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All This Way & Not Even a Piece of Black Forest Gateau

Day 60 Sunday July 23 2017
Innsbruck to Bad Herrenalb / 396 km

  • Early morning light in Innsbruck is gorgeous.
  • Known by the Romans as Oenipons ( bridge over the river Oen ) Innsbruck in German also means bridge over the River Inn. It rose to prominence from the 13C when its proximity to the Brenner Pass ( the easiest route across the Alps ) made it strategic for transport & communication between northern and Southern Europe. Then with the Hapsburg & Austrian Empires dominating European politics between 16 - 19C, it remained an important place on the historical map.
  • We return to the old town through Innsbruck's famous Triumphforte. A sort of Austrian version of the Arc de Triomphe ( or was it the other way round?). It was built in 1765 by Empress Maria Tesesa to celebrate the wedding of her son, the Duke of Tuscany, to a Spanish princess. With clear Roman Empire aesthetics & perhaps aspirations, it sits rather incongruously in the midst of more conventional central European architecture. But if that's what an Emperess, wants, that's what she gets.
  • Sadly it turned out that the Triumphforte was not only a celebration of happy & auspicious nuptials but also a commemoration of the death of Maria Teresa's husband, Kaiser Franz Stehan 1. He died during the wedding celebrations! Whilst the south facade is celebratory, the northern facade is a sombre tribute to the late Emperor.
  • Looking north through the archway, you can see the great ski jump construction. We are both snow sport lovers. Innsbruck has obvious scenic appeal to us. We recall that the city hosted the Winter Olympics in 1976. It was the era of a famous Austrian skier called Franz Klammer. If that doesn't ring a bell, then maybe the names Robin Cousins and John Curry do! John did GB proud and won a gold medal.
  • We have an early breakfast at a place called the Breakfast Club, located between the arch and the old town area. Our hotel, the Nala is famous for its Sunday brunches but service only starts at 10 a.m. That's too late for us.
  • There are beggars on the streets of Innsbruck, admittedly much fewer than in London. They too have dogs.
  • Today's drive is another hard slog. Particularly for AG of course. It is made worse by the volume of traffic. Today's journey takes us across into SW Germany where we will inevitably encounter Germans returning from their holidays in the sun.
  • Caravans and campervans have become too numerous to mention.
  • Constant sunshine & blue skies are no longer a given.
  • Temperatures struggle to reach the mid 20's.
  • We are spending more money in the last 3 days than we have during the previous 30. AG possibly exaggerates but you get the gist.
  • Last night's wonderful meal hit London price levels, due in part to the poor value of sterling.
  • Today's traffic is indeed awful. A painful acclimatisation for the M25 on Tuesday evening.
  • Yes we're headed home & don't we know it.
  • Our journey takes 7.5 hours with only a short ‘comfort' stop. AG is an endurance driver but even he is exhausted and fractious.
  • We're staying in a spa resort in the Black Forest. Bad Herrenalb. A very genteel type of domestic tourist comes here to take the waters and breathe the fresh air. But expensive spa treatments are the last thing on our mind - as usual we arrive hungry and finding somewhere to eat is our main focus. A 10 minute walk into town helps rejuvenate. As does a glass of German beer and a meal of Wiener Schnitizel and for SG, Käsespaetzle. We both resist the temptation of local gateau.
  • Bad Herrenalb has several churches that chime beautifully on the quater hour and go to even more trouble on the hour. This is after all a region famed for its cuckoo clocks. We just hope that mullahs, minarets and dawn calls to prayer are not replaced by the Christian equivalent - the church bell!
  • Now where are those ear plugs?

