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.
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.
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!
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.
It 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….)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Of 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
A 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.