1663-1681: A Quick Flit!

1663-1681: Packing Up and Goodbye to Jez

Thursday 24th September –  12th October 2020

Back at Coxbridge Farm we proceeded to completely empty Jez … he was going back to his factory of birth in Slovenia.  We had always had issues with opening and shutting the habitation door … sometimes even having to take our boot to it.  This had never been correctly repaired whilst under warranty:  incorrect parts or non-delivery of parts, .  With the constant slamming shut, we had consequential damage to the side wall … a crease!  Adria agreed to repair this … actually not a repair, but a whole new side wall.  But who could be trusted to do this major surgery?  Don’t worry … they will collect the motorhome and take it back to the factory in Slovenia.  Having been warned that we would be without our home for at least 6 weeks, we had formed a plan!

To be fair, we already had a plan to spend the winter in Crete … wanting to be in our Happy Place for another expected Covid lockdown.  We had agreed to rent a house just east of Chania from a friend of a friend.  With no van, we would drive the car over.  It would also mean we would save the expense of hiring a car whilst there.

Once Jez was empty … again abusing my Aged P’s goodwill, attic, garage and shed, we drove down to N Devon, via an over night on a friend’s driveway in Bristol.  Jez was left with a motorhome dealer there and within a week was collected on a closed lorry to be transported back to Slovenia.  We were able to track his progress on the Tracker.  Part of the planning was again to buy and wrap all our Christmas gifts … Mum was unimpressed the first year of our travels when I left all the wrapping for her to do!

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Costa iced caramel latte … my go to packing drink!  Not sure how many I managed.

The packing the car was a challenge.  We planned to camp en route, so had the tent and kit we had trialled in Derbyshire.  Summer-ish and winter clothes, dogs and their kit, cooking kit, Christmas gifts from family etc etc … all to fit into the car.  The day before departure, it was all at the front of the house ready to be packed … in the persistent rain!  Bear in mind, I may not have many skills, but packing is one of them … taught by Dad on our family camping holidays … Mum and Clare sorted bedding, Tim sat in the car reading and I passed dad things to pack or helped erect the tent.   It was quickly obvious it would not all fit.  Maddy and I did an emergency trip to Halfords to buy roof legs, bars and the biggest roof box they had … a snip at >£600 NOT!.  And slightly annoying as we already have legs and bars that fit the car in the shed in N Devon, but hey ho … after a few tricky attempts to close the roof box, we got it all in.

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CO2 lying on top of pilates mats, duvet, pillows etc.  A bit of a leap up!

We are really lucky people.  We had brought our departure forward by 8 days, concerned that borders would start closing again.  Just before we left, Switzerland closed to Brits (that was OK, we planned to go via Austria anyway) and the day after we arrived, Italy also closed.  Although in reality, we heard of folk crossing between countries with no checks.  Another major piece of luck was that the DVLA returned James’ C1 (to drive over 3.5 tons post 70 years old) application form wanting further information and a new photo.  This was a major piece of good fortune, as without a physical licence, James would not have been able to drive abroad.  If stopped by police and unable to produce the licence, they would have deemed the vehicle uninsured!  Quick as flash, J said, right, we will keep it and post it all back from Greece so he could share the driving.  It expired on 12.10.20 … the day we arrived in Patras, mainland Greece.   It would have been a real struggle for me to drive that distance for 5 days solidly.

With poor weather initially and then tiredness, we abandoned the camping idea and about 4.00 o’clock each day, I messaged AirBnB owners to get a good price for an overnight.  I had tried a campsite cabin initially, but it was more expensive than an apartment, and thankfully there were quite a few that allowed dogs.  Out of the 5 AirBnB that we used, all were <£65 (cheapest was £19!) and all, bar one, were very comfortable.  

So our route was 1180 miles from home to Ancona.  Overnights in Belgium, with Kerstin in Reutlingen, Verona and close to Ancona.  An 18 hour ferry from Ancona to Patras, an overnight near Patras and then another overnight ferry to Chania, Crete.  The journey took us exactly 7 days with only a 30 minute difference door to door (Ash Vale to Chania).

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A very quiet Tunnel. 

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Our first AirBnB was a stones throw from a free aire … missing Jez!

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First overnight apartment.  I was expecting really uncomfortable beds, but they were all OK … gone is the day of lumpy rental mattresses.

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Leaving, after packing the car, in teaming rain.

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We really cannot get lost … ancient Garmin, Co-Pilot, Dash Cam and old iPhone for audio.  Console of the Enterprise?

