Ah Europe, how do we love thee? Let me iterate the instances! The following are pics and some explanation of where and what we were at during our tour of Europe (2003 remix), starting with the most important bit... Day 1. Friday the 1st of August 2003. WE LEFT BASILDON! ahhhhh, feels good.
For the first 6 weeks we were travelling with friends of ours, another kiwi couple, Phil and Nic, and we moved fairly quickly. I'll list all the countries we went through:
UK - France - Belgium - Netherlands - Germany - Czech Republic - Austria - Slovenia - Croatia - Bosnia Herzegovina - Yugoslavia - Bulgaria - Turkey - Greece Islands
Then Phil & Nic flew out of Athens to Switzerland where Phil had a 6 month contract working for his old firm from the UK. Tara and I carried on:
Greece - Italy - Germany - Switzerland - France - Spain - Africa - Portugal - Spain - France - UK
Weather-wise had 2 months of hot sunny days (thanks drought!), then it rained on us in France and parts of Spain/Portugal.
|First nights camp site|
We spent the first night in the UK before taking the early morning Dover ferry to Dunkirk. We were very surprised when we drove off the ferry straight into France with no boarder checks at all, something which continued throughout the EU countries.
|Dover, white cliffs thereof|
|Streets of Brugge|
We drove straight up into Belgium and stopped at some beach for lunch. Us humble kiwis were shocked and stunned at the number of people packed onto the beach, not a clear square meter for its entire length (some k's). On the plus side we saw our first topless sunbathers! Very continental. Up to Brugge which was very pretty and very obviously touristy, nice chocys though. Phil brought us a couple of beers for lunch and intentionally got us some cherry flavored monstrosity. I'm all for new experiences but there has to be limits...
|Even more Brugge|
On up into the Netherlands, Rotterdam = ugly, Den Haag, Harleem, Amsterdam very pretty as was the rest of the country really. Actually went to a couple of very good museums as well as sampling the local herbs and wandering around red light district of Amsterdam. Tootled around countryside then on to Germany.
|Gardens in Hannover|
Driving in Germany was hideous, every fricking road we tried to use was closed at some point. Saw a lot of the countryside taking detours (bloody hot too!). Also had our first "rough camping" experience as all local camp sites were full... we had a very nice spot in a field behind trees. Hannover has lovely gardens, had a good afternoon playing in sprinklers. Saw the standard sights in Berlin then headed south, had a cool evening in a beer garden at a blueberry festival trying to sing along with the locals (they gave us song sheets)!
|It's hot, damn hot. (Hannover gardens)|
|Tara cavorts. (Hannover gardens)|
|Cathedral in the center of Berlin, now a war memorial.|
|Checkpoint Charley (that's him on the poster).|
|Shaving of the beards before we hit Austria|
Into the Czech Republic, enjoyed very cheap beer, the real Czech Budweiser is the go! cheap for us too. Camp sites kinda dirty, bloody swarms of wasps too (had these all through Europe actually). Prague has the (for us) quintessential ye olde Euro buildings. Further evenings of cheap beer/sausage enjoyed.
|Austrian alps - nude cross country skiing|
We were very lucky in Austria, Nic did several "exchanges" when she was a student, one of which was with Hannas from Austria; and he, his wife Christa and kids (Hanna, and 2 others(?)...) very kindly put up all four of us for several days. They also organised emergency dentistry for Phil! He had a dodgy tooth that was to require attention three times through our trip... he had been in pain for about a week(!) before we got to Austria and was euphoric after it was attended to. Hannas showed us around their part of Austria, very beautiful with the alps and incredibly clean and clear lakes and rivers.
|Mutzi-Katzi go nuts!|
|Phil, Nic, Tara and Hannas survey the alps|
|View from first Croatian camp site|
|Phil's mega-cool new sunnies|
|Croatian Camp Site|
On to Croatia. Drove straight through Slovenia to the top of Croatia, headed down the coast keeping an eye out for camp sites that weren't packed to the gills with holidaying Germans. Found a tiny little place which was too small to admit camper vans and had a tunnel under the road to the near by beach. Set up the tent and spent about 5 days bobbing around in the Med. This was very cool as it is warm enough to not have to get out if you don't want to but not cool as there is no swell so no waves to play in. Split is very nice, cool old town in castle thing. We also made a very successful wasp trap here, baited with beer and coke, got hundreds of the little feckers!
|Headed on down the coast and turned in to cross Bosnia. Following advice from Lonely Planet and Hannas we did not stop (landmines etc). We drove a loop through Sarajevo with Phil snapping off pics of the war damage... Got to the Yugoslavia boarder and got charged 75 Euro for "car insurance" to get in. Spent 1 night in Yugoslavia in the shittest camp site ever, nobody wanted to use the toilets...
