Slovenia with a dash of Italian

26th September – 4th October

We had the chance of picking two countries today as our destination and we chose to pop into Italy for a quick visit before heading into Slovenia. We had a pleasant drive heading towards the Giulie Alps and our border crossing was non existent. We drove a short distance into Italy to the town of Tarvisio, 7km short of the Austrian border and 11km from Slovenia. The coldest, snowiest pocket in the whole Alpine region, Tarvisio is the main ski centre and the town is typical of ski resorts with lots of accomodation, restaurants and the odd cable car. We parked at one of the cable car stations and had a walk into town and a nice antipasto platter with an Italian red wine for lunch. From there we drove another 9kms to Lago Di Fusine, in the Parco Naturale Di Fusine where two lakes that lie close to the Slovenian border are popular with hikers in summer and cross-country skiers in winter. We plan on doing a hike tomorrow, maybe even venturing the 11kms up Rufigio Zacchi, one of the taller mountains in the park. That will be a decision for tomorrow.

Not a bad night spot!

Not a bad night spot!

We decided on a easy hike today so after breakfast we set off on the path which would take us into the forest area and circumnavigate both lakes. The area was like a magic forest with gnarly tree roots crisscrossing the path, ferns, moss and lichens on the trees and moss covered boulders scattered throughout. Some of the larger boulders made us feel like we were in the land of the giants. The first of the two lakes is the more beautiful of the two with bright green fern-type weeds growing in the turquoise coloured water. On one side of the lake we had views back across to the Giulie Alps, which were misty in the morning light. The second lake, Lago Superiore had no weeds growing and the colour was more green but still a lovely sight. Back to Tilly for lunch and a sit before heading out again later in the afternoon for more photos of the lakes in a different light. The walk was enjoyable but we didn’t take anymore photos as the light wasn’t as good as this mornings.

Lago Inferiore

Lago Inferiore

Lago Superiore

Lago Superiore

28th September – Happy Birthday Dave 🎂🎂🎂🎉🎉🎉🍺🍺🍺

After a pleasant two days in Italy we headed to Slovenia across another non existent border check with our first destination being Lake Bled. We arrived to find the free Stellplatz closed for roadworks and headed to option 2, the carpark of the bobsleds and a small ski lift. A very narrow road took us to a beautiful spot with lots of trees and glimpses of the lake through the trees. A quick change and we headed down towards town where we had views to the island and the hilltop castle across the emerald green Lake Bled with the Julian Alps as a backdrop. A little way around the lake, we stopped at a small restaurant to have lunch for Dave’s birthday. With very full tummys we then ventured up to the castle where unfortunately the road with the best views was also closed for repair. I think with it coming to the end of the tourist season, we may find this a regular thing. Along the way we called into St Martin’s church which was adorned with murals and the biggest chandelier in the centre aisle. A pleasant stroll along the lake and a quick trip to the tourist office, we then headed home to plan tomorrow’s hike.

We had a varied hike today, starting with a leisurely stroll along the foreshore of Lake Bled for 1/3 way around before we got to the two paths that headed up to Velika Osojnica for the best views of Lake Bled. One path zig zagged its way straight up the mountain and the other was a more gentle path, albeit a longer one. Of course we took the first path! It really was straight up through the trees and in some places the path didn’t exist due to what looked like land slips. Many fallen trees crossed the path as well but the views along the way and at the top were just stunning with the island church and the castle as the centrepieces. The lake colour was a lot deeper from higher up and we stood and admired the view while catching our breath. We opted for the gentler path coming down, although the first section was very steep. Once back at ground level, Dave cooled off by having a swim in the lake. Fed by natural springs, while it was a bit cold when he first got in, he did enjoy his swim saying that the water colour looked different again when in it. We continued around the lake stopping half way to have lunch at the waters edge before completing the round trip of about 10kms all up.

The best view of Lake Bled

The best view of Lake Bled

Our drive today took us through very different scenery from what we have been used to. There were mountains surrounding us but we couldn’t see them due to heavy mist. As you would expect the houses are very different and in most instances are well cared for. The secondary roads here remind us of Poland roads, desperately in need of repair but if we aren’t prepared to pay for a vignette to drive on the autobahns, we shouldn’t complain! We arrived in Kranj, Slovenia’s fourth largest city, packed our lunch and headed for the old town which is very small. A visit to the tourist office and we decided to do a small walk along the river to the gorge. Only a couple of kilometres in length, it was very pleasant. The rest of the day was spent in the sunshine reading.

We had to move last night from the Stellplatz due to an extremely loud heavy metal band playing in one of the clubs nearby. We found a spot 2 kms down the road at the sports club and settled down for a quiet night. After breakfast we travelled a short distance to the town of Ĺ kofja Loka. The old town was really pretty with beautifully painted houses and it was lovely to see young children in the streets playing and riding their bikes and skateboards. We walked up to the castle that now houses a museum and the view back over the old town was fantastic. We sat in the town square for lunch before completing one of the walks recommended by the tourist office that took us to several points of interest across the devils bridge to the town of Puštal finishing on the hill of Hribec and the Church of St Cross which gave a different view of the town of Ĺ kofja Loka. We then drove to the very small village (one street) of Lipica, our stop for the night which is famous for breeding the snow white Lipizzaner horses for the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Of course there are two Lipica’s in Slovenia and we have come to the other one. No wonder we couldn’t find the stud farm when we went for a walk! Fortunately we had to come this way for Ljubljana so it wasn’t a wasted journey.

The devils bridge

The devils bridge

We have been very lucky with the weather over the past week or so, however the rain has returned. It was quite heavy for part of the night and our journey to Ljubljana today was in the rain. We are staying at a camperstop about 7kms outside of the city and there is a little petting farm here with pigs, goats, a rabbit, an old dog and an abundance of cats. The rain stopped after lunch so we went for a walk for an hour or so around the area through a small forest, passed many vegetable patches along a Nordic skiing trail and back home again. We had dinner in the restaurant here (which means no charge to stay for the night). A three course meal of soup, stuffed cabbage leaves with mashed potato, crepes and with beer for €22.40, can’t complain about that! After breakfast, we picked up our bus tickets from the restaurant and headed into Ljubljana. The bus took about 20 minutes and we had a reasonable view of the snow covered Austrian alps on the way in. Ljubljana is a city to wander and that is exactly what we did. With no set destination we roamed the streets of this lovely place passed some beautiful old buildings, heading up to the castle which gave a great view over the city to the alps in the distance. While the castle has been heavily renovated, there was quite a few sections of the original structure left, including the penitentiary, a couple of the towers and the well. We visited two of the churches which were built in the baroque style with all of the walls covered in murals. We ate our lunch at the three bridges in town before visiting the local market in the square. From there it was back to the bus and home again.

Entrance to the old town over the Dragon bridge

Entrance to the old town over the Dragon bridge

View over Ljubljana from the castle

View over Ljubljana from the castle

The gentleman at the camper stop was so helpful, as we have found with all Slovenians, highlighting a route to take to our next destination, avoiding the 22% incline on the road ahead. We had a pleasant drive through many little villages on our way to Novo Mesto, our last Slovenian town for the time being as we need to come back through Slovenia to get to Italy from Croatia. We had a walk into town, not much here really, the old town was very small. We visited the main church, which like all of the others we have seen in Slovenia was very ornate with lots of brass and murals on almost every surface. Back home to plan out our next leg and a quiet afternoon. We have decided that time is on our side so we are going to drive down to Split and Dubrovnik which I’m really excited about, Game of
Thrones tour here we come! We will then drive back up the middle of Croatia/Slovenia to Italy for the winter. A quick trip into Greece from Italy may be possible, we will just have to see how we go for time as we have a lot to see in Italy.

