To the history buffs out there, we are just past the Eagles’ Nest having done a 20 minute drive from Salzburg (arriving back in Germany 4 minutes later) and camped out at the most amazing campsite – but I’m getting ahead of myself…

IMG_5444.JPGFirstly, in the interests of fairness and not aiming to offend any particular nationality I’ve tried to be even-handed. So it is with no particular malice that I note that Austria is the place to which Germans without a sense of humour are exiled. Of course that excludes the Schwartz’s!! It’s been a long time since the person behind the till greets you and your order with ‘Ja?` Nevertheless, a great morning spent at Austria’s premier tourist venue, the Festung Hohensalzburg. And quite spectacular it was too, in good tourist-type condition, audio-tour provided with the entrance ticket, and lots of non-smiling guides preventing you from wandering off their beaten track.


IMG_5445.JPGThe morning started with Niki, having set her Google Maps setting to ‘Athletic’, completely missed the great funicular trip from the Dom (Cathedral) to the top of the fortress. Instead we huffed and puffed up a winding path. All that was missing were the kids doing an ‘are we there yet’ kind of whine. Layers were removed until the daypack was filled to overflowing and finally we arrived to a gorgeous view over the old town. Quick point: the last section of the path must be a 30% incline.

We remember that salt really was white gold, and life, in high densities, was simply not possible without it. The fortress suitably encapsulates the sense of wealth, power and, yes, the oppression it brings with it. My heart always goes out to the doomed Peasant Rebellions!

Salzburg Cathedral: The dome is 100ft above us.


We followed that with a walk through the Cathedral – well worth the visit (and, Norway, filled with interesting things and FREE). The original church was built in 774, rebuilt in 1181, and then again in its Baroque glory in the 17th C. The baptismal font used For Mozart’s baptism is still there. Walking through the crypt was equally interesting as you can see parts of previous churches – and recognise how the current edifice has overgrown its past. The original church is now smaller than the nave, for example

The detail through the cathedral is simply, literally, awesome.

IMG_5432.JPGA walk through the small, but well-preserved old town led us to a bar and lunch, before heading back to the van. Some shops just proved to be really interesting: This shop sold dirndl and lederhosen. I was reminded on Niki’s dad telling me a story from his school days in Port Elizabeth, when he was caned, but wearing his lederhosen, was the envy of all boys undergoing similar punishment (seriously, let’s name it for what it was, abusive torture).

IMG_5440.JPGAround the corner, a bespoke knife maker. Now I don’t really like jewellery, but watches and knives are what I find beautiful – and this was simply stunning. I was quite speechless, and had a little quiver when picking up one of the mid-range knives (€6000). Top of the range knives were €18000 each. You can, of course, get a complete kitchen set …

And where would we be without the cuckoo clock!!! And tin cars!!









We had planned on a camperstop for around €8 overnight. A slow ascent up a 14% incline, and narrow turns that just took the van, got us to a …CLOSED sign. Ah well, the joys of winter camping in Europe – no crowds, but also no facilities. Or..

IMG_5458.JPGOn the road again and 5 minutes later we turn into a 5 star campsite overlooking stunning valleys and snow covered peaks. In fact, the campsite itself is pretty snow covered. For €12 we now have: Electricity, fresh water, heated outside pool looking off into the Alps, a stone throw (literally) away, TWO saunas, wellness rooms, fantastic restaurant, unbelievably good ablutions (the shower is about half the size of our van – that is, each individual cubicle!). The underfloor heating is on, all our electrical goodies are charging, rain is pattering down (soon to turn to snow?) and it’s only snacks for dinner, having filled up at lunch. Not a bad day, all in all!

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A Short, but Eventful Trip.

The weather forecast proved somewhat accurate, with gale force winds through the evening. Our stopover proved to be quite protected and, with little traffic passing by, we had a pretty good night’s sleep. Woke to the wind picking up strength, but, with no real concerns (apart from our fresh water tank dripping), we set off to our anticipated stop around 260km away – no rush!

Blizzard conditions … for me in any case.

