Monthly Archives: September 2015

Wild Peloponnes

 
 

It is great to travel Greece after the season is over ... Campsites are empty and almost everybody is extremely relaxed.

The following photos are from the wonderful "middle finger" of the Peloponnes, which is a really wild and beautiful. Also, this region is said to be very unique because the inhabitants are so very stubborn and able to defend themselves that it is said they were never conquered by neither the Turks, the Italians or the Germans (am thinking of a certain Gaul village inhabited by a tribe just like that 馃槈 ...). This maybe also is due to the fortified houses they live in. Here, people still - unofficially, of course - carry weapons which is witnessed by the many roadsigns with bullet holes (no photos, unfortunately, as S贸ley was really motion-sick during our last few drives) and it has become a natural thing in the morning for us to be woken up by gunshots.

One of many beautiful village churches on the way.

Barren mountains and white beaches ... a warmer Scotland!

 

Fortified city Vathia ... we can imagine that it was really difficult for any intruders to conquer this region.

 

... and another beautiful and deserted beach! Only the wind gives your body a proper sandblast!

The southern tip of the "middle finger" called Mani

 

Porto Kagio from afar

 

Stopover at a small restaurant. We are the only guests ...

... like it was taken from a South Sea travel catalogue ... are we still in Europe??

Wreck near Githio

 

S贸ley on the lookout for sea turtles!

 

During a really gregarious evening at the campsite-bar, we meet Anna, an environmental activist working for an NGO (Archelon) who tells us about her work for the protection of sea turtles.

Our two daughters are really excited about that topic, because they know about our sea turtle experiences from our honeymoon trip to Costa Rica years ago ... The following day, we go with Anna, a volunteer from England who assists her, the owner of the campsite and two other campsite-guests from Austria on an excursion to a nearby turtle beach. The sea turtle species Caretta caretta, one of seven聽different sea turtle species nests here even though human activity and predators such as foxes and stray dogs are endangering the survival of the Greek part of the sea turtle population. But also unexpected aspects disturb the sea turtles. When they hatch from the eggs, they naturally follow the moonlight that is reflected by the sea. As there are so many beachside restaurants, at night their lights lead the turtles astray and they don't find their way into the water.

It is important not to touch them as their first "walk" down into the surf is the most important one in their lives - they take in everything their senses detect to be able to come back when they are grown ups to build their nests exactly here.

During an "excavation" of a nest where the scientists know that all turtles have hatched, suddenly another five turtles approach from the remains of the nest. We start a race between the five of them and Anouk is totally engrossed in the match when after an immense struggle on her way across the sandy beach her turtle wins, first reaches the sea and swims off into the unknown ... somewhere in the oceans there now is a small turtle growing up bearing the name "Anouk".

 
 

Anna excavates the fully (?) hatched nest ...

A hatched egg ...

 

A latecomer from the nest the scientists thought was fully hatched.

 
 

Spectators and fans applauding the sea turtle on its way into the sea.

 
 

This is what "travel school" is all about: intensive real life experiences that will never be forgotten! Just see the looks on their faces!

 
 

This is what Anouk draws the next day ... !

 
 

Backstroke dry training!

 

102 eggs, 101 have hatched and one is still intact.

Why is this egg still intact?

 

... no fetus inside!

 
 

Good luck and safe travels!

 

Between Heaven and Hell

You don't see from the surface of the idyllic Mediterranean Sea what dramatic human disasters this very sea has seen during months on end. On and off it just quarries out of us when our two girls again languidly poke in the good food we prepare for them, "Can you imagine what happens out there? How many families are on the run seeking refuge from poverty, war and eviction right now trying to make their way across this very sea and risk drowning right in front of our noses? They can't choose their food, if they have anything at all, and would certainly be so very happy to get what you right now despise and reject!"

But, to be honest, our kids can't really imagine all this in their age and we maybe expect too much from them! But we have the feeling that we are relaxing outrageously idle here taking our time all the while we could do something else, more productive for other people. I write a post on the search of "Paradise Beach" while African and Syrian families are desperately trying to find a chance to survive ... how decadent!

After days of wildcamping at the beach without any internet access we finally read news from Germany which are not dominated any more by riots and marches against the refugees coming to Germany day by day in the thousands. Instead, it seems that this wave is being answered with a real counter-"tsunami" of willingness to help and welcome for these desperate people. It seems that Germany has woken up and the majority has become louder than the small group of right wing activists!

And, what exactly do we do about all this? On Facebook we watch a TV-documentary on the mission of the fishing boat "Sea Watch" trying to rescue shipwrecked refugees in the Mediterranean Sea. Captain and key player in this documentary is Andr茅, a friend from our "Thor Heyerdahl"-days, one "of us". Damn! Maybe we can, have to also do someting! We can't just sit here and wait and just passively watch what is happening!

