3.500 km back
from Istanbul to Berlin through southern Europe
Reading the web today I found it coincidental and fitting that a report about the state of tourism at telopolis came on the same date I want to post my travel journey. The article says that in 1855 the Brockhaus Encyclopedia states that a tourist is called a journeyman/woman that has no science related target for their journey and is only doing the journey to have made the journey and to afterwards telling others about the journey - whereby modern "tourists" are only customers of some transport organization who only pays that his journey without experiences is handled as efficient as possible. - Our journey is a contrast to that I hope.
Noch 1855 konnte das Brockhaussche Conversationslexicon konstatieren, einen Touristen nenne man "einen Reisenden, der keinen bestimmten, z.B. wissenschaftlichen Zweck mit seiner Reise verbindet, sondern nur reist, um die Reise gemacht zu haben und sie dann beschreiben zu können." Bei Jules Verne hingegen, wie Sloterdijk mit Blick auf den besagten Roman nachsetzt, hat "der Weltreisende auch seinem dokumentarischen Beruf entsagt und ist zum reinen Passagier geworden." Das heißt zu einem Kunden von Transportdiensten, der dafür zahlt, dass seine Reise, keine Erfahrung, sondern so effizient wie möglich abgewickelt wird.
So here it is the lengthy in depth journey journal
After our aborted Mission in Istanbul Willow and me decided to have a nice slow driving back through a little "safer" route (whatever that means today). So we planned a little and and left Istanbul for the Black Sea Coast.
After driving north inside Istanbul for 45 minutes along the Bospherus we finally got to the probably northest point where the Bospherus meets the Black Sea. At this point there is a military installation of the Turks and no way to get close to the Sea. We headed west and tried to stay along the Coast. After arriving at an abondend army place with old ruins that we climed we got completely utterly lost in the middle of the forest on some dirttrack that was becoming a swamp. After another hour we finally found our way through the woods and some obscure park with picknick places only to find us back in Istanbul on the Bospherus 20 minutes later. Needless to say that by that time it wask getting dark and we still were not away from Istanbul. After another attempt along bigger routes that all no marking except in the oposite direction to Istanbul we finally found our way to the Black Sea and a coast route. Sometimes around eleven after making countless attempts in fishertowns that all had construction or no access to the sea or no spot to stay we arrived at a village with a lighthouse. We had the idea to stay underneath the lighthouse as this would most likely reveal a nice view over the ocean the next morning. The lighthouse was found to be completely surrounded by a fence and in the middle of the town. Slowly we began to run out of option. We figured we would have a look at the harbour of that town and see if we can eat some fish and then continue driving through the night as it seemed that the lucky stars werenīt with us that day. after getting down the hilltop with the town and the lightower we past the harbour and to our surprise we found something beachlike with tents on it and a nice fish restaurant. Driving along the beachline we figured that we would be a little too exposed there and wouldnīt have a peacefull sleep and in the end there was an army base - we opted for our first plan and ordered some fish. The restaurant was really really cute - the owner opened a little curtain with a private table in it (there were only two other people in the restaurant but he insisted for us to sit on the table. Then we ate a delicious fish got a melon for free and a flower that the owner gave me in private so I can give it over to willow - very sweet and funny. He even turned up the very broken Radio up so that we could dance. After eating and paying he insisted that we should stay on the beach in front of his restaurant - he tried to explain that everywhere else it was not save and that there the police is coming by often and we could have a good rest. We still didnīt like it and told him thank you and drove off trying to find that little white road that was so clearly marked in our map out of this town. After trying 4 roads we opted for one that looked the biggest even so it was just gravel - but we were already used to gravel roads from our arriving journey. So along we drove and we were very sure to have hit the right road but after about 5 kilometer a barrier and a locked gate blocked our way - next to it was a little checkpoint style hut. We thought to have hit another military checkpoint but it looked to insecure for that. After debating what to do (by the time it must have been around 1 a.m.) a guy came out of the hut - a one eyed guy. He was about 25 -30 years old and seemed very friendly besides his look. So we showed him the map and tried to explain were we want to go (by repeatingly trying to say the other towns name in different tones until he understood us). He tried to make clear that we are in front of some kind of reservoir and that we have indeed the right road but driving along it is not permitted - thanks shitty adac map we thought. The guy apparently saw no threat in us and somehow tried to make clear that he need to phone. So he did and after 5 minutes he reappeared out of his little hut and told us two hapopy campers that his boss allowed us to move through if we go straight and not take any side roads and make no stop. We very relieved continued driving along the gravel road that was much worse the outside the gate. After another 5 kilometers we came across a small bridge and something that looked like a waterdamm. Behind that two guys standing on the street one with his hand on a pistol. They waved to stop us and so we did. In a very angry voice he asked us - first in turkish then in english - what we are doing there and we said that the guy at the entrance let us through and that we just want to get to the other town he was all of the sudden warming up and offered us tea - which we gratefully accepted. He explained to us that this is a drinkwater reservoir that