We are now at home for a little more than 2 months and Christmas is just around the corner. The return home, to our home, was of course with mixed feelings. On the journey we rented so many different dwellings that we were looking forward to our four walls, especially the bathroom (short distance between the bathroom and bedroom and the floor heating). On the other hand, we were sad that the adventures, the surprises, the last second adjustments, new experiences , were over.
After a week we had brushed, cleaned, repaired and put away all of our clutter. The wooden boxes from the car have been removed and the wood is now used as shelves in the basement (there is enough material to put away). We had a lot of space in the car, so we could pack a cool box and 2 folding bicycles next to 18 farmers boxes. Now you are wondering if we needed all of this material. Certainly NOT! As adults, we have certain prior knowledge when we pack for a short trip, but the children still have little experience. And yet, a trip for 11-12 months needs other preparations and if the material is already around the home, it should be packed, because buying things twice on the trip, makes things expensier. We tried to set priorities before the trip, but that didn't go down so well with the girls. Some stuffed animals and other (in my opinion unnecessary) things from their room had to be packed for the trip. After 11 months on the road, we all have learned that we can actually get by with very little and that material is not that valuable, but our time together is. We have collected everything in the living room that was NEVER touched on the trip.
In Conclusion, we could leave 25% at home. Certain things were used frequently, others were only used for a short time. In the end, Materials that were only used for 1-3 weeks that year should be left at home. For us, it would be the camping gear. If you write down everything that is needed for camping (4 People), you may be better of for those couple weeks to rent. Nowadays you can rent so-called mobile homes on all campsites and these are excellently furnished. So we could be traveling with a smaller car, which will turn out to be cheaper.
On the subject of cheaper, money, budget etc. you have to wait for the next blog entry😊.
July 25th, it is 2 p.m. and we cross the border without stopping. Finally, after a three-hour drive, we arrive at our Ibis hotel in Saint-Dizier, France. We just say goodnight to our pillows and fall asleep quickly.
July 26th, after about 6 hours in our car, we arrive in Draveil, a suburb city of Paris. Here we spend the next 3 nights in a B&B with a French / Portuguese family. The garden, with its play kitchen, tree house and slide, is suddenly occupied by our children. We settle into our room and after awhile, we talk with the adults about our adventurous journey. For dinner we eat all our leftovers.
July 27th. Today we spend the first day in Paris (that's why we came). Since we don't have a bus / metro / train ticket yet, we walk to the next train station (about 30 minutes). There is only one ticket machine, no salesperson nor a counter or any help in a person. It takes a few minutes until we got our tickets, then first we must tap the screen a several times to find out which services are offered and are best priced. Now the journey starts: Paris centre here we come! We sit on the train for about 10 minutes until we get off at the Austerlitz train station and manoeuvre into the metro.
First, we go to the famous Sacré-Coeur and Montmartre. Then, we take the metro to the Arc de Triomphe, walk on the Champs d’Elysées, then Place de la Concorde. We walk through the Tuileries Garden to the Louvre and the Pont Neuf. In the Latin Quarter C. gets something to eat, because the picnic wasn't enough 😊. After a short walk through the area, we take the bus to “Bibliothèque François – Mitterrand” and then the train back to the B&B.
July 28th. The discovery of Paris continues. However, it starts a bit unusual, the first stop is a toy store: C. still has some money and would like to buy a “Schleich®” animal. In the same area, we visit the Jardin du Luxembourg. We continue to the direction of Notre-Dame de Paris and Les Halles (we wanted to see them because Pablo's mother lived in Paris in the 1960s and designed a part of the plans for this large building). With the next bus, we drive to the Place de la Bastille (a little nap for Pablo). Hoop on to the bus, which drives along the Seine, we finally arrive to the Eiffel Tower. We're too tired to wait until sunset to climb up, so we get to the entrance at 6pm. The view is extraordinary, it is a ocean of houses. We enjoy the atmosphere and the warm evening on top and then make our way back by bus and train. At 8:42 p.m. we treat ourselves to a kebab at the Orly train station, which we take with us and eat in the B&B (arrival 9:30 p.m.).
July 29th, 10:31 am, our horse (with 120 horsepower) is packed, and we drive on. At 12:00 p.m. we park our car in the street in front of the Palace of Versailles. Really impressive, those avenues and huge houses with their gardens with the ponds, which could pass as lakes elsewhere. After 2 hours of admiring this palace we go back to the car, then we still have 3-4 hours to drive.
17:49 we arrive at Freschines Castle. We will spend the next 2-3 weeks here as a workaway.
July 30th - August 7th. Pablo's task is to distribute the Wi-Fi throughout the castle and in the annex houses, so that all guests can access the Internet. I'm currently helping in the laundry. Maria (from Venezuela) needs my help, she takes care of the rooms and has no time to wash and iron 😊. The children can finish their schoolwork. T. has all her schoolbooks finished, so she helps me iron the pillows cases.
On August 4th, after an eternity, I finally go to the hairdresser, I also get Pablo an appointment for tomorrow. His beard is certainly too long now.
August 8th. Today we visit Orléans, a pretty town on the Loire.
August 9th. After sleeping in and having breakfast, we go to Chambord. A large castle nicely situated at the river Cosson. On the way home we drive through Blois and discover a small old town.
August 10th-16th. We help where we can (laundry, cleaning rooms, serving dinner, cooking for the team and refurnish furniture). The B&B is well booked, it is high season, no wonder! Every now and then after work we just go cycling and discover the area.
August 17th. Yesterday we packed everything, and today we continue towards the Atlantic. We'll be spending the next week at a campsite in Hourtin. The children are very happy, because it was their wish to camp and the weather looks good 😊. On the way, we stop in Chenonceaux (Pablo was here with his parents about 30 years ago). At 5:52 p.m. we stop at the campsite reception. At 6:30 p.m. the tent is up, and we are ready. The pizza is fetched from the snack bar on campsite, the today I don't cook anymore😉. At 8 p.m. T. & C. go climbing, a camp activity.
