Czech Republic to the border of Romania

The first stop in the Czech republic was just outside the city of Brno.  We took the easy route from our campsite in to the city centre.

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A quiet walk along the riverbank, a ferry boat along the river and across the lake, and a tram-ride in to the centre of Brno itself.

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It was market day and stalls had taken over the town square.

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Some very strange street decorations here in Brno.

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Just when you thought it was safe to go to the market…..

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No one climbed up on this statue but Sheila played hide and seek amongst its legs.  No not a new Photoshop perspective adjustment layer just a weird knight on very tall horse.

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Not exactly a local carnivore but I am guessing it was an exhibit in the museum until it got too stinky for indoors and they suspended it in a covered archway outside.

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One of the residents of the lake.  A Mandarin Duck.  Possibly part of the resident population breeding from escapees.  No apology this blog for the number of birds it is just that I have seen so many. 

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Definitely not an exotic this one.  A purebred LBJ eating a purebred green caterpillar.  Can you tell what it is yet?  Answers on a self addressed postcard. No stamp needed.

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This one is far more easy to recognise even if all you sense is its call.  The Cuckoo.

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Just over the border to Slovakia is the town of Trencin with its floodlit castle above the River Vah. The fortifications go back to Roman times and the town is very proud of its Roman inscription.

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WE camped by a fishing lake and I had my £4.00 worth of carp fishing and landed the biggest fish I have ever caught at twenty one and a half pounds.  He took a wad of white bread on the bottom and was a real struggle to get to the net as I didn’t even have mine by me and had to send two young lads scurrying for theirs.  My perfect fishing tackle setup.  Rod  …  Reel   …   Line   …   Hook   …   Bread.  Just like I did sixty years ago.

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Along the river there is some definitely peculiar fungal growth.  I never did go back at night to see if it glowed in the dark.

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High on a rocky outcrop above Zilina another castle.

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Here is something you don’t run across every day.  A fully fledged international dog show with contestants from as far away as Kazakhstan.  They all turned up on our campsite for the weekend.   Here are the Bulgarian Sheepdog Breeder team proudly showing their wares at the No. 1 position.

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Where this ugly little mutt came from is a mystery to all.

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Enough weeds growing in this wheat field to automatically bake poppy-seed loaves.

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Another rocky fortress, this one in Oravice.

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Some more modern warfare hardware.  An enterprising man from Podbiel uses his three tanks to give white knuckle rides  across some rough terrain. He looks as though he has taken aim at our motorhome.  Look out Sheila.

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The spa town of Oravice has a campsite up in the hills “where the deer and the antelope play”, well at least this red deer that wandered down from the mountains and took a short cut through our campsite did.

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She seemed quite unperturbed by the campers and me taking shots through our bedroom window.

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Later that same day, her buddy the fox seemed quite as unconcerned as she was .  He wasn’t interested in the lemon from my Gin and Tonic which was all the food I had to throw his way at the time.

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Far from exotic but a beautiful painted lady butterfly.

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This was at the top of a 2 hour hike up in to the mountains.  Luckily there was a fellow photographer more than willing to snap the two of us.

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No! Honestly we walked up the first day then we went by ski lift the next day.

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Someone’s idea of fun or perhaps a mad effort to get the passing tourist trade.  An upside down house, the Statue of Liberty  with a rescue helicopter.  Snapped through the window at umpteen miles per hour.

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Rakova Dolina certainly go in for elaborate road signs.

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As we travelled south through Germany, Poland, Czech Republic Hungary and Romania we have seen hundreds of stork nests.  These are usually telegraph poles with a sort of wagon wheel arrangement nailed to the top.  The storks are actively encouraged in all of the continental countries within their range.  Pairs of storks build upon previous nests and this one clearly shows annual increments and perhaps four or five successful broods have been raised on this pole.  Some villages have a nest every 300 metres along their high street which amounts to perhaps  10 nests with an average of 3 chicks in each.  Just as well there are as many because the chicks have to encounter the brave hunters of Malta on their southerly migration.

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We spent some time climbing along a remote country road only to discover that the road shown on the map was a dusty, bumpy cart track and we had to turn round and find an alternative route.  But serendipity had us in hand and we passed by this old wooden church just as the custodian was shutting shop.  He gave us the onceover and allowed (Strictly against the rules!) me to take some photographs.

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The outside was plain wood but inside it was so elaborately painted it gave you quite a shock to walk through the door.  It was so tiny inside I couldn’t step back far enough to get the whole wall in one shot.

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On a far greater scale in Jasov is the Baroque monastery complex of the Premonstratesians.  An imposing building housing a school and a monastery.

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So good I had to photograph it twice.

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Where it comes from nobody knows

or where it goes to but on it goes.

(Thanks W. B. Rands and a primary school teacher from Clapham Voluntary Primary School Circa 1959)

The railway track with no station, no passengers, no carriages and no engine but the rails exhibit some use somehow.

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An unusual fellow this one, the nine spotted moth.

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Oops there goes another grasshopper.  I think you can see me reflected in the thrushes eye.

