The Balaton life

It’s been a month since I posted on here but that’s me keeping to my previous post’s promise that I’m here to take some R&R here at Lake Balaton, in Hungary. And that I did, though there’s been plenty of work and I’m pleased to say my running has received some very serious attention – I managed more than 240km in July alone, averaging 10km a day, six days a week, and making sure the 10k’s come in ideally under 50 mins, but given the heat, in most cases around the 54min mark. I’m well pleased with that.

Olli and I also had some serious bonding time, and he’s thoroughly loving the Balaton visit again. He is now better known in the campsite than me – he’s made a lot or friends.
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I’ve also had plenty of trials with my DJI Spark, a drone which I had my eye on for some time, and made the swift decision during an unplanned trip to Sofia to get at Munich airport. I’m well pleased I did, and shout-out to Till Carlos (and thanks for the visit!) who pushed my decision on that purchase over the edge. He’s patiently waiting for my first video, but I’m still learning the ropes with the drone. And I’m not ready to upgrade my WordPress plan just for the preview videos!

The bike + trailer I got has turned out one of my best buys ever. I’ve now done more than 550km in it and it’s superb to transport Olli over long distances, or do the shopping (or to Olli’s dismay, sometimes both). I’m up north now near where Edd and family is staying and could do a 20km there / 20km back trip to them without much fuss. It’s fantastic. The little electric engine in there just gives me that bit of extra assistance with the trolley – you still have to peddle hard – but it helps and I’m well pleased with it.

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The buggy is also a great basket for Olli if I’m stopping somewhere where he can’t come in, and it’s well ventilated on all sides. Best of all, it folds totally flat and is quite light, so perfect for Rayquaza!

I’m staying at Balaton till end August when the work gets back to full swing and I’m kicking it off with a quick work trip to South Africa then, out of Budapest. Then I’ll route back to the UK via Italy again and will be UK based, but traveling out to Asia and Australia via air during October. Till then, the R&R continues, ideally!

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#IAmLucky #AlienInEurope

 

R&R and some work, at Lake Balaton

After the Bulgaria trip I spent a few days back in Belgrade (thanks Donogh and Sneza, and Gabbi! – I parked in their driveway) and then came over to one my favourite European summer spots – Lake Balaton in Hungary.

I’ve been coming here for many years now and have a few favourite camping spots all around the lake. At some I’ve become such a regular they reserve the same plot for me, and all the other campers know not only me, but also Olli (and he gets lots of attention, not to mention treats…)

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Lake Balaton is a superb summer destination for all sorts of holidaymakers – if you have kids, it’s a perfectly safe and secure environment with the lake itself offering shallow, fresh water swimming that really is perfect for kids. If you are a birdwatcher, there’s plenty of that and if you’re a cyclist or runner – there is a fantastic cycle and run track around almost the entire 100km+ length of the Lake. There are even nudist campsites if that’s your thing, they cater for all tastes! I can really recommend a holiday at the lake. Plenty of guest houses, or most campsites also offer bungalows if you don’t come with your caravan or motorhome. And very good value for money overall! (Average night for a huge camping plot around €20 a night, in peak season.)

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I’m staying here for most of July and August, traveling around and also meeting up with Edd and family when they come to their vacation spot at the lake for August.

My postings on here for most of July and August will be relatively few and far between as I’m trying to switch off a bit, but I do want to do some reviews of the best buys I’ve done for the motorhome living. These include the 4g antennna, the electric bike + buggy and a few other camping items. Good stuff to do on a rainy day 😉

For now, I’m trying to balance around 4 – 5 hours of work with some sun time, swimming, plenty of running and catching up on some outstanding reading. It’s a great place to be doing all those things!

 

Bulgaria!

I’m way behind in my postings here…this is actually coming to you from Hungary!

After my short visit to Serbia I had to go to Bulgaria for some work related items which I won’t bore you with…it involved company registration and other legalities and I headed for Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second largest city and one of Europe’s best spots to be in should you be doing a tech start-up. Seriously. Incredible internet connectivity (everywhere, mostly free), great international and interesting crowd, superb places to eat and hang out and generally just an amazing place.

