Posts Tagged With: camper

Leaving for Norway: First stop Hamburg

It’s finally time to drive north to Norway as we’re in the middle of the European summer. Temperatures vary between 16 and 35 degrees (lately it’s been extremely hot) but since we are optimists, that’s all “good weather” for us. The Globetrotter got a little make-over: One of the back tyres had a 40cm long bubble which wasn’t visible to us but it caused both front tyres to go completely bold. So both front tyres had to be renewed and the back tyre was replaced by the spare. We also had the waste water pipe welded back on again, as we accidentally ripped it half way off again in France, oops.
Organised as we are we book the ferry from Denmark to Norway on the day of our departure, realising that it’s booked out for the next 5 days. Fortunately we are not in a big hurry and still have to cover 800km to the port anyway.

We stock up on food and drinks, as Norway is supposed to be very expensive. Two trolleys full of can food, rice, pasta, soups, veggies in glasses, porridge, cereal and even a box of beer and other beverages should last us 4 weeks without major shopping in Norway.
Last but not least we fill up the diesel tank and then finally find ourselves on the road towards Hamburg.

Click to enlarge:

 

Four hours later we get into a traffic jam just before Hamburg and decide to get off the highway to drive into Hamburg. After driving through what we thought was the city centre of Hamburg, something just doesn’t seem quite right. I remember Hamburg to be very different, when suddenly I realise we are in Harburg!!! We have a good laugh and keep on going to Hamburg which is only about 10min away.
First Logan got the impression that Hamburg is an industrial city and wasn’t all too impressed but I knew the city had a very nice centre. After crossing dozens of bridges over the Elbe (The river that also flows through Dresden and Magdeburg), the Alster and Canals, we finally get to the Alster lake in the middle of the city and Logan’s immersion drastically changes.

There are many people out and about, sitting in the parks, running around the lakes or going for a walk. We find ourselves a car park at the water’s edge for the night and enjoy watching a thunderstorm rolling in. The coolish air is more than welcome but even at night the air temperature doesn’t go below 21 degrees.

The Alster lake …and because it’s in fashion to wear colourful pants this summer, here the traffic light model: red, yellow and green.

   

  

In the morning we have to get up at 7:30 as the car park is reserved for tour buses from 8am. We drive a little closer towards the town hall and find ourselves another car park at the Binnen-Alster, where we have breakfast and then explore the city along the lake, the town hall and some shopping streets.

 

 

Back at the Globetrotter, I navigate Logan towards the Kiez, Hamburg’s famous club, gambling and red light district. On the Reeperbahn, as the street is called, we indeed still find the evidence of the previous night: Young men sleeping off their hangover on the streets, some even still drinking! Sex shops and lap dance bars as far as the eye can see; even along the smaller side streets.
Since it doesn’t look as exciting during the day, here an idea of how it looks like at night:

Hamburg is Germany’s second largest city and has a population of 1.8 million people. What I find more impressive even is: Hamburg has about 2500 bridges! That is about 5 times as many as Venice; an unbelievable number!

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Hiking on the Seiser Alm/Alpe di Siusi, Dolomites


“Francy, get out the van and look at this! You won’t believe it!” I hear Logan saying in the morning. I open the door and see a snow line in the trees only about 100m above us. Oh, so I guess there will be fresh snow on the Seiser Alm then?! Looks like our walk will rather be a short one today anyway after Logan ran up there yesterday and I’m still fighting off my light headache.

The Seiser Alm, or in Italian: Alpe di Siusi, is Europe’s highest alpine pasture at 1680 – 2350m above sea level. It is very big at about 57km² and surrounded by mountains like the Schlern and the Langkofelgruppe (long-peak-group).

