The previous day in Berlin Maurice and I had both worn shorts for the first time since leaving Sardinia and we started off via Potsdam in 24degree warmth but within a short time on the Autobahn it had dropped to 18degrees and driving rain for over an hour! I think it was preparing us for England and Ireland. We reached Rinteln near Hannover. The campsite which we reached after about 6hours was called “Doktor See”

By the time we got to The Hague the sky was blue again and it was 26degrees. We parked near a canal and walked for two hours around the interesting city with a mixture of new buildings and old historical ones. The city had a very multicultural feel to it not surprising as it is a UN headquarters and home to many international companies. It was only another fifteen minutes to our campsite at Hoek van Holland where we were to catch the ferry the next day to Harwich.

We had the smoothest of crossings with a very calm sea and blue sky all the way to England and we had a nice quiet seven hour trip paying 16euros for the Stena lounge which gave us free wifi, refreshments, papers and no children. The next day also started well with a blue sky and we set out early for the next leg to Holyhead in Wales. We had stayed at a place called “Dovercourt” which was awful so we left early the next morning and opted to take the A roads not the motorway and there was
little traffic for most of the Sunday which made for a relaxing day.

The service areas in England are well set up with cafes and M & S food shops and some with bookstores. After a couple of breaks and lunch at Telford in a large mall complex we drove through to Wales and through some beautiful scenery to Betws-y-coed where we stayed the night in a lovely campsite. It was very windy and cold and rain fell towards evening. The hardy English and Welsh were out with their T-shirts and shorts pretending it was summer.

After an hour’s drive the next morning we arrived at Holyhead and boarded the Stena ferry to Dublin on the 25th July. It was again a smooth crossing but we didn’t opt for the lounge this time as it was 18pounds for a three hour trip and they allowed children in as well. We were looking forward to seeing all of Maurice’s cousins and their families and to picking up Maurice’s son Craig and wife Yuko on the 2nd of August. They were going to join us for two weeks to meet the family and see a bit of Ireland with us.

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More strange weather followed the next day with us putting our jackets on and taking them off every ten minutes. We walked along Berlins premier street the Kurfuerstendam to KaDeWe or Kaufhaus des Westens an lovely old department store which has been upgraded to be quite modern inside with a large winter garden with glass roof on the top floor.

After a nice lunch at a non tourist little cafe a few streets away we walked to the Kathe Kollwitz museum. She was an artist and sculptress married to a doctor and they lived in a working class suburb in Berlin around the turn of the century. She was a humanitarian who depicted the lives of the working class people and portrayed the poverty and despair of the people in many of her works. She lost one of her two sons in the first world war and a grandson in the second world war. She worked for fifty years in Berlin and died at aged 78 two weeks before the end of the war.

Maurice had bought a new tablet in Stade and since the programmers decide to change things with every upgrade he had some questions so we went into a media markt in Alexander Platz in Berlin and had it sorted out.

The refurbished “Hamburger Bahnhof” was now a museum of modern art and was previously the main railway station. Maurice felt that he had seen enough of modern art so we went over to the former “East zone” and found our way to a bar called the “Macke Prinz” to see a friend of Maurice’s cousin Lulu however she was in England so we had a drink and then wandered around the interesting neighbourhood and found a bar serving Russian food.
The sky had cleared by the time we made our way back to Gatow and it felt odd to have our sunglasses on at 8.30pm.

A busy morning followed at the campsite, washing, drying clothes and sorting and cleaning the van again. Housework in the van takes about half an hour so it will be hard going back to cleaning a house in the future.

We took a bus back to the city at 4.30pm after having to change trains because a problem on the line, we got to the city about 6pm. It was a warm and sunny thirty degree day so we headed back to take some photos of the Brandenburg gate and then to the “Bundestag” to see where
Germany had it’s seat of government. A large glass dome had been added to the historic building and you could walk around inside it however it had been booked out weeks before so we just viewed it from the outside. There were many government buildings on the opposite bank of the canal. We walked from the Bundestag back to the railway station and then back to the campsite via train and bus.

We left Berlin for Rinteln near Hannover driving through Potsdam, another historic city before taking the backroads for the five hour trip to Rinteln which was about halfway to our final destination of Hoek van Holland.

