Aussie European Tour – 2017 In Review
It is now 12 months since we left Australia and I am writing this at a little marina near Ierissos in eastern Greece – this is a review of March to December 2017 only.
We are still really enjoying motorhoming around Europe and Ziggy has stood up to storms, hail, sleet, snow, torrential rain and occasionally a little sunshine.
Ziggy has learnt how to reverse long distances down extremely narrow streets not wide enough to accommodate her and how to execute 9 point turns in impossible places.
We have learnt to ignore our new GPS system telling us we are driving the wrong way down a one way street and not to get too frustrated when it takes us through the narrow streets in a town because it thinks that is the best way to go – however we have learnt that is not always the case.
The driver and the navigator still haven’t had a disagreement and are still sharing the same bed – not sure what the alternative is.
We toured and stayed in 20 countries during 2017 including the following:-
England Wales France Belgium
Luxembourg Germany Poland Slovakia
Denmark Sweden Norway Finland
Estonia Latvia Lithuania Czech Republic
Austria Portugal Spain Gibraltar
There are many different elements which contributed to the enjoyment we have experienced in these countries including the season, weather, food and beverages, accessibility of services and facilities, road conditions, the route selected, traffic, crowds, bus and ship tour groups, availability of overnight stops, our mode of travel, how tired we were and the local people themselves.
When people ask us what were our favourite places or which places did you enjoy more than others much depends on those elements above.
Other travellers may go to the same places or take similar routes and have totally differing experiences depending on those elements.
One of our main aims of the European Tour was to try to mix with as many local people as possible, particularly in the small towns and villages so we could get a real feel for the customs and everyday lives of those people as opposed to where tourists may have been taken as part of a tour group.
The different languages made achieving some of our goals a bit challenging but the majority of the people in the majority of the countries visited, except for one country, were all extremely welcoming, helpful and friendly.
It is amazing how much can be achieved with sign language and a smile, provided the spirit is willing.
We spent most of the northern hemisphere summer in or near the Arctic Circle, including June and July in Norway and Finland so we didn’t really have any warm weather after leaving Australia.
Our experience is a little bit like when Alan Border, a former Australian Cricket Captain was interviewed on his return from an Ashes tour of England and was asked “What did you think of the “English summer”” and his reply was something like “I think I must have gone to see a movie that afternoon”.
In our first northern hemisphere summer we have had the motorhome sun awning out twice – the locals have them out regularly – every time it rains – which is quite often.
We are nor big city people and on this tour we elected to omit many large cities that we had travelled to before because there is just so much to see and never enough time, whereas some of our favourite small to medium sized cities we decided to visit again.
Large cities omitted this tour include Paris, Rome and Madrid whereas we elected to revisit Florence and Barcelona, to name a couple.
I have divided our highlights into 3 categories – Driving, sight seeing and experiences as follows:-
Some of the driving highlights over the 33,000 klms we have travelled from March to December 2017 include the following:-
Travelling mostly above ground but many klms below ground, mainly in Norway, where some days we spent as much time below ground in tunnels as above ground, including the spectacular Laerdalstunnelen which is the world’s longest tunnel at 25klms with a light show in the tunnel at each 6 klm mark.
Travelling in some tunnels which have no lights, no centre line markings and are only 1 lane wide – mainly in Norway.
Travelling in tunnels which have round-abouts with multiple exits.
Travelling over the worlds longest bridge, the Oresund Bridge, from Denmark to Sweden with a fee of around $AUD 165 – which is worth the fee just for the experience.
Driving the Grossglockner Mountain Road in Austria, twice, in both directions with snow everywhere and on the second time watching a vintage car hill climb race.
Driving the Trollstigen Mountain Road and taking the add on side road to Mt. Dalsniba in Norway.
Driving the Atlantic Road, Norway.
Travelling by car ferry from England to France twice and by the Chunnel once from France to England.
Driving in Poland where a 2 lane road can have 4 cars wide at the same time and most of the cars well above the speed limit.
Driving on the worst stretch of road near Zagan Poland, where we had to check that our teeth were still intact at the conclusion of the journey.
Some of the sight seeing highlights include the following:-
The Fjords of SW Norway
The Lofoten Islands of Norway
North Cape Norway (except for the distance to get there)
Flam Railway, Norway
Crossing into the Arctic Circle Norway
Putting Ziggy on car ferries for cruises in the Fjords, Norway
Briksdal Glacier, Norway
Riding our bikes through the vineyards along the Rhine and Mosel Rivers in Germany
The Rising Up Museum in Warsaw, Poland
Krakow Old Town, Poland
Wieliczka Salt Mine near Krakow, Poland
Gdansk Old Town, Poland
Gierloz, Poland (aka “The Wolfs Lair (Wolfschanze) or Hitler’s Bunker”
Tallinn Old Town, Estonia
Laheema National Park, Estonia
Hill of Crosses, Domantai, Lithuania
Berlin, Germany (too many sights to mention)
Our private tour of Colditz Castle (POW camp) with Steffi (our guide)
Dresden Old Town, Germany
Prague, Czech Republic (too many sights to mention)
Bratislava, Slovakia (too many sights to mention)
Vienna, Austria (too many sights to mention)
Mittenwald, Germany (where we took the cable car with Pam and Michael from Sydney)
Bacharach am Rhein, Germany
Bernkastel-Kues am Rhein, Germany
Zonnebeke, Belgium – the WW1 Australian memorial sites
Chateau de Chambord, Loire Valley, France
Barcelona, Spain (too many sights to mention)
Some of the experience highlights include the following:-
Krys meeting with her relations for the first time in Biala Podlaska, Poland, seeing where her father grew up in Lipinki, Poland, seeing where her parents were married and where she was born in Munster bei Dieberg, West Germany.
Krys finally getting her Polish Citizenship and Passport after 12 frustrating months and only finally with the help of her relations, Barbara and Kornelia, in Biala Podlaska .
Visiting the battlefields and cemeteries in Flanders and the Somme where we lost so many of our soldiers during World War 1.
Being made to feel so welcome by people we met in tiny villages and farms and invited in to their homes to share a coffee and or drink and eats.
Sharing experiences and stories with fellow travellers from countries all over the world
Staying overnight in an ex Soviet camp in Mosovce, Slovakia and walking in to an abandoned bar full of bikies having a meeting.
Where to in 2018
We hope to visit the following countries in 2018 that we didn’t visit in 2017:-
Italy Greece Bulgaria Romania
Hungary Croatia Slovenia Switzerland
Additionally we will be revisiting some of our favourite places, particularly in Austria and Germany and hope to spend quite a while hiking the trails in the Black Forest, Bavaria, in summer.
The above notes are only a fraction of the total experience.