Category: Europe


To the Mainland

We made a few trips over to the UK to get some proper South African camping kit for Battutah. A 1.6 metre Eezi Awn roof tent and a 50 litre National Luna fridge freezer were first up. Cold beer and a comfy bed….nice start! A few other odds and ends necessary for camping including a brush up on our African French and before you could say Stoney Tangawizi we were on a ferry to France. The plan was to tour the D-Day beaches, Brittany and anywhere else that took our interest.

Our first night abroad in Battutah looked like this. This over-landing suited us…

We continued on and decided to go to Mont Saint Michel in Normandy. By all reports to looked fantastic with it’s Benedictine Abbey at the peak of it’s island. But we arrived to this…

We muddled through it as best we could (before nearly blowing our tops) to investigate the winding streets and medieval architecture.

Over the next few days we wound our way down through Brittany staying in some fantastically quiet camping spots. Very quite but windy, very windy. As we had gone as far south as we hoped we decided to head for the Loire Valley and Saumur. A down right gorgeous town with its massive château that looks out over the whole town. It was here that we spent the remained of the holiday as we just needed to stop. Have croissants delivered to the car, drink tasty coffee, sample the Saumur Champigny and generally live it up and catch up on some well deserved rest. There was even a pool nearby and a delightful classic French restaurant nearby. Just what we both needed

Battutah was practically problem free, apart from a minor dual battery electrical issue (of my making!). Travelling at our own pace again in the way we wanted felt like putting on an old pair of slippers – comfortable and warm…

muni

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The Final Hit

So, here I am and it’s Molly’s birthday. Nearly March – good Buddah, Jahova and his five sisters.!!!!

I’d love to put some kind of rosey twist on life at home. How it was wonderful to see those familiar faces and places. But, I cant. By now, being home has just re-affirmed why I left. (The difference now is that I don’t have the means to leave. ) And the predictability of life being home and my feeling of this place and people have been amplified by Africa.

I’m home and it’s crap. So, head down and be a good little rat, muni.

My Rat Friend...

For now, I’ll sign off…..BUT…..are more Safari schemes in the pipeline ?

Hmmmmm……where’s that map……

muni

A Fiddler’s Wink

The train and ferry journey back to Dublin was easy, albeit a bit long. The lights of Dublin ferry port welcoming us back with open arms. Soon we were in front of Molly’s folks, in the car and driving down the Strand Road. The view of the smoldering ESB cooling towers, across Seapoint, with a full moon in between just beautiful. It felt so familiar here but yet very strange. Almost as if I’ve not been away. We made it back to Cabinteely for some stories and some home cooked food.
The next few days we lay low so that we could catch up with family. Saturday night was a different story.
We had heard that our friends were all going out for a few drinks in Johnnie Foxes up in the Dublin hills. We decided to sneak up and surprise them all. Nervously off we went and before I could say “I miss Africa” we were there hugging, shaking hands and laughing. I was good to see them but this still felt alien to me. So many questions fired at us in quick succession I didn’t know where to begin. Purposely, I redirected the conversations to how they were and the goings on in Ireland over the last eighteen months.
For those who don’t know Johnnie Foxes is the highest pub in Ireland and a very traditional Irish pub. A warren of rooms, wooden stools, old heavy oak tables, roaring open fires, saw dust on the floor and lots of atmosphere. And as usual for a Saturday night there was traditional (a Fiddle, Guitar and Banjo with singing) music, or as we call it “Diddely I”. About as Irish as you can get really.
I had wandered off to the bar to get some drinks. On thee way back I faced the band, and in the tinyest moment, as I passed the fiddler, he winked. It was at that very moment when I knew I was home. Travel was now over and the business of re-establishing old friendships and seeing family had begun.
So, now I’m back in Planet Newbridge arguing with me Dad just like as before. It’s as cold as I remember, wet as I remember and as depressing as I remember.
Now I know why I left!
muni

It’s

+


+

And therefore:

Naice wan maoity!!!

muni

Berlin

It made sense to fly to Berlin instead of taking the train – which was considerably more expensive. Which, after taking a large amount of trains of late, is our preferred mode of transport. So, after a two hour flight from balmy Nice we found ourselves shivering outside Berlin airport. And, very strangely, I found I could understand a lot more German than anticipated.

