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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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Monti Sibillini National Park

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The weather has cleared up a little and we hit the road down to Parco Nazionale dei Monti Sibillini. Monte Sibilla is one of over 20 peaks above 2000m and the park is home to over 50 species of mammals, including wolves, porcupines, wild cats and martens. On the way to Montemonaco, our starting point, we decide to go for the 18km Sibillini Traverse, which is said to have breath-taking views. During our 2-hour drive, we get to see spectacular views of the mountain peaks, some of them still covered in snow.
Finally in Montemonaco, we don’t exactly know how to find the “Refugi di Sibilla” , the actual starting point of the walk, as described in the “Hiking in Italy” Lonely Planet.

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We follow the road and a few signs saying “Monti Sibillini National Park” but there are many walks in this National Park. The road leads up a fairly steep Mountain and turns into a gravel road soon after. We zick zack up the mountain and I keep telling myself: “This can’t be it! This is insane!” The cliff next to us drops down a few hundred meters and the Globetrotter is working hard to climb meter by meter. It took about 15-20min but felt like an hour and we finally reach a hut. This is the rifugio! A sign hanging above the closed door reads its name. I take a few deep breaths and sigh in relief that we finally made it. Hungry, we are having a quick lunch and then get our gear on.

With hardly a trek visible, we follow little paths and a few poles stuck in the ground as way finders. We partly ignore the actual path and walk up the steep cliff, making slow progress, as my breath can’t be fast enough to get the oxygen into my brain. Every so often we have to stop but it’s not like we haven’t got an amazing view over Le Marche and even the Adriatic sea in the distance.

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Logan is first on top of the ridge and from his reaction I gather it must be a good view from up there. When I arrive seconds later, the view just blows me  a-w-a-y! I expected a valley with green hills on the other side. Instead we see a steep cliff and massive mountains around it. It felt a bit like standing on the ridge of a volcano and looking into the inside.

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We then walk along the ridge for over an hour, through snow and over rocks and grass; the 360-degree views impressing us all the way. In front of us lies Monte Sibilla, a stunning peak and the one the national park is named after. I’m feeling a little exhausted and we haven’t got much time anymore as the weather changes on the horizon. I know Logan would like to climb it quickly, so I tell him to leave everything with me and run up to the top with his go pro camera. He thinks it’s a great idea and is off a coupe of minutes later. Meanwhile I enjoy the stunning views in every direction and take some panorama photos with my iPhone 4S. There is a steep bit that needs to be climbed via a rope and I lose sight of Logan there. Soon after I see him at the top, both his arms stretched into the air. Then I even hear him! He does a sort of “howl” and I’m surprised how far the sound travels. I’m whistling back. About 15min later he is back at where I waited and we wander back together, cutting down the mountain diagonally to save some time. It is very steep and rocks are lying around everywhere. Walking sidewards makes you tired a bit so I turn on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and jokingly dance down the mountain. Yupp, Logan caught that on camera

and yupp, it will be on YouTube soon!

After probably about an hour, we are back at the van and Logan shouts out: “SHIT FRANNY!!!!” I think, someone must have broken into our van and run after him. “The car lights are still on!” Logan jumps inside and turns them off. I’m thinking this must be a joke!!! The imagination of having to push and roll the van down the zick-zack gravel mountain road turns my stomach upside down. The thought that I might even have to sit inside because only Logan is strong enough to push it makes me especially nervous. Logan jumps in to try and start the engine. While I’m still in panic, I suddenly hear the engine turn on
like nothing ever happened. “WHAT?” I say surprised. How is that possible? We are very lucky and I’m so relieved.
Time to go “home” to Colmurano…

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Country side town, Colmurano