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£10 for 3 giant bars … just had to.

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Overnight stop, walk and supper, with my old mucker Kerstin in Reutlingen, Germany.

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Similar to the chicken parmesan I ate in the NE … this was equally delicious … chicken in a paprika cheese sauce.

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A lucky rainbow.

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Rain eased as we crossed from Austria to Italy over the Brenner Pass … and scenery got interesting.

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 The grotty Italian AirBnB – something out of the 1950’s.  And by no means the cheapest.

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Yes, we cruised to Love in Italy, where else!

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Spotted near Ancona … the future of cruise ships?

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Time for and Italian lunch before Ferry No.1.

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I know my dinner is up there, surely it IS time for it NOW?

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Dog walk near Patras after the long (18hrs) crossing … they have to poop the poop deck on board and Corrie is Miss reluctant.

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Time for first lunch in Greece; shared Dukos and Shrimp Saganaki … nostimos.

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Waiting dockside to load for Ferry No. 2 … we had to turn around on board … so much easier in a car.

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Coming into Chania, Crete port in the morning … somewhere there is Kalives, not far from our rental house, which is more up in the hills.

 

 

 




1163-67: French Scenery and Jez Troubles

1163-1164 – Into France

Monday 13th – Tuesday 14th 2019

Kerstin was off to work early, but we said farewell to our driveway hosts and set off in the direction of Nice … ferry to Corsica booked on 17th.

Easy drive to an aire near the motorway E of Besancon; Brognard with lakes to walk CO2 around.  Another driving day Tuesday to a France Passion in Vognes, Rhone Alpes,  and possibly the most beautiful France Passion we’ve stayed on.

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A slightly tight space, but so quiet at the top of the village.  We didn’t sample the wine, but bought a bottle and some pate.  

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The scenery is just so attractive that EVERY time we drive through, we say that we must organise some serious time to explore.  But time is always so short, says I with no paid for work!


1165-1167 – Entrevaux and Van Issues.

Wednesday 15th – Friday 17th May 

We spent two nights on the free aire by Entrevaux station.  Super quiet as it is a single track line that goes form Nice up to Digne les Bains only every couple of hours.  In the summer, it is sometimes steam train.  We’ve stayed here before and fell in love with the village and region then … this was a serious contender for our property purchase.  On a walk we did see a 2 room shack with its own water supply, a veggie plot, solar panels and 3000 m2 of olive trees … yours for only EUR45,000 … just a single track path 1.5km out of Entrevaux.  On arrival, we ate in the village … I’ve not had trout with almonds for years but is was delicious and locally supplied.

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Entrevaux old town and citadel over.

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We took Jez into Nice caravans, which is a repair place and an Adria dealer to replace a wall door handle.  Fortunately they had just one in stock.  Good, as I had been putting all the cupboard contents into a washing up bowl whilst in transit … my string and double sided velcro had not worked!

Engine Trouble

On the way back up to Entrevaux, I wasn’t able to put Jez into gear.  Rolled over to the side of the road and switched the engine on and off a few times, before I could do a gear change.  All seemed fine.  But then on Friday evening when we were driving down to Nice for the ferry, we realised something was seriously wrong … pulling away, or when attempting higher revs, the engine sort of kangaroos.  Are we mad catching the night ferry to Corsica in a poorly van, I asked?  Oh well, they must have Fiat garages in there!  So once, we’d worked out how to actually get onto the quayside (which we really should have known as Sarah has a flat two streets away, which we’ve stayed in), we limped onto the ferry!  Must be the season for engine trouble as Meg has issues in Italy and now France, and Lin and Bo have just had a new gear box in Crete!


1157-1162: Festive Frolics

1157 – Being Social Again

Tuesday 7th May 2019

We drove to Riedlingen on the Danube, as Margaret and Angus who host the Brin motorhome gatherings near Inverness were following the Danube on their way to meet friends N of Munich.  After a wander around the small village and the regulation ice cream, I cooked supper.  M&A brought wine and cheese.  Lovely to catch up with them … and no alcohol was consumed at all … yeah right!  

 

1158-1160 – Shopping and Kerstin’s

Wednesday 8th – Friday 10th May 

Margaret provided breakfast and I walked the dogs in peeing rain, then we set off on our way.  In fact it pretty much peed down all day … we headed to Metzingen, which is a whole town converted into an outlet centre.  A lot of top name brands for which we have no use, but J came away with some shorts and trousers, and I invaded the biggest Gerry Weber store I’ve ever seen.  Last time I purchased 3 pairs of trousers and numerous tops.  No sale on this time, so just one outfit purchased.  

