Posts Tagged With: City

Bergen and Hardangerfjord

After finally having caught the ferry, road 7 to Bergen leads us along the Hardangerfjord, with 180km Norway’s second longest fjord which is not only popular for its sheer beauty but also for the many fruit trees along the shores. We drive past many pretty villages before eventually arriving in Bergen.

Hardangerfjord

We spend the night at a car park near the port as parking is free from 8pm. In the morning we desperately look for a free car park around town but it seems that you have to pay everywhere. Suddenly we come across a car park in a street called Klosteret 6-17, very close to the centre. We can’t seem to find any signs nor a parking meter so just freely park up. We hear someone say that the car park may be for residents only but shouldn’t there be a sign then? We give this one a try anyway as there are also other cars, including one other mobile home, parked up with foreign number plates. (So far we have been standing here for 2 days and haven’t received a parking ticket – touch wood)

When leaving to explore the city, we realise how much our waste water pipe is actually leaking. Since we are parked on an angle, water is running down over the car park and into a gutter. Logan tries to fix it but instead a much larger volume of water bursts out before he can attach it back on. Oops, I guess we need to buy some sealant.

Parking in Bergen

In Bergen our first destination is the Floibanen (www.Floibanen.com) which takes us up a hill from which we get to see all of Bergen city including the surrounding fjords. The price one way up per person is 40NOK (4,50EUR or $6,50).


We choose to walk back down, a good decision as we come across a real troll forest!

Troll Forest Bergen

Back down in the city, we walk along the hanseatic Brygge which is part of the UNESCO world heritage sites. We are sitting down for lunch and a drink at one of the beer garden-type restaurants outside and enjoy the sunny summer weather overlooking the port.

Nearby are the Bergenhus Fortress, the Mariakirke (church), shops, fish markets and also tourist market stalls. Eventually we get to the city centre and to the lake Lille Lungegardsvannet and this beautiful flower pavilion. Some students seem to have their graduation today and we keep seeing themed groups of young people running around in the streets, cheering and dancing everywhere.

Bergen

 

 

I also finally register my Telenor SIM card, only to find out afterwards that Telenor has changed prices and I’m strongly being recommended not to use internet with this sim card, as it is too expensive. What a waste of money, don’t buy Telenor! I stick with my German Vodafone sim and the 2EUR for 25MB packages per day for the rest of our trip.

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Lucerne: the city, the lake, the mountains

Since Naples we can’t ride our bicycles anymore because Logan has a flat back tyre so we finally decided it was time to find a bicycle store to get it fixed. Unfortunately the only bike store in Lucerne is closed today but just when we want to leave, Logan discovers a tube automat. That’s right! Like a cigarette automat, this one sells tubes! How convenient. 

The next challenge is to find a car park. We come across the big bus park next to the train station and decide to risk staying here for the day. There is no parking meter so we don’t need to/can’t pay. (I still don’t know whether we were allowed to park here but we were lucky enough to not get a ticket.)

While Logan is changing his tube, I’m having a look through the nearby park and the Vierstättersee. The lake is not just one of Lucerne’s biggest attractions, it is also somewhat part of the city. 

 

We’re riding past dozens of students enjoying their lunch time at the water front, a street artist presenting his Ice Age painting and swans trying to snatch some bread from the passing tourists. 

Lucerne is enjoying a warm break from the long swiss winter and it seems as if every Lucerne resident is out and about. The streets are filled with joy and laughter and the cruise ships are overflowing with tourists. 
Arriving at the end of town, we turn around and this time navigate away from the water front, into the city. 

  

At a shopping mall we have lunch and once we’re back outside, unlocking our bicycles, we are being stopped by two police men. “Are these bicycles your’s?” I wish I had asked: “Would you mind if I just take out my camera and you repeat your question?” I wasn’t quick witted enough and responded: “Yes?!” Then they asked for our lock and key as proof. 
Rather amused about this occurrence, we ride through the city, browse through a couple of shops and eventually arrive at the popular chapel bridge.