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Its those pincers around the females neck that get me. Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo)

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Now if I’ve got this right I should land just between Susan and Peter….Err….LOOKOUT!  By this time the White Stork chicks were overcrowding the nests a little.

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Never seen on Dawlish Beach.  but the owners of Tutajos beach would like you to leave your WMDs at home.

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I have never seen this before, I have never heard of it before, in fact I have never imagined it possible: a rock concert on horseback.   The man was singing via wireless microphone, the horse was DANCING around the arena and all the old folks were singing along like the choir.

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Been in the sun for some years with a smile on her face.

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The red veined darter dragonfly.  Clocked him perching above a ditch whilst out for a walk.

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Way way in the distance, my first glimpse of black storks.  Slightly smaller than their white cousins and way shyer.

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for comparison.

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Another flying marvel, a Southern Darter in flight above a lake.

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This is how I happened to be above the lake alongside the dragonfly.

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And I snapped these Moorhens.

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You can take your motorhome over the lake or even over the river if you trust this paddlesteamer ferry.

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Just as surprised to see us as we were to see it.

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Over the border in Hungary we visited the Hortobagy nature reserve.   Based on ancient fish ponds and natural wetlands Hortobagy provides an ideal environment for 320 species of birds.  Here are some long horned ducks.

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A whiskered Tern

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A night Heron

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And just to give some perspective to the environment, a lonely Great white  Egret  in a mile square fishpond covered in floating vegetation.  Not a lot of opportunity here for wandering off the beaten track.

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They graze water buffalo here to stir up the muddy waters I think so that Egrets can find all the frogs.

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Above a piece of woodland in the reserve a few Red Footed Falcons snatch the insects.

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And just to show that the local farmers have a bit of a sense of humour Here are Mr and Mrs B.B. Silage

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Another reminder of the cold war or even of a hot one.

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More of the farmer’s famous sense of humour.  A stretched tractor.  Can you see his leg sticking out of the side of the cab? Where are the brakes?

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Saying goodbye and looking forward to the Romanian episode of the Jansellsbond blog is the common blue butterfly.

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Through Holland and Germany to Poland

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For the first time we took the ferry from Harwich to Hooke in Holland.  It wasn’t much more expensive than the usual Dover – Calais job but it did take about 4 times as long to cross.  Not that that mattered much as we are never in much of a hurry and it did place us in a good starting point for our journey across the continent. DSC_3556

Spring flowers and spring activities.

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The route took us through the city of Gottingen with its famous goose girl statue that was supposed to bring good luck to the university students who kissed it.

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This weekend though, a cycle race for all was in progress. The centre of town was cordoned off to accommodate the competitors who seemed to be from all age groups but terribly enthusiastic.

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The quiet around the car park where we spent a couple of nights allowed me to get close enough to this fieldfare keen on feeding its chicks with juicy worms.

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WE took the less direct route in order to pass through the city of Dresden, much knocked about during WWII but now extensively rebuilt.

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Much gold is apparent on roofs and statues.

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All paid for no doubt by the Ministry of Finance on the other side of the River Elbe who live in this palace.

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An architect, smiling in the spring sunshine.

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Every Dresdener should keep an eye on these M.H.C.s as they get extremely slippery in the wet.  Sheila sustained a nasty fall in the rainy streets of Dresden when she stepped on a metal grating.

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The golden horseman.  A depiction of Augustus II (the strong) covered in gold.    Augustus II was of course better known in the 1600s as a fox tosser.  (Google it – go on google “Fox Tossing”  a real eye opener.) 

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I always believed that there was some sort of code associated with the number of legs the horse had on the ground in an equestrian statue.  Something like the above (2 back legs down)  = died in battle.  3 legs: died in service, 4 legs: died in retirement.  But!!! it is an urban myth.  How disappointing.


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Stopped in the woods near the German / Polish border where this “quaint” cottage stood by the lakeside.

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Then in to Krakow to meet Wendy and Chris.  They must be very unlucky as the weather was cold and wet throughout their visit.  However, we didn’t mind as we had the use of the Uber Taxi in the background.  Behind the taxi is the famous Cloth Hall now enclosing a market selling expensive bits of amber and smelly sheepskin rugs.

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Just behind our campsite was bizarrely enough a monument to Elvis.  Must have been a star in Lesser Poland at one time.

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We took a few day trips out from the city including the most harrowing journey through the Auschwitz and Birkenau memorial museum. 

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Not an easy place to visit and the weather reflected our mood.

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Deep beneath the city’s fortress;  Wawel Castle, lies a dungeon formerly inhabited by the dragon “Smok” according to legend.  The dungeon is still there and can be crawled through by the brave but sadly, the dragon is no more.

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Outside, though on the riverbank is a modern representation of Smok who breathes real fire every few minutes in order to scare the schoolchildren gathered around him.  Smok is Polish for “dragon”.  It is a little known fact that Tolkien visited Krakow prior to writing about “Smaug” in The Hobbit!

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An old man selling matches on the street.

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Another one of those horse drawn Uber taxis.

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Perched high above the Father Bernatek bridge spanning the River Vistula are nine acrobats

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and adorning the railings are about a million padlocks.

