Category Archives: Germany

Onward We Go!

Keeping posts coming with the regularity that you, our valued readers, deserve can be quite difficult at times. In my defense (Rebecca), we’ve been on the road consistently for the last few weeks and have been drinking and relaxing on the Med with friends, which is quite taxing! As such, the rigors of travel haven’t provided me with the space and time needed to dictate my thoughts and hence this post will be a long one to get things up to date! But I have included an intermission!!

Boo Hoo I hear you say!! Swanning around Europe and can’t find the time to keep your extended family of followers in the loop! Fair comment – but Jen takes an awful lot of looking after! So here goes….

We were keen on spending some time travelling west through the Alps but first on the list was a stop at Berchtesgaden – the home of Hitler’s “Eagles Nest” and it afforded us a lovely drive into these incredible mountains.

Hitler’s 50th Birthday present was built in 3 years atop a mountain precipice with jaw dropping views across the Alps and, on a clear day, as far as Salzburg.

Eagles Nest

Eagles Nest

Left untouched by the Allied bombing campaign, the only real damage was inflicted by the troops liberating the country after the fall of the Nazi Regime. Chunks of a red marble fireplace installed in the building as a gift from megalomaniac Mussolini to his megalomaniac associate were popular souvenirs.

Mussolini"s Marble Fireplace

Mussolini”s Marble Fireplace

It’s a rather simple almost unimpressive structure not exuding the level of grandeur you might expect. Certainly an incredible feat of engineering, the building now finds itself purposed as a restaurant and although I’d expected more of a museum experience with the usual dissection of Nazi ideals, the structure has been given a new life beyond it’s dark reasons for existing which in many ways have saved it from being another example of tyranny.

The 80mtr tunnel to the Brass Elevator

The 80mtr tunnel to the Brass Elevator

Hitler"s Brass Elevator

Hitler”s Brass Elevator

Eagles Nest Restaurant

Eagles Nest Restaurant

Making west, it’s easy to find your jaw hurting a little as every road and km really provides splendid jaw dropping scenery.

Lovely Alpine Architecture

Lovely Alpine Architecture

Crossing into Italy, the Dolomites made an appearance on the GPS screen and I expected to see a continuation of the same type of mountain topography as that throughout Austria. Singularly unique, the Dolomites certainly have their very own character – colours, formations and appeal, placing themselves well apart from the Alps in character almost as if they want to be different.

Dolomites Scenery

Dolomites Scenery

Dolomites Driving

Dolomites Driving

Dolomites Pass

Dolomites Pass

This whole region is as visually stunning as anywhere else that I’ve had the fortune to visit. An autumn visit also has it’s positives – great hiking trails and a lack of closed roads along with the missing tourists that would no doubt patronise this area during ski season.

The Stelvio Pass is a mandatory drive with its 48 hairpin turns up and 40 hairpin turns down depending on your direction of travel. You can share the drive with Ferrari’s and Porsche’s and every kind of motorbike sporting want-to-be Casey Stoners perched on them. Some of them may have actually been stoners given their lack of adherence to any form of road rules. They seem to feel a sense of entitlement when on these powerful machines and get angry at the fact they have to share the road! Following a heavy Nissan Patrol wasn’t what they had in mind when they plastered on their saddle cream and strapped on their leathers in anticipation of a record fast ascent to boast about over a pizza and beer later that day.

48 Switchbacks up...

48 Switchbacks up…

And 40 Switchbacks down

And 40 Switchbacks down

Beer and Pizza

Pizza and Beer!

Let’s also not forget the supercars that hammer up the straights only to find they need to take the hairpin corners slower than we do! When the hairpins are close together as with Stelvio, it would seem that “made in Japan” and a top speed of 140km an hour down hill with a tail wind is just as fast on hill climbs as all of those stallions!!

That Patrol is still behind me!!!!

That Patrol is still behind me!!!!

I found it all rather amusing really!

Out of Italy and through Saint Moritz in Switzerland, it was the first time we’d encountered a re-activated border checkpoint within the Eurozone. Later we discovered that most Schengen borders were now, once again, manned in an attempt to stem the Syrian Refugee flow, along with the sudden exodus of people from Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia and so on, in search of a slice of Germany’s economic generosity whilst Mrs. Merkel remains at the helm and in charge of the cheque book.

Back into Italy and a look at the famous Lake Como but unfortunately it rained incessantly all day. Views of the lake were still lovely but gloomy and with a distinct lack of visibility and complete loss of vibrancy.

Lake Como

Lake Como

The wet theme continued as we travelled via Lake Lugano, venturing back into Switzerland before once again entering Italy on our way to France. You’ll need a map to follow that lot!

Lugano, Switzerland

Lugano, Switzerland

Trippy Tunnel!!

Trippy Tunnel!!

 

Bormio, Italy

Bormio, Italy

Beautiful Bormio by night

Beautiful Bormio by night

Montiglio Monferrato

Montiglio Monferrato, Italy

San Lorenzo Church dating from the 12 century

San Lorenzo Church dating from the 12 century

Village Scenery enroute

Village Scenery enroute

A night spent in the French town of Sospel deserves a mention – a classic example of a French village, as the pictures will display. Nestled amongst large mountains and sporting beautiful scenery along with character loaded buildings hundreds of years old, it’s affordable and a real taste of village life in France, yet your only 20km from Monaco!

Sospel

Sospel

 

Historic Bridge in Sospel

Historic Bridge in Sospel

More Sospel

More Sospel

We’d had a date booked in for some time to meet up with friends from Perth who were staying near Saint Tropez as guests for a wedding.

So onward through Nice, as we thought it would be good to have a look at the area and see if any memories were jogged as we’d stayed there in 2005. In the end, it was worth the detour but the traffic was diabolical and slowed us down to a snails pace. We managed our rendezvous  though, after submitting to the use of French toll roads in order to pick up the pace.

Friends Mick and Sue met us as we entered the village of Cogolin and Sue’s brother Chris led us out of the town via small roads and tracks to the place he calls home with wife Julie.

One minute you’re in the hustle and bustle that is life on the Med and a mere 10 minutes later, it’s peace and quite amongst vineyards and cork trees interspersed with sporadic dwellings – such a contrast.

St Tropez - Home of the Beautiful People!!

St Tropez – Home of the Plastic People!!

St Tropez

St Tropez

St Tropez Boats v Buildings

St Tropez Boats v Buildings

With such a relaxing, peaceful location away from the hustle and bustle but with such convenient access to the sparkle and glitter of Saint Tropez and the beautiful haven of Port Grimaud, it was easy to see the appeal.

Market Day, Port Grimaud

Market Day, Port Grimaud

Ample supplies of beer and wine left over from Chris and Julie’s daughter’s wedding just days earlier, made our stay even more enjoyable! The stun juice flowed endlessly and it seemed a shame to let it go to waste!

Drinks with old and new friends!

Drinks with old and new friends!

With Chris displaying exemplary skills in both fire making and BBQ techniques combined with Julie’s continuous supply of tasty treats we left indebted to these great people and hope to see them again should our paths cross.

Chris's Swedish Candle?

Chris’s Swedish Candle?

Catching up With Mick and Sue was a great distraction from life on the road. So nice to meet up with friends from home and speak some Australian for a few days.

Intermission – Time to grab a coffee or go back to work!!

Pernes les Fontaines was the town in our sights now after an invitation arrived in our inbox from Philip and Bianca (whom we’d been so fortunate to spend time with in Germany) to join them for dinner. On offer was a restaurant with a highly regarded menu of quality produce, a waiting list for reservations and overnight camper van parking! “Would we be able to join them as a space could be made available for us?”

Well, we like our food and it can be a real challenge finding a venue that will live up to your expectations and budget when you have very limited language skills. Wow! It was worth the effort! Outstanding food along with emotive and full-bodied conversation, we’d had yet another sensational interlude with 2 of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. It was over all too quickly for my liking. The following morning with hopeful plans of future interludes in place, we departed in opposite directions.