August 18th. After a reasonably good night, we visit the little sister of the Statue of Liberty in New York, and a bunker system used by the Germans from WWII. On the beach, we go for a walk and bath our feet (the Atlantic is cold). In the afternoon we cool off in the swimming pool. T. & C. are asked by a young lady (her name is Emma, and she is 19) if they would take part in the water polo game! The 3rd place is the proud result!
August 19th. This morning we're trying to cool off at Hourtin Lake. The water is cool and somehow, we don't find beaches so great anymore or it's just that we are so spoiled from Crete that they just can't keep up. Luckily Emma comes by and takes the girls to a water park this afternoon. After lunch has been devoured, T. & C. go with their bikes and Emma to the Splash Park and have fun on inflated plastic castles on the lake. We enjoy the afternoon reading.
August 21st. There is nothing on the agenda, so we enjoy the hot day at the campsite and by the pool. In the morning, C., T. And I try to catapult our arrows onto the target in an archery course. It's fun and at the end, I'll be able to hit the middle 😊.
The children spend the afternoon with Pablo at the pool and they take part in a water Olympics. Pablo shows everyone how to swim fast, he beats everyone, great! At the end of the day, they win 2nd place (a bottle of rosé and a woodcut board as a prize).
On August 22nd, we visit the “Plage de Hourtin”. Unfortunately, it is 8 kilometers from the campsite, if we had 4 bikes, we could even get there in an environmentally friendly way. Unfortunately, we only have 2 folding bikes, so we take the car. The beach and its famous dunes are heavenly. The children go swimming in the high waves, the water is, as always in the Atlantic, rather cold. At 9 p.m. we are still not tired and we turnup into great table football players, that was fun.
August 23rd, Sunday, and it's raining a little. Luckily, we booked one more night to dry pack our tent 😊. We spend the day reading, playing, and cycling.
August 24th. Getting up in the sunshine, wonderful! The tent will be dismantled today, and the journey will continue to the next campsite in the south of France. Our things are packed dry and clean and we have a good 5 hours' drive ahead of us. Tonight, we want to check in at the “Montpellier - Plage” campsite. At 5:30 p.m. we enter the tourist resort “Palavas les Flots”. It feels like we've landed in Florida.
At 17:53 we park at the assigned space. The tent bag on the ground next to the car but somehow, we don't like the space. I propose Pablo to go for a walk at the campsite, to clear his head from the drive. On our walk, we find much nicer places that are not fully shaded, but much better located and above all quieter. Upon request at the reception, we change our camping spot. Everyone is happy to live in place O72. At 6:40 p.m. we start setting up the tent and are finished 20 minutes later (we are slowly getting faster). At 8 p.m. we eat, food we have ordered (hamburgers, mussels, kebabs).
August 25th. The day starts well. The night was reasonably quiet. Today, we're going to the village, the girls want to register for a surf course. We are lucky, there are still places available for today and the next 2 days too, great! 3 days of surfing for 2 hours, yes! We wanted to keep our promise that the children could learn to surf.
August 26th. Surf, swimming, drink coffee, read in the hammock and soak up the sun.
August 27th. Unfortunately, there is no wind today, so no surfing, but stand-up paddling. Otherwise we spend the whole day with “Sun, fun and nothing to do” at 32 ° C, that feels good.
August 28th. The pool facilities in France can only be visited with appropriate swimwear, means no swimming shorts nor shirts. This will be difficult as the children only have swimming shorts and shirts. Around noon, we walk to the village and search one shop after the other to find a bathing dress or bikini bottom.
August 29th. This week here in Montpellier – Plage went by quickly. It rained last night. While the tent dries in the wind and sun, we go to the camping restaurant for breakfast. At 12 p.m. we slowly leave the campsite. Our next destination is only an hour's drive away. Why only such a small distance? We're not ready to leave the sun and sea yet. At 2 p.m. we arrive at “Les Saintes Maries de la Mer”. Groceries at Spar, a short tour of the village, lunch by the sea and at 3:30 p.m. check-in at the campsite. We move into our rented tent and walk through the camping area.
August 30th. Sunday! I walk along the sea in the morning while the laundry spirals around in the machine and can be taken out clean after 34 minutes. After the hot midday sun, we go swimming at the pool.
August 31st. We visit Saintes Maries, have an ice cream, and buy some souvenirs.
September 1st. Ah! We are very happy because we 3 (T., C. and I) are going on a 3-hour horse walk. Riding in the Camargue is a dream. The 3 hours are wonderful, only that I (the only one) feel muscle pain in my butt and inner thighs 😉.
September 2nd. Morning stroll and swim in the Mediterranean Sea. The afternoon we spend at the pool, as the water hear is 26 ° C 😊.
September 3rd, we stay at the campsite and by the pool all day long.
September 4th. Collect mussels, swim by the pool and an evening dinner at the restaurant tops the day. I'm freezing on the terrace; I forgot my sweater.
September 5th, clean, tidy up, pack and the journey continues. Today we will drive to our friends in Essert-Romand in der Haute - Savoie, it is our last stop before we will come back home. It's a strange feeling. After such a long journey, you are looking forward to an apartment with heating (especially the floor heating in the bathroom), hot water and the toilet a few steps away from the bedroom. The other eye mourns at the end of the journey. So many cool, adventurous, unusual, but also unsafe moments should simply be over now. We look forward seeing our friends after a year and exchanging thoughts.
Today the journey takes a good 5.5 hours again. On the way north, we visit a sight, namely the “Pont du Gard”. At 6:23 p.m. we park our car in a very well-known area. The mountains just belong to us. Our friends are still out, driving around in Switzerland, so we go to the apartment, which is always open, and I start preparing dinner. The reunion is cheerful, and the evening lingers with conversation and wine.
