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Reposted: Diary of our camping holiday (4 weeks, 11 countries, 3 children!)

(4 Posts)
SaggyHairyArse Wed 24-Aug-11 18:54:33

C & P'ed, it is a long read....

Four weeks, eleven countries, three children:

Dave suggested going away for a month, I then suggested visiting my brother in Serbia and so the plan was made. Except not much planning went into it, other than booking the ferry and our first campsite in Belgium.

24.07.11: We set off to Dorset to drop my dog, Patrick, off at my Dads house for the month. At 5.30am the following morning we left for our Dover to Calais crossing. It took us 16 hours to get from Dorset to our campsite near Liege what with Dave’s fag breaks and the kids toilet stops but we made it before dark and set up camp at

The site was fantastic as it was set in the grounds of a chateau that was converted for educational visits so it was child friendly for all ages; there was a free pool with waterslides, fountains and inflatables and a really big play park with the best play equipment I have seen contained in the well maintained gardens of the chateau.

27.07.11: After two grey days in Belgium we packed up our tent in the rain and decided to head as far south as possible due to the bad weather in Northern Europe. We travelled through Luxembourg (we wanted to stop in Luxembourg for a break but there was nowhere to park a Pajero with a roof box!) and France (the most expensive McDonalds in Europe!) into Germany. The provisional plan was to travel to the south of the Black Forest but what with Dave’s fag breaks and the kids toilet breaks (there is a common theme appearing here!), the day got longer and longer and longer...At around 7pm we came off the motorway for a break and when we sat at the traffic lights to get back on the motorway we saw a camping sign - huzzah! became our home for the next three nights. Next door to the campsite was the municipal pool with slides and diving boards, Jemma spent five hours diving and afterwards had the mother of all low blood sugars in the supermarket and had to have medicinal chocolate and an afternoon siesta. We took a day trip to (waterfalls with a nature trail) which was lovely. The road to Triberg wound through the Forest with stunning mountain scenery.

30.07.11: We then headed to Lake Constance (Bodensee) which was one of the places I wanted to go to on our travels. Again the journey took twice as long as anticipated, we stopped off for a break and got chatting to a man from Marseille that was travelling to Ulm and had been driving for 12 hours having left France at 2am, we also got stuck behind a convoy of tractors for miles. The lake borders Germany, Austria and Switzerland, it was just such pretty scenery with vin yards and fruit trees as far as the eye could see, the lake with sailing boats bobbing on the water with the mountains in the distance. It was blissful and I would love to go back and visit Konstanz and properly explore the area.

Eventually we found a campsite with a pitch available! We stayed at and camped next to an accordion and guitar playing Dutch family with five children. The children snorkelled in the lake and Dave taught Jacob how to skim pebbles whilst I caught up with the laundry.

01.08.11: After two days we drove through the Alps into Northern Italy and stumbled upon A lovely site had it not been for the Intercity 125 racing past every half an hour or so. Thank goodness for ear plugs! We only stayed 1 night before the heading to Slovenia.

Having driven from Germany into Austria, from Austria into Italy and then back into Austria to cross the border to Slovenia we were somewhat dazed and confused and completely forgot about requiring a vijnette. As we crossed the border we were fined 120Es for not having the vijnette, a mistake we did not make again given that it only costs 9Es to buy one!

02.08.11: We had planned to stay at had it not been for the extortionate price and additional charges to use the swimming pool and so we headed on to We arrived after driving all day to pitch in the dark next to the lake with an abundance of mosquitoes, Jemma was hoping for a campsite with caravans so we did not have to camp as she wanted "a warm bouncy bed and a television" but alas the site was very basic. Basic but beautiful. I made friends with a Slovenian lady who wanted the inside scoop on travelling through Europe to England and had a chance meeting with a Belgian couple in the toilet block who had travelled from Belgrade to Novo Mesto that day which gave us the impetus to up sticks and head onwards to Serbia the following morning.

03.08.11: We drove from Novo Mesto, Slovenia, through Croatia, stopping briefly in Zagreb for the mammoth of all meltdowns (Dave not the kids!). We had to buy a Green Card at the border which was an experience as the insurance offices are derelict storage containers and we did not have any Serbian currency to pay. We eventually made it to Belgrade at 10pm. My brother, James Atanasov, met us at the stadium of Amy Winehouse’s demise, and escorted us through the city to a splav (the Serbian equivalent of the Spanish chiringuito) on the river for a late dinner. At 2am we made it back to the comfort of his apartment with all mod cons (beds, washing machines and televisions) which pleased Jemma - ahhhhhh, luxury!

04.08.11: The next day we went to the market, bureau de change, to parks and cafes and James took care of us feeding the washing machine continuously, entertaining the children and generally spoiling us all as only he knows how. The following day we walked and walked and walked and walked visiting went to, stopping at many parks and places of interest along the way.

That Friday evening we met with James' friends for a Serbian feast of sausages, grilled meats, salads and rakija (sp?), Serbian schnapps, made from quince (an acquired taste I’m sure!). James had planned on us going out dancing with his friends whilst he babysat however a combination of Uncle James having a smidgen too much to drink and his somewhat extended day excursions having walked my legs off, we bailed on the nightclub.