Pont du Gard, Avignon, France

Pont du Gard, Avignon, France

Sommieres

Sommieres

Sommieres Architecture

Sommieres Architecture

Sommieres River

Sommieres River

A poignant reminder...

A poignant reminder…

Roman ruins and ancient villages rolling by, we found our way a few days later to Narbonne in the South of France. Back in Turkey, we’d met some avid travellers who had invited us to visit en-route to Morocco along with offering the use of their factory should we need to perform any maintenance. Not just a factory, but a 4×4 specialist camper building facility! Being on the same page as these guys made life very easy for me.

Globe Camper

Globe Camper

Mecca Engineering and Globe Camper combine to build custom camper units along with all of the upgrades to the 4×4 that you could ever require. Skander and Dave have one of those unique working relationships that just works, not to mention Skander’s wife Veronique TIG welding in the background whilst Dave’s wife Monica fits a Webasto heater and plumbs it up. 2 great couples combining to build high quality campers ready for Morocco’s High Atlas or anywhere else you’d like to venture sums these dynamos up.

Skander and Veronique at work

Skander and Veronique at work

From the moment we entered the factory it was like being with family! Nothing was too much trouble and work was instantly put on hold to provide us with what ever we needed.

First on the agenda were replacement tyres! At the end of this post there is a little more about the tyre situation for those who are interested.

With tyres ordered, I now had time to service the Patrol whilst Jen tinted the passenger’s side window! The replacement window that I’d fitted after it was shot with an air rifle in the UK wasn’t tinted and she was complaining of getting burnt – the little petal!

Over the next couple of days we ticked off numerous other little jobs that we hadn’t had the time or a suitable venue to sort out. It was incredibly nice having a fully functioning factory to perform such tasks as opposed to what had become the standard – a paddock or car park! I cannot over-emphasise how grateful we were to have unlimited use of their factory, equipment and knowledge.  Big THANKS guys!!!

Being treated to a lovely Tapas lunch in Narbonne was totally unexpected especially since we knew these guys were under pressure to get a camper delivered in a couple of days but still they made time to ensure our stay was outstanding.

We did eventually leave them to get back on with their lives but not before they’d made sure we had track files for the Pyrenees and Morocco and anything else we required had been taken care of. Cant’ thank them enough! Hopefully we can convince them to join us for a tour of WA sometime in the future.

Our friends at Globe Campers and Mecca Engineering

Our friends at Globe Campers and Mecca Engineering

With days slipping by it was into the Pyrenees via the unusual little country of Andorra with its tax-free cigarettes and alcohol along with much cheaper fuel. It is an odd little place full of fancy ski resorts and not overly appealing other than the standard mountain views that are always welcome. It does however have some great off road trails meandering thorough its countryside.

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Carcassone, France, enroute to Andorra

Andorra

Andorra

We managed to depart Andorra via a well-known trail aptly called the Smuggler’s Route due to the trafficking of tax-free goods over the mountains and into Spain. It must be fact, as after a long low range descent and now finding ourselves within Spain’s’ borders, we were stopped for a cursory check and questioning as to whether we were carrying any of those cheap Andorran products via the local Police! Another visit to the Pyrenees without the time pressure of a dwindling Schengen Visa would be welcome as without doubt these lovely mountains offer some great camping and off road driving.

Smuggler's Route Terrain

Smuggler’s Route Terrain

Great Pyrenees Scenery

Great Pyrenees Scenery

We pretty much hit the highway at this point and put in 1100km over the next 2 days. We did manage a few side detours and interesting visits along the way however, probably one of the most notable being Toledo.

Toledo, Spain

Toledo, Spain

Jen had visited previously and remembered it to be worth the effort! It all went a bit pear shaped as we decided that we would break our own rule and drive near to the centre rather than a long walk, as time was an issue.

Passing the maximum width 2m sign, I already knew I’d made a mistake. I’ve been caught before but it would seem I’m a slow learner. (PS. We are exactly 2 mtrs wide!)

Well about 20 minutes of extremely stressful navigation amongst throngs of goggle eyed tourists along cobbled very narrow lane ways ensued! Wing mirrors grazing buildings as you idle by and tourists gasping as you just miss historic brickwork in order to make ridiculously tight corners is a give away that you shouldn’t be there! I even had to park up for a while after it was all over to settle the nerves! But the town was pretty nice!!!

Anyway it’s all on the car camera so I’ll see how it looks and put it up for all to see and as a warning to others! PARK OUTSIDE the CENTRE and walk in rather than thinking it’ll be OK!

The Spanish countryside along the South East is rather dull and uninteresting with km after km of flat and uninteresting terrain reminiscent of central Queensland I thought. The odd visit to a village made the journey seem less rushed and broke the monotony of the highway.

Castles and windmills in Spain

Castles and windmills in Spain

Gibraltar appeared and we arranged our ferry tickets from an agent in Algeciras recommended by Dave from Globe Camper. Good thing too as it was much cheaper than the internet and others!! A quick stock up with shopping including a reasonable selection of alcoholic beverages and it was onto the ferry. We hit the North African coast at the port of Tanger Med.

Ferry to Morocco

Ferry to Morocco

Stay tuned for the next instalment!

Cheers – Justin.

Tyre Update for those interested.

We’ve had a few problems with the Cooper ST MAXX tyres as some of you may know but were hopeful of continuing on the current set through to the USA as Cooper Australia had indicated to me some time ago that they may be able to sort something out with Cooper Head Office in the USA for our onward journey – an offer of which I am very appreciative.

As such, with intermittent visits to tire shops for rebalancing as best they could and one tyre losing air via splitting around the bead I was left with only 1 reliable spare but I’d still persisted with the vision of stretching their lifespan a little longer.

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It had come to the point however that I felt the possibility of a blowout or other high-speed incident was likely with really bad splits developing around the beads and a lot of delamination between the white lettering and black rubber.

Delamination

Delamination

The prospect of thousands of kms of harsh terrain in Morocco made the decision for me – they had to come off.

I’ve had numerous sets of Cooper STT’s prior to this version and found them to be a thoroughly reliable tyre, albeit with a low km lifespan as expected from a mud profile tyre. The ST MAXX’s have now travelled an admirable 56000km with plenty of tread remaining and if it weren’t for the presence of these faults, would have met the task required of them and fulfilled their life expectancy.

Still plenty of tread

Still plenty of tread

Uneven wear

Uneven wear

Vertical splits on the sidewall and lateral splitting around the bead however, of which there are many reports on the Internet, would seem to be an issue with this version. Maybe they’ve sorted it out with newer models but I can only go on my own experience. With 2 complete failures and all the others indicating similar areas of concern, it was an easy decision.

Vertical Sidewall split replaced in Russia

Vertical Sidewall split replaced in Russia

 

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Reluctant to find myself in the same situation again, I replaced them with BFG Ko2’s, which are BFGoodrich’s latest offering and competitor to the Cooper ST MAXX. I’ll see how these go over the next months and hopefully report back with all positives.

New Boots!

New Boots!

Berlin and Beyond

Before I get into this update, I realised that “Tales from the Fjords” lacked one anecdote that we thought was worth a mention.

Whilst wild-camping in Norway is well accepted, it seems some locals felt that our presence with Erik and Mieke in the forest on one occasion, was damaging their calm!  It would seem that while we were sleeping, an industrious local took it upon himself to break out his tractor and drag a heavy log across our exit path.  Of course this provided us with much amusement and made good use of the recovery gear that we have been toting all over the world.  Erik left a nice note and we went on our way.

Recovery Gear getting some use!

Recovery Gear getting some use!

IMG_9545 2So now back to Denmark…….

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Another ferry and we were back in Denmark. With rapidly warming weather it seemed the Danish population, starved for a dose of UV, had descended on the coast like a swarm of midges.

