Calais to Slovenia via Austria
It’s May 2023 and our Summer trip to Greece gets underway. After having to call Mercedes Breakdown Assist at Warwick Services when our oil engine light came on we’re now ready to board the ferry. Yes, the next stage is about to begin, as we head from Calais to Slovenia via Austria.
As some of you may know, we never do reach Greece, when an accident stops us in our tracks near Dubrovnik. But, this is how we get on before that fateful day a few weeks later.
Dover to Calais by Ferry
By 9am, we’ve left our dirt lay-by parking just outside of Dover and head to Tesco for a quick fuel stop.
Then, a short drive leads us to Dover ferry port ready for our Irish Ferries booking at 12.45. It’s only 10.30am, so we’re hoping for an earlier ferry and we’re in luck. Not only is the port really quiet, but there’s plenty of space on the 11.05 ferry, which suits us perfectly.
Ushering us on board with a few minutes to spare, the ferry doors soon close behind us. As we make our way upstairs, coffee and a windy deck await. It’s blowing a hooty, yet the crossing is relatively smooth as we watch the French coastline draw closer.
The sailing goes really quickly, accompanied by a fun-loving bunch of folk embarking on a Benidorm car rally. Otherwise, it’s just us and a few truckers for company.
A new gas bottle – Calais to Slovenia via Austria
First on the agenda after arriving at Calais is to change our 4-year old French gas bottle. Heading for the nearest Intermarche, we wait for the cashier to appear from their lunch break, mulling away the time with some more coffee and a tasty bap.
Doesn’t it feel good to be fully stocked up again? Now we’re all set, hopefully for another few years cooking on gas! By the way, we only have a gas hob, hence it lasting so long!
Belgium and the tallest boat lift
After a good, fuss-free drive to Belgium, we feel ready to stop for the night by the time we reach Thieu.
Here, there’s a fab canal-side Aire which is free but without services and it comes with a lovely waterside view.
Not only is it pretty but this location has the tallest boat lift ever! This funicular boat lift almost resembles a nuclear power plant. It’s massive, with the huge structure visible for what seems like miles around.
At first we’re not too sure what it is, but a closer look along the adjacent canal path reveals this engineering masterpiece.
This area is great for cycling and walking, with miles of pathways linking the canals with towns and countryside.
The vast boat lift is of course the main attraction. Watching it in action is intriguing, as it slowing lifts the boats into the air in an enclosed concrete looking pod. There’s a car park and viewing area too which you can drive too for those who don’t make the walk along the Canal.
Overall it takes abut 6 minutes to lift the huge cargo boat from the basin up to the higher level canal. It’s a fascinating structure and like nothing we’ve seen before.
Ettlingen, Germany – Calais to Slovenia via Austria
Onwards from Thieu, passing through Luxembourg, we miss the cheap fuel stop, by mistake.
At Ettlingen in Germany, we find a really good Stellplatz on the edge of the pretty town. Like most Stellplatz in Germany, there’s a fee, and this one is €10 per night. It’s a nice location within a few minutes walk to the historic town centre. Opposite is a swimming pool complex, so if you were here on a hot day, you could make use of the pools and open grassy spaces.
Ettlingen has cobbled streets, ornate buildings and a quaint river with strange looking enclosed bridges. There’s quite a stately feel to this town, with domed roofs and pink-toned buildings edged with gold.
There’s enough bars and restaurants here to feed the whole of Germany. On this late Spring evening it’s actually a really pleasant place to stop the night. At the Stellplatz is a dump/service area but it’s an extra €2 for water, which doesn’t allow much time for dawdling.
Lunch stop at Sulzemoos, Germany and that big motorhome dealer
We’re on the move again, heading towards Austria later today and beginning to pass some rather lovely scenery on the approach.
At Sulzemoos, we stop for lunch at the now colossal Gluck motorhome dealer, a place we first stopped overnight at many moons ago. There’s so many motorhomes of all descriptions for sale here, as well as a big accessory shop.
We soon realise it’s 10 years since we’ve been here, and this motorhome dealer has grown beyond recognition.
Their old Stellplatz has been replaced by a much larger version, so it would be a good place to stop the night if the timing was right.
Hallein, Austria – Calais to Slovenia via Austria
After leaving Sulzemoos, the mountain scenery of the Alps is just superb. There’s snow still on the craggy peaks, which are appearing out of the whiteness. Below are rich meadows, full of Spring greenery, making a beautiful backdrop for the route.
At the last service station before the Austrian border, we stop to buy our Vignette. Costing €9.90 for 10 days, we’re told to place it in the top left corner of the windscreen. We do as we’re told and soon we’re back on our way.
Arriving at Austria, we think it’s now time to stop the night, choosing a free Stellplatz 15km south of Salzburg.
This is Hallein, a large town next to an even larger river. It’s an ok place for the night, beside a basketball court and within a few minutes walk of the town.
Just beyond are the cleanest public loos I’ve ever seen and there’s a supermarket next door too.
We take a walk along the river and through the town, although it’s nothing special, it makes a good stopover for the night.
There’s only 3 places here, so we’re lucky to get a space.
Last leg to Slovenia’s border
We set off along the motorway through Austria, and the scenery is simply beautiful.
Although we have the vignette, there’s an extra €13.50 toll charge for a large tunnel which we have to pay at the toll booth.
Don’t you end up fingers and thumbs at the old tolls? As I scramble to get rid of a load of coins that have been building up in the cab, handing them to Nige ends up with us loosing most out the window, before trapping his thumb in the cab door trying to save them! Typical waste of effort!
Now, we’re not sure whether to continue along the motorway into Slovenia or veer off on a country route.
What we do know is we need to buy a Vignette for Slovenia, so we’re mindful not to miss the border.
Our decision on which direction to enter Slovenia is soon taken out of our hands, when the Sat Nav directs us towards the Wurzenpass.
Ok, so, we’re happy with that, until we realise it’s an 18º descent along a bendy mountain road. Well, we’re committed, so just go along with the ride, which turns out to be an alright experience.
When we reach the top there’s a bit of a bonus, as we emerge along the forest route to a lay-by and an old army tank. After a quick photo stop we drive the short distance to the border.
It’s here at the quiet border crossing, complete with souvenir shop that we buy our Vignette. It’s a reasonable price for 7-days at €15 and is now all done on vehicle number plate recognition.
That’s it, we’re in Slovenia and ready to take in the most spectacular lakeside setting and overnight stop at Kranjska Gora.
Wow! What a place that turns out to be, so don’t forget to hit subscribe for details on the next amazing location on this Summer trip through Slovenia.