Kiri and


To toll or not to toll…

November 24th, 2013 (by Steve)

Roads. They’re all the same. They’re all equal. You drive on them to get from A to B. Sometimes on the right. Sometimes on the left (not so much over here on mainland Europe). But maybe all roads aren’t equal… maybe some are “more equal than others”?

The trusty map that’s helping us find our way through Europe has a lovely way of marking toll roads as pink… maybe it’s to try to soften the blow of them? France has plenty of pink roads… as does Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia… basically all of the countries that we’ve been through so far.


What’s interesting is the variety of methods of taking the tolls:

  • Fixed period vignette – these are little stickers that you fix to your windscreen and they last for a certain length of time (in Switzerland it’s a calendar year, in Austria the shortest we could buy was for 10 days and in Slovenia the shortest period was a week)
  • Toll booth with payment – this is the standard one that we’re used to in England; the same kind of thing as the Dartford Bridge or the Severn crossing into Wales. We experienced this with Austrian tunnels… we thought it a bit cheeky to be taxed with both a vignette for general motorway usage, then tolls for specific tunnels!
  • Ticket and resulting toll booth – when you join the motorway, you take a little ticket, then when you leave the motorway, you put your ticket back into a machine (or give it to a person) and you’re charged for the distance travelled. We experienced this in Croatia and Serbia and this seems like the fairest method of them all.

When we set off on this adventure, we were determined to avoid tolls wherever possible, but from our little collection of vignettes, you can see that it hasn’t worked out quite as planned:


Actually, in France, avoiding tolls worked nicely for us; the route nationale roads are well surfaced and aside from taking you through the centre of little villages, they’re pretty fast. Switzerland was more of an issue for us; if we wanted to avoid tolls, we would have had to do lots of ups and downs. Big ups and downs. As it was, even with travelling on the toll roads, we had to do several large ups and downs, struggling to keep above the minimum speed limit on the motorways. Austria was a similar story with either toll routes through mountain tunnels and across the valleys on bridges, or non toll roads with ups and downs. We chose the tolls!

By the time we got to Slovenia, we had seen our first bit of snow and, wishing to avoid further snow, we opted for the fastest route… which involved taking toll roads. Then with Croatia, we had issues finding places to stop overnight that were close to each other, so we had to travel long distances in a relatively short period of time. Best option? Tolls.

So, are these tolls taking their toll? Did I actually make that awful pun? Maybe. Without retracing our route but missing out toll roads, it would be hard to calculate how much fuel we’ve saved by taking the direct route and avoiding long hill climbs. So far tolls have cost us roughly £116 … that’s a good couple of tanks of fuel. Is it worth taking toll roads? We think for now it probably is… but that might change once we’re on flatter ground once again and not running away from something!

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Balkans out of season in a motorhome

November 20th, 2013 (by Steve)

Who would choose to travel around Europe in a motorhome in the autumn / winter? This is a question that we guess the countries in the Balkans have considered, choosing the answer to be “no-one”. Instead, I think they’ll find the correct answer is “mad dogs and Englishmen”… well, with a good heap of Welsh heritage thrown in!

Our plan, following a lovely time in Ljubljana, Slovenia, was to head south along the Croatian coastline; landscape that we have heard great things about. With wild camping strictly prohibited in Croatia (we found horror stories on the internet of wild campers being woken at 3am by armed police), we started scanning for campsites to stay at. There are plenty of them along the coastline… only they’re pretty much all seasonal… and closed by the middle of November! As we scoured the remainder of our planned route down through Croatia and Montenegro, then up through Bosnia + Herzegovina towards Belgrade in Serbia, we were struck by the scarcity of campsites or even overnight stopping points for motorhomes. Hmmm. Issue. We found this out the night before leaving Ljubljana!

This is the map showing camp sites in central Croatia:
Screenshot from 2013-11-20 15:46:27
(Map courtesy of; one of our main sources for places to stop, along with and

A bit nervous about the coming few days, we chatted with our hosts about our plans (or lack thereof!) for the next few days. With a bit of local knowledge, we were given the details of a hotel on the Croatia/Serbia border which is friendly towards motorhomes, so we contacted them and they gave us permission to stay overnight in their car park. That’s a long way from Ljubljana though! With Kiri’s birthday wish being to stay on a campsite for a couple of days, we realised the nearest open one in reach would be in Ptuj, Slovenia, so we headed for a campsite there which is attached to a spa.

