30 of us visited the Dethleffs factory near the Swiss border. A few are still holding down jobs and had to return straight away whilst the brighter ones combined the visit with a longer tour of Europe.
Here is the travelogue of one of those couples……
Hi all and thank you for all the texts and messages we’ve received enquiring about our latest destination(s) – It’s lovely to hear from everyone and we try to respond when possible!!
Actually, one of the biggest challenges so far has been getting online. Naively I thought we’d be able to “borrow” people’s Wi-Fi links almost wherever we went, but it seems the world has moved on and nearly every connection I’ve discovered is now secure – the cheek of it!! Otherwise, technology is working great – we have 2 Sat Navigation systems (Garmin and MS Auto-route), road atlases and of course the ultimate manual override, otherwise known as my co-driver. Luckily, U-turns is something I’ve mastered, at least there’s some benefit from having a Labour government. We’re managing to get a Satellite signal almost anywhere we try, so are keeping up loosely with the worlds news. In particular, by some amazing piece of luck I managed to tune into Astra 2
So the trip started off on a Wednesday evening when we drove straight to Folkestone and caught an earlier crossing than planned, stopping overnight in The “Aires de Camping” in Calais. For those of you that aren’t aware, once one leaves the shores of the UK, Motorhomes become socially acceptable, with most towns providing some combination of facilities (Parking, Water, Chemical dump, Electricity, Views, etc) for a few Euros, more if you get more. We travelled from Calais and spent the next day travelling gently to Luxembourg, where we luckily arrived in the main town car park at 18:01, with parking free overnight from 18:00 – how lucky are we” We had a great evening in Luxembourg, which we reckon is a pretty amazing City and will most probably be revisited another time soon.
Ever onwards…. after a fairly long drive, we arrived at the Dethleffs Motorhome factory in Isny, Southern Germany about 15:45. Showered, and set-up we embarked on the first of our over indulgent weekends. Many Brits still have misapprehensions about Germany, but personally after travelling there many times socially and on business. I find it a great country. Scenically beautiful in many areas, it is efficient, clean, with great polite people and yes, they DO have a sense of humour –could YOU wear lederhosen without having a sense of humour” All at Dethleffs laid on a really great weekend, with exercise (bike ride), culture (Zeppelin museum), amusement (Boat trip on the Boden See) and entertainment (traditional German groups) together with the odd German beer and the obligatory pork and sauerkraut! The best thing one can say is that ALL of the Brits present thought the weekend exceeded their expectations. Leaving Isny on the Tuesday, after getting some planned enhancements fitted to the Van, we headed for Tuscany.
En-route included some wasted miles in the wrong direction, a beautiful drive through and an overnight stop in the Alps, a day out in Innsbruck, where for the first time we left Moby on the outskirts and used the Scooter to visit the City. We continued on through the Alps and down through the Dolomites, stopping overnight in Riva Del Garda, on the northern side of Lake Garda. Then onwards to Tuscany, where we started another over-indulgent weekend. Friends and their family made for a group of 17-21 at various stages of the weekend and a very enjoyable time was spent visiting the Banfi wine estate, Volterro (medieval town) and the general vistas that greet you around every turn in Tuscany. All this topped off with much beautiful wine, sumptuous food and great company…..
Reluctantly saying goodbye to everyone on the Monday morning, my co-driver and I headed out alone on Chapter 3 of our trip. We were definitely feeling the strain from the weekend and 45 minutes in a traffic jam, coupled with a wrong turn, left us heading back in the direction from whence we’d come – necessitating another 45 minutes in the same traffic jam!! Rather than do this, I turned off the Autostrada at the first opportunity and headed for the nearest rest point, which happened to be a Supermarket car park. BAD DECISION. Italian cars are still typically based around the SMALL car and my Motorhome is just a tad larger. Manoeuvring around the very tightly constructed car park left Moby with a bruised front bumper when a low-level concrete boulder jumped in his way – Ouch. Actually it was more a cut than a bruise and I’m still not sure whether my heart, my pride or Moby came off worse! How can one be seen driving around in such a vehicle, with a damaged front end”
Some distant memory of a story from my granddad and the war meant we continued that days drive to Rimini on Italy’ east coast and considered our options for Moby. A call to Dethleffs guided us to a recommended dealer near Verona where Moby and I could be repaired. Before leaving we spent 2 days in San Marino which is an astonishing place. A Tax Haven totally surrounded by Italy, it is scenically beautiful, with some amazing fortifications and extremely attractive shopping. If you’ve never been and are ever in the vicinity, make sure you find some time for a visit – it won’t disappoint.