Not far from here onto Kerstin’s in Reutlingen.  Where we parked up last time has now been built over for asylum seeker’s flats, so we went into a neighbour’s driveway.  Not only were Petra and Stephan giving us driveway space, they had lopped some trees so we could get in, and offered us hookup!  We even came away with home grown radishes and Petra’s Pesto (so yummy and garlicky, that I am even eating it on Ryvita as I type!).  Such kind and generous people.

Several lovely dog walks around here with views of the  funny little pointed hills that are the Schabische Alpes.  J visited the doctor to have his hormone injection implanted and a blood test to check his PSA levels – it only cost £18 … He paid over EUR100 in France. We got the result on Monday and it was brilliant news … down to 0.03.  Everything going as it should. 

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James or Mum normal dye my hair – reluctantly.  As a special treat, I let Kerstin have a go! A new experience for K as she has never dyed her own, let alone anyone else! Erika, Kerstin’s Mama, on being shown this pic, asked if Kerstin was looking for nits!!!!  As if?

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Our little Greek puss feeling the cold … hoping the fire would be lit!

Most (pronounced Mosht) is fermented apple, pear or quince juice.  Often a mixture of fruit, but usually with apple juice.  The alcohol content is normal around 4-5%.  It is made by small local growers.  Kerstin’s village had their first ever Most tasting competition; in previous years they had entered their Most at another village’s competition.  The top two were going onto the local heats and then the regional final.  So it was serious stuff.  They were sadly short of tasters, so Kerstin arranged for us to nobly assist!  We went along with our Irish, British and a borrowed German flag to respresent the international delegation.  Most of the Most was pretty foul, but a couple were palatable.  So was the copious nibbles of cheeses and sausages.  Good fun and a bit different.

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Two of the tasting criteria were colour and clarity … quite a variation.

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Not one I liked, obviously!

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J didn’t chuck many, and his tummy suffered a bit the next day!

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We must’ve liked this one!

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From left, 3rd (son and first time he’d entered), 2nd and 1st (father) and Organiser, who kindly spoke excellent English to explain about Most and the competition.

 

1161 – Kerstin’s 50th

Saturday 11th May 

Kerstin had hijacked the barn belonging to some of her neighbour’s allotment / country gardens for her party.  

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The morning was spent decorating the barn.

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From 4:00 people were arriving loaded with food and a lot of cakes.  I forced myself to try 4 varieties of cake … a BBQ followed later and then more cake!

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Kerstin’s Goddaughter, Yasmin … she was really good with CO2 and wanted them to go home with her.  On realising that we would miss them, she offered J and I living accommodation too.  When I said, we would be bored as we like our scenery to change, her Mother Judith quickly said we could change bedroom every week!

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Anton, another neighbour, attempting to record sparkling wine.

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Not Most, but locally made Schnapps from different fruits. I did try a few 🙂 only to be polite!

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My jumper was much admired by the ladies.  Thanks Mum.

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Kerstin speechifying.


1162 – Left overs

Sunday 12th May 

After the final tidying up and clean at the barn, it was left overs, a BBQ and more cake at Kerstin’s.  And an early night!!!

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Guess who has charge of Corrie.  We had to threaten to check the car when they left in case of stow aways.

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1151-1156: Bounding Through Bavaria

1151 – Into Bavaria

Wednesday 1st May 2019

Services and off to Bavaria.  Nice quiet overnighter in the Veldsteiner Forest … I took CO2 for a signed circular walk with some interesting rock formations.  Pitch black at night with great star gazing.

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The motorbike belonged to a chap who sat in the picnic hut and drank 2 litres of coke.

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1152-1153 – Going Large in Augsberg

Thursday 2nd & Friday 3rd May

Being the third largest city in Bavaria, Augsberg is, and feels like, a large city.  After the timber buildings and cute villages of the Harz, the buildings here are large and imposing.  Again a riverside walk with CO2 on arrival.  On Friday morning we finally ran between shower and then had a quiet morning in the van whilst the rain continued to descend.  Eventually, it eased and we wandered into town.  A chilly and indifferent Kaffee and Kuchen sitting on a pavement and we made it back to Jez just as the rain came down again.  Services and off to Landsberg am Lech.

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Augsberg.

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The Fuggeri – Europes earliest social housing development from 1516.  Now it is mostly retired people. but they only pay EUR1 per annum in rent, but they have to attend prayers 3 times daily.  And a fine if they are late home after the gate shuts!

