Freedom Camping in Eastern Europe Day 12:
After two notable dates in Cesky, we had to move on. I will greatly miss this quiet fairy tale medieval town. Drinking games, bonfires, riverside camping, an engagement, local pubs and some of the cheapest and best food and beers I’ve ever had. We roamed the pedestrian only streets with flash cars, donning the bravado of false entitlement. The city was too kind…our time was not enough.
We were excited to be heading to Slovakia and Bratislava and the next adventure soon at hand. How can you not get chills heading into the unfamiliar territory of further Eastern Europe and a place that is the setting for the legendary backpacker horror film “Hostel”. We spent a bit of time wandering the city before addressing the next task, where to sleep? The city center was pumping and we would have been thrilled to stay in the town center this eve and blend with the locals, but we found no place for our vans.
We heard of a lake nearby and gave it a shot. It was stunning lake, but immediately made us uneasy. It was strange to find naked people walking around and we immediately drew the attention of everyone that we passed. As sunset descended and we prepared dinner we noticed numerous people hiding in the bushes, needles lying around and condoms everywhere, and more and more strange people milling around watching us. We made our beds though and this is where we slept for the night. We had a brilliant dinner, went for a sunset swim and locked the doors down tight, leaving the driver’s seat open ready for a quick getaway. The thoughts of being abducted in Slovakia danced in our heads, but the thoughts of my hard drives being stolen danced even louder in my mind. Sex and drugs in rapey woods, Bratislava bums – not one of our best nights.
We lived to post more pics. A night filled with constant vehicle stoppages outside our door (surely for a swapping of drugs or an arrangement of a gigolo rendezvous) and lots of people hiding in bushes. But sunshine is safety and the morning tea was sensational. As much as we wanted to explore Slovakia, we moved on, heading towards Budapest.
Just as we left the lake, we saw a car flipping over in front of us. Before I could even realize what happened, our Aussie guides were out the car and pulling the woman from her car to safety. Saving a life on the trip, check, just another day on the road! I’ve had many amazing memories of Budapest and hoped to stay there again, but the cards did not play out. After a short time in the city we had to think about sleeping. We headed towards Lake Balaton, an awe inspiring endless lake famed for holiday vacations and parties. We wandered lakeside, set up camp, and jumped in. As we sat down for dinner a flash thunderstorm rushed in turning the skies into a dynamic canvas of colors.
It was so beautiful here we felt it worthwhile to stay another day exploring the towns and playing by the lake. I had been to the town before in the peak of summer and it was one of the best Euro parties I’ve been to. It was a water party that I’ve seldom seen matched. Bars, clubs, dj’s drinks and dancing both in and out of the water all day, all night. However today, it was a ghost town. The summer season does not start off until the following week. We headed back to our camp and started our own little day party which escalated quickly after a few unique Kiwi drinking games. After a day drinking and playing in the sun, we carried on into the night. As sunset approached, another stunning thunderstorm rolled in and we did what you are supposed to do in this situation and got very messy dancing in the mud and the rain!
Woke up to a Woodstock sized muddy mess in the early morning. Gingerly, we chucked all muddy goods into the van and headed south. A very rough morning and a full day of rain perfectly suited as a driving day for us. With 6 of us, we managed the long and uneventful journey towards Croatia. It was a pleasure to drive through the numerous mountain passes and coastal roads on one of the finest, emptiest, and most expensive toll roads that we encountered.
Croatia was so incredibly stunning, even in the rain. There were numerous places that we wanted to stop, but due to the weather, we carried on to destinations unknown. Finally exhausted, hungry, and late in the evening, we arrived in Split, Croatia. Split immediately got my heart pumping. It looked like loads of fun.
It was late though and we needed food. We shortly wandered around the city looking for a place to crash and camp. Even though the bars and clubs looked so enticing, it was just too busy. We spoke to some lovely locals who recommended a hidden spot on the coast and we went for it. We wandered that direction until we found it and was beautiful. Stunning beachfront property in a secluded harbor next to crystal blue waters. But we were not alone, there were numerous vehicles ‘a-rockin’ all over. We decided to pull up and set up camp anyway. We got a few stares, but the cars continued ‘a-rockin’ and we just kept ‘on-a-campin’. We just had to get step gingerly to avoid used condoms and needles that were all over.
Another early morning of grey skies today, but after looking out the window we soon realized we were right on the waterfront of a stunning Croatian beach and now had the place to ourselves. Always a good morning when starting the day with a swim in the soft Croatian seas. Unfortunately, the forecast called on a few more days of rain and we decided on another driving day. Hoping our luck would soon turn the rain to sunny skies we took the coastal road south. We all determined to make it to the bottom of Croatia to visit “Kings Landing”. The rain was on and off all afternoon. It helped us keep moving. If it was sunny, I would have stopped every 10 minutes. Majestic mountain cliffs on the left and endless turquoise beaches on the right…castles, ruins, and cobblestones villages nestled in between, we would have gotten nowhere on a sunny day.
After a very long day of driving, frequent stops, constantly getting drenched every time we stepped out of the car; we were in desperate need of someplace to crash for the night and a place to find food. We came across a lake just before sunset and figured that it might offer us a quiet place to free camp. The tiny town on the lake is called Mali Ston and we hoped to find food as we were completely out. Mali Ston is a stunning little medieval city with a crumbling walled fortress. This turned out be a perfect place to hide the cars and wander around the town in the evening. To add to the find, we found out that this tiny town was world famous for fresh oysters. We treated ourselves to a very nice dinner, plenty of fresh oysters and local wines. We stayed in the restaurant until they gave us the boot, then called this city ours and made it our home!
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As photography for top tier magazines, television, and film production companies in the world, Micah has traveled extensively through 50+ countries with an eye for tourism trends.
Micah’s impact on the photography world can be seen in over numerous Lonely Planet guidebooks from the past 12 years. Micah’s work is represented by companies such as Getty Images, Lonely Planet, Corbis, Firstlight, and a variety of other libraries.
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