Original Blog Post:
Gfrill and Villanders:
Hiking Alpe di Siusi, Dolomites:
Posts Tagged With: campervan
Original Blog Post:
Having been to Nigardsbreen Glacier, the most northerly point of our Norway tour, we aim for Jotunheimen National Park.
Arriving in Lom, we stop at a Stave Church and the tourist information centre where Logan picks up a 2013 calendar with pictures of Norway.
We drive over a pass, overlooking Norway’s highest mountains of up to 2469m. There is even plenty of snow up here still and many glaciers make their way down.
Gjende lake is described in the travel book as Norway’s most beautiful lake. Unfortunately we arrive there when the sky is dark grey and rain is just starting to fall. We are very low on diesel and feel a little too nervous to stay, so instead just drive on, hoping to finally find a petrol station.
The mountain scenery is incredible and distracts us from our worries for at least a little while.
Finally in Beitostølen, we discover a petrol station – thankfully!
After filling up diesel, we backtrack a few kilometers and then turn right in a private toll road called Jotunheimsvegen. The entry fee is 80NOK (11€/$13), pretty expensive I think at first but considering that this is privately owned and supposedly the most beautiful mountain road in all of Norway, we are happy to pay.
Along the road we pass a few small huts and houses and many lakes. Some cows block the way and even though we almost hit them with our van, they only move out of the way veeeery slowly.
We make camp here on Jotunheimsvegen for the night. Logan is off fishing again, comes back soaking wet but as (almost) always: without any fish.
Oh we’re not the only ones from Australia! This campervan parked next to us at the Stave Church in Lom. The raging river is also in Lom, while the other three pictures were taken on Jotunheimsvegen:
In the morning the road takes us to Skåbu and then onto Lillehammer. The scenery changes drastically from a treeless mountain landscape to green fields, forests and blue lakes.
Lillehammer was host to the winter Olympics in 1994, so we are driving up to the well maintained ski jump and athletics track. Logan even does three 800m rounds on the track and I time him. Next time I’ll bring my “cheerleader pompoms”!
Eventually we drive on to Oslo and the find-a-carpark game starts all over again. We are driving back and forth, doing u-turns, searching, looking.. THERE! What’s this? I can’t read the sign and get out to translate it. Within 5 seconds a bus arrives and angrily beeps the horn at us. I run back to the van and the game continues.
We decide to leave the city centre and drive west. There actually seem to be streets in which no parking tickets are required. Since the sun is still out, we get the bicycles and ride back into town.
Oslo has a beautiful mix of architecture but I mostly prefer the older style buildings:
Flowers are to be found everywhere throughout the city which I personally enjoy looking at very much. The colourfulness of the city continues along the harbour. A very colourful Indian bus is displayed at the front, along with a young boy playing the drums, a guitarist, fairy tale figures and green elephants (which I think are part of a music festival).
The port also has a small beach and grassy area to relax or enjoy the day with the children.
I noticed a lot of young women have children here, probably because Norway is said to be the most child friendly country in the world.
The best surprise of the evening are the swing dancers who probably belong to a dance club. We keep watching them for quite a while and I keep laughing and smiling at this genius dance style. Some people even wear old fashioned clothes.
I really want to join a dance class now!
More on the fantastic Oslo Museums in the next post!
Arriving in Stavanger, we find ourselves a car park and go for a walk through the city. Surrounded by Norwegian style houses, we find a large lake with a fountain right in the city centre. Nearby we discover a Gothic church and on the other side a wedding.
We then follow our way down towards the water. There is a market with stalls selling Norwegian style pullovers, warm winter shoes, flags and much more. Pubs with music and outdoor seating areas are located along the port.
I then discover a sign saying “Old Town” pointing left.
That sounds interesting I think and we follow it up some steps and past some houses. All of a sudden we find ourselves in a lovely old suburb of cute white wooden houses, decorated with flowers everywhere. The cobblestone street leads us past the “Can museum” and two girls selling waffles out their kitchen windows. What a lovely idea to earn some pocket money, so we decide to buy some. So do the tourists who watched us buying them in the first place.
When returning to our mobile home, I pay for the parking ticket and we drive through the open boom gate, wenn all of a sudden we hear a loud noise of plastic dropping. “What the?!?!??” Jumping out of the van, we discover the boom gate lying on the floor. Now what? Run? Laugh? Call someone? First I check if there are any scratches to be seen on our Camper but the gate was only made from a light plastic. I quickly manage to take a shot, before we then just leave. No time for drama, we want to go fishing.
And with fishing, another drama unfolds once again! The new fishing line we bought, seems to be too thick for my fishing rod and keeps tangling up badly. Logan then let’s me use his fishing rod for a little while and soon after I loose the rather expensive fish bait to the sea grass at the bottom. His fishing line is thinner and tears when I try to pull the bait out. How frustrating. Logan isn’t happy either, but hey, he lost two yesterday already! I give up for today and leave the fishing to Logan. After another hour or so, he throws out the line, gets somehow tangled and the bait goes flying into the lake! Another one gone. Disappointed we pack our stuff together and retreat to the campervan.
