Looking back on 2023
As it is the last day of 2023, we thought it would be nice to reflect on the year we have had. And what a year it has been. From spending last Christmas at a pet sit in Palairos, Greece, to this Christmas being on the beach in South Italy, it has been filled full of so many adventures as well as losses and a return trip home.
We sadly lost our Campervan Luna, who got us home limping, to then fail dramatically her MOT (yearly safety check), where they said at any minute the whole chassis could have fallen out! But she got us home safely, just. This meant we had to decide whether to get another Campervan or change our travel plans. We chose to get another one, this one is also a Ford Transit, but bright orange and called Solero!
Clearly this left us with some financial difficulties as we had to find the money for a new van, but luckily with plenty of work we managed to scrape together what we needed. And then converted it to much the same design as Luna, which has allowed us to venture onto this next travel chapter…
So as we write to you from Reggio Calabria in South Italy, we thought we’d share some of our highlights from this year.
We visited a total of 15 countries this year (not including home), countless cities, small towns and villages. We enjoyed so many varying cultures, especially when we reached the Balkans and Turkey. People often ask what our favourite country has been, but it’s such a difficult question to answer. We have had ups and downs in all countries, but there are some places that have held a special place in our heart. We have slightly different opinions of our top 3: for Stacey (so far), Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Switzerland; for me (so far), Turkey, Serbia, and Spain.
Turkey - a place filled with so much culture, natural beauty and lovely people. We were treated with such kindness, drank so much Çay (tea) and Turkish coffee.
|Pamukkale - natural hot pools
|Cat enjoying the eternal flames called Chimaera
|Cappadocia - chimney houses
Greece - we spent a wonderful Christmas and New Year at a pet sit in Palairos, where the sun shone around 20C and the little seaside village felt like home for a couple of weeks. We enjoyed seeing Greece in winter and snow on the beach in the eastern part.
|Meteora - Monastries built on high rocks
|Hot springs in the snow in Lamia
Albania - a country with a lovely shoreline, and a nice capital Tirana. We were only there for a short while, and were heartbroken at the amount of stray dogs. So we made sure to fill as many as their bellies as possible whilst driving through!
|One of the many beautiful sunsets in Albania
Montenegro - we visited most of Montenegro in 2022, but we popped back to see the people we pet sat for and helped them out with converting their apartments for holiday lets, in return for some skiing!
|Our log cabin for skiing!
|Stacey's suited and booted!
|Up on the ski lift we go, with a whisky tipple for dutch courage!
Bulgaria - a special country, with the beautiful Black Sea running alongside it which leaves for many breathtaking views. We met a fellow traveller here, Kate, who we quickly became good friends with and travelled most of Bulgaria with. We enjoyed many free hot springs and bbq’s together. Some friends from back home also came out and joined us for a long weekend in Sofia, which allowed us to enjoy a city from a BnB rather than the van.
|Hot spring hunt with Kate
|Weekend in Sofia with friends!
Bosnia and Herzegovina - ok, so technically we did B&H in 2022, but we did pop back there for a night to meet our fellow traveller friend, Barbara and Buck (her dog), to go to the Visegrad bridge. A bridge that both Barbara and I had read a book about, so we got to enjoy a special moment of having a smoke on the Kapia like they did for so many years. But aside from that, B&H is a beautiful country, with so much countryside and fantastic scenery. Still torn in places from the many wars, and landmines are still scattered around the countryside, but it resonates now a place of wander.
|Enjoying a smoke and a coffee on the Kapia in Visegrad
Serbia - another country with outstanding natural beauty, and a vast amount of stunning countryside. Not only that, but a place where every person you meet will welcome you with such warmth and hospitality (and probably a Rakija (moonshine) and coffee too)!
|Niš real skull tower
Romania - the land of Dracula, but also beautiful views and unique experiences. From mud volcanoes, to a 6 hour steam train journey through Marmaris wood logging country.
|Marmaris steam train ride
|Decebalus rock sculpture in Romania, viewed from Serbia side of the Danube river
Hungary - friendly locals, wine tasting and yummy food: Goulash, Langos and Chimney Cakes.
|Wine tasting in Tokaj
|Getting drunk with the locals!
Austria - we only briefly popped into Austria as by now we were running out of time to get home. We did a walking tour in Vienna, super expensive but so much beauty and culture! Would like to go back with a full wallet and a tuxedo and go and see a Mozart concert! We also visited Gruner See which is a green lake which was stunning, even if it was peeing it down with rain.
|We got a tad wet!!
Germany - we still have so much of Germany to see, but we did get to visit an old friend, Alex, in Bremen, the music capital of Germany. We always visit family in Trier as well whenever we get on or off the continent!
|Meet up with Alex!
We enjoyed a couple of Christmas markets on our way through from Germany, France and Switzerland to South Italy.
|Trier with Barbara and Buck
We also spent 5 months back in England, visiting our friends and family and working to save up again for our next trip. We always enjoy going back and spending quality time with everyone, and we feel it makes it a little harder each time to go away again.
So there you have it, a little summary of our year 2023. Tonight we will be partying with locals in the city square, meeting the new year with views of Sicily!