Tag Archives: Croatia

Holidays are over!

 

Albania ... another country with a highscore on our list of the best travel destinations!

 

One knows exactly that it just happened, but you simply can't plan it beforehand: suddenly, the holidays are over and traveling begins.

Suddenly, we are the only vehicle with a foreign license plate. The road conditions don't resemble central European standards any more (but that's what makes driving interesting anyway) and the information the map provides is not matching the real situation ... a "yellow" road in the map turns out to be a nasty single-track gravel mountain track.

 

That was before the track turned out to be a really nasty one!

 
 
 

The countryside here simply is impressive! Anouk says that it's fairy-country and that we have to be careful not to disturb the faries when being walking in the woods! Mountains, deep gorges, alluvial land alternates with farm land belonging to small farm buildings glued to the cliffs.

 

Where can you see this still in western Europe?

 

Going out for dinner is so outrageously cheap that it simply doesn't make sense to cook in the camp. Again, the most impressive aspect that makes Montenegro and Albania different compared to more touristy travel destinations are the people we meet: in the middle of a roundabout, we ask an old man for the way to the supermarket. We get the requested information while behind us other cars are queueing up bot nobody tailgates us or blows their horns. Everything is unexcitedly non-German! Wonderful! Exiting the roundabout, we immediately are flagged down by the police we did not recognize before. Guessing the approaching evil we stop at the roadside ... only to be kindly but directly informed by the police officers that we "should do as we are told" next time and ask them for help and not other passers-by. We meet friendly and welcoming people everywhere we go, who try to make our stay as positive as possible showing that we are really welcome in their country. But the friendliness has a sad background, too: just a few days ago, a young Czech couple had been shot in the neighboring valley and the Albanians we meet are really angry with their government and legal system, because the assassin had been imprisoned before for stabbing a 13-year-oly boy to death because of the golden chain around his neck. After only five years in prison he was set free again, only to put his hands on the Czech couple. I am sure that our western media are currently "promoting" Albania as a dangerous country due to this incident, thereby troubling our friends and relatives at home. Life here as we experience it turns out to be completely different: very friendly, open and positive! Albania simply rocks and will take its place in our list of the most wonderful places we visited so far.

 

Where are we?

Date:              29.07.2015

Position:         N 42°45.452', E 019°88.275'

Location:        Valbonë, Tropojë Province, Albania

Further Information

Weather:       30,9°C (midday), cloudless sky, light wind

Day:                20

In Croatia, we could relax so very well, because life there was just like home, maybe apart from life taking place in the camp instead of a house and garden and apart from the heat. Only the firefighter planes and helicopters were things that troubled us.

Dubrovnik: we will come back some other time when there are less tourists!

Can't wait to discover this beautiful old town!

On our way to Albania, we don't take the coastal road as we had planned, but leave for the Montenegrinian mountains being annoyed by the multitude if tourists. We drive through wild romantic and remote mountain scenery slowly making our way up the mountains. Our travel "speed" is reduced to about 30 to 40 km/h which doesn't enable us to make it to our planned leg in northern Albania, so we simply set up our camp on a sports ground in the middle of a small village still exhales a morbid ex-socialist ex-Jugoslavian retro charme.

 

Our camp at the sports ground!

 

After an evening with an entertainment program of the village-youth playing soccer and after a very quiet night, we are on our way relatively early.

 

Typical road-crosser!

 

Crossing from Montenegro into Albania takes some time but everybody is correct and corteous still.

In Albania, we try our luck on a secluded mountain village (Vermosh), but due to a combination of really bad gravel track and a menacingly approaching bank of dark threatening clouds, we turn around and leave this beautiful place to be able to reach a campsite at the end of a catchment lake further down south. This campsite turns out to be a small guesthouse/restaurant situated directly under a concrete bridge, the bridge being the restaurant's roof. On its courtyard shadowed by olive trees and grape vines, a few travellers have set up their camps. We are informed that we don't have to drive back on the same road we came, but can take a ferry across the catchment lake Liqeni i Komanit, connecting Koman with Fierza. Our guidebook says that this very ferry connection had been terminated some years ago because a ferry sank in the rapids. Several passengers had drowned in this incident. Today, there are two privately owned ferries servicing this route regularly. Together with Gerd and Andrea, new travel-friends from Austria, we decide to take one of the two ferries the next morning which saves us a 160 km detour. Instead of taking roads, we are now sailed through a majestic mountain scenery which is hard to top.