Mind you the noticeable lack of clothing on some of the sun, sea and sand-seeking participants quickly dissolved any thoughts of annoying traffic and too many people.

Meandering south we made our way into Copenhagen.  The following day we were rewarded with a leisurely stroll around the lovely city whilst soaking in it’s atmosphere.  Certainly one of the highlights was Nyhaven – similar in character to the old waterfront of Bergen in Norway.

Nyhaven

Nyhaven

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Gotta Love the Selfish Stick!

Gotta Love the Selfish Stick!

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No prize for guessing what this is!

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Apparently they have priority seating for Astronauts on Copenhagen buses????

Gedser on the southeastern tip of Denmark was our next destination, where we would catch yet another car ferry back to Germany. We made a slight detour for lunch and were fortunate to meet a lovely German couple also partaking in a snack. As it turned out they’d spotted our Patrol earlier in the day and couldn’t resist saying hello now that we’d ended up in the same rest stop. Phillip and Bianca were also heading for the car ferry for the return journey to their home in Berlin. We ended up spending most of the 2 hour crossing in their company enjoying some great conversation.

Issued with an invitation to stay with them for a few days in Berlin we couldn’t believe our luck once again. With plans in motion to meet up the following day we both went our separate ways.

The ideology of staying off the motorways where possible was again reinforced on our run toward the capital. Small villages pepper the former East German countryside and the opportunity to soak up a little of the landscape provided us with a rewarding day of travel and a great campsite. It was here that we spotted an unusual animal, which, to us, looked a little like a mongoose and appeared to be about a meter long from tip to tail. As we found out later it’s known as a Pine Marten and they are relatively common.  Like possums, they apparently invade roof spaces but also have a taste for car brake lines!

Pine Marten

Pine Marten (Courtesy of the internet)

Camping in the German Forest

Camping in the German Forest

We also saw the three little wild pigs!

We also saw the three little wild pigs!

Many of the smaller German villages are well worth the detour; Plou am See was an outstanding example. Canal boats waiting their turn to navigate the lochs in order to continue their onward water born explorations and lovely little shops and restaurants nestled along cobbled streets amongst historic buildings.

Plou am See Canal

Plou am See Canal

Cobbled Streets

Cobbled Streets

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Some a little more run down

Some a little more run down…

IMG_0047It has to be said though, that all villages obviously don’t share the same level of loving care.  There is no shortage of villages with abandoned buildings and terribly run down relics from a time gone by.

After navigating the maze of traffic into Berlin, we arrived at our new friend’s address and were immediately rewarded with a cold glass of Champagne and a marvellous home cooked meal prepared by Bianca.  Phillip has a love of red wine and this proved to be fortunate as Jen and I were finally able to glean some insight into what labels to look for as we keep our camper cellar stocked. (Yes we have a small wine storage area – keeps us liking each other….)

interesting reaction when violet syrup is mixed with champagne - no more purple!

interesting reaction when violet syrup is mixed with champagne – no more purple!

Berlin, as with all cities, has it’s own character.  It’s very flat and quite vast – a mix of modern and contemporary buildings, attractive suburban green areas mixed with some drab, depressing urban landscapes.   To me it didn’t really feel as if it had a centre where you could connect with its pulse. It felt more like a city comprised of a composite of styles and ideas.

Reichstad

Reichstad Building

German Parliament

German Parliament

Train station

Train station in a wealthier area

Near Alexanderplatz

Near Alexanderplatz

Berlin Skyline

Berlin Skyline

But history is the obvious and overwhelming factor in a visit to this metropolis and on this front it definitely has a story to tell.

The famous East German Car for the people - the Trabant

The famous East German Car for the people – the Trabant

From the Brandenburg gate to Checkpoint Charlie along with everything in-between, we hit the pavement and the trains, ending the day feeling quite content with our explorations of Berlin.

Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie

Original Section of the Berlin Wall

Original Section of the Berlin Wall

East Berlin side of the WallEast Berlin side of the Wall

"The Lipstick" Church all but destroyed during the war and left as a silent monument

“The Lipstick” Church all but destroyed during the war and left as a silent monument

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We were very fortunate to meet such a lovely couple and departed their wonderful hospitality feeling rejuvenated and with a much deeper understanding of Germany, it’s people and it’s history.

Arriving in Dresden we were struck by the graceful architecture of the old city.  You’re constantly met by interesting views along streets and into open spaces and strangely, we seemed to have the roads almost to ourselves! We noticed lots of barriers along the roadside with people beginning to queue along the sidewalk. Something was obviously about to happen!

Somehow we managed pop star parking and exited the Patrol just as the roads were closed and the excitement began.  It turned out that an American Car Club was parading along those same streets that we’d just driven. Standing and watching with some locals we were expecting to see Barack Obama with the level of interest on display from the spectators. A long convoy of vehicles of all shapes and sizes began to drift past in the company of a police escort; some wonderfully restored American classics mixed with some very average streetcars! All in all, I wasn’t overly taken with the spectacle but nonetheless the vibe along the street was outstanding.

Where is Obama?

Where is Obama?

Apparently size matters!!

Apparently size matters!!

Dresden Architecture

Dresden Architecture

Interesting sights everywhere

Interesting sights everywhere

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Dresden had been fairly well razed to the ground during WW2 before being completely rebuilt and it’s interesting to note that many of the buildings were rebuilt using the original materials where possible. With the discolouration and damage to the old sections standing right alongside the replacement pieces it’s quite breathtaking realising the amount of work that has gone into recreating this city.

IMG_0163Of course, its also another somber insight into mans failings. The futility in destroying such beautiful creations only to rebuild them then let time pass by and forget why it happened at all. Once enough time passes and we forget completely we proceed in doing it all again….

Slovakia next for a rendezvous at Terry’s house where the previous year we’d spent a few days. The drive was surprisingly picturesque as we followed the course of the River Elbe across the Czech Republic and passed long stretches of exposed cliffs jutting skyward through the intense green of the forest. Detouring here and there away from the river whilst looking for a campsite you quickly realise that the river is the lifeblood of the area.

Travelling the river Elbe

Travelling the river Elbe

The moment you find yourself a few km’s from the rivers course, you’re met with small villages that really seem to be doing it tough.  Obviously constructed during the Socialist years, we’ve seen identical examples of these buildings all across Eastern Europe and right across Russia. Whenever you choose the road less travelled you’ll be in the company of such structures throughout Eastern Europe and Russia. Broken windows and failing structures that don’t appear to have seen any form of maintenance since the day they were erected, often appearing as if they are long past being condemned and yet for the most part they are still occupied. Potholed and damaged roads are the norm; pretty much completely dilapidated infrastructure.

Dilapidated but still lived in...

Dilapidated but still lived in…

Dilapidated but still worked in…

But the church is always magnificent!

But the church is always magnificent!

Arriving back in Slovakia it was to be a short but very relaxing 2 night stay at Terry’s as the ever mounting Schengen Visa pressure meant that I really needed to exit the zone fairly soon.

Clean linen and clothing on board (it’s the little things that get us excited), we headed toward Hungary.  Crossing over the Danube at Esztergom it was easy to see why the Danube cruise boats stop at this town. With its interesting old city and stunning Basilica overlooking the goings on below from its rocky perch, it was a nice introduction to this country.

Basilica in Esztergom

Basilica in Esztergom

Old town EsztergomOld town Esztergom

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The drive from the border was not one of the most attractive to date with long stretches of pale dusty landscape, the odd swathe of scrubby trees and large acreage under farm management.  It was rather easy to while away the km’s in the air-conditioned comfort listening to the stereo!

Arriving at Camping Haller in central Budapest, we hoped to find a space as I’d had enough of the city traffic. Fortunately they were able to fit us in; obviously we weren’t the only ones that they were just able to fit in as it was absolutely packed.

