317- 318: The Best Museum Ever

317 – Wednesday 2nd March 2016:  Sunny but Jobs

Terracina free overnight parking was quiet – about 7 vans dispersed in a large car park at the port/marina. Our next door neighbour – a Serbian ‘traveller’, seemed very interested in our van – we thought he was about to invite himself in….  We both ran in the morning along the very pleasant seaside route.   Then suitably brekkied, the good ship Chard allowed Bradge to jointly navigate towards Latina town – destination – a museum much recommended by TripAdvisor – but not featured in any of our guide books.  Arrived, services replenished and parked alone in a nicely shaded pitch – no cost for overnighting.  K mustered the troops (me!) – and we set to with gusto (who is this Gusto ? He seems to feature in ‘jobs’ days…).  Polishing, kitchen and bathroom cleaning (K) with me doing outsides, some maintenance bits – and hoovering (hovering?).  Suitably righteous-feeling, we treated ourselves to a glass of Marsala….. K had been to Lidl en route – litre of Marsala – Euro3.49 ! It seemingly beckoned to her from the supermarket shelf – and she couldn’t have a lone bottle on our bar….  so purchased 3!  Evening (to the sound of peacocks and a loud donkey !) – we watched “Bullitt” – Steve McQueen – from 1968…  


318 – Thursday 3rd March 2016:  

Someone had lots of zzzzs overnight – I did a 4k run in rather cold and windy weather – balmy compared to a UK March.

To the museum – nice price reduction for moi as a senior – and then a real treat! We knew TripAdvisor had spoken well of the place but we are wowed!  It would take a long time to describe all the areas (and the reader might fall asleep with my verbal wanderings) – but I will try to give the headlines. It was arranged in 14 very large sheds or hangars including the cafe divided into agriculture/local life – and WW2.  Note to the reader – the area is called the Pontine Plains – flooded over centuries and various attempts were made over hundreds of years to drain/convert it to useful land. Malaria was a big problem – mosquitoes liked the conditions. Mussolini solved the problem with his engineers (large hydraulic schemes, etc) – and even built new towns to house workers who were ‘encouraged’ to migrate from northern Italy.

The first shed contained toys from the past – I drooled over the aircraft, vehicles, models of earthmoving equipment – I noted 3 Caterpillar models that I have at home in my mini collection (partly in need of repair) – a fork lift, grader and roller/scarifier (Edward will know)… Who remembers having a Donkey Kong ? I was champion of my family in the 70s…  A scale model of the Titanic, Graf Spee, massed ranks of soldiers….  Next sheds, life in the area, poverty, the various attempts at reclamation – division into 20 hectare farms…  After a light lunch at the cafe, we realised we could run out of time – closing time at 6:00 pm…. decision made to move on to the WW2 section.  I have never seen such a collection of genuine military equipment in pristine condition, gleaming with anti corrosion paint.  It started with the deportation of ’undesirables’ into camps in Italy although initially, they were spared the atrocities of Nazi camps.  Over the next few hours, we learned of the battles in North Africa, Egypt, Sicily Allied landings – and the circumstances whereby Italy changed sides in 1943 – having deposed Mussolini, assured Germany of their continuing support – and then secretly signing an armistice with the Allies and declaring war with Germany – all in one month. This led to Italians fighting Italians as some joined the Germans and others fought with the Allies.  The battle for Monte Cassino we knew about having been there in the past week – wanton bombing (by the Allies) and destruction of the hilltop monastery – for no gain on either side. The Polish troops (previous post) emerged with great honour. 

This museum deserves much more publicity and we strongly recommend it to anyone interested in the history of an important area – and the special perspective of Italian involvement in WW2.  A real find!  We ran out of time and didn’t visit all the sheds – tomorrow…?




A real Caterpillar tractor – Cat or Kat envy?


One section was a station platform with animal carriages into which were herded the “undesirables”.  An explanations of the coloured triangles … political prisoner, gay etc.


This tank featured in ‘An English Patient’.


Every room in each of the sheds housed ‘real ‘scenes with sound effects.



The scene of the assault on Montecassio Abbey.


The Abbey taken, but by now as rubble.

314 -316: Romans, Monasteries and Rain

 314 – Sunday 28th February 2016: Montecassino Abbey and WWII

What a hill!  Best part of a km down only to run back up again!  Water on the pitch so a little more hand washing.  We drove the Z bends up to the Abbey and paid the pricey sum of EUR8 to park.  The attendant was quick to point out that we were allowed to stay over night, but we were rather attached to our parking towards the bottom of the hill … also the weather forecast threaten rain and winds so the top of a mountain is not thus most desirable.