On into Bulgaria, Sofia is a very nice looking city, had dinner in a flash downtown restaurant which gave me food poisoning. We also failed to find a camp site that night so I ended up having the shits in the middle of the night in a cabbage field in Bulgaria; a story I can only hope will get me a few beers... Carried onto the Black sea coast and rented a cabin (flush toilet, mmmm) for a few days whilst I recovered.
Witnessed bribery and corruption first hand at Turkish boarder! Some eastern euros (all speaking English strangely, most people used German as common language up till now) complaining that they were let though the boarder last time and the boarder control guy (last of about 6 officials you have to talk to get across the boarder!) saying "not this time". One of the eastern euros disappears, comes back with a gold bracelet, all of a sudden everyone is all smiles, lady is putting the bracelet onto the boarder control guys wrist saying "ooo, doesn't this look lovely on you!", *stamp* and they are through...
We headed towards Istanbul, stopped for lunch on the way and some old guy hooked onto us and ordered us coffee then lunch, very cool. Istanbul quite quiet due to tourists staying away cause of the war in Iraq (according to camp owner), rightly as it turned out about a month later.
|Yeah, they made us wear a dress, however, we are totally cool with it.|
We went to Gallipoli, pretty much required visit for Kiwi's/Ozzys, goggle for "ANZAC" if you don't understand that one.
|Name that Ruin!|
Carried on down the coast and started our run of "ruining", visiting all those very historical ruins that abound in Turkey/Greece. In Selcuk (town near Ephesus) Phil had his second emergency dentistry encounter, a much rougher one then in Austria apparently... The guy lanced his gum then put a knee on his chest and lent into him to squeeze his jaw till the lanced gum burst...
|Name that Ruin!|
|Waaaay down the bottom there, Nic performs.|
|Tourists invade Apocolis...|
|Window on the world|
Caught the ferry from Cesme to Chios. Booking a ferry was a bit of an experience, the Turks and the Greeks aren't on the best of terms and won't even tell each other what their ferry schedules are... You can't book a ferry into the Greek islands then on to the mainland, have to get to the island, then find another firm to book onward passage. Ended up staying in flash (for us) hotel in Chios as they were desperate for tourist dollars (see war in Iraq), 20 Euro per couple per night. Had a pool and everything! Luxury after camping for most of 5 weeks. Got the ferry to Athens (about 8 hours), Phil and Nic flew out the next day.
Tara and I carried on into The Peloponnese. Spent the next week looking at various ruins. Some are quite amazingly well preserved and very impressive. We found that some of the free ones were the better ones, very few people there (mainly cause they are harder to get to and off the main bus routes).
Went to Olympia, ran the 200m track (I won!) and had the most impressive lighting storm that night (think we p*ssed off Zeus, lighting simply didn't stop, a constant flickering, never seen anything like it, and 3 cracks that were so loud sounded like he broke the drum!). btw, Greek food rocks!
|Olympia 200m track|
|Outside St.Pauls, Roma|
15 hours on ferry (deck class) to Italy, then drove from Bari to Rome using back roads, was raining most of the way, got lost in Rome at night, took 12 hours end to end. We resolved to pay for the motorway whenever we were headed into any large city from there on... Found Italy to be very expensive so moved through quite fast. They would not let me into St. Pauls in the Vatican city! Apparently my knees are too sexy and would distract their god or something... Roma - Florence - Venice all essential tourist stops. Had a great camp site for the last couple of days in Italy in the alps, had a great tramp up into the alps. Bloody cold for the first time though.
|Castel Sant' Angelo|
|Inside The Pantheon|
|Happy Clappy Catholics no less...|
|View over the center of Ancient Rome|
|Florence, Piazza del Duomo, the Duomo (It's really fricking big, hence doesn't all fit in this photo...|
|Canals o' Venice|
|Canals o' Venice|
|Venice, St Marks Square|
|Venice, St Marks (from the line to get in)|
|Canals o' Venice|
|Italian Alps (what you can't tell from this pic is that is actually a speed metal concert going on, serious.)|
|Day walk up into the alps|
|At The top|
|Italian Alps, nice place for a spot of breakfast|
Drove through Austria to Germany, stopped in Munich, very nice clean city, great parks and beer gardens. Wonder at German love for law and order and public nudity coupled with desire to start two world wars. Drove on to black forest area, found it to a bit disappointing on the scenic side (which is why we went there).
|Heading out on our 2 day tramp|
And so to Switzerland! Stayed with Phil and Nic in their very flash flat in Laussane. We went to Interlarken and went for a 2 day tramp in Jungfrau area, spectacular!
|On the trail|
|On the trail|
|View back down the valley from near the top|
|The TOP! "da 'ills are 'live wit da soond o' music!"|
|Top, view to the peaks|
|Down to the hotel for the night|
|Beer and a seat.|
|Next day we went up the valley till we reached the bottom of the glacier. I saw a Marmot (think fat squirrel)! Woot!|
|Back in the valley on the way home|
|That's glacial melt water folks!|
Unfortunately, this is where our photos end, cause we got robbed (see below).