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It was a pleasant drive on the 16th July to Berlin on the backroads through a lot of the old “East” Germany where some of the buildings and houses were rather forlorn looking and some still grey in colour. It did not generally look as prosperous as in the “west”. There was much agricultural land with vast fields of grain and potatoes. It took us about seven hours with stops for coffee and lunch but it was a much more pleasant drive through the avenues of trees and with us passing tractors instead of large trucks on the Autobahn where you see little of the country. We detoured to Dahlem, a leafy suburb in Berlin. I found the house belonging to the Goering family where my mother lived for a few years during the second world war and taught their daughter English. That was not the infamous Georing (that was a cousin). I remembered the house from seeing it in 1994 however it was quite different now. It had been the Japanese embassy then. It had obviously been sold and part of the rear of the large garden had been turned into two modern block houses. There remained some garden and a gate house at the front but the garden was very overgrown. Someone was renovating the place as it had a new roof and new windows and I was pleased as it would have been a shame to see the beautiful building demolished.

The campsite at Gatow to the south east of Berlin was about an hour away from the centre of town by bus and then S Bahn or the U Bahn (underground). We got to the point near the Brandenburg gate where we met our guide for our free walking tour around many points of interest around the city. It was raining but not cold when we started off but we were lucky and it eased off during the three hour tour. Louis a Dutchman who had studied political and general history had lived in Berlin for nine years and was an excellent guide who gave us information in a very objective way. The original “Checkpoint Charlie” had been demolished however a building like a site office had been erected where it didn’t impede traffic and one could have photos taken with fake police in front of the small building.
We walked afterwards over to museum island and into the Jewish quarter where we had a nice lunch at “Hummus and Friends”.

We had been recommended by one of Maurice’s cousins to see the “Sammlung Boros” a private modern art collection over five levels and over which the owners had built a large Penthouse. It’s history was fascinating. It had been a bunker (air raid shelter) during the second world war and it’s walls were 1.80metres thick and the top of the building was 3.20metres thick. It was built for 1,200 people however up to 4,000 sheltered there during the war. It was then taken over by the Russians after the war and used for prisoners of war. It was later used as a textile warehouse and then a seedy techno nightclub before being closed. The Boros bought the building and over many years had it remodelled taking some of the ceilings and walls out and making larger spaces to house their artwork. The building was a constant 14degrees and it was an eerie feeling to be in some of the smaller rooms which had sheltered people during the war and then used as a prison.

The tour had been sold out when I looked on the internet (with only small groups of twelve allowed at a time) but we were advised to go and see if there were any no shows. We were lucky and were allowed to join a tour where the French guide gave us the tour in English of many of the works which did then make sense in many cases as the artists’ concepts were explained. An interesting one was a large copper sculpture done by a Vietnamese artist which was one of many that if assembled, made up a copy of the statue of Liberty. The works had been on display for five years and a more unusual exhibit was a popcorn machine which had been running since then which was activated when a tour group entered the room. The popcorn lay in great mounds around the machine. Some of the work was very quirky , some very innovative and some strange. The owners curated the work with the assistance of the artists who were from various parts of the world. It was interesting to hear the history of the building and that the owners only bought artworks from artists in the year that they were created. The 130 artworks were only twenty percent of their total collection which was housed in a storage facility out of Berlin. Mr Boros had made his money since the nineties in advertising and in publishing houses.

Berlin is a sprawling open city with few high rise buildings and many parks and leafy tree lined roads with the Spree and the Havel rivers and canals criss crossing the city. The city has 3.5million people and we saw no real congestion of people or traffic. There were many cyclists and cycle paths all over the city.

We made an early start the next day taking the bus to the city with firstly a visit to the Gedachtnis kirche on the Kurfurstendam, Berlin’s premier avenue. It had a direct hit during WWII and apart from filling in the holes in the ceiling and putting some glass to prevent rain entering the building, it has been left as a reminder of war.

