Here in Rijeka it already feels like summer. The air smells like pollen and the sea, nature is a good week or two ahead of Bavaria and it’s bloody warm. I’m sitting here in my shorts and t-shirt with the patio doors wide open and have no complaints about life whatsoever.
I picked Camperissimo up on Friday afternoon and the mechanic walked me through everything that had been changed: the motor, the water pump, the clutch and a few other things. The whole transaction took less than 5 minutes and after I’d strapped my bike to the rack, I turned the key and then engine started.
I drove for the first few hours and I took it fairly easy on the engine, which is noticeably quieter, healthier sounding and a touch faster than before. After Irschenberg – which is where things when pear-shaped the first time round – we both began to relax. We drove for another 3 hours without incident and decided to stop over in Villach, since it was already gone 19:00 and starting to get dark.
Neither of us knew anything about Villach in advance, except that it’s the last decent-sized town in Austria before the Karavanenktunnel, and Slovenia.
It turned out to be a pretty nice place, in the way that most larger Austrian towns are nice: clean, friendly, well-organised, with a large old town, some interesting modern architecture and more mountain views than you could shake a stick at.
We found a good place to park/sleep after just 10 minutes of searching, in a quiet residential street which turned out to be 10 minutes walk from the centre (although that part was luck).
Despite no signs of mechanical unpleasantness since Munich, I felt obliged to lie on my stomach on the road and wriggle half a metre underneath the van to make absolutely sure that “everything is alright”.
I choose not to explain exactly what I was looking for in detail here, because I really have no idea myself. Suffice to say that the underside of the vehicle wasn’t obviously dripping, or on fire. I did, however, spot an OMINOUS PATCH OF BLACK on the road, directly underneath one of the large black things on the bottom of the engine – excuse the technical terminology – which I felt the need to photograph and earmark for further observation.
I also dipped my finger in the BLACK, smelt it, considered tasting it, decided that I’d better not.
After ten minutes of tidying up the piles of clothes, tools and other random stuff inside the van, we set off on foot to find the centre of town. The centre of Villach looks a lot like a few of the smaller towns around Munich, like Landshut or Augsburg. There’s nothing particularly memorable about the place (in fact today I can already feel myself forgetting details), but every single thing about it screams “quality of life”.
By some stroke of genius-luck we ended up in a restaurant called “Trastevere”, which was pretty amazing in all respects. The whole look of the place, combined with the fact that we were actually sitting outside and that it was still very warm really didn’t feel like Austria at all.
This morning we packed up and headed on down to Rijeka, where Iva’s family live, for a family lunch and to show off all of the changes to the van to them before we hit the road in earnest tomorrow morning.
Next stop: somewhere south of Split and north of Dubrovnik! (route).