The Schlern:


We drive up the serpentine mountain road to Compatsch, the only village where cars are still allowed on the Alm and discover that much of the snow is already melting due to the warm sun. Looking at the tourist map, we realize there are literally hundreds of different routes to choose from, some of them particularly designed for hiking, some for cycling and some for running. We choose a 1-2hour round trip and start our easy walk:

The Langkofelgruppe with Logan looking at the Plattkofel (flat-peak) 2969m:

 

 

Within 10 minutes we lost the orange track we wanted to follow and find ourselves getting further and further away from the van. What started off as a slow walk turns into a hike, then a power hike, up and down hills and soon steep up towards the Langkofelgruppe. After 5(!!!) hours of hiking I’m suddenly being screamed at. I have no idea what it is or where it’s coming from and start screaming myself. Then I see it! A groundhog! I’m so excited, I can hardly get a word out to explain Logan what I see. A very confident ground hog is standing up right in front of me, trying to scare me off. We slowly get closer and sit down on a rock. After a few seconds we see another one, and another one, and another one… The whole groundhog family is coming out from it’s den to check us out too. I really love watching animals, especially in the wild. We stay for a while, watching them play, feed and ring the shrill alarm whistle another time, when a large bird flies past.

Finally we arrive at the Plattkofel hut. My feet are wet from the melting snow and I’m exhausted from the long hike. We are looking forward to a drink and some warm food in the hut when soon it dawns on us: The hut is closed. We already expected it as we haven’t seen any hikers for a long time and there were no tracks in the snow either.

Plattkofel (flat peak)                                                                            See the ground hog?

 

So instead of sitting down for a nice warm lunch, we get out our emergency cookies and some water and sit down in the grass. A black bird joins us, being quite pushy about getting his share of our lunch.

Plattkofel hut                                                                Black bird and Plattkofel in the background

 

The tracks up the Plattkofel weren’t open yet due to the snow and quite frankly we didn’t feel like hiking/climbing any higher. We had a long way back to our van and didn’t want to arrive back in Compatsch after dark.
Fortunately going down works out to be quite fast, especially slipping and sliding down the melting snow.

Soon we arrive in a valley and realize that we need to walk back up again. There are no buses going, so we have no choice but to keep going!

 

Here you can see the Plattkofel (the snowy flat peak on the right), the mountain we walked down all the way into the valley and then back up to where I took this photo. Only about 20min to Compatsch (and our van) from here!

The sun is standing low when we see the first houses of Compatsch. It has been 7.5 hours since we left for the walk.
Absolutely exhausted but happy about this amazing hike, we fall into the door of our camper van and have a decent portion of Spaghetti to fill up our hungry bellies.

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Tale of the leaning Tower of Pisa

Today we went to Pisa and Logan couldn’t help himself but have a taste of the marble walls of the tower of Pisa. He must have thought it would be similar to the marbled Italian ice cream.

  

Now look what happened!!! The tower of Pisa is leaning off to one side!!!

I’m trying my best to move it back into position…

 

 

And even Logan is trying to straighten it…

   

The people up the top are scared and start to panic…

 

Eventually we give up and quietly disappear from the scene, pretending we had nothing to do with it!

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All roads lead to Rome

This morning some police walked by and told us we have to move the van… something we expected, but at least we got away with it for one night. After a second search we strike gold, we can’t believe it! A spot on a smaller street right in the heart of Rome, virtually across the street from the Vittoriano (the Monument of Victor Emanuel) and just down the street from the Colosseum. Image

Now we need to work out what we want to see. We decide we first need to find an Internet café to print out some information about Rome, so we don’t walk about aimlessly. On the way we pass some interesting sites.

     

The Vittoriano is such an impressive building, made of white marble featuring Corinthian columns, fountains, an equestrian statue of Victor Emmanuel, two statues of the Goddess Victoria and an eternal flame. Built between 1885 and 1911 it was built to commemorate the achievements of Victor Emmanuel, the Italian king who was successful in the unification of Italy in 1870.