Spontaneously, I google for organisations that are active for refugees here in Greece and send an email to one of them asking whether we could also energetically bring in our energy where it is needed. Let's see what will come from that. But doing things for the sake of things will also not lead us or anybody else anywhere. We honestly ask ourselves if it actually is impious of us to drive in a car with AC and an over-full fridge in the opposite direction while masses of people give up everything they have and risk their lives to maybe be allowed to start anew in our seemingly "idyllic world". We go to Africa, which seems to be a place everybody else just wants to escape from. Wouldn't it actually be better to give the money we have saved up for this trip through Africa to charity and go back home and invest our time and energy in doing something for the refugees arriving in Germany?

Well, it is not as easy as that! Our jobs are already represented for by colleagues and our flat is subleased. Living in Germany we would have to spend notably more money than we spend here on the road. So, there would not be much left to give to others. No, a backdown because of guilty conscience doesn't help anybody. On the contrary, we should continue as planned and experience what Africa "consists of" instead of what the western media reduce it to. The money we spend on the road will automatically go to the ordinary people we meet and not to big international companies. All our food we buy in small street stalls and in small corner shops. So far we shopped in supermarkets only twice.

Also, we think that the effect of us being multipliers will also be a way to change the situation or at least the view people in Europe have on life in Africa as we are sharing all our experiences on our blog, the German "Explorer-Magazin" and the guidebook company "Reise Know How". At the same time this Transafrican exerience will also educate our two girls for a different future, we hope: the journey will hopefully shape them into cosmopolitan, dedicated and strong personalities who will influence the world within the scope of their abilities positively when they get older.

Already one day later there is a reply-mail from "Proasyl". They give us information on fields of application in Greece and also on contact persons and several Facebook-groups to enable us to coordinate ourselves with other volunteers. The places where help is needed are not really on our "route" from the Peloponnes to Athens, but a detour and a later shipping of the car for a good cause is something we would without heasitation do. We would be prepared to again perform and give everything for people in need.

But our kids just bring us back down to Earth, namely that now it's finally time for us as a family and that the family has to stay in the centre of attention.

Certainly it is without any "plan" behind it but S贸ley is getting sick with some nasty gastrointestinal virus and constantly throws up in spite of the medication we give her, spitting out everything we painstakingly have chiseled into her. S贸ley's lack of appetite in combination with her stubbornness nearly drives us to despair, because she simply doesn't take in enough liquid into her small body. We even go to a hospital and ask for medical advice. We bethink ourselves that we are still in the process of preparing for a big challenge for all of us: our overland trip through complete Africa from North to South. We urgently have to continue concentrating on that. Drinking and eating enough indeed is something that has to be trained, because the heat we experience here in Greece and will expect in Africa is not natural for us, but still a daily source of stress for our bodies, even though we have been looking forward to these temperatures for such a very long time! On the other hand, we have adapted to the climate as well, as temperatures around 24 掳C feel rather chilly and make us dress more!

Our support for other people we will be able to offer often enough on our way through Africa. For example, we plan a "Follow Up" in the kindergarten in Adigrat in northern Ethiopia where we trained nursery school teachers last winter ... and also at the university there we will get involved. Private contacts in a remote mountain village in Ethiopia we plan to use to also support the people there. In addition to that, we have been planning our cooperation with the "Muskoka Foundation", a US-based foundation who establishes cooperations between overland travellers and places where their help is needed according to the routes they plan to travel along and according to their interests and education - all this is completely commerce-free. Among other things, we plan to cooperate with schools in Ethiopia and Kenya for this organisation. Together with friends from our working environment we plan how we can support their project, an eye clinic in Rwanda. Maybe, Mischa as a biologist will put through hygiene training for the staff.

...

We have been put back on track and will during our onward journey keep in mind the aspect "support of refugees and other people in need". Please contact us if you have any ideas concerning this!

Juliane

In search of Paradise Beach

 

Gjirocast毛r - we loved it, for the kids it was exhausting and haunted

 

As impressive as the Albanian city Gjirokast毛r was for us, the two girls become grumblier聽the longer we stay here. The streets聽are far too steep for them and every walk becomes a hard hike for them. Startled聽they hide behind our legs whenever a seemingly speeding car approaches pestering聽itself along the steep cobbled streets聽we are walking on. The exciting traits of former inhabitation witnessed by the buildings we see are far too abstract for them. Anouk and S贸ley only see old, crumbling聽and therefore not really beautiful houses in them. The restaurant-food for them is reduced to pizza and French fries, which after some days is nothing they want to have again. Normally, we cook far more diverse. And in addition to that, there is the haunted hostel which frightenes them at night. Babameto house is so wonderfully ancient that you can glimpse through the creaky聽floor boards down on the people living one floor below us. Then, there is the wind constantly blowing through the windows and laut squealing聽doors ... and there are small doors everywhere with unused聽hide-holes and secret passageways. This is far too much for Anouk's vivid聽phantasy. Without us in the same room, she doesn't get a wink of sleep. This is quite exhausting after a while and so the kids rather want to go back to the beach as soon as possible. As much as I had been looking forward to Istanbul, this wonderful city now聽recedes into the far distance. And also, the question darises whether it is possible at all to travel to big cities with island-children like ours.