Camping Haller

Camping Haller

With close access to the city and very hot weather, we decided to spend the cool of the early evening taking in the sights. Very picturesque and easy pedestrian exploration made for an enjoyable visit.  The relaxed locals and lovely green open spaces give the whole place a relaxed and friendly feel.

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Hungarian Parliament Building by day

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Time passed easily as we enjoyed the city’s change in character as the sun slid below the horizon and it morphed from daytime to night and everything seemed to come alive.

Hungarian Parliament Buildings

Hungarian Parliament Buildings by night

Whilst at the campground, we met a couple that had shipped their Toyota Prado from South Africa. They’d been exploring Southern Europe and were now heading toward Nord Capp before turning around and making the long run south via the West Africa route back to their home near Durban. It was nice chatting to some like-minded travellers, as it had been quite a while since we’d met anyone on a similar journey as ourselves. Their website is cape2nordkapp.blogspot.com if you feel like checking out what they are up to. It’s in Dutch though, just to make it a challenge for us English speakers!!

IMG_0347 IMG_0345A late morning departure and with more hot weather soaking a flat and uninteresting landscape, it once again made it easy to get up a few km’s.  By 4pm we had driven into Oradea and out of the Schengen Zone and negotiated our first border crossing for a long time to find ourselves in Romania.

Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey coming soon.

Justin and Jen.

 

 

 

 

 

Hollands Best Bloemstylist!

Arrival back in Europe

Arrival back in Europe

The overnight ferry slipped in past Hoek van Holland and we were back on European soil! How time flies!  It only seemed like yesterday that we’d departed. Heading north we observed amazing house after amazing house north of Den Haag, no shortage of money in that area. We had settled on Edam as our destination and spent a couple of nights in the area. If cheese is your thing, this part of Holland is the grail. Not to mention a gorgeous town to stroll about!

Cheese Shops

Cheese Shops

Canals

Canals

Clogs

Clogs

The historic fishing village of Volendam is only a few Kms away but 200 tour buses in the car park along with quantities of tourists following little coloured umbrellas around in numbers equaling that of a full blown colony of fire ants, took the edge off the charm a little.  Further along, Marken Island is advertised as where you can observe clogs being made in the traditional method! Hmmm, a fully automated modern CNC wood lathe wasn’t quite what I had in mind! Both places interesting but Edam took the prize! IMG_8610 2 Nonetheless, we enjoyed our visit, although I’d have to say much of it was spent people watching, rather than soaking up the locations! Amsterdam.  Well, if you’ve been then you know what it’s all about. A fascinating mix of old buildings slowly and steadily sinking into the soil, angled windows and twisted facades, it really is a one of a kind. A city criss-crossed with Canals  and of course the coffee shops!

Iconic Amsterdam

Iconic Amsterdam

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So many Bicycles!!!

So many Bicycles!!!Clog BikeClog Bike

Smoke bellowing out of any small crack or window in plumes reminiscent of ground zero during the eruption of Mt Vesuvius. Seriously there were a couple of moments when I thought I was in a Cheech and Chong movie – people walking around with their chosen variety of plant rolled into something reminiscent of a cone of kitchen towel!  They were all smiling and the odd one looked rather dazed so maybe they have the right idea, hmmm? IMG_8661 2 IMG_8669 2 IMG_8691 2

What happens when you lose a bet!!

What happens when you lose a bet!!

As the clock ticked into the late afternoon the windows were filled with the ladies of the night, beckoning you forward should you make eye contact with the lure of their scantily clad bodies and no doubt skillful emptying of your wallet! Wandering around this metropolis really is something I suggest you submit yourself too at some stage if you’ve not already.

Ahhh - Tulips!

Ahhh – Tulips!

I can’t think of another country that is so law abiding, clean to the point of being fastidiously so, with lovely little towns filled with neat well kept homes and gardens! And yet has an alter ego that is so polar opposite! That is how Amsterdam feels compared to what we’ve seen of the remainder of the Netherlands! I guess any people with a native tongue that calls a shopping trolley a winklewagen and has a TV show called “Holland’s Best Bloemstylist” sporting very well groomed men competing in the art of flower arranging has to have a sense of humor and a flair for the unusual, that’s the Dutch. Another visit with Jen’s family in Veghel and we managed a full repack of the Patrol and camper. We also picked up our new Froli bed system from Eric at Adventure Trucks and installed it. Basically turns a foam mattress into an innerspring version without the weight – love the Germans for design! And yes it’s sensational – they will be in every camper we either build or own from now on!

Installing the Froli bed system

Installing the Froli bed system

Now that we are back in Europe and I’m eating into my 3 month Schengen visa again, we were keen to hit the road for Norway.  After a lovely few days with Jen’s family, we spent our last night with Eric and Mieke from the above mentioned Adventure Trucks as they’d kindly invited us to dinner.  We were keen to spend some time with them and peruse maps of Norway and other destinations as they’ve travelled extensively and are very much like minded!

Back at Adventure Trucks!

Back at Adventure Trucks!

They shipped an 80 series Land Cruiser from the Netherlands to Oz in 2004 for the big lap over 7 months and having looked at their route and photo’s, there is no doubt they’ve seen more of Oz than a lot of locals! They are also heading toward the land of the Viking in June and we hope to catch up with them again somewhere.  We had a great night and a 3am finish will tip you off to how our evening went! Recycling bins need to be larger in the Netherlands! Hahaha! With a tip from Eric we headed northeast toward Germany and made for a campsite where you could apparently have a campfire and it turned out to be just what the doctor ordered! Camped in a small pocket of forest and indeed with a campfire, we were able to relax back into life on the road.

Forest camp with campfire!!!

Forest camp with campfire!!!

Look closely.....

Look closely…..

Surprise!!

Surprise!!

Into Germany and a night was spent in Bremen.  We were surprised by just how lovely this town is. A majestic central square with magnificent old buildings supporting an old town on the surrounds full of small lanes with cobbled streets. It’s always nice when you’re not expecting to be surprised.

Beautiful Bremen

Beautiful Bremen

Full of surprises!!

Full of surprises!!

Nair does work!!

Nair does work!!Old Town BremenOld Town Bremen

IMG_8777We decided to avoid Hamburg and head north to Bremerhaven, I’d heard the old harbour was worth a visit and we were fairly sure there was a German U boat there. The harbour was definitely worth the visit, sporting many examples of old time sailing vessels along with numerous other maritime marvels. But for me the real attraction was indeed the only surviving U boat of it’s type, a complete vessel unlike one in the UK that has been cut and made into a form of theme park! For us it was an interesting visit, obviously a symbol of tyranny and dark times but also of technological advancement.

Bremerhaven

Bremerhaven

German U Boat

German U Boat

IMG_8797IMG_8801 Onward Ho, another ferry across to Gluckstadt and we made a fairly straight run through Denmark to Hirtshals in order to catch the ferry to Kristiansand, Norway and what we hope will be the jewel in the crown of the Scandanavian countries.

Another Ferry!

Another Ferry!

Not often you see a tank speed limit....

Not often you see a tank speed limit….

Pretty Danish Town

Pretty Danish Town

Lovely Cobbled Streets

Lovely Cobbled Streets

 

Men at Sea Memorial

Men at Sea Memorial – Esbjerg, Denmark

More friendly Dutchies...

More friendly Dutchies…

Tales from the fjords to follow!

White Cliffs of Dover..

I’ve enjoyed being the epitome of the lazy tourist for a few weeks, the consequence being that I’m behind with our blog!

Now I know a lot of you out there are keen on reading about the more difficult to visit destinations such as the “Stans”- after all Europe isn’t quite as confronting and it’s mostly black top and RV parks, but some of the scenery really is jaw dropping!