feeds water to Istanbul and that he is protecting the installation since 15 years. We had a good broken english talk and he offered us some fresh coocked duck. Me still a little hungry as always ate it and Willow got a salad. After sitting there for another hour or so he offered us that we can sleep outside the building if we would be leaving bevore 7 o clock. That made us kind of happy as this was probably one of the most secure places in the whole area and beautiful with the moon and the lake. After another 30 minutes talking he told us that his father and brother are fisherman and that they just came back from sea with 100 fresh fish and if we would like to meet them and get some fish. He sounded very excited and we didnīt want to be impolite - also I was completely full by that time. So we drove back to the town we just came from down to the harbor and there it was extremely busy with all the fisherman having just arrived. They showed us proudly what they had catch and indeed it looked very good - one fish like the other very big multiple cases. So the reservoir protector grabbed five fish and we headed back. One fish he gave to the guy on the gate the other four he started to fry once we were back at his "office" (after a little detour to a beautiful untouched beach) - by that time it was around 3 a.m. He came back with the deliciously fried fish and so we had our third meal that night and I couldnīt move anymore so filled up I was. Heading into the car and got some 4 hour sleep we were awoken at 6.50 so we would be out of the reservoir in time before anyone could notice us.
Driving along the sea now (finally) we got out of the area after another 20 km and another gate with some guys already in the know that we were coming. Right after the gate was a paved road and we decided to see if it goes to the sea - and it finally did. We arrived at something that looked like an official beach with a restaurant in the middle that seemed to be in use and a nice plateau atop the beach for the car. So we stopped and catched up on that last few hours of sleep that had been missing from the night before. After the rest we walked along the beach and what we saw did not please us much. Not only did the Black Sea did not look much inviting with high waves and what looked like strong current the beach outside the peripheries of the restaurant was littered with garbage so far the eye could see. It looked like a garbage dump place gone was the dream of a nice beach on the black sea. On one place we found a dead half rotten dolphin and a dead bird not far. Needless to say that our perviously planned five day stayover at the black sea was thrown overboard and we decided to stay one more night at that beach and then leave turkey for good and head to Greece the next day. At dawn we got over to the restaurant to get us another fish meal - which the restaurant owner claimed not to have. He only offered us meatballs. Two friendly looking turks invited us to their table and one could speak english. He said that they had brought their own fish and they would share it with us. A little embarrassed we accepted. A nice chit chat occured and we had a good conversation about mankind, religion and life on earth in general. At some point they asked us if we want to see the sheep of the other guy sitting with us on the table - apperantly the owner of some of the biggest sheep herds in town. So we did and drove off with two older turkish men completely drunk and filled with raki into the darkness through some plains with no roads. After 20 minutes we arrived at a shepherds place - apparently a rumanian guy that was living with these sheep for 7 years and was now ready to go back to rumania to finally see his family again. We got to know the youngest of the sheep which was very cute and found itself very comforting in Willows arms starting to snuggle up and sleep. The men were practicing some shooting of beerbottles with their 12 gate shotgun. (not that anything could scare us but this was a little frightning .- we had no idea where we were three drunken turks and a shotgun.) After a while more chatting we started to drive back (to our relieve) and got invited for a tea for breakfeast in town the next day. Then we got explained about 12 times that to get out of the town we need to turn left twice so they made really sure we could leave the next day. Getting back to the van and having a very pleasant sleep we awoke to the sound of rain drumming against the metal of the car.
The rain made us feel save in our decision to leave Turkey for good and after having our obligatory breakfeast we stopped at the little restaurant to have a tea with the sheep owner and then we moved on. Quite surprisingly we found our way quite well. At the gas station I got half an heart attack for paying almost 70 Euros for 30 Liter of gasoline. Then we went south south south from the Black Sea cost down to the Coast of the Sea of Mamara. and then east towards Greece. No traffic on the big wide road and good weather got us to the Greek - Turkish boarder around two o clock. There was no traffic at the boarder - even so it was on a Friday and we got straight to the check points. I was a little horrified about what would happen to us at the boarder as this is one of the main smuggling routes for drugs out of Near East Asia to Europe and we had this suspicious looking green hippy van and a big brown box inside. The Turks did not care a penny. All they wanted where our passports and they didnīt even have anyone looking inside the cars. At the greek side we could watch the car in front of us - a new Audi with german numberplates with a family and a small child inside - get checked thoroughly. So after the guy checking the passports didnīt even want to see hours the guy at the customs asked us if we had anything that we need to pay customs for or if we are in possession of any drugs. We said no to both and he had a glimpse in side the van and then let us through - yes in under 15 minutes we passed the boarder and we could have smuggled about 100 kilo drugs weapons of mass destruction or barby underwear in a very suspicious looking van with a very suspicious looking brown box into the European Union - that makes you feel save.
