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Germany

27th June 2014 We called in to visit some of the German travellers whom we had met in Roma Camp in Italy. Yolanda and Marcel gave us a personal tour of their delightful town of Lindau on Lake Constance aka Bodensee, giving us a parting gift of German wine and beers. I hope to repay their hospitality one day.

28th June 2014 Neuschwanstein is the castle that Disney based his Fantasy Land castle on. It is a fairy-tale style castle that Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria built only about one hundred and forty-five years ago and he wasn’t actually mad. So that’s enough of history, it was enchanting and I met a hurdy girdy minstrel on the way back down. We had an interesting conversation and he allowed me to wind the hurdy girdy handle whilst he manipulated the keyboard. I must say that I have never done this before. He then suggested that I should sing Pub with no beer* to his accompaniment, and although I do know the lyrics I did not want to steal his thunder, I jest. Anyhow here’s the photo.

Now in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the Bavarian Alps having also visited Oberammergau which puts on the famous Passion plays every ten years. They started in the 1600’s to ward off the bubonic plague, and I guess it worked.

* Pub with no beer Is a quintessential Aussie song from the 1950’s; it was a huge hit at the time in Australia. Surprising to find a Bavarian minstrel playing it on a hurdy gurdy, in 2014.

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Switzerland

26th June 2014 Entered Switzerland with the usual formalities i.e. none and are now camped on the bank of Lake Geneva. We have already been welcomed by several Swiss, including the border attendant (you couldn’t really call him a guard). Several Germans that we have met along the way have emailed us back already, asking us to visit them.

27th June 2014 Three countries in one day,                again.

Started in Switzerland entered Austria for a few kilometres and then to Germany with the usual informalities.

One of the good things about Switzerland is that there are no tollways. That is, until I found out that I actually had to buy a motorway tag for thirty-five Franks before using these roads. On the plus side, I did not find this out until we were in Germany.

 

 

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France

17th June 2014 Now on French soil and we know this because the sign on entering France said FRANCE, no more or less.

The French are the style masters in all things, food, fashion, presentation, houses but maybe not cars, I joke.

 

We have visited Monte Carlo, Cannes and Saint Tropez. We actually free camped for two nights on a Saint Tropez beach with no hassles. I think it’s actually allowed.

The French Riviera deserves its reputation as a classy holiday haven, it even has sandy beaches and I must say that the French have been nothing but charming and friendly. We now find ourselves at Santa Gusta Camp overlooking the Med yet again.

Today we stopped for lunch at a village and a general look around. The bread you can eat as is, no butter required and the patisseries here are art galleries of pastry and cake. We bought olives, pates, quiche Lorraine, anchovy pessitsia all of gourmet quality and for dinner we have cassulette of lapin i.e. rabbit with gratin potato, a French potato bake.

I notice the Gum trees are creeping back both in Italy and here in France, I wonder if we will find them in Mongolia?

21 June 2014 After the Riviera we have been dawdling our way through Provence and with clear blue skies our explorations could not be better. We were advised that you can just go anywhere in Provence to find rustic villages and picture-like landscapes.

It is true, winding our way through the lavender fields, stopping at local markets where we stock up on cheeses, olives, fourteen different types of tomato, salami’s with whole nuts and baguettes. The local wines that we have sampled are quality and very cheap. Strolled through the old world Apt city center stopping for a refreshing apperertife at a lane-side pub to cool down in the late afternoon. The French towns all have narrow laneway’s only suitable for walking and you will find all manner of small shops in which to gladly spend your Euros.

We have travelled from Aix, via Apt to Gap.

22nd June 2014 Travelling north we decided to follow the route of one of the legs of this years Tour de France starting at Risoul and ending at Grenoble. This route takes in the French Alps and it is spectacular, rising to around 2,300 meters still with quite a bit of snow up high on the peaks, ending our day in a valley in the shadows of huge pointy mountains in the village of La Grave at the de la Meige camping ground. Along the road someone has painted GO CADEL.

We will explore the village later.

The village turns out to be everything you expect from a French alpine village, quaint houses and cosy restaurants where you sit on the deck looking directly at a mountain massif as you degustate.

