A note about this blog....

"Blogs" by nature, generally are displayed with the last entry first so people following can merely look at the newest entries.

Due to reader feedback, and because this adventure has ended, I have been able to change the order of the entries around to allow new readers to easily start from the beginning of our trip.

As you scroll down, please note that at the bottom of the page, on the right hand side, there are the words " older posts ".  If you click on this, it will bring you to the next post in chronological order.


The beginning - We are heading to foreign lands!

September 5th, 2015

Over the past three years, Norm and I (in our own comfortable 32 foot Winnebago Adventurer motorhome) have escaped the hot and humid Florida climate and toured the cooler regions of the USA and Canada. (To read more about those adventures, hit the tabs above.)

A couple of years ago we attended a seminar at a large RV convention given by a RV tour company that leads a group of rented RV’s (commonly referred to as a “caravan”) on various trips through Europe!  It sounded fabulous, so we kept the brochures, and filed it away in the back of our minds, placing it on our Bucket List, along with what we call Alaska Three Ways. (Rent an RV to see the parks, perhaps a house on the Kenai Peninsula, and take a cruise back).  Neither of these adventures would require our own RV, so we decided to sell it after our trip last summer.

Our Bucket List has two columns:  One that requires really good health, some physical conditioning, and fairly decent metal capacity, and the other column has those dreamed about activities slated for when we become “old”.  The exception to that rule is the hang gliding on MY list.  Since it is inherently dangerous, I put it on the very bottom of my list just in case it is the LAST thing I do.  Norman assures me I will be doing it alone.  

 We really enjoy RV’ing and have to admit we miss traveling with our own bed and refrigerator.  After all, how else could one travel with a clean bathroom at hand, and a beer within reach?

 Our planned travel route
 We decided to go to Europe this year, and although all the various tours offered sounded wonderful, we chose the 31 day, 2300 mile tour visiting Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece, and Switzerland!

To make it even more special, we will first go to Boston and see the kids and grandchildren, then will fly to Iceland and spend four days prior to arriving in Germany to meet the group!

Norm and I have never traveled with a group before (other than a week with the Villages RV Club) so this will be an entirely different experience.  We won’t have time to do the hiking, biking, and kayaking we love so much, but it will be an incredible way to see Europe "off the beaten path" and have the security of someone making all the plans, knowing the routes and speaking the language!  

There will be a total of 10 RV’s including staff that lead the group, and another called a “tail gunner” that follows behind making sure everyone makes it to the next destination safely, and assisting if needed.   It will be incredible to see those beautiful destinations, and everything in-between!

This is the layout of our previous Winnebago Adventurer. 32 feet in length.
We found after about 6 weeks of travel we got to feel a little claustrophobic
This was considered quite small compared to most motor homes in the US.

This will be our new home on wheels.  21 feet from bumper to bumper.
It will certainly be "cozy"!  Let's hope it doesn't rain so we can spend  most of our time outdoors!
This size is perfect for those European back-roads and side streets.

What will we be driving/living in? This sleek, diesel powered RV is a mere 21 feet, with no automatic slides to increase width when parked.(Perfect for those tiny European back streets).  It will be very small, and won’t hold much “stuff”.  Hopefully we will get used to it without too much bloodshed.  It will just add to the “adventure”!

We are getting the house ready to leave, and making piles of what we need and want to bring.  Then removing items, then more items. I keep reminding myself that we have ONE 50 lb. suitcase each.  Boy, this is difficult! 

Temperatures will range from the high 30’s Fahrenheit in Iceland, to perhaps the low 80’s in Greece.  Yikes!  We need to have appropriate clothing for these climates- after all, we will be "camping", and probably spending a lot of time outdoors. We are advised to “layer” but for me to be warm in the 40’s, or even the 50’s, the third and final layer will have to be my warm winter coat! Between that and my pillow, I am indebted to the inventor of compression bags! 

From warm hugs to a kiss of cold! Boston to Iceland

September 10th to September 13th, 2015

My 21 month old granddaughter loves the birds in her mom's avairy!
Norm and I flew from Orlando to Boston to visit our children and grandchildren.  Unfortunately, Norm’s daughter and her family were all sick, so we were not able to see them but we were able to spend some extra quality time with my daughter, her husband, and my adorable 22 month old granddaughter!

