Sunday, 9 October 2016

BODENSEE TO ROTTERDAM...I'm sure there's a song there somewhere

9th . October 2016

5th-6th October
We have a nice - ish  day cycling through the apple orchards and along the shore but the although the sky is blue and the sun shines there is a wind that comes up the lake from the alps and out of the sun it is bitter.. we find a nice spot for our sandwiches but it's not as pleasant as it could be. We buy apples and juice at a farm €1 a litre for juice out of a vat that is delicious and 2.5kg of apples for  €3.
The next day we catch the train to Konstanz, a family day ticket for 15.70€, unlimited travel.
Konstanz is fantastic, and we shall return to explore it more when the weather is warmer and we can walk around without being colder than the arctic circle..and we've done the AC and got the t-shirt. Lovely place, fantastic buildings and a good lunch.

7th.October
Travel to Bingen Am Rhein.  Traffic horrendous so not particularly good . Reasonable aire on the river; walked a bit and if weather warmer would have got the bikes off.

8th-9th. October

To ALBLASSERDAM where we spent our first night. Easy drive although traffic heavy. On our last visit we took the water bus to Dordrecht and thought we would return to visit Rotterdam in the other direction. Nice 40 min  cruise to the city for €4 each (senior price) one way. Very nice day walking around the very modern city which has some jaw dropping architecture.  The indoor market is like nothing we've ever seen...Marrakesh meets Covent Garden. ..amazing building and even more amazing inside.. definitely a place to visit.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

SNOW JOKE....

4th.October 2016

On Sunday afternoon we had a lovely walk through alpine (or Tyrolean to be pedantic ) meadows, gazing down the valley on towns and villages far below and sitting on a bench gazing at the mountains above. ...later it clouded over a bit and we had rain at 8pm for 30 mins and then a few showers. We thought the temperature had dropped a bit.... but we are about 2000ft asl. ..and had to put a bit of heating on at 10am and so to bed.
The temperature at 7am was very nippy and I put the heating on again as I made the morning tea and then I looked out to see that we were surrounded by snow capped peaks that definitely weren't there when we went to bed. The outside temp. was 4° which explained the necessity for heating. By breakfast time everybody was out taking photos as it transpired that this was the first snow of winter and is mighty early and unexpected on 2nd Oct. Seems to have buggered up the holiday weekend plans of lots of Germans.
Our problem was not the temperature  (hey, we've done the Artic Circle) but the sudden transition. .....5 weeks of eating breakfast,lunch and dinner sitting outside and only retreating indoors when the mozzies got too much. ....all of a sudden overnight the temp goes from mid 20's to mid teens with nighttime temps going from 18 to 6 and forecast on Wednesday to be 2°. So we packed up and left. At this stage we are still in Italy  (altough you'd never guess as the first language in these parts is German and everything is efficient ) and we have to cross 2 passes to reach Germany and it's no point lingering in the cold, but I need to find a cache in Austria in order to get the digital stamp for another country in my logbook at Geocaching HQ. The plan had been to stop at Imst for 2 days and rack up a few caches but this didn't seem too clever now. Oh yes, and we had to leave Mals when I found that we were paying €40 a night and we were not even actually in the campsite technically speaking. Anyway the drive to Imst was only 2 hours and we're there by midday  in sunshine and the mountains here are snow capped and the temp is 12°. We head off into countryside and get 2 caches,  one of which is a cracker so box ticked.
Everybody talks about the early snow, no point hanging around so we head for Germany. ....the Fern Pass has snow down to an alarming level and I see council workmen uncovering the signs advising snowchains although they are not mandatory until 1st Nov. The roads are clear at the moment but they are obviously preparing for winter.
Once over the alps into Germany the skies clear and the temp rises to 15°. We head to Stockach on the Bodensee (Lake Constance/Konstanz) and book in to a campsite at Wahlwiess we stopped at in 2010. I know that because they told me I had. There's German efficiency for you. It's a lovely site in amongst the apple orchards overlooking the lake and they brew their own beer (a lager type of course) which they sell  at €2 per 500ml. Bottle . 5.2% and exceedingly drinkable. We decide to stay 3 days and then make just one stop at Bingen on the Rhine on Friday and stop at ALBLASSERDAM on Saturday so that we can do ROTTERDAM on sunday before getting the ferry on Monday.