Bad Herrenalb - We're in Cuckoo Land

Bad Herrenalb - We're in Cuckoo Land

Posted by sagbucks 09:03 Comments (0)

One More Sleep - in Namur

Day 61 Monday 24 July 2017
Bad Herrenalb to Namur / 400 km

  • Fortunately church bells do not disturb. Nothing does. We sleep like proverbial logs, even with the windows open.
  • We are long out of the climatic zone where aircon is considered a necessity during summer months. But a ceiling or stand alone fan would make all the difference in most places. Shame so many hotels and B&B's seem reluctant to invest.
  • After the weekend's nightmare of congested motorways, AG is concerned that his scheduled driving time for today is grossly underestimated.
  • Its not the odd day of long driving that tires AG, it is the accumulative effect. And the length of our truck trip is now beginning to take its toll.
  • Fortunately holidaymakers seem to have made good their escape. And commercial traffic is less - now that many of them are on vacation too.
  • We cross imperceptibly into Luxembourg. We only realise that the border is behind us because at the next service station we visit, French is the main language of communication, not German.
  • The garage is busy - fuel & cigarettes are cheaper in Luxembourg. Locals crossing to & fro between the two countries are taking advantage.
  • This perhaps partially explains the complete lack of service stations on the actual motorway in this area of Germany. It's best to start your motorway journey with plenty of fuel.
  • We arrive in Namur early enough to be able to request a rear facing room at the Ibis Hotel. Both of us feel incredibly fatigued. The momentum that has been driving us along for the last 2 months, at such an incredible pace, has finally run out.
  • The hotel window has a 'security' chain that only permits a small amount of natural ventilation. Children's safety or adult suicide?
  • Why stop in Namur?
  • We originally planned to stay in a B&B in a small village down river from Namur - Profondeville where there seem to be some good local restaurants. When Plan B was put in action we were unable to change our reservation. So the Namur IBIS it is.
  • In any case neither of us have been here before and we have nothing yet to celebrate. We still have nearly 500 km or so of driving ahead of us tomorrow. And perhaps the worst of all traffic in 2 months of travel - the M25 on Tuesday evening. AG does not wish to tempt any fate.
  • Then there is the house sale - 8 weeks later and there is still no exchange of contract on Bramhall. We're close, very close but the deal is not yet done & dusted.
  • By the time we reach Namur even SG has lost her sightseeing mojo. However a few interesting facts present themselves:
  • A roundabout on entry to the city is embellished with tall bronze figurines on stilts. And a large impressionist painting of men on stilts adorns the walls of our hotel bedroom .
  • What's that about? Well since 1411 there has been a tradition of stilt walker fights in Namur. It happens on the 3rd Sunday in September every year on the Place Saint Aubain.
  • It is a team contest but the members of the winning team then 'stilt' it out to ascertain the overall champion. The prize is a golden stilt and huge kudos. Namur stilt walkers are world famous and travel internationally to give 'stilt walking' performances.
  • Immediately opposite our IBIS hotel is the African Museum of Namur.
  • Why? In the middle of Belgium and in a small city like Namur.
  • Maybe it is a kind of attonement for King Leopold's brutal treatment of his personal colony in Africa between 1885 - 1908. Known nowadays as the Democratic Republic of Congo it only became a State colony from 1908 onwards. Until that time, the blame for atrocities committed against the Congo people and the plundering of their country's rich natural resources, lay squarely with the Belgian king. Read the history books or fact based novels about this era and you will discover that Leopold 2 was not a benign ruler - at least not in the Congo.

So actually it is not so surprising that Belgium has museums dedicated to African culture. A form of atonement perhaps.

  • Another claim to notorious fame is also of a political nature. In December 2011, with 589 days on the clock, Belgium broke the record for a developed and democratic country without a formal functioning government. There was stalemate between the parties, an election result that divided interests so equally that no controversial decisions could be made and nothing but routine administration tasks could be achieved.
  • There is no place for schadenfreude here, no last laugh to be had. In reality the current situation in the UK seems uncannily similar.
  • Belgium is perhaps fortunate to have Brussels and the EU headquarters within its national borders.
  • So with nothing particular planned, we walk the short distance into the old town of Namur, wander the streets and try and identify a suitable place to eat supper.
  • Many restaurants have now closed for an extended summer break or just because it is Monday.

So the task is by no means easy - especially if you wish to avoid pasta, fast food, Chinese or kebabs.

  • Namur has an old town and several large churches. It is located at the confluence of the rivers Meuse & Sambre but the architecture is quite sombre in a North European sort of way. There is a reasonable pedestrian zone with shops, cafes and bars - but we're not sure whether it's seen better days or is now on its way up. There are many vacant commercial properties.
  • We end up in Bistro Francois on the Place Saint Aubain, where the stilt fight competition will happen in September. The restaurant is crowded with locals and actually serves a meal better than anticipated. Now for the last sleep of our trip.