   

The Chapel Bridge is a covered wooden footbridge spanning diagonally across the Reuss River in the city of Lucerne in central Switzerland. Named after the nearby St. Peter’s Chapel, the bridge is unique since it contains a number of interior paintings dating back to the 17th century, although many of them were destroyed along with most of the centuries old bridge in a 1993 fire. Subsequently restored, the Kapellbrücke is the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe, as well as the world’s oldest surviving truss bridge. It serves as the city’s symbol and as one of Switzerland’s main tourist attractions.

 

Leaving Lucerne and the Vierwaldstätter See, we are driving past some beautiful mountain scenery and eventually find ourselves a camping spot for the night at a lake not far from Lucerne. There is even a waterfall nearby. 
Logan tries his luck fishing for a couple of hours but has to give up after two hours, blaming the fishing rod for not having caught anything. 

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Rome: A Marathon Through History

The Rome guidebook suggests dozens of sights, each one of them sounding important and interesting. It is hard to get an overview and make decisions of which places to see and which to leave out. You could easily spend weeks in Rome visiting all the sights and museums, indulging in food and culture and enjoy the atmosphere.

 

 

We start our day walking into the Monument of Emmanuel, enjoying the views over Rome from the balcony. We then proceed to the Roman Forum, trying to imagine how it used to look like 2000 years ago with the help of some pictures in our Rome book.

The Roman Forum today and reconstructed:

 

A museum is part of the forum, displaying discoveries and finds of old mosaics, perfume bottles made from glass, plates, sculptures of domesticated animals, artwork, pottery and so on. We are amazed at how far developed the old Romans were.

From the Forum we walk up Palatine Hill. According to Roman mythology, the Palatine Hill was the location of the cave, known as the Luprcal, where Romulus and Remus were found by the she-wolf that kept them alive. When they were older, the boys killed their great-uncle (who seized the throne from their grandfather), and they both decided to build a new city of their own on the banks of the River Tiber. Suddenly, they had a violent argument with each other and in the end Romulus killed his twin brother Remus. This is how “Rome” got its name – from Romulus.
Rome has its origins on the Palatine. Indeed, recent excavations show that people have lived there since approximately 1000 BC.

Behind Palatine Hill is the Circus Maximus, which is an ancient Roman chariot racing stadium and mass entertainment venue. It measured 621 m (2,037 ft) in length and 118 m (387 ft) in width, and could accommodate about 150,000 spectators. Today it rather looks like a long football field. We read that the remains are still buried underneath and excavations are yet to be undertaken.

Getting hungry, we cross the beautiful river Tiber, looking at isola Tiberina, and stop for our first Italian Pizza in Trastevere.

Feeling reinvigorated after a decent lunch, we walk back past the camper van and towards the Via Torre di Argentina, to the cat sanctuary “Roman Cats”. Until recently feral cats have lived throughout Rome, struggling to survive. The cat sanctuary gives them a home, food and neuters them, so they can’t reproduce. We are being introduced to the last cat that lived in the Colosseum and also a 3-legged cat that is happily climbing the vertical grid on the window. The healthy cats have access to an outside area, the ruins of an old Roman forum, which is also the location of Julius Caesar’s assassination.

 
We leave a small donation and follow our guide book to the nearby Fountain of Trevi. Being 26m high and 20m wide, it is the largest baroque fountain in Rome. We find a huge accumulation of tourists around the fountain and I have to climb up on a bench to actually see the full size of it.

 

We make the Pantheon our last destination. The Pantheon is a mighty circular concrete building, with large Corinthian columns and a concrete dome with a central opening (oculus) to the sky. It is a temple to all the gods of ancient Rome and was rebuilt in about 126 AD. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 43.3 metres (142 ft).

 

Exhausted and tired we return to our van for a good night sleep.