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Very popular with photographers they were too.

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Krakow has a beautiful botanical garden with some impressive trees and of course some squirrels to take advantage of them.

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We had a very amusing guide on our trip to the salt mines of Wieliczka who explained that everything was made out of ….well you guessed it…salt.  he was right in most cases.  Here is King Kazimierz made from salt.

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and a chandelier made of salt

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but to me the most impressive bit was the wood.  It must have taken an entire forest and a half to prop up the spaces within the mine.

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One of the spaces was being readied for a wedding for four hundred guests by the look of it.  “Pass the salt will you dear”.

Incidentally there has been a constant stream of visitors to the salt mines for hundreds of years.  Popes, American presidents, musicians, authors and scientists and now a constant stream of busloaded tourists converge on the mines every day.

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Back in to the open air and above Krakow city there are loads of statues.  Well wouldn’t you look as happy if a great big eagle just sat on your head?

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This statue above the city centre is to commemorate the fact that the very first “Selfie” was taken here in Krakow.

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Leaving on a another one of the Uber taxis.  (Actually we couldn’t afford one of these clippetyclop taxis but the Uber to or from our camp site was under three quid and there in under five minutes.)

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With a quick look to see that we hadn’t left anything behind, it was goodbye to Wendy and Chris and off to the Czech Republic and another sort of mine; a coal mine.

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From Firenze via ferries with flying fish.

Having finished the last blog (Years ago I know.) in Florence this is an instalment that covers Greece, a side trip to Albania and our return to the UK prior to setting out once again, hopefully bound for Poland and all points south.

A brilliant way to remember where you are. 

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Here in Brindisi waiting for the ferry to Patras on the Peloponnese we came across Cesare Augusto,probably doing a bit of orating or declaiming.

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Brindisi is a huge port, originally a Greek outpost and now the busiest Adriatic port and a natural place to hop on a ferry to Greece.  We didn’t use this ferry, it was just well floodlit but ours was similar.  24 hours nearly for the crossing but we had a decent cabin and mercifully, the crossing was calm.

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Having the time, I took a few photographs.  There was the sea, more sea and just a bit more.  Fortunately some of the denizens of the deep popped up for a quick portrait. 

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These flying fish were a surprise and I was caught with the wrong lens so these are the best shots I managed.

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The trip south to the Peloponnese was a pleasant change in climate.  We appeared in a second summer although it was not destined to last.

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The olive harvest was in full swing.  Here they trim some of the branches loaded with olives from the trees, put them over a motorised thresher to remove the fruit, then bash the remaining branches with long handled fly swats.

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I just had to have a go and soon learned how back aching a job it is.

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It seems to be worth the effort though.  How about mixed olives for a starter?

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Sacks and sacks of them.

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Olives as far as the eye can see.  Strange thing though, Greek olives are cheaper in Morrisons Teignmouth than they are in a Greek supermarket.

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Some of the residents are a little put out by all the fuss in their trees.

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AS you can see the tourist season was well and truly over.  Luckily a few bars were open.

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Our electric bikes gave us access to the countryside and some of the tourist attractions still open.

Chlemoutsi castle near Glyfa, a medieval Crusader fortification in very good repair because it was never attacked in earnest.

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An entirely different castle.  This one has Disney connotations but no Disneyland tourists here.  In fact it was entirely deserted.  Just a few hundred metres away from our freebie stay by a harbour so we wandered around without meeting a soul.

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Leaving the coast and crossing the central mountains of the Peloponnese is and always has been a challenge.  This route may have been familiar to King Leonidas. 

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We crossed on a stormy day and the road was littered with fallen rocks, some large enough to leave craters in the road surface.

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The scenery, especially the autumnal trees was worth the hazards.

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A mountain village church.

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The Caves of Diros.   Fantastic stallegmthyngies forming from wedding cake up to cathedral sized formations underground.

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Tourists are taken on a circuitous route via punt half an hour into the cave complex.  

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A good time to be wearing a life jacket.  Tin hats are optional.

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The agricultural land around here is pretty rocky so not much chance of seeing a crop circle.  The nearest they ever get is a cow circle.   We camped by the beach here and listened to the cry of Golden Jackals (Wolves.  Wolves yes, believe me.) all night.

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The road signs in Greece are mainly used for small arms practice. 

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Seven rounds from a small bore rifle and two close range blasts from a shotgun.  About average.

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Then they get occasional employment displaying political slogans.

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The traditional architecture of the south is that of fortification .

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Probably all that bickering with the Turks and pirates  so modern houses are built along similar lines just in case….

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Our motorhome is parked in the bottom left hand corner whilst I go find the captain of the yacht to arrange a swap.

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Looking out towards Porto Kagio and the southernmost tip of mainland Greece.

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A traffic Jam, or what passes for a traffic jam in the Peloponnese.

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A roadside shrine not so much  a slated roof more thatched with rock.

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Alternative parking for that treasured classic car.  Traction Avant? on top of the entrance to a restaurant.

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Just round the corner alternative parking for that classic boat.

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The Island of Monemvisia; another well defended location.  The bridge is only a very recent addition.