On the way we filled up with LPG for the first time since leaving the UK; Slovenia uses the Italian “dish” LPG adapter. It was pretty intuitive to use (screw the adapter in, put the pump in place, pull the trigger to lock it, then press the button on the pump to operate) which is a good thing, as all of the instructions were in Slovenian!

We had a lovely couple of days in Ptuj, including half a day soaking in the pools and steaming in the sauna, before the long push through Croatia – 366km in total. Now in a car, that doesn’t seem like a massive distance, but when your top speed is around 90kph, you realise that’s at least a 4 hour drive. We sometimes forget that actually the base vehicle of Bertha (a Talbot Express / Peugeot J5 / Citroen C25 van) was built to drive long distances each day. However, on the other hand, there is a “block of flats” built on the back (to use our friendly mechanic’s words!). She’s doing well though, and was happy to cruise at between 80 and 85 kph for the duration of the long trip.

This is the route we took through Croatia; driven in 1 day:

It’s a shame that we haven’t been able to experience the true beauty of Croatia this time; instead speeding(?!) through it on the motorway – we’ll have to come back in the summer at some point.

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Kje je Bog?

November 16th, 2013 (by Steve)

If we told you that “kje je” means “where is” in Slovenian, you would probably come to the same initial conclusion as us and think that the title of the blog post was asking where the toilet is. Not quite!

When we left you last, we were in Schwaz, Austria. From there we travelled to Salzburg (via an overnight stop in Germany, as that was the most direct route) where we had quite a drizzly wander around the city. The cold weather was beginning to set in and as we travelled south towards Slovenia, the snow on the mountains was creeping closer and closer towards our altitude. Suddenly we were in a winter wonderland in the midst of snow-covered forests and mountains. So much for us trying to avoid snow on this trip!

Snowy view from Bertha

After all of that snow, we descended to a campsite by Lake Millstätter, where we endured an extremely windy night. As the only motorhome (and possibly the only campers!) on the campsite, we were rather exposed and sure that we might be blown away at any minute. When we heard what sounded like an air raid siren in the middle of the night amidst gusts that were rocking the van, we decided to seek safety in the main building until the winds had died down a little!

The wind continued as we travelled towards Slovenia, dying down by the time we reached Ljubljana and met up with our hosts for the week. Whilst in Slovenia, we have been helping the team at ZVEŠ; a society working with universities, encouraging open, creative and critical discussions about the bible. The theme of this week: “Kje je Bog?” – or in English “Where is God?”. During the week there were several events; a talk, a concert and a creative workshop, exploring some of the questions around this. Our task was to help publicise these events. The best way to get attention? Dress up a Danish person as God and wander around Ljubljana!


Kiri and I aren’t really designed for giving out flyers; we don’t have the confidence to strike up a conversation with random strangers, so we watched in admiration as we saw Slovenian students willing to stop and have a chat with those who were handing out flyers. “Where is God in suffering?”. “Where is God in creativity?”. Often the conversations started with the question of “Is there even a God?”. One thing that I’m loving about this trip is that it’s given me brain space to get back to the basics of my faith and do a bit of grappling.

The first event was a talk by (and discussion afterwards with) Stefan Gustavsson; a Swedish philosopher who led us through an examination of the apparent dichotomy of an all powerful and loving God and a world where there’s a lot of suffering. As a result of this talk, I think I’m going to add Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” to my reading list.

The other two events featured Andy Mayo; firstly an acoustic concert in Semafor; a cafe in the heart of Ljubljana. Andy’s a very talented guitarist and his music is raw and from the heart with some pretty thought-provoking lyrics. It was a great night in a student bar… made us both reminisce over our student days!


The second event run by Andy was a creative workshop; exploring what creativity is, what the tensions are within creativity, how to cultivate creativity and lastly where God might be within that creativity. This workshop also featured a couple of local musicians; Urban and Laura.


All in all it was a cracking week and it’s been great to settle in one place for a short time, rather than constantly being on the move. It’s also encouraged us that we might be of some use at the other projects we intend to visit!

Sadly our time in Ljubljana is now over and we’re hitting the road again; once more trying to keep ahead of the snow and cold weather!

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