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Venice, Italy

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Day 7 (by Francy)

Logan is up early. “We’re going to Venice!” My excitement is rather limited at 7am and no sun to see through the thick fog. “Sure, we want to go to Venice today?” I ask. It’s the Easter Weekend and I don’t know if that’s the best time to enjoy a small romantic city with lanes and tiny bridges that cross small canals.” Logan is convinced though that we should go today as the weather looks quite good. Quickly we are having brekky and make our way back to the Tronchetto car park in Venice.

For 1Euro we catch “the people mover”, a monorail train, to the city. There is also the option of catching the Vaporetti, the boat that goes up and down the 3.5km long Canale Grande, transporting all the tourists, each ride costing 6,50 Euros. At the Piazzale Roma we buy Vaporetti tickets for 16 Euros each, which give us unlimited access to the Vaporetti boats. Having only caught the overcrowded boat twice, we later found out that it would have been cheaper to pay per ride.

Venice is built on 117 small islands and has some 150 canals and 410 bridges. Only three bridges cross the Grand Canal: the Ponte di Rialto, the Ponte dell’Accademia and the Ponte dei Scalzi.
A city for meanderers, Venice rewards every minute devoted to penetrating its cat’s cradle of intertwined lanes. Barely a building here isn’t a unique monument of some sort.

To describe Venice is impossible. Many have tried from Goethe to Brodsky, but it has to be seen felt and wandered through to be believed. No theme-park creator could ever have come up with this result of 1400 years of extraordinary history. The many intertwined lanes, small romantic bridges and beautiful inventive architecture combined with the smell and sight of aging and neglected buildings give Venice that special charm. If only the local council could make sure that less rubbish is lying around, especially at the outskirts of Venice. We saw a shocking amount of rubbish scattered around and floating in the water.

From Piazzale Roma, we walk over the bridge ponte della Costituzione past the Santa Lucia train station and then over the Ponte de Scalzi. After that, I can honestly say we got totally lost in the labyrinth of Venice. At some point we get to the very famous fish markets of Rialto. Everywhere people are eating pizza, ice cream and sea fruit and I have to remind Logan a few times that we packed lunch so we wouldn’t spend a fortune in Venice. At Rialto we sit down near the Canale Grande, amongst dozens of other people, and have our lunch. We keep watching the over-crowded Vaporetti and aren’t looking forward to taking it. We then cross the ponte di Rialto, fighting our way through the tourist crowds and stop at the Vaporetti jetty. Jammed into the boat, we ride down the beautiful Canale Grande to the famous Piazza San Marco and Basilica di San Marco. It is unnecessary to say that Venice consists of old and pretty buildings but the moment I walk around the corner and catch a glimpse of the Basilica di San Marco, I abruptly stop and all that comes out of me is a “wow”. Then I turn to Logan and he has that same look in his face. The Basilica embodies a magnificent blend of architectural and decorative styles, dominated by Byzantine ideas and ranging through Romanesque to Renaissance. Unfortunately we discover a huge line up to enter the Basilica and decide to just gaze at it from the outside. The Piazza San Marco plays host to competing flocks of pigeons and tourists. Actually we see photographers offering to give birdseeds to tourists, to then take photos of them with pigeons on their hands in front of the Basilica. I leave it up to the reader and anthropoligists/psychologists to make sense of such human behaviour but I’m sure the bird’s interest is in the food, not to present peace, while the photographer just wants money.
Standing at the Piazza I feel a few raindrops on my skin, when all of a sudden people start packing up and running towards the Canale Grande. I’m feeling slightly exhausted and annoyed at all these people bumping into me. Logan and I slowly make our way back to the ferry and don’t leave it until we get to the Tronchetto car park jetty. A few more steps and we are back at our comfortable Campervan.