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Amazing Austria

9th September cont’d – 15th September

We were both a bit restless this afternoon so we decided we would do a hike up the mountain behind us. It was only supposed to be an hour walk but we got lost again! We were on the right path for awhile, passing cows roaming free on the mountainside with their bells clanging as they walked. We saw a house being built where the workers had their Friday afternoon drinks sorted by cooling the beer off in an animal water trough. From there we got lost and ended half way up one of the ski runs with spectacular views across the valley and the towns below. Not to be put off, we checked the iPad and eventually found the right road. It was an enjoyable hike, albeit a bit longer than first planned but the cold beer at the end once we were home made it all worthwhile.

We were sad to leave our home of the past two nights but it was time to move on. We only had a short drive to the town of Sankt Johann im Pongau where the Liechtensteinklamm (gorge) is. Rather than drive to the carpark, we decided to walk so we found a spot to park just near the hydro electric plant. The path from here follows the Salzach river for 3kms before the path heads into the mountains. We again passed several ski fields, one even had the cable car running. Once passed the entry gate (€6 each) we headed along the timber boardwalk which burrows into the gorge, past swirling aquamarine waters, glistening boulders and 300m-high cliffs and through tunnels gouged into slate cliffs veined with white granite. The trail finishes at a 50m-high waterfall which is where we had our lunch before returning along the same route. We have found a nice wildcamp spot on the Salzach river and our views are awesome. Across the river are the grass covered hills with a scattering of Swiss style homes and huge rocky mountains in the distance. We seem to have befriended a little cat as well who kept us company for the afternoon.

Our plan today was to drive to Zell am See for a walk around the lake, however as we have found previously at the popular swimming lakes, parking was not easy to find. All of the carparks we had pinned had signs that said Motorhomes not allowed, so after driving around the lake, we headed to our next destination, the GroĂźglockner High Alpine Road. We have found a spot to park for the night at the beginning of the drive so we can do the 35kms up and over first thing in the morning while the weather (hopefully) is fine and clear. Our view from Tilly is directly at a very large waterfall in front of us, and the mountains to our left. Once parked we went for a hike on a path that hugged the base of one of the mountain ranges in this area where the path took us through fields with cows and horses roaming freely and past a number of beautiful waterfalls. Several glaciers were visible on the mountain peaks and there is a bit of snow on the peaks as well. We spent a bit of time patting some horses on our return journey before spending the remainder of the day sitting outside. We met a lovely couple from the UK, Martin and Lynn and chatted to them for a few hours about their travels and ours as well. It’s always nice meeting up with people and hearing the stories of their adventures.

We set the alarm for an early start hoping for clear skies and were greeted with just that! Bright blue skies for our 48km journey on the GroĂźglockner High Alpine Road. Voted the number one drive in the world, the road twists and winds its way to a staggering 2571 metres above sea level with 30 three-thousand metre mountains surrounding the Pasterze Glacier. Past lots of waterfalls and many stops along the way the scenery was just stunning, we were mesmerised by the mountains ahead and the valleys below. Our walk on the panoramaweg up to the lookout introduced us to some wild Marmots, and we were also fortunate enough to see some wild Ibex, similar in size to a reindeer but with less horns. The view from the lookout was breathtaking. Snow still covered some of the peaks and the mighty GroĂźglockner, standing at 3,798 metres is the highest mountain in Austria. Even though the glacier has shrunk considerably in the past 100 years (over 1.8km of ice cover) it is still the longest glacier in the Eastern alps. There were many information boards as well as a visitors centre with exhibitions and explanations about the history of the area. The journey back down was the steepest descent we have ever done and poor Tilly’s brakes were smoking by the time we stopped near the bottom. It cost €35 to drive on this road through the Hohe Tauern National Park, but considering we spent over 6 hours in total (the drive included) it was well worth it.

The mighty GroĂźglockner

The mighty GroĂźglockner and Pasterze glacier

Furry little marmot

Furry little marmot

We got our first views of the mighty Dolomites on our drive to Lienz down another steep mountain through lush green valleys where the Austrian alps were on one side and the Dolomites on the other. We walked into Lienz along the Isel river and wandered around the town for an hour or so. Back to Tilly for lunch and then we headed back up into the mountains via Gaimberg for our hike tomorrow. We were going to drive up to a cable car station for our overnight stop and do a hike in the morning, however the first 2kms of the road were in first gear it was that steep. We decided that if that was what the start was like, it would continue and with the thought of the wear and tear on Tilly, we decided not to continue. On the way back down (also in first gear) we had another change of plan. Rather than continue on to Slovakia tomorrow, we are going to spend a bit more time in Austria as we are both loving the country and the people, so iPad out, we plotted to drive to Felbertauern, near the Felbertauerntunnel where we will stay for the next two nights as we plan to do a big hike to another glacier tomorrow. We had a nice walk around the area and met a very friendly Austrian couple from Vienna who confirmed the hike we plan on doing is well worth it even though it will take 6 hours (if we complete the whole circuit!) Hope we sleep well tonight!

We had a mammoth day on what turned out to be one of the best hikes we have done. After breakfast and making lunch, we packed the backpacks and headed off on our hike. There are two ways to complete this round circuit, one is to go through the forest where the path is flat, then steep then flat and steep again and the other is just straight up so we chose the forest walk. It was a hard climb past several waterfalls, streams and we were lucky enough to see some more Marmots along the way. Once through the forest we hit the multi-coloured rocky outcrops with seams of Quartz on a path that would take us to the glacier. The climb up took us 3 hours and we had our lunch at the glaciers’ edge before venturing onto the lowest part of it. Treading very carefully we crunched our way across the ice which fortunately was covered with a layer of crushed rock although there were pockets of slimy mud on the edge. The GroĂźvenediger glacier as you would expect flows down from the GroĂźvenediger mountain which is 3666 metres so not much smaller than GroĂźglockner. On our return journey we continued to climb up to around 2260 metres before heading back down on the steep path on the opposite side of the valley to our climb up. While coming down we watched a helicopter ferrying steel and supplies up to the top of a nearby mountain. We aren’t sure but think they may be building a chairlift as there was a lot of steel beams and wire being taken up. We stopped at Innergschlöß (hotel and restaurant) on the way down for a well earned beer, before continuing on for the last hour of what turned out to be a 8 hour hike over 25kms with about an hour for photo stops and lunch. I think we may sleep well tonight!

Hard work!

Hard work!

Such color

Such color

Ice walker!

Ice melt.

Ice blue!

Ice blue! It is all ice under the rocks as well.

After our big day yesterday, we decided on a quiet day today. We drove through the Felbertauerntunnel at a cost of €11 and ended up in Friedburg on a lovely Stellplatz that overlooks the valley. We had a small walk into the forest area but spent most of the day relaxing. We met an Australian couple from NSW, Michael and Deb who we had dinner with at the restaurant here. They travel for 6 months each year storing their Motorhome in Dover and have been doing that for the past two years. We talked for a number of hours about where we have been and where we would like to go, swapping tidbits of information about what to do and what not to do. We had coffee back at their Motorhome before heading home at 10.30pm. A most enjoyable evening.

Can't complain about the view!

Can’t complain about the view!