September 6th. We can spend the night in a small apartment across from our friends. They maintain the large house for the English owners, but they can use the pool and sauna. After a long time only with the sea around and short walks, we go on a hike and stop in an alpine cottage, eat good food and buy excellent cheese.
September 7th & 8th. Antoine and Anne have school, so we stay in the village. I write, read, the children play billiards and Pablo reads and sorts photos. I go to the sauna on two afternoons, it feels good.
September 9th. The day has come, and we are going home. We clean the apartment while the kids play in the pool again. One last lunch together before we leave at 1:30 p.m. At 4:50 p.m. we arrive at our house in Switzerland. We can hardly believe it: we are home.
We have 327 days, 17,743 km, a car service, 2 new tires, gastrointestinal flu (Pablo), cold (children) and countless experiences behind us.
Many thanks to the readers and the comments that have accompanied us over the last 11 months.
July 21st. 7:30 a.m. and the construction workers start to make noise above our room. We do not need anything for breakfast, Pablo receives a small coffee as an apology for the noise when he checks out. In 5 minutes, we will be at the border. As always, there are not many cars today. It is guarded, but the passports are of no interest to the border, he prefers to investigate the trunk to make sure that we only have camping gear with us. As an info: We could load 1200 kg. Suppose that these 1.2 tons were not camping material .... we could be rich .... but this wealth would also have big consequences, which I do not want to discuss further. 😉
While driving, I get a message on Facebook. A former school colleague who attended the French course with us in Montreal 22 years ago is this afternoon at Seewalchen at the lake beach. This is not far where we transit and so we decide to spend lunch and the afternoon with her at the lake. We arrive at the parking lot and it is full. She calls and we go to see her mother and daughter at the club in Weyregg at Attersee. There, we picnic and enjoy a cooling off. At the end of the afternoon, after many conversations and memories of the 1998 time in Montreal, we say goodbye and we continue to Passau, where we have booked our hotel. The border with Germany had to be crossed at 30km / h on the highway, but nobody was checking.
We arrive at the hotel at 7 p.m. We nest in. However, Pablo thinks the evening is still so beautiful and so we get on the bus to visit Passau. We buy a real German meal: Turkish doner kebab. We circle the small, beautiful city along the rivers once and then take the bus back to the hotel, where we go to sleep at 11 p.m.
July 22nd. Breakfast is served on the way. Today we drive to our next overnight stay, which is in Bisingen. We arrive at 4 p.m. and are tired. We are happy to stay here 3 nights. Relaxing and resting is the order of the day.
July 23rd. Today we are visiting Tuttlingen, why? In the last few years, we have received visits from a very lovable, young man several times via couchsurfing. Daniel came to Biel mostly on business and today we are visiting him and his wife once in Tuttlingen. Dinner and a city tour are on the list of the day. Before that, we circle around Tuttlingen downtown for ourselves, also to get hold of souvenirs. The dinner tastes good, and before the dessert is served, they show us the local mountain and a castle ruin, where we get a nice overview of Tuttlingen. After dessert, we leave at 11 p.m., because we need another hour to get to the apartment.
July 24th resting!
July 25th. We will pack everything together, because today we are off to France. This morning we visit a well-preserved Roman villa (yes children, they were even here a long time ago). Just before the French border, we stop again in Germany to “enjoy” another typical German specialty: Currywurst.
Sometime in the early afternoon we cross the border smoothly (no border guards or barriers).
July 12th, today we are on our 4 wheels for 5 hours. The next border is waiting for us. After so many border crossings we should be used to it, but every time we get nervous again, only because of the new regulations after the Covid pandemic. As of today, we are back in the Schengen area. This is important for us as Swiss citizen because our country is not in the European Union, but many EU countries are also in the Schengen agreement, so everything makes it easier to cross. At the border we wait just a few minutes again and the crossing goes smoothly. We are literally driving away from the 2nd wave of Covid and using the open borders.
July 13th to 16th. We begin to work/help on Angi’s (an Austrian) farm. Pablo’s work is to sorts recyclables and arrange the barn, not exactly challenging. I attack the garden that is about to overgrow of unwanted plants, so I clear it of those weeds. There are so many that I cannot see what has been planted (tomatoes, radishes, sunflowers, cabbage, etc.). T. comes and helps me out from time to time. Time goes by quickly and the heat gets stronger in the afternoon.
Angi has a 7-year-old daughter and she has a lot of toys. C. is busy all-day building farms with all kinds of housing and animals. From time to time she goes swimming in the large pool.
On July 17th we will go to a Hungarian heritage park with Viki’s Hungarian grandmother, where we learn something about the Hungarian history.
July 18th. The children walk the 3 dogs every day for a good hour. Some mornings they clean the rabbit hutch and feed them and their babies.
July 20th, our last day here in Csólyospálos. The day is sunny, so we can pack the tent dry. We leave at 1 p.m. On the way to the next accommodation we briefly visit the city of Kecskemét. At 5 p.m. we check into the Autohofhotel Hegyeshalom on the border to Austria (cheaper than staying in Austria 😊). Therefore, we treat ourselves to a dinner in the restaurant with a Hungarian goulash. Good night!
July 2nd, late afternoon, we are crossing the border into Romania. It has about 5 cars in line. Immediately after the border we stop to buy a Ronvinieta (we do not want to get another fine like in Bulgaria). At 6pm, we check in with a couchsurfer in Constanta. We arrive around 5 p.m. as we said, but unfortunately, he is not yet back from work. So, we explore the area and withdraw some cash (RON). An hour later we move into our room and meet Edouard. I cook a risotto for everyone.