25th June 2014 Yesterday visited Mount Blank, the highest mountain in Europe and finished the day at Samoens, an Alpine resort where Timea and Belinda, long-time friends of Nicola (our daughter) have been for around eighteen months. They invited us to stay at the lodge where they work and will give us a guided tour of the area later today. The owners of the Truman Alp Lodge, Debbie and Tony have been most welcoming and their luxury accommodation I can highly recommend. I think I may have to sing for my supper tonight.

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Italy

7th June 2014 Three countries in one day,   again.

Entered Italy with same amount of formalities as for Slovenia i.e. none, weren’t sure exactly when we entered the country. No passport checks or green card/carnet.

8th June 2014 Now at the “Jolly Camping” ground in Venice.

Venice was really something extraordinary, from the busy tourist areas to deserted alleyways and squares in the back-blocks.

 

The best way to see Venice is to just walk around which we did for many hours before catching a ferry that took us all round the city, giving us yet a different perspective on this unique place. We finished our day by having a pizza there and whilst being very good we both agree that the pizzas from Menai, back home, are better.

I will let the photos do the talking.

9th June 2014 Adriatic Sea in the morning, Ligurian Sea in the afternoon, travelled the entire width of Italy, 400k’s at it’s widest. Ready for the coastal, five-village walk of Cinque Terre tomorrow.

Had Maca’s for lunch (terrible isn’t it!) and we both agree that the Maca’s from Menai, back home, are better. True Bogans huh? On exiting Maca’s we then discovered the best Italian shared table cafe with beautiful salads and delicacies. Judy not happy.

10th June 2014 The five villages of Cinque Terre are quite interesting and built on very steep terrain but the walks between the villages were all closed. I thought that this was meant to be part of the experience. We had to do it by train. Supposedly a “World heritage of UNESCO” since 1998 and National Park since 1997 we were a little underwhelmed. Maybe we are just bad tourists.

But it was a beautiful summers day.

11th June 2014 Another perfect day to drive around the Italian Riviera calling in at low key villages and lunching on dark sand/pebble beaches (I mean sitting on them and having lunch)

What seems to happen here is that you go to the beach bar at about 5pm, to have a beer, and they ply you with food, no dinner necessary. Today we were given bruschetta, focaccia, pizza, olives, chilli pasta, carrot sticks-eh-fro mage’, crisps, peanuts and tuna, onion and cannelloni bean potage of compote (my quote)

And of course Portofino. We drove in. It’s lovely. It is a dead end. No parking. So you have to drive back out again. And I remember doing the exact same thing forty years ago.

Our good friends, the fireflies, are also back again over the last few nights.

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Slovenia

7th June 2014 Entered Slovenia, taking the wrong road, with so little fuss (no formalities whatsoever) that we had exited the country before we knew it, spending a total of forty minutes on a motorway before leaving the country, with no photos. Sorry Slovenia!

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Croatia

30th May 2014 The campsite in Dubrovnik that we tried first was really crowded and priced at about AUS$60/night but after some shopping around we find ourselves 10k’s out of town, overlooking the Adriatic for AUD$24/night.

31st May 2014 Caught the bus into Old Dubrovnik, the walled city section of greater Dubrovnik. This ancient city is in excellent condition and is very interesting to see especially on a magnificent day as we had, but so many tourists, yes I know I’m one of them, and every building is a tourist shop of some description i.e. restaurant, souvenir or women’s clothing. The rest of Dubrovnik is also very pleasing.

4th June 2014 We have been weaving our way up the Dalmatian coast staying on the seashore each night and visiting some of the old towns along the way.

Some of the campsites are huge. Tonight we are at Kamp Strasko near the town Novalja. This place has 1800 campsites and bungalows, a nudist camping section, restaurants, supermarket, camping shop, nightclub, sport, recreational areas, masseur, tattooist and palatial toilets with piped music. They can cater to 6500 people. We are camped at the waters edge, beach, in the shade of Dalmatian oak trees on manicured lawn with a huge sun setting on the water. This is camping with a capital G for glamping. Ninety per cent of the people here are Germans with huge mobile homes the rest are Dutch, Austrians and did I forget to mention! two Australians.

5th June 2014 Just coasting.

 

6th June 2014 The highlight for the day came at 11pm, just as we were about to go to sleep. We arrived at our campsite late, sunset, at around 9pm. We found a spot right on the water, as usual, to the sound of a live Croatian band playing at the camp restaurant. By the time we were tucked up in bed it was 11pm. Then BANG, and another and another. From the far side of the bay was a fireworks display but doubled because of its reflection on the mirror surface of the water. Thank you for that, and off to sleep.