The 7euro day pass for all city transport came in handy that day as we caught the U Bahn to the East side Gallery a 1.6km section of the Berlin wall which had been painted by 118 artists from all over the world. It was a cool and windy day but we luckily only had a few spits of rain as we walked along both sides of the wall to see the various works and then over the historic bridge to the Freischwimmer restaurant for lunch which had been recommended by Maurice’s cousin Lulu who had lived for a year in Berlin. It stood over one of the Spree canals and was a lovely spot for lunch with little birds coming for any spare crumbs. A bit of sunshine would have been nice.

Another long walk took us to the huge Treptower park and the impressive and large Soviet war memorial. With rain threatening again we caught a bus to the Neukoellner Arcade where we eventually found our way up a car park ramp to the “Klunkerkranich” an eco bar and cafe with herbs, leafy vegetables and plants dotted around the former rooftop carpark. The view all over Berlin was lovely and we could see as far as the TV tower near the centre of the city.

We had been on the go from 9am but as we were close to the former Tempelhof Airport we decided to catch a bus there and walk around about a quarter of it before our feet gave up. The vast area is now used by the community for recreational purposes and many families were picnicking and BBQing and cycling around the park even though the day was cool and not very bright. Luckily the S Bahn was not far away and we got back to the campsite about 7.30pm after changing trains and then taking the bus back. It was worthwhile to make the most of the long evenings.

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Our friends Marianne and Franz who we had met up with a couple of times at their house in the south of France (we knew them in Perth) had suggested we stay at the “Vila Vita” Burg hotel for my big
birthday celebration. We first spent a couple of nights with them in Lohne and then had three relaxing days in the resort hotel doing lots of eating and drinking with Maurice’s cousin from
Schwetzingen and her husband Philipp (who shared my birthday)who had driven up for the long weekend.
The hotel,an abbey, church,cafe and large enclosure for deer and other animals were all located within a lovely forest but close to the small village of Dinklage.

We had lousy weather in the north of Germany – very changeable with a lot of rain, a bit of sun and mostly cloudy and everyone was complaining about the summer they should have had. The temperatures
were also down with daytime temperatures of 18-19 degrees and cold nights and Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the south had snow on the 15th July!

A very leisurely drive along the backroads and through mainly rural areas took us near to Dollern where we were going to see a friend. The only hiccup was a bridge which was 1.7metres tall and we
were the same height so we had to take a detour and found a beautiful small town called Verden with it’s very old buildings and churches. We strolled through the town and were shown around the very tall evangelical church by a very pleasant custodian.

Our friend Helga in Dollern was a very fit 81 year old who kept her house and garden like a new pin and was a very good driver and cook to boot.

Maurice was able to enjoy his birthday present that I gave him last year which was a two and a half hour tour of the Airbus facility at Finkenwerder about 20minutes drive away from where our friend
lived near the Elbe river. We had come upon it by accident two years before when Maurice saw some of Airbus planes taking off from very close quarters. The tour given by an American who lived in
Germany was an excellent guide and he was very informative and pleasant. There were only 13 in our group and he impressed upon us that photos were forbidden (someone had been escorted off the
premises the previous week for taking a photo). We had to be checked in and show our passports and a security guard was with us the whole time to keep a close eye on the 13 of us. The facility with it’s many hangars and shells of aircraft inside and outside the buildings was enormous and spotless.

12,000 workers worked in three shifts over 24hours every day to produce about forty five Airbus aircraft a month. The figures for the components and assembly were staggering and Airbus was a city
in itself. The cafeteria could cater for 3,000 at a time and it had it’s own medical centre and hospital and workers could be seen within five minutes of any calamity.
The aircraft parts were assembled in Toulouse, Stade and Finkenwerder and were then shipped, flown or trucked there as needed. We were lucky enough as we left the facility to see an Airbus Beluga taxi down the runway.

Northern Germany was known for it’s many varieties of fish and we enjoyed meals with our friends at the “Zur Post” restaurant near the dyke of the Elbe river. We bought large, plump cherries from the “Altes Land” a very old area with beautiful thatched and decorated houses near where we stayed. The whole region is known for it’s vast orchards of apples and very plump cherries.

The weather got worse with very little sunshine and some storms and a lot of rain. We really needed have bothered bringing our beach umbrella and outdoor table and chairs with us as we only had used
them a couple of times. We therefore had a nice relaxing five days indoors with friends.