July 3rd. Today Edouard takes us to his workplace somewhere or nowhere. He works as a winegrower and he wants to show us the winery. The building is still under construction but 80ha of wine plants are producing very fine wine. The construction site is for Pablo very interesting. The construction site exists for more than 5 years. The owner probably must return the EU grant because the site was not completed in time. After visiting the construction site, we crossed the winery and examined the vines. The heavy rains washed away almost all the earth and therefore the plants suffer (we were told). We are invited to take lunch with the whole team. After a good meal and a outstanding wine, we drive back to Constanta (one way approx. 80 km) and go to the beach (5 minutes from the apartment). On the beach we meet another couchsurfer and her son (12 years old). We have great fun, the children play and bath, we adults have good conversations.
July 4th. Today we explore Constanta with the tourist bus (a red double decker like in London). First, we drive to the end point of the bus ride which is in Mamaia, and than come back to the city centre. There, we go to an address, which was mentioned in a letter to Pablo’s grand dad in 1948. We find the address, take a picture and than walk around till is lunch time. There is a McDonald beside our next visit place. At 2 p.m. we buy the ticket to the dolphinarium. First, we visit the small zoo and at 3 p.m. the dolphin show begins. C. is thrilled to see Dauphins in reality. With the double-decker bus it goes back to the apartment and then for a swim, it is 32 ° C. In the evening we go to a typical Romanian restaurant with our host. For dessert we buy at a takeaway some chocolate and berries filled crêpe.
July 5th. Today, we drive 401 km to Bran, our next stop in the region of Transelvania. Since we watched all 3 films “Hotel Transelvania” on our Europe tour, we had to show the children the Dracula Castle. On the way, we stop at a castle in Sinaia. Very impressive from the outside. T. & C. get a corncob for lunch (this is sold here on every corner, like the hot dogs in New York 😊).
Late afternoon, we check into our pension in Bran. Our family room is on the top floor, and for the kids there are swings and a trampoline in the garden.
July 6th. Shopping in a decathlon. Yes, I know, but new shoes and swimsuits are also needed while traveling. After the shopping tour we drive to the centre of Brasov. Beautiful downtown, clean and inviting. A coffee and toilet stop is required and later we eat lunch at a small snack bar (spicy pizza, sandwiches and a Kürtőskalács). In the afternoon we head out to see the famous (Dracula) Bran Castle from inside and the outside.
On July 7th we continue our trip to Turda. The Turda salt mines were recommended to us by the first couch surfing family in Bulgaria. So why not stop there as well? We found our accommodation on couchsurfing. Siggi welcomes us with a dinner prepared and spoils us with our own room and attached private bathroom, the children can sleep in the mezzanine.
July 8th. The day was already programmed for us by Siggi, so we have to postpone our visit to the salt mine until tomorrow and add another night at Siggi’s place. For today we have a guide. First, he leads us to the Cheile Turzii (a gorge). As we hike through the gorge and back above, Siggi is waiting for us at the restaurant with his book. Our feet are sluggish now, because we haven't walked that much in a long time. For lunch we drive to a Hungarian restaurant which is very well known in this area. The food is delicious.
The evening is as well organized for us. Siggi knows a family (she is German, he is Romanian with Hungarian roots) and they have 3 children in the same age as T. & C. We are invited to dine with them. They cook Langosh (flatbread fried in oil over the fire) for us. The children get along well, T. exchanges WhatsApp number with Emilia (12y.), C. exchanges WhatsApp number with Bea (school friend of Emilia). The evening ends at midnight.
July 9th. This morning we visit the salt mine. We park the car in front of the family’s house, and we walk to the mine. In front of the entrance I forgot C.’s and my mask, so we had to buy 2 new ones (these are now made of fabric). Masks are mandatory inside buildings and public transportation. The mine is impressive, the giant size unimaginable. Inside, it even has a ferry wheel and a lake where you can ride a rowboat. We had a blast.
For lunch we meet again with the family and we have a barbecue with Micis and Salads. In the afternoon, Pablo and the children go to the salt lakes and mud baths (15min. walk). The mud has a healing effect and many people pay money for it, here it is free and simply occurs in nature. The day passes fast.
July 10th. Our front tires are worn out and nothing worth when it rains, so we found a mechanic here in Turda with Siggi's help, who will change our tires. The order of the tires should come in today at noon, the mechanics counts 15 minutes for work and then we can continue our trip towards Hungary. After packing everything, the children went up to the girls to play together for the last time, and we will pick them up after the tires will be changed. It is noon and the tires are not here yet. 3 p.m., finally the call that they arrived. But driving to Hungary now would be too much. So, we stay one more night at Siggi and leave tomorrow at 10 a.m. The children are overjoyed to spend more time with their new friends. We organize a movie night. We watch the movie “Rocca” with chips, popcorn, chocolate cornflake cakes etc. T. has a little stomach-ache and diarrhea; and so, has C.
July 11th. C. no longer has diarrhea, but T. is not yet better, and Pablo now has abdominal pain and diarrhea. The only one who has nothing is me (got an iron gut😊). So, we decide to stay with Siggi for one more night and rest. Diarrhea on a 6-hour drive, no thanks! We thank Siggi for letting us stay 3 nights longer.
July 12. Everyone is healthy and we are heading to Hungary. See you later!
June 23rd. It’s afternoon and we are coming to the border of Bulgaria. We are amazed of how many trucks are standing on the roadside and are waiting to get across the border. Fortunately, the car line is not that bad. We have about 6 cars in front of us and we are making rapid progress. Passport, ID, and vehicle ID are controlled, a little look into the car, greeting the children and we are through. On the streets of Bulgaria, we come across a sign that show us how and who pays for the use of the streets, but we have a hard time to understand it. So, we stop at a gas station, go to the kiosk and there is a machine where I can have the vignette printed out, yes!
On the way to our accommodation, we rush into a decathlon, T. and I need new sandals.
At 19:30 we drive up to our apartment where we sleep tonight. It is a area with a couples buildings with a total of 600 apartments in the middle of a corn field (surrounded with a fence and car barrier). In short, we move into a one-bedroom apartment with everything we need (including washing machine). We cook something simple and go to bed soon.