I'd I mention my favourite impression of Slovenia & Croatia  ? Unlike France, Spain & Portugal,  the normal serving  of beer is 500ml and not the poncy 25cl
that evaporates.  A large beer is a litre, and for entertaining,  the 1.5 or 2 litre bottle is readily  available everywhere. I had forgotten how much I dislike a 25cl bottle or glass and how satisfying a 500ml bottle is. I may have to go and live in Croatia one day.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

TRIESTE IS GOOD....BUT BEST LAID PLANS....

2nd. October 2016

29th- 30th. September
A trip into Trieste by bus proved more interesting than I was expecting.  Having got lost round the docks 4 years ago when trying to avoid entering Slovenia on a motorway and having to buy a vignette for the 16 mile journey across to Croatia,  and not being impressed at the time, our expectations were not high. However, Lonely Planet describes Trieste as possibly the most underrated destination in Europe and they may well be right. We spent a very enjoyable few hours mooching aound the streets full of very grand buildings, which although a bit faded in places, are really quite stunning....main square especially. The cathedral is wonderful,also a Greek orthodox basilica. I have one of the best pizzas ever for lunch by the Grand canal.
The city was preparing for the Barcalona next Sunday (2nd Sunday in October ) which is a 15 mile yacht race in the Gulf of Trieste and attracts over 25,000 sailors...the pictures on Google look spectacular and I'm sorry we shall miss it.
Next day we walk to find 2 caches and start to prepare for the journey home. 5 weeks away and I haven't worn a jacket,fleece or long trousers but I'm sure it will be colder through the alps and into Germany. We eat in camp restaurant and plan to leave at 7. 30 am with a fairly long 250 mile drive to Merano at the start of the south Tyrol.

1st.October

BLOODY GERMANS

Leave at 8am eventually as no real rush as we will use the toll motorway. This being Italy the toll road will take 4.5 hrs against 7.5 hours on the others. A nice drive up the Trento valley and when we finally exit the toll road at Bolzano the damage is €30 which is bearable for 4 hours of good roads. We comment on the number of German vehicles heading north and conclude it is the end of the holidays ad they're all dashing home. Arrive Merano at 1pm and find campsite. When I try to book in it is full and am told we'll be lucky to find anything as 3rd.Oct is a German holiday and the Tyrol will be booked solid. We head north and run into huge traffic jams coming south from the Fern Pass, nose to tail Germans.  We scour every book and website for aires and campsites and everything we try is full...not that there is a huge number of either without going well off the road and up mountains. By 4 pm we have reached Glorenza, site full and big aire inaccessible as the local marathon is on and all roads shut till 8pm. Track another site 5kms away at Mals and get there at 4.30pm. Site full but guy offers us a small pitch just outside the camp with water and hookup, one of 2. We grab it thankfully even though it's going to be expensive. 5 minutes later the other pitch goes. We go for a walk and when we return 3 more vans have bee allowed to park opposite us and until 7pm a constant succession of vans and caravans arrive to be turned away. No room at the inn tonight. Decide to stay Sunday as well as trying to find another pitch will obviously be a nightmare and we don't want to go any further north especially as it starts to rain and Sunday is forecast rain all day....we are now 2 days ahead of ourselves . The views from here are brilliant, surrounded by mountains and there is a local train that trolls through them which looks interesting.