16th September – 22nd September

We only had a short drive today to Krimml, where our hike to the top of the Krimmler Wasserfälle starts. With an impressive fall of 380 metres over three levels, these waterfalls are the largest in Europe and the fifth highest waterfall in the world. We climbed up to a height of 1460 metres on what was a steep ascent although Lonely Planet said it was a gentle uphill path, so not sure where that path was, we must have missed it! There were 11 viewpoints along the way, however you don’t see the whole waterfall at any one time. Once at the top we continued on for another kilometre or so following a burbling brook before returning along the same route back to the bottom of the waterfall. It took us about 2 1/2 hours in total and on the way back to Tilly we had a peek in the souvenir shops. After lunch we headed to our next stop where along the way were lookout points on the roadside that gave an almost full view of the waterfall. We are parked at the Hochkrimml-Zillertal arena which is a huge ski resort at 1600 metres with several ski lifts and we have a view to the snow covered peaks in the distance.

Best view

Best view

It rained quite heavily for most of the night however we woke to fresh snow on the mountains, the first for this coming winter. We had a lovely drive, albeit under cloud to our overnight spot in Schwaz through some beautiful ski towns with quite a number of the ski lifts in operation for the hikers brave enough to venture up. We had to stop for a minute or so along the way to let the farmers and their cows walk to their paddocks. We have since found out that at this time of the year, the farmers celebrate the coming home of the cows, in preparation for winter which are adorned with elaborate floral headdresses and bells, quite a sight. It was still raining when we had parked, but we decided to head into town anyway. The shops in the old town were closed but it was still a nice place to walk around with its pastel washed houses and winding streets. We visited the Pfarrkirche (parish church) with its step-gabled roof that is adorned with 1400 copper tiles. The gothic-baroque church with its web-vaulted interior supposedly houses the largest symphonic organ in Tyrol and was just beautiful, as was the golden altar. We also had a walk around the main shopping centre before coming home. Hopefully the weather will improve tomorrow.

No rain today and as we are only 25kms from Innsbruck we decided to spend the day there. We drove along the river for most of the journey through a few small towns and past the Swarovski factory and Crystal World which houses amongst other things, the biggest shop you have ever seen. We had visited this place back in 2009 and were a little disappointed that we didn’t see how the crystals are made. Continuing on, we parked about 3kms outside of Innsbruck and had a nice walk along the Inn river into the old town. So many ornate buildings it was hard to know which way to look! On one of the balconies a brass band was playing Austrian music to the crowds below. Unfortunately cloud covered the alps that are so close to town but we still had an enjoyable day, reminiscing about the places we visited and the things we did previously. The clouds did lift a little so we managed a glimpse or two of the alps before returning to Tilly for the drive back to Schwaz where we will stay for another night.

There are alps under those clouds.

There are alps under those clouds.

Kufstein was our destination today and our journey was in the rain, again with low clouds covering the peaks of the mountains although the lower parts were clear. We did a bit of shopping before parking at the Stellplatz which has a great view to the castle. After lunch with our umbrellas up we walked the short distance into town and headed for the tourist office. Armed with a walking map our first stop was the Römerhofgasse, a reconstructed historic alleyway with its overhanging arches, lanterns and frescoes facades. It is renowned for its wine bars of which there were many, as well as a number of shops selling Lederhosen and traditional dresses. From there we just wandered the streets, most of the buildings were quite modern with little of the original town left.

Pity the street was so short, so pretty.

Pity the street was so short, so pretty.

A journey of 95kms through more of the beautiful countryside and we arrived at Bad Gastein. The original plan was to stop in KitsbĂĽhel but parking was difficult so we continued on. We stopped at a lookout point for lunch which had fantastic views back along the valley dwarfed by mountains. Once we had arrived in Bad Gastein we parked at the cable car station and walked into town. The town is perched up high above the valley and is said to be spiritually between Brighton and St Moritz although some of the 19th century buildings are suffering badly from rising damp and many look permanently closed. Having said at it was still a nice town to walk around with the star attraction being the 341m waterfall at the edge of the town which rages over rugged cliff faces and through thick forest to tumble into three turquoise pools. After a visit to the tourist office for a hiking map, we made our way home to plan tomorrow’s hike.

Bad Gastein

Bad Gastein

Our hike today took us up along the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Promenade walking trail. Not a difficult trail with a gentle climb until we reached the Kaiserhofstrasse where a squirrel came right up to us looking for food. This section of the trail, known as the balcony trail gave us deep views into the forest-cloaked, mountain-rimmed, villa-studded Gastein Valley, hugging the mountainside until descending into the town of Bad Hofgastein 10 kms away. Along the trail we passed a farm that was raising deer with two stags that had huge antlers and we went through 4 steel tunnels that were built to protect hikers from rock falls and ice. In between two of the tunnels was a nice waterfall. Once in Bad Hofgastein, we stopped in the square for lunch before we had a walk around the very large market that filled most of the streets of the town. We walked back along the river on a flat trail, past more houses with floral displays on their balconies and in their gardens. We had a great view of the snow covered mountain behind Bad Gastein, past cows and horses enjoying the sunshine and eventually up along the waterfall path. This section was the steepest of the day giving us a different view of the waterfall from the one we had yesterday. A round journey of just over 20kms and 5 1/2 hours later, we sat down to a nice cold beer and admired the view of the surrounding peaks on what was a clear sunny day.

Bad Hofgastein

Bad Hofgastein

Our new home!

Our new home!

Our change of plan in staying a bit longer in Austria has seen us come back to Altenmarkt after spending a fantastic 9 days in the alps doing a couple of great hikes. We are staying in the same Stellplatz as last time and had a lovely conversation with a Scottish man about our proposed trip to Slovenia and Croatia. Sadly we will be unable to get to see Split and Dubrovnik having discovered that the ferries over to Italy stop at the end of October from Dubrovnik. The only solution would be to drive through Albania, Montenegro and a very short distance through Bosnia to DĂĽrres but our insurance doesn’t cover those countries. But fear not, that now may give us the opportunity of a trip into Greece, time permitting, so it’s not all bad. The weather here is a bit warmer than what we have experienced over the past few days so we had another walk into town in the glorious sunshine.

23rd September – 29th September

Our first stop on another sunny day was Mauterndorf, mainly for a walk to stretch our legs. It’s narrow streets are dotted with coloured houses and fountains, while the surrounding high moors and exposed bluffs are set up for hiking and skiing. The medieval 13th century Burg Mauterndorf sits high on a rocky outcrop and was built by the prince-archbishops of Salzburg on the site of a Roman fort. From here we continued on through the alps where a 15% ascent had us reaching heights of 1750 metres through a very large ski area in the town of Katschberg. It would be a hive of activity in the wintertime with skiers flocking from miles around. Then came the drive down with a 15% descent, not as long a drive as the GroĂźglockner road but it still had Tilly’s brakes getting quite hot. We arrived in GmĂĽnd where we will stay tonight. We had another walk around this very attractive village with a walled centre and a 13th-century hilltop castle, Alte Burg which is now a restaurant overlooking the town.

Good spot for a castle

Good spot for a castle

Late Burg, GmĂĽnd

Late Burg, GmĂĽnd

As we mentioned when driving through Norway, there isn’t bad scenery anywhere and we have found it to be the same in Austria. Mountains, lakes, villages, farm animals, ski lifts, it’s all here and this was obvious again on our drive to Millstatt. Situated on a very large lake, the Millstätter See is 12km long but just 1.5km wide, and is second in size in Carinthia after the Wörthersee. It was gouged out during the ice age about 30,000 years ago. A popular spot during summer, it is quieter now that autumn is upon us but there are lots of hiking trails in the area. Our hike today took us down along a river through a beautiful gorge and then up to the Herzog waterfall. Along the way were signs warning of the temperature of the water and advising people to only be in the water for no more than 1 minute due to its coldness. At the base of the waterfall, a woman donned her bathers and in she jumped, pure madness. Suffice to say she wasn’t in there for long! The whole journey took about 3 hours and it was a relatively easy and enjoyable hike.