Norm and I went down to the nearby pond to watch
Elena play!
They had just moved into their new house and were not quite ready for guests, so we got a lovely room at the Embassy Suites, in Marlborough, MA. The weather was in the 70’s, and just glorious! It was so wonderful to get away from that intense sunshine and to actually enjoy being outdoors.

September 14th to September 17th, 2015

Today is the “official” start of our new adventure! Iceland is a destination that was never really on our radar, but when I found a reasonably priced flight to Frankfurt with a free option to layover in Iceland, Norm and I just had to check it out!  If it seems like a great place, perhaps we would come back in some other summer and stay awhile to escape the Florida heat and do some hiking, and maybe even get brave enough to ride one of those darling Icelandic ponies! I would love to get a picture of Norm on one of those! Perhaps if I felt really, really brave ( or suicidal ) I could try that hang-gliding off one of those huge cliffs!)

Alison being silly

Iceland straddles the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart.  Rising magma built the island and heats its vast reservoirs of water, creating a geothermal paradise.

The Bridge across two Continents-
This symbolic bridge lies across a canyon that was formed due to the movements of the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plates which are continuously drifting apart at about 2 cm per year in the opposite direction.
Note:  It was not the easiest thing to get this shot.  It certainly tried Norm's patience!

We had a very pleasant flight on Icelandic Air departing Boston at 2:30PM and in a mere 5 hours, arrived in Keflavik, Iceland at 11:30PM. Customs was a non-issue if you had nothing to declare. Just walk right by.

The Harbor next to Hotel Berg in Keflavik, Iceland
We decided to stay at Hotel Berg because of the rave reviews on TripAdvisor; all gushing over the incredible customer service provided there.  Needless to say, we were quite surprised when we were picked up by a pretty sullen woman who marched up to us and another couple and grunted something or other, which I assumed, meant to follow her.  She opened up the trunk of the car then she got in and waited for us to figure how we were going to get the entire huge sized luggage for 4 people into the small trunk! After we miraculously managed that task, we all crammed into the car and off we went - arriving at the hotel in about 15 minutes.  She “threw” the room keys at us, and I assume, went back to bed (or perhaps returned to the rock she climbed out from under).  I was chuckling half the night about it.  I had never seen or experienced such a thing! It really too funny to be annoying.

The next day we enjoyed a lovely breakfast provided by the hotel (which really felt like a B & B), then rented a car through them (now the service was starting to shine) and with a little advice took off to see what we could see.

We headed outside and experienced our first arctic blast (the temperature was in the high 40’s, and the wind was blowing about the same).  Luckily those large suitcases we struggled with last night held plenty of warm clothing, so we were quite comfortable.

Volcanic Rock as far as the eye can see!  This area is rather bleak
Iceland was created from a volcano, and what we saw during our first day confirmed that. Lava rock.  Lots and lots of lava rock. A virtual moonscape.  Different shapes and sizes - some were covered by lichen and moss which gave it a shimmery green sheen, and other areas were just plain black lava rock formed into anything from small mounds to large hills.  No trees, flowers or grass anywhere (except on the several golf courses we spotted).Small cottage sized homes were down path driveways of crushed lava rock, with no landscaping at all. Talk about environmentally friendly! No watering or mowing.

The route Norm chose to take ended up being probably the least scenic. We climbed a very large hill to look out over the sea and nearly got blown into it! We were freezing!

Blue Lagoon -  A large ( commercial but lovely )
 geothermal hot spring which 100 degree F waters come from 6500 feet below the surface.

 As we drove around we happened upon a turquoise vision in the black moonscape.  The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa  fed by seawater 6500 feet beneath the surface, where it reaches a searing 464 degrees Fahrenheit.  Capturing silica and other minerals on its way to the surface, it emerges from the ground at a balmy 100 degrees Fahrenheit - just right for the busloads of tourists that came to soak in the warm, therapeutic waters.