I’ll try and keep you smiling until we manage to get ourselves back into some of the less travelled regions of Earth. We are enjoying our sabbatical, but the desire for more remote destinations is building and it will need to be quenched at some stage…

Stunning Bavarian Vista

Stunning Bavarian Vista

West through stunning Bavarian scenery sporting a skyline of continuous mountain peaks made for an easy transit toward Garmisch. Approaching the outskirts of this village you’re met by the spectacle of a ski ramp rising skyward from an Olympic stadium of the 1930’s. The ramp is of modern standard after numerous reconstructions over the decades but really is quite imposing.

Olympic Ski Ramp

Olympic Ski Ramp

Tourist information in English, in these less “foreign” touristed areas, has proved as difficult to obtain as genuine photos of the Yeti! We knew that Partnach Gorge was a highlight of any visit to this town but do you think there were any signs or information to point us in the right direction??? Finally after a considerable amount of time had passed and numerous discussions in the cab had been had! a stop at a local sports store yielded a result and we discovered that the entrance was via the Olympic Stadium.  Anyway that’s another story.

An amazingly beautiful, fast flowing river has obviously been toiling away over a millennia to create this stunning spectacle. A passage along one of the sheer cliffs containing the river was originally carved out by hunters for the purpose of obtaining access to the valley beyond before later providing loggers an easy yet treacherous mode of delivering freshly felled timber from distant forests.

Partnach Gorge

Partnach Gorge

Partnach Gorge

Partnach Gorge

Partnach Gorge

Partnach Gorge

Open to tourists since the early 1900’s it’s a marvelous addition to an already spoilt for natural beauty region of Germany.

Onward to Füssen and the location of Neuschwanstein Castle.  Looking like something straight from a fairy tale, this is a fairly young castle by European Standards, constructed in the 1800’s. It’s design and creation by King Ludwig III reveal stories of treachery and monarchy gone mad. Who’d have thought!!

As with many must see natural and man-made marvels the world over, you will certainly not be alone whilst enjoying the view! Even at the time of our visit in off season, we had to visit 2 RV parks before we could find a site, the park we ended up in had just shy of 800 bays….

Our first night in the park saw me rather irritated as the space next to us was filled quite late in the evening by a couple with a small child travelling in a VW van.  The child hardly made a noise whilst it’s most ignorant parents quickly reminded me why I vary rarely camp in built up areas at home in Aus! The sliding door on the side of the van was definitely in need of servicing by morning as it had been opened and slammed every ten minutes for the previous 8 hours with no regard for those neighbouring their site. Watching them depart in the morning was almost spiritual for me, but was replaced by dread at the thought of what may park next to us the following evening.  So we moved the Patrol to a location without a spare space alongside! It was a good plan but unfortunately our new neighbours soon packed up and departed leaving us again vulnerable.

(maybe it’s me, the beer drinking Aussie!)

Now a little savvier to the German way, we obtained our campsite guest cards, which provided us with free public transport to Neuschwanstein Castle. You can only enter the castle itself by joining a tour, however it was well organised and worth the entry fee. I will let the photo’s speak for themselves..

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

Castle visit over and feeling a little forlorn about what may await us back at the campground, we headed for our little house and found our adjoining space filled by Uwe and Roswitha, another lovely German couple travelling in their RV for a couple of weeks relaxation. I was greatly relieved and shortly found myself enjoying a cold beer with Uwe as the clouds once again crowded out the sun and the rain started.

Uwe and Roswitha

Uwe and Roswitha

An invitation to dinner was quickly forthcoming and so it was that the 4 of us enjoyed a lovely meal in a restaurant located in the campground. Campground restaurant I hear you snort, well there were 2 restaurants and a Pizzeria along with a beer garden and supermarket and all was well above the standard you’d expect in your local area back in Aus!

Numerous tasty dishes were ordered along with a consistent stream of fantastic beer, each one generally followed by a shooter of Schnapps! The Germans certainly have a few habits that I’d readily take on board. The evening came to a close and it became apparent that the bill had been taken care of! How’s that for generosity.

A little under the weather we retired for the evening before saying goodbye the following morning to our latest friends whom we’ve added to our now very long list.

It’s become complicated to plan a route through Europe as we are finding that we change our minds all of the time as there are so many sites warranting a visit. Choosing a direction and destination in a location as varied as Europe is quite difficult. “Tough life” I hear you say!! Whilst Jen has previously visited Berlin, I haven’t and I’m rather keen to explore the capital of Germany. But with travelling through such majestic scenery as that of Bavaria we now found ourselves a stones throw from The Rhine and Mosel rivers! Decision taken and Berlin will wait a little longer as it’s just too nice where we are to dash northeast, well for now anyway!

Misty Bush Camp

Misty Bush Camp

Continuing northwest and staying off the motorway for most of the drive toward Heidelberg, we even managed a bush camp up a muddy track on the side of a hill! Rain has been sporadic with nice stretches of blue sky, and lovely misty mornings but it’s obvious that Autumn is showing it’s face. With beautiful burnt colours appearing amongst the leaves as the sun slowly shifts southward, we can almost see winter approaching!

On the autobahn for a spell and you really have to be careful when you overtake (which admittedly is not very often for us!!!) as cars in the fast lane appear as a speck in the rear view mirror and the next second they pass in a blur so pulling out really has to be taken seriously.

IMG_5257

The town of Sinsheim came into view, home to an amazing museum brimming with exhibits. From an actual Air France Concorde and it’s Russian counterpart through to amazing mechanised displays, vintage cars, fashion, trains and F1 racing there were displays to meet every taste and age.  Hours were expunged as we wandered around the massive complex until you just reach overload and enough is enough.

Concorde!

Concorde!

Sinsheim Display

Sinsheim Display

Sinsheim Technical Museum

Sinsheim Technical Museum

Amazing Displays

Amazing Displays

Scooters!!!

Scooters!!!

Sinsheim Display

Sinsheim Display

 

Proof we were there!

Proof we were there!

Heidelberg is another majestic little enclave, with it’s own partly ruined castle as the centerpiece, the Neckar River on one side and large hills the other make it an obvious location for a townsite.

Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg Castle

Onward toward the Rhine River and camp was had in a campground adjacent to the town of Bacharach. We were given a spot right on the banks of the Rhine under the shade of a fully laden walnut tree and watched the passing parade of Rhine boats and APT river cruises! I’ll not bore you with hours of descriptions of old towns with cobbled streets, ancient forts surrounded by motes and high buttress walls of stunning beauty, because just about every village encountered has the same stunning appeal.

View From Our Campsite

View From Our Campsite

Random Castle

Random Castle

Visiting Swans

Visiting Swans

Townsite opposite

Townsite opposite

Another view from our campsite

Another view from our campsite

Our slightly eccentric neighbour Andy swimming in the Rhine

Our slightly eccentric neighbour Andy swimming in the Rhine

Andy's Camper!

Andy’s Camper!

 

Another neighbour with genuine Clogs!

Another neighbour with genuine Clogs!

Watching the cruise boats slip along the river then dock at the various towns whilst their guests disembark for a spell of shopping, you quickly work out that avoiding those periods or spending more time in the villages where these floating hotels don’t visit will be a lot easier on your wallet!

There is always a campsite adjacent to the villages and specifically for those fitting the description of a motorhome you’re able to use sites known in Germany as stellplatz.  These are designed more for short-term stops and don’t make provision for spreading out and settling in as a campsite/RV park does.

Generally not much in the way of bathroom facilities but a whole lot cheaper and usually located within walking distance of the village center, hence we generally head for one of these.

Continuing along the Rhine to the junction of the Mosel River and a quick visit to the town of Koblenz, a graceful central area loaded with sculptures and ornate architecture. Koblenz is one of only a few German towns that wasn’t bombed by the allied forces during WWII. Apparently Churchill felt it was such a beautiful city that it wasn’t to feel the brunt of bombardment.