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Grafitti in the underpass  Matala a hippy comnunity where we spent about 6 nights in Crete abut a year ago.  And where we left off of our Greek Odyssey to return to the UK for J’s medical treatment, so where we will re-start our exploration of Crete this Autumn.

1154 – Legging it Around Landsberg am Lech & Monastery Beer

Saturday 4th May

Kerstin arrived about 9.00 … we had just managed to get up in time!!!  Kaffee and Kuchen (what again?!) and a wander around the town. Then out through countryside and back passing some lakes, captive (wild) boar and piglets, deer and lakes.  Again more countryside infrastructure to encourage people into the Big Outdoors.   Before setting off, Kerstin and I had a damp wander around the new car festival in the car park and someone (not me) had a second cake of the day!  Pretty much all brands were represented and we had a go at choosing Kerstin’s new car.  Her 17 yr old Vector is due its MOT this month (hardly run in at 200,000+ km) and her normal mechanic is refusing to ‘get’ it through another MOT.

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Landsberg am Lech

Our overnight was not far away but very different.  A monastery Stellplatz.  A massive complex, with an independent brewery.  Kerstin investigated and came back with good news … the Bier Stube is open, and we can take our own food up there, so long as we buy drinks.  Time was little pressed, as the bar shut at 8.00 when the monks go off for prayers, but we had till 9.00 to drink up.  A beef one pot went into the pressure cooker and whilst it pressurised, I beat Kerstin at Cribb.  One for his Knob!

When we arrived, there were few free tables, but soon after 8.00, it pretty much emptied out … a surprise as there was plenty of drinking time left!  K and I were rather keen on the Dunkel.

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The chaps at the next table could work Kerstin’s phone camera, but struggled with a pukka camera!  Spot the pressure cooker!  These were the SMALL beers!

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As a regular, you can rent a place to keep your beer stein. 

1155 – Monastery to Starnberg Lakeside

Sunday 5th May

K and I walked CO2 around part of the extensive monastery farm land and past some of the Stages of the Cross.  We got a good view back at the huge Monastery complex and the sizeable brewery.  After some persistent questioning, Kerstin discovered that there are only 5 monks left here. All this commercialism (the restaurant and bars, including the outside terrace seat over 3,500 people and there are function rooms, the shops, farm) for just 5 monks!!  It keeps the premises in good order though.

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Weather  no change!

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Just part of the monastery complex.  A massive car park for all the visitors.  The Stellplatz was EUR14 per night without electricity, but the car park was free.

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The church was, as you would expect, immaculate and ornate.  The money generated has to be spent somewhere!

Another short drive to Starnberg Lake and our stop for two nights.  Kerstin had been concerned that her car would start after the flurries of snow and hail, but it got here.  She and I then drove it to Starnberg town for a wander and an ice cream.  A place that will definitely not be on our “must go back to’ list … in the cold weather it holds no lure.  Perhaps in the summer with all the water sports it may have a different feel.  

We ate what was left of a sausage casserole after we had to wash the sausages and re-cook it.  It had been nicely stewing in the slow cooker all day. Our hab door is knackered and needs banging shut … when doing so, the slow cooker slid off the shelf and …  we managed to get most of it up with Kerstin contorting her body to get all the finely chopped onion and celery pieces up from inside the handbrake casing and from under the driver’s chair!  Kerstin then left us to go to the comfort of her Munchen hotel room to get a good night’s sleep and shower for her lecture on Monday afternoon.  Perhaps she just didn’t want to wake up to the smell of onion and white wine sauce!

 

1156 – Cruising around Starnberg Lake

 Monday 6th May

On damp dismal days, we tend to have admin sessions or go for a long lunch.  Today, we walked the 1 km to pick up the Grosse Rundfahrt around the Starnberg Lake.  Coffee and cake on arrival, two glasses of wine and then a local dish … meat loaf (think frankfurter sausage texture) and potato salad to soak up the wine!  So although the lunch wasn’t a great culinary experience, the scenery varied a bit.  And it was very relaxing 4 hours.

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A comfortable modern boat.

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Typical village along the shore.

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You can just make out the snow atop them there hills in the South.


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Any guesses what this is?  

Kerstin explained that poor people were going through the rubbish bins to find bottles and cans that have a deposit on them.  People can now put their bottles in here for ease.  Sometimes they are on waste bins.