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If you ever get the opportunity to visit, you should, without hesitation. English is widely spoken and things were generally really good value for money. For instance the hotel (yes, there was no campsite or motorhome parking – major business opportunity here!) was €40 a night, and it was a decent, 4 star hotel. (With exceptional service!). They allowed me to park Raquaza in their (open) parking area but made sure it’s within their security camera views. I had to stay an extra evening but the hotel was sold out, and they had no problem with letting me sleep in the motorhome, in their car park, which was really nice of them.

They still use a local currency, the leva, but it’s pegged to the Euro at a fixed rate and most places accept Euro’s.

As mentioned I had to do a few company related things here, and one involved a contract where my name had to be put in the Cyrillic form. Here it is:

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That reads Riaan Johan van Schoor. I really like the thing on the U of the Johan part!

Whilst in Plovdiv I made use of the Bizlabs co-working space, where you can rent a desk for the day, week or month at exceptionally good rates. Shout-out to them for being super hosts and offering a great working environment. I can recommend them highly!

Driving there and back was a breeze, good highway and no major delays at the borders, which I believe was lucky as clearly it can get very busy there.

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Yep, an interesting crowd…this was at the very hip Fargo bar. Awesome place.

After this short visit I headed back to Belgrade for some work with the team there, and then I made my way to Hungary, where I’m now, and will stay for at least 2 months. I’ll post about that in the next update.

A link to a photo album with more photos of Plovdiv can be found here.

Zagreb to Belgrade

After the great stopover in Zagreb, I headed for Belgrade in Serbia. We (Agentivity) have our developers based there and I looked forward to spending some time with the guys there.

Whilst the routing suggested a relatively short drive, the border crossing from Croatia to Serbia can be a bit longer than the usual “drive-through” since Serbia is not part of the EU (yet). Especially the trucks were queing for literally kilometers as one approaches the border, which made me wonder how long it will take for me to cross.

But it was a relatively painless, about 30 minute wait sort of thing with not too many questions asked, apart from a “are you sure you’re only 1 person in that motorhome”, which was asked about 10 times. However, much to my surprise, they did not inspect the inside of the motorhome at all! (However on the Serbia to Bulgaria crossing coming up next, they did indeed insist on at least seeing the inside.)

Serbia – who would have thought I’d ever be touring here – has a vibe about it which is very inspiring. The old next to new is visible everywhere and you can see a nation ready to do what it takes. At the same time there is a lot of sceptisism about what people from other countries might be willing to pay for….for instance, the campsite I stayed at (Camp Dunav) has the most breathtaking views of the Danube. I pointed this out to the campsite owner and told him they should trim down the trees and bushes that are growing wild at the edge of the site to expose that absolutely incredible view, and if it was me, I’d built a deck out there and serve sunset drinks! But he did not think that would add much value to the offering and simply shrugged his shoulders.

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It’s a decent campsite though with free, OKish wifi and average bathrooms. Very friendly service and combined with the view at only EUR13 a night, a bargain.

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It’s outside the city and though there is a bus, I decided to bike it (with Olli in the buggy) to Donogh, who works with us at Agentivity and who lives in Belgrade. He warned me it was quite a cycle…about 20 KM and I had to cross a major bridge (3 lane highway effectively) and then navigate roads where in most places, there is no cycle lane. So yes, there I was cycling on Serbian highways with Olli in the back! Not to be repeated. But I did get plenty of people pointing and some even driving along on their motorbikes / mopeds chatting and finding my bike setup with Olli in it, absolutely super.

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From Serbia I undertook a trip to Bulgaria to establish our European business there (as opposed to being in Spain) and sort out a few administrative tasks to ensure that is up and running. That saw me in Plovdiv, Bulgaria – I’ll write about that in the next update.

 

 

Campsite review : Camp Zagreb

Camp Zagreb is, as the name implies, in/near Zagreb in Croatia. It’s pretty much near the highway, relatively easy to reach. They have 24 hour staffing at the entrance so even if you arrive late, they will have someone to show you to a plot, and sort the paperwork in the morning.

