We’re hitting the road again! Is there anything more enjoyable, more enriching and more educational than traveling? As we drove through a rain-swept forest in northwest Slovenia, in the Alps, with its vibrant autumn colors, I couldn’t think of a better place to be.
So my wife and I tried hiking, covering around 1,500km on foot in England last year, this year it was time to cover the same distance but in a campervan. This time, it didn’t take us 63 days but 6! This was our pioneering RV trip, a true test road trip to see if we (and I include our dogs in this) would like to be nomadic campers.
We picked up our rental in Split and headed north. Not having driven such a large vehicle, we took it slowly and spent the first night in the middle of the wilderness of the Lika region at a campsite named Big bear (It’s all in the name). Yes, we were the only ones on site.
We had a steep learning curve. Van camping is much more than I imagined. This means that we spent the first night, in subzero temperatures, without heating! We woke up to ice all over the van and two dogs under the covers with us, our two furry hot water bottles. “So, how do you like camping?” I asked my wife with a smile as our eyes peered over the covers and our hot breath was like steam from a boiling kettle. She laughed. We actually laughed a lot, even when things went wrong.
So on Slovenia, a country that I have crossed several times without ever stopping for long. First impressions, well organized, very European and gives the feeling of an Austrian colony. First problem, language. It sounded like someone from the Alps and the Balkans had fallen into a blender and invented this strangely melodic language.
“When does your tourist season end? I asked a tourism employee Lake Bled. “It never really stops,” he smiles. “And we don’t have to deal with the cruise ship problem like you guys in Dubrovnik,” he added.
Yes, the main advantage of being located so close to millions of potential tourists who can get in their cars and drive over the weekend to ski slopes, forests and even the Slovenian coast was evident at every turn. Not having to rely on international airlines to power your tourism industry has clearly been a huge boost. Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj were both spectacular in their own way.
“Everything seems to be in its place, things work, and I haven’t seen a building without a facade,” my wife said as we drove through a small mountain village. She was right. Comparing the outskirts of Split where we started our trip and Slovenia was like comparing oil and water. It has a Western European feel in more ways than one. On the other hand, the vast majority of our contacts with locals have been, let’s just say, not too friendly. I’m not saying cold but just slightly reserved.
THE Triglav National Park is a gem and with its fall colors it looked like New England in the Alps. The obvious benefit of being in a campervan is the freedom, this was by far our biggest takeaway. We stopped at six different places in six days. I don’t know if we were lucky, but they were all stunning in their own way. Having a toilet, shower, stove, fridge and electricity and of course a bed on board means you are completely independent. We didn’t really have a plan as to where to go, but rather we were like a golden leaf in autumn floating wherever the wind took us.
Are we now addicted to camping? Well, we would definitely go back. And after discovering Slovenia in detail, we will definitely visit our northern neighbors. Remember, happiness is a means of travel, not a destination. And this way of traveling clearly suits our nomadic souls.
Learn more English in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want
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About the Author
Mark Thomas (aka Englez u Dubrovniku) is the editor-in-chief of the Dubrovnik Times. He was born and educated in the United Kingdom and moved to Dubrovnik in 1998. He works across a range of media, from a daily radio show to television and print. Thomas speaks Croatian fluently and this column is available in Croatia on the site – Dubrovnik Vješnik