The swimming hole at the bottom of the waterfall

The swimming hole at the bottom of the waterfall

We left the alpine region and the huge mountains behind. Our scenery today was still mountainous and considerably smaller than we have experienced over the past three weeks but the villages and towns were just as pretty. We had to stop along the way to allow the cows to cross the road (happens anywhere, right?), stopping at Friesach for the night. Friesach is Carinthia’s oldest town. The hills on either side of town are dotted with ruined fortifications, and the centre is surrounded by a 820 metre moat with town walls. The moat is still filled with water (it’s the only town in Austria that still has one). We climbed up to two of the castle ruins which gave us a great view over the town and then walked back down into the centre. We visited the Gothic Stadtpfarrkirche (the town’s parish church), with its Romanesque elements dating from 927, a lovely church that has been beautifully restored and had a quick walk around the square before returning home for a cuppa. After sitting for awhile, we weren’t overly happy with our wildcamp spot so we drove another 22kms to Lagensee where we are parked across the road from the lake, much nicer.

Freisach from the castle

Freisach from the castle

Pretty town square

Pretty town square

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Posted in Austria 2016 | Leave a comment

The hills are alive

3rd September – 9th September

We said goodbye to Burghausen and Germany and crossed the border into Austria without any problems. Dave’s research has shown (as well as the guy in the tourist office confirming) that if we stay off the autobahn, we don’t need to purchase a vignette (road toll) so that is what we did. We skirted around the perimeter of Salzburg and headed up the winding road to our overnight spot at Mt Gaisberg which at 1265m gives us an amazing view of Salzburg as well as the Austrian alps surrounding it. I managed to squeeze in a chorus of the Sound of Music, much to Dave’s horror! Again, as in Norway we were surprised at the number of people riding their bikes up, not my idea of fun, but each to their own. Such a steep climb, perhaps they are in training for the Tour de France? We have missed our mountain hikes so once parked, we headed off on our first Austrian one. As is nearly always the case, we took a wrong turn and found ourselves on a very steep mountain bike path in the forest heading down. Each time we have been lost we have seen some beautiful scenery so it isn’t all bad. We stopped and had our lunch before we found the right path which was considerably easier for a couple of kilometres then back into the forest on a zig zagging path that climbed back up to the top. We were very hot by the time we got back to Tilly so after a quick wash we headed back out to watch the paragliders with their brightly coloured kites running off the top of the mountain and gliding down to their landing spot. Amazing to watch and a great first day in a new country.

Come fly with me!

Come fly with me!

We had our breakfast on one of the benches watching the view on a slightly clearer day than yesterday. Even at 8am in the morning there were several paragliders enjoying the breeze and gliding back and forth in front of us. Our drive down had Tilly’s brakes a bit hot and we continued on to St Gilgen which is situated right on the beautiful aquamarine waters of the Wolfgangsee and surrounded by mountains. I know we shouldn’t compare countries but so far this part of Austria reminds us of both Norway with the rugged scenery and Switzerland with the timber houses adorned with flower boxes full of petunias and geraniums. We had a nice walk around St Gilgen where a festival of some kind is on today. In the square were a large number of people all in traditional costume attending a religious service and there was a very large beer hall set up by the lake. Murals decorated many of the walls of the buildings as well as pretty coloured flower boxes. We walked a little way along the lake where all types of water sports are available as well as little shops selling local produce and your usual beach goods. Continuing on we drove to Bad Ischl were we have found a very tidy Stellplatz next to the Ischl river and surrounded by mountains. After lunch we had a walk into this very tidy town which for a Sunday was quite busy. We walked along the river for awhile dipping our toes into the freezing cold water before returning through the town and home again.

The townspeople gathered for the service.

The townspeople gathered for the service.

Wolfgangsee, could be anywhere in Norway.

Wolfgangsee, could be anywhere in Norway.

The scenery on our drive today was beautiful even though it was raining. Rugged mountains hugged huge lakes with waterfalls cascading down to the waters edge. We drove through two tunnels to arrive in Hallstatt. All of the parking was gated, many with height barriers so we didn’t stop, just had a quick look as we kept driving. We stopped at a roadside bay for a cuppa overlooking the Hallstättersee before continuing on to Lammerklam, a deep gorge near Oberscheffau. There are two parts to this amazing place, the first being about 5 minutes from the entrance gate along a timber boardwalk that hugs the rock wall and the water below thunders past. This area is called the Dark Gorge and is so named because of the cave like rock walls with fragments of light coming through that surround the raging torrent below. Back in the other direction for around 30 minutes, the path, another wooden boardwalk through the gorge with many steps up and down follows the river as it twists and pummels the rocks eventually breaking through to become the fast flowing Lammer river. We have found a nice wildcamp spot just 1km up the road next the to river where tomorrow we will do a hike to a waterfall.

So much water

So much water

Our wildcamp spot was downstream of the gorge at the confluence of the Lammer and Schwarzenbach rivers. Overnight we had a massive amount of rain (and not much sleep) and when we looked out the window in the morning, the rivers had swollen considerably so after breakfast we walked part of the gorge walk again in the rain. The power of the water gushing through was amazing, it was hard to tell exactly how much higher the water level was but at a guess it would have been at least two feet. Back to Tilly for a quick change and off to do the MĂĽhlenrundweg. This circular walk through the forest follows the Schwarzenbach river past a historic corn mill and onto two waterfalls, the Schwarzenbachfall and the Winnerfall, both of which had tonnes of water thundering down the mountain. On the final leg of the walk a wild deer crossed our path about 50 metres away, a fitting end to an amazing morning. We drove to Werfen, 22kms away where we had our lunch before walking into town. Only a small town, Werfen is best known for the Eisriesenwelt, the largest ice cave system discovered so far in the world which we will explore tomorrow.

Winnerfall

Winnerfall

Our wildcamp spot outside below Hohenwerfen

Our wildcamp spot outside below Hohenwerfen

Hohenwerfen castle

Hohenwerfen castle

After the wet weather of the past few days it was nice to wake to blue skies. After breakfast we drove to the carpark at the start of the climb to the ice cave, Eisriesenwelt. The sign said the road gradient was 21%, so we figured the €7 each return to get the bus was well worth the money. Once we arrived at the carpark there was a 20 minute hike up to the bottom cable car station. From there an ascent straight up to the top cable car station, then another 20 minute walk to the cave entrance at 1641 metres. We had a wait of around 15 minutes for the guided tour to start which was in German and English. The tour took about 75 minutes and Davy lamps were handed out as there is no artificial lighting in the cave. The tour guide was very informative providing us with the scientific and historical background of the ice formations. 1400 steps up and down rising a further 136 metres in temperatures of 0° had us passing many ice figures, stalactites and stalagmites which the guide illuminated with magnesium flares that he lit from his Davy lamp that showed the ice as a beautiful blue colour. There were several large “rooms” where in one spot the ice was 25 metres thick! With over 40kms in length this system of caves within the Tennengebirge mountain range contains a unique natural phenomenon with the lower parts of the cave being cooled by the passage of cold wind in the winter and the thaw water freezing as it trickles in forming the gigantic ice figures. It was an expensive day, €48 for the cable car and tour of the cave and €14 for the bus, but it was well worth it. We spent the rest of the afternoon gazing in awe at the Hohenwerfen castle and the huge mountain peaks that surround us.