Donning silica mud masks, patrons floated, napped and chatted away the hours. Depending on which “package” you paid dearly for, lockers were provided for changing into the mandatory bathing suits (in case you were wondering) and large white robes available for when you got out of the hot water and into the brisk air.  Since Norm was in his “Amazing Race” mode, and I would not be caught dead in a bathing suit, we opted only for a lovely lunch at the elegant Lava restaurant there at Blue Lagoon.  It was hysterical seeing people dressed in robes dining at tables adorned with fine crystal and linens sipping their champagne, and feasting on any of the many gourmet delicacies. Perhaps they were all on their honeymoons?

Norm and I might actually spend a few hours there getting pampered when we pass through Iceland on our way back to the States next month!  Of course we might be either too fat and/or too broke by then to actually do it!

We enjoyed an incredible lunch ourselves, and then drove back for a much needed nap before heading out again to the capital city of Reykjavik for dinner.

The area where most of the nice restaurants were located had an awesome, almost “holiday” atmosphere. (Perhaps it was just the blustery winds and low temperatures that made me feel like it was Christmas.) The streets, lined with lovely boutique shops, were closed off to traffic but due to the late hour were, unfortunately, closed.

We had dinner at a French restaurant, and then headed back to the hotel, which was about a 45 minute drive.

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

                                                       Stogafoss Waterfalls
63m ( about 90 feet ) high and 15m ( 45 feet ) wide. We climbed the 527 stairs to view it from the top ( then, of course took them down )!  Not an easy feat for us old people from Florida where not only homes, but the land is flat!

Our reward at the top of the stairs and a short hike down a path!
We have only one more day to visit Iceland, and we feel we have not yet seen “the tip of the iceberg” so to speak. Norm and I watched hours of videos about Iceland’s incredible features on the plane, and did not manage to see any of that yesterday.  As we suspected, drive times are very long and one would need a couple of weeks or more to really take in all the natural and cultural wonders of this country.

We saw several groups of Icelandic Ponies grazing in fields

I spoke with several other guests in the breakfast dining area and confirmed we really went to the wrong area yesterday!  No more just “driving around” when we get somewhere.  We need to find out exactly where things are and go there!

These guests had spoken with the young man at the front desk, and he told them exactly where to go, what order to do it in, as well as not only recommending a fabulous restaurant in Reykjavik, but making their reservations!  He also put all the stops in their GPS for them!  Where was he yesterday when we asked?

These ponies were just too cute not to share!
My daughter had a pony named "Snack Pack " that looked just like this!
Luckily he was on duty this morning, and did the same for us.  He said it would take only 12 hours to see these unbelievable natural wonders, but since we felt 8 hours was more than enough due to the busy schedule we would be having (not to mention a 4am wakening), we had to unfortunately skip a couple of recommended stops.

There were many geothermal areas in South Iceland.  They all smelt strongly of sulfur.
These reminded us very much of Yellowstone National Park in the US.

We had much more fun this second day.  Norm stopped so I could take pictures often; there were farmlands and snow capped mountains and all kinds of interesting things which always make for a more scenic and enjoyable drive, and the end destinations were amazing waterfalls – all making for a nice full day.
Notice the variations in the landscape.  Rich fertile soil for farming, then rocky mountains that have very loose soil from
disintegrating lava rock ( and homes which seem to be always built at the bases of these mountains ) then rising up
behind them you see glaciers!  Really beautiful!

 Unfortunately when we returned to the hotel to take a much needed shower we discovered there was no hot water. We learned the water is supplied by the city and there was a problem somehow. Florida’s ground is always so warm, so if you had to take a“cold” shower, the water is never really that cold.  Here is Iceland, believe me, the cold water is really freezing, so it was not an option!  Fortunately for those sitting next to us in the plane, we were able to take that lovely hot shower at 4am before we left.

We drove along a pretty deserted road and saw a ton of racks with something hanging on them that was attracting
a huge flock of birds.  Norm ignored all the "do not enter" "no trespassing" " cameras" ( and me ) to satisfy his
curiosity.  We found a photographer in among these stinky fish bodies and heads. He said they are to be shipped to Africa
for some reason. Perhaps a delicacy? There won't be much left to them by the time the birds are done! Yuck!  

Iceland to Frankfurt then we hit the road!

Thursday, Sept 17th, 2015

When Norm and I both woke up an hour before the alarm (at 3AM) we decided to bundle up and head outside to see if we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.  This is another item on my Bucket List (Norm experienced them years ago) but sadly I cannot cross that off yet.  But like a lot of things in life, the fun is in the hunt, isn’t it?