June 24th. We get up at 8:30 and eat breakfast. At 11:29 we take the train to Sofia. The journey takes 49 minutes. In Sofia we take the tram to get to our hosts, which takes us another 45 minutes. When we arrived, we greet each other, and T. & C. give the gifts we bought to the little ones. We put down the luggage for the overnight stay and go explore Sofia a bit.
June 25th. After a Bulgarian breakfast called Principessa, we get our pack packs and go towards the city centre. We take part in a free city tour. The young man tells the history of the city in a funny and comprehensive way.
At 14:29 we take the train back to Pobit Kamak, where our car is parked. The man at the gate doesn't want to let us in. Unfortunately, he doesn't speak English and I don't speak Bulgarian. So, I show him a note with the phone number of our host. After a short conversation on the phone, the matter is settled. The weather is somewhat better than the day before and the kids go for a swim in the pool.
June 26th. Today we continue our journey. On the way we visit Plovdiv and the monument of freedom, Stoletov peak, before we arrive at our next couch surfers in the late afternoon. They have a charming house with a big garden. The son gives us his room and he stays on the couch.
On June 27, the host take us around to their neighbouring town, where we have our breakfast. Veliko Tavorno has about 70,000 inhabitants and seems like Biel to us. An old town with a lot of great pubs and coffee shops (it just feels good).
June 28th. It is Sunday and we all sleep in, eat breakfast together, lie, sit, run around in the garden and just enjoy the day.
Monday June 29th, the day of our onward journey. In the short term we have booked an apartment in Varna on the Black Sea. On the way we stop at the Ovech Fortress and the Stone Forest.
The apartment is great has everything we need, and we can do our laundry.
June 30th. In the afternoon we take the bus to go into town, look at Varna and find a barber for Pablo. The children go for a swim in the sea, but somehow, they find that the water smells (not as clear and beautiful as in Crete 😉).
July 1. We enjoy the chilled apartment doing what everybody feels like and just enjoy the day.
July 2nd. Today, we pack everything again and drive on. We visit the Black Sea in Shabla again before we cross the border into Romania. See you!
April 27 - May 3. We are looking forward to the last week. The joy of lifting the spears is great, finally you can move around again without papers (so shopping is fun again 😊). Spring and the blooms in the garden are a blessing.
On May 6th we go on a trip again after a long time. The lockdown saved us a ton of diesel 😊. We drive to the south (Chora Sfakion) in our region. A short hike of 12km on the famous E4 hiking trail. After so long we are a bit out of breath and the heat doesn't help. The goal was to visit the village of Loutro. This can only be reached on foot or by ship. Because of Covid, people were rather unfriendly towards us tourists. In the end, we could fill up our water bottles on outside faucet (thank you!) On the way back, we enjoyed the sweet water beach.
The car needs cleaning.
May 10, 4 little cats were born today. Unfortunately, the last kitten did not survive the birth.
A little journey of discovery through our shopping village and eating ice cream.
May 11-17. A wind from Africa is coming and it brings us sand and a heat wave up to 40 ° C. With these temperatures we go to all the beaches worth seeing (Balos, Elafonisi) and have the unique chance to enjoy them alone. There are usually 1000s of tourists in these places.
Travel will be possible again from the end of May, so we booked our onward journey today. The ferry will go to Santorini on June 4th (a surprise for the kids), stay on the island for 5 days and then take the ferry across to the mainland. We are very excited!
May 18-24. The heat wave is still going on. We enjoy the sea every day. From today, we go to a small beach (Kalami) which is 5 minutes away by car and which we visit and enjoy every day after work. It has a dock, from where the children can jump into the water.
May 25-31. This is our last week in Crete. We are working on the last little details so that we have everything at the end of the week. On May 26, Pablo receives an SMS from the ferry company, because of Covid-19 all small express ferries to the islands of Greece were cancelled until June 15. We were able to cancel the accommodations on Santorini and in Marathon and everything was refunded to us. We could not cancel the apartment in Limenas (30 minutes from Heraklion), so we will go east for 5 days and sniff some vacation and travel air until we can travel further on June 15th.
On May 29, our ticket was converted into an open status ticket, which will be valid until December 31, 2022, that's so generous
May 30th. Today we drive to the east of Crete. On the way we visit Knossos. The oldest traces of the eight-meter-thick settlement layers date from the 7th millennium BC (6900-6600 BC). Immigrants, perhaps from Asia Minor, brought farm animals and plants to the southern Aegean for the first time. Their settlement probably only existed for a few centuries (200-400 years). This is followed by a find that dates to around 5700–5500 BC. The following new settlers show the typical cultural characteristics of the early Neolithic. At the end of the 3rd millennium BC, smaller kingdoms developed on the island, as can be seen from the larger palace complexes in Phaistos, Malia, Knossos and Kato Zakros. The Palace of Knossos was built between 2100 and 1800 BC. Knossos was particularly tall, rich and magnificent.
31. May. Today we explore the small town of Limenas where we have our accommodation.
June 1st. Today we asked the ferry company if they could reserve us a place for June 15th, and the answer: Unfortunately, no strangers are allowed to travel to the Greek islands until July 1st and the company does not offer trips until July 11th from Heraklion. Well, our dream of exploring Santorini without tourists falls into the water. We cannot and do not want to wait until July 11th.
June 2nd. In the morning we drive south and visit Ierapetra and Agios Nikolaos. We liked Agios Nikolaos a lot, it really gave us a holiday feeling, but also reminded us of the party resorts. We visited the bar “The Zep”, which a Swiss couple opened a few years ago.
On the way back on June 4th we visit Heraklion. We like the city vibe and the great markets. A stop at the fish spa for the kids made their day. At 8 pm., we arrive in Aptera.
June 5th Work a bit and go to the Kalami beach, swim and celebrate the opening of our friends' cantina.
