Posts Tagged With: nature

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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U-Boat 995 of Laboe

Having left Hamburg this morning, we are heading towards Kiel. My great grandfather left from Kiel on the WWI ship SMS König Albert and I always wanted to come here. Big cruise liners like the Colour Line are departing from here towards Norway and other destinations. Kiel is a pretty city but since we had some rain today, I don’t think the photos do the city any justice.

Here just one photo of a cruise liner in the port:

There is a U-Boat, the 995, in Laboe which I heard about and wanted to visit. It was part of the German Kriegsmarine and in service around Norway.

  

The inside:                                                                                 Beds:

  

  

There was only one usable toilet on board but only until 25m below sea level. Not sure what happened when they went under 25m?!

  

Logan squeezing through the narrow doors, and the radio room:

    

Too many wheels to turn?!

  

  

The front torpedo:

  

Near Laboe we are able to find a big car park right near the sea, which will be our camp site for tonight, and we get to see the beautiful summer sunset:

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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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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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Dolomites, Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm)


After a nutritious breakfast…

… we leave beautiful Villanders to drive further into the Dolomites, hoping to start a 5 day trek.

Here’s a photo of where about the Dolomites are (the lower white end in Northern Italy).

And our Camping spot with beautiful views over the Dolomites…

On our discovery route, we drive through Kastelruth (or Castelrotto) and get to enjoy fantastic views at the Alpe di Siusi (or Seiser Alm). Kastelruth is a lovely Tyrollean village with mural art on the buildings. During winter this is a snow resort town and during summer the gateway to an adventure land full of activities like mountain climbing, hiking, running or cycling.

  

Driving up to the Seiser Alm, an amazing plateau, we have to discover that there is no way we can possibly spend the night here. Cars are only allowed to a certain point and there is only one car park which is monitored by rangers regularly. We return to the village “Seis” at the bottom of the Seiser Alm and try to gather some information on possible hiking trails for the next days. Here we find out that the refuge huts are still closed and that there is still snow in the higher parts of the hiking trails. Our planned 5-Day walking track will not happen but we are still quite happy to go for a day-trek tomorrow.

For today we decide to just go for a walk from our campsite in Seis to a lake we found on the map.
It is a rather cool but sunny day (with clouds) and I’m struggling with a light headache caused by the cold winds, so I end up wearing a beanie.
We first walk through dense forest and just when I’m reminded of my childhood stories of witches and dwarfs, I discover a large rock in the middle of the woods with a sign telling a myth about a pastor who was once killed here by witches. Soon after, we come to an open alpine pasture with dozens of cows and bulls roaming freely. The cow bells are ringing everywhere and one cow curiously walks right up to me, smelling me and my hand. I think I have never been so close and vulnerable to a cow before but even though we were both slightly afraid of each other, I felt very close to this lovely creature. The soft nose touched my hand and the big eyes looked at me with curiosity. I think I really fell in love with cows and I’m glad that these ones here have such a wonderful live. They all were very active, running around, jumping and moo-ing loudly.

Not far and we arrive at a lake surrounded by forest. We walk around it once and then return to Seis via a different route.

  

     

  

This different route leads us past a restaurant and we can’t resist but follow our noses…

    

So after having filled our stomachs with Schnitzel and fries, Logan got stylish for his run.
Here, a photo of the 2012 sport’s outfit:

Logan actually ended up running all the way up to the Seiser Alm and back, he’s just that crazy guy from Down Under who can’t get enough!

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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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Campervans are a farmer’s annoyance

In the morning we are awoken by the beeping horn of the farmer’s tractor. Quickly Logan jumps up and moves the van out of the way. Getting out of the many fields, turns out to be quite a challenge though! Heavy rain last night filled up the small tracks with muddy puddles. We have to turn around twice and our last option leaves us with a large puddle and a steep track up a hill.