On Mischa's birthday we enrich聽the hostel-breakfast with the local speciality sheep-cheese burek. Mischa's birthday wish is to find "Paradise Beach", so we "set sails" to聽the Albanian coast.

 

Old Ottoman bridge.

 

On our way, we want to ask farmers to be allowed to camp on their property, but we only meet shepherds聽herding their flocks of sheep.

 

Before we set up camp, we help an Albanian couple to pull out their VW Golf out of the deep sand.

 

Thus, we reach a relatively undeveloped and un-parasoled聽beach without any beach bars on Mischa's great day. That this beach is supposed to be "Paradise Beach" we are not really convinced of, but at least this is a first step in the search for it. Probably, it's quite difficult to find such a beach especially for us, as we live on an island with kilometres of white, sandy beaches, which for most people would be more or less the prototype of the personal "Paradise Beach". But, alas, our family getaways聽to the beach home on the island of Spiekeroog can be counted on the fingers of one hand because our everyday work, respectively the his standards we set ourselves聽do not permit聽that too often.

Just having arrived at the beach, we spontaneously pull out the VW Golf of an Albanian couple out of the deep sand, take over their idyllic spot and even get chilled drinks in return聽- welcome to Paradise Beach! The first thing that our daughter S贸ley builds at the beach is a mosque with a minaret; words and concepts she before visiting Gjirokast毛r she did not know anything about. She remarks yearningly聽that she so very much wants to see a mosque from the inside - something we would never have dared to do聽because of her stubborn聽moodiness when we were visiting the city, but it seems that more impressions rest on her聽than we had expected. While skyping, an enthusiastic Anouk tells her friend Lasse about the collection of canons she saw inside Gjirokast毛r castle even though she felt very uncomfortable in exactly this part of the castle due to the fact that she connects聽those gigantic weapons with death and destruction.

To mark the occasion,聽we pump up our sound system at the beach and sing and dance together with Xavier Rudd and the United Nations' new cd "Nanna". Anouk, who has overheard聽more and more Englisch-chunks, demands a simultaneous translation聽and so we philosophy about the turbulent history of human societies, the injustices of the world and about religion and spirituality.

Romantic camp

Enver Hoxha was a bunker-maniac - these things are everywhere in Albania!

 

S贸ley falls asleep in Mischa's arms for the first time in her life - a wonderful moment. That's what family time is all about!

 

During the following few days at the beach, our kids relax and S贸ley evel falls asleep in Mischa's lap for the first time in her life, which for him is a very special moment because she still has a聽fixation on me. I rediscover聽the sea for聽myself. Swimming and water gymnastics聽encourages the metabolism and聽awakens new聽vitality in this heat which can be lived out聽together with the kids in acrobatics at the beach and in the surf.

We want to save fuel, so we cook on the open fire using our Petromax Feuertopf (dutch oven) and the Petromax Feuerbox

Wonderful food - it smells as good as it looks!

Beach neighbours from Aurich in homely East Frisia got bogged down聽with their old VW LT and, naturally, we also pull them out of the sand. The evening before, we had helped them to cope with their stomach upset with Caj Mali, the magic tea from the Albanian mountains.

 

Pulling out another car - we should make a job out of this!

 

Somewhere in the mountain wilderness looking for a nice place to wild-camp ... do you see the weird puppets in the background?

... magic protection against the "evil eye" - if somebody does too many good things in life and others speak positively about that person, he is in danger to be affected by the "evil eye".

 

On our way through the mountains ... not knowing that we are going to end up at out last beach camp.

 

In between, we go on on our search for our personal "Paradise Beach" and wriggle聽ourselves through countles serpentines alongside the picturesque聽coast heading north again, which makes the Land Rover roll like a tall ship and also makes Anouk throw up like being seasick. No wonder, I think, as I met her father being seasick on board the tall ship "Thor Heyerdahl". Rough mountain tracks however聽are no problem for the girls. Now we need a quick look into the guidebook to find a campsite with a laundry machine. In the next bay聽there are some, but we rely on "Reise Know-How" which results in the fact聽that nearly exclusively German-speaking campers have set up their camps here (while the campsite "next doors" is frequented by a majority of French and Italians). Becaue our Land Rover is decorated with eye-catching聽stickers of this publishing company聽we are asked more than once about what connection there exists. "Are you in any way connected with this company? ... 'Cos we also use this guidebook!". It seems as if there are only few other guidebooks on Albania even though tourism seems to be booming here. We don't want to stay longer than needed for our laundry and WiFi service, because "Paradise Beach" means something else for us. From Vlor毛 we discover a remote mountain valley in search of a farm, guesthouse or hidden pub - in vain! At the end聽we end up at the same bay聽with our first "Paradise Beach"-attempt.

