Seventeen Countries, 27 Days, 350 Euro – European Road Trip Part Two

moldova cock fighting
Remind me to explain this properly one day. Downtown Chisinau, in The Republic of Moldova last week –  two young men wrestled each other on the street until one started crying. They then grabbed a live rooster, and paraded it in front of onlookers.

 

It’s been more than five thousand kilometers, so far. The car, which cost 350 Euro, has taken Phillipa, myself, and a small handful of extras (the nice guy from Sweden, the English guy who lives in Bulgaria who may be on some kind of “watch-list”) safely from the Netherlands, to Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, The Republic of Moldova, Bulgaria, Macedonia, the breakaway territory of Transnistria, and now to the UNESCO listed city of Berat, Albania (city of a thousand windows). Seventeen countries, in just a few weeks or so. And boy, are my arms tired. OK, that’s the wrong punchline for a different joke.

“Nancy” the 1994 Clio hatchback, has done her job. For now. She has proven that European holidays can be cheap holidays (well, relatively cheap). I haven’t exactly kept track of the fuel that I’ve spent, but I can say that it’s more than what Nancy cost in the first place. Either way, if you added up the total costs of the road trip, and divided it by seventeen countries – it’s an absolute bargain. Apart from hitch-hiking, there is no way to cover so much ground in Europe for a relatively inexpensive price. I hope more people look into the very feasible option of a European road trip. Do you really want to see Europe? Simple – drive.

 

European Road Trip... so far. 17 countries, about a month.
European Road Trip… so far. 17 countries, about a month.

 

Naturally, I’ve taken thousands of photos, and have more than a tale or two in the works. But, at this point, I thought it would be good to just have a pause, and try to figure out what’s next. Coming up over the next couple of months – surprise – my travel plans are a mystery even to me. The immediate plan is to continue the exploration of Albania for a bit longer – in fact, a desire to really see Albania (despite what I saw the first time around earlier this year) was one of the real motivations behind purchasing a car in the first place. Have you ever tried to get around Albania by public transport, as a foreigner, not speaking the local language? Not exactly straight forward.

After Albania, it’s likely that more time will be spent in the Balkans. I’m currently deciding where a good base would be for a longer period of time – perhaps a month in one spot. Front runners at the moment are Lake Ohrid in Macedonia, and Belgrade (which both feel like my home away from home). However, as of tonight, no specific plans have been made, and so I could end up anywhere.

Heading into the later part of this year, things get really interesting. Because I have no idea at all where I will be. Plenty of options are being floated during my regular “business meetings” with Phillipa (Vodka is the current “idea generator”). Georgia/Azerbaijan/Armenia, Iran, Turkey, more time in the Balkans region, some further afield suggestions such as Mexico, I’ve heard Colombia is nice –  if anyone has an offer I can’t refuse, let me know. I’m available. the thing is, at the end of October it will be a full year that I have spent in Europe. Despite having one of the best years of my life, I feel like a change is coming. I never, ever anticipated spending an entire year in this continent – particularly in some of the lesser travelled regions of Eastern and South Eastern Europe, but I’m so glad I have.

Europe is being good to me lately – new friends are being made on the road. And it seems either everyone has a blog these days,  so allow me to do some shout-outs. I’m currently travelling with Ferbent and Andrea. Ferbent is Albanian, from the city of Berat, and his wife Andrea writes over at Rear View Mirror. Recently in Bucharest I met up with Wandering Earl, who has been mentioned on this blog before – due in no small part to his circa 5000 days of travel and counting. Phillipa and I caught up with Earl and had a few meals, a few drinks, and a chat about how long term travel isn’t for everyone.

Narcissa, one of Romania’s most popular travel bloggers and one half of ‘The Travel Girls” filled me in on her future life. We first met in Belgrade earlier this year, and it was great to get an impromptu tour through the old town of Bucharest with the always charming Narcissa. Darmon Richter is one of the worlds most infamous urban exploration afficiandos. You may remember Darmon from such exploits as “hey Nate, come check out this UFO shaped abandoned communist party headquarters perched atop a mountain in the middle of Bulgaria”. Darmon had the bright idea of checking out Transnistria for their Independence Day, so we wrestled him away from the watch list, he jumped in the back of Nancy and off we went to Transnistria.

Amazingly, some people don’t even have blogs. Despite being an uber-capitalist, I guess that Ovidiu – a proud local Romanian that I met in Bulgaria who recently showed me around Bucharest, can’t afford his own blog. Ovidiu, if you read this, remember that in the Communist era you would have been given your own blog by the government. Think about that, buddy. Ovidiu and I enjoyed such fun nights. “Hey Ovidiu, can you drive me around the most dangerous part of Bucharest?” “Sure! Let’s go!”. Ovidiu always says yes.

So, that’s an update from me.  The map in this post shows each location where I have spent at least one night, snaking my way across Europe. This is a journey that without a car would border on insanity. With a car, it’s just been a blast.

Today is day number 413 of this journey.

And I’m just getting started.

There is so much more to come, as I recap on the places I’ve been over the last few weeks throughout Eastern Europe, as well as commencing new journey’s throughout Albania.

Yes, I have more photos of people holding chickens.

Nate

 

PS, two things. First – if you haven’t checked out the Transnistria post, take a look. This is by far the most unique place I have visited for some time. Second, I would love it if you would just pop your email address in below, and get the next post by email.

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PPS, update: part three of the road trip is right here. Or, if you need to start back at part one, it’s right here.