By accident we get on to the highway, half panicking that we have to pay toll fees now but when taking the next exit and enter the toll ticket, we get free pass. Then we get lost quite a bit and simply can’t seem to cross this canal with our big Campervan as the only bridge we found was only for cars. I somehow manage to direct us out of there anyway and we get back onto the main road south along the Adriatic Sea.
I chose another camping site out of the Board Atlas. This one being for free when you dine in the restaurant but it’s said to have WC, shower and electricity.
Arriving in Marozzo we can’t seem to find the restaurant at all and I actually have to buy internet credit for my phone to read their description on the website. It doesn’t help any more. What helps though is a photo in which there is a big tower with a big green building and all of a sudden I can see the tower to our right. We made it! In the restaurant we get a free Italian lesson, as the waitress doesn’t speak one word of English. Qickly we learn: Aqua, vino, blanco, rousso, and gracie. We order Gnocchi al Formaggio and Tagliatelle al Funghi, real tasty Italian food which we devour in mere minutes.

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Ljubljana and Izola in Slovenia

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Day 4 (by Francy)

Last night I had to turn off the heater because it got too warm in the van. I was expecting to wake up freezing but no, it’s actually still nice and cosy, even though it’s raining outside. Logan is off for another run up a hill in the distance. There is an old ruin on top on the hill and the stairs were beautifully lit up at night time. Unfortunately the hotel doors are closed and therefore the access to the toilets! Weren’t we paying for electricity, water and t o i l e t s ? Maybe this is how things work in Slovenia.

Since we are still Wohnmobil-virgins I’m now excited to announce that we are about to empty our grey water the very first time. It may sound like a ridiculously easy task but in my head I’m playing through all sorts of dramatic scenarios. First of all I have to direct Logan (driving backwards) around another mobile home and then over the tiny grey water drain. Once that was managed successfully, I try my hardest to open the tab underneath our Globetrotter but it won’t open. Panic sets in! Then Logan marches to the tab and turns it as if he was Thor. A shame he couldn’t prove this ability back on the first day when we needed to fill up diesel and couldn’t open the tank!

A huge load of water is being released into the drain and we are quite surprised how much water we have used within four days. This also means that our fresh water tank is missing quite a bit, so we fill that one up with a hose provided by the site.

Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital city, is only a few kilometres away and I’m quite curious how it may look like. As we drive into town, I feel being set back in time. The buildings look the same as the GDR style “Plattenbau”. Basically that means it’s post-war residential housing or box-shaped, grey and boring looking units. While Germany is trying to reduce the number of “Plattenbau” buildings, Ljubljana still seems to be dominated by this kind of architecture. On the other hand there are also many older style buildings in the city centre, which give the city a real character. We are positively surprised by the many green trees, bushes, flowers and parks throughout the entire city. Spring is definitely underway. There even is a fortress on a hill that we drive underneath, through a tunnel. Many people stare at our van and two young lads waving and laughing at us when I point the camera at them.

On the way to Izola, a beach-side town in Slovenia, we have to take the highway as I can’t see any main roads on my rather superficial map. This means we also have to buy a vignette (a toll sticker for the highway) for 15 Euros as otherwise we can get fined 800(!!!) Euros. I wasn’t actually aware of that amount yesterday when we drove on Slovenia’s highway for a few hours without the vignette. Oops!

We pass some beautiful mountainous landscape, bridges, forests, caves and road signs with rainclouds on them. I’m puzzled. Is it always raining here I think jokingly?! It actually just means that the streets may be slippery when wet but I still think that sign alone doesn’t really explain itself.

Just before Izola we see the Adriatic ocean the very first time. It is so flat and calm that at first you could think it’s the sky. The grey-blue colour of the sky and the sea are just the same and the horizon is hard to find. It is here that we also see the first cypress trees that are so famous for the Mediterranean countries.

