Friday, August 27, 2004

Through Austria, Hungary and the Slovenian hills to Maribor

Time to leave Moravska and continue the trip, but the weather in the morning is bad again (in August ?!) with fog and low cloud. By 2:00pm it was looking much better so I fuelled up with some avgas (1.50€/litre), said my goodbyes and started a 30 minute hop south to Brno to pass customs (customs in Czech can be done in Karlovy Vary, Brno, Ostrava and Prag without prior notice). The weather en-route improved and I was filled with renewed energy for flying ! Brno is an international airport like Karlovy Vary with a huge concrete runway, but it is really easy to go there since there is very little traffic and they are really friendly to foreigners. People there speak English and German (and Czech). Landing was 12€ and I went direct to the C buro for met and planning info. Great! The weather was improving a lot and I could plan east or south into territory unknown to me. The choices were east into Slovakia or Hungary or south to Slovenia. I decided to go for Maribor (LJMB) in north east Slovenia because it would offer a relatively short flight and position me well for further flights east or west.

I tracked southeast from Brno to Breclav and due south into Austrian airspace. Very nice because you can look west and see Vienna and then look east and see Bratislava as you fly between them. Austrocontrol are tremendously efficient and you don't need to change frequencies to get through the various airspaces there, information handles it and I was able to cruise right through. They speak perfect English and are polite. They sent me down to 2000ft msl under Vienna airspace, but I had no problems at all. After Spitzerberg I entered Hungarian airspace in glorious sunshine and headed due south. I have never seen so much entirely flat and sparsely populated country in my life with fields and small towns as far as the eye could see to the east. An awesome sight. Budapest information was very busy but flying in Hungary was uncomplicated and they cleared me through to Slovenia for approach in to Maribor. The Slovenians want you to enter and exit their country via specific VFR points. These are marked on the Jeppesen chart and I entered via DIMLO on the Slovenia/Hungarian border. The controller in Maribor cleared me through the standard VFR reporting points to land on the superb 2500m runway. Once parked a very helpful (and rather attractive) handling lady organised overnight parking, customs, taxi into town, and hotel (30€), within minutes. The landing/parking/customs etc cost about 20€ but you get 50% discount if you buy some fuel. That evening I spent in Maribor, which is a pretty town on the Drava river. Slovenia is far more westernised than Czech, and Maribor has an 'Austrian' feel to it. The airport is a good destination for private flyers, in my opinion. I had an excellent impression of the people I met there.

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