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31 thoughts on “Seventeen Countries, 27 Days, 350 Euro – European Road Trip Part Two

  1. Can’t wait to see what the next year has for you. You inspired us to visit Serbia next year and who knows, maybe your upcoming travels will inspire our 2015 trip.

    Keep up the great work…by far my favorite blog.

  2. I seriously think you should go to the Caucasus before it’s too late as this area is becoming more and more popular hence it’s slowly losing its off the beaten path charm! And it’s so awesome out there! (well, I only was in Georgia and Armenia) oh, and I’m sure you’d love Nagorno-Karabakh and Nakchivan as they seem to be as weird as Transnistria!

    1. Cheers Turner…. these kind of shots are never the big hitters, most people would prefer to see a golden sunset or a snow capped mountain. Personally, I love the more unusual pics, and I’m glad there’s a few people who feel the same!

  3. Nate,

    The hardest thing for me after putting so many miles on my bike was that there is a finite end of a road. Thinking about where i would like to hear about Nate and his adventures, I thought Argentina, then maybe Venezuela. But truth is, what you just did can never be topped. You set such a high bar, while most likely not knowing it, that your Nancy Tour hit notes no other travel event will reach. Truly you and Phillipa ( bad spelling) explored the undiscovered country.

    I hope I too get to see these sites, unknown to most of us who follow your exploits, with deep respect for the people, traditions and land.

    Thank you for providing much fodder for dreams!

    Be well

    Laurence

    1. I love it Laurence. Thanks for such kind words. South America is right up there on my list – I’m very interested in Colombia. And yes, I’m sure when the time comes to think about the end of the road, it’s going to be very difficult. I’ll deal with that when it comes.

      I’m trying to see the relatively undiscovered parts of Europe, and Nancy was the best idea I ever had with helping to achieve this. There is more to come.

  4. Hey Nate!

    Love your blog! But I’d add cycling as another cheap way of traveling across Europe! Definitely not as fast as a car, but some may view that as an advantage ;)

    1. Absolutely! My brother is a keen cyclist, and I spent a lot of time on bikes throughout my life. I’ve never done a huge cycling journey, perhaps one day. Thanks Lorenzo, really good advice.

  5. so good to hear from you again, Nate! And what a journey you’ve had: wow.

    I have a question though: did you RENT the car or did you BUY the car? I’m curious whether you got really special rates or if you just bought a really old car.

    If you did buy a car, HOW?! I would really like to go on a similar journey, so please do tell me the details! :)

    Dying to know the rest,

    -Maria Alexandra

    1. Hi Maria!

      To answer you question, I bought the car (yes, it was only 350 Euro’s to buy – cheaper than renting!). Simply, I have a relative in Europe, and the car is registered in their name (but insured in my name as well). In that country (Netherlands), you need to be a resident to register a car (which is why it’s not in my name). However, not all countries in Europe have the same rules. I started looking into Germany, it seems you may be able to buy a car, and use it for quite some time, before it needs to be transferred into your name – so that may be one way around it. I personally think, where there is a will, there is a way. There’s about 50 countries in Europe, and I’m sure at least one of them will allow you to buy and register a car as a foreigner!

  6. Hi Nate,

    Discovered your blog whilst doing some fuji diggin, really interesting stuff, just got through your Serbia bits and now Iran. It’s the non-touristy perspective that is so good, with great pics and thoughts to back real life up with. I think that’s what’s missing from the majority of stuff out there, too conformist and categorical. I think you said somewhere that similarities far outweigh differences. So true. Humanity lacks tolerance due to fear and it’s ensuing ignorance that people are out to generally steal your wife, house and kids. I’m an anthropologist, originally from NZ, and have been working in Norway for years and most recently in Solomon Islands. Done heaps of travelling and find it hard to stay put. Often I wonder why and it usually comes down to the insular nature of people’s attitude. Frustrating as hell. I like the way you portray humility and real life of theoffthebeatentrack which to me, highlights the fact that capitalism, consumerism and wealth is slowly draining the goodness of shared humanity. Maybe you, like me, seek to strip the us/them dichotomies, and make people think about who in this world really ‘lives’ rather than wallowing in the fat, like most of the western world…. keep safe bro

    1. Hey Tom, thanks for the kind words. I just tell it like I see it, and try to keep things as non-biased as possible. I think we probably have a very similar outlook on life, given what you’ve expressed in our comment. Good to know I’m not alone. I’m super interested in anthropology – so a little jealous of you there. All the best with it!

    1. Hi Erin – it’s easy to purchase a car, the difficulty is registering it. I have family in Europe, and was able to register it in their name. However, there are a lot of countries in Europe, and each one has different rules – you may need to do some research, but where there’s a will, there’s a way!

  7. Hello Nate , Have just stumbled across you blog? & find it so interesting.
    I am 73 & have travelled twice in Europe & Norway etc. I do a swap of motorhomes ,( smaller is best ), however there is usually 3 of us ( ladies)& we are going again next year 15. Have been toying with The Balkans after venturing into Croatia last time. Hence I was looking at The Balkans when I saw your site. Because money is always our main issue we do mostly wild / freedom camping along the roads or small villages . Have never had a problem . We live in Australia & do the same here. Do you know if it is safe to do that in those countries?
    We do our swap on a U.K site & have had some lovely people swapping with us.
    I will keep reading your pages for other info & interesting places to add to our travels. Thank you so much for a great insight into your travels. I have sent email add. to be added to your page . Cheers & safe travelling . Regards Pat Weller
    Travel certainly broadens one’s knowledge & understanding of other countries & cultures.

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