On Sunday June 7th we drive to a green oasis, certainly something special for Crete when it is 35° to 40° C in summer and the landscape in Crete is brown. After a visit to the oasis and the small typical Crete village, we drive to Lake Kournas. To our surprise, there are only small beaches there, but a lot of pedal boat. We rent one and pedal around the lake and enjoy the fresh sweet water.
June 8-14. This week we want to finish all the little jobs. We decided to go to Souda this Thursday and buy a ferry ticket directly from Chania to Athens.
June 9th. A free day at work and we visit another breath-taking beach (Stefanou).
Today on June 11th we are in Souda and buy a ticket directly from the Anek office. The ticket is for June 17th, so we can be sure that the EU countries have their borders in Europe open again and that our onward journey does not get stuck somewhere.
We go to the Kalami beach every day for a short time and the children made a gift for our friend Chrisoula to put in her canteen.
On June 14th we have a bite to eat with our host and exchange memories, gratitude and tears.
June 15-21. The day of departure is getting closer and somehow it feels strange. Crete became our second home after 4 months. The toys are packed back into the box, clothes, stuffed animals and bed linen are freshly washed and packaged. Our donkey gets to work again 😊.
Today, June 17th, our ferry will leave the port at 10pm. We have all day to pack and go swimming again. The weather is nice and hot, but we have gusts up to 70km / h, hope the ferry leaves tonight. At 7pm, we have another meal with our host and than make our way to the port. The easiest check-in we ever experienced. Wearing masks is a must. After 10 minutes we are set in in our cabin. Good night!
Good Morning! Today is June 18th and we have arrived quietly on the mainland. T. has a sore throat and is very tired. The air-conditioning in the cabin didn't do much good. Fortunately, we can check in for our overnight stay at 8:30am. T. lies in bed with a sore throat and temperature. She sleeps all day.
June 19, T. is feeling better. We make our way towards Kalabaka, where our next overnight stay will be. On the way we stop at the monument in Marathon and the monument in Thermopylae.
The famous Metéora monasteries are in Kalabaka. These are an UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The entire complex consists of 24 individual monasteries and hermitage build on strange rock formation, of which only six are still inhabited today. The remaining eighteen monasteries are either too difficult to reach or have been abandoned due to the risk of collapse.
On June 20th we will continue towards Thessaloniki. We will spend the night outside, more precisely in Kallikrateia. It is a smaller city and right by the sea. We go swimming for the last time at temperatures of 30 ° C. The apartment is not ideal, it has 2 bedrooms, but otherwise it is too small. The kitchen does not invite you to cook.
June 21st. Today, we visit Thessaloniki. The 2nd largest city in Greece. Small and charming. The sea shore is pleasant and reminds us a bit of Biel.
June 23rd. Today we leave Kallikrateia and thus Greece. Our way today leads us across the border to Bulgaria towards Sofia, where we are invited to spend the next 3 nights with couchsurfers. On the way, we visit one last archaeological park, named Pella. Pella is the birthplace of Alexander the Great. With this visit, we conclude the Greek history class.
A new era begins tomorrow!
More pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/5XLY8Xyj5SwRR9Ao8
February 26, 6:30 a.m., our ferry arrives in Heraklion after 9.5 hours and 160km. We have landed on an island again. Crete is the largest island in Greece. It has a proud 1066 km of coastline and 623,065 inhabitants. The exciting thing about this island is that it has been inhabited for 130,000 years.
On our trip to Aptera we are amazed at how hilly this island is. We marvel the snow mountains in the middle of the island with our tired eyes, just perfect!
On the way to our workaway place we shortly stop in Rethymno and Georgioupoli and nibble a small breakfast.
At 1:00 p.m. we park our car in front of our apartment at the hotel Akrimios. We will help the landlord out for a month, so we get board & lodging (apartment with 2 bedrooms). We are tired and look forward to a quiet afternoon. After an hour, our hostess comes to greet with lunch in hand.
February 27th. It's Thursday and we're getting to work. We get the order to repaint and furnish apartment # 3 (small decorative details).
February 28th. I go shopping with our landlord. We have calculated the amount of colour and all material we need, now we are standing in the shop.
February 29th.We start painting the apartment. There are 4 rooms, we calculate for all the work about 3 weeks. C. prepares sack bags for us.
Gouverneto Monastery, Katholiko Beach
Sunday March 1st. We park our car in front of the monastery. We cross the monastery garden, but do not visit the monastery, but continue walking down the mountain. On the way we encounter some caves that are used by the monks as places of prayer. After 20 minutes we come to a beautiful little stone beach. The view is heavenly and this blue water is simply wonderful.
Nopigia, hike “Cape Spathas / Rodopou”
The weather on March 2nd is great for a hike. I found this hike on Wikiloc. We pack a pick nick and off we go. We have no mobile internet since yesterday and I can no longer access my prepared hike. We try to find the route with my memory and Google Maps. The beginning runs like clockwork, but after a while we don't know what to do. We try to find our own way through scrub and bushes in the direction we want to go. We haven't found any hiking markings yet. We never came to the village of Rodopou, as we have been hiking for some time now and we do not know where the trail continues. So, we go back where we came from. The hike was nice.
March 3rd-6th, we renovate apartment # 3 and visit our little beach.
March 7th today I want to visit a farmer’s market in Chania. We leave early because the markets usually close at 1pm. We are parking our car right next to a street market. There, we discover a honey stand that fills your own honey jars you brought with you. Markets are worth a visit; I just love them. The next stop H&M, T. has grown and needs new underwear 😊. And we find new pants for C. Afterwards, we stroll, we pass by a covered market, one of the biggest on Crete and a tourist attraction, but we are not very enthusiastic (stands are closed, and we are almost the only ones, but it is only 11 a.m.). After a long walk through the old town of Chania, we will eat in a restaurant once again. Pablo and I share a Greek meat plate, with starter and dessert. Time to go home.