 

We are greeted by a wonderful sunset - it's actually quite good to be back here!

 
 

New friends!

 

But it could have been worse than ending up here for another night! Just shortly after we have arrived, an iconic聽Mercedes "Rundhauber"-LKW (an old Mercedes 911 truck) pushes itself聽along the road behind the beach and a multitude of sympathetic聽faces appear being the windows. They answer聽my聽waves and I invite them to set up their camp right next to us. They do so and out of the wonderfully neat聽and affectionately聽converted oldtimer-truck bearing the name "Rosie" climbs a wonderful and charming 6-headed family from Munich including their dog. Both parents are artisans聽from Schwabing and their four kids enjoying聽Waldorf education聽which has a long tradition in their family. They seem to be very relaxed, are extremely creative, courteous and cool "in spite of that". Our kids play with them as if they had known each other for years even though concerning their聽age they are years apart from each other, which actually convinces us the next morning to stay for another two nights enjoying this wonderful company. Us adults have tons to catch up on, too. We cook vegetarian, gluten-free and yummy food together and finish off the feast with baked chocolate bananas from the campfire (we use our last German chocolate for that).

Beach life: fresh food directly brought to us.

Beach camp ... it's good to have company ... only that their "car" looks like a castle!

 

Acrobatics teachers Stella and Lydia

 

Acrobatics teachers ... our girls are impressed!

Acrobatics: flying S贸ley

Anouk

Our "rumble ballerina" S贸ley

... or rather a troll?

Our travel guitar finally is called into action聽and wonderfully harmonises with the ukeleles from Munich. At the evening of the second day, another "Rundhauber" from Munich joins us, but when Rosie leaves us with her crew聽we get itchy feet as well.

 

Beach life - new friends!

 
 

The first hot shower in days - get that look in her face!

 

Croozing further down south, we find a nice beach right after the Albanian-Greek border where two beautifully converted Unimog fire-engines have already set up their camps. Again, we meet Bavarian families waiting for their ferry to Italy because their summer break soon will be over. At night, even more trucks join us and for us, it's getting a bit too crowded here for us聽to stay longer and so the next day, we leave after some nice breakfast-chats still in search of our own "Paradise Beach".

Our friends Konstantinos and Erato from Athens, Dutch friends and also Coen and Karin-Marijke from "Landcruising Adventure" had recommended a certain beach on the island of Lefkadha to us which will be where we head today. Actually, this was a wonderful tip which is pretty much what we had imagined when talking of "Paradise Beach".

 

The first beach which more or less is fitting our dream of "Paradise Beach" - Athani beach, Lefkadha.

Our camp in the setting sun. Again, this is a place we don't want to leave too soon!

 

We meander聽down to a large bay聽with a long sandy beach with turqoise waters. Right at the end of the sandy track we set up our camp and figure out that here nobody cares what you wear (if you want to wear anything at all!). Everything here seems to be wonderfully uncomplicated and roomy! We plan to stay here until our provisions run out. Because, again, we can help others stuck in the sand - this time it's an Austrian couple - we can stock up on fresh water in return聽which enables us to even have hot fresh water showers here. And thus, we stay here for four enchanting days, taking each day as it comes. Anouk complains that the days go by so very fast here even though we don't provide some kind of kids-programme here. But it is exactly this family time which all of us simply enjoy to the fullest.

 

Old beach bar used as a camp by some young surfers.

 
 

The three girls dreaming into the sunset.

 

This indeed is the return聽for skipping Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaidjan and Iran, countries I had been looking forward to visiting for a very long time. But it's OK, as this serves a more important purpose, "relaxed, harmonic, easy going and still intensive family-time". All of us sense our backlog demand聽and sponging up each other聽as if we were dried up. Even rationally viewed, it was a good decision even though all these countries are so very interesting, exciting and culturally impressive as there is still so much waiting for us on our route down through Africa. But we can only manage and enjoy this if we grow into a relaxed but gut well-practiced聽team.

During the last 8 weeks we have not managed to do a lot of things we had planned in advance, but - and this is far more important than anything else! - we have re-started to live and not just "behaving". The rest will come automatically!

text by Juliane

photo comments by Mischa

 

Paradise Beach ... Made in China???