Another travel blog: driving through Europe

David Hielkema

3 October 2016

When I was in Istanbul I tried to start write our first ‘travel journal’. About how we are and what we have seen. However, I couldn’t write more than a few sentences before I got either disturbed or distracted. The busyness of Istanbul made my thoughts go everywhere. But when I started this story, while it was just me and Josephine somewhere along the Marmara Sea, it was different. Or at least, for a while it was different.

1 October 2016

Earlier this day we left Istanbul. It took us some time to leave the beautiful but busy city. Driving out of the old center took a while and when we finally reached the highway, we got stuck in some traffic jams. But what do you expect of a city with 14 million inhabitants?

Josephine slept most of the time while I was forcing our car through the traffic. Turkish people and merging into a traffic-jam: I wonder if they don’t get how to do this as smooth as possible, don’t want to go to home or they just see it as a competitive game. Any way, after a few hours of driving we had left Istanbul and we were going to spend our first night in Asia.

Since we spent quite a bit of money in Istanbul, we wanted to save some by wild-camping along the coast of the Marmara Sea. It took us a while to find a spot, but we did. The sunset was about to set-in while we just finished pitching up our tent.

The sunset and the place that we found was beautiful. The car was parked on a cliff, so we had an even better view on the sea and the island Lesbos. We were far away from cities, there was a bright galaxy and no one except for us was there. We had an easy dinner, made some tea, relaxed after a few ‘hectic’ days in a busy city, Josephine read her book, and I: I finally felt the energy to write my story.

It is about this far that I got. But then I heard some noise coming towards us and I had to stop writing. Goodbye beautiful moral of my story and goodbye nice flow while writing.

I stood up, closed my laptop and called Josephine. She was preparing to go to bed and was moving around the car somewhere. Until I called her she didn’t hear the noise or saw what was coming.

Wildcamping with a view!

A car came towards our direction and I got prepared for an intervention. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I felt pretty relaxed and comfortable. Josephine told me afterwards that she was really scared for what was coming. And it makes sense: it was somewhere in the middle of nowhere, there are many stereotypes about wild-camping and who could it be and what can they do if they have the wrong intentions?

Any way… A few seconds before the car stopped we finally saw that it was the police. The men that got out of the car were young, early twenties I would say. One of them spoke English. We had some small talk, they wanted to see our papers, they told us that it was okay to sleep here, but we should put all our stuff inside of the car just to be sure. But most important: they were really friendly. We made some jokes about a universal interest, football, and they wished us a good evening and left off. Nothing to be scared off, not much too worry. But I couldn’t write any longer.

“If you don’t care about this part, skip to the next part. If you do want to know what we did, I have tried to keep it to a minimum. Well, not really, I will just tell the typical positive cool travel blog story.”

A typical travel story

Not much for a story, is it? You still have no idea how we are, what we have done and what else is going on?

Well luckily for you I love to write the typical travel blog story that goes like this: So after this, we went to this place and we had so much fun. We also went there and there. It was great! #Sunshine, #happiness!

No, I don’t really like writing that part. And I understand that most of the time it isn’t much fun to read. But still, this time, I feel that I can’t skip it. I think that you, as a reader, need to get an idea of our lives before we start to write only philosophy blogs. If you don’t care about this part, skip to the next part. If you do want to know what we did, I have tried to keep it to a minimum. Well, not really, I will just tell the typical positive cool travel blog story.

Let’s go back in time. About three weeks ago we left. The 9th of the 9th at 9 o’ clock.

First we went to Germany, where we finally found the peace to let the stress go that came from organizing our trip. Easy camping, rearrange all of our stuff, talking about the future and about our trip, some sight-seeing and some swimming in the lake. Easy.

After that we went to Czech-Republic, or actually Prague. Prague was more a ‘city-trip’ than a ‘backpack’ adventure. We strolled around and enjoyed the beauty of the city. We also met some lovely people while we had dinner in a local restaurant called ‘Lokál’ and three days was actually too short to see all of it.

Since the weather was not too good in the evening, cold and wet, we decided to move on a bit faster. We skipped the rest of Czech-Republic, Slovakia and stayed for a night in Hungary, but didn’t see much of the country, partly because we had visited Budapest last year. Our real next stop was Serbia.

