Neuschwanstein castle

Bye Venice, been lovely being in you but we’re off to Neuschwanstein!

One of the German men who we had been drinking with was describing a small village called Hohenschwangau where some king had built a castle. He showed me a picture and I was stunned at how beautiful it was. We stated that as soon as we had sobered up tomorrow we were going to see it. We were actually supposed to be going to Slovenia but what the heck, go where the fancy takes you just cos you can right?

So of we trotted almost retracing the same route we’d used to get here, and wondering why we didn’t plan a little better to save time and money. However, the whole idea of the camper was go where we liked when we liked, and we were caught up in the zeitgeist of the moment. 

It truly is an amazing place and one day I want to go back there with a decent camera and take amazing photos. The campsite in the village, right next to a lake was called Camping Brunnen and was incredibly boring except for the lady who came early on the morning and delivered warm fresh German black bread mmmm

A visit to Murano

We went into Venice again and fairly early on the morning and just wandered around. That’s the beauty of this place, you can just wander around aimlessly if you want and it’s beautiful. However on our wander a bloke pulled his boat next to us and offered a free trip to Murano glass factory. I’d never heard of it before but apparently Murano glass is famous around the world. As the story goes, the glass factory was on the main island but kept setting fire to buildings so the were banished to the island of Murano so be safe. 

Anyway the boat driver took us on a short tour showing us amongst other things, an island which is devoted to graves. Called San Michelle cemetery island it looked amazing but we did not have time to visit then so maybe another time. 

Murano is actually a beautiful little island, or islands as it’s made up of several. It’s got it’s own park and many of the houses are painted.

The factory visit was great. You get to watch them making a piece from scratch, and as we were there some rich guy came in and they all fell about trying to please him. I have no idea who he was but we went exploring while they feted him. He’s the guy with a chain around his neck in the photos so see if you might recognise him? . 

Obviously the boat driver is paid by the factory to bring tourists as once you have seen the glass blowing, it’s almost like Ikea where you must wander through lane after lane of glassware for sale and brave the hard sellers at the checkout before exiting through the exit door that is in fact hidden!

Some of the pieces were 000’s of euros but some were just a couple so Jo bought a small ornament for about €4 just to justify our boat trip. We had to make our own way back but that was fine on the vaporetto. 

We're fairly sure the bloke in the middle is actually part of the mafia.
We’re fairly sure the bloke in the middle is actually part of the mafia.

We got back about 11:30pm and got to bed fairly quickly but as we were trying to sleep a bunch of people were sitting at a table near the cafe being rowdy. I ignored it for a long time until it became unmanageable and finally about 2am I went out to speak to them. Half an hour later Jo came out with a bottle of JD and joined us hahahhah!

There was an Italian was claimed to be a ham salesman, However had had an enormous Bowey type knife with him and it was a real quality one with a razor sharp edge. We all think he was mafia.

There was a Belgian couple, a French couple and 2 German men. What an absolute hoot we had until about 6am when other people started to complain we had woken them with our noise. 
I had my first taste of Grappa and mixed with some beer and plenty of JD I was so ready for bed, although we never got there. 

A storm came in and we all had to shelter under the canopy of the cafe while the hail came down. Afterwards we realised it was so fierce that the aluminium skin of the van was dented all over the back and roof from the hailstones.

 

 

Here’s a few more photos (Hic!)

Venice

So, guess what we did? Well, we found the Brenner Pass which I remembered from old war films, but it was a shiny new motorway through it so it’s a doddle to drive from Austria all the way down to Venice…

The first bridge crossing to the main island
The first bridge crossing to the main island

Oh yeah baby…about 5-6 hours or something and there we were! It was Jo’s first trip so she was up for it despite the drive, which we enjoyed anyway especially driving through the Dolemites. Again the scenery was magical for some of the way. I’d joined this club thing where you pay a few Euros to join, and all campsites are at 1 of 3 fixed prices. Out of season was really cheap so we booked in for a couple of nights at Camping Rialto. It was a down and dirty campsite, the toilets were absolutely minging as were the showers, so we used neither and we didn’t eat at the cafe place as it didn’t look much better than the showers lol
But it was cheap and a bus stop outside had regular buses going directly to Piazzale Roma which is the huge square on the landward edge of the main island. 

We settled in at the site and as quickly as we could set off for the bus. I’d been before to Venice but it’s one of my fave places, and Jo was excited to go for the first time so we were like 2 kids on an adventure trip. The weather was perfect to see Venice too. 