Before that, we enjoy a nearly African seeming un-excited and friendly chaos at the jetty while the ferries and small passenger boats are loaded with countless cars, motorbikes, passengers and other freight.

 
 

Three hours later we reach the end of the lake ... only to discover that it was exactly our ferry that sank in 2011. In retrospect, we would have decided on taking the other ferry (which also looks way better!). At a small bar, we take a Turkish coffee (three for 1,80 €!) and then go on to Bajram Curry to store up on our provisions.

Rilindja ... a wonderful place that we don't want to leave too soon!

Yummy! Freshly cooked traditional Albanian food!

In the afternoon we find a wonderful guesthouse in the small village of Valbona (Rilindja) where we can camp.

Approaching our camp

Relaxing with new friends before setting up camp

Our camp at Rilindja

Laundry day

 

... a wild walk from the restaurant to our camp

 

Camping here costs 4€ and a dinner at the restaurant for 4 persons including drinks costs about 27 €. Our first evening here fades away under a wonderful starlit sky while the moonlight projects the silhouette of one gigantic cliff on the opposite one. We are camping in wonderfully wild nature which begins right behind our camp. The landlady, a lady from Brooklyn, married to an exiled-Albanian, still bears the the imprint of a recent encounter with a local brown bear in her face. The wild nature here is wonderfully combined with the convenience of a hot morning-shower and wolderfully fresh-cooked traditional Albanian dishes.

We don't want to leave!

Ready for Takeoff?, Forest Fires … and other Stories

Anouk hates goodbyes!

 

During the last few days and weeks at home on the island of Spiekeroog, many people around us kept asking us whether we were becoming more and more excited. We were not, actually! Instead – in addition to our very engaging jobs – we were in absolute and continuous “packing-mania” and had to empty and clean up our flat. There was absolutely no time for dreaming or thinking about what lies ahead of us and certainly no time for excitement of travel nerves! In that context, we want to apologize to all dear friends, family members and colleagues whom we did not give our farewells to … there simply was no time at all!

Just like that our departure day on which we were waiting for for so very long turned out to be. The evening before we had been working until it was very, actually far too late packing the last few bags and putting away things into the attic. After a very short night of not more that three hours of sleep, we had to get up at 4 in the morning, because we wanted to catch the 7:25 ferry from Spiekeroog – the same ferry our students would take to leave for their long summer break. In spite of being still very tired everything worked out fine! Family members, friends and colleagues gave us their farewell hugs … our children were even given an “official” farewell by their kindergarten teachers. Well, and then we boarded the ferry … for the last time for over one year!

On the mainland we first of all had to say goodbye to our students before we had to pack our car with all the bags and boxes we had brought from home. The Land Rover was stuffed like a turkey at Thanksgiving! Finally, we could leave!

Like a stuffed turkey!

 

Despite all the mad rush and stress on the first few kilometres we at last realized that we now really were on our way, on our way on our long trip down to South Africa. The feeling of not having to comply with any appointments made by others is definitely unbelievably good. Time is not our master anymore!

On the way, we were invited to friends to stoppover for a bruch …

Further on, one of our sponsors surprised us with a very generous donation to fill up our Diesel-tanks. Another appointment he had made in Magdeburg where we wanted to meet with the people of the “Petromax” company, who have been supporting us with their exciting product range. Now we wanted to find our about the personalities behind those products.

In the workshop (actually a tent in a large warehouse) we could witness where the famous HK 500 power lamp is manufactured. It looked as if the brownies just left for their homes!

 

Unexpectedly, we were given more cool gadgets which we will test during the next few months: we are really excited about the Feuerbox and the Hobo Stove . It must have been spontaneous affection on both sides as we nattered on with Jonas and Laura for so long that we ended up reaching Julianes parents in Dresden only at around 10 in the evening instead of the estimated time of arrival at seven o ‘clock … still we barbecued!

During the following few days in Dresden we used the for us quite uncommon situation with the Land Rover directly in front of our house and checked the complete equipment to get rid of all the things not really important. It was all about reducing space and weight, abour reducing, reducing and even more reducing! We were not really ready for takeoff, it seemed! Three large cardborad boxes we finally left in Dresden! Being islanders, we always have worse starting line conditions than other travelers because we never have our car in front of our house. Instead, we have to bring everything to the harbour on Spiekeroog by bike or electric car (thanks Stefan, for taking our things!), put it on the ferry, have it shipped over to the mainland and than pack it into the car as fast as possible in all kind of weather.

In the background the “Festung Königstein”.