Thanks for the fish Norway.
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!
“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).
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.
Having done a lot of sightseeing, Logan and I want to return to the mountains and do some hiking in the picturesque Dolomite Mountains.
Once we drove past the Garda lake (lago di Garda) I look up camping sites in the Dolomites in my Bordatlas. The only free one nearby is in Gfrill. Well it is free when you have dinner in the restaurant of the “Fichtenhof” and since we feel like a good South-Tyrolean meal, we are glad to have an excuse. I have never heard of Gfrill before and upon arrival I realise why! Only about 40 people live here and it is quite hidden up high on a hill. The drive is rather exciting with our Campervan, but it is do-able.
The owner of the Fichtenhof tells us where we can park for the night and supplies us with electricity from the wooden shed. Since the temperature still drops down to zero degrees at night, I’m relieved we are able to heat!
The restaurant is furnished in typical Austrian style and everyone speaks German, even though we are still in Italy. German seems to be the main language here and after some research we find out, that the borders had been moved years ago after the war. Even the town and street names are in German, I’m feeling quite at home here!
Our meals are just delicious and while feasting we are enjoying a stunning view down the valley from the restaurant window.
I just finished my meal as suddenly I hear my name: Frau Koennecke!? I’m thinking, there’s gotta be someone else here named Koennecke, how would she know my name?? She is looking at me and says: “Telefon! Ihre Mama ist am Telefon!” …My mum is on the phone? I had just sent them a message letting them know we had safely arrived in Gfrill. How would they know that we’re sitting in the Fichtenhof?? I guess I just have smart parents.
After a nice chat to my mum, Logan and I are about to leave the restaurant to return to our Globetrotter van when one of the friendly staff is starting to talk to us, questioning especially Logan about Australia. Then the owner comes back with some photos of himself in Australia a few years ago. Very nice and welcoming people here in Gfrill!
Finally we are off to our van and after a game of chess we are falling asleep in a warm and cosy campervan.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today’s plan is to drive to Pompeii and have a look at the ancient ruins destroyed by the Vesuvius volcano 79AD.
We think it’s best to drive along the popular Amalfi coast. Especially dad kept saying, you gotta have a look at the Amalfi coast, it’s supposed to be spectacular with the high cliffs dropping into the sea.
Spectectular? Oh yes! But we didn’t really know, that the road along the coast would be carved into the cliff going up and down and being particularly bendy! The cliffs are partly hanging over the narrow road adding to the danger of damaging our Globetrotter van. At a roadwork traffic light, a man jumps out of his car, informing us that Campervans are not allowed along the Amalfi Coast. I could hardly believe this but google confirms his statement: No mobile homes or caravans allowed between April and September. Only between 23:00-06:00 are they allowed to pass through. Basically that is in the dark and since we have made it half way through, we have no choice but to keep going.
The views are amazing but the hectic and dangerous drive is even more thrilling! About 5km before Positano we are being stopped by a traffic controller. She tells us that we can’t go through Positano as there are road works and we’re too big to fit through. We couldn’t believe it! Instead of going all the way back, she said we could also go through Agerola and head inland from there. I’m not exactly sure what she was thinking or if we took a wrong turn towards Agerola but we suddenly find ourselves on a very steep, windy, narrow and bumpy road that was obviously not made for vehicles such as ours!
Trying to make it up the steep cliff, our Globetrotter is at its limit nearly stalling. We have to squeeze through between a car and a wall and eventually have to discover that we cannot make the last bit due to the road turning into a gravel track.
Back down the same steep track, we find another turn off with the streets gradually becoming wider and easier to navigate through, until finally we make it back onto a main road.
Finally getting to Pompeii, we only have the afternoon to have a look at the ruins but think it should be enough time.
Upon paying an entrance fee of 11Euros each and buying a guidebook, we enter the world of Pompeii. We are absolutely stunned and amazed by the size and atmosphere.
Pompeii is a town that was buried in 79AD by the Vesuvius volcano and first ruins were only discovered in 1592 while the first excavations didn’t begin until 1748 and are ongoing.
We then lost ourselves in a different world, set way back in the past. Not only did the Pompeians have an Amphitheatre, in which gladiators fought wild animals and occasionally each other, they also had gyms, community baths, temples, basilicas (churches), forums, two theatres, a market place, potteries, bakeries, taverns, vineyards, gardens and more.
We are stunned. And suddenly it is 7:30pm and we hardly see another person in Pompeii. We rush back to the entrance, getting slightly lost and having to jump a wall. We made it before they closed the gates and get back to our campervan.
You can easily spend a whole day in Pompeii and if you really want to get into it, a week wouldn’t be long enough. It is an amazing place to see and feel.
We decide that we want to climb the Vesuvius crater tomorrow so already make our way to the still active Volcano and spend the night at a car park next to a little take-away place from which we get two slices of pizza before going to bed.
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.