A professional shot as no cameras allowed and no artificial lighting during the tour.

A professional shot as no cameras allowed and no artificial lighting during the tour.

 

View from the ice cave

View from the ice cave

Today is one of those days that women hate. Washing day! We drove about 30kms to Kellerbauer Stellplatz, just outside of Altenmarkt to this lovely site (thanks Baxterbus) to do this menial task and we love the area. We have 5 baby cows in the field next door. Dave had the opportunity for a bike ride and rode into the village of Altenmarkt which he said was lovely. I’m hoping we can stay another night here so we can have a good look around and walk into Radstatt. Stay tuned!

We have decided to stay another night, it is so pretty here. After breakfast we walked in to Radstatt around the farms, patting the friendly cows along the way. Only a small village the highlight of the town were the beautiful houses surrounding it overlooking the ski runs above the town. Again very Swiss in style with lots of colourful flowers on their balconies and very tidy gardens. On our return leg, we walked along the river, stopping to watch a man fly his remote controlled plane, which he was very skilled at. Heading east into another town, Altenmarkt, this too had ski slopes in the distance and was heavily geared for skiing with several ski shops, restaurants and cafes. Back through the fields and home again, a journey of around 10kms so the rest of the day was sitting in the sun and relaxing.

Who needs a dog when you can pat a cow?

Who needs a dog when you can pat a cow?

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Back to Bavaria

23rd August – 29th August

After the stressful and disastrous day we had yesterday with all of the detours, we self-imposed a detour of around 40kms backtracking so we didn’t drive on too many B roads and took the autobahn all the way to Bayreuth. We arrived at lunchtime and after a bite to eat we decided we would walk the couple of kilometres to the Hofgarten for a bit of exercise. We were so close to the city centre we ended up going in there as well. Bayreuth was bombed during WWII but there were still a few original buildings standing which were lovely. We stopped at the opera house, one of Europe’s most stunningly baroque theatres hoping for a peek in the auditorium but sadly it is closed for renovating and not due to open until sometime in 2017. We had seen the inside while watching a series by Aled Jones but wanted to see it for ourselves, never mind. We had an enjoyable walk around in the sunshine for an hour or so past many statues of Richard Wagner as well as a museum dedicated to him before heading back to again sit outside on another glorious day.

An uneventful journey today as far as detours go, on the autobahn to start with then on the B road to Schwandorf. The Stellplatz here is free with free water and dumping facilities right next to the Naab river so we are thinking of relaxing here for a couple of days. We walked into town only 10 minutes away. It’s only small but very tidy. No history to speak of apart from 1000 year old water wheels which are reminiscent of the town’s former milling tradition. We visited the St James Parish church which was built around 1400 in late gothic style. The town is situated on one of the pilgrim trails of the route of St James to Santiago de Compostela. We had lunch at the Brauerei Gasthof in the square before another walk around and heading back for an afternoon by the water. We had a bit of excitement at the Stellplatz tonight. An Italian family were having a quiet sit by the river, the husband was fishing and the wife, son and dog were with him. All of a sudden a man turns up on a motorbike and tells the Italian man he needs a permit to fish. He took his passport details and photos of his Motorhome and then called the police. The police turn up, where the wife tries to explain in what little English she had that he didn’t know about the permit and next thing her passport details are taken. After a few minutes of the police being rude in the way they were speaking to him, they carted him off to the police station. The police bought him back about 30 minutes later and then took the wife to the station, who knows what for? The sad thing is they didn’t catch any fish! It all seemed a bit over the top.

A nice spot for lunch!

A nice spot for lunch!

We had a lovely relaxing day today. We started off with a walk along the river for a couple of kilometres before heading up to the lookout over town through a small forest area. From there we headed back into town and then home again, where we spent the day by the river reading. I went into town again on my own for an hour or so in the afternoon to window shop and then back to Dave and Tilly. We had dinner outside on what was another gorgeous day. We were waiting for the fisheries guy to turn up again and he didn’t disappoint us. The men fishing in front of us were German and the outcome was a lot different. No licenses were checked nor the size of the fish that had been caught.
I’m sure they all had the relevant licenses but even the way they were spoken too was vastly different from the poor Italian man and his wife last night.

It is so nice here we have decided to stay another night. After breakfast we went for a walk along the river in the opposite direction to yesterday for a couple of kilometres. Back along the road and into town for a coffee before we returned to Tilly and another relaxing day sitting by the river on what turned out to be a very warm day.

 

Back on the autobahn today with our destination being Regensberg, 40kms away. We arrived at the first Stellplatz only to find that the whole area was taken over by the Dult festival, an Oktoberfest type beer festival with beer tents, carnival rides and entertainment, so onto the next place which is near the Danube river, 1.5kms from the old town. Once settled we headed into town along the river past two river cruise boats crossing over Regensburg’s 900-year-old Steinerne BrĂĽcke (Stone Bridge) which was at one time the only fortified crossing of the Danube. Walking in the first thing we noticed were the twin spires of the cathedral which soar above the rooftops. One of Bavaria’s grandest gothic cathedrals, it took over 600 years to build. Original stained glass windows surround the transept and the intricately guided alter. The Altes Rathaus was the seat of the Reichstag for almost 150 years and is now home to Regensburg’s mayors and the Reichstagsmuseum. We could only visit by guided tour and the English one wasn’t until 3pm so we just admired the building and continued walking through the narrow cobbled streets. We had lunch at the Hofbrauhaus while across the way a wedding was taking place. Lots of people were dressed in the national costume, which is something we love about Bavaria and see quite often. We popped our heads into a couple of churches on our way around before having a sit down by the river. It is extremely hot today and several people were cooling off with a swim. Back to a very warm Tilly and we sat outside in the shade for what was left of the afternoon.

Regensberg cathedral

Regensberg cathedral

Another short drive towards the town of Straubing. We have found a wildcamp spot right on the Danube River about 6kms from town and there was a German family already here for a picnic by the water. We were all set up and sitting by the river when just after lunch this huge river cruise boat, The River Voyager pulled up. Most of the passengers got off to board their respective buses to head off on a tour somewhere. As the Voyager was pulling out, the Viking Tor pulled in and more buses dropped off people to rejoin their cruise. The next boat in was the Viking Skadi which dropped passengers off for their bus tour. There was a signpost near where we parked that said something about this area being for use by watercraft, that was an understatement, it was quite a sight to see. The only other boats we saw for the remainder of the day were private boats and the odd grain/coal barge. We spent the afternoon outside under the awning with a slight breeze coming off the water, we went for a swim and then read on what was another very hot day.

29th August – 3rd September

We had a cracker of a thunderstorm at 4.30am this morning. Forked lightning illuminated the sky while the thunder rolled all around like waves crashing to the shore. We could feel the power of the thunder through the vibration in the ground coming up through Tilly’s tyres. We opened all of the blinds and lay in bed watching the sky show for about 30 minutes with lots of rain and hail before closing up again and trying for more sleep. Upon wakening, another thunderstorm rolled in, nowhere near as big but my girlfriend Sharon in Perth would have been in her element! Even with the thunder (no lightening that we could see) and a bit of rain, we decided to walk the 5kms into Straubing along the river. A pretty town lined with pastel coloured houses, the town square is lorded over by the Gothic Stadtturm dating from 1316. We visited the St Jakobskirche, a late-Gothic hall church with original stained-glass windows which has received a baroque makeover. We wandered around town for a little while stopping in the Karmelitenkirche, another baroque church before we headed back in the rain. After lunch we drove to Dingolfing where we were hoping to get some tyres for the front wheels however the Bosch centre was closed. It wasn’t a wasted trip as we needed to come here for services to fill and empty. We spent the rest of the afternoon researching places to visit in Austria, our next country.