Quickly we met up with my ugly little brother, Si. He is now living in East Berlin with his girlfriend, Kaz. That night we cooked, downed some beer and caught up. It had been over three years since I saw Si It was great to see him and Kaz. Over the next few days we bounced about Berlin. The christmas markets now abound there was a distinct smell of chocolate and cinnamon in the air which was wondrous.

There is so much in Berlin to discover and experience that it just can’t all be done in a few days. So, we met up with some friends and did the usual tourist things, The Brandenburg Gates, The Wall, The German Film Museum The Salvador Dali Museum and we even got our passports stamped with the East German check point stamps!

We both loved Berlin and would happily return. And now that we have some family and friends there – maybe we will.

muni

Nice – it’s nice!

I spent hours writing this post…!



muni

Destinazione

I look out of the train window. The passing scene in concert with my mp3 player becomes like the digital display from a graphic equalizer. The digital reactions intensifying as we approach towns and cities, subsiding as we depart. The Glimmers Fabric Mix is perfect. Who could of known that this old countryside is in binary synchronicity? An audio visual symphony.

The skyline is low, punctuated by church steeples and old Tuscan looking buildings. A plethora of greens, auburns and burnt yellows flash by. Terracotta tiles, ploughed fields, farms and vineyards. A sudden pang for a glass of Merlot. No visible wildlife apart from Black Crows. Cabbages, millions of them and trees laden with a strange orange fruit that defies classification. I fall into a stare and The Glimmers snap me back as a wide lumbering grey river inches closer to an imposing cathedral.

Rovigo, a station. Old buildings overgrown. A small hut is engrossed by some flowering vine type tree. Two parked rusting bulk trains, heavy and long, are behind the station. The platform is polished from years of wheeled luggage and Italian shoes. The ticket office is surrounded by Vespas and bicycles, the car park abound with Fiats and Alphas. A marble bench sits lonely and weathered next to a dry fountain. Our adjoining track is, for some unknown reason, bleached white. A dull thud indicates imminent departure. “Din Daa Daa” adds some audio strangeness to this Italian ticker tape.

on the train

“My Speed boat is faster than yours” blares in my ears as we overtake a small plane on take off. No clickety click, these rails are new. We glide forward. Ferrara station is overlooked by two Ballymun-esque towers. Topped with many satellite dishes they are grey and ugly.

An old woman fiddles with her Nokia. Frustrated, she glances over at us with a look of indignance. Maybe she is late or her son cannot make it to pick her up. Again she fiddles and with quiet resignation eventually stuffs it into her expensive leather handbag. We’re in no rush. A night in Bologna wouldn’t be too bad. “Monkey Star” has my foot tapping as we snake away…

muni

Österreich – ist nicht scheiße!

Off the plane, back on European soil and it’s cold. BLOODY cold. The average daily temperatures here are circa 3 degrees Celsius. Vienna is our starting point for the European tour on the way home. Our main reason for being here is to visit Pete & Bini – the overlanders we had become friends with while on the road. The first thing I notice is how grandiose the place is and the speed and pace at which that everything gets done. People walk faster, traffic lights are obeyed and everything is extremely expensive.

Vienna 1Vienna 2

We shuffled about Vienna like Michelin men, smothered in hats, gloves, woolly socks and warm clothes. The miserable weather taking its toll on my body and Africa on my mind. My golden tan is already fading! I have so many stories to tell now, of far away lands, but they seem meaningless. Who cares if I saw desert Elephants? or the biggest mud structure known to man? I find myself at odds with these people. I struggle with my confusing thoughts. I don’t want to be here but I want to see my friends from Africa. We walk about town to look at the this and that building. I find myself at an opera. This could not be more different and a world apart from where I have just come. Vienna is a very beautiful city but, sadly, I see no black faces.

We finally find ourselves on a train platform in front of Pete & Bini laughing and giggling at the strangeness of seeing them in Austria. They immediately took us to their lake and opened a bottle of champagne. August, the truck we know so well is still there and in good stead. We spend the next few days drinking and eating the best the Austria has to offer. From Sturm to Wurst we are constantly stuffed. We talked Africa for the weekend. The ins and outs. They were the tonic I needed. For this I feel better. They have adjusted to life again at home but travel is still in the back of their minds – like ours. We agree to meet again, maybe in Morocco, in our own over-landing car or truck.

Art

No it's not a rock - this is "Art"!!!

We part company and head back to Vienna and tomorrow we head for Northern Italy where hopefully the weather picks up. My nose is protesting and my bones feel cold!

muni