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On the 27th June after many roadwork hold ups and some heavy rain we arrived in Schwetzingen near Heidelberg to Maurice’s cousin Margarete and her husband Philipp for a few days. They had moved into their new house ten days before but it was already pretty well organised. We had a nice few days with them and two of their children and their spouses and babies.
Schwetzingen is a very orderly and pretty town with a famous Summer Palace in it’s centre. We didn’t expect the vast and beautifully manicured gardens at the rear of the castle. It was a rainy couple of days but we were lucky to have some sunshine in between the showers and we were able to take a long walk around the palace gardens.
We had an appointment on the 1st July at “Frankana” in Marktbreit to fit our flyscreen door on the van. This was a continuing saga….We bought the flyscreen over the internet and had it shipped to England to be fitted when we returned there last year. When we got there they had sent the wrong one – for a left hand drive vehicle contrary to all the information we had sent them. We paid for this to be sent back to Holland and they then sent the correct one (or so we thought) to Italy where we had someone lined up in Roccamandolfi to fit it. Unfortunately they had sent the wrong manual with the door (for a mercedes not a Fiat) so after many emails a correct manual was emailed to us. The carpenter could still not fit the screen as he said that it was not the correct one. We therefore carted the screen in a box in the back of the van through Italy to Germany where it was then be fitted in Frankana’s workshop at Marktbreit. When we arrived the technicians there told us that it was not correct for our model van but that they would try and make some modifications to make it fit. They had success after a few modifications with German efficiency and know how! We could then continue on our travels up to Lubeck in the north of Germany.

It took us 8 hours to get to Lubeck with many traffic hold ups due to roadworks, a couple of accidents and rain. We had at least sunlight until nearly 10pm so we did not have to drive in the dark. We met up with our friends on the Saturday morning for a sumptious breakfast in Ruth’s lovely appartment in an old Lubeck house with very high ceilings and ornate door frames and furniture.
It rained most of the day and after lunch we had to stop in at the University eye clinic to check out the bleed in Maurice’s eye which was eye strain and he was advised not to drive for a couple of days which was fine as we were with friends for a few days. We had dinner at a nice little Vietnamese restaurant. There was no traffic on the roads with the final of the European soccer between Germany and Italy so most were glued to the TV’s. Germany won so there were many German flags flying from cars in the town.

On the Sunday a group of us went to the “Marane” fish restaurant in the for DDR for lunch and then had a drive around the countryside where we found a group of Rheas (the Germans call them Nandus) which looked at first like small emus however they have a pointy beak and different feathers. The feral community in northern Germany were bred for meat but some escaped. They originally came from South America.

We had an afternoon tea in the garden of an old farmhouse after we saved a small dog on the road which came running towards us in the middle of the road. The poor thing was hyper ventilating and exhausted and she jumped into the car straight away and didn’t want to move so we drove her to the next village where no one knew her but two nice men said they would take care of her until they could notify her owners. Luckily she had a little capsule around her neck with their name and
number. They must have been out looking for her as there was no answer when we tried to contact them. We later found out that the owners had put garden furniture away and a clap of thunder had scared the dog and she took off and we had found her on the road about 5kms away. Our friend later contacted the owners and they were so grateful that we had picked her up. A few kilometres later we saw a tiny kitten in the middle of the road but it luckily took off before it could be run over. It
was an eventful day.

We were collected by our friend Katrin who took us to see the Ploener castle and some huge land holdings with enormous houses. The weather had not improved much but we could at least sit outside and enjoy lunch over the Ploener lake at “Seeprinz” before driving through the former DDR at Meklenburg where we had coffee and cake (a German institution) at a lovely outdoor cafe. We stayed the night in her appartment in Eutin and and it was a humid evening but overcast.
We followed the Baltic sea to the Timmendorfer beach area where we shopped a bit, ate Chinese run by Vietnamese and after a heavy downpour Katrin drove us to Travemunde where we caught the train back to Lubeck.

Our first stop on Tuesday was the Niederecker marzipan factory shop after we had left the camping ground and we drove back to Travemunde to see another friend Baerbel where we had another delicious fish lunch before driving to Lohne near Bremen on the 6th July.

