Austria seems like ages ago. In fact like a whole other holiday time ago! We hit the road again late March, so only just over 5 weeks ago, but already skiing and the Alps is starting to feel feel like a distant memory.
Our head is spinning a bit with just how much we have seen and done over the past 5 weeks. From Österreich, through Deutschland, into Tasmania (aka Denmark), over to Sverige (Sweden), back to Denmark, back via Germany to Ned Flanders (aka The Netherlands) & into Belgium. Europe rewarded with a dirty stinking flu and throw us back into winter with snow, snow & more snow. We love the snow, but when there is no mountains to ski….whats the point???
Berlin is a moving experience and also a highlight for us. I still don’t understand “The Berlin Wall” and why a political movement would think that making its residents prisoners in their own back yard would stop them defecting to the other parties and keep them loyal, but alas they are humans and some humans do some very inhuman things. The original sections of the wall that still stand are amazing to see along with the ‘death strip’ still in tack in some areas, however these days it is filled with bars and cafe’s. The famous artwork which now adorns sections of the wall is very inspirational and a symbol of freedom. Some of the work is amazing and you could spend all day filling up an entire memory card on your camera checking them out.
The Bandenburg Gate
The Bandenburg Gate in Berlin is another fantastic landmark. It’s a national symbol of the country and also a symbol for the division of Berlin and Germany. The Gate stood between East and West Germany, becoming part of the impenetrable Berlin Wall and also where Ronald Reagan made that famous speach:
“General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
If you’ve never been to Berlin, make sure its on your list.
Hitler was a truly evil man & seeing such places like the Reichsparteitagsgelände (Nazi party rally grounds) in Nuremberg & the Congress Hall, which he was building to look like the Colosseum for his conventions, I found interesting and shocking at the same time. However, this is history and I think what makes it even more interesting is that this period of history happened not that long ago so it seems so more real/raw as it’s fresh in our minds. Lets just hope that lesson’s have been learnt & history doesn’t repeat itself! What I really love about Germany is that they have risen above all this and it no way reflects what Germany and Germans are about.
Dresden, Bastei Bridge in Saxon Switzerland National Park, Neuschwanstein Castle are the other highlights. Germany is really interesting, however due to our flu we probably didn’t really do it justice and warrants a return visit especially to visit the Rhine and Mosel.
We popped in to say hi to Mary and her vikings, but she didn’t invite us for cuppa & Denmark didn’t have much that captivated us, so we moved onto the land of more vikings, ABBA, Volvo and IKEA pretty quickly. We did however get up to Skagen, to see the natural phenomenon where the Baltic and North sea meet but don’t mix. This was on our way back from Sweden & you can clearly see the 2 seas overlapping which was pretty cool. But apart from that, we have no desire to return to Denmark – sorry Mary.
Sweden was great and the Gothenburg archipelago is absolutely beautiful. Its well worth spending some time here, checking out the beautiful little hamlets and coves. It reminded us so much of Greece with its rocky outcrops, wonderful wild camping opportunities but just no olive trees and a lot, LOT colder.
Yes, its true, there are Volvo’s everywhere! I was hoping we’d get stuck behind at least 1 old codger, with a hat of the back shelf, just for the cliche photo but alas they where all young’ns, travelling fast and not a hat in sight. Perhaps this only happens in Australia???
When we first arrived in Sweden, I immediately said, that this is what I imagine the North East Coastal areas of USA/Canada would be like. The painted wooden houses, white picket fences, perfectly manicured lawns, every window with a flower vase or lamp being used to capture & maximize their wonderful view. We met a lovely Swedish couple who told us that in fact many Swed’s settled in that area of North America so that is the reason why it looks similar.
We often hear, that if you heading out on a big European adventure then its best to visit Holland (The Netherlands) at the beginning of your trip, otherwise you might find it boring and a bit of an uninspiring road trip. Not true for us! Sure, if your after high mountains, deep lakes and beautiful beaches, then Holland is not the place, but from our point of view Hollands gems are its villages, canals, waterways coupled with the outdoorsy lifestyle they live makes it an unbeatable place.
I (Rose) had a mini melt down when we hit the city of Groningen in peak hour. By the term peak hour, i mean that being “bicycle peak hour” traffic at 5pm. Actually a full dummy spit is probably a better way to describe it. It was a ripper & I’m surprised I didn’t come out covered in stress hives afterwards. I just wasn’t ready for the onslaught of all those bikes. Who gives way? When? oh no, now a pedestrian! Is someone honking me? What the hell does that sign mean? Am I going the wrong way up a one-way street? why is everyone waiving their arms & swearing at me? Did I run someone over? Its like being outside by fresh water on dusk, the mozzies are swarming and after your blood.
I could live in Holland, (if it wasn’t for the weather). The people are super friendly, very out doorsy and the towns and villages are really beautiful. Haarlem in particular, just west of Amsterdam is beautiful and would be my pick! but we don’t have a cool 2million euro to buy an estate there. We were really surprised by the huge, should i shout “HUGE” mansions and estates there where in Holland. Mansions that could rival any rich English family estate. There’s certainly plenty of people with plenty of money in Holland that’s for sure.
The bulbs where out in full bloom and the famous Keukenhof Garden where open. People have come from all over the world to see it but at nearly 35euro for both of us to go in and pay for parking, we didn’t feel that desperate to see it. Much to Paul’s delight I dragged him on a day trip along the bulb route instead, it is truly beautiful, really colorful and can highly recommend it.
Home of Beer and Chocolates
Next stop, home of Beer and Chocolates, Belgium We spent our time in the Flemish speaking province of West Flanders and couldn’t understand a word they are saying. Thank goodness the Belgium’s speak excellent English when asked.
We arrived just in time for Anzac day, not that we planned it that way. Aussies and Kiwi’s everywhere, which was nice. Belgium drivers are CRAZY, in fact really bad. We hadn’t realized how spoilt we’ve been over the past 6 months with the well mannered and respectful drivers of Austria, Germany, Holland & Sweden. Being that Belgium is so close to France and the French are pretty bad, then it kinda makes sense. Arrogant drivers, rude words, one finger salutes, horn honking, cutting off, not letting in…….actually come to think of it sounds like Adelaide drivers.
The motorways are covered in endless roadworks at the moment and just about every town we went into was closed due and their main road in being ripped up and a pile of rubble. Diversions signs everywhere like their going out of fashion but i’m sure its a trap to keep you out of these pretty towns or keep you trapped in, either way they had us going around in circles.
The landscape is much like their neighbour Ned Flanders. Flat, dry and farmed, with beautiful towns and villages. Brugge of cause was pretty and a must see for us because of the movie ‘In Bruges‘, but Ieper (Ypres) in particular I really enjoyed. This was where one of the Anzac days services was held, under the Menin Gate (memorial for the missing) and it was very moving. I also joined the service at Tyne Cot Cemetery in Zonnebeke and found a “Gollan” on the wall for the Scottish Borderers, so i’ll try to look him up and see if we are related.
So back to UK it is for us now…..MOT is due on both vehicles. Paulie is all set with his new 7mm wetsuit for some spearfishing along the coast in the South West England (it’s meant to be good for spearfishing) and some family love with Nicky, Tony and Jacob. And the extra treat for us is that we are all going on a Norway Fjord cruse at the end of the month!….YAY – Bring it on!!!!! oh and bring on summer!!
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