March 8th. The village of Aptera and the old Aptera, which was inhabited 3400 years ago, are 20 minutes from our accommodation. 4 euros is the entrance for the four of us. We did see so many old stones in Sicily, but still finding it interesting. A little further there is a Turkish fortress, and from there a hiking trail down to the coast. The beginning of the trail is clearly visible, but after a while, we seek for the path and trying not to get scratched by the bushes. It is an experience. Once at the bottom, we pass a small beach (Kalami), where no one is. We rest for a few minutes and to cool down our feet.
March 9th-13th, we are continuing with the renovations. The children enjoy the beautiful weather. This week a young lady from Australia comes to the hotel and will help us.
March 14th. Today we walk to the next village (Kalives) and beach, there we want to swim and shop. Just having a cosy afternoon.
March 15th. We drive to the south side of Crete with Kate from Australia and visit a sandy beach there. The village is pretty and charming. We stroll through the village and discover various things, like Pablo a bakery 😊. We have lunch at the beach. The children splash and the adults rest, read, sleep ...
March 16th-22nd. There has been a lot of discussion since this Monday as to whether Greece should also introduce a lockdown. The Covid-19 is everyday conversation. On Tuesday, Pablo and I can go to the hairdresser. But we are standing in front of closed doors. The hairdresser decided to close today, already. Wednesday all shops except supermarkets, pharmacies etc. will close. On the weekend we stay at home against my will.
March 23rd-29th. Monday, from 6:00 a.m. there is a general lockdown! I'm a little angry that we spent the weekend at home. From now on we must carry a certificate paper with us if we want to go to the supermarket or having physical exercise, bah!
March 30rd-April 5th. We continue to work on the hotel and go to our small beach on hot, sunny days. Fortunately, we live in a hotel with a lot of space around and a small private beach where nobody sees us 😉.
April 6th-12th. The weeks go by in no time, and on Sunday is already Easter (not in Greece). We would be further north on our European tour. We were planning to be in Romania or Ukraine and visit the birthplace of Pablo's grandfather. We hope to continue traveling soon. Young kittens are born on the 11th here in the hotel. The children are fascinated. On Sunday we hide their Easter basket from them and even the grown ups can go on a search.
April 13th-19th. The renovations are going very well, we have already painted, patched, decorated, and brought up three apartments. On Saturday we go to our landlord to give her wooden windows a new coat of paint. Easter is here on 19th. We go on a hike and happen to stop at our landlord’s place to celebrate Easter with her family. On this Easter weekend there was a total traffic ban here in Greece, so we just went on foot 😉. Groups of more than 10 people are also prohibited, this time we violated the prohibition, oh dear!
April 20th-26th. The lockdown is not over yet, and it looks like we won't be going further on our travel until the end of May. The newspapers are talking about lifting the lockdown in our region beginning from May 4, and a general opening from May 18. Let's see! For the time being...
More pictures: photos.app.goo.gl/kka85GCM9LHw2GUx7
January 30th. At 6:30 a.m. we have stopover at the port of Igoumenitsa. Our journey continues soon, and we arrive in Patras at 2 p.m. At 3 p.m. we move into a small apartment for the next 2 nights. Tonight, we feel like to eat some gyros. We enter a nice restaurant in our district. The menu is only in Greek, but Google Translate helps us (more or less). Finally, we decided what we want to eat, we placed our order with Google Translate 30 minutes later. The food was excellent, and everyone enjoyed it. And the bill was rather thin 😊.
On January 31st we visit Patras, one of the most important port cities in the country. Patras has a population of around 220,000 people, makes it the third largest city in Greece. We stroll through the streets of the city centre and literally feel the vibe of this student town. It is wonderful to be in a big city without the car.
February 1st. We arrive in Megalopolis late in the afternoon. At the Leto Hotel, we settle our appointment with Alex our host from Workaway. Alex is not there right now, but there are other members of the Workaway organization. Karla shows me the way to the house. Once there, everyone gathers to eat lunch. We sit down with everyone and eat chicken, vegetables and baked potatoes. After a long back and forth which room we can move into, Sean the Brit moves into a smaller room, so we can move to the bigger one. First everything out, it must be cleaned. The way it looks, it has not been decluttered in years, nor has it been cleaned. Unfortunately, the room still smells musty. We inflate our camping double air mattress for the children. The first night without heating will be cold.
February 2nd. It's Sunday and day off! The workers group go for a walk to the old Megalopolis, to visit old stones 😊. This way you get to know each other a little better. The next night, we would like to get a warmer night, so we install electronic mattress heater (nightmare, it only has one outlet and 4 mattress heaters!) Luckily, we have our Duvets with us.
February 3rd, it's Monday and our first job starts. The Leto Hotel was painted last week, now the edges, floors, banisters must be cleaned and scraped off. These 5 hours are over in no time.
February 4th. Pablo is not happy with the accommodation. It is cold, the nights drop to 0 ° C and the room still stinks (even with Chantal's fragrance spray). In addition to the working in the hotel, all workawayers in the house still must work through the chores (cooking, dish washing, cleaning the bathroom, cleaning the outside area, etc.). We are looking for new accommodation as soon as possible.
February 5th, yes, it's my birthday. I even get a free day today and I have nothing to do. In the afternoon, the 4 of us go to a café to warm up and celebrate. We cook and bake for the whole team (15 people) tonight. Bake yes, there is normally never dessert, so I make lemon cake. Pablo did find an accommodation in the Peloponnese; we will move on February 7th.
February 6th. Today I will finish the lobby with the help of T. Pablo has work around the house to do.
February 7th. Our host Alex gets a visit from his family tonight. I get the chore to clean and furnish his apartment with the help of 2 others worker, so that everyone has a place to sleep. After lunch we say goodbye and make our way to Foinikounta.
February 8th. Today we wash as much as possible, what we wore in Megalopolis (including bed sheets). In the next few days, we simply enjoy the area, the sun and the peace.
