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A Story: My 6000 Mile Road Trip Through Europe

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The plan:


This trip was done between July 1st and July 21st, 2012. The pics were not available to me until now and I haven't had time to do a write up either, really. Until now.. :)

As a kid I lived in the island of Cyprus, on the southern, independent half of it. My dad used to work there and kept the house I grew up in as holiday home, which he's passed on to me. As a kid I wanted to drive down to Cyprus from Norway, but as the northern part of Cyprus was closed off from the southern after being occupied by the Turkish military in 1974, that seemed impossible. The borders were opened some years ago and now it's a lot easier to bring a car down there.. I knew the house needed some looking after and now I had the the opportunity now although a little short on time - a three weeks leave from work would take me there and back. I wish I had more, but what can you do..

I decided to bring my 2000 Toyota Yaris Verso on Tein Scion xB coilovers.. Reliable as hell and will return 47 US mpg if driven very conservative.. Cons are the lack of top speed, comfort and the fact that the little 1.3 litre engine runs at 4k rpm @ 80 mph in 5th gear. Not good for Continental highways, but on the other hand, this car has history. My dad bought it new (he recently bought another car so I got this), he's an avid road tripper and this car brought me as a kid to Spain, Italy, Scotland and Ireland on four different trips.. It had to see the south-east Europe as well.


All speeds are mentioned in mph, but shown in photos in kph. My car does not do 160 mph :o

I left Oslo at about 3 pm on a Sunday. Out of the past 70 days I had worked 65 of 'em.. A vacation had never been so well-timed, and leaving the dreadful beltway with Oslo behind me onto the highway with the open road in front of me.. It's one of the reasons why I love road trips, you feel so damn free :)


Driving through the Swedish section of the E6 highway is not too exciting, mostly because I have done it enough times before, but it's relaxed driving with spubik traffic.. Decided to be somewhat sensible and sat a cruising speed at about 80-85 mph, the fuel bills and engine speeds you know :o


I was scheduled to start the trip easy, have a good nights sleep in the coastal town of Trelleborg and hit the morning ferry over Germany the next day.. That evening I was reminded why I don't like making too many plans during a trip like this - the hotel reception was not open on Sundays :o I said f*ck it right then and there, took my chances and raced down to the docks to catch the night boat over. They had room for an extra car, leaving Trelleborg, SE:


Now I found myself in Germany, without any place to stay for the night and no real plans, I only knew I should be going towards Berlin. Actually, I knew exactly what to do.. An empty Autobahn in the wee hours of the day, it doesn't get better :D


I kept driving on at triple digits to make full use of the empty roads and before I knew it, I was half way to Berlin.. Time to sleep :cool:


I woke up way too late and it was approaching rush hour.. Came into Berlin at gridlock, Berlin autobahn ring had massive road works which made matters worse and to top it all off I missed an exit sending me straight into the city.. That's what you get for being up until the sun starts rising :bangin: This was not Autobahn..!


But they had Trabant Safari :thumbup:


And, I did see a whole lot of Berlin, including the Brandenburger Tor and the Pariser Platz - landmarks with a whole lot of history; the gate has been there through three wars and a divided city. My car didn't agree to Berlin not being a divided city - it tried to make a friend.. But it was on the other side of a gate :D


Out of Berlin and hit the A'bahn again.



Between Dresden and Prague, towards the Elbe Sandstone Mountains:


I had hopes of hitting Prague, CZ that evening. It's 220 miles separating Berlin and Prague, on the Autobahns where you do 90-100 miles an hour on average, well, it's not hard at all. Incidentally my boss was in Prague that week and had time to hang out that evening. I tried a couple of hotels in Prague but there were no vacancies. I'm sure I would've found one eventually, but I don't feel comfortable with leaving a car overnight on the streets of a city I don't know nearly a thousand miles from home - call me a p*ssy but that's a big no no for me. I instead found a cheap, safe highway motel between Prague and Brno, CZ. I've slept on floors, couches and chairs that were more comfortable than this bed - but it was cheap :laugh:

I went walking around in Brno the following day.. I was looking forward to see both the Czech Republic and Hungary. These countries of Central Europe are actually quite interesting - they represented, together with Austria, the bone of the dual monarchy Austria-Hungary, a well respected part of Europe at the time. World War I split the monarchy up, after World War II when Europe was split Austria remained out West while Czechoslovakia and Hungary fell into the East Bloc and subsequently disrespected by the people of Western Europe.. I was very happy to actually go here myself and see that the buildings and cities of the pre-war era, with Central European architecture were still standing proud :thumbsup:


Brno also had some signs of the Communist Era.. :laugh: Pre-VAG Skoda


I hit the road again, I was ready to see Hungary. And apparently I could go many other places as well :eek:


I came into Hungary, decided I was fed up with highways by now.. I also decided I was fed up with just driving inland, I looked at the map, saw a big lake and decided I wanted to end my day at that lake. Took some local back roads through winding fields and forests, the coilovers getting to work.. Saw some typical Hungarian housing:


And a cool-***** Suzuki Swift.. :) The Swifts were built in Hungary, meaning they are absolutely everywhere, parts availability seemed crazy and together with Volkswagens (RS Tuning anyone) those are the cars the Hungarians seem to modify.. And they're good at it.. :) I complimented the owner in a mix of broken German and broken simple English he seemed to understand.. His car was on air and you didn't need any language to tell he was proud of it.. We neither needed any language in order to appreciate this car and enjoy it - car enthusiasts are usually not too different wherever you are :)


I drove along to Lake Balaton, the lake I saw on the map. It's apparently a big thing in Hungary, with people coming from all over the country and neighboring countries - after all it's the only water for miles and miles for the people of Central Europe. I ended my day there, as intended.. The next morning I enjoyed the area with fine nature and a ferry trip across.. B)



I then went out driving again.. Approaching the Romanian border:


Loved the Hungarian road signs :D


Romania and Bulgaria were communist states up until the start of the 90s (my father was nearly shot in Timişoara covering the '89 revolution), given EU state membership in 2007, in other words rather recently becoming a growing economy. And it showed, starting with long lines at the border.. Notice the car on the right here, a Romanian Dacia 1310 (late 1300) based on the Renault 12 and found throughout Romania in vast numbers:


I stopped just on the Romanian side of the border, this kind of housing and town layouts seemed to be very popular. I was also about to learn that Romania has mostly two-lane roads that runs through villages, where semis will travel twice the speed limit, usually overtaking another semi, all while avoiding bikers, drunk people, dogs and goats. I'm exaggerating a little bit, but goats seemed to be everywhere.


After stopping in Timişoara I realised I was running slower than I should if I wanted to spend a night in Varna, some time in Turkey and catch the ferry over to Cyprus. On these two-lane roads I could no longer keep the avg. 80 mph cruising speed, at some points I averaged 30-40 mph over an hour or so. A lot of road works, resulting in this:


I made several friends in Romania. One guy in the line pictured above, we had a smoke and discussed the situation - he mostly kept on about how "Romania was ****" and how you went through traffic like a snail. Sounded like I had some good times in front of me :laugh: As I was driving the night I met some chicks working at a gas station in the city of Craiova - the differences between EU member states are big. They told me they worked 12 hrs a day, bringing home as little as $260 a month. They had never been outside Romania - not because they didn't want to, but because they couldn't afford it. :eek:

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I drove until sunset again, went to sleep for a couple of hours and made my way through Bucharest (I missed the ring road.. again :laugh: ) towards Bulgaria.. The border proved to have the same troubles with traffic and unorganized chaos as I'd experienced throughout Romania, only with a twist.. After paying a 'bridge tax' for the bridge crossing the Danube river dividing the two countries, traffic quickly coming to a stop:


I apologize the small pictures here, these were resized by my P-bucket.. Anyway, the drivers of Romania and Bulgaria decided passing a line towards a checkpoint with oncoming traffic on a bridge was a good idea. Newsflash - it wasn't, and as a result we were now stuck with traffic not moving anywhere :laugh: Notice the line of 15-20 cars lined up the wrong direction :wacko:


After an hour on that bridge, finally I was in Bulgaria:


In Bulgaria:


After a night in Varna I spent the whole day driving towards Turkey, just driving and enjoying a cool pace.. I wish I had pictures but I went into the town of what I seem to recall was Elhovo, BG. Driving through the town, suddenly the paved road disappeared with only a gravel road through the suburb.. Very few cars. Only people, loads of people out on the street. A couple of hours before I was on the strip of Sunny Beach, a popular holiday resort for Brits and Scandinavians, now I was in the heart of a very poor neighborhood. If they were Romani/gypsies I don't know.. I didn't feel like taking pictures, even though I would've liked.. I sure as hell wouldn't like it if I sat there.

I continued into Turkey the same day. After another hour and some at a border check point I flew along the highway towards Istanbul, back at triple digits. Here's the car in front of a mosque in Edirne.. Had to stop for some döner kebab :)


I had decided to not go through Istanbul - I've been there before and it's a beautiful, mesmerizing city that'll leave you breathless and astonished. It's also quite possibly the worst city in Europe to tackle from the drivers' seat, rather go back here without my car. I took the freeway past the city:


Doing this at 1 am I would not encouter any traffic.. Or so I thought. I was wrong:


Going through Istanbul on the five-lane freeway took two hours during the night time.. :laugh: Apparently it was regular weekend gridlock. I'll never ever again refer to the beltway of Oslo as bad.. Went on an hour more and found a hotel in Izmit at 4 am. I had a good, long döner kebab breakfast and hit the road again. This day started much like the last one ended:


The roads finally opened up though, and having 550 miles between Izmit and the southern coastal town of Taşucu where the ferry would take me to Cyprus the next day that was a good thing.. On a downhill stretch of the highway towards Ankara I hit an indicated 120 mph in this box B) A very good highway indeed..!



Charmless piece of Ankara seen alongside the highway..


