After spending five summers road tripping – clotheshorse and a proper mattress thoroughly stuck to our rooftop rack (besides and on top of the rooftop box) – we have picked up a few tricks of how not to make the driving part of a road trip seem too much like what it is: driving. Driving is boring. Being outdoors and experiencing the possibilities on route on the other hand – that’s fun. Yes – you will arrive a little later at your destination – but it’s all about making the journey part of the holiday. There are hidden gems to be discovered! Like the Little Danube in Slovakia. We only had about three and a half hours of driving to get from Brno to Budapest, but as we were going from one city to another, it definitely called for a green intervention. I’ll fill you in on the perfect stop after a little whining.

So close, but still so far…

We tend to make a rough plan for our road trips, and then end up treating the schedule rather whimsically. It’s holiday after all! Hence Brno in the Czech Republic was an ad-hoc stop on our route – although it has spent years on my unofficial bucket list. Or to be more accurate – Villa Thugenthat is the actual bulletpoint on my destination list. The villa is a modernistic residence by architect Mies van der Rohe, completed in 1930. After reading “The Glass Room” – a great novel from 2009 by British author Simon Mawer, set at the house, I had already soaked in the imaginary beauty. I just lacked experiencing it for real.

And there I was – unexpectedly in Brno for a couple of days – which truly isn’t exactly central to anything else in my world. It felt like the chance of my lifetime! Until I discovered that you’ll need to order tickets months a head to get a glimpse of the famous onyx wall. ¾ of the family members could not care less – the kids even got the ice cream of their life in Brno. A sort of folded-in-layers ice cream dish with sprinkles and sauces – very Snap-friendly. I could cry!

In summary – Brno had a nice castle, interesting architecture, some sights on the somewhat gloomy side (like the Capuchin Crypt with mummified monks from the 17th century) and a very accomplished Thai masseur with a rather scary mindset. If you’ve ever tried Thai massage, you’ll sympathise when I say that it’s hard to argue against genocide while someone’s almost pulling your limbs off (the killings of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar were a hot topic in the press at the time). I won’t do well under torture. The city itself is a nice and much calmer alternative to the hectic Prague. But still – read the book, order tickets in advance, go see the Villa Thugenthat and tell me all about it!

Green intervention on the Little Danube

The Little Danube is a 128 km long branch of the greater Danube river, one of the most important rivers in Europe. It’s a perfect getaway from Bratislava, or you can stop by on your way through Eastern-Europe, as we did. Fishing, swimming or paddling are popular activities along the quiet meandering stream. We chose the latter on a whim and last-minute style, booked a short trip lasting for about 1 ½ to 2 hours.

We went with a company imaginatively called Canoe Trips. They spoke fluent English on e-mail, so no problem there, but be prepared for some body-language for the live version of the firm, unless you speak Slovakian. Beforehand we agreed on a length of the trip, a time and a location to be picked up. Then they drove us upstream – and let us loose with a canoe and a plastic container for our valuables. Wave goodbye! 

If you have paddled a canoe before you will be perfectly fine, and if you haven’t – watch a YouTube video before you go and you will still be perfectly fine. Canoeing is easy, the river is calm, and you basically just need to float down the river. Paddle away if you want some exercise, but remember to let yourself appreciate the nature.

Floating down the Little Danube will quite literally  wash away the stress of the city from your brain. We had the slow-moving sand-coloured water, we had lush trees, lots of birds and erratic butterflies – and we had a water snake. Us paddling panicky in one direction while the snake swam panicky in the other. But apart for the I-have-no-idea-of-what-kind water snake, there wasn’t very much going on along the twists and turns of the Little Danube. And sometimes that’s exactly why you should get out into the Glory of Green. It unloads some of that cognitive over-stimulus that we’re chronically burdened with in modern urban societies.

The queen with her team

Copyright 1993

The river is a perfect example of a meandering river – twisting and turning snakelike through the landscape – and once again I was able to educate/annoy the rest of the family with my extensive knowledge of the world: “Meanders typically occur where a relatively constant flow of water (without major seasonal contrasts) combines with a fine sediment load and low to moderate channel gradient (…) Meanders are enlarged by erosion of the outer bank (…) Stream load is deposited on the inside bank, where flow is weaker”, Physical Geography, An Introduction to Earth Environments, by Bradshaw and Weaver, copyrighted in the very fine year of 1993. Still so very relevant!


Full circle

Our pick-up point, and also the end of our journey, was next to an old restored water mill in Jelka, considered by lots of people online, although I’m not sure why, to be a rarity in Europe. It might be that there are so few left of them – especially in such a good condition. The mill is nonetheless a reminder of the extensive agricultural heritage of the area. People have lived in this area since the early stone age and looking at the landscape it’s not so hard to imagine.

Next to the mill is a Camp-site. It seemed a bit noisy and I’m not sure I would have liked to spend the night, but it was a great spot for jumping in the water and buying an ice cream before heading on towards Budapest and the real Danube river. There our green intervention became an exiting and a bit exhausting bike ride along the Danube bend – different story, different post. Still I must mention that it was hard to get rid of the Danube this summer. When we went rafting in the Sava river in Slovenia some weeks later, we discovered it to be one of the main tributaries to the Danube. It’s all linked… Makes me want to sing “The circle of life”. 

Questions? Wanting to share? Duke of Edinburgh or plain Jane? Feel free to contact me.


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