So we were back in Greece on the road and headed along the coast through Alexandroupi in direction Kavala. We knew that any stop before Kavala would not be nice so we drove along hitting Kavala while it was still Sunshine outside - to our surprise. Filling the car with a fresh tank of gasoline which was surprisingly cheap at 99 cent we drove through Kavala and came to a beautiful bay were we saw a nice spot to park on a high rocky cliff with access to the chrystal clear water below.
We instantly knew we hit one of the nicest beaches of mainland greece. Cooking us a nice dinner we started to relax for the first time in weeks.
We had a nice day in the blue water with intact see life like see stars lots of fish sea anemones and those spiky things (that I stepped on twice and Willow had to get the spikes out cutting deep into my foot). Wandering to the little fishertown that was a little touristy but not too bad we even found an internet cafe were we could do some chores and a supermarket that was filled with everything you would suspect a supermarket to be filled with at very low prices - a refreshing view after Istanbul. So we bought food as needed had another dinner. For sunset we wanted to go up this mountain that was just behind our car. We didnīt find the way up but found a family of turtles in the bushes. Really this place is a last heaven for nature on European coastlines it seemed. Getting back to the car we saw a big group of people in front of a little chapel close to our car. So we decided to walk over there in our camping/beach wear just to find us surrounded by lots of people in suites and nicely dressed up - a greek wedding it was we just barely missed and got the last glimpse of it - very amusing. Getting back to the car we noticed the big loud electronic music getting to us over the bay. It was extremely loud and we could spot a bar or something similar were it came from - very far away. We decided not to go and go to sleep early - which proofed to be difficult as the music was on all night and also it seemed the place were we stayed was a hangout for young couples in love in the night with car moving behind us in 10 minutes frequency....
Waking up from the heat after having a nice breakfast we decided to move along in direction Thessaloniki. The plan was to stay somewhere on the eastern coast of mainland Greece before Thessaloniki and then move across Greece the next day after a fresh night sleep.
Arriving on the said coast early afternoon we found it difficult to find a suitable beach especially with the spoilage that we had got the two night before. Driving far more south then we wanted we found an empty beach with only a German couple that was just about to leave. The beach was somehow clean but tons of stinking mussel shells, an plastic shelter of some fisherman and milliones of flies made it not the most pleasant stay. After heaving some dinner we just went to sleep straight away.
After a thoroughly slept through night we headed toward Igomenitsa that is on the western side of mainland greece. Passing the sprawling industrial city of Thessaloniki we were confronted with a pay toll station on the road paying 2 Euros we hoped that the rest of the way would not be for pay (reminders of a 80 Euro pay toll in Serbia made us shiver). Driving through some plains it was evident that we would cross a huge mountain range that on our poor map was only marginally visible as such. Good old car climbing a newly build autobahn up and up until we came to a high plateau. The lack of gas station on the way made me a little worried - every 500 kilometer we needed. The high plane was dry and reminded me in its view a little bit of the high plains of Tibet - dusty dry high sparely inhabited. The newly build autobahn came to an end in the middle of the plains and driving off we found a gas station - only after filling in 20 Euros of gas I asked if he would take credit cards - shudder. We had 20 Euros in our pockets - not a cent more so paying off the confused guy we continued heading west. The high plain changed into an even higher mountain range with trees and valleys - a part of Greece that I really liked and that is as beautiful as the alps. Stocking up on some mountain spring water the path slowly winded down until we reached the end of the mountains and a huge fantastic lake in the bottom. With only 50 km left and sun still up high car running fine even after the mountain stress we didnīt notice that there was the continuation of the autobahn and stayed on the normal road. Somewhere in the late afternoon we arrived in Igomenitsa and decided to fin a suitable place to stay. So we drove a little bit more south to the next village looked at two too expensive for pay camping sites and then found a nice deserted beach on a side track. Water was clear two austrian VW-Bus Caravans parking there and two fishers hanging onto their fishing lines made us decide to stay there. After parking and starting to prepare dinner the woman of one of the caravans came over with her big dog and started a conversation. She told us that it would not be safe to stay there at the beach as Albania is too near and that the locals from the nearby town had told her that there had been a lot robberies in the area. She said we should stay with the other campers in the region inside the little town close on the beach. After little hesitation we agreed and after dinner drove off with her. The bay village was beautiful small and had a nice beach were you could drive near to. We were quite happy with our decision. In the evening we wandered around the town with its nice little harbor that had mostly sailing boats of all shapes and sizes. Then the night called and we slept under the Eucalyptus trees.