February 10th. We take a little walk to the village, want to know where we can shop. The supermarket doesn't have much to offer, just the bare minimum.
On February 11, we explore the beach promenade and discover another supermarket that has a little bit more to offer.
Today, February 12th we are going to Olympia, the venue of the ancient Olympic Games (must see).
The Olympic Games were held every four years throughout Classical antiquity, from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD. After the excavations in 1961, the stadium was restored to the shape it had in the 4th century BC.
It used to be thought that the site had been occupied since about 1500 BC, with a religious cult of Zeus developing around 1000 BC. We visit the Temple of Hera, which is suited in the northern part of the Altis and the oldest temple at Olympia. The temple was built in approximately 590 BC but was destroyed by an earthquake in the early 4th century AD and was not restored afterwards.
On our tour we passed by the Zeus temple. The temple was built between 470 and 457 BC. The building sat on a crepidoma (platform) of three unequal steps, the exterior columns were positioned in a six by thirteen arrangement, two rows of seven columns divided the cella (interior) into three aisles.
On February 16, the urge to move is big (for the adults). A hike to the next village / town is announced. The weather is great. Our route brings us into small villages on the way. After 2.5 hours of walking we arrive in Methoni. The kids and so we, deserve something cool to quench our thirst and the water bottles must be refilled 😊. We decide to go home on the shorter route, which starts close to the sea but later leads to the main road. The 2 hours on the tar are tedious ☹.
This is Spartaaaa!!! This saying from the movie 300 is simply known, I think. Sparta is simply on our radar of the cities we want to visit in Greece. On February 17th we will arrive an hour earlier than planned in the city. New - Sparta (founded in 1834) doesn't impress at all. 35,000 Spartans live here in a city that is designed as in North America, square well 😊. The old Sparta still has some ruins, but there is not much left. Despite, Sparta was popular in the past. 685 to 668 BC Sparta established itself as a local power in the Peloponnesus and the rest of Greece. During the following centuries, Sparta's reputation as a land-fighting force was unequalled. Sparta had some 20,000–35,000 citizens, plus numerous helots and perioikoi. The likely total of 40,000–50,000 made Sparta one of the larger Greek city-states.
On February 18, we visit the more interesting ruins of Mystras. The mountain fortress dates from the Byzantine period. Some churches with colourful wall paintings have been preserved (like Agia Sophia, Agios Dimitrios). Also, one of the monasteries, the Pantanassa Monastery (founded in the 15th century) and still inhabited today.
On February 19th we visit the port city of Nafplion. A trading town that probably dates to 1370 BC, mentioned as Nupliya. But already in the 2nd century BC the city was deserted again. I recommend visiting, it is just fantastic!
"Dimitrios" Shipwreck, Karioupoli
On February 20th we are invited to 2 Swiss people who lived in Biel (Mösli Quartier) a long time ago. In the early 90’s they went on a 3-month bike tour through Greece before they wanted to buy a house in Prêles Switzerland (the plan with the house in Prêles didn't work out). On their bike tour, they fell in love with Greece (especially the Peloponnese area) and in 1992 they started to build their current house in Karioupoli. We got the address from Pablo's mother who has buying their olive oil for years and getting to know an olive grower could be interesting. Before we arrive at 3 p.m., we visit the Dimitros shipwreck on the way.
Today, February 22nd, we're leaving to discover something new. The view of the sky reveals that the rain is coming. Hardly 5 minutes in the car, we make our first stop (unwillingly). The driver at my right looks me into my eyes for a very long time and has enough time to brake, but something is bothering him, bum! The little car bumps into our B-pillar. Fortunately, nobody was harmed, only the car has a dent now and will not prevent us from continuing our travels. We spend a good hour on the side of the road with the police, the insurance agents and Pablo on the phone with our insurance, then the journey continues.
In the afternoon we should arrive in Athens. First, we stop at the world-famous Corinth Canal. The Canal was excavated at its narrowest point and it is 6343 m long. It was built between 1881 and 1893. Since then, the canal has connected the Saronic Gulf with the Corinthian Gulf.
We will spend the time from February 22nd to 25th in Athens. Athens is the capital of Greece and has a population of 3.8 - 5 million people (they do not know exactly, because there is no need for registration). The settlement history of the area of the city of Athens goes back to 7500 years, the Neolithic time. Around 1300 BC a Mycenaean palace was built on the acropolis. The oldest city complex was limited to the upper surface of a steep rocky hill accessible only from the west, which later became the military and religious centre of Athens as a castle (Acropolis). The Acropolis in Athens has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage since 1986.
On February 23rd, it’s been a while since we have been taking the subway. We visit Mount Lykabettus and the Panathinaiko Stadium (also known as Kallimarmaro, "beautiful marble") is the Olympic stadium of the modern Olympic Games, where the first game started in 1896. It was built as a reconstruction on the foundations of the ancient stadium and is located on the edge of Athens City centre. From there we march back to our accommodation (8.5 km).
On February 24, Pablo has his appointment at the hairdresser. C. and I go looking for a sportswear shop, because her sole of her hiking shoe is slowly getting holes. Coincidentally, I write on WhatsApp to a colleague we met in Megalopolis. He's currently in Athens too and doesn't have a place to sleep for tonight, so we offer him our couch.
The next day (our last day in Athens) we explore the rest of the city with our friend Victor. We cross the market, side streets and tourist streets. Victor knows a little take away and we eat Greek burgers with delicious fries and home-made ketchup. Through WhatsApp we meet another friend (Workaway from Megalopolis) at the restaurant, David. Our paths separate after lunch and we explore our last attraction, the Acropolis.
At 9:00 p.m. our ferry leaves the port of Piraeus. On February 26th at 6:30 a.m. we should arrive in Heraklion, Crete. Good night!
For more Pix: https://photos.app.goo.gl/JsnMBtPatnEyq9THA