The local RV park here is situated in a great part of the city and they obviously know it as they were charging as if they were a Hotel and not a campsite, enough old forts for now so we made for the Mosel River and kept our Euro’s.

Our cat Rajah enjoying a wine also

Our cat Rajah enjoying a wine also

The Mosel proved to be equally if not more stunning than the Rhine, a smaller river once again loaded with ruined forts, castles and buildings reinforces just how long this area has been inhabited. We found a few locations along here where we could have bush camped quite easily but as we want to spend time wandering the old villages we stuck to camping in the stellplatz sites instead.

Who's the odd one out?

Who’s the odd one out?

So many RV's!!!!

So many RV’s!!!!

Camping Companions - Laurent and Els

Camping Companions – Laurent and Els

Graham and Sue

Graham and Sue

Graham and Sue's RV

Graham and Sue’s RV

Our last stop along the Mosel was the city of Trier, one of the oldest cities in Germany. Peppered throughout the town are various types of Roman ruins, from baths to castle walls, again an area so rich in diverse history it’s just fantastic.

Trier

Trier

Bernkastel

Bernkastel

Dog parking

Dog parking

Typical Stellplatz

Typical Stellplatz

David and Rosie

David and Rosie

Suddenly it’s early October and we are parking in the driveway of Jen’s relatives in Veghel, Holland.  I can’t quite believe we’ve been on the road for 6 months and have about 30,000km behind us! A lovely reunion awaited us, as we were last were here in 2005 – it seemed like yesterday!

The Family!

The Family!

Jan and Rosemary spent the next 10 days making sure that we were not to want for anything, and a relaxing spell from the rigours of touring (it’s tough!) was enjoyed!

s'Hertogenbosch

s’Hertogenbosch

IMG_5286 IMG_5289 IMG_5308

Whilst here we met up with Eric from Adventure Trucks, (www.adventuretrucks.com) who manufactures 4×4 truck based expedition campers of fantastic quality! You never quite know how a visit to a company overseas will go, as a few emails were the only background to go on and it was really a snap decision to visit. The result was that we managed to put Eric back a day on his schedule as we drank coffee and swapped travel stories like old friends. Along with his wife they had shipped an 80 series Landcruiser to Australia and spent 7 months doing the lap a few years ago.

Erik from Adventure Trucks

Erik from Adventure Trucks

Safe to say that the overland community is an eclectic mix of travellers, sharing a definite passion for something different.

It’s probably a good time to mention our onward journey and our change in plans!  Our original rough concept was to travel across to the UK before returning to Europe and then down to Morocco prior to heading around the Mediterranean to Turkey and south through Africa. It was never fixed in stone and was always likely to suffer review.

I’d hoped to obtain an extended visa for the EU in Holland and avoid the ridiculous rule of only being able to stay in any of the combined schenghen zone countries for 3 months in any 6, but it was not to be, so a change of plan is in order!

Anyway I won’t bother going into the visa nitty gritty. There is a lot of talk around on how you can avoid the 3 month rule via different entry and exit points and all sorts of other suggestions.  I know many people have managed to stay longer without any problems. But if you’re caught it doesn’t bode well for any future visits to the EU and can have other consequences so abide by the rules I shall!

There is discussion of the restrictions being lifted in the next couple of years but of course the wheels of progress turn ever so slowly…

So instead of Portugal for Christmas, we will cross the Channel by the middle of November and hopefully spend 6 months (the maximum time allowed for an Aussie of my vintage) in the UK during which time we hope to explore England’s corners, including heading north to Aberdeen and visiting John and family! Yep that’s right John we are coming your way!!

From there, the plan is to re-enter Europe with a fresh 3 months and make for Norway. When we work out the next bit I will let you know!

The more we see of Europe the more we want to see and although the camping is regulated and getting off the road is difficult we hope to see as much as we can before our journey ends!

Whether it will include North Africa is up for debate at the moment! We have some irons in the fire though and should our budget hold out, we intend to hold out along with it!

Departing Hotel Jan and Rose-Marie, we made for Bergen Op Zoom and another long spell without smelling the ocean was broken, continuing south saw us depart the Netherlands and we made for Bruges in Belgium. Met with a night of constant rain in the campground we were fortunate to have perfect conditions the following day as we wandered around the eye-catching old town site.

Saying Goodbye is never easy!

Saying Goodbye is never easy!

Street View Veghel

Street View Veghel

On almost every corner you’ll find a chocolate confectionary shop producing famous Belgium chocolates in forms that can only be described as pure art!

Chocolate Tools!

Chocolate Tools!

A couple of days later and we headed for the coast of Belgium – very different to what I’d expected. The old villages inland gave way to a section of coast that is obviously a summer resort; Blankenberge is Belgium’s “Gold Coast” but on a much smaller scale. Wall to wall apartments blocks are just behind the sand dunes with a beachfront promenade of café’s and shops making up the tourist strip.

Blankenberge

Blankenberge

Belgium Pier

Belgium Pier

Inland and southeast to Ypres, we wanted to revisit some of the sites of the battles of WWI. In 2005 we had spent a day on a tour of Flanders Fields and surrounds but now with our own transport we were able to spend a little more time at the sites of particular interest to us as Australians. Our visit to the area coincides with ongoing commemorations for the 100-year anniversaries of the Great War (1914 – 1918). Memorable to visit during this time, but also difficult as many sites are loaded with tourists, this fact along with many specific events planned at locations such as Tyne-Cot Cemetery made visiting quite a challenge.

Tyn-Cot is the final resting place for many Australian Diggers and really makes for a sobering visit. Belgium is peppered with War Cemeteries and memorial sites, throughout villages and towns, they are just everywhere.

Tyne Cot Cemetery

Tyne Cot Cemetery

Tyne Cot Cemetery

Tyne Cot Cemetery

IMG_5385 IMG_5390 IMG_5389 IMG_5396 IMG_5401

Since 1928 in Ypres, the Last Post is played every evening at 8pm come rain, hail or shine at the Menin Gate. It is an enormous sign of respect by the City of Ypres to all the servicemen whose names appear on the walls of the gate and who gave their lives to ensure the freedom of Belgium. We found it very moving.

Menin Gate

Menin Gate

Last Post

Last Post

Menin Gate

Menin Gate

Ypres has one RV Park and we managed to jag the last bay for our first night but found ourselves parked along the street with a multitude of different motorhomes the following night as the RV Park was booked out.  Talking to the staff at the RV Park, they said it’s only been since April this year with all the 100yr commemorations that they are fully booked most nights – a situation unheard of at this time of the year normally.  It would seem that with no official alternatives, local Police are turning a blind eye to overnight street camping.

Street Camping

Street Camping

A few days later and we skirted Dunkerque and hit the French coast just south of Calais; Crystal clear conditions provided us with majestic views of the white cliffs of Dover. It was so clear the English cliffs appeared almost luminous as they were bathed in sunshine and capped with blue sky.

The UK In Sight

The UK In Sight

White Cliffs Of Dover

White Cliffs Of Dover

 

It was truly sensational seeing England appear across the channel, shortly we will be over there for a very cold Christmas!!

Au revoire!!   Justin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABC Another Beautiful City!!

NB.  This is a fairly long one so get a coffee!!!

The word had been that Krakow was well worth the stopover and disappointed we were not!

After setting up in the RV Park early in the afternoon we found ourselves indulging in a favorite combination, Blue Costello Cheese and a glass (or 2) of red! A fantastic smell wafted past, my tongue fell out of my mouth reminiscent of a thirsty dog slobbering after a run on the beach!

I mentioned to Jen that if we could locate the RV emitting the alluring fragrance we might be able to sneak in and obtain a taste! Shortly after this we were approached by Daniel, one of 2 operators of a whirlwind 2-week history tour from Sweden with a group of school students and teachers.  They were travelling in a large pink bus.

