Isby On Tour
Bulgaria, has the best roads for washing clothes!
After more than seven weeks we leave Greece. Although reluctant, but it is high time to travel further north!
Bulgaria is a small country, with the highest migration across Europe. This is sad, but for travelers an advantage, as we are mostly in nature and the remaining population is happy to see us and get some news exchange from the worldJ. Soon we also realize that the Bulgarians are an "outdoor nation". Everywhere are small pavilions, which invite you to picnic. At the weekend, everyone is hiking, it seems a little like home in Switzerland, but everything is much poorer.
Bulgaria is the poorest country in the European Union, as reflected in food and diesel prices, but also in housing. The concrete bunkers from the Soviet era are visible everywhere. Even in small villages they are predominant. Only the city centers of larger towns show the actual architectural style of the Bulgarians and this is colorful and very artistic, as in Plovdiv, the second largest city in Bulgaria.
We drive north through the valley of roses. This is where Europe produces the most rose oil. Unfortunately we are about 2 weeks too early and the miles long Rose fields are not yet in bloom. https://www.br.de/radio/bayern2/sendungen/breitengrad/bulgarien-tal-rosen-100.html
Our destination is a small, secluded place. Here we meet English friends, whom we met about 5 months ago in Spain. At that time, they were looking for a patch of land to settle on. In Bulgaria they found it and we visit them now. The journey is spectacular. Already 4 km in front of their house we have to leave our van, too deep the trees hang in the street, as that we could continue. With their car, we continue on this path until they also have to stop about 1 km away from their house. The last bit is only accessible by foot. Once their house was part of a small village. But today, all but three houses are abandoned and they are the only ones who want to live here all year round. With their own spring and garden, as well as electricity from the solar cell, they are currently trying to live self-sufficient. We help in the garden and the wood and are happy to sleep again in a real bed. Isby is a bit irritated. Are we really stay in this house overnight, he seems to wonder? But already the next day, he does not want to leave anymore. It seems like he probably would like to settle down again. :)
Why Bulgaria has the best roads for doing laundry? Since northern Greece, it has become increasingly difficult to find laundromats, because the cities are getting smaller and in the countryside people often seem to wash by hand. Even before the trip, we read that travelers put their laundry in a lockable bucket, drive 100km over bumpy gravel roads and then (more or less) have clean laundry. Now it's time to test if that really works! The roads are bumpier than ever before and our laundry piles up quickly. So we try it, and behold, the result is surprisingly good! If the laundry would now dry as fast as we have bumpy roads available, we'll be done with our laundry in no time. :)
Meeting old and new Friends on Travels and the smallest Camper Van ever!
The nicest thing about traveling is, that you always meet new, interesting and nice people. In Greece, we are fortunate enough to meet new friends, as well as get visited by old friends and relatives from home.
Therefore we speed from the Peloponnese over the Canal of Corinth, through Athens, pass by the Oracle of Delphi and stop quickly at the monument for the brave Spartans, who fought the Persian in Thermopiles (Movie the 300 Spartans), to make it to Thessaloniki in time, to pick up Simon’s brother from the airport. We enjoy some relaxing days with him in the vicinity of Thessaloniki.
After this, we get to explore the wild north of Greece with our friend and former neighbor, who comes to visit us for a week. Here we see again a very different landscape of Greece. After the beautiful beaches on the Peloponnese, it now goes up to over 2000 meters in the mountains. We balance in the rock walls of the deepest gorge in the world, the Vikos Gorge, and admire the monasteries' architecture on the Meteora rocks. https://www.discovergreece.com/de/mainland/thessal...
It's fun to have guests in the bus, as we see much more this week than usual when we're slower.
But moving slowly also has many advantages. On a pitch in Thessaloniki we get to know Micha and Philipp. The two are a number for themselves. They definitely have the smallest camper we have ever seen and have been living in this mini mobile for over a year! Their original destination was Mongolia, but unfortunately they were rejected a few weeks ago at the Russian border, so they came back to Greece. We get along great and spend many, warm evenings together. Now you imagine this very idyllic, but keep in mind, that you often meet "interesting" people in the most random places.