7th June 2014 (The Day After D Day) The Axis powers have invaded Croatia. Germans, Austrians and Italians were massed at the Croatian border in a ten kilometre queue but the Croatians were ready for them with many, huge camping areas, some three kilometres long, and high tariffs but I don’t think they will repulse them this time.

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Bosnia

30th May 2014 Bosnia is a pretty country from what we saw of it, which was only the hundred and fifty or so K’s it took to get us to Dubrovnik in Croatia. We did pass a still active mine field near Foca, the scene of some atrocities. My language skills in Russian are gradually being reawakened, never great at the best of times, I became excited when I read a sign at a fast food outlet proclaiming piroshky, a kind of Russian pasty with various fillings of, say, savoury mince, or sauerkraut, that I love. Alas in Bosnia it means chicken roll. A total of five hours was spent in Bosnia. As we crossed the Bosnian border the officer let us pass without any formalities whatsoever. I asked do we need a stamp in the passport? His reply do you want one? My reply do I need one his no!

 

 

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Montenegro

23rd May 2014 Our first day in Montenegro gave us even more beauty as we circumnavigated Lake Shkodra. Our route took us through Podgorica, the capital where we saw King Nicola’s summer palace and then on via an ancient village (can’t remember the name and it isn’t on a map) as we headed for the coast. This village wasn’t a tourist attraction, in fact it was pretty much deserted except for ourselves as we explored the nooks and cranneys of the age-old houses and basilica. Then a mountainous road rollercoastering from lakeside to mountaintop. Now camped on the shore of the Adriatic at Ulcinj.

25th May 2014 Yesterday afternoon arrived at Vesla camping ground on the north western shore of Montenegro. The gate was closed but did open when I tried it and we went in. There was a Polish couple already camped there and they were most welcoming even though we had invaded their privacy. This camping area is almost operational with clean toilets, power and water but no shower, our solar douche at the ready. This campsite is a peninsula with a rocky coastline but accessible for swimming and we will do some R&R here as sunny weather is in plentiful supply.

26th May 2014 Breakfast and Peter the Pole brings us some sheep milk and cheese that was given to him by his local friend. I couldn’t believe it was from a sheep and upon further interrogation determined it to be goat and very good it is, the milk tasting like full cows milk and the cheese a mild, slightly lemony flavour. Later in the morning an elderly fellow we met yesterday, known as the American Pirate (He lived in America and has an eye patch, aka Milan) came over for a chat and stayed all morning just as the owner of the camp, Mladin, arrived with grappa or raki for all. This was just before lunch and now we are all very happy. The beauty of raki is, so I’m told, that it can be made out of just about anything. To give you an idea of what raki tastes like: I offered The Pirate a smell of my methylated spirits canister and I immediately detected a glimmer of recognition in his eyes and a developing smile before telling him he could not drink it as it is a poison. Later we will have a swim and then go and visit The Pirate at his house.

If you are a builder read the following paragraph. Mladin has built an apartment/development, still incomplete but aesthetically quite pleasing, just down the road. The entire building is concrete i.e. pitched roof, balustrades and even what would be the timber crossmembers of the pergolas. This thing will still be here in a thousand years time. A young lady has just wandered up from the water in an itsy bitsy tiny weeny white no polkadot bikini and stiletto’s. The scenery here is easy on the eye. I think we have ended up in millionaires row or the French Riviera. The Pirate has entertained us and showed us around the neighbourhood and very agreeable it is as the coast provides secluded coves which double as private swimming pools that we can also use. One house belongs to someone from L.A. another a Russian and another belongs to a Montenegrin government minister. We have the campsite and two beaches to ourselves now. I think we’ll stay another day. Judy has just badgered me into trying our solar shower, which she has taken down to the rock pools, by telling me It will be the best shower you will ever have. Well the water was nice and hot and the scenery satisfactory to someone showering in the nutty. As Judy photographed she intimated that some of the photos might have to be cropped. She was right, as usual, about the shower and the photos. The campfire is now lit.