The Pink Bus

The Pink Bus

A little while later and we realised it was Daniel’s cooking emitting the aroma that we were finding so pleasant so we wandered over with the intention of finding out what smelled so good and were greeted by a huge Paella dish loaded with a concoction of ingredients.

Swedish Paella!

Swedish Paella!

After obtaining an idea of what was in the dish we began wandering back to our camp, from behind came Daniels’ voice! Bring your plates we’ve got plenty to go around!!

An invitation that didn’t need to be repeated, we had dinner in the company of the students and teachers with Jen spending much of her time answering questions about our travels. And yes – it tasted as delightful as it’s aroma!

Students on the Pink Bus

Students on the Pink Bus

The blue sky again morphed into grey depressive drizzle during the night and our freshly washed clothes now found themselves hanging under the awning.

Blackness slowly lifting as morning approached, we lay snuggled beneath the doona with the Webasto heater idling in the background whilst listening to the constant pitter-patter of drizzle on the roof! Looking out the window at the saturated tent in the next campsite we were suitably happy with our decision to build our camper for this journey. After some 3 weeks of consistent and at times torrential rain I’m positive we would not have found ourselves in such an upbeat mood if our accommodations and gear were all soaking wet.

So a day of grey skies and rain in Krakow was in store for us. We didn’t have to force ourselves to do nothing; the weather did it for us!

Now that we’ve been on the road for a while we are finding that we need to have the odd day that pretty well consists of doing absolutely nothing, just relaxing and recharging, so a grey day provides an excuse to be still!

After doing nothing for most of the day other than warming a camp chair and enjoying free Wi-Fi, we found ourselves suitably relaxed and ready for our next history laden tour of an historic city! Our tenting neighbors arrived back from their day’s expedition of Krakow and were more than happy enlightening us with regards what to visit and the like! They were heading home to Normandy over the next couple of days and with details swapped we hope to see them there!

Our French neighbour Angelique

Our French neighbour Angelique

Krakow has a stunning central square surrounded by facades of ornate design with spires reaching hundreds of feet skyward! As well as the obligatory castle of course.

Castle

Castle Spires

Castle

Krakow

Krakow

Krakow Main Square

Krakow

Krakow

Cafe where we had coffee

Cafe where we had coffee

Streetscape Krakow

Streetscape Krakow

Krakow

Krakow

We even caught a glimpse of another celebrity – Colonel Sanders on tour!!

Colonel Sanders!!!!

Colonel Sanders!!!!

Heading off again we made for the town of Zacopane, nestled in the mountains along the Slovak border. On the advice of our friend Terry, whose house it was we were heading for in Slovakia, Zacopane proved to be a lovely detour. Most of Poland is very flat, but quickly gives rise to majestic mountain vista’s as you make headway toward the southern border with Slovakia. Nestled amongst these picturesque peaks Zacopane provides the visitor with the quintessential Alpine ski resort vista!

Orava Castle enroute to Terry's

Orava Castle enroute to Terry’s

We had dinner plans with Terry and his daughter Bridget at 7pm and as we were a little late departing Krakow, ended up cutting it a little fine, arriving at Terry’s at 6:40pm! The house is nestled in the town of Hrabicov in the north of Slovakia in a delightful valley.

A fabulous meal was enjoyed as we caught up with Terry and Bridget. Returning to Terry’s, we enjoyed some cheese and wine before retiring for the evening!

Terry's Kitchen

Terry’s Kitchen

Terry's House

Terry’s House

Terry's House

Terry’s House

After a morning of relaxation we were all heading for Vienna airport, tasked with ensuring that Bridget made her flight to London and the beginning of a stint working in the old country!

Now Terry is a little bit of a wine buff.  Well maybe more than a little bit as he has a vineyard in the south west of Western Australia. So when he suggested a slight detour enroute to the airport for a little wine tasting, we didn’t really have any objections! So it was just inside the Austrian border that we found ourselves indulging in some lovely wines whilst enjoying the warmth of a sunny afternoon.

Austrian Wine Tasting

Austrian Wine Tasting

Austrian Wine Cellars

Austrian Wine Cellars

Austrian Wine Cellars

Austrian Wine Cellars

Post Bridget’s exodus, we stopped in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava for a wander around the old city and a bite to eat, another amazing old town with cobblestone streets and buildings that ooze history and charisma.

Again - Bratislava by Night

Bratislava by Night

Man at work!

Man at work!

Bratislava by Night

Again – Bratislava by Night

Speedway is a national pastime in this country and as such we were soon invited to the local racetrack for a few drinks whilst watching a live race meet occurring in Poland on the big screen, late into the evening we were introduced to the local  Russian Style 9 pin bowling alley with marionette style pins, balls with no finger holes and all around 40 years old!!

9 Pin Bowling!

9 Pin Bowling!

Marionette Style!

Marionette Style!

All suffering slightly diminished motor skills at this point (must be the water), it was Jen that nailed the only strike of the evening and she made sure we were all aware of the fact!!

Sunday saw us back at the track for a local meet where we had a sensational day mixing with the Slovakian people and watching them cheer and scream as their local rider and third best in Poland came through with the win!

Slovakian Speedway

Slovakian Speedway

Slovakian Speedway

Slovakian Speedway

With lovely restaurants and day trips to medieval ruined castles we were quickly and easily becoming settled.

Post Speedway!

Post Speedway! Terry, Branislav and Jen

Restaurant beneath Hrad Reviste

Restaurant beneath Hrad Reviste

Hrad Reviste

Hrad Reviste

Hrad Reviste

Hrad Reviste

Hrad Reviste

Hrad Reviste

 

Farewell to our new Slovakian Friends

Farewell to our new Slovakian Friends

After nearly a week of thorough relaxation we departed Slovakia and made for the Czech Republic, enroute to the town of Valtice. The Moravian Region of the Czech Republic is renowned for it’s quality wines so a stop was without doubt going to deserve a waypoint in the sat-nav. I think it’s the fastest I’ve ever seen Jen enter a waypoint come to think of it!

We are still having good success in locating bush camps and this night’s was exactly what we needed – deep ruts full of rain sodden black mud that lasted only about 50m and then onto an old disused road and a lovely camp.  Back in Krakow we’d been amazed when after one nights rain we were treated to the spectacle of watching not one but three moderately sized motorhomes unable to move off the lawn on which they were parked due to the lack traction combined with excessive throttle depression! I was surprised to see most drivers just sitting in the cab, holding the accelerator down with no real idea what the problem was!  50m of muddy ruts is never going to be on their agenda so once you are off the main road you are on your own!

Bush Camp

Bush Camp

Hopefully our luck holds and we can manage to mix paid with unpaid camps and keep the budget healthy!

Many of the campsites we’ve used of late have been in locations near Hunters Hide’s. Some even sporting drums of oats that the Hunters will sprinkle within view of the Hide over the days prior to using the site. After we realized just how frequent these towers are we have taken to having a really good look around our chosen camps to assess whether any are nearby and if they are, do they show signs of recent use. We don’t really have a desire to hear rifle fire whilst camped again!

Hunters Hide

Hunters Hide

We arrived in Valtice and headed straight into the main town square and our first tasting venue at the Podzemi (Valtice Underground) a series of underground cellars that played host to our first evening and make for an interesting wander through the labyrinth of tunnels.

Valtice Podzemi

Valtice Podzemi

The following day was devoted to “Salon Vin” – another underground cellar beneath the old castle containing what have been voted the top 100 Czech wines for the year available for tasting. As Salon Vin had been a recommendation from Terry we had a short list for tasting, and taste we did! Everything around and including those recommendations saw us suitably impressed with the afternoon’s indulgence!

Salon Vin

Salon Vin

Salon Vin Selection

Salon Vin Selection

September in this part of the world see’s a local favorite beverage on the menu, known as Burčak, possibly one of the most dangerous beverages in the Czech Republic…. It’s partially fermented wine from fresh grape juice, surprisingly easy to drink and can really pack a punch! Apparently the alcohol content continues to rise after consumption and from my experience that is probably true…..