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1148-1148: Hitching and Witching

1148 – Wet in Weringerode

Sunday 18th April 2019

We had the option of two parkings in Weringerode, the first looked OK, but we drove onto look at the second … glad we did.  It was gated with services.  Only EUR5 and when I paid the tourist tax and asked how long we could stay, was told as long as we liked … just the one entry fee.  He did look a little concerned when my eyes lit up, that we may move in permanently.  Having paid our Tourist Tax, we were now entitled to free bus travel and discounts off some attractions.  We had been wondering about being able to park in a few days time at Shierke as the village is small and the parking limited.  The TIC chappie also gave me a sheet with the FREE shuttle bus times to the Shierke Walpurgis Nacht festival.  Result … we’d stay put for 3 nights.  Just as well we got there when we did as, 2 days later, we counted over 20 vans in the overflow (and pay at the metre every day) car park outside our barrier.

With the wet stuff coming starting to come down, we poured wet stuff down our necks.  When the waiter offered us a selection of wines, we raised our arms in defeat … we knew some names but not the flavours.  A chatty chap next to us told the waiter to bring a Dornfelder and promised to drink it for us if we didn’t like it!  Liked it so much, we had two!  And we’ve been experimenting with the same grape at different prices from the supermarket since.

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Weringerode is a really pretty town.  It has over 1000 half timbered houses, a steam train and castle.  Oh and this rather special town hall.

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This is as close as we got to the train and up the Brocken mountain.  We would have gone up  until we discovered that, not only EUR45 per person, but 60% of that for each dog.  In the words of my daughter  Not happening, Mummy.

1149 – Hitching

Monday 29th April

Wet, wet wet.  And cold.  And having said I needed an admin day, this should have been my opportunity!  However, the rot had set in with the wine in Weringerode square … it turned into a late night.  Don’t think I was up until abut 11.00!  And not a lot got done.

We left the dogs about 6.00 p.m. (fortuitous) and caught the free bus to Schierke.  It was the first night of the festival and there were Celtic music bands playing.  Had a glass, something to eat and enjoyed the music.  Got back to the bus stop …

OOPS No.1: The busses stopped at 19.30.  Shuttle bus then … 

OOPS No.2: The shuttle only ran on the main festival night – tomorrow!  Taxi then … I counted our cash …

OOPS No.3: Asked in a restaurant … no, taxis from here!

All my fault and J uttered not one word of blame … her really is one tolerant man.  So here we are stranded in a small village, 19km from the motorhome and our two dogs!!!   If it hadn’t been for the dogs, we’d have just checked into one of the small hotels, assuming they had space.  Toothbrush-less.  Nothing for it, but to walk.  I was seriously concerned about J, as the treatment has really affected his fitness levels, but he is a game one!  The quickest route was several KM through the dark woods but witches are about, so we elected the road and tried hitching.  The first 5 cars passed, obviously deciding we looked very dodgy!  But the 6th, a solo lady, took pity on us.  And despite her near vapour fuel tank, drove us well past her turning and to near our motorhome.  So lucky.  And such a lovely lady.  Sure we’d not have got a lift if we’d had the dogs … it would have had to be a hotel costing us more than our daily budget!  This is the first time either of us has hitched in over 30 years … Maddy is so concerned that we are regressing to our teens and totally irresponsible!

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All the stalls were done in Medieval style.  Addition of a warm coat over her costume to keep warm.  Warm wine seemed in order  you chose your fruit and she warmed it in the kettle!  Neither of us liked mine … too fruity!

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Brilliant German Irish folk rock band.  We recognised most of the songs.  Shame more people hadn’t turned out, but it was soooo cold.

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Pea soup  warming.   As well as 2 thermal vests and leggings.

1150 – Witching

Tuesday 30th April

We followed the walking trail around the town in the morning and dined out in a fast food style cafe for well under EUR20 for two full main meals and soft drinks.  

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Weringeroode locals!  Getting into the mood for Walpurgis Nacht.

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We caught the shuttle train to the castle at the top of the hill, where our walk started.

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Along the old town wall  they were smaller then.

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Half a tower … exposed at the back.


A nanny nap for both us us and off we set again for Schierke and the festival … with CO2 this time.  J had double checked the shuttle bus timetable!!!  As we arrived people were lining the road … not for us, but the parade.  Bonus, hadn’t known about that.  All the local clubs from local distillery to Ice Hockey (a lot of beer on their float!) paraded past.  Then a cracking band and some wine.  We all got home safely on the shuttle bus :).

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The costumes were generally amazing … a film set.

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A coven of witches dancing next to us  they must have been some of the Line Dancers Group!


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Almost worth getting a cat to be able to carry / wear one of these!