Next "morning" after a small shopping round in the local "supermarket" and a wonderful breakfast we headed back to Igonmenitsa to check out our ferry options and prices. It seemed clear to us that we didnīt want to spend lots of time near Igomenitsa but we needed to bridge 3 days until we would meet my mom in southern Italy. So very spontaneous we decided to book a ferry to Corfu and then go from there to Italy. In a little rush we booked a ferry to southern Corfu as it was cheaper and we thought it might be nice to then drive up from the south to Corfu City in the mid-north were the ferry would leave. Our first idea after the nice boat trip to the Island was to drive down to the southern most tip and see what the beaches would look like and if we could stay there. Checking a big supermarket to fill up our dinner resources we arrived at said beach. Seeing brochures that touted Corfu with wonderful clear water and stone/pebble beaches we were quite shocked: it was the black sea again. Lots of rubbish on the beach, a brownish grey sandy beach and dark muddy water did not really invite us to stay - even so we would have been alone. So we decided to go further north and stay on the open ocean western side - a big mistake as we later learned. Driving through countless of wine yards and through deep forests of amazingly old olive trees we just couldnīt find a beach that we could stay at. All of the beaches were sandy with brownish water and most had no direct way to them for our car. We already settled with the option to stay in one of the spooky olive forests but then finally came to a beach that looked ok and that we could stay at - by that time we had been driving up to the heights of Corfu-City and we realized how small that Island really is. Dinner - walk on the beach - sleep.
Waking up by the sound of splashing waves we found out that the see level must have been rising during the night. The beach was very close to the bit of concrete were we parked the car on. The weather wasnīt that great so after Willow had a little swim we decided to hit the road and go to Corfu City. Arrival at around noon in thick but rolling traffic we found a parking space in front of the big fort. Apparently a huge Cruise Ship from Princess Cruises had just arrived and the city was filled with posh english tourists. Overall was the town like a big tourist supermarket selling everything a tourist would want - jewelry, natural sponges, cheap strange t-shirt - the whole inner city was directed toward tourism. But we tried not to get distracted and hunt for our two missions - number one was to find an office that would sell us the ferry tickets - number two was to find a internet cafe so Willow could buy a flight ticket to England. Close to the harbor we thought that mission number one would be easy to accomplish - wrong. All the shops selling ferry tickets were closed and a guy next door told us that its siesta and that they wouldnīt open again until 6 p.m. great... spending a day in a 100% touristy city wasnīt really what we wanted to do but what can you do? Trying to find if the wonders of the public internet have arrived on a greek island. After asking around we actually did find a crammed internet place in a side street that even had a scanner for Willows school document to be scanned in and send over to the UK.
Finishing our business there we hung out a little longer on the city wall towards the water watching people swim in crystal clear water underneath - yes that was something we hadnīt seen since Karvala and put our hopes of finding the perfect beach up higher.
Two hours later we went to the Ferry ticket seller - a nice lady helped us through the process and suggested that we should go to the north east of Corfu instead for nice beaches with clear water. That we did and after the third try down some steep pathways we found what looked like a beach made in heaven - a little bay with white pebbles, water as clear as it can get, away from any streets and totally deserted. We parked the car a little beach inward behind some beach benches in front of what looked like a haunted abandoned house and cooked dinner with a beautiful sunset behind us encasing the Albanien mountains into a burning deep red and had a little night swim in the little tiny bit too cold water.
Waking up the deserted beach seemed not as deserted as it first seemed. Tourists came rushing in and taking place on the benches. When we finally got out of the car and started to make breakfeast half the benches on the beach (about 30) where used and everyone seemed to stare at us - especially the german law student couple just in front of us that had nothing better to do then to debate about german laws while laying on this pretty beach. Not liking this much we ate some breakfast and went on a little hike to a little bay next to this. There were only about 5 people and a little boat and made ourself comfortable in a little side patch. Diving off some rocks and swimming we relaxed quite a bit for the first time since Kavala. In the afternoon we went back to the car and on another small hike in the other direction. Climbing down a steep path we came to some flat rocks that looked very nice and invited us get into the water - not really equipped to make a swim we decided to walk through the water back to our little bay - a very hilarious endeavor with waves splashing all over us - sudden walls that needed to be climbed along and funny looks from restaurant guest when we suddenly appeared out of the ocean at the little fishing harbor next to "our" beach. The late afternoon brought the desertion of the beach with it that we experienced the night before. Reparking the car to a little stretch that was not as occupied and after another relaxing swim and some dinner called it a night.