This pitch for example, is located directly behind the airport. It’s practical for us to pick up our guests from Switzerland and Germany, but it also means, that we need to accept the noise of planes taking off or landing constantly. Furthermore it lays next to the main road and behind a car wash salon.
But if you might think that this clouded the camping idyll, you are wrong! In good company, something like that bothers not at all. :)
We end up staying on this pitch three times. The third time, we get to know John. He hiked from France to the Syrian border because he wanted to go to Mecca. Since the Syrian border is currently closed, he has turned around and now has pitched his tent between all the campers. It is always inspiring what humans are capable of!
Isby Bericht 39
Greece: Hospitality, Lemons and Culture
We drink a lemon every day!
Greece is a dream travel destination! Already on our first evening we get to know the Greek hospitality. After we got lost in an olive grove and Simon had to drive back out of the trees (I'm standing outside and bending the branches aside), we finally find the cove, described by friends. Soon, the next local resident arrives and greets us in good German. He lives in paradise, he says, and is happy that we had come here for one night as well. In the evening Simon helps him with his fire wood, for which we are given a big bag of fresh lemons from the garden. We are very happy, even though we do not know exactly how to use so many lemons. Then the old man laughs and says: "Drink it, that's healthy!"
In the next few days, we quickly realize that we have landed in Greece for the main season of the lemons, because we are more often presented with lemons. Over a month we drink our lemon every day, as a German saying says, “sauer macht lustig” (sour makes you having fun) and in Greece also healthy. :)
150 trees planted on the Day of the Tree!
On the Peloponnese peninsula, we reach a beautiful beach, where relatively many mobile homes are parked up between the trees. We learn that we are on the property of an initiative "Friends of the Forest". Their goal is that the beach is not overbuilt and anyone who wants to camp can find a place here. For that they plant trees, because how they tell us, one must not build in Greece, where forest stands. Of course we join in and so we plant 150 pines with local and international helpers in a short time. Then there is a big Greek BBQ: Souvlaki (pork kebab), pickled olives, many cucumbers, bread and white wine in a very international group.
Greek history blossoms in spring
Of course you cannot travel around Greece, without dealing with the ancient world. It is difficult for us to understand the many myths and stories, as there is always a new god in it. Luckily we find a great video on Youtub of a Matura thesis, which explains the most important gods succinctly.
Afterwards, we are prepared to visit the birthplace of the Olympic Games. On the grounds of Olympia, Zeus, the father of the gods, was worshiped in a temple, the most important sports competitions of antiquity took place there, and even today the flame of the Olympic flame is lit there. Unfortunately, only a few stones are left of the old buildings, but in the lush sea of flowers of the Greek spring it still looks very impressive.https://www.discovergreece.com/de/mainland/pelopon...
Another day, we visit the Amphitheater of Epidaurus. It is one of the most important ancient theaters in Greece and can accommodate up to 20,000 spectators. It is particularly amazing as you can understand the speakers on stage, who speak in a normal (not especially loud) voice, even in the last row of the amphitheater. https://www.discovergreece.com/de/mainland/pelopon...
Now we are on our way to Northern Greece. I'll talk about that next time. Bye, or as the Greeks say: YASAS!
