Posts Tagged With: Logan

Bergen to Jostedalsbreen National Park

After 2 days we are leaving Bergen but not without seeing the stave church (a wooden church built by the Vikings). There are 28 stave churches in the country but this one is going to be our first one. Unfortunately it is not original anymore but has been rebuilt.

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Driving along road 16, we pass the Tvinnefoss, a majestic and very impressive waterfall. It has been raining a lot last night so there is a vast amount of water coming down. At the tourist shop I then find a postcard of the waterfall in winter: completely frozen!!! Absolutely amazing.
We also buy some more lures to be able to go fishing in lakes as well. Before Gudvangen we spend the night at a lake but again Logan doesn’t catch any fish. This lake may actually be too far away from the fjords and only have smaller fish…?

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The next day we are driving through the world’s longest road tunnel. 24.5km of boring blackness? No, when you make it to quarter, half and three quarters of the tunnel, you will see a spectacularly lit up part of the tunnel, reminding me of an ice cave.

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After the tunnel we take a right turn to get to Borgund where one of Norway’s oldest and best preserved stave churches is located. On the way we drive past a former excavation site where Viking combs, jewelry, keys and other objects have been found when building a new road from Bergen to Oslo in 2009.

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Borgund Stave Church:

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Eventually we turn around, taking the historic route, and cross one of the many arms of the Sognefjord with the ferry, to get to Jostedalsbreen National Park, the place with the largest glacier on the European mainland.
One of the many glacier tongues is the Nigardsbreen glacier. The last part of the road is actually a toll road, we pay 30NOK and get there just in time before sunset. Unfortunately the sun is only still reaching the mountain peaks, not the glacier anymore but we still get to see the fascinating shades of blue in the ice. A raging current is coming out underneath the glacier, forming a lake.
The glacier was measured to move up to 1.5m downward per day, therefore it is not the safest place to be in. We take some footage and enjoy a few minutes of looking into the icy blue colours of the giant before we have to leave.

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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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Preikestolen, Norway

After the long and difficult trek to the Kjerag Bolten, we have had two lay days to recover and regain strength for our next adventure: The Preikestolen!

During those two days we have been enjoying beautiful views at the Lysefjord and tried some more fishing. Since I’m never lucky fishing, Logan of course caught four(!) Mackerels during the first 30 minutes, when I wasn’t there yet. The next hour of fishing with me present is unsuccessful – I’m not surprised anymore. Instead we catch a jellyfish and I upset some kind of marten when reeling in the fishing line and accidentally smacking him with the bait. Oops. He’s hissing at us a few times and then tries to charge us up the rock but then disappears.

Four Mackerels should really be enough for the two of us anyway, so we get the fire going and prepare the fish to be cooked.

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Oh and we are not professionals in preparing fish, so we just cut it apart and take out the bones once it’s cooked. That works well enough for us.

On the second lay day we stop in Forsand to go shopping for some basic groceries before driving on to Preikestolen.
Our plan is to camp nearby so we can start the walk early in the morning. Unfortunately there seem to be so many tourists coming here, that wild camping is not allowed nearby, so we have to drive back to the main road and stay there.

Hiking to Preikestolen

Even though the weather forecast has been predicting sun, we wake up to a thick layer of grey clouds.

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That’s demotivating as obviously you need to have good weather for the best views from the Preikestolen or “Preacher’s stool”. We don’t want to waste any more time though and make our way back up to the car park: 100NOK. Wow! This is not even the main car park near the restaurant, since that one is full, they opened another car park another couple of km down the road. To still ask for 100NOK is a bit much. We turn around and park up a little further down the road and get the bicycles out – cheeky I know.
We ride down to the restaurant and main car park and lock up our bicycles here.

There is a sign describing the walk, the length, difficulty and what you shouldn’t wear: sandals or high heels. When proper shoes are recommended in Norway, you better follow that guideline as they mean it! (I still saw a couple with sandals and even a woman with pumps!! She must have broken her foot soon after that or I would be very surprised!)
The trek immediately starts off with a rocky path, turning into boulders and holding on to trees or rocks with hands is necessary in parts. We cross several streams, grasslands and steep walls on the way.

While the trek to Preikestolen is still a lot easier than the one to Kjerag Bolten, it’s not an afternoon stroll and takes about 2 hours up and a little less back down. (This is if you don’t stop too many times)
I’m surprised to see a lot of children on this track, partly climbing themselves and partly sitting in a backpack on daddy’s back. A lot of people also take their dogs and it amazes me how they manage the steep climbs and balancing on boulders.

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After about two hours of hiking the skies have turned into a crystal blue and we finally arrive at the Preikestolen – I haven’t seen so many tourists in one spot in a while! Wow! Logan and I look at each other with big eyes and have the same thought: would the Preikestolen break off under the weight of all these tourists?? There’s already a large crack through it, especially visible from above.

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We first try to take in the incredible views over the fjord and at the Preikestolen before actually making our way through the people chaos on the platform. We get a few shots and have lunch, sitting on the edge, overlooking the Lysefjord.

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Then we climb up even higher, so we can see the Preikestolen and the Lysefjord from above. It’s such an amazing view!