Our mission for today (should we choose to accept it) was to get tyres for Tilly so we drove about 60kms to the small town of Neuötting just outside of Altötting not far from the Austrian border. The drive here was very pleasant through small picturesque towns and lots of agriculture in between, mainly corn. The tyre place didn’t have her size but have ordered them in for us with an expected delivery of 2-3 days, so we travelled a further 2 kms to the Stellplatz in Altötting. We had lunch before walking into this pilgrimage town, where the main attraction is a statue of the Black Madonna. The shrine which houses it dates back 660AD, and the shrine is the oldest Marien shrine in Germany and the statue dates to 1330. Pilgrims have been travelling here for over 600 years and is known for the many healings which are said to have taken place. There are many churches here considering the size of the town and we visited about half of them with the largest and grandest being St Anna. The main square like a lot of pilgrim towns is full of religious paraphernalia for sale.

The main square

The main square

After much needed haircuts, we headed out on our planned walk today which was one of the walks recommended by the tourist office. Through fields of corn, a small forest and two little villages, we walked about 12kms in total, some of the way on the Pilgrims walk where shrines were dotted along the path. We had our lunch by a small brook before returning to town. An afternoon in the sun was how we spent the rest of the day.

We had a nice walk along the river back into Neuötting, a couple of kilometres away visiting the St Nicholas church while we were there. We walked up the Main Street and got a phone call from the tyre place and arranged to have them fitted this afternoon. Back along the river to Altötting where we had lunch before driving back to Neuötting. We had to wait until the service centre reopened at 1pm but then it only took 10 minutes and we were ready to hit the road again with a short drive of 16kms to Burghausen. We have been here before at almost the same time last year, however it is really nice here and also it is close to the Austrian border so we figured it was a good exit point from Germany. We are staying in exactly the same spot and the pétanque games are still being played on the pitch next to us.

After breakfast we headed up to the castle which we had visited previously for another look. We virtually did the same thing today as we did this time last year, walking the length of the castle, over 1km in total. We walked down to the lake where the swimming pool is before heading into the old town, visiting the church of St Jacob on our travels. It was such a nice day, we decided to walk to Austria! It was just on the other side of the river, so we spent about 2 minutes in another country before returning to German soil. We found our lunch spot, the Augustiner Brauhaus where we had our last German meal, although I’m sure the food in Austria will be very similar. Another afternoon sitting outside on what turned out to be a warm day.

An impressive sight

Fro

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Our second home!

8th August – 14th August

In the past four weeks we have crossed 5 borders and are now in our second home, Germany. The border crossing again was a drive through, although the buildings are still there. Is there a reason none of the border posts have been demolished? Maybe the days of Schengen are soon to be over and the border posts reopened? Food for thought. Anyway, it was nice to get back onto a decent road system and we arrived in AngermĂĽnde around 2.30 after a drive of approximately 230kms. We are nice and close to town so we had a walk down to MĂĽndesee, the local lake and around the lake for a short distance before coming back into town. Such a tidy place with little shops and cafes along the Main Street. We walked around what remains of the old wall past the only surviving tower and then home again for a sit in the sunshine and a nice cold beer!

We had a drive free day today so after breakfast we took off for what turned out to be a 14 km long walk. The first part of the journey (sounds like a song) took us alongside the train tracks through a fruit grove where we sampled the apples and plums (some of which found their way into our backpack) until we got to the Unesco bio reserve for birds. Several lakes within the reserve were teeming with birdlife although a bit difficult to see through the trees. We continued on to Wolletzsee, a large lake with a camping ground near the water with what looked like a private beach. Into the forest for several kilometres and past corn fields before we came to the main road on the other side of town. Back to Tilly for lunch with the rest of the day spent reading and relaxing.

On the way to our wildcamp spot 37 kms from Berlin at Klosterfelde, we stopped at Niederfinow famous for its spectacular Schiffshebewerk, one of the most remarkable early-20th-century feats of engineering. It was completed in 1934 and measures 60m high, 27m wide and 94m long. Huge barges sail into a sort of giant bathtub, which is then raised or lowered 36m, water and all, between the Oder River and the Oder-Havel Canal. We were fortunate to see this spectacular sight, firstly watching the raising of a coal carrier and then the lowering of a grain carrier. There is a second ship lift currently under construction that is even bigger and looks like it is using the same engineering design. We had our lunch before continuing on to Klosterfelde 40kms away through lush forest and a few pretty towns where we will catch the train into Berlin tomorrow.

An early start today for our train journey into Berlin which took just under 1 hour. German efficiency had the train arriving right on time at Klosterfelde and we had to change trains at Berlin Karow for the second leg. We arrived at Brandenburg Tor station and once out of the station we had the huge gate right in front of us. Our first job was to head to the Reichstag to see if we could get tickets to view this impressive building. The lady at the booking office said we would get in after 5pm if we wanted to wait the two hours to get our identity checked, nein, not going to happen. We had too much to see to waste two hours standing on the footpath so off we went. While Berlin was severely damaged during the war, there were still some amazing buildings to see. Some had been reconstructed but many were originals. We visited checkpoint Charlie where sections of the wall are on display as well as an exhibition describing the horrors of that time. We visited Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin’s most graceful square which is bookended by the domed German and French cathedrals and in the centre is the grandly porticoed Konzerthaus Berlin. We also visited the memorial to the murdered European Jews which consists of 2711 sarcophagi-like concrete columns rising from the ground. We also visited Bebelplatz where the first public full blown book burning by nazi youth in 1933 is now commemorated with an underground installation called the Empty Library beneath a glass pane at the square’s centre. We finished off our day with a walk through the huge Tiergarten past the Soviet WWII memorial to the Berlin victory column where we stopped for a quiet beer before heading back to the train station and home after a huge 7 hours walking around.

Opera house, Berlin

Opera house, Berlin

We are back on the Luther trail and drove 120kms to Lutherstadt Wittenberg, where Martin Luther is buried. The drive started on the autobahn before we turned off onto the B road where the scenery was tree-lined streets and brightly coloured houses. We found a nice wild camp spot right on the Elbe river and once settled we walked the 6km Elberundweg, along the river for part of the way, past a Viking river cruise boat before heading into the fields where we watched a flock of Eagles soar in the thermals. We made it back just as the rain started.

Today was all about Luther. Our first stop was the Schlossplatz where on 31st October 1517 it is said he nailed his 95 theses onto the main door of this beautiful gothic church. It houses his grave and the final resting place of the reformer Phillip Melanchthon and inscribed on the bell tower in large words, “a mighty fortress is our God”. This line of text was taken from a hymn of which Luther was the author. Next stop was the Cranach house and courtyards. Lucas Cranach owned a printing shop here where among others the bible was translated and reproduced by Martin Luther known as the “September Testament”. The Luther house was next, and in 1504 it was an Augustinian monastery. It later became his home and today is the largest reformation museum in the world. We spent a couple of hours here before having our lunch. Our final stop was St Mary’s church where Martin Luther used to preach. Lucas Cranach designed the reformation alter and it also houses valuable paintings by him. After walking home, we spent the what was left of the afternoon outside watching the comings and goings of the ferry boat, people riding past on their bikes and reading.