Travel Itinerary: From Bari (Italy) by ferry to Igoumenitsa (Greek town directly on the Albanian border) -Igoumenitsa-Parga-Lefkada-Peloponnese (once all around)
Bereiste Länder: 15
Schweiz, Lichtenstein, Österreich, Deutschland, Belgien, Niederlande, England, Schottland, Nordirland, Irland, Wales, Frankreich, Spanien, Portugal, Italien
Gefahrene Kilometer: 19‘763 km
50 Days on the Road: Tintagel Cornwall, England
100 Days on the Road: Moher Cost, Irland
150 Days on the Road: Porto, Portugal
200 Days on the Road: Guadix (Höhlendorf), Andalusien Spanien
230 Days on the Road: Rom, Italien
Benutzte Fähren: 5
Dunkerque-Dover, Cairnryan-Larne, Rosslare-Fishguard, Dover-Dunkerque,
Gefeierte Geburstage: 3
18.09. Plymouth Simon
29.09. Bristol Isby
15.02. Murcia Flurina
Besucher aus der Heimat: 3
Melli und Andre in Lissabon
Mama in Andalusien
Pannen: (Haben wir ständig irgendwelche;)
3x Wasserhahn ausgewechselt –Repariert durch Simon
1x Frontscheibe – Autoglas Bristol
1x Standheizung – Repariert durch Bristol Caravans
1x Dieselfilter - Simon
1x Ölwechsel – Simon
1x Luftmassenmeter -Simon
1x Kupplung – Repariert durch Joteca Chinicato
1x Zahnriemen – Werkstatt Malaga
1x Zündkerze – Werkstatt Malaga
1x Wasserpumpe –Simon
1x Herdplatte – Simon
3x Bus geflutet – Simon und Flurina
1x Fahrradständer - Simon
Pizza, Pasta and Rome on Strike
First of all, we did not find a Pizzeria every day! At least, they were not always open. But we have discovered the most beautiful hot springs and enjoyed their sulphurous water. All around the Monte Amiata (a no longer active volcano) in the Tuscany, there are such thermal springs that are fortunately not yet commercialized and you can therefore bathe in complete nature. There, we meet a Swiss-Italian couple who picks us up at the Van and takes us to a tiny Italian restaurant. Mama Mia, the homemade tortellini with ricotta and pears were delicious :) and on the way back the cinghiale (boars) crossed the street in front of the car! Unfortunately, it rains quite often in Italy, so we either sit in the hot water or in the van. When finally a fair weather window shows up, we do not hesitate and drive straight to Rome.
Road traffic in Italy is demanding. Not only, that Simon is busy avoiding all the potholes, no, here no traffic rules seem to count anymore! Luckily, Simon is more relaxed about it then me. He just pretends our "Blue Wonder" is a Fiat Panda and also pushes and squeezes it into every tiny little gap.
Like that, we drive once through Rome to the official campground. The campground owner immediately tells us that tomorrow public transport will strike throughout Rome. Oh great, that's just what we needed. But never mind, in that case we drive with the bicycles into the city.
Isby has become the perfect bike dog and knows the commands left, right, over and behind (he should go behind the bike) now flawless. In general, he obeys on the bike much better than while walking, as then he mutates and becomes sometimes a park stray dog;)!
Rome itself is beautiful. We enjoy the 2000 year old buildings, the narrow streets and the Dolce Vita feeling everywhere. Only how to get into the Colosseum is still a mystery to us. Because with a dog it is impossible and without a pre-booked ticket you are stuck in the line for a long time, also at this time of the year. Fortune helps, at least me;) Just as we want to make our way home, a tourist guide approaches us. He explains how it works with all the tickets and of course wants to sell us some. But only one! Because YOU (he points to me) can enter today for free! How come, I think? The explanation follows immediately. Today is World Women's Day and therefore all women are allowed to visit the Colosseum for free and do not even have to queue for a long time! So half an hour later, I am actually in the huge arena and try to imagine how it was here 2000 years ago.
After Rome our travel plans change rapidly. Originally, we wanted to continue to the Volcano Vesuvius, but the weather forecast for the west coast of Italy is bad for the whole week. Therefore, we decide spontaneously to turn off, shortly before Naples and drive once across the country, so that we only make a stop above the spur again. On this drive through Campania and Puglia we reach the 20'000km mark! We stop for a selfie, our "Blue Wonder" has actually brought us 20,000km! It’s incredible that we have gotten so far and we really hope it will carry us another 20’000, all the way up to Scandinavia!