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There are about 40 churches on this tiny island.

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And countless fortifications. In the tourist season there are countless cafes and nicknack shops.

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We found a cafe on the mainland and tried out their speciality; Gyros.  A combination of meat, onion, salad and chips wrapped in a flatbread.   Oh! and a beer.

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The gulls loved the leftovers.

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Just spotted this as we were driving past.  No explanation and no Trojans.

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What are you looking at LBJ?

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The biggest fish I caught, a Moray Eel.

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Even just before Christmas it was just warm enough for a swim in the sea.

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View from the castle in Nafplio.

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Soldier on guard duty in the castle.

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Great Egret reflected in the harbour near Drepano.

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Christmas week and no tourists.

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The beach outside our campsite, palm trees, sand, sun but snow on the distant mountains.

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The great theatre of Epidaurus.  Work of the familiar architect Polykleitos 4th Century BC.

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The Stadion where races have been held for millennia.  Familiar of course to those fond of the early 5th century BC Lyrical poems of Pindar.

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This amazingly complex piece of machinery quietly rusting away on the site was presumably part of the terminated restoration process.

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There are hundreds of these venerable old trucks in Greece.  They carry oranges, olives or laughing Bulgarian workers each in their season.

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Now it is orange season.  If you fancy any oranges you can just help yourself if no one is watching.

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The Corinth canal slices the Peloponnese off from mainland Greece.  It is spanned at one end by this sinking bridge.

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The canal was first proposed in classical times and even Emperor Nero was at it himself with a spade at one time but to no avail.

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It wasnt until 1893 that it was opened to traffic after 12 years of digging.  It was an impressive achievement as it is entirely at sea level with no locks and the walls are dug through  unstable limestone in a land prone to earthquakes.

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Just round the corner on the way to Athens is a reminder of the dangers to shipping on the rocky coast.

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Athens itself is a huge sprawling grey concrete city spreading from the sea up to the mountains.

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The Acropolis, ancient Greek citadel is the crowning glory of Athens.

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The Parthenon, temple dedicated to Athen; Patron Goddess of scaffolders and onetime gunpowder store…oooops!

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Long seen as the symbol of western civilisation, it is an icon recognised by billions and we were very pleased to have been there.

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Always in a state of restoration, it is attacked by earthquakes, acid rain, Xerces, bombardment and the ravages of over 2500 years of wear and tear.

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The worlds largest game of Jenga.

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Early photograph on display at the site.

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Later photograph.

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Part of the Erectheum supported by the Caryatids.  If you can spot an obvious gap….Ask Lord Elgin what he dun with it!

He nicked it in 1816 and flogged it to the British museum. (Allegedly) 

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Pity these chaps weren’t on guard then.  These are the crack troops of Greece,  on ceremonial duty at the tomb of the unknown warrior in Athens.  When asked if they are all volunteers, their commanding officer replied with a wink “Not exactly”.

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They march in this carefully choreographed manner then stand to attention for an hour unable even to wipe their brow.

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Not all in Greece is hunky dory at the moment.  Hundreds, or thousands of buildings like this one litter the countryside.  They were all abandoned when the economy took a nosedive.  And I mean abandoned.  Looking around many you can see wheelbarrows, cement mixers, hand tools and even the brickies plumbline among the weeds and young trees. 

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Sadly, at the same time, work ceased on the restoration of many of the national monuments from ancient times.  Weeds, tools and even cranes dominate the sites but never a workman can be seen unless they are taking money for entry. 

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Travelling through Greece was full of contrasts.  One moment snow covered roads up in the mountains, next the thermal springs where once King Leonidas had a quick wash and brush up.

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Now Sheila enjoys the thermal waterfalls.

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A little sulphur adds to the ambience.

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Lastly my dear friend the Dalmatian Pelican. Swimming around on the Former Lake Karla.  Even though the Greek environmentalists reflooded the area it still bears the sobriquet to this day.

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To Florence

Having visited the U.K. and got a tick in the box from doctors, dentists, banks,phone companies and of course friends and relatives, We set off southwards crossing the channel from Dover to Calais.  As we have visited France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany I will skip these apart from one photo taken on the way.

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He was such a brilliant looking bird he needed including but now we will skip to the Swiss border.

Having paid our 25 Euro near Basel to be allowed to drive on the Swiss roads we headed south and up.

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The Swiss are famous for many things but I didn’t know it was classic American Gas Guzzlers.  But this Plymouth and many more besides prove the drivers from the “Confoederatio Helvetica”  (That’s what CH on their number plates stands for!) appreciate the Chrysler Road Runner (Beep, Beep) and it’s ilk.

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We parked in several wooded and mountainous areas on the way.  (We had neglected to get any Swiss Franks out of the bank and had no choice!)

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Spotted these growing in a little patch of sunlight.

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With a considerable reputation for neatness to maintain, even a woodpile in the middle of a forest has to be just so.

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Now don’t get me going on cow bells.  The hauntingly beautiful tinkling of the alpine meadows.  Mmmmm…..Well if you want to fit Daisy up with the latest fashion in Bovine Campanology Here is your man.  Runs a market stall in Brunigpass with just about the biggest range of cow bells I have ever seen.