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Saturday was spent first getting to the funicular when it opened at 9am to take us up to the “Festung hohensalzburg” or castle fortress before the onslaught of the tour groups. We were well rewarded as we virtually had the place to ourselves for the first hour. The fortress town had been a very large one. An excellent presentation showed how the fort developed from the 800’s to the mid 1800’s. We had a wonderful view from there over the city, river and surrounding countryside. The funicular took us back to street level and we took a long walk to the Mirabel gardens which were full of stunning roses and floral displays. There were many civil weddings taking place during the morning with groups of well attired men and women congratulating the happy couples and having photos taken in the gardens. Lena gave us the name of a vegan restaurant called “Heart of Joy” and we had a good lunch there just opposite the gardens in a leafy part of the city.

An old lady at the bus stop in the morning told us that the weather was to change drastically in the early evening so we decided to make the most of the sunny, hot day to continue half an hour away to Hellbrun palace and gardens. You must join a group to visit the trick fountains found there and a guide showed us the many trick fountains where most of us got a bit if not very wet along the way. It was good fun and no-one minded as it was still hot. The gardens are vast so we had a bit more of a walk and had photos taken by the conservatory used in the film “The sound of music”. It was donated to Hellbrun after filming had finished and was restored and placed in the gardens. Back in the city we lashed out and had afternoon tea at the Sacher hotel before getting back to the campsite where a huge storm had started about 5.30pm with much thunder, lightning and rain which went on overnight. By the next morning it was overcast and much cooler so we were back in long sleeves again.

We had decided to visit a couple of museums in the afternoon and as it was sprinkling with rain it was a good move. The Dom and Residenz complex was a vast one which took in the abbey, church and state rooms of the Archbishops and we could visit them all and didn’t get wet as they were interconnected . We moved on from there to the “Moenksburg” where we took the lift up to the top of the mountain where the museum of modern art was housed . There was an interesting display of poster art from 1869 to 1918 by Toulouse Lautrec and other artists as well as some very modern art adorning many rooms. It was still sprinkling when we arrived at St Peter’s restaurant which dated back from 803. An enormous restaurant made up of many rooms and a beautiful outdoor area. You could have a set menu with music upstairs (Mozart of course) or eat a la carte downstairs which is what we opted for.
The service and food was excellent and I had the apple and apricot juice which they said was hand picked! It was the best I had ever tasted and Maurice said the same of his apple and pear juice.
By the time we got back to the van it had started raining a little harder so we were pleased that we had had the best of the weather to see such a beautiful city.
We left for Schwetzingen near Heidelberg to Maurice’s cousin the following day which was a very grey cloudy one.

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We left Cortina a couple of days later through the scenic south Tirol where you could speak German or Italian to the locals as they learn both in school although they follow the German standard of schooling. We passed into Germany to go to Berchtesgaden and up to the “Eagles Nest” Hitler’s former meeting place. We had to leave the van in the carpark and buses took us up the winding roads to 1800metres and the “Kehlsteinhaus” which is now a cafe and restaurant. We had to walk through a tunnel and take the polished brass covered lift 124metres to reach the house. An hour and a half was enough to enjoy the views to Germany and Austria and have a bite to eat. We couldn’t believe how many tourists visited the site. The views from there were spectacular as were the views from the neighbouring peak in the national park which we visited in error on the way!

Salzburg was only about half an hour way through the mountains and through a five kilometre tunnel. We arrived on the 23rd June at our campsite “Panorama Stadtblick” which was a very well run family concern which had views over Salzburg and to the “Festung Hohensalzburg” which we could see in the distance. The facilities were first class and fresh Appel Strudel was made every day. A short walk through the meadows took us to the bus stop and we were in the city in fifteen minutes. We bought the “Salzburg Card” at the campsite which gave us unlimited travel on all public transport as well as for the funiculars and entrances to all the sights and museums. It was excellent value for three days at forty two euros.