Finally, from Bari we take the ferry to Igoumenitsa, I am curious what to expect in Greece.
Weather Forecast: The Sea is rough and the Sky is cloudy!
28 Hours, Time to Review the Journey so far!
We chug up the east coast of Spain and stop often in small villages in the hinterland. These captivate with their colors, towers and castles. Finally, we reach Barcelona, which we explore in snowfall! Can you imagine that? Park Güel and Sagrada Familia behind snowflakes? It seems a bit unreal indeed, but we try to look positive, because who can say that he/she has seen Barcelona in snowfall?
Then it's time, already 2 weeks ago we booked the ferry from Barcelona to Civitavechia, (just north of Rome). The crossing should last 20 hours and we hope, that we can sleep in the van most of the time, after all Isby is supposed to stay there as well, otherwise he is only allowed on the outer deck. But as usual, everything is different. Instead of at 22.15 clock, we leave shortly after midnight, Isby must stay in a cage in a mini-room on the outer deck and nobody is allowed to stay in the cars. At least Isby's box is huge. Unhappily we leave him behind in it and then look for a place to sleep for ourselves. Just when we get comfortable on a sofa, a ship's employee comes and says that this bar would close in 15 minutes and we have to find another place in the middle of the ship. This means, roll up sleeping bags and search again. We find another couch, get dressed again and try to sleep, which is not so easy in the waves! The storm outside is powering up, we can hear and feel it! At 8.00 clock we are also expelled from this sofa, because now the ship must be cleaned up again. It is strange that, except us, nobody makes the appearance of moving away from their sleeping place. But we want to look after Isby and try to find a place for the day where he can be with us as well. Of course, his joy is huge, as we get him out of his cage and luckily we find a corner, in the corridor, in front of the door to the outer deck, where we can now cuddle up all three. Now the storm has something positive. Then apart from the dog owners and a few stubborn smokers, no one dares going outside anyway. When you open the door, you get almost blown away. So, our new place is comfortable according to the circumstances. We pass the time reading, writing and watching movies. At some point the weather announcement comes from the captain, "The Sea is rough and the sky is cloudy", as if we had not already noticed that;) The storm delays the journey and we are now supposed to arrive at 10 pm instead of at 6.45 pm. We are not thrilled about it, but at least we are not as sea sick as some other travelers. Most of the guests on board are truck drivers, who of course do not need any delays, after all they have to leave immediately after arrival. But you cannot do anything against the force of the sea and the weather.
Meanwhile, we review the last months, because we are already over 200 days on the Road! We have already experienced a lot, celebrated our birthdays in Plymouth, Bristol and in Murcia and yet we did not even manage half the distance we would like to travel! What adventure will come next?
Late in the evening we finally reach Civitavecchia and everyone is happy to have solid ground under their feet again. Let's check out Italy, hopefully we will find a Pizzeria every day. :)
Andalusian Natural Treasures: In dizzying heights and breathtaking depths or from suspension bridges and cave dwellings
After a week of pure culture, not only Isby is happy that we're back in nature. Since we have already seen so many beaches, we venture into the mountains. Then Flurina got a premature birthday present, an LPG gas bottle. This is a gas cylinder, which we can fill up at many gas stations with Auto Gas (LPG), so we never have to freeze again;) and can confidently drive into the colder mountain region. We drive through huge olive plantations and past almost empty water reservoirs. This is a bit scary, because actually their water level should be higher at this time of the year. Our destination is the "Caminito del Rey", the royal path.
Until recently, it was considered one of the most dangerous paths in the world. Since 2015, it has been completely restored, but the thrill of the jetties, which cling to rock walls at 100 meters, remains to go!