Wednesday, 28 September 2016

AU REVOIR BALKANS-BONJOUR TRIESTE

28th September 2016

(I do like that heading)
Short run to Sistiana in Italy, just past Trieste. Leave Croatia, enter Slovenia and upset the border guards. Leaving Croatia,  nobody in the booth, they don't care who's going. 100 yds later hit the queue to enter Slovenia. ...watch the Croatian hire car in front get turned over for 15 minutes  then it's us and a languid wave through  from a disembodied arm. Now, there r 2 booths, 10ft apart. We've just shown our passports at the first ,been ignored and waved on. So I go. And all hell breaks loose with previously unseen armed heavies suddenly shouting Stop Stop and running around us as if we'd tried to crash the roadblock in Aleppo.  As I'm only doing 3 mph stopping is not a problem but we are subjected to a tirade about 2 stops and our passports are taken for an in depth investigation and only grudgingly returned when we don't appear on the terrorist database. Being a pragmatist I aplogise profusely  and fail to call them wankers and jobsworths or question why they require 2 booths and ask what the 2nd booth does that the first one didn't. We smile and are waved through.
Note. The motorway out of Croatia is listed as non toll. It now has a toll station at the border wanting 15 kuna in cash ......Luckily when I changed all our kuna into euros yesterday I was left with 100, which we used for a drink as we watched the sunset in town and I had 30 left. So 16 miles of Slovenia then we join the Italian motorway at Trieste (I do think that heading is funny) and leave it at Sistiana where there is a campsite we stopped at with P&M on our way to Croatia.  Nice site on the cliffs above the Adriatic with views down the Croatian coastline forever.  Nice walk along the cliffs and the GF rewards herself at the bar with a glass of Prosecco and then buys 3 bottles in the shop....but they are only 25cl each.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

The GF enjoys a coffee in SELCE

AN UNEXPECTED CHARMER....

27th.September 2016

26th- 27th September

We leave ZADAR (regrettably ) and take the Adriatic Highway up the coast in glorious sunshine..the sea is a shimmering pale blue turning to emerald as the rocks of the islands offshore change colour. Every bend reveals a new vista and aspect and it is a seriously  good road to drive. The scenery is dramatic rather than picturesque and most of the time we are 2-300 ft above the sea level so you can see for miles . Fortunately the bikers have disappeared so we encounter no idiots with headcams filming their death in a head on collision as they take the racing line through a blind bend and meet a Motorhome on the apex. The only heartstopper is a white Mercedes queue jumping a line of traffic and which may have required him to seek a change of underpants. We head towards Rijeka and an ACSI site that the Caravan Club book is scathing of at the town of Selce. As we near, we check out possible sites in case we have to find something else. At first glance, Camping Selce is not doing itself any favours; a bit run down and  a lot of permanents dug in. But they talk nice and have a washing machine which Zadar didn't so we book in. Explorations reveal a hidden gem. The lower end of the site overlooks the sea with views across to the island of Krk where we went last time, and has access to a lovely promenade along to the town and beyond, lined with bars and restaurants. We have an excellent walk, so much so that we do it again the next day only further .
The washing machines are required as the GF has housekeeping duties (pink jobs) to perform which entail me getting up at 7.30 and lugging 2 large bags of laundry down the hill , returning 40 mins later to lug them back up the hill,erect 2 washing lines and the carousel and peg out the clothes, (avoiding blackbirds and protecting nose). These are blue jobs.We look like a gypsy camp with washing drying every where as it has been 2 weeks since the last attack but it's all dry by 2pm. So the town of Selce is an exceedingly nice resort although it is closing down for the winter everywhere you turn despite a good many holidaymakers still lounging about in the sunshine. I sometimes despair of Johnny Foreigner and his eagerness to shut up shop for the season....the campsite at Zadar closes on Friday, and this one 2 weeks later. Our route home depends on which sites are open despite the roads being full of motorhomes heading south......
So we shall leave Croatia tomorrow, and have ticked another box by doing the whole of the coast road. In fact, what with Bled,Ljubljana, Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik,  we have ticked quite a lot of boxes in the last month and had an exceedingly good time , only disappointed that we didn't get to share it with Ken & Jackie....