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The Trajan forum is across the street, which was completed around 113 AD and in its time was considered one of the architectural wonders of the world. Today it is a mere shadow of its former self, however still very impressive to witness such amazing architecture that still remains after almost 2000 years. Image

The Internet café is a long walk and it turns out to be cheaper to purchase a book on Rome, than to print out the pages we need. We also purchase the Rome Pass, which gives us entry into 3 different museums/monuments. Having finished lunch in our van, we decide to head down the main road towards the Colosseum. We can see a lot of other impressive monuments along the way, like the Forum of Caesar, but these can wait. We have our sites set on the mighty Colosseum. Even in today’s standards, it stands as an imposing structure. Completed in 80 AD, this huge amphitheater could house some 55,000 spectators. I can’t stop thinking of the ancient battles that took place here so long ago.

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I just read in our trusty tourist book that the games usually started with comical acts and displays of exotic animals, but what the crowds really came for were the Gladiator battles. Most Gladiators fought wild animals such as lions and tigers but would also fight each other, usually to the death. We were told that there are more tourists in Rome than Italians and today I think this is the case. However, we manage to dodge most of the line up due to our Rome Pass, allowing us to bypass the ticket cue. We spend about an hour walking around inside, taking photos, videoing and imagining what it would have been like all those years ago. While still largely intact, an earthquake in 847 AD caused a large section on the southern side to collapse, nevertheless well worth the visit.

  

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We head back towards the van and attempt to check out more of the Forum along the way but unfortunately we are too late; the gates are closed, so settle for a view from the nearby footpath.   Although the street we are parked on is narrow and appears not to be a main road, it seems to be the route of the many tourist buses that circle the city all day. Our van is the first vehicle after the corner, which is a possible target for a crazy Italian bus driver. The first chance I get I think I will move it forward to give them ample space.

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Driving East to West through Southern Italy

Having explored the centre and east coast of Italy, we decide it’s time to now head over west, towards Naples (Napoli). We don’t leave until about 3pm but then cut across through the beautiful green centre of Southern Italy.

Only about 4 hours later we get to see the Mediterranean Sea. We also notice a much higher population, mixed in with a lot more tourists and probably a higher criminality rate. We’re not quite sure as to where to park the van over night, so try to get away from Salerno and the coastline a few kilometres where so many dark shadows seem to walk around in the late evening.
We quickly get into higher terrain and get lost in some very small hilltop villages with small streets, often one-way, and find ourselves driving backwards for many 100metres because we got to a dead end road and there was no way we could have turned around. After a few of these unfortunate wrong-turns, we find a place to park behind some living-apartments. Quite hidden, we feel safe to fall asleep and recover from the adventurous driving manoevres towards the end.

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Locorotondo and the Trulli of Alberobello

Logan read about Locorotondo being one of the most picturesque towns in Southern Italy, so we were curious about this. On the way I did some more research and stumbled over a place called Alberobello said to have cone shaped houses, only a couple of kilometres from Locorotondo.

First we explore the lovely little town of Locorotondo and stroll through the small alleyways gazing at the pretty white houses. The view from the top of the town is fantastic and we get to see some of the cone shaped houses from here. They are called Trulli.

 

 

 

       

        

On the way to Alberobello these Trulli seem to get more and more. First of all we are following the camper sign to find a place to park and stay the night. Up on the hill we find a nice spot to camp and then ride down with the bicycles to the town district with the Trulli.

It’s the first time we see tourists in a while! There are actually a lot of Italian holidayers. And then I catch a glimpse of an old lady sitting outside of her Trullo.

 

The cone shaped dome is actually of oriental origin introduced into Puglia by tribes from Asia Minor. The word “Trullo” derives from the Greek word “tholos”, which refers to a circular dome-shaped construction. On the highest part of the face of the cone, very ancient Pagan and Christian symbols were painted in white chalk. Symbols with magic and proprietary powers, all pointing in the directon of the first deity: the sun.

 

The roundish head of the pinnacles is meant to represent the link with the solar sphere and it is more noticeable in older trulli.

Originally some people used to put drawings of the horoscopes of the people who lived in the house on the house itself so as to bring good luck. The pagan symbols represented animals and human motifs connected with superstition and used to be put on the cones for protection. Finally ornamental symbols had only a decorative role and alluded to persons or particular situations.