Wittenberg Cathedral

Wittenberg Cathedral

Main square

Main square

Over the past few days we have walked about 30kms, so today is a rest day. We had a short drive to Oranienbaum where we filled and emptied before finding a wild camp spot near Strandbad Adria, a lake just outside of Mildensee. As is the case with a lot of Strandbads, the swimming areas are privately run and fully fenced off, so if you want to swim, you have to pay for the privilege, however this one was closed, not that it was hot enough for a swim! It would have been nice to sit by the lake, never mind we made do with our little patch of forest and had a relaxing day.

15th August – 22nd August

Our final destination today was Thale at the base of the Harz mountains and along the way we stopped at Quedlinburg. Famous for its 1400 half timbered houses, it was a treat to just stroll around the streets and soak up the atmosphere. We walked up to The Schlossberg, on a 25m-high plateau above Quedlinburg which gave us a great view over this pretty town. After we had driven the rest of the way to Thale we parked Tilly at our overnight spot and headed into town to the tourist office. Maps in hand ready for our hike tomorrow we then walked to the cable car station where there is an adventure playground as well as several rides, trampolines and a roller coaster for the kids. Two cable cars take you up to the two peaks, Hexentanzplatz and Rosstrappe however we intend to climb up the Hexentanzplatz tomorrow as part of our hike but may catch the cable car back down.

Town square

Town square

Our hike today was in the Bode Valley along the Hexensteig walk between Thale and Treseburg which follows the river through a gorge for about 10kms. The path started at river level and soon climbed up to almost the top of the trees. As the river twisted and turned through the valley, so the path went up and down. We reached Treseburg after 2 hours and the town was basically a couple of hotels and restaurants and not much else. Our options for our return were either the bus, the path we had already taken or the ridge walk at the top, which is what we chose. A little disappointing as after a great start climbing through the forest, we ended up on an access road for the fire fighters and the hunters for their hides although we did meet a lovely Spanish gentleman named Jody who amused us with his pinhole photography stories. Another 10kms on and we ended up at Hexentanzplatz, one of two cliffs, the other being Rosstrappe. These once had Celtic fortresses and were used by Germanic tribes for occult rituals and sacrifices. The landscape also inspired the myth of Brunhilde, who escaped a loveless marriage to Bohemian prince Bodo by leaping the gorge on horseback; her pursuing fiancé couldn’t make the jump and plunged into the valley that now bears his name, turning into a hellhound on the way. The impact of Brunhilde’s landing supposedly left the famous hoof imprint in the stone on Rosstrappe. Hexentanzplatz is the most popular of the two with lots of stalls selling witch dolls, wands and Teufel (devil) dolls. We even saw a couple of people dressed as witches and one warlock who surprisingly looked like Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, minus the long hair. The view from the top was fantastic, looking down on the gorge walk and off to the town of Thale. We stopped for a well deserved beer before heading back down a great path through the forest and home again. 25kms all up so tomorrow will be an easier day.

View from the highest point on our hike

View from Hexentanplatz looking down to the gorge

After our big hike yesterday, today was a short drive and a quiet day. Our first stop for water along the way at Harzgerode was a waste of time. Camper contact said there was a toilet and water, and there was only the toilet but it was locked, so we ended up driving another 20kms to Breitenstein where there was everything and that is where we stayed. We sat in the sun for awhile reading and then went for a little walk into the forest area near the Stellplatz, into the very small town of Breitenstein and home again for a quiet evening.

We wanted to do another hike today so we drove the short distance of 8km to the town of Stolberg. There was nothing written about this place in Lonely Planet and oh what a find. The whole of the town’s buildings are timbered houses dating back to the mid 1500’s and have been restored beautifully. Once we were parked, we did our hike first, through the forest along the side of the Schloss with views over the rooftops. The path wove its way through fir, birch and beech trees before coming out at the back of the Schloss. We had a walk inside the renovated section through rooms that house some of the furniture from the time along with many pieces of art. A large part of this structure is currently being renovated (and it’s not too soon either) so we weren’t inside for long. The gardens were small but pretty and once all of the work is finished, there will be a path that leads back into town, today we had to walk along the road. Houses and businesses along the Main Street were adorned with flower boxes full of geraniums and some had colourful murals painted on the walls facing the street, it was just lovely. We spent the rest of the day again sitting outside and enjoying the sunshine. We had another walk into town later in the day to take in more of these beautiful buildings, stopping at one of the small museums along the way. A must see toy town.

 

Stolberg schloss

Stolberg schloss

20kms along a winding road through the forest, we stopped at Kyffhausen where there is an 81m high tower, the Kyffhauser monument with a sculpture of Kaiser Wilhelm that was erected to celebrate his victory over Napoleon in the 16th century. Next to the tower are the ruins of Germany’s largest medieval castle, Reichsburg which we had a walk around before strolling through the forest and back to Tilly. Our next stop was Bad Frankenhausen where we hoped to do a small hike. We parked at the sports ground and headed into town. A nondescript place, the area we were hoping to hike too was not that great looking so we had a walk around the Main Street before stopping to have our sandwiches in the square and returning home. Do we move on? We didn’t, we just spent the rest of the afternoon sitting outside reading, which we seem to be doing a bit of, but it makes a nice change.

We have left the Harz mountain range and had a pleasant 50km drive through some lovely little towns on our way to Freyburg. We walked into town along its cobbled-stone streets. There is a lot of work going on around the main church with new paths and roads and sadly the church was closed. Not a lot to see here unless you climb up to the Schloss, which we weren’t that fussed about. We had lunch next to a loch before driving a further 8kms to just outside of Naumburg which we will visit tomorrow. We had a nice walk along the river Unstrut for a couple of kilometres passing some very fine houses with huge gardens along the way. Our overnight spot is in a Geopark and behind us is a small cliff that has carved reliefs of religious scenes which have been dated back to 1733. Unfortunately all of the information about this is in German so we don’t really know the history of it. This area is Europe’s most northerly wine district and produces crisp whites and fairly sharp reds, which we may sample tomorrow. For now, it’s a chair by the river, a good book and a nice cold beer.

On our drive today we stopped at Naumburg, just 6kms away for a walk around the Altstadt (old town) with the lovely Renaissance Rathaus and the Marientor double gateway, the only one of five gateways still standing. The Cathedral of Sts Peter & Paul is a masterpiece of medieval architecture. Normally €6.50 each to get in to, we snuck in during Sunday service and had a look around for nothing! Continuing on the road to our overnight stop at Saalfeld we had another pleasant drive through fields of corn with lovely villages along the way. Our wild camp spot is next to the Saale river with a little waterfall in front of us.

The plan today was to have a walk around Saalfeld before heading off to Kronach about 60kms away. Well, we did have our walk around the small town and from there it was a disaster. Detours due to roadworks had us driving around in circles just to get back onto the road we needed. On our way again after about 10 minutes researching which direction we now had to take put us on a lovely drive through forests of trees that are beginning to change to their autumn colours. About 38kms out of Kronach, we hit another detour which resulted in us going down some very narrow streets to find we were at a dead end! Poor Dave had to reverse out and head back the way we came. We eventually found the road we were supposed to travel on only to be thwarted again by a 2.9m height restriction. We should have given up at that point but venture on we did heading back toward Saalfeld with a change of destination now being Bayreuth via Warzburg. Nope, that road was closed too so we ended up sitting in a supermarket carpark in the little town of Leutenberg reviewing our plans. Suffice to say we hit two more detours, one being the Stellplatz we were planning on staying at for the night before finding our resting spot in PoĂźneck, only 24kms from where we began the day although we had travelled over 100kms!! Thankfully we don’t have many days like this (only two others come to mind in almost 500 days on the road). We just have to book it up to experience and look for alternatives and a nice cold beer to settle the frazzled nerves.