It’s a 4 star campsite, and for one person, motorhome, pet and electricity in June, they charge €24/night, which is fair. The site is located along the Danube and they’ve really invested in facilities – stunning shower and toilet blocks, with access to washing machines, super kitchens and even a doggy shower!

Along the banks of the river they’ve also built a pizzeria and outside lounge / chill space, and there are easily accessible walking trails all round.

Campsite wifi was free and good enough to stream video.

All in, super campsite and I’ll stay there any time again. Highly recommended, they deserve 5 stars!

Pieve di Soligo, Italy

Pieve di Soligo is near Treviso, in the upper North-East corner of Italy. It’s where my friend Andrea lives and I went to visit him on the trip to Bulgaria. Wow! I’ve been before but I forgot how amazing this region is. It reminds me terribly of Stellenbosch in South Africa, since it’s also a mostly wine region, with plenty of smaller winemakers who welcome you to their farms with open arms and a chilled glass of Prosseco at the ready.

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The Prosseco this region produces is legendary, and you can buy some from as little as €3.50 a bottle (if you know where to go and what to ask for!). Most of the times you also get to meet the actual wine maker, which is pretty cool.

This guy has an “honesty” snack bar stocked with good ham, cheese etc and people come from all over Italy to eat there. He also has wine vending machines, right there in the vineyard, with plastic chairs and table strewn about so you can help yourself. Pretty amazing!

We also got to eat at some legendary places like Ciao Bei, where the (very rich, but very prudent) owner is there, serving clients himself and excusing himself to “go wash the dishes”. His food was unreal, and he insisted I took a bottle of his home-made Grappa home with me.

The food overall was absolutely amazing. In most cases very simply prepared and offered, but with incredible taste and exceptionally well priced! Most meals were under €20 a head including the every present jug of Prosseco.

I also had the opportunity to have Rayquaza undergo some extra attention at a legendary local mechanic, Lorenzon Carlo, who did the most amazing job with the camper’s suspension and a few other pieces. She drives like new! He’s now my offical mechanic for the yearly services. I also stocked up on a few other Fiamma bits and pieces and of course, a few cases of Prosseco!

If you ever get to visit this part of Italy, make sure you stop over at Pieve di Soligo and spend a few days. There are plenty of small boutique hotels and B&B’s, and you will not regret it!

Full link to the photo album here.

 

I packed way too much stuff!

This week I took the motorhome for a test run in Terragona, with the McArdles, who rented a bungalow at the same campsite.

The most obvious thing I soon realised was that I packed way too much stuff. And the awning “tent” that comes in two big bags, weighing a ton and taking up half the garage, must go. The same with the “portable” air-conditioner. And the subwoofer and desktop speakers. What was I thinking?!

Luckily, the storage space is just outside Barcelona so I popped in there after dropping the McArdles off at the airport, and dumped a load of stuff. And wow! The difference not only in space in my garage (the bike now actually fits) but also the way she drives. Much better.

I also learned that the “two man” tent I got for guests (over and above extra bed in the motorhome) is too small for the very nice blow up mattress I have. So I got a slightly bigger pop-up tent, but I also put in storage all the extra fillings one need to make the guest best in the motorhome. No need. If you are visiting me, I’m putting you in the tent outside! I promise that will be comfortable and a lot less hassle than making the second bed.

Then I left Spain and am now on the road to Bulgaria. It’s a long drive (2500km) and I’m taking it in stages, obviously.

Tonight I’m staying near Nice, in a campsite in town, near the coast, and tomorrow I’ll head for Treviso in Italy, where my friend Andrea lives. It will be good to see him, and I can also find a Fiat mechanic to look at what seems to be a leaking aircon problem, and a few other small items I’d like to fix. Nothing major but if I can find someone suitable for that in Treviso, I’ll happily spend an extra day there!

 

 

The apartment is finally empty! 

It’s been an incredibly long day but the apartment is empty, and Olli and I are now in the motorhome! 

Ironically we are staying the night in the street right outside the apartment since I’m seeing landlord first thing in the morning to have the handover. And we can then do a last run on the familiar path. 

So, it begins! 

Shoutout to Ms Mily in Australia on her birthday, and to big brother Melt on his home purchase in Spain! We are a busy bunch. 

#alienineurope