The Abbey itself is HUGE.  Really IMMENSE.  It is another pilgrimage site as it is the mother Church of the Benedictine Order.  St Benedict founded it in 529 and here wrote the ‘Rule’; these are the principles of prayer, study and labour for the West European monastic code.  The hand written parchment is on display in the Museum.  The Monastery became a centre learning and one of the richest by the 11th century.  The opulence and wealth was extremely evident.  The Museum was the highlight for us both.

During WWII the Monastery was supposed to be exempt from use by either side.  However, we saw film footage of the German forces assisting the Monks in packing up their treasures … not sure if some made their way to Berlin?  The Allies struggled to move North and eventually bombed the Monastery, which the Germans held.  Well, that’s one version.  Another is that the Germans were below the Monastery and the Allies thought  they were in it, so started the bombing.  The fatalities for the 4 major battles were staggering.  More than 55,000 soldiers on both sides, although most were Allied Forces, and 10,000 civilians.  There are several military cemeteries around the town, we spotted the English and German from up the mountain.  The Polish cemetery was a short walk from the Monastery.  More than 1000 Polish were buried here when is was built very soon after the war.  There was an excellent multi-lingual information centre at the entrance.  The gravestones gave the usual information of name, DOB and Date of Death, but also which prison of war camp in Poland or Russia they had been interned in, until Russia changed sides and released them.  Many of the survivors never made it back home as Poland became part of the USSR.  


The Abbey has had to be rebuilt 4 times – no wonder the word Peace was everywhere.


I don’t know if it was due to the relative recentness of the WWII rebuild or the sense of wealth, but it really had the feel of a 5* Hotel complex.  And amazing views of the hills.



The Museum was very worth the EUR5 entry. This travel scripture was no bigger that a thumbnail – no wonder it came with its own magnifying case.  


As well as a superb display of old literature, there were finely stitched garments and intricate ivory and wooden boxes etc.


The cathedral left K cold … too much 1800’s style bright marble.  And I have a problem with such ostentation with vows of poverty etc.


The crypt had some of the original stone work.


Looking back at the Monastery from the Polish War Memorial.  A very still and moving place.



There is actually quite a lot of snow on the distant peaks.


Selfie … not done one for a while.

Supper was haute cuisine … bangers, mash and beans … the baked beans being a parting gift from Frances when they left Naples.  Yum yum ….


315 – Friday 29th February 2016: Leaping Gaeta 

A leap year.  I asked J to marry me … actually if he would have, had we not already been married.  He assured me that despite being with me 24/7 for 315 days, he would have said yes!!!  A politic man!

Heavy rain this morning so we refrained from tackling the hill with a morning run.  A short drive down to the coast and along to Gaeta.  The town sits on a rocky headland, which splits the old town from the new.  We set off for a wander, which turned into a 3 hour walk.  Along the front passing the Duomo’s bell tower and up through the old town onto Monte Orlando.  We followed the Mountain Park’s signs for the Mausoleum of ???, a 2nd century Roman, which was right at the top.  Great views of both sides of the headland.   Down towards the beach and then through the town.  The mountain was mostly mixed woodland, a lot of Holm Oak and it was really lovely to hear so much bird song. 


The old town.


Looking back at the peaks inland.




Romanesque bell tower of the Duomo, with coloured tiles.  The cathedral looked to have been rebuilt and we did not go in.

 316 – Tuesday 1st March 2016:  Terracina

Having rested from running yesterday, we both did a 6km run along the sandy front … J always puts in a little more as he doubles back to check on me or the route, and he is a lot faster.  Yet when we compared calories burned, I was up on him by about 90 … I reckon it is because I am running longer, being much slower!  Bonus!

Less than an hour later we arrived at Terracina – a popular seaside resort … in the summer!!!  The whole of this coast line offers holiday village after camping village, after holiday bungalows … non stop.  We asked ourselves, again, where do all the summer visitors come from given so much of Italy’s coast is resort after resort.  

An Italian motorhomer, we met near Capua, whom we spoke to in pigeon English / Italian and then in French had been headed this way last weekend.  He told us that there were usually 100 or so Italian vans there most weekends.  Today we are one of 8.  And both J and I having failed to master the car parking ticket machine, as it kept spewing our Euros back out at us, we asked a German couple (yes, my pigeon German came into play) about how to pay … only to be formed that weekdays it is free!  Yippee – EUR12 back into our pockets.  We celebrated with coffee and cake!


Terracina is overshadowed by the 1BC Temple of Jove Anxur … we opted not to walk up!


