After 9 days of crossing Europe, from London to Romania by car, we’re home, safely and gratefully. So what’s it like, driving over 2,000 Km, through 8 countries, with children? Did we love it or hate it? Here’s a quick run down on how we’ve spent the last 9 days,more detailed posts will follow.
The kids loved driving across Europe, but maybe for the wrong reason. They loved being able to say they’d been to 25 countries, now they can say it’s 29, maybe 30, we need to sit down, colour some maps and count. For me, well, Europe is my “normal”. You’ll notice that the World Travel Family travel blog is mostly about Asia, that part of the world is closest to our hearts. I truly feel like myself in Asia, I don’t fit right in Europe. I saw some new places, had an adventure and I’m pretty pleased with myself for pulling off the road trip.
I visited most of Western Europe as a child, on school trips to learn language and culture and on other trips to become a proficient skier. That’s the sort of school I went to. So Europe is nothing new and we weren’t really visiting Europe with our tourist heads on, we were mostly just getting from a to b. We had a few great experiences and a couple of very bad days. As always, I’ll tell it like it is. Travel isn’t all wonderful, sometimes it sucks, just as normal life can have sucky moments.
Why London to Romania by Car?
We had to get our car, she’s called Sexy after the TARDIS, from London to our current home base in Romania.
We need a 4×4 out there, something to cope with dirt tracks and snow, we also need a tray-back to transport heavy goods and building materials, so that’s what we have. She’s beautiful and we love her. She drives well, we’ve had no problems crossing Europe on autobahns and motorways, her only vice is a reluctance to start when she’s hot. We can find ways around that.
The route we took is below.
Day 1 London to Brussels 1 night
We left late, 5pm. Sexy was in the garage and the mechanics were working on that starting problem. They replaced a gizmo, a thingum and a wotsit belt, but the problem persisted. Two days of tinkering for no improvement at all. Oh well.
It was a great relief to finally be on the road, all be it at 5pm in rush hour traffic. Chef took the wheel for the drive to Dover.
Crossing the Channel on the ferry was a breeze, we hadn’t booked, we just turned up, got in line, bought a ticket and drove straight on. A comfortable hour and a half later and very reasonably priced dinner inside us, we were in Calais.
” Yay we’re in France!”. Then all but the driver fell asleep.
We arrived at our Brussels hotel at 1am and went straight to bed.
Day 2 Brussels to Frankfurt. 2 nights.
We had a few hours to check out Brussels, edited highlights to give the kids a taste of this little country. Chef and I normally head to Bruges for a few days of fruit beer, chocolate, moules and frites, but on this morning we were on a mission to find waffles.
Parking near the Manneken Pis, we explored the streets, checked out the street art and a few touristy shops, had our breakfast treat and piled back into the car.
A lovely looking park full of autum colour spoke to the kids as we drove towards the Atomium, time for a run around and a game of hide and seek with dad before heading on to Germany.
We had breakfast in Belgium and lunch on the Rhine before arriving at our Frankfurt hotel for 7.10pm.
This was, if not the worst hotel experience of my life ( we had a stinker in Penang) certainly the second worst.
It’s a long story and one I will tell one day, the owner was a pig of a man, that’s all I’ll say for now.
We spent the next day exploring Frankfurt, a city that, at first, impressed us not at all. It was dirty, looked and smelled like a public toilet and seemed populated by drug addicts and derelics. Nothing was open because of the Berlin Wall anniversary celebrations, so we found breakfast in a revolting station Mc Donalds. Here we discovered that 200 Euro notes are accepted “Nowhere in Germany”. Not very convenient.
In the afternoon we managed to find the nicer part of Frankfurt, away from the red light district. Berlin Wall celebrations were in full swing, boy bands in lederhosen took to the stages and small crowds gathered. We found the pretty old town and sampled curry wurst and toffee apples. A stein of beer raised our Frankfurt-weiry spirits.
At 3am, Chef left for his flight back to London, the airport is around 80Km out of Frankfurt. Also not very convenient, there was a bus.
Day 4 Frankfurt to Prague 3 nights
From here on in, it was just me and the boys. I was excited to start driving but nervous about navigating. I suffer from anxiety quite badly, so getting lost is a fear that haunts me. That’s exactly what we did.
