Our gang has been on the way for more than three months now and if my boring introduction has not deterred you, I would like to share with you our travel experiences in the previous 70 days. I wrote the last article in the sunny Spanish town of Toledo and ever since quite a lot of has happened.
We headed out of Toledo directly to the Atlantic. Shortly after crossing the Portuguese border we stopped to look at the terrific town of Evora, which is on the UNESCO list. Here for the first time, Portuguese history “breathed” on us and also did the peaceful atmosphere of this country. From this city full of history we continued to the ocean and camped unplanned in the village of Sesimbra.
At the originally planned camp in Setubalu, we were not successful because it was still under reconstruction, but Sesimbra proved to be a much better option. The village itself is located quite a bit away from the beach but the path to it was great. Behind the village the footpath passes through a pine forest which is complemented by the giant agave and low scrubs, which was surprisingly flamboyant. Soon you will be out of the woods and the view of the vast ocean and coastal cliffs opens in front of you. The beach is deserted and it is hot enough so we can enjoy “skinny dipping” in the great sea waves.
From Sesimbra we travelled all over Portugal, from the south to the north. Of course we did not miss out on Lisbon, where it is necessary to taste their famous and excellent grilled sardines and mackerels. The city is very pretty but also quite vast, so we were properly tired from sightseeing. We also visited other beautiful cities and small towns, such as Porto with its wines cellars, the University town Coimbra and the UNESCO-listed luxury historical towns of Óbidos and Tomar.
After Portugal of course comes Spain. As soon as we had investigated thoroughly the pilgrimage town of Santiago de Compostela, we felt nostalgia for the mountains, so we headed to the Los Picos de Europa - National Park. If you will ever come here, you must not leave out the notoriously renowned trek - Los Cares. The trek is about 12 km long and runs through the breathtaking canyon of the river of the same name. The canyon is as much as 2000 meters deep in places and for good reason it is called the Garganta Divina, or Divine throat. In Los Picos we visited the magnificent mountain lakes of Enol and Ercina and there were already significantly more people that can get everywhere by car. Despite this fact the hike around the lakes are impeccable. In the meadows the cows are grazing, hundreds of dragonflies are flying around the lake and the peaks of the surrounding mountains are still covered with snow.
From the mountains we continued across the Basque coast to France. The coast is a paradise for surfers and ornithologists but the weather refused to cooperate with us, for it rained all the time. But surely we could not omit a visit to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. This is an amazingly photogenic church built on a steep rocky island, which is connected to mainland by a stone-paved road, which incidentally was used for filming the series “Game of Thrones”.
A better entry to France we could not even have wished for. Straight away we spent two nights in the shadow of the largest sand dune in Europe. This 110 meter high and 3 kilometres long beauty is called the Dune du Pilat, sometimes also called just Pyla. The dune continues to move in an easterly direction because of the influence of the prevailing winds from the ocean and where the sand is filling the pine forest which spreads over its base. Shortly after arriving we all, including our furry friend, had to climb right to the top. The views ... on one side the endless pine forest stretches and on the other side the view across the dune to the ocean, to the small sandy islands and the opposite sand spit Cap Ferret.
We could not get enough of this amazing place. The next day I got up at a quarter to five and I climbed the dune again. I was sitting on top of the dune and observing the sun, which slowly rose over the horizon. As a bonus, I met two Frenchmen, who offered me warm coffee between the conversations. Then I went down to the opposite side of the dune and finished the beautiful morning by bathing in the ocean.
From the dune our gang are still travelling along the French coast, which is very diverse throughout its length. One day we camp on the mouth of the Gironde River, the next day we are travelling through wonderful Brittany, where it is necessary to taste the local cider, you will no longer enjoy any other and the local butter biscuits are also worth trying! Besides nature, we are also fans of history and architecture, so we have therefore explored cities such as Quimper, Dinan and Saint Malo, where even the ordinary village houses are somehow nicer. They are either white or wholly built from stone. The roofs are covered by slate tiles and the blue windows are complemented by wooden shutters of the same colour. Brittany’s natural wonders are dominated by reefs and capes. We were most fascinated by the myths that shrouded Point du Raz.
After we left Brittany, we arrived in Normandy, which is known for its rich war history. Our gang went to Omaha Beach and commemorated our honoured dead in the American Cemetery, where about 9400 soldiers, including the Ryan brothers are buried. We also visited the Battery of heavy artillery in Longues sur Mer and we thought deeply about everything that had happened here in June 1944.
We continued further along the French coast and we took a walk over to the rock cliffs above the small town of Étretat. We highly recommend these cliffs but we could not wait to get back to nature again. The North attracts us but we still have to overcome Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany on the way. Well, and while we are here, we will not just pass through on the motorway. In Belgium we had to call in to the city of Bruges, which we have wanted to visit since we saw the movie “In Bruges“. The city is full of history, beer and water canals, the same as the upcoming Netherlands.
In the Netherlands we looked into the relaxed Amsterdam and admired windmills and other historical buildings in the open-air museum - Zaanse Schanse. Because of “withdrawal symptoms” from missing the nature, we decided to trek through Dwingerderweld National Park. Hills are unfortunately not available in the Netherlands and so instead we walked through a landscape full of peat-bogs and heather.