A leisurely week on the East Coast, saw us arrive at the dealer on Friday. Luckily labour rates are lower in Italy, so we booked Moby in for Monday morning and spent the weekend locally, Saturday in Sirmione at the south end of Lake Garda and Verona on the Sunday. Sirmione is very picturesque set on a peninsula, with a Motorhome friendly car park immediately before the old town, set right on the edge of the lake. Somehow we justified the cost and parked within 5 yards of the lake, looking East across the lake – truly beautiful and a memory to treasure. Verona was also impressive, although in a totally different way.
Dropping Moby at the dealer on Monday morning, my co-driver and I headed off to Milan. Using Scooby (my Scooter) to reach the nearest station, we enjoyed the luxury of Italian trains (not really) and spent the afternoon looking around the City and then spent the night at friends’ apartment. Another great evening with lovely Italian food and wine!!
We collected Moby on Tuesday evening. With his cut repaired and my pride partially restored we headed off towards Venice. Staying at Punta Sabbione on the Jesolo peninsula, we incredibly found a quiet, secure and free parking spot literally overlooking the lagoon and within 200 yards of the ferry terminal – one couldn’t have hoped for a better location. It enabled us to visit Venice for the evening and the next day. There’s no doubt that Venice is a truly amazing City, with many attractions and huge groups of tourists. Staying on the peninsula and being able to leave the madness behind seemed like the best of both worlds. Standing on the Rialto bridge looking at the busy jostling of boats on the Grand Canal, one could imagine being in a totally different era.
We left Venice and drove around the coast to Trieste, staying overnight in a town shortly before the Slovenian border. This morning (Friday 30th May) saw us cross into Slovenia and follow the smallish coastal roads rather than the main highway. Laundry and relaxation requirements meant we wanted to spend our first night on a campsite, which it seems the Slovenians don’t have on their coastal area, well not of an acceptable standard anyway. Based on several recommendations we continued straight into Croatia, whereby we’re parked up on a nice site on the edge of the Adriatic coast. This interlude has enabled me to type this little missive, although when it will actually get sent is any ones guess!!
Chapter 3 has sort of ended on arrival in (and departure from) Slovenia, so after doing all our chores and relaxing a bit (I even swam in the sea today!!) we will head off tomorrow for Chapter 4. The current plan is to take a couple of weeks following the Croatian coast round past Pula and on up towards Rijeka before heading back into Slovenia to visit Ljubljana and Lake Bled. Our exact route towards home has yet to be settled, but it’s likely to be a swoop northwards, with more of the westwards happening higher in Europe. This could well take in Poland or East Germany heading across to Holland and down the coast to France in time for the crossing home on July 8th
We’re benefiting from better weather than the UK is getting, although for sure we’re getting plenty of rain as well. San Marino was particularly wet and Tuscany was far from dry as well. However, the last few days have seen summer arrive in the Adriatic, with lovely hot days and the occasional light overnight shower. On a practical side, my co-driver and I are now well into the swing of what living in a Motorhome entails. We manage to get fresh Water and empty the tanks quite easily. The Solar panel means power is fairly plentiful and whilst my co-driver has the kitchen department well under control, I seem to be doing OK (with one notable exception) in the driving department. With my basic German and English, together with my co-driver’s Spanish and quite reasonable Italian, we’re getting on well with the languages as well. We miss friends and much of our daily lives. One day I dream of running around a football pitch again, although I think plodding might be more accurate! We’re trying to stay partially fit, although morning coffee and a pastry of our current location seems to have become a habit!
Hopefully we’ll be able to get online more frequently soon and could use Skype/MSN and of course e-mail to catch up with y’all. Until then, please make sure you let us know of any news and we look forward to seeing everyone soon. Take care.
Love and best wishes