Did you know that Serbia is not in the EU? I didn’t. In Serbia we stayed in the second biggest city, Novi Sad (never heard of this city before either). We stayed at the family Durdevic. Via a friend of Josephine, Dusanka, we got invited to stay at her family. She wasn’t even around. There is so much to describe here, that I don’t know where to start. About how warm, open and friendly they were for us? Father, mother, sister and the two brothers? That we had dinner with them, we went out with them, they told us what and where to go? About all of them caring for us? About their vision of the history of the country, mostly about former Yugoslavia and how it is now, from their perspective? About the house they lived in and how different it is from ours? I think this paints a pretty good picture.

Damn, my travel blog story gets typical. It even gets worse.

Josephine takes a morning swim

So after that we went to the south of Serbia. Another fact: the Danube brings more water to a sea than any other river does in Europe. Did you know that? Thanks to our very friendly ranger, who walked and talked with us during our hike to the top of a gorge, we learned a lot about Serbia.

For the night we stayed at Kapetan Mišin Breg. And again we met a lovely family. It was on top of a hill with a spectacular view on the Danube. We had typical Serbian food with them and they offered us to stay for free as long as we would send them a postcard from India. Will do!

Some negativity: A lot of driving. It is annoying, tiring and boring sometimes. And always expensive. Money. Money. Money.

Then back to the EU, Romania! Here we met-up with David and Iris who are starting their own farm in the middle of nowhere far away from their roots. David has been a good friend for a long time and it is inspiring to see that his dream is becoming reality: to live self-sustaining, in a small community and away from a government that he disagrees with. The energy at their place is really positive and welcoming and although a lot needs to be done in and around the house, I’m sure that it is going to work out great. I’m looking forward to go back!

After a few rainy days we had to move on again and went to the north of Romania via the Transfăgărășan Road, which let us to the Danube Delta. More wild-camping! All very beautiful. Duh. Then via Bulgaria, which entailed mostly just driving on cheap diesel, until we arrived in Turkey.

That was Europe.

2 October 2016

When I started this story, yesterday, I finally knew what I wanted to write about. I found the moral of the story. I call it my identity crisis after arriving in a city. Or maybe better: Non-judgmental traveling versus the city-life where I feel judged.

As you understand, yesterday we were at a really peaceful place, and we still are somewhere further along the Marmara coast, with no pressure of other people around us. It is just us and some old men fishing. But two days ago we were in Istanbul. A big, lively, getting-to-be-or-is-hipster-city. It are two different worlds.

Since we left we had this contrast all the time. One moment we are in the nature and I wear my old pants and dirty shirt. I don’t feel like shaving, I hardly look in the mirror and I clean my hands by wiping them off at my jeans. It is nice to be out there. We drive through small villages, we stop here and there for beautiful views, we do some trekking, buy some food from local village shops and we find a campsite or we do some wild camping. Either way, it is most of the time nice and quiet.

But then there was also Prague, Novi Sad and lately Istanbul. My jeans were dirty, we really have to do our laundry, but although they are dirty, I put them on again. Just to blend a bit more in with the city life. A seller on a bazaar came up to me to tell me they have my jeans in the latest version, so ‘I look nice again’ (his words). I kind of feel bad about my jeans now. Why? Before I arrived in the city I didn’t care. I felt free and happy about what I wore. Why should I care now? But then, blending in has huge advantages too, right?

And my hair, it is getting long again (though not much is left). And should I shave? I do look better if I shave a little bit. And we try to save money, so no expensive dinners and coffee, right? But you are in Istanbul, so enjoy it! Also we see Syrian refugees, with children, on the street asking for money; our hearts cry. Should we give them money or not? And what about tipping waiters?

What to do, what to do? I know I sounds a bit insecure here and not to mention spoiled and rich to have these choices. I do struggle, I do find it hard to make up my mind.

Nothing is really right or wrong, but within me there is a lot of struggling what to do and how to behave. I love the freedom outside, but the busyness and being part of a city is amazing too…

3 October 2016

Much has happened since we left. It is beautiful to be on the road again. I love Turkey. We will update you on that later on. Our daily lives is a lot of driving, eating and talking. It is nice together, difficult too sometimes, but we are doing well.

I’m a happy and proud man.

A last note:
I still find it hard to write in English, to really express my feelings. But little by little I hope it gets better. And luckily Josephine is there to help me out.