We went a bit mad and did the Rialto Bridge, a water bus or vaporetto, St Mark’s Square, a gondola (which cost us an arm and a leg even after the haggling) and a tragetto for about 50 cents which not many people know about. We also went up the bell tower, St Mark’s Campanile and fed the pigeons when we came back down. We saw the Bridge of Sighs apparently so called as it led from the magistrates office to the prison, so people with long sentences were heard to sigh heavily as they walked along it. And we found the most idyllic little pizzeria in the world hidden down a back street and then came and watched the sun go down, with our feet dangling in the lagoon and the Giudecca in the distance. 

Venice is a magical place, it is where I would choose to live if I could. There just isn’t anything bad about the place. Apart from the fact it’s sinking…

As you can imagine I took hundreds of photos so here’s a small selection of them for you. 

Umhausen and the waterfall

So, what we’re doing is following the main A12 dual carriageway, but turning off each valley that we come to to explore. Today we’re in the Otztal valley and we were a bit excited about this one. I had watched a TV programme once about Otzi man. Otzi, also called the Iceman, is a well-preserved natural mummy of a man who lived between 3400 and 3100 BCE. The mummy was found in September 1991 in the Otztal Alps, hence the nickname “Otzi”. This bloke died well over 3,000 years before Jesus was even thought of. And he was up a mountain so these guys despite being older than ancient were bloody hardy guys. 

Anyway, there is the Otzi Dorf Museum in the valley which is a museum set up to describe his life and how he lived and died. They said due to an injury that was clearly visible it was likely he was running away from attackers when he was shot by an arrow. Looking at where his quiver was it was entirely possibly he lost his footing and simply stabbed himself in the back with one of his own arrows. Who knows. 

Anyway we also found a brill waterfall which was a half a days climb to get to, and in a pub that evening we got chatting to a few French blokes who were travelling together. They recommended visiting a city called Bruges in Belgium which I’ve never heard of, but they said it was an amazing place. We had a lovely evening there and the beer was actually very nice.

Kaunertal valley

View from a mountain pass
View from a mountain pass

Kaunertal valley is not that far from Pitztal but the drive is breathtaking. Up one mountain, down the other side, up another and down again and the Austrians made it look easy, speeding along as if it was a dual carriageway on the flat. The mechanics that look after their cars must be on double time permanently. 

It was made a little scary not just by traffic whizzing past, but also the lack of guard rails that we’re used to here in the UK. There were some little wood fences here and there but I felt strongly that if I was to lean on one heavily, it would not support my weight let alone the 3.5 tons of the van. 

I did stop at one safe spot to look over a drop that appeared to be sheer. Sure enough it was a sheer drop, that’s it at left, almost straight down, how high do you think that is? I guessed at 3,000 feet. 

I’m not really anxious about heights but I clung onto the van door behind me while I took this shot. I also slowed down even more as we made our way down that pass, I was taking no chances!

We’d actually seen a large lake behind a dam on the way down so that was where we were headed, and it proved to be a beautiful place to visit so we were lucky there. Of course I had to take some photos…

Plangeross

View of the Pitztal valley at Plangeross
View of the Pitztal valley at Plangeross

Today we are at a place called Plangeross. Plangeross is situated in the Pitztal valley in Austria, in the Tyrol, and even just driving through the valley is an experience. We stopped on the way in a half a dozen times just to take in the scenery. 

As you can see in this photo the sun was out, the sky was quite clear, the view was tremendous, we could not have asked for more. Traffic was fairly light and surprisingly there was not a large amount of people around. 

We kind of fixated for no good reason on the mountain in the distance in this photo, and kept heading toward it. I mean there was a million places to stop during the journey and we did stop quite a few times but we were keen on moving on and seeing what else was along the way. This is the kind of stuff you see on movies and not in real life, and we could barely believe where we were. 

Later, we found that the mountain we had ‘aimed’ at was a sort of end to the valley, and we went up to find a lake at the top called Rifflsee. The lake was fed by the water run off from the glacier. We didn’t try drinking it as it was an odd colour!

We did however walk for almost 3 billion miles so we were very much ready for our bed that night! We stayed a couple of nights at a campsite called Mountain camp. It was excellent with a children’s area, waterfall, fire pit and right beside the most beautifully clear river I’ve ever seen. 

Here’s a few photos.