We met up with our doctor friend Lena who drove us to town, showed us the clinic where she was working with natural medicines and then we walked to the “Steigl” restaurant through the historical city and the beautiful cemetery. The restaurant known for it’s beer was housed in a very large and old building which had beautiful views over the city. It was still hot and sunny and 34 degrees so we sat outside and watched the sunset while we ate our dinner. Lena then took us on a walking tour around the city and it was a lovely atmosphere with many buildings lit up across the skyline. We walked across the bridge full of padlocks. We had seen several such sights on bridges before but never as many as in Salzburg. Lena took us on a walkway cut through the mountain into a parking garage and to the other side of the city – it was well hidden and could easily be passed if one didn’t know it was there. Lena dropped us back to our van which was very kind of her. Salzburg is very easy to get around and nothing is too far away. Within a short time you can be hiking in the mountains or enjoying the lakes nearby. The city is full of museums of all kinds and there are many Mozart concerts to be found every day around town.

We had a relaxing start the next day and didn’t get into town until the afternoon. We visited Lena again and after a long walk around the city and visiting the house where Mozart was born we decided on an Italian restaurant called “Cavalli” which Lena had recommended. The food and service was excellent and we could sit in the garden until late in the evening enjoying our fish meals. The Austrian restaurants were very meat based with very few vegetarian or fish choices. We had a long walk back to the bus stop on the other side of the river and then a walk up the hill to the campsite. The buses run very regularly and are spotlessly clean and void of any graffiti

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Leaving Pieve di Ledro we drove via many lakes with their lovely reflections and up into the Dolomites. We had enjoyed travelling through the Giau pass so much two years ago that we decided to do it again and visit Cortina D’Ampezzo on our way to Austria. There were many bikers at the pass and although it was an overcast day it was great to see the imposing mountains again.

We stayed for two nights at Camping Olympia in Cortina where we had stayed two years before. It is a beautiful location right beside a fast flowing river which we could hear lying in bed at night and is in the shadow of tall rugged mountains. The walk into town through the forest and then by hills covered with spring flowers took us about forty minutes on a lovely hot and sunny day. There were a lot of cyclists and hikers in town which is predominantly a ski town with a lot of hotels, restaurants and cafes and high end shops. There was not much to see in town so we relaxed most of the time at the tranquil campsite.

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We got a bit lost on the way to the campsite 15minutes away from Pisa as Tammy our Tom Tom gets a bit confused sometimes which is not great when you are on an Autostrada and can’t get off! We call our navigator devices names as we do talk to them and swear at them occasionally when they do get it very wrong.

Gary google however came into his own and found the way to the Agriturismo Camp “Lago le Tamerici”, a lovely spot and family run which makes such a difference. We bought fresh free range eggs and set up for the night. It poured all night and didn’t auger well for our trip into Pisa the next morning. We left early to avoid the city traffic and got a prime parking spot just outside the city walls of Pisa. It rained a little but then out came the sun and we had a good half day walking around the city monuments and back streets.

I had always only thought of Pisa as the place of the Leaning Tower but it is so much more and such an interesting city with a very large outer wall,lovely buildings, large and small squares and is divided by the river Arno.

We had to obtain a ticket (which was free) to go into the church but even though we arrived at 9am we had to wait an hour for our allotted time so we went over to a museum and saw a fascinating documentary which showed the lengths to which the scientists went into stabilising and tilting the leaning tower back by half a degree! This started in 1993 and went for nearly ten years. I took a picture of the steel girdle which holds near the base of the tower together. Everything else is underground and cannot be seen.

We went into the church which has the round baptistry on one side and the bell tower (leaning) on the other. I noticed some volunteer guides and asked one if she could tell us something about the church in English. Fabiola was a French language graduate from Sicily who now lived in Pisa and she gave us a really informative and enthusiastic account of the churche’s history. She was also interested to go to Australia so we had a good chat in between her explanations.

She referred us to a good Neapolitan pizzeria and after walking for about an hour we found it closed but we found a good replacement pizzeria on the way back to the car. By the time we left there were thousands of people in what they call “the square of miracles” so we were glad had got our sightseeing in early.

We made good use of the long evening and made our way to the base of Lake Garda where we camped for the night after a three hour drive to Peschiera sul Lago. It was a beautiful spot but unfortunately the European soccer was in full force on the Saturday night with a roudy crowd and was followed by music until after midnight.
It was the noisiest campsite in which we had stayed so we moved on the next day towards Parma and Cremona past huge grain growing fertile plains and then driving up the east side of Lake Garda. We specially chose the east side so as to take some photos with the sun behind us,however there was no sun that day just a very heavy grey sky.