Posted in Germany 2016 | 2 Comments

Poland

4th August – 8th August

We drove about 250kms today, crossing the Polish border. Another large disused border post although just up the road, trucks were being stopped. Not sure if it was to check whether the drivers had vignettes which fortunately we don’t need. We drove through many pretty towns, along some lovely tree lined roads and again the people’s pride in their gardens was obvious. This area of Poland has a lot of lakes with large numbers of people out and about, swimming, sailing or just walking in the sunshine. We are parked at a large lake in Mragowo and sat outside watching the locals walk down to the swimming beach. An elderly polish man came up for a chat, we didn’t understand him and he didn’t understand us, but handshakes all round and he was off again. There were a lot of people still heading down there at 6pm when we went inside for dinner.

We decided to drive all of the way to GdaĹ„sk as there isn’t much to see between Mragowo and GdaĹ„sk, BIG MISTAKE! The distance of 236km should have taken around 3 hours but due to some major roadworks about 100km out, it took us over 6 hours. Unfortunately there was only one road we could take, and we were on it. Wouldn’t have mattered when we drove on this road, there would have still been delays, Im guessing until at least 2018! We arrived at the first camping ground only to be told they were full. Fortunately there are two campsites together and we got into the second one at a cheaper rate than what was quoted on camper contact, not sure why? We spent what was left of the afternoon relaxing with a nice glass of Tempranillo from Spain.

We headed into GdaĹ„sk after breakfast on the tram, 3.80 PLN ($1.27) each one way for a 6km journey. Travelling through the outskirts of the city the Russian influence was obvious again as you would expect and quite run down in places. Once off the tram we headed to the old town which was mostly destroyed during WWII but has been painstakingly rebuilt from old plans. We both agreed that it would have to be one of the largest and beautiful old towns we have seen, and there have been many. Starting from the Renaissance green gate we headed up ul Dluga (Long Street) which is one of the city’s historic thoroughfares. We climbed the 405 steps of St Mary’s church, the third largest brick gothic church in Europe which gave a great view over the spires of the surrounding churches as well as across the city streets. Some of the buildings were covered in murals while others were adorned with statues and gargoyles. Every street had market stalls selling Amber, clothes, toys and food, there was even a street that was selling antique goods. We visited St Catherine’s church where during an archeological dig, they uncovered a mass grave 3 metres below the ground level and is now a crypt open to the public. We had lunch at one of the many bistros before continuing our walk around, past the towering gothic town hall. A walk along the waterfront was our final destination before heading back to the tram and home again on what was a very enjoyable day.

Harbourside Gdansk

Harbourside Gdansk

Long Street, Gdansk

Long Street, Gdansk

View to the old town

View to the old town

We had a walk to the beach before leaving today where there are restaurants, a fairground and a wide expanse of sand with screens that people can change behind placed along the beach. A few people were swimming however it was quite windy so we didn’t stay for long. Back on the S6 with fewer road delays (thank goodness) and a drive of around 140kms has us arriving on the outskirts of Koszalan. We passed through a couple of big towns before finally getting out into the countryside. A lot of little towns had us speeding up, slowing down, speeding up and slowing down again which did very little for fuel consumption. Still it was better than the day before last where we were stopping and starting for 100kms. We have found a wildcamp spot just outside of a forest area so we headed in for a walk. There were lots of tracks heading in all directions however we walked in about 1km or so before the mosquitoes had us returning to the bug free environment of Tilly.

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Lithuania

31st July – 3rd August

Another country ticked off the list as we cross into Lithuania past a very large unused border station. The scenery is all agriculture and is currently harvesting time with lots of tractors and grain trucks on the roads. 21 kms past the border we have arrived at our overnight spot, the Hill of Crosses which as the name suggests is a two hump hill covered in thousands of crosses. Legend says the planting of crosses began in the 14th century. Bulldozed by the soviets, every night people crept past the soldiers and barbed wire risking their lives or freedom to express their national and spiritual fervour. Some of the crosses are devotional, others are memorials, many for people deported to Siberia and some are folk-art pieces. It is an unusual place, obviously still a place of pilgrimage as there were hundreds of people here. Today was a special day, the only day of the year that Catholics celebrate mass at the Hill. Walking around the complex we saw crosses hanging from crosses and lots with rosary beads draped over them. Many stalls had been set up selling crosses, rosary beads and the odd toy stall added into the mix. We watched the service for a while before heading home.

So many crosses

So many crosses

The heavens opened up today with extremely heavy rain which made our 140km journey to KernavÄ— a bit scary. As with Latvia not a lot of money appears to be spent on the road system and while they are bitumen, they have very deep ruts from trucks which on a wet day are full of water. Still we made it in one piece. The plan was to visit the archeological museum today and walk around the remains of a medieval town tomorrow. Not going to happen unfortunately, the museum is closed until Wednesday so as not to waste the day, we got out the boots and umbrellas and took off for a walk in the rain around the reserve which is said to be the “Pompeii of Lithuania”. There are four old castle mounds as well as the remains of a burial ground and a reconstructed wooden road. We had a walk along the river before black clouds had us returning home and the rest of the day was spent relaxing.

Vilnius the capital of Lithuania was our destination today and after driving on a secondary road through lots of tidy small villages we arrived at our overnight spot just next to the Neris river. First stop was Gediminas hill with the defensive tower of the old castle and great views over both the old town and the very modern business district. We visited many churches, including the Vilnius cathedral whose exterior looked more like it belonged in Rome with huge white pillars and several statues towering over the square on the roof. In the cobbled streets were lots of stalls selling Amber, linen and babushka dolls. We stopped at a Lithuanian restaurant for lunch where I tried something called a Cepelinai, a Zeppelin shaped potato dumpling filled with savoury meat and a sour cream dip and pork crackling in some kind of sauce. It was extremely heavy and while I’m glad I tried it, wouldn’t have it again. Dave took the safe option of chicken Kiev which he said was very nice. We also had a nice Lithuanian lager each, all for €14. After lunch we walked to the 16th century Gates of Dawn which is the only one of nine original gates still intact. We finished our day with a nice stroll along the river through Vingus park where the two playgrounds were bursting with happy children.

Vilnius cathedral

Vilnius cathedral

At last, we finally located a self service laundry just outside of Vilnius after visiting numerous places both in Latvia and Lithuania where they would do it for you, at a price. I was in seventh heaven, finally getting all of our clothes, sheets and towels washed. Have I mentioned how much I hate HAND WASHING!!!! Anyway, that was our morning. From the laundry we headed to Trakai which houses a fairy-tale island castle. It has been restored, however the red brick gothic castle dates from the late 14th century. We had a look in the castle grounds but decided against paying the €6 each to visit the inside given the extent of the restoration work. We had a walk around the perimeter of the grounds and through the small souvenir area before heading back. On the road again for another 60 kms has us arriving at our overnight wild camp spot near the Nemunas Neman river just outside of Birštonas.

A lot of restoration work done on this castle

A lot of restoration work done on this castle

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