Lions guarding the entrance to the old town … we watched all the small cars do a 3 point turn here and comtemplated Chardonnay up here … NOT! 


 We’ve seen countless stray cats in the last few days … on Gaeta’s Monte Orlando we must have seen at least 20.  Today the tabby was seeing off the black … food on the step!


More Roman remains … every Italian town has them


The WWII bombings did some good work here … a Roman arch was left standing as the buildings covering it collapsed …. building techniques gone forwards then!   Here you can see part of the Aprian Way that was uncovered.  We wondered how all the carts passed each other as it is so narrow.


On the left is tower of a fortification and in the middle is the Duomo which was built on the site of a Roman Temple … the steps up are original.  A funeral taking place, so we went for coffee as the rain started coming down heavily again.


And it did not stop coming down … a pukka downpour, so we headed straight back to Chardonnay for a change of clothes and the heating.  I always receive a Christmas stocking from the Aged P’s, which is particularly fascinating as it reflects their year’s world travels …. the Vin Chaud hit the spot.

Days 71 – 73: Artic Circle Revisitied

71 – Sunday: Narvik and WW2 Museum

We arrived at the Narvik motorhome parking just as most were leaving.  Exercised – we seem to regularly get up and drive to somewhere we can exercise off the E6 main road.  Breakfasted and visited the WW2 museum.  It covered the German attack, British and Allies counter attack, withdraw of Allies troops as needed on other fronts, 5 years of German occupation, resistance work and a harrowing section on the mass slaughter and abuse of political prisoners who were deemed lower than captured soldiers.  James was tour guide reading from the comprehensive English language booklet.  An old fashioned, but very interesting museum.  In a couple of years they will rehouse and probably make all interactive … we liked it’s quirkiness and low price!  There was a cable car to the top of the mountain, but it seemed pretty pointless as we could not even see the top due to the cloud!

Drove on through snow capped dark rock mountains and parked up with a couple of German motorhomes over looking the most amazing lake – the mists even lifted in the morning so we could see it!

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72 – Monday: Tyres and Arctic Circle

Night time sojourn – off-main road car park – with a couple of vans and a tent from Poland – which had people inside – who went fishing…..  We had discovered a slow puncture in a rear wheel which J tried to blow air into and fainted!  Back to the truth – J cannot muster 4.5 Bar or 65  psi – only after a really hot curry!  Drove to Fauske and what did K see?  A Michelin sign over a tyre fitters.  A quick U Turn and 2.5 hours later we had a the slow puncture repaired and a can of ‘stuff’ to that seals such slow punctures.  Fully inflated we set forth.

We climbed and climbed …. the mountains got rockier and the adjacent river was essentially waterfall after rapids along its length.  At the top it opened up and we are at the Arctic Circle – for the second time, but this time on the way down and heading towards warmer weather!  We stopped for a couple of pix … appropriately there was a lot os snow around.  Hard to see but we are actually in front of the Arctic Circle sign!  And, of course, this Arctic Circle centre would not be complete without a miniature Nordkapp globe!  We have spent 14 days in the Arctic Circle.  On the way down, the countryside started to open out and this river was calmer and got gradually wider.

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We stopped in Mo i Rana just to replace K’s running shoes at a massive (shop called XXL) sports shop:  a bit like IKEA … you had to follow the grey path through all the fishing, cycling, gun etc sections before reaching the tills.

We stayed in a free car park overnight just off the E6 main road – small car park – with ultimately 9 motorhomes and one motorbike !  Cosy….


73 -Tuesday:  Trondheim

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Up at dawn again (9:00 am!) and journeyed south to Grane village where 23 local men were shot by German troops for being members of the Resistance in 1942.  K norked – lighting up the whole of Norway in her new psychedelic running shoes – see photo below but watch with sunglasses only !  J ran – in his not so new and understated blue shoes, feeling shoe envy…   Then brekkie and SatNav set for Trondheim via a wc emptying and water loading facility – which ultimately proved as difficult to find as Alex Ferguson’s sense of humour when asked why teams visiting Old Trafford were never awarded penalties !  But, we prevailed…

The approach to Trondheim is impressive and looked to indicate a city of more than it’s 180,000 people. Then, we encountered the toll roads!  I must find someone to complain to – perhaps my successor as MD of a major UK road toll charging company!  Sally SatNav brought us to the only free motorhome overnight car park – full to the gunnels – we have parked in the adjacent pay park – all of £2.10 – and see what tomorrow brings…  It’s definitely getting warmer as we travel south – we have dispensed with the extra wooly blanket over the duvet at night – what night – oh for some stars !  I hear that UK is having a heat wave… 25 Centigrade?