Burcak

Burcak

A Burčak festival was in full swing as we departed our tasting session and the rest of our day was consumed listing to live music and enjoying the local favourite.

Too many restaurants and the waistline was suffering, so back into the scrub for a few days! Staying to the back roads we found our way to Punka Caves and the Macocha Abyss where we were treated to views of the entrance to a massive cave system.  Jen proved to be as arsy as ever by managing to obtain the last two tickets for the days cave walk and underground boat trip.  It’s all easy access with lots of tourists, but it was really well managed and well worth the visit whilst providing some well needed exercise.

Punka Caves

Punka Caves

Punka Caves

Punka Caves

Macocha Abyss

Macocha Abyss

Punka Caves Boat ride

Punka Caves Boat ride

Again majestic towns are one after the other, to the point where you just can’t stop in all of them so after a few days we arrived in Prague.  We couldn’t find the entrance to the RV park we were looking for due to some major roadwork and ended up stopping at a kayaking club that also had parking available. No sooner had we parked than the heavens opened and torrential is the description. We settled in for the night and as the only camper’s on site, it was certainly quiet!

The famed romantic city of Prague occupied all of the following day, a stunning central square surrounded by a mixture of architectural wonders and buildings of old! It really is a stunning centerpiece for the Czech Republic but it would seem that a few other people had also heard of it’s allure for shoulder to shoulder tourists is not an unfair description of our time spent there.

Street View

Street View

Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge

Prague Vista

Prague Vista

Charles Bridge Traffic

Charles Bridge Traffic

Not a Place for Motorhomes!

Not a Place for Motorhomes!

A new take on being towed!

A new take on being towed!

Church of Our Lady before Tyn

Church of Our Lady before Tyn

Astronomical Clock Prague

Astronomical Clock Prague

Church of Our Lady before Tyn

Church of Our Lady before Tyn

Prague Castle by Night

Prague Castle by Night

Church By Night

Church By Night

One evening a large RV entered the camp ground, we knew they were probably looking for the campsite we’d originally been targeting and so as they stopped I decided to wander over and help them with some directions, the door opens and I spluttered out – English? To be met with an unadulterated Aussie reply of yep! And where are you from?

A German registered Motorhome with a family of 6 Aussies on board were now the only other residents of the camp! We certainly couldn’t believe it and the camp owner was more than bemused to have 2 loads of Aussies on his turf!

Aussies Abroad!

Aussies Abroad!

Jeff, his wife Jutta, sister in law Leanne, Megan, Matthew and Aaron were well into the type of holiday many dream of! Hiring a motorhome in Hamburg they’d been north to Norway before heading south through Berlin and Dresden to find themselves parked next to us! Their onward plans including Austria and Slovakia along with many other stunning localities that are so easily reached once you’re in this part of the World, It was lovely meeting them and we wish them well for their continuing travels.

Four nights had left our thirst for Prague sufficiently quenched and it was time to depart. In the meantime we’d been liaising via email with another intrepid Aussie couple who had just driven from Malaysia through China, the Stans and Iran then onward to Turkey and the list goes on! We were going to catch up in the city of Cesky Krumlov in the south of the Czech Republic. I’d first heard of their plans when we made contact via “The Hubb” chat forum whilst we were all in the planning stage! Only to find they reside a stones throw from our home in Fremantle. 6 degrees of separation!!

Sticking to the back roads we headed south through stunning scenery, with roads meandering along deep dark rivers interspersed with eye catching towns and all the while hemmed in by majestic tall dark forests!  Really sensational.

We managed one of our nicest overnight stops so far, dark forest with undulating hills provided an almost fairytale like feel to the terrain. Littered with mushrooms of all sorts, shapes, colours and sizes, many exceeding 200mm in height it was an extra ordinary camp.

Don't eat this one!!

Don’t eat this one!!

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Mushroom Camp

Mushroom Camp

Jen now with her new iPhone App on mushroom identification spent hours out amongst the undergrowth attempting to discern the tasty from the deadly. Mushroom picking here is a huge and well patronaged pastime. Everywhere there are cars parked with locals wandering along carrying wicker baskets brimming with tasty fungi. Jen has been quite adept at identifying many of the fungi to date however we’ve steered shy of actually ingesting any so far, not quite that brave just yet!

Cesky Krumlov came into view through the blur of sweeping windscreen wipers and we camped in a tour bus drop off area that has a section set aside for motor homes, no facilities but really cheap and 200m from the center of the old city!

Cesky Krumlov

Cesky Krumlov

Cesky Krumlov

Cesky Krumlov

Cesky Krumlov

Cesky Krumlov

Into the city square we ventured and sent an email into the ether alerting Catherine and Simon of our arrival. A little while later and we were all swapping stories and destroying plates of local cuisine whilst ensuring the restaurant would need to reorder beer the following day! Meeting for coffee the following morning we again spent some time wandering the cobbled streets and seeing the sights before we eventually went our separate ways having had another lovely time with Aussies in a far away land.  On the road now 8 months these guys will be back in Perth with their trusty Prado for Christmas Day turkey!

Catherine and Simon

Catherine and Simon

West and into Germany and our first night of free camping in Germany proved a little hard to find. They obviously have a large sign making industry and plenty of those signs say no entry and find their way onto the entrance of every track! Not deterred however, we were finally successful.

Meandering at the now slow pace we are enjoying saw us pull into an RV park late in the afternoon in Kesselberg.  Fortune it would seem was again smiling upon us for we were shown to a great campsite on the lakes edge. Wandering into the restaurant for a relaxing drink we found ourselves sitting next to our neighbours in the campground! Manfred and Ute (pronounced Uta) quickly took us under their wing and we found ourselves receiving translations of the menu, which we sorely needed!

The following day they were taking a cable car journey from our current elevation of 800m to 1780m and had we not met these intrepid Germans we’d have had no show in organizing this day out as tourist info in English in these more out of the way villages hasn’t been all that easy to obtain so far. We were soon invited along and the following day was planned out!

Manfred had organised free bus tickets for us, provided to guests of the Park if you know how to go about it. We woke the next morning to heavy fog in the campsite but as the sun rose above the mountains, it soon receded and we were met with a beautiful warm sunny day perfect for our day’s plans. We climbed aboard the extremely modern public bus before enjoying the cable car ride that soon deposited us amongst magnificent views of the Bavarian Alps along the Austrian Border

Morning Fog

Morning Fog

Justin, Manfred and Ute

Justin, Manfred and Ute

Stunning Bavarian Vistas

Stunning Bavarian Vistas

Bavarian Vistas

Our Camp Below

On top of the World!!

On top of the World!!

Camp in the Sunshine

Camp in the Sunshine

Sunset on the Lake

Sunset on the Lake

We had a lovely lunch at the mountain restaurant before Manfred suggested we take the 2.5-hour walk down rather than the cable car.  Majestic views combined with blue sky made the descent more than memorable. (Although the calves and shins were complaining a little in the following days.)

Manfred and Ute's RV

Manfred and Ute’s RV

RV’s are really popular throughout Europe and Manfred and Ute’s was more like a 5 star hotel than a Motorhome, parquetry flooring to boot!!

Anyway they can fairly move along on the highway, some of them cruising at over 140km’s an hour!  The autobahn helps make their transit around Germany fast and smooth.

We don’t have the lavish space and comfort they offer and at times it would certainly be nice, but when we slip into 4×4 and navigate the dark sloppy soil’s of the forest tracks and find peace and seclusion only minutes off the main thoroughfare, we quickly embrace our vehicle selection! Not to mention the savings to date in not paying for camp grounds in Europe.

With some sadness, we departed from our new friends and headed towards more striking Bavarian scenery.  Garmisch and Fussen were on the itinerary!

Back soon with tales from beyond!!

Justin