I was pulled over twice between Ankara and Konya, but they wouldn't have nothing from me.. One officer waved me past as I was approaching, the other waving me on after I'd stopped.. :D Driving over the Konya plains (supposedly one of the driest places of Turkey) I had it all, summer evening heat, a beautiful sunset, mountains surrounding me far away in the horizon, the open road in front of me.. Although I had been a little annoyed by border lines, traffic stops and bad driving basically since entering Romania, these hours of happiness really made it all worth it.. I tried my best to capture the moment



Went into Konya to sleep.. The next day brought me to Karaman and over the Sertavul pass in the Taurus mountains.. A four-lane highway (although not a very grippy surfaced one) cornering through the mountains, I had a lot of fun here.. Messed with a Turkish built Tofas (based on the Fiat), which ended up overheating.. :D I enjoyed the mountains, some random shots:





I stayed in Taşucu for a couple of hours eating some döner kebab (seeing a pattern forming?), argued a lot with the guys at the ferry company over prices, and drove towards the docks.. Took a couple of hours getting through the system - this was no German ferry harbor.. After a whole lot of check points, paperwork, additional fees and 'taxes' and waiting, my car was ready for the occupied Turkish area of Northern Cyprus. Loads of semis going onto the undersized, vintage ferry and all the truckers arguing who were parking on the top deck. I was back to disliking Turkey a little :P The trip across was rough as hell, and getting out in the morning also proved to be quite difficult for the Turks to do in an efficient, smooth matter:


I figured out that instead of ten guys in their cars following directions from one guy, in Turkey nine of the guys that I thought would be in their own cars will rather give each of their directions to one guy in a car.. :o But finally I was on Cyprus soil:


I stayed in Cyprus for a little more than a week, seeing old friends, making new friends, doing some small road trips, doing some maintenance to my house and yard, making my beater start and mod it a bid.. The Yaris was a good thing to have, I even gave it a bath together with the beater.. :)


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I sadly don't have as many pictures from the drive home as I wish I had.. It was a lot more driving in a lot less time, I had four days going from Turkey to Norway in order not to be late for work back home. I decided to avoid Istanbul, the Edirne border crossing into Bulgaria, and Romania, rather going through Serbia. Back in Turkey there was a heat wave going on now:


The gauge peaked at 46C, although probably showing a little too high, the wind outside the car was hotter than the inside of it.. Very few gas stations and shops along the highways of rural Turkey had any over- or underpasses and as it was a non-stop highway that meant you usually had to go a couple of miles the wrong way before turning around. The solution for the Turkish drivers if you don't wanted to waste your time? I counted four cars going down the highway towards me that day :facepalm: But the green woods of the provinces of Bursa and Balıkesir were a good end to the day.. Took a ferry from Çanakkale to Eceabat, they had a sense of humor when building forts back in the day it seems.. Shame someone cut the top off the tower along the way:


Drove along the Marmara sea for a bit, into Greece and then past Sofia, Bulgaria, dodging trailers and police cars along the way. Found an hotel, went to sleep. This yard was in the back yard (duh) of the hotel - cars reminiscent of former communist Bulgaria in front of an Audi dealership displaying their recent economy growth:


Drove into Serbia, the highways were good, the villages I spotted seemed really cool and the cars were dope.. Here's an old Yugoslavian Zastava 101 (Zastava later produced the Yugo :cool:) complete with a Yugoslavian country tag :D


Really wished I had more time so I could spend some days in Serbia and Croatia. Across the Great Hungarian Plains covering Serbia, Croatia and Hungary:


Making my way up to Lake Balaton to end my day after 550 miles on various roads there for the second time of the trip, driving and more driving for hours and hours.. The CEL came on right after this shot, came up as a clogged cat, destroying mpgs.. Filled the tank four times between Berlin and Oslo because of it :D


Lake Balaton next morning, it's a vast lake.


If you wanna tour Europe, Budapest seems like a good starting point


German autobahn sunset:


I made it to Gerdshagen, Germany, racking up 700 miles that day. It would be the last sleepover for my car before it got home, we both knew it.. The worst part about a road trip is that it has to end, and the worst feeling is when you know the ending is near and you're nearly home.. :(


Took the ferry over to Denmark from Rostock, raced up to Copenhagen in the rain and drove across the Öresund bridge to Sweden:


Swedish highways, I was on autopilot now.. :P


Came to Oslo, collected my Mk3 and was a little happy to be home. The end :)


This trip didn't cure me - I'm wondering where to go next year.. :rolleyes: Until then, I'll hold onto these memories.. Thanks for watching B)

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Awesome! :clap:

I hope the Verso is more comfy than a stock Yaris tho' - I did 200 miles in one go once and my back and shoulders were not happy by the end! (Hmm, that reminds me, I wonder if you can put IQ seats in a Yaris... :naughty: )

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Wow that's a great story! What an adventure.

I was reading on the Toyota blog about a family who drive their Avensis from the UK to Turkey every summer, a round trip of 5000 miles http://blog.toyota.co.uk/toyota-stories-the-crews and http://blog.toyota.c...ur-toyota-story

They're looking for other interesting stories, I'd say they'd love to read about your big trip :)

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