had only planned the wildly beautiful Soča as a destination for Slovenia, but during the trips we kept browsing through the travel guide and quickly agreed that we had to decide on another beauty of the country beforehand, the reports sounded so tempting Port city of Piran or Lake Bled to the east. The choice fell on the Karst on the border with Italy. Since we had already sniffed a bit of cave air in the Czech Republic, we were curious to see what awaited us here. In view of our meanwhile small travel budget, we gave up the idea of visiting Slovenia’s most famous cave system Škocjan with UNESCO World Heritage status. Instead, we discovered an opportunity to explore other caves that were not developed for tourism on our own with expert advice. That was an adventure! Next time we are guaranteed to have bathing and climbing gear with us!
We have encountered three types of cave dwellers: cave spiders, cave locusts – watch out for the long feelers (they end up in a white spot in front of the black T-shirt background) and the feather of a veil owl.
The Soča is famous and notorious among whitewater kayakers, it offers interesting experiences for beginners as well as for professionals. For this time, however, we limited ourselves to our feet as a means of transport and explored the vicinity around the village of Soča.
With anticipation in our stomachs, we now moved to the Italian Friuli and the Tagliamento – as students we were on an excursion there almost ten years ago. It is still as wonderful as it was when the “king of the Alpine rivers“ was largely untamed, and we very much hope that it will stay that way and that the old plans for retention basins for flood protection are off the table. For a mountain river the temperatures were surprisingly mild when we likened it to the Italians and used the pastures of the middle region for bathing.