Waking up in more private and after checking out the big wild fire across in Albania that raged over a whole mountain range we figured we would like a new location for our last day - the ferry would leave half past twelve in the night leaving us with another full day on the tourist island. We figured we would go alongside the coast up wand then west and see what we would come up with - not much. The so called "sunset beach" -advertised as one of Corfus nicest beaches was a little sandy beach with muddy water and looked not very inviting also hordes of tourists were streaming in its direction now again stuck on the west side we gave it another try and after driving through a lovely mountain range with pretty views and throw some mountain villages narrow steep roads we sighted a white marvelous beach around the corner. Trying to get there proved to be more difficult and involved leaving the car on a touristy large beach and then climbing alongside the cost over some rocks and through the water eventually leading us to our own little bay with white nice round pebbles, caves to be explored and healthy sealife in the lovely water. Two more person came by later from behind and settled on the beach for a while but other then that Corfu showed us its nice side on this last day. With the sun setting behind the Corfu mountains we started moving back in direction Corfu city and on the way made a little detour to a parking space behind some old small town with a spectacular view over the Island dipping in dark blue and the huge wild fires over in Albania where we cooked dinner next to some also dinner cooking Gypsies selling various plastic goods on their Truck. Arriving in Corfu around 10:30 we bought our port tax tickets and wondered around through the nightlife of the tourist owned city buying some fruit juice and enjoying the last minutes on the Island. Later we drove to the harbor were we waited for the ferry that came in too late and chatted to a lonely truck driver who was craving for company and told us about his plans to stop truck driving and open up a cafe in his home town - Thesaloniki. With the ferry arriving we got guided to a special for campervans place were we could stay and sleep without breathing in the diesel fumes all night. Then we left the Island of Corfu and headed towards Brindisi/Italy.
The upper deck of the ferry was nice but already a little cold through the heavy wind blowing in our faces as the boat steamed along pretty fast with fire particels spitting out of the chimneys. We had a last nice view on the few lights of on Corfu and could spot the beach where we stayed before. Also the wildfire was still burning in Albania and we could see a few cities there brightening the sky. After a while on deck (checking out the german or italian school class getting drunk and heaving a big party) and a small little chat with the truck driver we meet before we set out for the van and tried to sleep amid the constant roaring of the ferries diesel engines.
I woke up and peeked outside through the curtains just to find the sky tined in the bright pink of the sunrise. Just seconds later a very loud voice through some loudspeakers tried to explain that we are arriving in Brindisi in a short while in 6 different languages and two times in a row - that woke up Willow as well. We got up immediately and went to the upper deck to see the oil refineries of Brindisi glitter in the darkness on one side and the pinky clouds before a sunrise on the other. We stayed and the sun touched us with her warmy rays a couple of minutes later. We stand there and watched it emerge from the deep ocean until we came close to the harbor and had to go back to the car. After the chaotic reorganization of all the cars an lorries on the ferry we finally got out and after a little security inspection - that again did not want to look into our brown suspicious box we arrived on mainland Italy.
Speaking with my mom earlier we agreed to meet her with what she said before would a minor detour to our route - the detour later proofed to be somewhat around 800 - 900 km. So driving from Brindisi on pretty empty roads land inwards and then south toward Catanzaro which is in the middle of the shoe that forms Italy. The landscape was not particularly interesting compared to what we had seen before - distant mountains, field with ripe grape, olive trees and a flat beach as far as you can see. Some 100 km away from our goal we stopped to check out the water which was rough and the beach was a little dirty - there we had some quick lunch with an extraordinarily good tasting tuna tomato sandwich composed by Willow. Driving along we figured that we would need to find a gas station somewhere which proofed to be not so easy. Either there were some machines that only accepted cash - which we didnīt have - or they were completely deserted (some cited priced of 95 cent per liter so they must have been closed for a long time as gas prices in Italy were particularly high at around 1,40 euro), slowly running out of gas we started to get worried. Then we arrived at a gas station that seemed to be in service but noone was there and the gas pumps locked. We figured - after consulting with the friends of my mom - that its siesta time for Italy and that the gas station simply closed until 4 oīclock. At the next station we stopped and waited and were lucky as the young people in charge showed up half and our early and gave us service and even accepted my depleted credit card. 45 minutes later we arrived at our destination town - Catanzaro Lido to meet up with the friends of my mom to get guided to the house were they stayed. The house was a really oasis among the dry olive tree dominated surrounding - with huge Palm Trees, different trees with citric fruits turtles running around and a large cage with exotic birds. Entering the inside we felt more then a little out of place - everything was ultra clean and posh and we felt very grudgy. The family consisting of two grandparents a couple with a 25 year old daughter the brother of the man in the house - Peppino a long term friend of my parents who own a nice italien restaurant in Berlin - made us feel welcomed and we took our first warm water shower since 8 weeks. Getting out nice and clean we got a tremendous pasta meal with pasta and some kind of fried potato stuffings. After finishing we were taking to an historic site were they still dig out extremely old building from different cultures - ranging back to the high greek culture - a huge church like castle ruin was the center piece and indeed very impressive. Further interesting was the fact that the dig site was used as a contemporary art installation which I found quite interesting and enjoyable. Heading back to the house we took a detour to the beach part of Catanzaro - Catanzaro Lido and had some amazing icecream on the beach promenade. Tired and done we got back to the house and found that it was dinner time again and we were served with some fresh meat and salad - even so we were extremely full already from the not so long ago dinner and the ice cream. After some further chat we went to the car that was parked in all safety in the garden - just to get eaten by blood hungry mosquitos all night.