For some reason the GPS failed. I needed to resort to the map and the route I’d planned out on paper the night before. The tiny print was too small for my ageing eyes, switching between driving in sun glasses and map searching in reading glasses was a struggle. I think we took around 2 hours just to get out of Frankfurt.
D helped as best he could, he’d previously not even seen the road map, but he had a go.
From that point on, I planned routes and showed him maps every night, just in case.
As we approached Prague, some 500 Km later, my anxiety was maxing out again, how on earth was I going to navigate busy city streets to find our hotel?
At that point, incredibly, I heard a voice from under the map, Dave ( as the GPS is now known) had come to life just at the right millisecond and he totally saved us. There is no way I would ever have found our hotel without him.
A nice hotel full of character and with friendly helpful staff. A much better result.
We had 2 full days in Prague, it’s a remarkably beautiful city and this was our first visit.
I struggled with the tram tickets, then I struggled with finding the right tram, but once those difficulties were overcome and my mental peace restored, we had a great two days. You can read about the brilliant Prague for kids tour we took with Travelove by clicking the link.
Day 7 Prague to Brno (Czech Republic)
After our experiences driving in and around Frankfurt and Prague, I didn’t want to visit more big cities. We picked Brno, in the south of the Czech Republic as being a cheaper place to stay than Austria, it was purely an overnight rest stop, we saw nothing of the town other than its Tesco megastore.
Day 8 Brno to Gyor (Hungary)
Dave the GPS got us safely through Austria and into Hungary in not much more than 3 hours. Gyor isn’t far from the Austrian border, a reasonably large town, not far from the motorway, with a nice looking hotel. Those three criteria picked this stop for us.
Our hotel here was beautiful, still around 50Euros, as all our other hotels were, but way superior in just about every way. I’ll post about that hotel and this cute, picturesque town, soon. We enjoyed Gyor very much, our first taste of Hungary.
Day 9 Gyor to Maramures County, Romania. Home
We had planned to visit Budapest, maybe stay overnight there, but on that morning, we all just wanted to be home in our little house in Romania. We had friends and a bunny calling us, so we decided to go for gold and drive straight through.
We left around 8.30am and arrived at 5.30pm, in time to go to the village pub, with just a half hour stop for fuel and refreshments.
How Was The Romania Road Trip?
We enjoyed most of the journey. The boys were angelic by anybody’s standards, they read book after book and each night I loaded up their Kindles with more reading material. They read and slept in the back snuggled in blankets, they counted buzzards and sometimes we chatted. A big, solid 4×4 removes any worry of car sickness, they were fine.
I asked Boo yesterday if he thought he’d learned anything by driving across Europe.
“Yes,” he said, “they’re crazy about solar power.”
They are, crossing Europe we saw field after field of solar panels and wind generators, it’s impressive to see and prompted much discussion about renewable energy. Australia really needs to follow Europe’s lead.
We saw no evidence of the refugee crisis, I expected to see people, maybe have trouble at borders, there was nothing.
We paid no tolls other than the standard fee for driving in Hungary. Surprising, as I’d read so much about the high cost of driving major European roads.
We crossed from country to country without even stopping, the only border we showed our passports at was that into Romania, it’s not one of the Schengen countries. Our vehicle wasn’t searched, which took me by surprise, we could easily have had a few extra people hiding in the back.
This was our first time travelling carry-on only. We flew to London with just my laptop bag and the boys’ small backpacks. Clothes weren’t a problem, I washed things as we went. Toothbrushes and toothpaste were our only wash-kit, I bought a solid shampoo bar in London for the return trip. We took just one laptop, we normally have 3, we didn’t miss the others. We made no attempt to do “school” during this trip, natural learning only.
Home now, to peace, quiet and just living normally. It was great to visit London, as always, and seeing a bit more of Europe was an interesting experience, but now we rest and plot our next adventure, I need to update that post on how many countries we’ve visited, too. It’s good to be home. We don’t post about Europe too often, other than London and Romania, our home bases. If you’re looking for a great guide to your Eurotrip to help you with planning, click through to a site that will help you with just that.