The reason for its construction was a project to use hydropower (especially winter rains). A channel through the gorge "Gargante del Chorro" was supposed to connect two dams. In 1905 a first path had been created on planks, and gradually the path was fortified with concrete and iron reinforcements. In 1921, when the whole project was finished, the Spanish King Alfonso XIII dedicated it. That's why it was named "Caminito del Rey". The path was then used by the valley dwellers as a school and work path. At night it was even lit. But due to weather conditions and the soft sandstone the path gradually fell into decay. There were no concrete slabs anymore and only the rusty steel girders remained. Finally, only experienced mountaineers and climbers could continue to use the path. It was closed in 2001 after several people were fatally injured. In 2014, the restoration of the way for 4,500,000 euros began and since the 28.03.2015 the new, secured hiking trail is open to the public and should become a main attraction of the region.
Shortly after Malaga, we immerse ourselves in the history of humanity. Bones and tool finds, as well as rock carvings on the cave walls show that the huge cave system of Nejra was used by humans already 30'000 years ago. Only a small part of the cave is open to the public, but already this takes our breath away, we have never seen such large stalactites! Unfortunately, the battery of our camera was empty, but on the official website you can make a virtual tour of the cave and get a great insight into the fascinating world of stalactites.
Link Nejra virtual cave tour: http://www.cuevadenerja.com/visitavirtual/galerias...
Behind the Sierra Nevada we discover in the city of Guadix the modern form of the "In the cave life". The landscape is bizarre here. In the background, the white mountains of the Sierra, then a completely flat plateau and deeper again suddenly shoot huge mounds from the ground. We had not read about such a landscape before and when we see the first door in such a hill, we are naturally curious. We find out that in Guadix there is a whole neighborhood with such "cave houses". In this neighborhood we visit a "show cave", which shows how the people used to live in these caves and what life looks like today. Totally comfortable, with flat screen and LED lights, top modern apartments, just in a mound. Incidentally, these are very sustainable, because you do not need heating, the temperature in the cave is around 18 degrees all year, which is not just now in winter (where it can get below zero degrees outside) but also in summer at over 40 degrees of course very pleasant. In addition, the ventilation is perfect due to the skillfully laid out floor plan, because the air circulates between the front door, windows and the fireplace, which also serves as a ventilation shaft.
Still today, in the region there are more than 5000 inhabited caves.
More pictures from Guadix: https://www.cortijodelmarques.com/de/aktivitaeten/...
Route: Sevilla-El Chorro-Malaga-Nejra-Granada-Guadix
Willy, the writing Dog from Austria
Due to our forced standstill in the industrial area of Chinicato, we are actually a bit stressed. Because we get a visitor! My mum travels to Seville to experience the "Blue Wonder" in live.
As a result, we do not see so much of the southern coast of Portugal, but we do get to know an interesting Austrian. His name is Willy and he is a thoroughbred traveler. Because Willy grew up in a campervan and therefore drives almost his entire life through Europe. Willy is also famous! He has a Facebook page and is currently writing his third book! And Willy is keeping his owner busy, because he is a bright Golden Retriever. After initially competing, Willy and Isby get along well and exchange a few tips regarding the Internet presence :)
In addition, Willy's owner has made a great video of our dream beach, pay attention to the blue dot, this is our blue wonderJ and the cute dog in the end, you all know very well as well!
Andalusia, road trip in the Blue Wonder and we reach the southernmost point of the European Mainland and of OUR TRIP!
In time, we make it to Seville, to pick up my mum at the airport. The reunion joy is huge, after all, we are already over 6 months "On the Road".
Together we tour Andalusia for a week to explore the city of Cadiz, which is said to be the oldest city in Europe and the southernmost point of mainland Europe, as well as the meeting of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, in Tarifa. We feel "back in good old England" at Fish n 'Chips in Gibraltar, crossing the many bridges in Ronda, a city that towers over both sides of a canyon and is therefore connected by many bridges, and marvel at the Mezquita in Cordoba and the flamenco dance in Seville.