In 1926, the Monti Quarter, St. Anthony’s Church was built, according to the traditional local trullo building technique.

We walk down the labyrinth-like alleyways and get a lot of footage of the cute little houses.

I couldn’t resist but buy a small 1Euro Trullo for myself which is now attached to our camera bag. We are also offered some home made chocolate liquor and cookies, gosh are they tasty!!!

Back at the campsite we enjoy a nice warm shower, do some laundry and actually wash the van from the outside. It was about time!

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Ancient European Forests and the Art of finding Petrol Stations in Italy

We just woke up to the sound of birds and the wind blowing through the trees… and a big bull (!) standing in front of our van.

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The forest is inviting us for a pleasant stroll, or in Logan’s terms: a power hike into the woods. I discover many unique ancient trees, beautiful flowers in yellow, purple and white and also red berries. I’m taking my time to film and gaze at everything while Logan is impatiently waiting 50 meters in front of me.

After an hours walk, we decide to backtrack where we came from, as we have no idea where the path will be leading us. Back on the road, we are heading south towards Bari and then Monopoli. Finding a petrol station in Italy is not easy! If you assume that petrol stations are on the highway: Not in Italy! Every so often you will find a sign saying: 350m petrol station. You ask yourself: 350m TO the petrol station or to the exit to the petrol station. The next exit, maybe 200m from the sign, hasn’t got any other sign. Can’t be this exit then, right? And then you see it from the distance. Well exit missed. Surely we can take the next exit and drive back? No, that’s not possible because you can get off the highway but not back on. Meanwhile you waste the last drops of your petrol. Half an hour later we finally find a petrol station and are being waved right back out of it. “Closed” even though the sign says: “open”. A few hundred meters later we finally find an open petrol station and fill up our thirsty Globetrotter. Just before Monopoli we find a nice spot with a cliff down to the sea and an inlet. After Logan went for a run, he jumped into the refreshing (freezing!) cold water. Unfortunately we have run out of water and also need to do our dishes in the sea. That made for a salty aftertaste. Oh well.

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Manfredonia and Gargano NP

 

We are getting our push bikes ready to discover Manfredonia today. First we are riding along the (polluted – for Australian standards) beach and then head into the city. The cliffs in the background look interesting to us and we are planning on driving up there after some sightseeing in Manfred.

 

Most of the city’s buildings are white and joint to each other with balconies. The streets are small but since it’s Sunday, everyone is out on the streets and walking into the cathedral.

 

We are riding back to our van and then make our way to the Gargano National Park (the home of Gargamel – I’m kidding!). To get there we have to drive very high up over the

cliff and mountains on which Monte Sant’ Angelo is situated. The views are impressive but we keep going further inland, into the National Park, where we find ourselves a beautiful little spot in the ancient forest, covered with a green canopy.

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Italy’s Spur – Pischici and Manfredonia

Another shower experience! This time it’s different, so I feel like sharing this fun story once again! The shower at Azzurro Lido needs tokens to work. My first mission is to find the owner. Equipped with a towel and my toiletry bag, I search for Mr. Azzurro Lido all over the campsite, including the house, when all of the sudden the alarm goes off. I’m sure that at least now he’ll turn up somewhere. But he doesn’t! I then see some smoke trailing behind an old caravan and find him and his wife cooking a BBQ. His wife is getting a token out of the house and exchanges it with me for 2Euros. I assume that the time is limited, so I get undressed first, before inserting the token. Then I pop in the token and quickly get my hair wet under the still cold water (don’t want to waste time). All of the sudden the water gets boiling hot and there is no way of changing the temperature as there is no tab. I step aside from the water and quickly get shampoo in my hair and over my body. The boiling hot water burns my feet and I force myself to at least quickly rinse the foam out of my hair. The moment I step under the water, the water flow stops! WHAT IS THAT? A 30 SECOND SHOWER??? I’m full of shampoo foam everywhere, including my eyes! Half blind I reach outside, hoping the token may have come out – no luck! My eyes burn and I’m so frustrated, a few tears are flowing. I paid 2 Euros for this shower and would have been better off washing myself with a hose! Well all the frustration doesn’t help, so I walk over to the tab which is for cleaning your feet and squeeze underneath to rinse the shampoo out of my hair and then splash it over me, to rinse myself too. Lucky there is only a few people on the beach, quite far away, not knowing I’m half naked and blind.