We left the hotel with about 20 other people at 5AM and were shocked when we saw hundreds of folks in huge lines at the airport.  Norm figured out (with the help of others) how to do the mandatory self-check-in and get our own baggage tags and boarding passes.  With good luck and perhaps a lenient agent we passed the weight limits on our duffel bags then breezed through security.

Thankfully we had a short 3 hour flight during which the very heavy woman sitting next to me took up half my seat.  Norman urged me to “claim my space”, but she clearly outweighed me by a couple of hundred pounds.  She won.  I wanted to ask her to chip in on the cost of half my seat (which would only be fair) but up to that point our battle was very subtle and thought it best to leave it at that.

When we arrived at Frankfurt airport we again were able to skip right past customs, and were met by European RV Tours who then helped with our luggage and drove us to Hotel Miramar.  Norm and I took a quick nap, and at 5pm we met the group for a briefing and we all went to dinner together while we got to know our new “travel-mates”.

 Everyone seemed very nice, and has had a lot of RV experience so things should go very smoothly.

Friday, Sept 18th, 2015

The big day!  After having a lovely complimentary breakfast at the hotel we all were driven to pick up what was to be our “home” for the next 30 days.

Our "home on wheels" for then next month!

Yippee!  Things could not have gone better.  The tour guides had each of our RV’s checked out and ready to go before we even got there!  We each did our own paperwork, and were advised to carefully check any and all scratches or dings, (we were the only couple to ask for a ladder so we could check the roof; which is where, we have learned by personal experience, damage can easily occur) and to stow our bags so we could quickly head to the grocery store to get any provisions we might need for the next several days.

 Each RV was given a two-way radio so we could receive directions and warnings from the leader as we headed down the road. We also were given a comprehensive itinerary, and a trip log detailing turn by turn directions in case we got separated from the group.

Trying to figure out what the food labels was quite the task!

At the supermarket all three of our tour staff members were nearby to help translate food items and help us find what we may need. We got a quick education on how foods are priced, and the weight of a kilo versus a pound.   I was surprised and very disappointed, that Germany is many years behind the US in their gluten free foods.  Back to cardboard sandwiches!  Norman and I have always used a grill for cooking (we even bought one in New Zealand) and since the RV’s are equipped with only a cook top we had to quickly think on our feet what to prepare for meals.  Pasta seems to be on everyone’s menu tonight.  The good news is that the most important food on Norm’s food pyramid (beer and wine) was amazingly inexpensive!

After we all purchased our groceries and had lunch we headed off to test our driving skills on the Autobahn! It really looked and felt like any major US highway.  Not so bad at all!  At least this section.  There was a lot of construction going on, so that kept the speeds within reason.

Oh my!  Where to put this stuff!

We drove a total of 110 miles, mostly on the busy autobahn.  What became stop and go traffic was getting particularly grueling because we were driving unfamiliar manual transmission vehicles looking at signs in a foreign language.

After about 3 hours of driving we finally arrived in Schwarzach, Germany and were pleasantly surprised at how lovely the campground Camping Mainblick was. With all of our sites situated right on a beautiful river with a castle in the background, it was obvious that the best sites were reserved for our group.
Our first official Happy Hour!

Within a very few minutes everyone had parked, plugged the electrical cord in and headed to one site with chairs in one hand and a beverage of choice in the other.

A couple of rigs had been on the previous tour with European RV Tours; they had spent the last week traveling on their own and met up with us this night.  One couple, believe it or not, lives in Leesburg, Florida – about 15 minutes from us!  It is a small world, after-all.

Most of the group made what we discovered was a wise decision and went to dinner there at the campground while Norm and I tackled the daunting task of putting away all the “stuff” we bought and brought.  Last time we rented a small RV we were graduating from a tent, so the space and conveniences of a toilet and electricity were heavenly.  This time we had to adjust from 5 feet of counter space, double refrigerator and double sink of the past few years. We knew that the first couple of days getting used to the tight quarters were going to be difficult, but of course we found ourselves snapping at each other.  That was also to be expected, and didn’t last long.