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Not an inch of Gortex on the man.

I just had to head for the Reichenbach Falls where Professor Moriarty the “Napoleon of Crime” met his well deserved end at the hands of Sherlock Holmes.  Made it to Meiningen Railway Station  before remembering about the franks…

Had to pose with the man though.  Below the statue is a plaque with clues to all of Conan Doyle’s major mysteries.

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I took a more sedate pose in keeping with the seriousness of the detective.  Not like Sheila who went all out for it!

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Sun on part of the Radlefshorn mountain.

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Glaciers on the Sustenhorn 3,500m high in the Alps.  We did get some spectacular views and fine weather for photographs.

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I have shown these before but it is always good to see a Nutracker.

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We had some considerable driving to do in Switzerland.  We went over the Susten Pass at over 2200 metres where the air is thin and COLD.  The van behaved perfectly though and all we had was a little smoke from the brake disks and pads and a little drop in our fuel economy.

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Sheila collecting the ingredients for a G&T.

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Loads of high performance bikes on the roads here.  Some unaccountably stuck to mountains.

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The man who lives just below these is a bit paranoid about  avalanches.

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We had a competition in the van to see who could spot the most cuckoo clockie house.

We left Switzerland via the Gotthard road tunnel.  10 miles of shortcut and not a single photo opportunity.

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We landed on the edge of Lake Garda.  The weather was so beautiful we stopped for another day, then another, another… Well a week then 10 days but we were not in a hurry.  We met a couple who introduced us to a convention they had invented.  They had a weekly bottle of Prosecco sparkling wine on what they named “Fizz Friday”.  I was so impressed I went straight out and invented “Sparkling Saturday”, Champagne Sunday” Moet Monday”, “Tattinger Tuesday”  then I fell over.

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Church tower of Moniga Del Gardo.

We stayed on a campsite just 10 metres from the water’s edge.  We cycled along the lake shore in both directions and found some superb scenery and wildlife.

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Hover fly caught in the act.

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Young Red Crested Pochard giving it some.

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Stick or carrot?

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Just  a tiny town but it had the most ornate church; Parrochia Santa Maria Assunta a Manerba Del Gardo. The detail in the sculpture and painting has to be photographed and enlarged before anyone down below can see just what the artist had achieved.

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Inside and out.

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Sunrise over lake Garda.

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We eventually had to leave Lake Garda and headed to Mantua and its Ducal Palace. 

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Part of the complex is an ancient house that was chosen by Verdi to be the home of the fool Rigoletto in his opera.   Well it had to be two old fools together didn’t it?

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I set my camera for a 10 second delay, lay it on it’s back in the aisle, step away counting down,  return after Zero and pick it up with a perfect picture of the ceiling and a curious look from the priest.

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But.  Just look at those paintings.  The detail around the frieze inside the dome has not been seen for hundreds of years. (Except of course by the cleaner riding on her broomstick no doubt.)

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Ancient clock with indecipherable hands and face.

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More unbelievable detail miles above your head.

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And plenty below your feet.  Its a good idea to take a snap of something with your location printed on it just in case you forget and need to write a blog.

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Crossing the mighty Po river.  I bet there is some good fishing there.

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Then to the Piazza Maggiorein Bologne and next door to the Piazza Del Netuno for a statue of Neptune stilling the waters.

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Another crazy look from the priest.

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How do you know which one is yours?  A solution to the overcrowded roads perhaps.

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The Torre degli Asinelli at nearly 100m tall is one of Bologna’s greatest landmarks.

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But nothing beats the Giotto’s bell tower of the “Dom”,  and the cathedral itself of Florence for its ornateness, decorated with patterns of white green and red marble.

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The cathedral and bell tower are so huge and hemmed in by other buildings that it is impossible to photograph from the ground unless you have a lens that costs more than a helicopter.  The best you can do even with “Photoshop Picture Merge ™”  is make up a sort of jigsaw of bits of photo. 

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Started works in the year 1296 and pronounced structurally complete in 1436 taking just 16 years to complete the dome and another 33 years to get the golden ball on top perhaps with the help of young Lennie; a promising young apprentice from Vinci.

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And here is Lennie.

The Arno river was bridged by the Romans but successive floods required the rebuilding of the bridge several times.  This bridge; the Ponte Vecchio, was completed in 1345.  It was threatened with destruction during WW2 as the Germans left Florence but as local rumour would have it, pleading by local Politicians made Hitler relent and so they just blew the ends off which have since been rebuilt.  

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Ponte Vecchio from downstream.

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This natty little runaround; the Pasquali three wheeled electric car was designed and made here in Florence.

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Another impossible to photograph building; the Pallazzo Vecchio pops a tower right up among more modern buildings, trolleybus wires, street lights and construction cranes.

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This alone is worth visiting Florence for.  Michelangelo’s David.  The original is now housed in a museum for safety but for many years it stood outside in the cold by the Palazzo Vechio where in 1910 a replica was placed.   The queues wind round Florence 3 times to get in to see the original but the replica is there for all to see.   Just to give you an idea, both the statue and the replica are over 5 metres tall and weigh 6 tons.  It depicts the biblical David with his sling, about to commence the battle with Goliath.