28th May 2014 Yesterday visited Perast, the Venice of Montenegro, a beautiful and historic village on the shore of the Adriatic (It is actually a huge inlet, with no name that I can find) before settling in for the night at Autocamp Naluka, right beside a small river, feeding the ducks and geese.DSC09868 DSC09864 In the morning, after a heavy deluge I was up at the camp office trying to download a map when Dushan, the proprietor arrived with a, yep you guessed it, a grappa/raki, it must be a Montenegrin custom, and then another when Jude arrived. Jude was given a lemon raki. Drove east up to the mountain area, at about 1500 metres above sea level hoping to see the most spectacular gorge in Europe tomorrow.We had just found a camping area when eight bikers arrived looking for lodging. The proprietor, Misha, invited us all down for a present. Yep you guessed it, grappa/raki and also coffee. So we all sat out in the very cool open and got acquainted. After a while it wasn’t so cool after all. We are all regrouping later for an evening meal that Misha’s Mother is preparing.

29th May 2014 I wasn’t given a raki till 4pm, what’s this place coming to? We started today by visiting the most spectacular gorge in Europe, The Tara gorge, named after our daughter. This gorge is gorgeous and along the way found Archangel Michael’s Monastery, named after me.

We then proceeded high into the mountains above the snow line at times on a 4×4 road which presented only one challenge for our Troopy in the form of a rock fall that we had been told about back in Zabljak. Troopy passed the test. Montenegro is a boutique country, so compact and striking. We are fast running out of Methylated spirits (denatured alcohol), which we use for our stove, and can’t find any for sale. In desperation I lit some raki to see if it could be used as a substitute but to my surprise it would not ignite.

30th May 2014 Three countries in one day. Started the day in Montenegro after a cold, rainy night in freezing conditions (we were snug with bacon and eggs for breako at the camp restaurant), and drove way up into the snow country in the morning before pushing along the Tara gorge carrying the Piva River toward Bosnia-Hercegovina. From Pluzine we went through sixty-eight tunnels over a distance of twenty-seven kilometres, that’s 2.5 tunnels /kilometre, it was spectacular, entering Bosnia at about 12.30pm.

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Albania

18th May 2014 Entered Albania believing it to be a poor and backward place but so far it isn’t at all. Our camping area welcomed us with coffee and a floral arrangement. The amenities among the best we have seen, and at a reasonable price. Albanians are very friendly, surprisingly, I haven’t seen anyone with white hair and pink eyes, supermarkets well stocked, ATM’s with both Euros and Lek’s (local currency). Lek is also the nickname of our middle daughter so we had to come here.

 

19h May 2014 We visited the ruins today. Not the ancient ones but the modern ones. In fact so modern that they haven’t even been completed yet. They are illegal buildings that the police have demolished or at least half demolished, with slabs left remaining at eccentric angles, steel reinforcement jutting up and demented staircases just like an Escher sketch (not Etch A Sketch), all left unfenced for the children to play in.

 

Motored inland to see a natural spring bubbling up out of a mountain along with four bus loads of high school students complete with western “attitude”. The scale of it is what makes it worth seeing, it is huge, and it issues crystal water that makes the river hues, a blue the colour of Zanzibar’s beaches. We then motored further inland to see some more conventional ruins at Gjirokastra and if you can pronounce that you must be an Albanian.

Now camped at Kranea near Himara at a beach camping area along with twenty or so Germans with their mobile homes (tag along tour). They are a happy bunch and know how to produce a barrel of beer when necessary.

20th May 2014 Albanian campgrounds are a cut above, with ultrasonic guided soap dispensers, electronic hand driers and marblesque tiling that appears to be sterilised. The back roads are a little dodgy but supermarkets do take Visa card and no toll on their motorway.

Apparently Albania is the biggest exporter of cannabis in Europe. I do see a hell of a lot of black Mercs and BMW’s on the roads.

Throughout Albania there are many mushroom like structures of varying sizes. These bunkers were built by their President, Hoxha, during their fifty years as a closed Communist country, to repel an imaginary threat and they are indestructible and unremoveable. No other use for them has been thought of as yet.

 

22nd May 2014 Over the last couple of days we have visited the old towns of Berat and Kruje both of which have a castle at the top of the hill, cobble stone streets, three hundred year old houses and a bazaar. These old castles are still inhabited, having village sized populations, so you can walk around and see life in progress more or less as it were two or three hundred years ago, they could be called ethnological museums.