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Then it’s time to make our way back. 1.5 hours of walking downhill and jumping from rock to rock are ahead of us before finally reaching the car park. I brought shampoo and fresh clothes and clean myself in the bathrooms while Logan is getting the Globetrotter van to pick me up. He then also has a clean and we make our way north. At the Preikestolen bus stop we see a young couple holding their thumbs out. “Where do you guys need to go?” I ask. “To Tau. Our ferry leaves from there!” she says. Turns out there hasn’t been any buses coming in a while and they were already a bit late. We give them a lift to Tau and then make our way towards Hjelmeland, spending the night at a nice spot on the side of the road. There are stone tables and chairs here, so we enjoy beautiful views over the valley while having dinner and then playing a game of chess.

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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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Switzerland, St. Moritz and Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstättersee)

From the Dolomites in Italy we’re making our way to the country with Europe’s biggest mountains: Switzerland. Okay to be correct, the biggest mountain in western Europe is Mt Blanc (4807m) in France, but Switzerland then follows with 48 four-thousander summits.

Via the Julier Pass …
 
… we drive into the “Confoederatio Helvetica”, the latin name for Switzerland which gave it the country abbreviation CH. We are now not only confronted with a new currency but also with four different languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh. The latter is spoken by only 0.5% of the population, nevertheless Logan managed to befriend some romansh speaking young lads later that night, but I’ll get to that later.

We aim for St. Moritz, a popular spa town in the South East of the country.

St. Moritz is surely a nice place and we stop for lunch at the lake. Due to the time of the year, there are not many people here, so we soon keep going. We are planning on staying mostly in southern Switzerland, but as so often our plans are at the mercy of other forces and this time mother nature puts a spoke in our wheel.
We stop in a little village before Chur to spend the night. Logan feels like going for a walk downtown to watch the tennis and have a couple of drinks. Around midnight he comes back to let me know that he met three young lads who asked him to join them at the club which happened to be only meters from our van. I wake up one more time when we returns and think I can finally sleep through until morning, when suddenly the van is shaking heavily. At first I’m utterly confused, still half in my dreams, then I think someone is trying to break into our van. I try to wake up Logan and when he finally does, he drunkenly mumbles: “I can take ’em!! Shhhh I can take ’em!” I realize Logan is in a foggy-brained state due to his alcohol intake and decide I have to do something myself. I open the blinds and bang at the window and all I see are three young men running away. So we were victims of a joke, lovely! Apart from being woken up the third time tonight and a 5-second panic attack, it made me laugh now myself. Especially thinking back about Logan’s response.

In the morning I ask Logan whether he knows what happened last night but he can’t remember anything. He is very amused about his reaction though. He then tells me that those three lads he befriended, spoke romansh and only a few words of English but they explained to him, that the Furka Pass was still closed due to snow and the only way to get to Western Switzerland was via a train or driving a big detour.
I wasn’t gonna believe it at first but at some stage we got to the sign: Pass closed! Instead we drive north and I’m planning on taking the road south along the “Vierwaldstätter See“.

Driving along the lake, we discover windsurfers and stop to watch their acrobatic jumps and turns for a while.

Of course that road ends in a little town called Baumgarten and we have to backtrack and follow the road north around the lake. The only road south is a highway and we decided against buying a vignette (toll ticket). This way we got to see Lucerne and Interlaken, two very beautiful towns.


We found a beautiful camping spot not far from Lucerne and will explore the town tomorrow.
More about Lucerne (Luzern or Lausanne) in the next post.

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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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Gfrill, a German hill-top village in Italy

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.


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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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Tuscany: Siena and Florence

After 4 hectic days in Rome we spend four days in Montefiascone. We’re lucky to have found a free camper park with electricity and even find some free hot springs nearby.

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Logan is getting ready for a run and discovers that his running shoes have gone missing. We find out that he has left them behind in Sperlonga, when he wanted to air them out and put them under the van, so they wouldn’t get wet. Unfortunately we forgot about them when leaving. Devastated he wears his brown leather shoes for today’s run.
The next morning we are in search for a sport shop. I have my doubts they will sell Logan’s shoe size (EU 49, or US size 14) in Italy but we are having a look anyway.
It is Monday and we arrive at around 2:30pm. All shops are closed and the only sport shop is closed too. Half an hour later the siesta is over and Logan is being offered two pairs of shoes, two sizes smaller. He is lucky, the Nike shoes fit even though they are labeled as a 47!

I guess the good thing about losing your shoes is that you get to buy new ones!
There we have one happy Logan:

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On our way up north through the beautiful Toscana, we are stopping at Siena, a medieval town.
We are having a drink at this piazza and do some ‘people-watching’ before driving on to Florence.

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Arriving in Florence we first stop at this beautiful lookout over the city:

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Florence, part of the UNESCO World Heritage) is the capital of Tuscany and has over 370.000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area.
We find a car park right near the river and spend the night here.
The next morning we are out and about quite early trying to beat the midday heat. We are crossing Florence’s beautiful bridges and stroll through the medieval centre, visiting the markets and a cathedral. There are artists on the streets, busking, mimicking and painting.

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On the way back we treat ourselves to an ice cream each, well actually 3 each! This helped to cool us down and make the way back to the camper van much more enjoyable!

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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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