When I mentioned to a schoolfriend of mine, Liana that we were touring that way she said that we should go to a mountain town called Cimego from where her mother came and her cousin had a hotel/restaurant there. It was a three hour drive up lake Garda, across the top and a further hour into the mountains where it rained heavily again. We found the hotel and her cousin who recommended we eat specialties of the region – polenta (maize)with wild Radicchio and homemade ravioli with ricotta and endive (a tasting plate of each). This was followed by grilled lake fish and vegetables and a homemade apple cake – all delicious. It was tempting to take to the bed in the van for a snooze but we had an hour’s drive back to the campsite so we did that instead along the very winding roads.

The “Camping Azzurro” at Lago di Ledro was a great find – great facilities and a quiet location with not many tourists on a beautiful lake. The wifi was good and only 3euros for three days – a real bargain after the five and eight euros we had been charged in Sardinia and Corsica. We had a peaceful night. We awoke to more cloud for our day trip to the town of Gandino/Barzizza, another three hour journey past Lake Iseo and then along winding roads up into the high mountains and through a most spectacular pass called “Croce Domini” at 1900metres. We were glad that there was no traffic on the way up (we only saw one car) as the roads in many places were very narrow with countless hairpin bends. The temperature varied from 10degrees through the mountains to a lovely 30degrees in Gandino.

There is something special about the serene and wide Alpine meadows surrounded by high peaks. It was one of the best journeys we had ever had and the day turned into a beautifully sunny and warm one. Vince a friend from Perth was born in Gandino and recommended we see the museum at Gandino and the church but by the time we arrived both were closed but we spent some time walking around the lovely town with it’s interesting architecture and modern cafes.

We took a much shorter way back to Pieve al Lago via the Autostrada bypassing Bergamo and Brescia and then up the entire west side of Lake Garda and through scores of tunnels. The lake and mountains looked much more appealing with a blue sky above us for our last evening by the lake where we ate pizza outside a very German looking restaurant. I did ask a waiter why he spoke to us in German and he told us that ninety percent of their tourists were German. Oh to be generalised!

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We chose to go up into the mountains towards Cagliari (the capital) and it was again a wonderful drive with only a few abandoned houses and factories along the way. I could imagine a few of the Mafia who wanted to get lost would go into those mountains. They were heavily forested with cork trees (which looked half dead but were not). There was very little traffic on the roads and over the mountain passes and the roads were generally good. Unfortunately the campsite we chose was full (only one of two and 30kms from Cagliari) so we ended up next door at Cala D’Ostia which turned out to be a very good choice – simple but with many Italian families with old time music playing during the day. There was a good bus service from outside the camp to Pula and then a change of bus to Cagliari. The trip took about an hour in total and landed us near the centre of town where it was a pleasant 30degrees.

Many of the buildings near the port were Venetian in structure and decoration with many balconies and there were of course many large churches in the old part of the city. We walked along the harbour through a long columned arcade with it’s many shops,cafes and restaurants. It was another steep way up through the old town but the views from the top of the city were worth the effort. The city reminded us of Naples in many ways. Near the port there was a small square ringed with trees and seemingly homeless Africans who were plying various cheap wares.

We were reminded of home with the many jacaranda trees in the city. We found a working hospital which dated from the early 1800’s with it’s high ceilings and large corridors. A local gave us a recommendation for a seafood restaurant where we sat outside in the warmth of the afternoon and had a delicious seafood meal with a fresh salad. After our long tour on foot we sat in the arcade and revived ourselves before taking a good look around “Rinascente” Italy’s only department store and then found a photographic exhibition of Cagliari in a beautifully restored large cellar before catching the bus back to Pula and then to the campsite.

I managed to assist an African man from Ghana attending a medical conference in Cagliari but who was put in a resort 30kms away near our campsite. He spoke no Italian but managed to get on the bus with us so I asked a kind man to call him a taxi from Pula. We arrived back at the campsite at nearly 9pm but it was still light and nice and warm.