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Here beside David is Perseus with Medusa’s head of snakes.

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Some of the works of art are being renovated.  Here is: “Man with Hammer and chisel”.   Remember “All you have to do is chip away all the bits that don’t look like David”  (A popular joke attributing the quote to Michelangelo himself.)

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Here we leave Florence with the best bit for me; Michelangelo’s David with his pensive look out over the valley of Elah. 

Upon Reflection….

This long awaited episode takes the touring Ansells from where the last blog left us on the western edge of Norway, south through stunning scenery to cross the sea to Denmark, down through the rest of Jutland, across the Kiel Canal, through Germany, Holland, Belgium and France and across the Channel to England.

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No one goes to the Arctic Circle expecting it to be sunshine all the way and here up in the mountains, snow stays on the ground all year long.  Some pockets lay close enough to the road for us to explore.   This one must have been several meters deep still despite it being exposed to the summer sun.

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Most of the beauty up in the mountains is purely natural; waterfalls, peaks, valleys, rocks and trees.

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But the ancient works of man are as impressive sometimes.  Who created this bridge and why remain a mystery to me.

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But probably the inhabitants of this log cabin could have filled us in.

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The walking on water trick is popular hereabouts in the mountains of Western Norway.

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This waterfall and the adjacent twisted pine compete for an audience.

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Further down by the sea, a family of escapees from a mink coat factory perhaps, compete with us for cod and mackerel.

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One junior furry family member obviously hasn’t been paying attention in swimming lessons and had to be dragged across any open water by his earhole.

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Luckily I was accompanied by ace photographer Terry.  I wonder if he kept the snapshot of me on the ferry.

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The view from the road at the top is wonderful but we were faced with the prospect of driving the 20 or so hairpin sections to get to the fjord below.

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The ferries ply the fjords making climbing over the mountains redundant but it is worth it for the view.

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Here you can see some of the ziggy zaggy bends coming down from the “Snow Route”.

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Here is where the “On Reflection” comes from of course.

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The combining of shots gives a bit of a twisted perspective but does some justice to the grandeur of the scenery.

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Looking towards Geiranger.  A likely place to stop and fish and perhaps stay for the night.

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That Ace Photographer crept in there again.  Sorry.

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The real posh tourists don’t flit around the hairpinny roads with their homes on wheels like snails.  They turn up in luxurious liners, decamp in to aircon coaches, tour Geiranger and all the pretty bits and get back in time for Des Oconnor and dinner with the captain.  (Sorry. A bit of green eyed envy crept in there I think.)

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More wonderful reflections heading south.  This is lake Djupvanet at 1,017m above sea level Geiranger.

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Lake Breiddalsvatnet at just under 900m and this one was full of fish.  Makes you think “Where do they go for their winter holidays?”

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Lake Vagavatnet.  Much lower down at only 300m.

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Eventually we reached the south coast in time for our ferry.

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The last glimpse of Norway from the back of the car ferry leaving Langesund harbour bound for Hirtshalls in Denmark.

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We have many “funny” smells turn up in the motorhome that no one will own up to but we could not quite place an unpleasant burning plastic stink that got really bad in the tunnels around Oslo.  Later investigations revealed some burned out connectors on the van’s electronics that were replaced quickly due to the extensive toolkit that I lug around with us all the time. 

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We landed in Hirtshalls, northern Denmark and drove a few km along the coast to an enormous beach where we could park the motorhome.  The sand was as hard as concrete beneath us to start with but four days of burning sunshine dried out the beach and apart from a thin crust it was like a sand dune.  We picked a likely route in order to get off the beach but unfortunately we sank through the crust and ended up axle deep in soft sand.  However, patient manoeuvring and clever placing of our blocks and sand mats and with the help of half a dozen strong German campervanners pushing us, we were soon out of there and safely on the road again.

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Saeby harbour in the top right and corner of Denmark.  This stop was the first paid for site in Scandinavia, all the others since leaving Germany had been freebies, mostly picked from the “Park For Night” app.  We paid because it was my birthday and we wanted to go out for a drink.  The drink was a small beer each and was so expensive that it was just that “A drink” then back home for the usual few in the van.  

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Caught these two singing “Happy Birthday To You”

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This otherwise unremarkable photo shows the parasites that swallows, martins and swifts are prone to.  The fly like creature is a louse-fly, probably Hippoboscidae.  It is the parasitic equivalent of you or I having several bloodsucking  hedghogs in our underclothes that we are unable to get rid of.

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A linnet on the lookout for flax no doubt.

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Trying to make a summer on its own on the muddy banks of the great Danish inland sea:  the Limfjord.

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A spoonbill coming in to land over a misty morning Danish marsh.

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A swallow taking a very rare rest from clearing the air of flying insects.

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Daintily walking across the mud is the bird with more names than any other I can recall.  The Northern Lapwing, Peewit or even Green Plover.

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The proper use of the mud is of course to build your home.