Being woken up by my mom who was getting nervous that we would never wake up we were presented the sunday family plan. First was talk about boat trip to vulcano islands in front of Sicilia. This was canceled due to weather considerations - the night before it had rained extremely hard in Napoli causing flooding and the family didnīt want any real adventure on some lonely islands in such rain - so we all opted for the safe family trip to a monastery in the southern Italy mountains that is source of speculation and rumor as the monks are never seen in public and you are only allowed to visit a small museum. More impressive then the closed for public monastery with its accompanied church was the mountain range we serpentined through to reach our final destination - a mushroom dishes only restaurant. It was mushroom picking time in the region and this was supposed to be a well known place to those. Arriving there we were presented with a very loud huge dining hall with hundreds of people inside. The middle formed a birthday crowd of about 50 people for a 90 year old lady. After a short while waiting we were seated at a special table that was setup for us (apparently our hosts knew the owner or something). The dinner was extremely delicoush with four successive parts. Mushroom salad thigy, Pasta with mushrooms, wild pig with deep fried mushrooms (holy that was good), and some special extremely tasty kind of half frozen chocolate ice cream (without mushrooms). Completely filled up almost unable to walk we headed back to the house but then made a decision to see the actual town of Catanzaro which was build on top of a spiky mountain and had suffered an earthquake in the 18th century. Now the town streches across three mountain peaks that are connected with futuristic looking bridges. Peppino took us all the up to a lovely viewpoint - the highest point in the city. Getting up there we passed through a museum building and the exhibition looked quite promising - the oldest collection of Italien history. We bought a ticket and went in. What we saw was amazingly old art and culture mostly taken out of ceremonial burying sites. Ultra small pieces of gold and coper thingies with beautiful engravings - we surely got our history lesson for the day there. A little overwhelmed we got out to find that it had rained when we were inside we headed back to see the family prepare for dinner - needless to say that we were already stuffed by the huge lunch meal but we bait and after watching some italien music television ate two more rounds of delicious but too much food. With us next day leaving we sat down with the locals and got shown where we should drive and where there is a toll fee on the autobahns and how we could avoid it. It looked all a little unpromising as finally our trip time was running out and we originally planned for just one more overnight stay in Italy - the distance was huge that we had to bridge and we got told that we should plan for more time as the route we are taking is one of Italys most beautiful.
Not getting out of bed in time next day and after the not so good Italien breakfast of a ready made chocolate filled croissant and the obligatory tea (that we had each and every morning throughout the whole trip) we said goodbye to the family and my mom and headed first west toward the western coast on Italy and then north direction Napoli - Rom - Pisa. Shortly before Napoli very heavy rain set in and we had to drive with zero sight for more then two hours. After Napoli we decided not to take a recommended detour at the Vesuv vulcano as it was already 4 p.m. and we wanted to reach Pisa that day. The clouds were just disappearing and we had a wonderful view on the once so destructive Volcano. A little later our journey almost came to an unexpected end - at a construction site the german camper vw bus of newer age in front of me was coming to an immediate stop at 60 km/h my car not heaving the best breakes and no ABS system with sliding towards the van and there seemed not much that could prevent us from crashing. Somehow I managed to figure out that the other site of the road was not having any traffic and in the last moment I was able to pull over almost loosing control of the car that was breaking out and lingering toward the road barrier on the other side only happily to come to a full stop - thanks to the outer powers that may be. Driving along another 20 meters we saw that someone in front of us didnīt have as much luck and crashed into a car in front. With a little shock inside and much more space in fron of us we continued our drive direction Rome getting of the autobahn soon after and driving along a pretty road with pine trees. Missing to hit the sea for sunset we got a little lost in our trial to pass Rome on the seaside without touching it. After loosing 2 hours madly driving around (again due to our total bad map that we still used) we got on road that led to the autobahn ring around rome - something that we could have had much easier. Passing Rome pretty fast and off the autobahn again we made quite a good headway even trhough heavy heavy rain and arrived in a town on the coast just 50 km away from Pisa. Firstly we tried to find a wild beach but only got to Caravan camping places with big signs "wild camping not allowed" a first on our tour. Then driving through the town eventually we came to a small parking lot far enough away from the city that was on some beach and a Belgian camper already parked on it - so we thought it would be ok for one night even with all the signs trying to prevent us from doing so - also it was heavy raining and we had a long driving day behind us so we wanted some rest.