History: family rock “Pfaffenstein” and Trabant car

After family parties in Dresden and Saxon Switzerland, Juliane’s old home, an Alpaca-trip around the “Lilienstein” (one of the famous sandstone cliffs south of Dresden) near Königstein/Sachsen and an overnight stay at a friend’s place near Passau, we left good old Germany on the 15th July at roudabout midday. Near Passau we crossed the border with Austria. Germany will only have us back in more than one year’s time!

In the evening of that day, we went out for dinner at “Bio-Alpengasthof Koralpenblick” and feasted on wonderfull steaks made from local Styra-cattle enjoying the company of the Smolana family and our friend Andras Nemeth from Hungary. Last year, we had “discovered” this eco-farm on our way back home from Romania and it is one of our absolute recommendations for any traveller (for more information, here is more). All dishes on the menu are based on home (i.e. on-site) grown products, products from other eco-farms nearby or collected and hunted in the surrounding forests. Water and electricity are also “produced” on the farm. Really impressive! We will definitely come back! Overlanders like us are always welcome with their vehicles (4×4 recommended, though to be able to use the greenlanes) and are allowed to set up their camps next to the cow shed for free (of course, everybody goes out for dinner at the farm’s restaurant!).

Nicole, Ilja and Mia … we last met in the Pyrenees in 2013

On the following day, we went on to Croatia to meet with travel friends Ilja, Nicole and Mia whom we had met in the Pyrenees two years ago. Initially, we thought that crossing Slovenia on country roads would be easy and fast as we would have to cross only about 100 km. Afterwards, we knew it better: it took us more than two and a half hours! The 15 Euro road toll for the motorways would have been a better deal for us, it seemed! After that, we had to cross Croatia as well to reach the Adriatic coast and the island of Pag where our travel friends were waiting at a campsite. Again, we reached them only at ten in the evening! Definitely, we were not relaxed, but kept the stress-level from work and carried it over to traveling. Again, not really ready for takeoff! We have to go down to lower gears as soon as possible or we will be reaching Cape Town in two months!

But: here in the camp in the 38°C baking oven (!) we don’t have any other chance anyway than to relax and adapt to temperature and climate! We learn to drink!

  

“wild” animals

“wild” animals II

what’s that?

considering Sóley’s point of view one of the most dangerous animals existing

Definitely, by now we can state that it was a good decision to start our overland journey back home in Germany and not ship the Land Rover and fly to some remote destination. Especially with young kids this seems to be the most uncomplicated and healthy way to start a long overland trip.

Where we are

Date:               22.07.2015

Position:         N 42°54.232′, E 017°32.047′

Location:        Brijesta, Peljesac peninsuly, Croatia

Further Information

Weather:       37,3°C (midday), cloudless sky (apart from the smoke of forest fires), no             rainfall since the 15th, nearly no wind

day 13

 

Before driving further south to the mountains of Albania, we want to enjoy more of the beach life. That’s why we left the last campsite at the beach only to go for a next beach-camp 350 km down to the south. The first campsite we found was far too crowded and touristy, so we went on for another 20 km and have found a nearly African-style campground directly at the beach now (Auto Camp Zakono/Vrela).

Helicopters filling up the water tanks to extinguish the forest fires

what is she thinking?

The girls waved and the pilot opened his window and waved back … then came the wind!

 

On the way to get here, we passed a large forest fire. We felt a bit uncomfortable driving to the tip of a peninsula on whose connection to the mainland forest fires were raging. But the locals told us that the fires are under control. Still, it continuously “rains” ashes which is admittedly a bit scary and the constant humming of the engines of the fire fighting planes sounds like the deep drone of the bombers one knows from the documentaries about the second world war. Directly in front of our camp helicopters “fuel up” on sea water to extinguish the fires in the mountains behind the campsite.

Our guide book (“Kroatien” – Küste und Inseln, Werner Lips, Reise Know How Verlag) has done a great job in choosing this campsite! We are on a rather quiet and not really crowded campsite here and have a spacy and secluded camp with the sea right under our very noses with perfectly clean facilities. Even the temperature is pleasant … maybe we have adapted by now!

Our further plan? We will go to Albania sometime in the next few days to discover the remote mountain regions laying in the far north-east of the country. We are really excited to discover Albania, which has not become a famous tourist destination so far but is supposed to be very beautiful and the people have a very hospitable reputation. We will check that and let you know!

What’s new?

Expedition Portal published another article written by us on traveling with young children. For more see …