Are we gonna make it?:                                                Rolling fields:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Logan gets out and walks barefoot through the water, to check the firmness of the ground and here we go: we drive through steadily and indeed make the crossing. Lucky! Soon we are back on the main street, heading east towards the Adriatic Sea and discover that the coastline is just changing to a more beautiful scenery. We are having breakfast in a small village on the beach and then keep going south.

Breakfast on the beach:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The mountains are now encroaching upon the coast, giving it a more dramatic feel. Italy’s spur (of the boot) presents itself with a beautiful mountainous national park and stunning beaches and seaside villages.

While driving along the coast, we discover a small campsite just before Pischici, called Azzurro Lido. Located right on the beach, we can’t resist but make this today’s final stop and relax surrounded by views of the sea, beach, fields and Pischici, perched up high on the hill.

Azzurro Lido:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s last exciting event was when I managed to drown my new iPhone 4S completely in water! Screaming, I picked it out of the water and blew it dry. It still works! Phew!!!

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Lago di Scanno

It has been raining all night and I’m so glad we were able to heat the van. There is a new layer of snow only a couple of hundred meters above us.

We quickly unplug electricity and re-connect the hot dog van. Then we make our way up the 25km road to Campo Imperatore, a hotel in which Mussolini was held captive and then freed by Hitler’s SS in 1943.

After only a few minutes we get to a closed boom gate.

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Now the only way to Corno Grande is by foot up the steep snow-covered mountain. Logan seriously considers this option but I remind him that it’s probably quite nasty up there, not to mention the danger involved (which he doesn’t want to hear about). A bit disappointed we leave Fonte Cerretto and head towards another lake: Lago di Scanno. A scenic drive through the mountains and a clearing sky lift up the mood quickly.

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I found a campsite on the lake called “Camping i Lupi” or “wolves camp” supposed to be open year-round. Upon arrival we can’t find anyone, no receptionist nor any guests. Of course! So I call the number provided and hope for the person to speak English and surprisingly, she does! I’m being told that the “guard” is in Scanno with his family and will be at the campsite within 15 minutes, so we just wait.

I read 8Euros for campervan per night and when we’re being told it’s 21 Euros, we are quite shocked. 21?? So he explains (in Italian) that it’s 8 Euros for the Campervan and 6,50 Euros per person per night. Aha! Oh well, we need a place to stay and I was already looking forward to a warm shower and heating. We pick a place right on the edge of the plateau with a nice view over the lake and over to a hilltop village.

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I then grab my towel and toiletry bag and run up to the showers. I can hardly wait to jump under the warm water, as pretty much all my showers so far have been ice cold. I turn on the tap and wait for the water to get warmer. And I wait. And wait… and wait… ! It doesn’t get warm. It’s not ice cold but it’s also nowhere near warm!!! Did we just pay 21 Euros for this? I’m so angry. I hurry to get clean quickly and jump out, looking forward to blow-drying my hair, as my head is cold now. Electricity in the bathrooms doesn’t work either. You just got to be kidding!!! I run down to the van and blow dry myself warm for ages.

Logan wants to go for a bike ride around the lake but since I just had my shower and I know he likes to ride really fast, I think it’s best to let him ride by himself.

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While he’s out, I hand-wash all the laundry in the bathroom. It’s taking me a long time and I’m hoping for Logan to come back soon to help me out. A couple of hours later, I’m still washing clothes, he walks into the women’s bathrooms (no worries, no one else is here anyway) and I smell alcohol and cigarette smoke. “What have you been up to?” His tongue heavy, he says: “I have a plan for us tomorrow!” and it dawns on me. “You and I are invited for Spaghetti tomorrow somewhere! I met some Italians and they are going to take us four wheel driving!”

Hang on?! I have been going on about Italians and their insane driving and now Logan wants me to jump into a car with strangers to go 4WD-ing? No no no no! I’m feeling very uncomfortable with this but Logan says, they are coming to pick us up tomorrow at 11am. Logan has little understanding for my worries and celebrates his accomplishment outside by himself.

Not really knowing who these people are and where we are going tomorrow, I have trouble sleeping…

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