The beach were we stopped proved to us what we expected extremely toursiticly exploited with tons of restaurants and every meter was somehow touched and altered by mankind. Having breakfast with a nice view on sardinia that was shaping up behind the fog and watching some builders take down wooden houses that had been their for the tourist high season for them to change their cloth. We said goodbye to the Mediterranean for this trip as from that point onward our last part of the tour would take us north away from the sea. So we started to drive toward Pisa circumvented the town and head into the first mountain range driving up a serpentine road we could see the angled tower of piesa sticking out of the town. The following road was very windy but also brought us through some lovely viallages with old stone bridges and dense forests. Very mystic atmosphere and slowly changing from an Italien feeling to a more German/Austrian mountain feeling. At the other side of the mountains after driving for three hours we stopped and had some mushroom pasta as our own supplies of food were running low and we anticipated that we would not arrive in the alps until very late and would maybe not be able to eat dinner. Also we had been very hungry probably because it was a lot colder then the rest of our trip and we had been stuffed the two day before so much. The little Tavern was very rustic and the owner was sleeping when we first walked in. We opened and closed the door again so the little bell would ring and he finally woke up. Getting filled up and having one of the best cakes in my life - something with crushed walnuts and chocolate - we continued north. Arriving at the flat part of Italy that surrounds the river Po we decided time is running fast and hit the autobahn for the next 200 km. Then leaving it again after the plains when there was a clear yellow road next to the autobahn and starting to slowly winding into the Alps - finally. The sunset presented the valley we drove into mystically as the mountains rose higher and higher around us and us slowly driving upward. Somewhere along the last 600km we decided not to go back over the Brenner pass but to take a last detour and driving into northern Europe through the Jaufen pass (2.500 meters high) into the Öztal. After a little looking we found the right road off and started a night climb with the trusty old van. Passing another valley with two big lit up cities that looked marvelous from above we arrived at the street that leads to the pass. We slowly climbed up and up and up and tried to look for a nice spot to stay for the night. Driving along two roads that led to fenced of gates (one we had to reverse with a drop of about 100 meters downward on one site - all in pitch darkness) we got tired and felt lost - there was just no way to park safely - so we decided if all else fails we will drive over the pass during the night. All of the sudden a red light marked the street reminding us that the pass is closed during the night, luckily just before the red light we saw a little passage to a cottage to the right that looked safe and a little more private then just staying on the road. We found it again and parked there. I again seemed to be hungry and we started cooking dinner (willow did we chopping up vegies and cleaning the car a bit) when the stove stopped working midthrough cooking. We knew we had another gas container somewhere but even after looking for half an hour we gave up and ate the half cooked veggies like they were (was not as bad as it sounds) and wondered what happened to the other gas filling - falling asleep as we wondered.
We woke up by the sound of horses being put into a trailer right next to the van (as you might have noticed there was ALWAYS something little wrong with the places we stayed at) and found ourself above the tree line in the high mountains - a drastic change to the view over the ocean we had every other morning throughout the trip. Taking a nice refreshing face wash in the 4 degree cold mountain spring water that was rushing down next to the van we watched some germans group put on their walking boots and head off into the mountains - and had no tea as the gas stove was empty - and the fresh clean mountain air. Then we continued to head up up up along the road. It was steeper then I had envisioned and the car had to be put in second sometimes even first gear to even get up. Somewhere below the pass we passed another old VW bus which made us confident that we can make it up as well. Shortly under the pass we had a nice last view over Italy from very very high above - a scenery of lush valleys and harsh high mountains engulfed in white puffy clouds. Into one of those we drove just 20 meters further and reached the pass at 2.500 meter with ice freezing over the little grass that was next to the road. Freezing and no nice view we decided to continue paying 10 Euros for the usage of that road. Just after the toll pay station was a little hut like cafe/bar - one of those you find in the winter near skilifts. We parked the car and got in to get a tea that we still didnīt have had - I needed to interact in german with them which was a strange feeling after such a long time. The place was quite busy even so the road was sporting only about three other cars apart from ours and we found out that it was the day when all the shepherds would get their sheep from the high alms and take them down into the stallings in their villages. Sitting their sipping on our tea for a while we saw the shepherds coming down with some 100 sheep or so. We found the two very small baby sheep to be very cute and somehow it was a fitting conclusion to our journey with the shepherd in Turkey in our second night. We started to roll down into the valley and it started to clear up a little. The valley which I only knew from the winter was very lovely with lush green lawns, high snowcovered mountains around and a bright white - blue river going through. Getting down into one of the villages we bought some fresh croissants and finally a good brown leaf of bread. Picking up a brochure at the local tourist information we figured it would be nice to go up with the aerial ropeway(?is that the english word for it?) to the local glacier up 3000 meters - but first we would need a new gas tank for our stove so that we can have dinner.