When I tell Logan about my lovely experience, he is laughing. He had the same experience yesterday but he was given two tokens for 2 Euros and he didn’t wash his hair.

All batteries charged up we leave Azzurro Lido and drive through Pischici. The very steep and tight streets make it hard not to damage our Globetrotter. At times, I have to get out and guide Logan through between cars and walls, only having 1-2cm on each side!!! At one point we realise all our fresh water is running out of the pipe. Just out of nothing! Oh no! What did we damage now?? We find out, it’s only a valve that needed to be turned back and everything was closed again. Phew!

We soon keep going and choose to stop along the coast at a few lookouts. The dramatic cliffs and small coves are picture-perfect!

  

  

  

The road leads us to Manfredonia. The architecture shows signs of Greek influences, probably because the city was settled by the Greeks in ancient times. We only drive through once and then go grocery shopping in a nice shopping centre, before finding ourselves a car park next to a small takeaway bar.

Logan got motivated and is having a bottle of vodka tonight and soon is feeling social again, talking to some strange characters at the take-away bar next to our van. “Oh no”, I’m thinking. I hear him talking about our travels and I really hope the person he is talking to, and the two dodgy looking Italians behind him, are good people, since we are planning on staying the night and next day here and I wouldn’t appreciate any visitors or people stealing things from our van.

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Incidents at Lake Campotosto

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After a couple of days of enjoying our time in Colmurano and finally solving our sink problem with some very agressively bubbleling drain cleaner, it is time to move on and make our way to Abruzzo National Park.
We drive south through the same nice mountain villages when going to Sibillini National Park and stop for some grocery shopping in Sarnarno. The prices for food are a lot higher than in Germany; we are negatively surprised.
On the map I pick “Lake Campotosto” as our destination. A lake will be nice to look at and maybe we can try fishing again there. The lake has 40km of shoreline and we drive around it once, before picking our camp spot on a grassy bit, next to the quiet road. Logan starts a fire outside and we try to enjoy the evening. Unfortunately
the weather turns quite nasty with strong winds and eventually rain, that we have to spend the rest of the night inside. I light up some tea candles to help the van warm up a little, something I had to regret later on.
Logan then wants to move the van but suddenly the wheels start spinning and instead of going forward, we are going backwards, not seeing two
mounts in the grass. (You can see them in the picture behind the van) We are stuck! He walks out and comes back to the van, holding our waste water pipe in his hands. “Oh no, that’s not good” I say and suggest, he doesn’t try to get the van out tonight. “We should just wait until tomorrow and have a look at it, when it’s bright.” I move the tea candles from the table to the kitchen bench and we make up the bed. I think about blowing them out but otherwise, they may help keep it warm for a little longer. I mean they are tea candles and have an aluminium case. We both keep looking at them for a while but they seem to be fine there, so we fall asleep.
At around 3:30am I suddenly wake up. Something feels wrong. The air in here is bad and it smells strange I think. I switch on the light and check the candles. They are all out but what I see then, made me feel dizzy: A paper box next to one of the tea candles had caught fire and burnt a 8x5cm area of the kitchen bench. I fall back into the bed and open one of the windows. Freezing air streams in but at least it’s fresh. Then I get up again and remove the half-burnt box and candles into the bin bag. While Logan is shocked about this too, he is back to sleep quickly. I have trouble falling asleep for the next 1-2hours. We are so lucky the fire extinguished itself and nothing else happened! No more candles in this van ever again!

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