Road-tripping in Europe is one of our favourite ways to take a holiday; it’s so satisfying driving through different countries in a short time, crossing international borders often several times a day. Take for example our holiday last summer where we woke up in one country, had lunch in another and spent the night in a third four separate times. As the countries change so does the language, the food, the architecture, the street signs, the modes of transport, the shops, the customs and the currency (not as much as it used to but there are still some countries in Europe which don’t use the Euro and we visited three). The diversity is fascinating. There really is something rather fun about having breakfast in one country, lunch in a second and dinner in a third.
Our objective was to spend most of our time exploring Poland, with a few days in Germany too so to make the most of our limited time we had to crack on and put in the miles during the first two days. We left home in the afternoon and drove to Verona where we had spent a night a couple of years before on the way to Croatia (another great European road trip).
The next morning after breakfast in Italy we drove into Austria, where we stopped for an obligatory schnitzel in a service station, and ended the day in Bratislava, Slovakia.
Traffic had been bad and we arrived late to find the only places serving food were the snack bars at the train station, a 10 minute walk from our crazy colourful hotel (dining room in photo below, another photo here).
It might not have been glamorous or relaxing, but it was unbelievably good value. We had 4 large sausages in bread, 2 burgers, 3 large beers, 2 soft drinks and 4 ice creams for 13€! The contrast couldn’t have been greater from the previous night in Verona. We went from an over-priced touristy, but never-the-less delicious, restaurant next to the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Roman arena to a stand-up snack bar by the station surrounded by drunks and a few weary travellers.
Honestly it wasn’t as bad as it sounds, the food was tasty, the stall holder was a great deal friendlier than the waiter in Verona, we didn’t feel unsafe and it was all part and parcel of what makes travel such an adventure: improvisation and the unexpected.
The next morning, after a simple breakfast including cigar-shaped bread rolls which reminded me of living in Prague as a teenager (as did the stalls with tiny openings to communicate and pass food through the night before), we set off for lunch in Brno, the capital of Moravia, a historical country in the Czech Republic. We didn’t hang around and visit Bratislava this time as we’d been the year before and had a lot of mileage to cover to get to the apartment we’d rented in Krakow that night.
However, having never been to Brno before, and the first time in the Czech Republic for the kids we had factored a little sightseeing into our timing. Before an enormous lunch of meat, cheese, garlic and fried everything, washed down with delicious local beer (which was to become a bit of a theme of the holiday….par for the course in central Europe) we explored the city.
All in all we spent about 4 hours in Brno, not bad for a road trip stop. Next up was the final leg to Krakow, where we were very happy to partake of the local beer on arrival, followed by a traditional meal of pierogi and soup.
After 8 days in Poland we moved on to Dresden and then to Munich. Our penultimate night on holiday was spent in an enormous biergarten, you guessed it, drinking beer!
By this stage I was utterly meated out. Central European food is heavy on sausages, meat, and more sausages, so I ordered a salad, craving some greens. Hah, just look at my German salad. A pile of cold garlic sausage with one cherry tomato, one radish, a gherkin and plenty of sliced red onion, drizzled in vinegar! I had to laugh. My attempt to avoid sausage was well and truly thwarted. At least it went well with beer.
The next day was to be our third day of three meals in three different countries (though we actually drove through 4, passing through Austria for a few minutes). After breakfast in Munich we set off for lunch in Liechtenstein (really just because we could!) We can’t say we explored this tiny nation but for me it was an opportunity not to miss, by taking a 5 minute detour we entered another country, and I’m never one to pass up such a chance.
We were hungry and had a fair way to go that day so we stopped at the first town we came to. It was pretty much soulless and devoid of character, perfectly pristine and totally empty, but we found a snack bar and filled our bellies. Our objective of a meal in another country was fulfilled.
That night we stayed high above Lake Lugano in Switzerland where we feasted on limitless amounts of divine homemade ravioli. We stayed in a hotel down a very narrow (2 way but only one car wide) mountain road about 20 minutes’ drive from the town of Lugano. It never occurred to us the place wouldn’t take credit cards and we had no cash….but the wonderfully friendly owner wouldn’t hear of it that we return to town to get some Francs, he said it was too far and too much of an alarming drive and that we could just transfer the money to his account when we got home!
This was no small sum, being Switzerland, a hotel with a pool, aperitifs, dinner and breakfast for 4…. He simply trusted us; it was an unexpected, touching and delightful end to a great holiday. And very un-21st century! Together with the never-ending supply of delicious food (there was no menu, just what his wife was cooking that night) the warm relaxed ambience was a far cry from the reserved, dour image of the Swiss. To go a tiny way towards repaying such kindness I want to wholeheartedly recommend the Hotel Panorama. But if you do go please take cash!
Finally our last day on the road saw us eat breakfast in Switzerland, snack in Italy and home for tea. Do you like taking road trips through different countries and across international borders? I’d love to hear from you.
Read more about our central European road trip: Holiday Snapshots – Road Trip 2015
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