/ Europe2017

Slovakia beckons

And so we say "Farewell" to Krakow. Despite our initial misgivings and the weather it's been interesting. It may have the huge mediaeval square, cloth market and castle but it's not a patch on the grandeur of Prague and could definitely do with a spring-clean/facelift. On the other hand its horrendous encounter with Nazism is superbly documented by the Schindler's Factory Museum and nearby Auschwitz, that gruesomeness combined with the somewhat faded charms make it well worth the visit.

But we saw too much of Krakow this morning; the campsite is on the NW edge of the city and our exit route to Slovakia is to the SE, so we spent about an hour slogging our way through the combination of traffic and roadworks.

Once on the slightly more open road we started to wend our way up and down the hills of the lower Tatras (the ups often being somewhat slow behind laden lorries), through green scenery and pretty villages. Skiing signs became more numerous but even here progress is slow as the building of a huge new roadway intersected our route more than once.

Sliding through the border into Slovakia the scenery became even more beautiful at the expense of some quite ugly towns. But the scenery... The road hugs the meandering Orava river meaning tight hairpins and sweeping bends all the way. It really is some of the best scenery I've driven through. And then we pass Oravsky Hrad, a restored 13th century castle on a rocky crag overlooking the river. No photo, there was nowhere to stop, but go do a Google search.

We've elected on a campsite on the edge of a city called Martin. For no reason other than the campsite isn't too far off our route, whereas many of the Slovakian campsites are up in the mountains. We turn off the road and start following Satnav but as we near the site I almost take a wrong turning; with a car close behind I turn into a side road and then out again. I decide to stop to let the car pass but it draws level and stops, and I expect angry invective at getting the turn wrong and causing it to brake suddenly. Quite the opposite, he winds the window down, shouts "Kemping?" and points the way. Then as we reach the actual entrance to the camp he slows and points us in. With a wave we thank him and ring the bell for the site. The owner Viktor knows we are coming so greets me by name, tells us he has one of two spots for us and then walks us to a nice camping spot "Perfect" says I. "Ah, but you haven't seen the other one" says he and leads us to a spot with a great view across the mountains. All the time engaging us in conversation in excellent if accented English. We'd heard Slovakians are friendly. 100% hit rate so far in our random sample of two!
And it's infectious. A Dutch couple (from a Dutch town twinned with Martin) help us find the water tap and then have a nice conversation over our communal washing-up.

And to think our original plan was just to overnight here to break the 7.5 hour journey between Krakow and Budapest - the road through Slovakia is so windy that Google Maps actually detours all the way round through Czech, missing Slovakia altogether. But a chance encounter on the web when we looked for the site and Liz found that Martin hosts the Slovakian Ethnographic (Folk) Museum so we decided to stay over for a day. Our Dutch friends have told us Martin is the cultural capital of Slovakia and the leaflets Viktor has given us makes us wonder if we might want to stay more than just 2 nights.

We'll decide tomorrow.

The route (3 and a half hours drive) shows some of the wiggles of this main road through Slovakia