I think it’s a thing in classic Greek Tragedies when the protagonist engages in a bit of well-earned self-congratulation, or tempts the gods by indulging in some normally illicit behaviour, and is shortly after brought low by a twist of fate. We suspect we’ve been dealt such a blow, for after gloating about our visit to the Golden Arches – and going not once, but twice in a row – both of us were treated to a hefty dose of (in Kate’s case) a streaming cold and (in my case) near-terminal man-flu. That’ll teach us. No more Big Mac Meals for a while.
This intervention by fate means that the precise detail of where we’ve been and what we’ve seen and done is rather hazy. I’ve put the places up in the Travel Map on this site, but you’ll have to invent something to fill in the informational gaps yourself.
Meanwhile, instead of the usual inconsequential series of non-sequiturs interspersed with grainy photographs, here are some of the more general broad-brush observations that we’ve gleaned over the past couple of months.
Number One – it is entirely possible for two people and an amenable dog to live in a small space for a protracted period of time without any of them trying to murder/bite either of the others. This is a pleasant surprise, albeit one that we had rather banked on turning out to be the case. It might have been different had we been stuck in the same place for those two months, but as it is I imagine that the constantly changing scenery, coupled with the need to engage with the locals in ever different languages has provided enough of a distraction to keep us away from the knife drawer.
Number Two – we’ve transmitted through thirteen countries since leaving the UK in early August and have just entered the fourteenth, Hungary. So far we’ve managed to understand just about enough of the road signs to avoid prison, summary fines or being towed away. We hope our luck will hold for the next few countries.
Number Three – following on from Number Two, we’ve put just over 7,000 miles on the van, which works out to be an average of around 540 miles for each country. This is clearly not realistic in the case of Slovakia, which is less than 100 miles deep. Equally, Norway goes on for a lot more than the average distance. It just goes to show what nonsense statistics and averages can produce. At this point I can almost hear the sad, slow, head-shaking going on; “Why don’t they slow down a bit and enjoy the countries they’re in, rather than racing through them like international lorry drivers…?” Well, we’ve been doing what we can, but the relentless progress of the Earth’s rotation around the Sun means that winter is coming. Right now, as I mentioned before in another post, we are surfing the crest of the wave of seasonal change as we head south. But we don’t want to drag our heels because (a) it’ll get jolly cold and (b) we don’t have any snow chains so we’d probably get stuck somewhere for quite a long time. We’ve been tempering our speed by driving for no more than 3 or 4 hours at the most each day, leaving us a bit of time to sniff around and delve into the local scenery. And we’ve also been avoiding motorways and toll roads – which brings me neatly on to the next general observation.
Number Four – you get a far better feeling for what you might call the small change of a country by staying off major trunk roads and going instead down lesser travelled routes. We’ve passed by and noted all sorts of little vignettes – a family drawing water in a roadside village from a pump, each person carrying a bucket or bottles; charming road signs to mark pedestrian crossings, where the man on the crossing is wearing a trilby; a dog that came up and sat right in the middle of our table when we stopped to blow our remaining zloty’s on ice creams; the endearing way that villages seem to provide storks with a specially constructed stork-nest-pole, right in the centre of the settlement (it keeps them off the electricity poles and chimney pots, we imagined); a large grey snake that whisked itself out of sight into the roadside scrub when we stopped for a closer look. You wouldn’t get any of that on a motorway. Also, toll roads can be expensive and we really wouldn’t want to pay for the privilege of not seeing storks, table-bound dogs, etc.
Having conducted all this work and dodged around any accusations of living an un-examined life (not worth leading, apparently) we finished with a quick look ahead. We’re on course to hit Greece at some point, which will achieve two things. First, we’ll have to stop on account of the sea. And second, we can find a delightful small fishing village that welcomes motorhomes, haul the handbrake on and spend some time in one place. We can’t wait!