Almost immediately the rain started lashing down, soon turning to sleet, and then to driving snow. Traffic crawled along at 30km/h, apart from those doing 50 and those doing 10! Remembering that any similar weather simply shuts the UK down completely, it was still no surprise to see a veritable armada of snow ploughs and various salt & grit spreaders looming through the gloom. However, with no real time constraints we decided to cut the day short upon reaching Ravensburg, a distance of … 25km!

And a good thing we did too. Lovely old town characterized by towers, semi-pedestrian inner town, and the usual amazing coffee houses. Having made a deal that, with the next flurry we would duck in and have a cozy coffee, that’s just what we did. No downsides here!

So, a leisurely time spent in the town necessitated an afternoon nap – we are still recovering from a 12 hour time difference (and 30 degree temperature difference), but can’t quite sync that we both collapse at the same time. Not bad though, with sun coming out, birds warbling in the hedges around the van etc.

Trying to sort the dripping water tank led us to empty our supply in order to clean and grease the valves. Drove a few meters to the dumping station, emptied what little water we had, paid our €1 for 100 liters of water to find … there was no water. As it’s now dark we head off to the nearest gas station to find there facilities are closed until the end of March. This proved to be very common and explains why we are staying for free in our Stellplatz. Eventually found a nice person at the next garage who opened her car wash for us to fill up with water… and that might even be drinking water, time will tell.

So back to camp, settled down to cheese and biscuits, good wine and a movie – we might even push along a little faster tomorrow. Oh, and leak seems to have disappeared …

On The Road Again – Bodensee

It really is great to be in the van again – driving, albeit on a different side of the road felt almost natural after 3 months of driving on the left in NZ. Van started first time and everything is in good nick, thanks to Susi and family, and having the solar panel charging things while we were away has worked really well.

On the road to Austria, via the Bodensee (or Lake Constance in English) has been a really nice drive, over the hills, covered in snow, between Staufen and Friedrichshafen. Still feeling groggy we cut the drive short and are currently camped in amongst apple and pear orchards not far from the lake – and fairly protected from a really strong wind.

Birnau Basilica

At the lake, having stopped at Birnau Basilica, the wind was a strong gale force, and the prediction for tomorrow is that it increases to between 120 and 150km/h. We’ve had experience of this when cycling around the lake a few years ago, when the wind gusted to 160+km/h, resulting in a number of deaths.



We are currently back to old habits, with Niki insisting on opening our new cask of wine. Heater has made us toasty warm, hot water for showers is underway, crisp breads and a range of cheeses and salami on the menu for dinner … We’ve missed this (and no offence to all those great people who have looked after us over the past three months).

Overlooking Bodensee and the Alps in background
Gorgeous drive through Southern Germany

A steady leak out of our fresh water container is raising some concern, so if we can get to a campervan outlet tomorrow we’ll have this looked at. At this stage, though, having been awake since 1:00am following a 12 hour jet lag difference, we are looking forward to sleeping through the night. Not going to happen, but a good goal nevertheless. Soon to settle down to a movie and dinner, rain starting to fall – oh, this is so much better than camping!

Home for the night

And They’re Back…


So here we are back in Staufen, Germany, after 3 months back in New Zealand. The trip to NZ, a little unexpected, was a great opportunity to meet up with old friends and to meet new ones. We were also able to stay with our kids & son-in-law in our house – bought in 2008 but never actually seen … What a summer, with the hottest NZ summer on record following the wettest December on record in Hamilton, with loads of opportunities for extended work around the garden etc. Even got down to Raglan a few times to get into the surf. A big thanks to the kids for putting up with us for 3 months, to the Stevenson’s and Mike, Amanda, and our new neighbours, the Birnies.

Jump ahead to departure, Auckland airport – this after catching the 5:30am shuttle from Hamilton. Get in to the airport just after bus loads of folks returning home on China Southern, bound for Guangzhou. Much later, get to the check-in counter to find that having a desktop computer in the suitcase took us well over the limit. Take computer out, off to the bag-wrapping guy who does a great job. Back to the counter to be met with the dreaded question: ‘Where is your onward journey or return ticket?’ AAARGHH! So after lots of hand-wringing and the involvement of a supervisor it seems that Frankfurt doesn’t really care if you come in on a one way ticket. Heads up for all the illegal migrants out there …

12 hours to Guangzhou was just the start. No problems with the airline, the stewardesses were great … But! There is this ongoing issue of males with unbounded self-confidence but short penises that result wet floors in toilets. Not pointing fingers at any particular group or nationality …. Not really …..