Namur is Famous for Stilt Walking

Namur is Famous for Stilt Walking

Cartoon Satire that Combines Congo & Stilt Walking Themes

Cartoon Satire that Combines Congo & Stilt Walking Themes

We See This Advert & Now Understand

We See This Advert & Now Understand

Posted by sagbucks 09:07 Comments (0)

Last Day - Re-entry to the UK

Day 62
Tuesday July 25 2017 Namur to Amersham / 500 km

  • The IBIS offer is reliable but no longer cheap.
  • Euroland is expensive for us Brits, especially with an exchange rate of £1:1.12. For a Monday night with parking we pay 102 euros. Breakfast is an extra 15 euros per person.
  • The room is small but the bed & pillows are extremely comfortable. In the end we sleep surprisingly well. The capsule bathroom is squeezed around an ample sized shower with abundant hot water. It's better than many we have experienced.
  • We decide to fork out for breakfast. It's a matter of convenience. Service starts at 6 a.m. We don't make it that early, but we are on the road to Calais by 8 a.m.
  • We hope to catch an earlier ferry than booked. We might as well get the arrival back home over & done with.
  • Once home there's the truck to unload, clothes to wash, a supermarket shop to do ( can SG remember how to cook? ).

Oh and maybe a whole house to pack up.

  • We don't usually cross the Channel by ferry, but rather by Euro tunnel.
  • On the approach to the port of Calais, we drive along roads with high walls & security fences topped with barbed wire. At junctions and roundabouts where it is impossible to have such security, we see groups of young black men sitting by the roadside. Electronic signs above the motorway warn of dangers of pedestrians crossing the road. It is daylight & barely noon.
  • There is one police vehicle parked up roadside.
  • In our minds and without prejudice, there is no doubt what is going on here. To travel this stretch of road at night, unless in a convoy, must be terrifying.
  • Thoughts about our trip?
  • Regrets? None.
  • It's been fabulous: 16 countries, 62 days and 15000km (all driven by AG).
  • Yes, some difficult days, but no dangerous times, no threat to personal security. And in stark contrast to our London-Sydney trip, we have had no medical issues, no hospital stays.
  • It has given us the opportunity to learn about cultures and countries we were previously pretty ignorant about. Also to meet local people who, without exception, have been charming, helpful and interested in our journey.
  • We return enlightened. Our minds have hopefully been broadened permanently and our hearts made more compassionate. But simultaneously this may also make us less tolerant about the faults of our own country & fellow citizens.
  • It's continually mentioned in the media, even boasted, that UK is the 5 th largest economy ( or is it 6th or even 7th now?) From what we've seen abroad, on this trip & others, if we do not change our attitudes soon, we will quickly face relegation. And not only by our European partners. There's a big world out there. They all want a piece of the cake - a cake that does not increase in size proportionately to the number of people who wish to eat it. If we can see this, why can't those who lead & govern?
  • We have covered thousands of miles in very hot climates - we have seen long distance trucks which are travelling across the whole of Europe and beyond. Not once have we seen evidence of a lorry accident, or one on fire or one which has shed its load or one that is blocking the motorway.
  • On the other hand listen to the travel news on any day in the UK - and wonder why...
  • SG has always previously thought it preferable to do a round trip in the truck rather than ship it one way and drive the other. However as we sit homeward bound on the ferry back to Dover, the process of 're-entry' seems slow & painfully drawn out. Much better to ship the truck from a distant location and hop on a plane.
  • We have other trips in mind, but not such long ones. Our wonderful Landcruiser truck is not ready for retirement & deserves more adventures. Another drive to Australia perhaps, or a drive across Canada through North, Central & South America? Around Africa? We will be putting her up for sale shortly.

If you are interested, please get in contact with us.

  • As we have said previously and now say again: Live your dream!

Truck is Packed Up For the Last Time

Truck is Packed Up For the Last Time


This is an SG Set Up - Don't Believe It!

This is an SG Set Up - Don't Believe It!

Posted by sagbucks 09:11 Comments (0)

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