Sunday 18 June:
We enjoyed the morning meeting at the Lighthouse and I was preaching from Romans. My Mum (up from Southampton), Sue (Mrs Reformandum) and I jumped into the Semper Serena and hot wheeled it to Dover and thence to St. Quentin, France.
We stayed at La Florence which had tiny rooms but all we needed and secure parking for the SS. I am sorry to say that while hurtling down the toll road I hit a Mummy pheasant which was leading a cute little line of baby pheasants across the Mway. This charming recklessness ended in a big hit even though I tried avoiding action. There is a 5mm gouge in my plastic air dam as monument to the mothers’ last moments of maternal protectiveness. I suspect the hovering falcons ended chicks’ confusion fairly quickly. C’est la vie – well mort anyway.
Eating outside Cafe Univers in one of the pedestrianised Squares in town, we enjoy the warm evening and proper French cuisine.
Monday 19 June
On to Mitterfels in Bavaria, an absurdly pretty village just off A3(E56) in Bavaria where we stay at the Landgasthof Fischer Veri which we recommend highly. The rooms are spacious and well equipped. The Bread and Cold meats is a feast for Mrs. Reformandum while Mummy and Mr. Reformandum go happily a la carte. The wild boar was pleasant. Highlight for me after a long hot drive was the Karmeliten beer brewed in nearby Straubing. Is or was this brewed by Carmelite monks? A very clean tasting beer with a hint of honey.
Tuesday 20 June
The day began and ended with two navigation errors (one by Semper and one by Mrs. Reformandum) over which we draw a discrete veil. I will just say that we saw a lot of the Bavarian Woods and more of Budapest than planned. In between we lunched at an Autobahn service area in Austria (top one for the whole holiday). We pulled Hungarian Florins out of an ATM in a police station (handy for paying fines apparently) and had an over the top Hungarian meal at the Thokoly Restaurant (corner of Thokoly and Stefania) complete with three piece Gypsy string band. If the meal was OTT these boys were stratospheric. They hammed it to the ladies with every trick in the book. Once they scented a tip the whole band came to our table.
We stayed in the Pension Dominik which was a bit student hostel-like (a converted Priory – or should that be unconverted?) with no en suite but clean and handy with a kind and humorous English speaker on reception.
Wednesday 21 June
Out of the ugly congestion of Budapest to open road of mainly new Eurofunded motorway towards Serbia but we turn left to go to Arad in Romania. Funny business at the border because I do not have insurance for Romania. Traveller beware: both the web site and the London tourist office will tell you that you can buy car insurance at the Border. The border officials know nothing about this. After a dialogue of the deaf (“green card please?”, “buy insurance ,please?”, “Green card!”,”buy insurance!”,”Card!”,”Buy!”) he cracks first, asks where I am going and after hearing “Deva” he waves me wearily on. Driving without insurance with an ominously black German huge TIR tailing me about 10cms behind on the twisting Transylvanian roads the day feels even hotter than the 36deg C which it really is.
At the end of a sweaty, tense few hours, I am able to rely on my biker’s sense of direction to take a series of turnings each more rustic than the last and even take the Semper Serena with it’s 20cm ground clearance down the last kilo of tractor track to Casa Harului only grounding out three times.
Thursday – Sunday 22-25 June
Beautiful scenery, excellent Romanian food, rest and refreshment, a happy bunch of kids at a Bible camp singing and playing incessantly, good friends and deep relaxation — the Casa Harului (House of Grace) was all of this. One day we went up the Funicular railway to the improbably perched Deva castle and enjoyed the panorama. Many thanks to Benjamin and Maria Medrea for a wonderful stay.
If you like the sound of this I can help you book a stay there. As long as you pay a fair amount you will enjoy an inexpensive holiday and support a marvellous work of helping poor and often handicapped children enjoy a wonderful holiday, healthy nourishment and christian teaching and prayer.
Sunday featured excellent fellowship at Simeria Pentecostal Church where I preached and in the afternoon did a children’s talk at the Bible Camp dressed in one of my brighter African outfits.