It is an entertaining week, where mum gets some insights into our life in the "Blue Wonder". For example, we cycle together with Isby over the border and the runway of the airport of Gibraltar, the only access to this city and the only place in the world where all transit traffic is routed through the runway of the airport. We mingle with the locals at the weekly market and promptly get to know another travel couple from Switzerland. But their vehicle is much bigger than ours and we even get a tour of the truck, which only exists twice with this setup in the world!
Sevilla-Cadiz-Conil de la Frontera-Tarifa-Gibraltar-Ronda-Arco de la Frontera-Cordoba-Sevilla
The Unlucky Day
After Lisbon, we drive again with our English friends from Brazil to the south. We are looking for a workshop, because we have to fix a few small things on the van. Therefore, we plan to go to Sagres, the south western most city of Portugal and make an appointment with a nearby workshop and then enjoy the Algarve, the southern coast of Portugal, until we can go to the workshop. But this plan is vehemently abbreviated, respectively redesigned. Just started driving, it happens suddenly. Simon wants to switch gear and says immediately, “Now we have a problem. The clutch is not working anymore!” After two calls at the ADAC and a three-hour wait, a tow truck finally arrives.
The guy with his huge loading platform is a number in itself. Permanently smoking and nothing to calm, he sets about to charge our "Blue Wonder". Of course, not without cursing, because the long Van puts his creativity to the test. At some point our van is actually loaded and the towing-man takes us to a friend with a workshop that would "only" take 2-3 days to fix the bus. The workshop, to which he drives us is big and very busy. The van is parked directly opposite the workshop and there we are waiting. Nothing happens today, maybe tomorrow. Well, now we spend our Algarve holiday in an industrial area of a suburb of Lagos!
The next day a mechanic looks briefly at our bus, makes a rough diagnosis and disappears. Nothing will happen before the weekend. At least we get electricity and wifi! We have to sit idle here all weekend. The only change is the local flea market.
Monday, today finally something should happen. Just before lunch, at 1 pm, they actually push the van into the workshop. That's a good feeling, hopefully they'll accelerate! In the evening we know better. They did not accelerate at all! At 6 pm the van gets pushed out for the night, after all we have to sleep somewhere. It is probably the broken disc in the clutch, but the rest of the clutch does not look good eighter. Tomorrow they have to see further. The uncertain wait tugs at the nerves.
Tuesday, we continue to wait and nothing seems to happen and at 11.00 clock I cannot stand it anymore and decide to go back to the reception to ask for the state of things. With a slightly whiny, very desperate tone, I ask for information. I also mention that we urgently need to take a shower and go shopping and that on Friday we have to pick up my mother in Sevilla. Apparently, my tear gland tactic works, in any case, they all look a bit mediocre now. A short time later someone actually comes to us. The woman has good and bad news. The good news are, that they now have all the pieces together and until tomorrow evening at 6 pm everything should be repaired, the bad ones, that it is going to be very expensive! But what do we have for a choice? We want to continue! I reassure that they will be done by tomorrow 6pm and she nods, so we are having a deal. Now, it is once more time to keep nerves and wait.
Wednesday, punctually at 9:00 am we are ready again and to our big surprise, at 9:15 am the receptionist actually arrives and says we should take out everything we need, the mechanics would push the van in in a few minutes. Fortunately, the weather is gorgeous again and we pass the time with dog walks and research about Sevilla. At 5:00 pm, I set off with Isby, for hopefully the last walk around this damned industrial quarter! My nervousness increases immeasurably as I come back into the street and really, the bus is out there! Big relief spreads in me, hopefully he runs too and they did not just push him out! But I can already see Simon holding his thumb up. Cool, we're really getting away from here! We do not hesitate for long and just want to get away from here! The clutch is stricter, but that's normal, the old one was so worn out. At a nearby beach, we celebrate our newfound freedom and enjoy one last evening with our Brazilian friends, because tomorrow our paths will separate again. Many thanks to the two, without you the week in our "Algarve Holiday Park" in the industrial area of Chinicato would have been even longer and more tedious!
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