Now camped at Lake Shkodra Resort Camping area, which is to be recommended, right on Lake Shkodra.

Drove into town (Shkodra) in the morning to look around. The lovely old section of the town found us at an exhibition of old photographs dating from the 1850’s (the Marubi family) showing Albanian traditional clothing and customs, images such as chieftains armed to the teeth with curved swords and daggers or tribal wedding ceremonies. The quality of these photo’s rival anything we can take on our schmick digital job. See analogue ain’t so bad!

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Greece

8th May 2014 Entered Greece with no problems. Got a stamp in the passport, which is illegible, no charge.

We have been free camping for the last two nights on beaches and will reach Athens tomorrow.

9th May 2014 Arrived at Marathon on the outskirts of Athens looking for suitable camping when Judy spotted a waterfront café area suitable for lunch. At the yeros shop we got to talking to the proprietor, Takis, who was very appreciative when I recommended the restaurant to some passing tourists ten per cent off. I enquired about the surrounding islands and he suggested Andros booking office a few shops down, just mention my name and here we are at 4pm with our car loaded on sailing to the Greek Isles. Throughout the afternoon we kept on bumping into Takis at the waterfront and in town, quite by chance. We are best mates now. Isn’t it funny how things work out sometimes?

Athens will have to wait.

Berthed at Andros at 7.30pm and on disembarkation stopped to study our map. A local fellow on a bicycle stopped to ask if we needed help, camping? we asked. I am the camping man he answered and directed us to his campsite where on arrival we chose a suitable area. As I reversed into one of the spots the car suddenly went down at the back, as if in a pothole, that I hadn’t noticed. I checked to find that the earth had swallowed my rear, driver’s-side wheel, down to the axle with the wheel hanging in mid air and, looking down into the void, it was very deep. I thought perhaps it was an old ruin that had suddenly given way. With the help of the winch we were able to easily pull it out to find that what we had fallen into was indeed a well some four metres deep to the water level, well, well, well !

11th May 2012 Happy Mother’s Day!

12th May 2014 For the last two days we have been drifting around the island stopping for lunch at small villages and free camping on deserted beaches in the evenings. Greece has been the easiest place so far to be able to free camp but yesterday afternoon we really had to work to get to our spot. A very steep and winding 4k descent to find our beach, but worth it. There was a house down there that we thought was unoccupied but later turned out to be lived in by an old man to whom we spoke later, and although he didn’t speak any English, was friendly and welcoming.

Andros is everything you imagine in a Greek isle, turquoise waters, white pebble beaches, little white churches propped up on hillsides, little white villages propped up on hillsides and little white farmhouses propped up on hillsides.

The Mediterranean is only slightly more wild than a lake, has minimal tides and only 0.4 of a shark attack per year so its good for gentle swimming and snorkelling.

Met a British expat who lives on the island and tells me the Mediterranean can get really wild.

Acropolis

Acropolis

Papadopolis

Papadopolis

16th May 2014 Athens is quite a pleasant city the Acropolis and changing of the Greek guard a must see. Spent one day more than we meant to organise our third                                                                                                                  party green card                                                                                                                      “Travel notes”

17TH May 2014 The motorway tolls here are exorbitant and there are many of them. Today I paid AUD $20 to cross a bridge, all be it a very nice one but the Sydney Harbour Bridge it ain’t which is only $4.00 max. Signs are non existent and you end up on a motor way that you can’t get off for 30Ks and then have to turn back on the same motorway and pay another toll to get back to square one. Also the tollgates are spaced so that you have to pay your toll and are then committed to the next stretch of motorway before you can exit to an alternative road, which sometimes does not exist. Some of the tollways are just one lane secondary roads anyway, so what am I paying for?

The very first tollgate in Greece had an encamped protest next to it but we didn’t understand. Now we do. I’m funding the Greek financial recovery.

So, now that I’ve had my primal scream, we are camped in Ooranos, this is literally, Greek for “heaven”, Judy say’s I’m repeating myself.

A spot by the sea, indescribable beach, water, sky, clouds, everything. Best place yet, Judy say’s I’m repeating myself.

It is worth every penny of the motorways and we will mosey on up along the coast through Albania and Croatia because of this beauty.

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