Lechbruck, Neuschwanstein Castle, Gilfenklamm, Dolomites, Bolzano, Riva del Garda
126 days away
409 miles / 658 km since last post
7,088 miles / 11,407 km total
On Tuesday we drove along the so-called 'Romantic Road' in the Bavaria region of Germany. It was a pretty drive. We stopped briefly at a Lidl to stock up on food. It also gave us the opportunity to recycle the many plastic beer bottles we had accumulated last time we were in Germany. Just to explain, in Lidl (and possibly other supermarkets in Germany) they sell some beers in plastic bottles. Whilst these are fairly cheap anyway (50 cents each), if you return them for recycling, you get some money back (25 cents each!). We had been carrying some of these plastic bottles for a while now, but it was worth keeping hold of them as we got over €6 off our shopping. The supermarket has an awesome machine which you put the bottles into, it scans them to check they are recyclable, then totals up the money you can use in the shop. Pretty cool.
We decided to make a stop at a campsite in Lechbruck am See, right next to a big lake. Thankfully their washing facilities were a lot more reasonably priced than at our last campsite, at €2.50 a wash, so we decided to get all of our washing done here. Unfortunately, the washing machines closest to us were being fixed, so we had to use the ones on the other side of the site - actually quite a distance away as it was a big place. Stu kindly offered to do the washing, and made a few trips back and forth on the bike to get it all washed and dried. He did a great job! By the time he was making his way back with the last load of washed and dried laundry, it had started to rain quite heavily. This rain didn't seem to let up at all, and it was raining heavily throughout most of the night.
By the next morning (Wednesday), thankfully, the weather had dried up completely. You wouldn't even have guessed it had rained the previous night. We left the campsite in the morning and continued along the Romantic Road to one of Germany's most famous and most visited castles, Neuschwanstein Castle. Almost like something out of a fairytale, Neuschwanstein was apparently the inspiration for the Disney castle, and you can see why with it's pointy turrets. It looks almost unreachable perched up the side of the mountain, but it is accessible via a steep road.
We parked up the motorhome and started walking the route to the castle. At the bottom you can buy tickets to enter the castle, which are not available once you're up there. Despite this being out of the main summer season, there was still a massive queue to buy tickets. We weren't too fussed about actually going inside the castle so decided to skip the queues and start our walk. There was the option of getting a horse and cart ride, but I think we were happy to get the exercise.
The walk up to the castle was quite an effort. On the signs at the bottom they estimate the walk takes about 40 minutes - I think we managed it in around 20 minutes, and certainly felt it! However, it was well worth the effort. Seeing the castle close up, and also the great views over the town and countryside below. We were very fortunate with the weather, as despite having a few drops of rain on our walk, by the time we reached the top it had cleared up completely and the sun was shining - a world away from the torrential rain from the previous evening.
We noticed there was a further walk which leaded to the Marienbrucke (Marien Bridge). It was yet another steep hike to the bridge, but again, well worth the effort. It afforded us a fantastic view back to the castle, and across the landscape. Well worth the extra effort.
After a pleasant walk back down from the castle to the car park - only briefly stopping for a snack of some round doughnut type things (very tasty) - we had a quick bite to eat and then continued on our drive. We still had a day left on our Austrian vignette, so decided we would drive out of Germany, through Austria and into Italy. Whilst this was a long drive, it wasn't as bad as it sounds as we were already near the border of Austria, and driving through Austria was fairly straight forward and not too far. It did take us through some more glorious scenery.
The beautiful scenery continued as we entered northern Italy with some amazing mountain ranges. As the main objective for the day was to get through Austria, we decided to find a campsite soon after crossing the border into Italy, at a place called Gilfenklamm. A nice, quiet campsite with some lovely views of the snow-capped mountains around us. As we still needed to work out where we were heading in Italy, we ended up staying there for the next couple of days. It was nice to have a proper break, and gave us the chance to look into our trip through Italy. We also took the opportunity, with the free WiFi, to have a chat with my parents on Skype - a great chance to catch up.
On Saturday morning, after enjoying two days of glorious blue skies and sunshine, we managed to hold on to this good weather for our drive around the Dolomites - the huge mountain peaks of northern Italy. Despite worrying a little about what the roads would be like, we were relieved to find they were in great condition and not too thin - ample space to get around them in our motorhome. There were certainly lots of twists and turns and steep ascents and descents, but nothing that our vehicle couldn't handle. It was an amazing drive, and definitely one of our trip highlights - the views when we reached over 2,000 metres were simply stunning. It was so peaceful too, really beautiful. We were so glad we picked a clear day to do this drive as we could see for miles and the tops of all the mountain peaks. Doing this drive in October, as opposed to in the summer was another positive. We had been reading in our guide books that this drive gets extremely busy in the summer, with lots of cars and motorbikes on the road - with plenty of crazy drivers too. Being out of the main season we found the roads to be clear. We came across the odd car, and a few motorbikes overtaking us on the ascents, but nothing that caused us any bother. It made the drive really pleasant and far less stressful that if it had been busy. We spotted a few sports cars doing the drive too, but thankfully there were plenty of opportunities for them to overtake us.
After a fantastic, if a little tiring, drive around the Dolomites we made our descent to a more reasonable altitude and headed to a campsite Stu found in our book. We were quite disappointed upon arrival to find that they had closed up a little early for the season. Feeling quite tired, we had to push on for another 30 kilometres or so to get to a camperstop we found in our other book. 30km wouldn't be too much of a drive, but our route was slow as it took us over another mountain pass Finally, after taking a wrong turn, we made it to our camperstop for the night in Bolzano. The great thing was this was actually a free stop. The not so good things were that we were right next to a road and a train line! However, things did quieten down later into the evening - it's nice to stay somewhere for free for a change.
On Sunday morning we headed off towards Lake Garda. The weather wasn't too bad for our drive, although it was a little cloudy in the hills - still a pretty drive though. We were certainly feeling glad we had done the Dolomites the previous day, when the weather had been perfectly clear.
The reception of the site we had picked at Lake Garda didn't open for another 40 minutes upon arrival, so we ate some lunch and Stu had a look around to check out the facilities. Once we were in the site we got set up and then took the bikes out for a cycle around the lake. It is a beautiful location, but the visibility wasn't amazing as there was still a lot of cloud about.
After cycling for a while we stopped in the main town by the lake, Riva del Garda, for a couple of beers - also managing to find a spot of free WiFi. They had Munich beers which was great. We thought it might be nice to get dinner out, so Stu looked up a place on Tripadvisor. A place called Piccadilly ranked quite highly, and wasn't too far away. We had made a great choice as the food was fantastic, and very reasonably priced. We opted for a bruschetta to start - which the waitress recommended we share rather than have one each (and she was right, they were big, and delicious). We both opted for pasta dishes for our main course, followed by tiramisu for dessert and coffees. They even offered us a complimentary limoncello to round off the meal - a lovely restaurant.
Unfortunately, by the time we came to head home it had started to rain. Rain hard. The ride back to the motorhome was pretty wet, and we were soaked when we arrived. Thankfully the weather here is fairly mild compared to what we have been used to the last couple of weeks, so no hypothermia! Stu opted to have a shower once we were back. As his trousers were wet through, he headed over to the shower block in just his t-shirt and pants - an hilarious sight to behold! Even more hilarious was watching him lose a flip flop and almost fall over when he walked into someone's washing line in the dark! I don't know if he found it funny, but I almost wet myself watching it!
A Most Disgusting Song