In to France again, across the bottom heading for Spain. We had intended to go grape picking for a week or so but it turned out that due to the hot summer, the picking had been brought forward so we were to late :-/ Wandered back and forth reading LP each day and picking something to look at and somewhere to stay. We both like the city of Montelimar, so well laid out with cool trams. Did the Rochefort cheese tour, signing up before we realised it would all be in French (1 hour of wandering about nodding and smiling whenever the tour guide looked at us), did however have great free cheese at the end. Had a couple of days of heavy rain so decided to carry on into Spain in the hope that the further south we got, the better the weather would be.
Stopped in Andorra on the way through and loaded up with cheap booze and ciggys. Spent 4 days in Barcelona, I love the Gaudi buildings, I can get drunk and rant on about them for hours! Headed down the coast of Spain, very heavy developed and quite ugly because of it. After a few days ended up at a place called Mojacar. There is no development there at the moment (is planned unfortunately) as there is very little water so is too expensive. Ironically, it was raining when we got there but we found a nice and cheap camp site and ended up staying for about a week, sunbathing and reading books. Drove on to Granada to see Alhambra, is good (found a similar but nicer place in Sevilla though!). Stopped in Ronda for a couple of days, had a great view of it from our camp site. It is built around a huge gorge, very spectacular. On to Gibraltar, saw the monkeys etc. Stayed in a cheap camp-site near Traifa and booked a day trip to Tangers. This was the only organised tour we did on the whole trip and it was the only time that we were forced into a carpet shop. Not impressed with Tangers at all, still, get to say that we have been to Africa! Love Sevilla, very pretty and had great Tapas and Sangria there.
Into Portugal, Lisbon has a very pretty town center, had most excellent steak sandwiches there. The small towns just out of Lisbon are well worth a visit, old mansions and historic buildings, very impressive. Drove towards Porto but turned off down the Duro river valley as we had been told by Portuguese couple that Porto is just an industrial town and that the valley was the scenic highlight of Portugal. Very disappointed. Started p*ssing down that night and we ended up treating ourselves to an expensive self contained cabin in Martindela (near Spanish boarder). Best 38 Euro we spent the whole trip! Was a big relief after so much camping in the rain...
Back into Spain to Salamanca, very lovely town with golden sandstone buildings, it's a university town too so lots of bars and stuff. And then to Madrid where we had our first bad experience of the trip. Whilst shopping in a supermarket our car got broken into. They smashed a window and grabbed 4 of our bags. Unfortunately, Tara had got tired of carrying her hand bag around and we lost her British passport, my NZ one and worst of all our digital camera with all our pictures from Switzerland on still un-downloaded in it. Absolutely gutted to have lost all those pics. When we were on our way out of Spain several weeks later we even went back to that supermarket just in case it had been found in a rubbish bin or something. All the gear they took was useless to anyone else. Toilet bags had my contacts in them, the camera was held together with duct tape and the switches were on the way out (had to press *really* hard to make them work), passports were cancelled the same day. Anyway, that kinda killed Madrid for us, we went to the NZ embassy and got another passport for me (issued the next day, Tara's English passport was going to take 10 days and she has a NZ one as well so we didn't bother). We went to the Prado museum the next day and then skipped town, did a mission drive back down to the bottom of Spain to Mojacar where we stayed for about 2 weeks.
Drove up through France, was pretty cold (mid Nov) so stayed in cheap motels. We like the cheap "plate du jour's" at the restaurants, on the whole very good and good way to try the local specialties as we moved around. On the 20th Nov in Tours we had our second bad experience, on the night that the All Blacks beat France in the rugby world cup, someone vandalized our car (which had a GB sticker on it and a little kiwi flag). They scratched half the windows including the windscreen and rear window. We got a quote to fix it, some 1100 Euro, and as we were trying to sell the car for only 800 quid this effectively "wrote it off" for us. We changed our ads to asking for 200 quid, a fecking bargain as there was nothing wrong with the car itself and it went like a shot when we got back to the UK. This does have a happy ending however, as after we got back to NZ the insurance company paid out! (we sent off about 8 pages of info on what had happened plus pictures of damage and an explanation of why we did not have time to get it fixed before we left the country.).
And so back to the UK.