Getting into town we found quite a few tracking equipping places but all were closed - never knew that the Austrians had siesta as well. Getting to the place were the ropeway starts we could see no carriers go up or down. When we ask the lady behind the ticket counter she told us that they stopped service until the winter since last sunday - two days to late we thought. The only other way up was with a glacier road that leaded up to 2.850 meter with driving right into the glacier. We took the challenge even so the toll was something around 15 euros. So the car crawling upwards (not so easily) there was no glacier in sight until the very end. We could see a a ski slope in use that was more mud, dirt and little ice then anything that could resemble snow. We decided to hike up a little as the view cleared up quite well and we were above the clouds we hope to have a nice view. The climb up without any good equipment was quite a challenge but up the mountain another 300 meter (to around 3150 meter) we were in complete private with total silence the sun out and a beautiful view - very relaxing.
Driving down proofed to be more of a challenge to the car then up, it was a very very steep road and somehow I had forgotten that you should put the car in a low gear when driving down. When we arrived down in the town the front tires were smoking - yes white plumes of thick smelly smoke were coming from underneath the car and some sprinkles of some fluid was forming on the tire. Little worried we first got into the shop to get a new gas tank for the stove - which they had. Getting back to the car that still was smoldering a little I started up the engine and first thought that all was good but driving off the parking lot and trying to break I could find the breakpoint on the pedal not to be available and the brakes not really working at all - only after some pumping I got them back but only momentarily. Getting a little nervous that we would find a nice place to sleep in time before it got dark on our last night that we really wanted somewhere nice without any problems we called the ADAC - the automobile club that takes care in case of problem. They told us that the official service station is already closed and that we should ask somewhere in town if there is a small garage. We went to a nearby shoe store and ask the lady if she new if there is someone in town taking care of cars that would still be open. She pointed us to a shell gas station just outside the village. We thanked her and shortly later found the gas station. The young guy was happy to tell me that there was only air in my breaking fluid because I had too old breaking fluid with me and that he would exchange the breaking fluid right away. We happily watch him lifting the car high up under the ceiling and only 10 minutes later he was finished and we had working brakes again. Driving along down the valley we now set out to look for a good place to stay and after taking a little side road until the end we ask a lady in a little restaurant if we could stay on the lawn behind her house. She agreed and we had found our last resting, peaceful in the bright, safe, quite and out of the way. Cooking our last delicious gas stove dinner and tidying up the car a last time we felt our little climb and had a nice relaxing sleep in the mountains.
The morning brought us the farmer who had to pass by us and we needed to move the van a little (always something) then we made a monumental breakfast and the last tea on the road and ate it atop a little hill with sunshine above and the valley in front of us. After the last relaxing moments we slowly started our very last part driving. Getting out of the valley and onto an autobahn we stopped for gas and then headed north through the mountains again and after a much lower pass into Germany crossing southern Bavaria with some nice lakes and onto the good old German autobahns. Shortly after Munich we had a little traffic jam that caused a one hour delay and then head on. After the East-German boarder got into another traffic jam and then somewhere around 11-12 p.m. and some 1.000 km later we finally arrived in close range to home just to get stopped by two cars. Policemen in civil seriously wanted to search the bus for drugs. After explaining to them that we just came from Istanbul and had been through numerous borders and just want to go to sleep they let us go (trying to say "good night" to willow in one of the worst english I have heard on the whole trip) - a yes I felt home in our police state again.
We drove around 3.500 km total on the way back seeing some of the most beautiful beaches and places in Southern Europe but also the most catastrophic environmental disasters that lead us to believe in bleak future for earths oceans and nice beaches. The trip was entertaining, romantic, lovely and full of surprises and unexpected turns - no for pay tourist package could give you that much experience and freedom. I want to thank Willow for sticking with me the whole time - making the trip a little more unplanned and all the friendly people we met during the trip who offered us advise shelter and food, my mom for taking care of us in our little stop in between and the higher spirits that made us get home safe - and the trusty green VW Bus from 1986 that happily carried us along all the dusty streets high mountains, through rain and heat without complaining and without seriously breaking down even once.