Cagliari is known for it’s flamingoes and there were hundreds in the lake close to the city and in lakes on the other side of the harbour near the salt flats.

Arbatax was our next stop about three hours north of Cagliari and the drive through the mountains was a relaxing one with very little traffic and lovely scenery. There were hundreds of oleander bushes along a river course and interesting rock formations. We came down into the plains which were full of vineyards and olive trees, many bordered by a fence of prickly pears.

At the small town of San Priamo and had a wonderful seafood risotto at “Restaurant Elisabeth”. The waitress was lovely and she had a brother who had been to Australia. Most of the Italians we spoke to had a relative or friend who had gone to live in Australia.

We found our way to Arbatax with it’s strange terracotta coloured rock formations in and near the sea. We hit on a “festa” in town with a display of old restored fiats and the latest Alfa Romeo “Giulia”. Many booths selling jewellery and local produce along the street near the port were doing a brisk trade and the cafes were full of locals enjoying a Sunday outing. We left and found our camping place “Orri” by the sea and had a relaxing night.

We had heard of the Tombs of the Giants – enormous sarcophagus like structures dotted in various places over the island and our friend Alan had said we should see the one near Dorgali on our way north again so we set off for it on the Monday morning after breakfast.
There was no signage as to where this site was, however, after a very helpful man gave us exact instructions we found a sign and a gate by the side of the road which e had to open and then walk about ten minutes to the interesting ossuary site, thousands of years old from the Nuraghic period.

There are a few worrying things while driving in both Corsica and Sardinia. There are very few advance warnings on the road telling you what tight curves or other obstacles could be a danger on the very winding roads. The other is that most of the bus drivers (who do an amazing job at manoevering around the very narrow streets in the cities) have their phones to their ears or are texting or reading things on their cellphones while driving their buses.

The stop at Arbatax for the night was uneventful and although most of the ads for the campsites state that they are on the beach most are a good walk away. We therefore decided to go back to our first campsite “Isuledda” which was right on the beach. Many of the campsites in Greece and Turkey that we visited last year were just near the water’s edge.

The variety of birds seem to differ all around the islands and if we woke early it was really pleasant to listen to the different bird calls (except for the monotonous cooing of the doves which was like chinese torture for me).

We stopped briefly at San Teodoro and then went back to Cannigioni for three days. It was very blustery all day and the wind did not let up for 24hours, howling at night and causing problems for tents and awnings. We were snug in our camper and at least it was not raining or cold.
We could at least have a swim and sit in the sun the next day when the wind had dropped. The weather pattern then seemed to be cloudy at midday then sun again in the late afternoon so we set off on foot for the nearby town to sit and enjoy the views of the bay and stock up on essentials from the supermarket. The supermarkets in Italy stock an enormous amount of wine as well as the wine shops and artisan shops in every town. The habit of going to the bar for an aperitif before dinner is a very civilised one. In Italy there are many non alcoholic as well as alcoholic ones and if one is ordered it always comes with some kind of snack or peanuts and snacks.

We enjoyed another relaxing day at the seaside before heading for the ferry to take us back to the mainland. It was a very overcast day but not cold.

We left Sardinia on Friday 17th June plenty of time luckily because when we arrived at the port (the only one that showed the route to Livorno on both our paper map and in google)the office was closed and a barman told me that the only ferry of which he knew was that afternoon but we were booked for 10am. I had a moment of panic until I asked a security person who told me that the Grimaldi lines left from Olbia and not Golfo Aranci which was 20minutes from the port of Olbia. We had enough time for me to get to the office to get our tickets (I had already booked and paid for them online but we needed the paper tickets!)and get Van Mauriceon on board. We expected with a name like “Grimaldi Lines” the ferry would be excellent however it was very average as ferrys go. It was however the tallest ferry we had taken. The trip back to Livorno took us about eight hours.

Sardinia is known for it’s beautiful bays, beaches and crystal clear water but for us Australians the beaches still didn’t compare to what we have at home. What is good are the services you can get at the campsites and on the beach in the way of cafes/restaurants/sun lounges and umbrellas. What we loved were the drives along the coastline with views of the sea below and the lovely scenery through the mountains.

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