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That drip hanging from the end of his beak is so appealing in a wading bird.  Not quite so appealing amongst us humans though.

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Even the common Starling is revealed in all his glory with a 600mm lens.

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The Danish have a predilection for nautical nick knacks.  They often place anchors outside their houses as if afraid that they might one day drift off in to the ocean.  You can have the anchor if you want it but the other one is definitely mine!

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“We take motorhome security very seriously” the Thyboron harbourmaster told us.  Mmmmmm.   No actually 50mm gun recovered from a WWI  ship that sank in the battle of Jutland which took place just a couple of kilometres off this sandy spit. 

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This memorial to the lives lost in the battle stretches along the dunes.  Each of the 25 stone obelisks commemorates a British or German ship lost  and around each stone are placed smaller markers to commemorate each of the 9,823 lives lost.

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A reminder of the days when whaling was an important part of the economy of these remote parts.

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Well no one is going to nick this one are they.   But….Someone in Thorsminde must have dived down and recovered the thing sometime.   Makes you think.

Then over the border to Germany.

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We stopped by the Kiel Canal which links the Baltic and North seas.  Dug by Kaiser Wilheilm the second and a few of his mates in 1887, it is over 98 km long and saves each boat about 460 km on their route.

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It was built to take battleships originally but now takes mostly cargo on its way from China or another international port.  It is the busiest waterway in the world according to the German tourist industry.

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The bridges over the canal are a bit of a problem to build as they have to be 45 metres above the water to allow the huge container ships to pass beneath.

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This one scraped beneath but I am not sure about the ones behind.

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Some less conventional marine vessels were spotted in the harbour at Bremerhaven.  The “Seute Deern” a 76m gaffel built in 1919 in the USA.

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Now part of the Bremerhaven museum sschiff.

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I was so fascinated by this vessel I even paid to board the U-2540, a second world war German submarine.  This one has a very dodgy past and seems to have never been in a combat situation.  Apparently it was late being built, went on training voyages and ran out of fuel just as it was going to be put in to action.  The war ended before they could get enough diesel to top up her tanks so she was scuttled on May the 4th (coincidentally Star Wars Day) 1945.

I had a great time gawping at all the technological marvels aboard as well as clonking my head against every stopcock, rheostat, pressure gauge and bulkhead on board.  The most amazing thing I found out was that our motorhome was modelled on the crew quarters of a German U-Boat!

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The business end. Four of the six 533mm forward torpedo tubes, one with a torpedo ready to go.

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Bremerhaven has such wonderful man hole covers.

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We stopped on a campsite at Appingendam near Groningen in northern Holland.  It had everything.  Canals, bridges, lakes, a bar, endless possibilities for cycling, bus trips to local cities, fishing and even a mini zoo.

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Lots of scope for Damsel flies with all the water about.

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How do you know they are Lillie’s?

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My favourite was the frogs though.  As if a spot in the sunshine was rare, all these edible frogs clamber over each other on a  single sunlit shoot.  I like the frog on top. He has a front foot on one neighbour’s head and a rear foot on another’s.

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We cycled to a nearby railway station and took the train in to Groningen for a bit of a look around.  The inside of the church just had to be photographed.

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Just to prove it is Holland here are all the clues:  Most unusual bikes in the world, a canal and a canal houseboat.

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Of course all the other clues were all about us including windmills.

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We crossed the border to Belgium and stayed once again on a freebie by the Thieu canal lift.

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This is part of the 100 year old  and now superceded lift machinery.  A water turbine powered a hydraulic pump that lifted a 1,100 ton tub with a barge inside to a height of nearly 20 metres.

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That system and three others have all been replaced by the new lift.  This one can manage 2000 ton boats going up or down the 73 metres difference in height between the upper and lower canals.

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No clever hydraulics here, You can see the dozens of cables attached to the container that connect to the electrical winding machinery in the overly large roof. 

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The lift is part of the local landscape and can be seen from miles and miles away.

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The weather got a bit dodgy towards evening and we were pleased to be leaving for the ferry home in the morning.

Now Norway (Part One)

Crossing the mountains and border in to Norway meant back to the sea.  Fishing, ferries and fjords.

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There were plenty of cod to be caught, filleted and fried for tea.

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In fact we had cod for tea four times in one week.

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A short trip on a ferry is about 25 pounds but probably saves twice that in fuel and tolls.  It is also a quick way to check up on the filthy state of your roof.

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A lonely spot to park up for the night even if another motorhomer parks right behind you.

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Of course by now it was not getting dark at night and midnight landscape photography becomes possible.

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Although daytime colours were more vivid.

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If the water had a ribbon of orange around it that meant it was free to fish in.  (Tidal seawater with seaweed.)  so we made the most of it.

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From most of the fjords it was impossible to see open sea.

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Although some bits were unmistakably sea!

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You are not going to get this boat up a creek although they sail hundreds of miles up fjords.

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Cod is king here.  Even if much of it is now to attract the tourists. 

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Or maybe repel tourists I don’t know. 

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What with the ugly mugs on display and the smell of cod heads and skins drying to make stockfish soup there is a lot to endure up here.