Monday 26th June – Thursday 29th June
We drive about 120 km East to Avrig, a small town to the southeast of Sibiu, a city which is to be a European Capital of Culture in 2007. Most of the historically significant places were closed for renovation so we did not try the usual tourist traps. 2008 should be a good year to visit. Like a number of Transylvanian towns it was once a sort of German colony (Hermannstadt) and still has many German-speakers.
By the sort of happy coincidence which God often arranges we met our next hosts Dorin and Corinna in their car on the outskirts of Sibiu. I followed them for the eight or so miles to Avrig and the appartment where we would stay.
We visited the magnificent Fagaras mountains and also the town of Fagaras. I had the pleasure of preaching in the Baptist churches of Avrig and Fagaras.
Another good day out was to Sighisoara – a wonderfully complete mediaeval citadel.
Friday 30th June
This was a long long day driving via Cluj, Oradea and over the border toward Debrecen in Hungary. Every road is being rebuilt in Hungary – at least all the ones we went on and with the low speed limit it was like driving through treacle.
Across another border into Slovakia and we arrive in Kosice in a phenomenal thunderstorm. Driving around looking for the little sign of our hotel (Pension Nad Bankou) in the driving rain I managed to drive down the pedestrianised main square. Fortunately, everyone was just looking for a way out of the rain.
Kosice has a pleasant town centre even if the Cathedral looks like an acid trip. Downstairs our hotel was full of drunken teenagers and the staff were hassled and not expecting us. Our rooms were good though, the teenies were soon off and the breakfast of “ham and eggs” next morning was spectacular. Three soft fried eggs sprinkled with mild Paprika and all sorts of ham and preserved meats with fresh bread and good coffee.
Saturday 1st July
After a great breakfast, a great ride through Slovakia. Past Presov, past the amazing walled renaissance city of Levoca and many pilgrims on foot making their way there for the annual July 2nd pilgrimage and on past Poprad. The spectacular High Tatra mountains loom ahead and we take the road around them and cross into Poland. This journey is made in intermittent heavy rain and we have to travel in single file where a landslip has washed half the road down the mountain. In 2004 a phenomenal wind wrecked a huge number of trees in this area and it is still recovering.
The Polish side of the Mountains is pretty and prosperous (we pass near Zakopane – a very popular holiday area). The driving rain slows us down so we have a brief stop in Nowy Targ to convert our surplus Hungarian Florins to Polish Zloty and have a light lunch and then we progress north past Krakow (too wet to do the tourist beat) and we turn up at Roy and Monah’s House in Radom.
Sunday 2nd July – Tuesday 4th July
I preach for the third and last time at the Cultural Centre because the Baptist Church moved the following week to a larger, better, cheaper location which also happens to be adjacent to the bus and train stations. I also lead a Bible Study (well, translated monologue because my Polish runs to three words).
On Monday we have a ride out to Sandomierz – an ancient wall city on the Vistula River (Polands central waterway). It is a relaxing way to spend time with Roy and Monah Scarsbrook, whom the Lighthouse support with money and prayer.
Wednesday 5th July
Today we start the long ride home passing Wroclaw and into Germany. It is a lengthy trip made long by needing to go cross country on the Polish equivalent of A roads and then getting off the brand new stretch of motorway to avert our own petrol crisis.
When we eventually get to Apfelstadt we find we have no place to stay since the Guesthouse owner had confused our firm booking for a mere enquiry. But “don’t worry”, he said, “he knew someone who would have room”. This was another of God’s kind providences and we had a very pleasant evening meal and conversation with Heike (proprietress) and Sylvester (Oldies DJ and Jethro Tull fan – very sound) at the Comtel Hotel, Wandersleben. This is superbly located just off Autobahn 4 in Thuringia not so far from Erfurt.
Thursday 6th July
The final dash home via Norfolk Lines from Dunquerque. Super cheap and a smart brand new boat too. The terminal is about 5 miles west of Dunquerque centre. If you arrive early, as we did, it is pleasant to go down to the old port area, mooche around and have an ice cream.
The journey is notable mainly for aweful Belgian driving (particularly on the Brussels ring road). Actually, that is not notable – it’s normal.
So back to UK and life on the left side of the road. The Semper Serena used zero pints of oil and coped with roads from the rural to the frantic. Thank you to Mr. Nissan and bigger thanks to God for a great trip.