06.08.11 - 13.08.11: We stayed with James longer than expected having no preconceived ideas of what Belgrade would offer the average holiday maker with three children in tow. We visited, took the No2 tram around the city, (going up the tower totally changed my perspective of Belgrade as we stayed with James in his apartment in the city and so Belgrade was very much a concrete jungle to me but going up the tower and looking back to the city you realise that the area is actually very lush and surrounded by forest), and took the kids to the swimming pool and lots of parks and cafes and took in the sights of the NATO bombings amongst other things.

I would certainly recommend Belgrade as a holiday destination as for 1) you get a lot of Dinar for your Pound, 2) the Serbians we met were very friendly and welcoming to children, we met a Serbian lady with a hilarious accent as she lives in Sunderland who taught Jacob to swim a decent breast stroke at the pool and a cafe owner came and helped Leo when he fell over cleaning his grazes and applying antiseptic, and 2) there are lots of attractions and more than enough to keep the children (and adults) occupied for a week or two. When we were out and about we were asked if we were tourists a good few times and why we came to Serbia and what we thought of Belgrade as tourists are a rarity - another good reason to visit!!!!

Noticeably different experiences were that you have to register with the local Police within 12 hours of arriving in Serbia, you can't buy alcohol after 10pm in shops and don't even think of moving the sun loungers at the pool!

14.08.11: After extending our visit to James we had to sadly leave the city for fear we would not make it back to Calais in time for our return ferry. We headed north to Budapest. The road from Belgrade was one of the worst I have experienced (besides Sri Lankan dirt tracks) with cars travelling at motorway speeds on a single carriageway and overtaking into oncoming traffic. Customs was interesting as we were asked if we had any heroine and Dave replied "Michael Caine?" and when we were asked if we had anything to declare he replied "you what?" and so the roof box was searched...

The first camp site we arrived at was shut for the night and so we set up camp in the dark at to discover an abundance of wildlife in the shower blocks including toads and mice; the shower cubicles also had no shower curtains or doors to them. That being said, it was probably one of the best sites for the family as it is on a lake with direct access to the waterpark with a variety of waterslides and my children do love a waterslide.

16.08.11: We headed for Salzburg in the morning. As we refuelled at the border of Hungary into Austria we stopped at a bizarre town which seemingly consisted of only the petrol station and strip/lap dancing bars and "erotic massage" parlours which was a tad strange.

We camped at We had a daytrip to the Traunsee where we went to a really pretty Austrian town and hired a boat. Then we went to Salzburg and took in the sites including the Abbey that Maria and the Baron married in the Sound of Music, unfortunately it was just too damn hot to spend a long time there with the children and so we spent the afternoon at the Mondsee where there was another swimming pool on the lake with diving boards and waterslides.

18.08.11: We then moved on to where we only stayed one night as we wanted to get closer to Calais so we did not have a long drive on the last day. In the morning we took down the tent in a thunderstorm with pouring rain, nightmare!

19.08.11: We headed back to the first site we stayed at near Liege in Belgium however they did not have any pitches available so we decided to head to the Belgium coast. We camped at and the following day realised we were in fact in Holland! The children really loved this site as it had a swimming pool with slides and rapids, soft play and a good park. The site was also directly on a sandy beach, the first natural beach we had encountered the whole month!

22.08.11: Having thought our ferry was at 4.30, we checked our emails to discover it was at 2.30 and so after a quick supermarket dash through Carrefour in Calais we arrived with only 10 minutes to spare.

Having thought that a month was a long time, the holiday is over in a flash! I would really recommend Serbia and specifically Belgrade as a place to visit though it is a bloody long way to drive with three children and so I would advise either flying or using the from Dusseldorf to Trieste to cut out a big leg in journey. Memorable moments were driving through the Dolomites, the Austrian lakes, the children diving off the high boards in Germany and Hungary (hours of fun climbing up ladders and jumping 15ft into water), tasting Rakija and consuming far too many mojitos at Ada in 40 heat and *passing out for an hour when I got home and the children getting head lice and having to give the boys skinheads to eradicate the miny beasts (I am surprised the Serbian equivalent of Social Services were not called due to their blood curdling screams and our hysterical laughter when they emerged as Mekons from the bathroom!).

*Dave did not come and so there was a responsible adult to supervise the children I hasten to add.

That's all folks, over and out.....

belgo Wed 24-Aug-11 18:56:09

Just marking; will read latersmile

belgo Wed 24-Aug-11 19:13:57

Just as well you didn't stay in Belgium, we've had awful storms here including one which killed five people at a pop festival last thursday.

grin at not realising you were in Holland; we've done that!

Sounds like you had a fantastic time, I am taking notes of the campsites you liked, who knows maybe we will do that trip next year.

SaggyHairyArse Wed 24-Aug-11 19:21:08

I'm glad we're not the only imbeciles to be in a country and think you were somewhere else, we also didn't realise we were in Italy blush

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