After dinner I tried to work on the blog with my purchased internet service and quickly ran into trouble when I needed (I think) to log into my blog which I never have to do at home.  I didn’t know the password, and directions were all in German.  Yikes!

I then joined Norman and went to bed in our wonderfully comfortable beds!

The beautiful Bavarian countryside

Sept 19th, 2015

Today will be one of a very few days we drive a lot of miles, so promptly at 8AM all the RV’s pulled out of their sites with military precision.  Not bad, for the first day out!

Our destination is Feilnbach, a 216 mile drive with a stop and tour at a museum called Outdoor Museum Schliersee in the Bavarian region.

We got back on the Autobahn for several hours with the tour leader giving us the “heads up” on exits and construction with our supplied two-way radios.  It was like having a GPS only better- he is actually right ahead of you, giving you honest “real time” traffic conditions and turn by turn instruction!  Sometimes the heavy German accent could be a problem, but not only will he repeat it, but the gentleman in the rear ( Tail gunner ) will repeat it as well ( with less of a German accent ).

We stopped every hour or so at various rest stops, pulling in one after the other so we could take 10 minutes to stretch or use the restrooms.

Norm admired the large field of Hops ( important ingredient for making beer )

Another of Norm’s dreams was fulfilled today!  Driving on the Autobahn with a 6 speed transmission in the company of Porches, BMW’s,Audi’s and Mercedes Benz’s!  Ah, but one minor detail.  He’s in a fiat motorhome! Not much glory there!

There was no construction on the road today, and we breezed right along never exceeding 120km ( 75mph).  All the high performing, stylish European cars however, zipped past us like we were standing still. Why don’t we make cars like that in the US?  Once in a while we would see a Ford and it would stick out like the proverbial sore thumb!

Off the highway and enjoying the countryside of Bavaria

Such perfect flower boxes.  It didn't cease to amaze me!
When we got off the main highway ( Autobahn)the scenery drastically changed.  We drove through towns where the roads were very narrow ( ahh ha!  THAT’S why these RV’s are so small! ), while marveling at the mountainsides.

Homes were “as advertised” with flowerboxes  overflowing with incredible blooms along the length and sides of the chalet-type structures.  What I could not believe was that every single flower box ( and there may have been 100 of them ) were absolutely picture perfect.  None were sparse, yellowing or had dead spots!

We stopped at the Markus Wasmeier Outdoor Museaum Schliersee which is a 60,000m ( 180,000 sq ft )open-air arena where visitors experience Upper Bavaria’s authentic rural past.  Wesmeier, a German alpine skiing legend, initiated the project with the aim of preserving local culture and traditions.

To do this, twelve Bavarian 18th century historic buildings from the area had been restored and relocated on the museum grounds. There also was a working brewery right on the grounds.  Norm, of course, had to buy a beer as a souvenir!

This building was moved from a short distance away, and was, I believe built in the 1500's !
These rooms were so beautifully re-created
We thoroughly enjoyed a tour given by a woman who explained in detail the difficult lives of the early Bavarians. It was fascinating to hear how they would bring the chickens in to live with them during winter so they were warm and would continue to lay eggs, to how the structure of the homes would bring heat from one room into another, or the rising smoke from the kitchen would smoke meats and vegetables in the room above.

They must have a romantic heart to go to such lengths
as to build a roof over this heart shaped tree trunk!

It was a fascinating hour, and extremely well presented.

We all met in the parking lot at a pre-determined time and left for our campground a short distance away.

Notice the large rocks on the roof?  Since metal nails were so preciously used for tools and weapons, they did not "waste" them in building.  They laid large rocks on top of the thick boards to hold them down.  In winter the deep snow helped insulate the building.

King Ludwig II - what were you thinking?

Sept 20th, 2015  Day 4

So THIS is why the Motorhome's are so small here! Any bigger, we would not fit on the roads!

Today our destination is Austria, with a visit and tour of Herrenchiemsee Royal Palace, which is built on an island.   We also looked around the adjacent Augustinian Monastery and art galleries. We will drive a total of 69 miles.

King Ludwig II 's   Herrenchiemsee Royal Palace

King Ludwig II’s original idea was to copy Versailles Palace in honor of Sun King Louis XIV of France.  Started in 1878, it was intended purely as a monument to absolute monarchy, and had absolutely no practical function.  The main rooms are some of the best examples of 19th century interior design in existence, and are much more splendidly furnished than those in Versailles.  