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The white blinds are glowing from the sun shining against them. I open the one on my side and see blue skies and tall green grass. I’m feeling lazy today, no actually I feel like I would just love to enjoy the day, the view, the sun! We are having breakfast and grab the bikes to cruise up into town, as we need a few supplies. I realise that even though we drove through town twice yesterday, I can’t remember anything at all. Did we see any shops?
We are simply stunned by the views from the top of the village and stop for a few photos and some video footage at the stone wall that is built around the town centre. Four small alley ways lead around the stone built houses and there is a tall clock tower at the highest point of the town. Logan discovers a small shop in one of the stone houses, the door is open and we gather that it must be a fruit and vegetable shop. Four bananas, two apples, tomato sauce with olives and tuna and even a scrubbing brush for the dishes land in our bag.
A few meters down the street we go past a hardware store and Logan wants to go and buy a plunger as he blocked up our delicate kitchen drain (it actually is a hose) with two noodles. He thought pushing the pasta in will make them go through and now we can’t do the dishes anymore. 6Euros. Thinking about our tight budget I convince Logan to try differently at first. I’m hoping that a bit of the toilet chemicals we got will help dissolve the pasta.
We keep on looking for another grocery store but can’t seem to find one… “Wait! Logan, this is a shop too!” Italians haven’t really got it with advertising I guess. I only realised “house number 48” was a shop because a man just walked out the door and I saw food when riding by. Funny. We also grab some spaghetti and a packet of cookies, which I empty only 10 minutes later. Oops.
While I sit down and read my book “Inside of a dog” by Alexandra Horowitz, Logan goes for a 70min run. In the afternoon I boil up some water to “shower” ourselves and then to wash our (95% Logan’s) dirty clothes. Yupp, I’m feeling quite neo-hippie or whatever you’d like to call this lifestyle.

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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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The Veneto, Italy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 6 (by Francy)

Oh hey, while people still work on the bathrooms we are at least allowed to use the toilets and showers today. What first stands out to me again, is the loosy goosy way labourers work in Italy. Cement is splashed all over the shower walls and it just doesn’t look done properly. The toilets are also built too closely to the door that you can only sit down with your body straight up and the flush is the coming out like a fountain! The water is splashing all over the toilet bowl and onto the floor. I find that somewhat disgusting and amusing at the same time. Welcome to Italy, or should I say Mediterranean countries, as similar things have happened to me before in France and Spain as well.

We empty our grey water again, fill up clean water and this time also empty the toilet box. “Eww!” You would think. That’s what we expected too but it’s not actually smelly or disgusting at all. All that comes out is blue “water” and you wouldn’t even see it, if I wasn’t so curious to bend down and look in the waste shute. It’s all blue from a chemical we put into the toilet that breaks down whatever goes into it; even toilet paper. While I get rid of all the rubbish Logan walks to reception to pay.

“14 Euros please!” “Excuse meee???” Yesterday he said 10 Euros! Now why is it 14? The guy at reception says: “I made a mistake yesterday, it’s not 10, it’s 14.” When Logan tells me that I’m furious. I guess it doesn’t help much to be angry now and I remind myself of the fact that we got away with washing a few clothes in the washing machine without paying.

We drive on towards Venice but don’t want to go there just yet. The weather isn’t quite perfect and we rather want a full day in Venice, so we just drive around to see if we can find a free parking spot for the night and have a look how we get into Venice.

After having lunch next to a small river, we drive on to Venice. A long bridge leads over to the islands. We find a car park on the island of Tronchetto: 21 Euros for 12 hours and an extra 16 Euros on top every 12 hours. We decide to drive back to that same spot at the river and come back in the morning to then have a max. of 12 hours in Venice.

The drive back was another interesting one with one Italian man suddenly swerving onto our lane, racing towards us and turning into his driveway only seconds before he would have hit us. Another person overtakes us where there is a double line indicating, “overtaking not allowed”. Road rules are just a suggestion in Italy!

The landscape has changed a lot since Slovenia. There are fields as far as the eye can see and big brick houses in the middle of them with a few bushes around. Long driveways lead to those houses that often look abandoned and in ruins.

We try and approach a few of these deserted houses however discovered that they were not abandoned but still in ruins with roofs, windows or walls missing.

We are trying the fishing thing again; and again without success. It must be the wrong bait, as so far we are only using little colourful rubber bait and they probably don’t help much in murky water. Once it gets dark we start to get a little worried that police might see us and give us a nice big fine. It’s Easter weekend so it’s more likely they check for illegal campers. We hear a group of people walking out of a nearby church, going in a circle and chanting before heading back in. We’re looking forward to see Venice tomorrow…

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