We shoot quickly through Germany and after a while we are already camped on the Danish island of Rømø, which belongs to the National Park - Vadehavet. The local storm wind, which perhaps never stops, has completely and thoroughly inspected the construction of our “Hannah” tent and to just erect the tent proved quite a challenge. The wind properly shook the tent, but it survived the night undamaged and once again we slept peacefully. Wind here dictates and a lot of athletes use the wind for windsurfing and kitesurfing. Watching kiters flying a few meters above the waves was a great experience. From the island Rømø, we wandered through to the beautiful cliffs of Stevns Klint to Copenhagen, which is a lovely, multicultural city full of canals. The relaxed atmosphere of Christiania’s free community immediately gets to you.
We crossed the bridge Øresund and we found ourselves in Sweden. The very first night we used the so-called “Right to roam” and camped on the shores of the lake. When you can build your tent almost anywhere you want, that is so brilliant! The next night we slept on the coast below Gothenburg. The following night, while strolling through the woods, we discovered a super spot right on the shores of the fjord.
Then, of course, we arrived in Norway. After a short wandering along the coast we headed inland and spent the night in the little town of Tonstad. In the local tourist office they recommended us to trek, which brought us on to the hills above the town, from where it opened up to an unforgettable outlook of the valley, a large lake and small towns. In Norway it is essential to climb up the table mountain - Preikestolen, which is perhaps the most photographed place in this country. This corresponded with the crowd of people climbing up the stone stairs to the observation point but almost all of them came back down pretty quickly. We found a good place on the top in the alee and built our tent there. It was not easy to find a place that was not waterlogged and at least a bit hidden from the wind but the reward for us was the magical sunset over the surrounding mountains and Lysefjrord, with the ripples of the lake sloshing about below us.
In the dryness of the tent, we survived the rain and the incredible wind blowing throughout the night. In the morning we climbed down and ended the day with an overnight stay with a luxurious view of the fjord. The day was long and the sun set after eleven o’clock. There is nothing like opening the tent and to see trees in front of you, the fjord and the sun colouring the sky between the mountains to orange. In Norway we also enjoyed the ferry over the fjords and in total we cruised three times and it was fun. Another destination was Bergen, which we highly recommend with its wooden, colourful, Hanseatic houses on the waterfront which are great and the local fish market where you can taste grilled fish skewers, shrimps, crabs, mussels, caviar and a lots of other delicates and is “an issue in itself”. Whale steaks are also served here as well as burgers, hotdogs and sausages from reindeer meat.
The journey led us further to the famous Geirangerfjord and then we drove along the Troll’s path. Finally, we spent several days in Norway trekking in the National Park - Rondane. We did not see any reindeers, but we stayed overnight in a “self service” cottage. However, to be honest, we actually stayed overnight in the neighbouring hut, where was situated a storehouse of wood and tools because of our fluffy friend Buddy was not allowed in the cottage.
On our way back to the south through Sweden the weather refused to cooperate. It rained continuously for the next five days. Still, we could enjoy the sunsets over the lakes, stroll in the nature and even a trek in the National Park - Store Mosse. One day we camped at the huge lake - Vättern. We had the beach to ourselves and it did not rain that day, so we just dropped our clothes and jumped into the water. From Swedish Trelleborg then we crossed over to Germany. We still had time to visit there the National Park - Jasmund and take a short trek on its beautiful reefs.
The last country of our trip was Poland, where we had to stop in the amazing city of Krakow. With its Wawel Castle, the city reminds us of Prague and there is also a very friendly atmosphere. At this moment there was a pirogues (pasties) festival on one of the squares, so we did not miss the degustation. I am finishing this article in our last camp in Poland. We are 105 days into the journey. We have never done anything like this and it was a really great test for us. But we found out that we can coexist together for such a long time without “eating each other”. On the contrary, I would say that our relationship is stronger than ever. We were able to overcome all the pitfalls of our journey together. The weather tested us a lot. In May in the Alps it was quite cold. In Spain and Portugal we were overwhelmingly hot. On the island of Rømø and on Preikestolen, the wind almost blew us away. We have survived under the tent through countless storms and several heavy rainy days. The tent from “Hannah” was our home and protected us greatly from all that Mother Nature could throw at us. The tent -“ Sett” we can therefore recommended with “a calm head” to all hikers and adventures because it will really protect you from any kind of weather.
Driving the car has become a daily routine. In the 105 days we travelled nearly 18 thousand kilometres. Fousek, as we have re-christened our runabout, became our temporary home. Occasionally we were wet, freezing or alternatively sweating, hungry and often exhausted. All sorts of emotions have come to the surface from absolute euphoria and satisfaction to annoyance and fear. But we overcome everything and finally came out of it stronger.
On our journey we met quite a lot of interesting people. Whether it was Austrian teachers which had to come to Norway trekking and surfing, a French student hitchhiking through Scandinavia or the originally couple of Czech pensioners, who had emigrated to Switzerland in 1968. Therefore, if you are considering a trip of any kind, do not hesitate and get going! Feel free to contact us, if you need to clarify anything about our trip or to discuss some of the places we have visited. You never know what tomorrow will bring, so do not delay anything and enjoy each day to the fullest and love the people around you.
Live your life because you will not have another one.