What was so unbelievable was that King Ludwig II went to such unimaginable expense creating these ornate, gold- gilded rooms in the main area (of which none were intended to ever be used).  It was said that the King ran out of money, and with his early and untimely death only the center of the Palace had been completed.

We were not allowed to take photos, or touch anything, but here is one from the internet.  What a waste of money!

For a king that didn't have enough money to finish his project,
he sure spent a lot of it!

Norm and I had resisted going on group tours up until now.  Part of our reasoning was because we would be dragged to places we don’t have any particular interest in.  This could be one example.  It did, however, certainly educate us about the history of this place and era.  Had this not been in the “package” we paid for, we most certainly would have by-passed this and missed seeing this incredible extravagance.  

We took the short ferry ride back to the RV’s, had lunch and headed to our day’s next destination – Salzburg, Austria.  

We enjoyed the mandatory happy hour then a leisurely meal at the campground with most of the group.

Salzburg -Where the " Sound of Music" is everywhere!

Monday, September 21st 2015

We will stay two nights here in Salzburg in order to spend more time in this beautiful place, and enjoy a day without driving.

Are you a Sound of Music Fan?  I certainly am, and am not ashamed to admit that I have seen it quite a few times. This morning we will enjoy the “Sound of Music“  tour!

The mansion that Uncle Maxx sat out on the patio drinking coffee when the Baroness-girlfriend came out.
I can visualize all this, can you?

After being picked up in a very comfortable motor coach, we were introduced to our local guide who then took us to the various locations of where they filmed the movie.  Boy, this guy really knew his stuff!  He would describe the scene so well that you imagine Julie Andrews and Christopher Plumber standing there singing to one another (which I sadly learned Christopher Plumber was not singing his own songs. He wanted to, but he was unable to become good enough so they hired a “ghost” singer).  I would always get so teary-eyed when he sang, looking adoringly at Maria!

The Gazebo where Leisl sang " I am 16 going on 17" and danced on the benches

 We saw the monastery, the church where they got married, the lane where the kids rode their bicycles wearing curtains, etc., while enjoying a perfectly beautiful day with deep blue skies!

We asked the guide how many times he had seen that movie to know so much.  His answer?  “Well, my father was actually the Director of the movie when I was a child!”  How lucky were we to have such a guide with unlimited “inside” information, plus a great sense of humor?
Norm and I with the Tour Guide - son of the Director of the Sound of Music

The tour included a lunch with breathtaking views over a lake (parts of the movie were filmed there as well) and the most incredible apple strudel I had even stolen a bite of!  (I am gluten sensitive). Norm really loved what was left!

As we headed back into the town of Strazburg we marveled at the mountain range, and were informed of more movie and area facts, listened to Julie Andrews on CD and sang “doe-a-deer” and a few other songs.  Did you know Julie Andrews was a famous singer at the age of 12?

 We were played a recording of her singing at that age and she was already an unbelievably talented vocalist.  She was able to pay off her parent’s mortgage by the time she turned 17.

Marabel Park and Gardens in Salzburg, Germany
The group was then taken to downtown Salzburg so we could see Marabel Park and Gardens and make our way up the steep hill lined with very exclusive designer stores to visit the Hohensalzburg Fortress sitting high above the city.

The shops below the Hohensalzburg Fortress
This fortress started by an archbishop 1077 and was merely a fortification with a wooden wall, and over the centuries, was enhanced by each succeeding archbishop until it became an impregnable walled fortress. Strangely enough, it never came under attack, but during the Napoleonic wars it was evacuated and abandoned.

We then moseyed around town on our own and we all took a taxi back.

Sweethearts afix these "Love Locks" on fences or bridges to symbolize their ever-lasting love.  They put their initials
on them then throw away the key.  Some municipalities consider them vandalism, but others embrace it.

The Fortress is up on the hill in the background
Again, this day was so well organized.  We were given the needed tickets quickly and efficiently – whether it was for parking, admissions, audio tours or pre-paid taxis.