Then, 4 hour layover in Guanghzou which went something like this: Disembark, proceed through X-ray machine with luggage. Queue for immigration. Get to head of queue, move to new immgration counter as we have to have an entry permit … (I promise I’m not leaving the airport in the 2 hours left before boarding ….) Passport taken away for entry visa, passport returned half-hour later with no visa. Queue for new immigration counter, get visa. Proceed to Arrivals. Queue behind 600 people putting bags through 2 (2!!) X-Ray machines. Proceed to Departures via Arrivals (I know, I know – not really logical). New X-Ray machine. Passport check. New X-Ray machine and pat down. Wait in Departures. Next passport check. 15 minutes until plane departs – Who knew time would fly by so quickly? 4 hours of sheer bliss…. Followed by 1 hour flight to Changsha – more X-Rays and passport checks, followed by 11 hours to Frankfurt, more difficult passport questions – ho hum, illegal again.

So here we are, Saturday night with Susi and family, with the Van packed and ready, sort of, to head off Sunday morning.

Where to?

Well, big change of plans. The intent was always to head off to Morocco. That’s changed. Blogs etc from Morocco travellers indicate the expected degree of beauty & chaos – I think we are going to be experiencing pretty much the same in Angola. So, quick change in plans sees us heading off to Austria on Sunday, followed by Slovenia, Italy, Greece, back to Italy and then Sardinia, back to mainland, and then reunite with our household goods in France before we send that back to NZ, with a detour to an Angolan embassy somewhere in Europe for the necessary visas to start August at least on the correct continent. This may well explain why my finger had a tic when on Amazon yesterday, resulting in a 4 bottle order of whiskey which, fortunately, arrived this morning.

So, as we head off, again, the one certainty is that the immediate future looks entirely unpredictable. Another drink, Sir?

Oh, yes please!


Bremerhaven … Heading South

Our Day up north wasn’t wasted, with a lovely 70km cycle along the Baltic coastline, with forests, dikes and dunes on a lovely autumn day.

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Bremerhaven has been a bit more interesting that our German mechanics let on. We spent the better part of the day going through the Klimahaus – a really interesting concept! The exhibits show cultures, landscapes, flora and fauna from 8°E Longitude. Filled with more than enough to keep us busy for another 5 hours or so – we are the slowest museum couple out there – the highlights include a tropical fish area (Samoa), Antarctica (freezing walk), tropical rain forests (really hot & humid) and Sahara (really hot & dry) – and to sum up, the idea that mid-latitudes can have a bit of all of these at various times of the year. Add to all that a great harbour area for old sailing vessels – and the last remaining U-boat of its type, and it’s been a fairly good day.

Hanseatic cog

Last U-boat of its type (Xiii?)

We are camped right next to a major dike fronting onto one arm of the harbour. Given a quite dramatic tidal range that revealed huge mud flats glistening in the setting sun – absolutely beautiful.

More free camping, Bremerhaven

Sunset, Bremerhaven

We spent the earlier part of the day looking at routes to take us down south. The planned version is: Emden tomorrow – Giethoorn Monday – Naarden Tuesday – Amsterdam Wed/Thur/Fri – Broek in Waterland Saturday – Marken Sunday – Zaanse Schans Monday – Leiden Tuesday – The Hague Wed/Thur – Delft Friday – Kinderdijk Saturday. That gives us around 600km over 2 weeks, which will help us manage our growing diesel deficit!

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So, Van is sorted out with a new front fender, Fiat updates, and acknowledgement that the Fiat oil indicator (5 bars showing full or not) is really crap and best ignored. We’ve filled the freezer with meat for the next two weeks, topped up our wine and whiskey cellar, and are prepared for a relatively early start – given that sunrise is now closer to 7:30, take this with a pinch of salt!

Oldest functioning lighthouse, North Coast. Judging from the list, not much longer …