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The fishing infrastructure is still here in the Lofoten Islands but much of it has been converted to tourist attractions.

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It still makes very attractive picture postcard type images.

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And it is enjoyed by the tourists of course.

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Driving up here is a pleasure.  Not only is the scenery beautiful, the roads are designed to please the eye as well. 

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Sorry.  This white tailed eagle being mobbed by a crow just snuck in here.

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This would be a snug, weathertight cottage if they had nailed just one more plank on to the side.

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Same bridge, different angles.

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The weather wasn’t brilliant on our journey from Sweden to the end of the road on the Lofoten Islands but the sun peeped out for a couple of days so that I could bag a few landscapes.

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The rain suited some of the local inhabitants. This Curlew must have been nesting nearby to allow me to approach close enough for the picture.

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Just pulled off the road to take a couple of photos.

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Another of those sweeping bridges.

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We did manage to spot an Arctic Hare but of course in his summer colours.

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And Boy! he was in a hurry not to be photographed.

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A remote community like the Lofoten Islands needs an air ambulance.  We watched this one land and pick up a householder then fly off.

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The Norwegians certainly know how to build bridges but a second string to their fiddle is tunneling.  as well as having the longest road tunnel in the world they have a host of others taking shortcuts under mountains and even under fjords.

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Part of the cod industry but the lorry load of dried cod heads and skin now stands on the quayside just for the photographers.

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A grim reminder of one of the other Lofoten Island industries, a whaling harpoon which was just lying about.

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The “Cod Head Choir” rehearsing for their hit single: “I ain’t Got No Body”.

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And a last glimpse of the Lofoten Islands.

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Sweden

Swedish roads are smoother, straighter, wider and above all cheaper than Norwegian roads so we elected to travel as far north as we needed to go along the eastern Swedish coast. We set off immediately we disembarked which was early morning.DSC_6761-1(Photo courtesy of Mrs. S. Ansell)

We have travelled this route before and knew all about the “Beware of Moose!” signs along all the roads but have never previously seen a moose we were the more determined to keep an eye out for them.

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Much of the road network is fenced off to stop moose straying in to the path of vehicles and this sign warns that the fence ends at this point.   Still no sightings.

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Many other things caught our eye.  Lupins abound on the verges

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and a Swedish house overlooking one of the 97,000 Swedish lakes

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even a pair of cranes in the grass by the road.  But no Mooses!

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Bizarrely, even a squadron of fighter planes stuck on poles by the road.

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Courtesy of the Swedish Air Force

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A pair of  J35F – not the model of Saab you expect to find on the roadside even in Sweden.

Further along the road Sheila yelled out “Moose” and pulled over (safely of course) on to the verge.  We ran back to where she had seen an adult male moose in the forest but by the time we got there it was cleverly merging in to the undergrowth.

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The brown smudge in the middle is a near as I could get to photographing the moose.

By one camp site, just metres from our motorhome we did spot definite moose signs.

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Not fresh as they didn’t squash between thumb and finger but definitely a good sign.  Knowing that moose are mostly nocturnal we decided to wait fro dark.  MMMmmmm….  Several months perhaps at this latitude but we dressed up securely to foil the million or so mosquitos that night at 23:30 and went marching off in to the forest armed with trusty camera and 600mm lens.  June is the time of year when last years calves leave their mums and wander off in search of a life of their own.  I spotted two such calves moving as quietly as mice through the woods but they disappeared before they could be photographed or seen by Sheila. 

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Eventually Sheila spotted another walking directly towards us in amongst the foliage and in the dim light.  We assumed it would bolt immediately but it kept coming towards us enabling me to get a clear shot despite the poor conditions. I lot closer still and then seemed to notice us and walked away quite calmly.

WE were hugging the coast except where we skirted around Stockholm as we wanted to avoid another city centre. 

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We found a most welcoming town with free facilities for filling and emptying and free camping on the disused dockside beside this disused steam driven crane. 

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There were a number of beautifully preserved industrial features such as the steamship “Ophelia”, the smelting works (origin of the world famous “Swedish steel” and some winter transportation.

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There was enough room left for some old fashioned water power and some even more old fashioned manpower.

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They even had a little house on the millpond to check on the water level.

As we travelled further north it did get a little colder but the views got richer to compensate for that.  Reindeer wandered across the road with scant regard to vehicles or pedestrians. 

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We reached the Arctic Circle where a souvenir shop and associated car parks, monuments, billboards had just grown.  We watched other tourists climb up on the stone cairn and just had to have a go.

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A poignant reminder that travel here is a little more difficult in the winter than at midsummer.

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And up on the hills a further reminder of the conditions faced in the darker months.  It was just 3 degrees Celsius that afternoon.

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Above the Arctic Circle and heading west towards Narvik in Norway we came upon a tourist centre with much needed laundry facilities and  this gorge bringing the snowmelt down from the mountains to the lake.

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Over the mountain pass surrounded by snowcapped mountains is Norway.  Another blogging soon I promise.  We vowed as we crossed the border that we would come back and spend more time in Sweden soon as we both thoroughly enjoyed our time here.

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