The view of the town of Salzburg from the turrets of the Fortress 

Many of you have probably done many organized tours, but being “Tour Virgins” we are loving it! We especially love not having to pack and unpack each day.  When we got back we had our mandatory Happy Hour, were told what would happen the next day, while I managed to finish a previous blog post.

It's nice to see they are welcome somewhere!
Norm tackled dinner using our three inches of counter space, and I took the laundry and fought aggressively for the single washing machine.  After Norm’s delicious dinner I strung the clothes all over the tiny RV, leaving no place to stand or sit but the bed.

Bird's eye view of Hitler's Eagle's Nest

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ahh…. Another beautiful day.  Destination?  Drive 134 miles to Villach.  But we first take our RV’s and drive a short, very steep road to the parking lot of Adolph Hitler’s  mountain retreat.

High up on the hill was Hilter's retreat " Eagles Nest" it is no wonder why he felt vulnerable!
When we looked high up among the clouds, we saw a tiny building on the very top of a rocky ledge in the middle of the Bavarian Alps in Germany- Hitler’s Eagles Nest. This property came under the control of a Tourist office in 1960, and is leased out as a cozy restaurant.  All proceeds go to charity. 
Since the road was closed to the public in 1952, great big tandem busses carried us up the mountain, 2300 feet of elevation gain over the next 4 miles.  This road is one of its kind; having been blasted completely out of the mountain over a mere 13 months!

We then walked 406 feet through a tunnel where we entered a huge brass trimmed elevator carrying us up another 406 feet in 41 seconds.  Blink, and the elevators opened up to vast views of the mountain ranges. The temperature, for being so high up, was glorious!  We could see for what seemed, a 100 miles.  The clouds and fog below us crept in and out along the river.  Birds soared as busloads of tourists competed for the best vantage spot for that all important “selfie”.

Our view from on top of the mountain a little above The Eagle's Nest

Here we could see the fog retreat on the lake
The house is designed with a pseudo-medieval look with thick granite walls and heavily beamed ceilings. Adolph did not like to come here fearing its vulnerability to attack, and so it was used mostly by his mistress, Eva Braun.  We viewed an elaborate Bunker system that had multiple levels, which were lined with concrete and bricks.  It had power, heating and ventilation systems as well as a very elaborate anti-gas protection system. 
This is part of the elaborate bunker system below the Eagle's Nest.  The steel and concrete buffer was designed to protect
persons from shock waves and explosion shrapnel. As an air landing by Allied paratroopers was feared, all entrances
were protected with machine gun emplacements.

The group had lunch and perhaps a quick nap before we headed down the mountain and off to our campsite in Villach.

 The snack table at cocktail hour today was particularly good since we had just stopped at a discount supermarket down the road.  It didn’t have much “dinner” foods, but there were many cheeses and cured meats (bologna and sausage, etc) beer and wine. 

There was venison on the menu here at the campground restaurant, so Norm and I plus a few others decided to partake, but our meals were all pretty bad.  Mine, because I could not have the “bread balls”, consisted of two tiny venison meatloaf slices, a sea of gravy and French fries!  Yuck! 

Tomorrow we will be in Italy, and the food there should be incredible!  I tried all night to get online, but again no luck!  

Ahh... the romance of Venice!

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

Yet another great campsite reserved for our group.  A water view of Venice!  This campground, like all the others, had all the necessary conveniences.
Our group of 10 RV's ( or Caravans ) lead by European Motorhome Tours, drove to our campground on the mainland side of Venice.  We had just driven though torrential rains as we exited the Alps, but by the time we arrived the rain has lessened. It was a very busy but lovely campground right on the water overlooking the Adriatic Sea and the Basilica di San Marco in the distance.  We unfortunately have only a day and a half to soak up the romantic city of Venice, Italy. Our plans were to all go over to Venice as a group on the ferry and have a gondola ride that afternoon; however, all but a few decided to wait until tomorrow, hoping it would be a nicer day.

Norm and I decided it best to take a quick nap and tackle the mountain of laundry.  It would be fabulous to use the internet and work on this blog, as well.

About 3pm the rain stopped, and with the forecast of heavy rain tomorrow, six of us decided to go over and check out Venice and have dinner.  Italy is known for its food, so we just HAVE to take advantage of it!

The Grand Canal in Venice, Italy.  Boat in forefront is a Water-Bus.  Works like a subway or trolley system.