The plan is to find the free camping site with electricity near Izola port that is advertised in my “Board Atlas”. I think we found it but Logan still wants to check out this little area near the water since there were a few campers parked up there. Once we stop, a German fellow (in his 60ies) starts talking to us through our closed window. Logan winds it down and the German man repeats: “Pretty old van! You had many problems with it, haven’t you?!” Cigarette smoke enters our van. I responded: “No actually we haven’t at all”. He then points out that the car park over there is actually 15 Euros a night and the electricity isn’t working but where we are parked now, this is a private car park and the police can’t say anything. He also warns us not to go to Croatia as it’s too corrupt and free camping is not only being punished with a 80 Euro fine per person but also with them taking away all your papers and charging you for being an illegal immigrant. Any visitor to Croatia needs to be reported to the police when entering the country and it needs to be clear where you are staying. All this didn’t sound too nice, so we decided to head to Italy tomorrow instead.

Now we can’t seem to get rid of this man though. Every time I say: “Thank you for the information. We are going to have a look around now.” He starts talking again just as I want to turn around. It takes about 4 or 5 tries until we can finally walk away and check out the ocean.

Logan and I decide we are going to try out our (early) Easter present: a fishing rod. On the boulders, 20m in front of our van, we try to catch some fish but the fact that the water is very clear and we can’t seem to see any fish bigger than bait fish, makes us give up very quickly. On the way back to the van I have to come to the conclusion that fishing is a very dangerous sport: I hooked my finger! Ouch! Not badly but enough to make me squeak out loud and draw some attention towards me.

Well, it’s soup then for dinner!

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02-03/12/11 London Sightseeing

5AM ! Great! Good morning time difference and thank you for waking us. It is still dark outside and we feel like it’s midday. I turn on the laptop and catch up on a few blog entries while Logan is watching a movie on his iPhone.

Two hours later it is still dark but Kian and Jane, our hosts, are heading out for work, so we can now officially get up too.
Fortunately Logan feels much better today, so we make our way from Camden to Trafalgar Square and book ourselves onto a sightseeing bus tour.

So here we go: past Oxford Street, the National Gallery, Big Ben and the Parliament, the London Eye, Covent Garden, London Bridge, London Dungeon, the Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace and many more. Near tower of London we get onto a ferry and finally get the opportunity to warm up a little. The hot chocolate and 20minutes inside are just enough to help me stop shivering. At the end of our ferry ride, we get out near Big Ben and are being held back by these east Europeans dressed up as the queen or Captain Jack Sparrow. They want us to take photos with them but don’t understand that we haven’t got any coins on us. I know that behind that smiling queen mask is a very angry east European guy but we really don’t have any money on us nor did we want to get into this situation anyway. Woups.

Logan has the great idea to sit on top of the bus again: in the outside! May I just mention once more: it is December, a very very cold time in Europe! The wind is blowing through my beanie and I don’t know how to hide from the icy cold wind that is blowing around us. I know this will be the end of my 2 years flue-free time. Logan doesn’t believe me – yet.

After a long, interesting and exhausting day, Logan and I try to heat up with a hot chocolate in a cafe at Trafalgar square. Back at Kian’s and Jane’s place, we are so tired, we stay home while they go out on their Friday night. We are feeling rude but the jet lag gets us once again and we pass out very quickly.

Saturday morning, 5AM. Oh no, this seems like we will never get out of this doom loop. Three hours later it looks like our planet is slowly turning towards the sun – unfortunately with a thick layer of clouds inbetween us and the warming star. We are trying to quietly have a shower, which turns out to be a bit of a mission in the old London unit. The doors and floor are squeaky and I feel a bit bad for being noisy at 8am on a Saturday morning. Logan heads out to get our hosts a little thank-you present and then we quietly leave around 9AM. Our plane will be leaving midday, so we haven’t got much time to waste.
We are heading straight back to Victoria train station, pick up our bags, and keep going to London Heathrow airport. I’m excited to see mum and dad finally after over one year, excited to return home the first time after two years and I’m glad we finally don’t need to carry around our 60kg of luggage anymore…

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