Sometimes in life you visualize a place- probably how you have seen it on television, National Geographic, or in travel magazines.  They pick a perfect day, perfect lighting, no people or trash. Similar to that “Norman Rockwell” holiday.  Ultimately, you are most often, disappointed.  Not here!  Oh my gosh!  Although the weather was damp and raw, (and I was freezing in the attempt to “travel light”) I was so amazed!  Venice is just as I imagined!  My eyes darted back and forth just trying to take it all in, as Norm and I snapped pictures trying to capture the essence of this miraculous place that boasts the world's highest density of UNESCO protected masterpieces.

Look familiar?
Beautiful architecturally designed buildings fastened with huge spikes on pilings that over the past 500 years have settled as the water levels have risen.  Here there are small "city blocks" of buildings (like Any-town USA) but they are completely surrounded by hundreds of canals.  Beautiful arched bridges with walkways cross over every 100 feet or so.  Water buses and taxi’s making very frequent stops carried everyday people from one “street” to the next.  Very similar to public transportation systems that we all familiar with on terraferma.

One of a hundred canals throughout Venice

Call me old fashioned, but when my 'Hunky Gondola guy"
is talking on his cell phone, it just isn't what I fantasized ! 
 Dozens and dozens of ornately decorated gondolas transported those tourists wishing for that romantic experience, as young Italian males expertly guided you along the canals, managing to avoid playing “bumper cars” with the other boats.   Here was my one disappointment.  There were just too many people (all donning cameras of different sizes and shapes many with selfie sticks) in too many boats squeezed into these tiny canals.  I unrealistically expected Norm and I to be practically alone, with this hunky guy singing “ole solo me-o“ as Norm looked lovingly into my eyes.  Yeah, right!  We were just as guilty as everyone else; the only “looking” was through the lens of a camera!  There were some lucky (and obviously more extravagant) people who had musicians and soloists on their boats!  But I wonder, was “love” really in their eyes?

Oh, I want THIS Gondola Guy!
As our small group went to St Mark’s Square, the Bridge of Sighs, and other places on the “must-do” list, it started to rain.  We found a restaurant that we all agreed on, and then headed back to the ferry dock to make sure we made the last boat out.  We made it back to the camper just as the wind and rain picked up, rocking our “home” as we slept.

The Bridge of Sighs.  Built  in the beginning of the 17th century, this famous structure of limestone and windows with bars.
Legend says that prisoners, as they were lead over this bridge to their cells, would "sigh" at their last glimpse of beautiful Venice.  Romantics claim if the kiss while under this bridge their love will last forever.  What is it here in Europe ?Europeans seem to connect Romance with being "locked up"!  Remember the Love Padlocks? Now a trip to life imprisonment? Hmm......

Thursday, September 24, 2015 

We woke up to some rain, with the wind howling at probably 50 mph! I  Our tour leader made the great decision to wait until 10 am for us to take the ferry over to Venice so we could take our very own gondola ride, hoping the weather conditions would improve.  By the time we left, the sun was trying to come out.  The streets in Venice are very narrow, with a lot of twists and turns, each one looking like the other.  Needless to say, it was very easy to get disoriented, but the maps provided were very useful.  Especially if you remembered to bring your reading glasses!

Finally!  Something other than pasta and pizza!
After our very pleasant gondola ride, Norm and I separated from the group to satisfy our gastronomic interests.  We wanted to sample true Northern Italian cuisine in one of the intimate restaurants that were on every corner.  We found a restaurant whose menu looked interesting, and had a marvelous lunch.  Smoked swordfish slices, a fish stew with lavish amount of seafood, and the most incredible eggplant parmesan appetizer I had ever had!  Oh, and a bottle of lovely Italian white wine!
 Finally…… we had the meal we were dreaming about!

We walked what seemed like miles to get back to the ferry and along the way purchased a refrigerator magnet depicting Venice to hang on our Travel Christmas tree.
I took advantage of the internet service up in the pavilion and spent several hours on the blog.  Norm spent the time visiting our new friends in the group.  We ate leftovers for dinner, and called it a night.
So far, Venice is our favorite place by far! I would love to come back, perhaps stay at one of the nice hotels right among the canals.