Nesselwang, and back to Ehningen

Pretzels, Laugenstange & Tafelbrötchen successfully bought, though at 08:30 they’d almost sold out.

I’d said in an earlier post that Nesselwang didn’t seem to have changed much. Actually it has,  but it wasn’t obvious at first. It’s more up-market than it used to be. Although the buildings haven’t changed, the occupants of some of the shops have. The old wine and spirits shop has gone, and has been replaced by a clothes shop selling traditional alpine dress, e.g. Dirndls & Lederhosen. There was a shop dummy sporting a pair of very attractive Lederhosen, but at an eye-watering price of €949. I’ve since been told that’s actually at the lower end of the price range. There are other “sports” clothes shops aimed at the holiday-making alpine walker; all very expensive.

Nesselwang always was a fairly unremarkable ski resort; after all, it’s not really high enough to be “snow-secure”. Notwithstanding that, there’s a new Kabinenbahn (cable car), though – judging from the fullness of the car park at 10:30am – it used mostly by walkers, and & sure it’s a fabulous place to go walking.

Brauerei Gasthof Post. It seems not to have changed at all. I still have a couple of unopened bottles from here that I must have bought in 1986 or 1987.

I enquired whether it was possible to take a mountain bike up the ski lift: Yes, it is. Trouble is, there are no marked MTB trails (only walking trails) and – whilst I’m sure there would have been a good morning’s riding to be had, without a guide, I would probably have spent most of the time going down blind trails and having to push back up, or running down walkers.

We stayed on the Wohnmobilstellplatz in Nesselwang – a rest-stop set-aside purely for motorhomes (cars & caravans not allowed) – lying just at the bottom of the ski lift. It’s a fabulous location, if not a little short on facilities (like loos & showers, though we’re self-sufficient in that department). And at just €8 per 24hr + €0.50 per 0.5KWh of electricity (if you need electric hookup – and we only need it to recharge the laptop – we can run the fridge off gas, and the lights off the spare battery, which gets recharged either when the engine’s running or from the solar panel on the roof), it represents pretty good value for money. Again, I can only marvel at the foresight of the local authorities in providing such facilities, and can similarly only bemoan not just the absence, but the illegality of this, back in the UK where you’re not allowed to stop anywhere without…

  • permission
  • paying vast sums of money
  • being driven bonkers by late-night drug-dealers and/or idiots doing donuts
  • being moved-on/arrested for vagrancy/being a traveller
Nesselwang’s Stellplatz – a pretty scary-looking place (not)
Looking up to the Alpspitz from the Stellplatz.

We left Nesselwang about lunchtime, heading back to our daughter’s house in Ehningen – we had to be back in time for our eldest grand-daughter’s 5th birthday. Again, we decided to keep off the Autobahnen as much as possible, so we headed across the Schwäbische Alb, cutting off a big motorway dog-leg in favour of smaller roads through a million small villages. All went well until we hit the rush-hour traffic in Reutlingen and (less so) in Tübingen.

We’re now here for a few days and the weather has been vile. Thunderstorms seem to have caught up with us again and it’s pretty cool. SHould improve from Thursday.

Next on our travels may be Munich, Nuremberg and Bamberg. Lots of ancient breweries & pubs in Bamberg; not to mention the unusual Rauchbiers (smoked beers) that the town is famous for.

Verona Photos

Lots of fancy balconies in Verona
…though the fabled Guilietta’s (as in “Romeo & Juliet”) is a little more plain. This piazza was absolutely heaving with people, all trying to put something concrete to what was – essentially – a fairy story!
The oldest bridge in Verona; Roman in origin, destroyed during WWII and rebuilt from the original pieces.
Decided to swap the van whilst in Verona for something a little more “mature” 😉
Some of the fabulous art inside the cathedral
Not another Roman arena?
The inside of the arena – getting ready for tonight’s production of Carmen
Yes it WAS a hard climb up to the top row in the heat!
The by-now-obligatory panoramic shot of the Verona arena
The by-now-obligatory panoramic shot of the Verona arena

Pompei photos

Looks like Vesuvius is blowing its top, but it’s just cloud!
The Basilica
View over the Forum from the Basilica
A street in Pompei
A Thermopolium – that’s a shop that sells food or drink. Typically a house with its front open onto the street. The large amphorae are embedded into a worktop and food/drink was served from these.
Some of the amazing frescos of life-sized people – currently undergoing some restoration.
The Arena
The inside of the arena

Herculaneum photos

Looking down at the old sea level and beach from the present ground level
Some of the poor people caught in the pyroclastic flow
The beach-front warehouses & boat storage places where many of the townsfolk took shelter from the eruption
A street
Some of the original timbers, showing the burning/charring from the hot ash and dust
Many of the frescos are still in remarkably good condition – and they’re everywhere.
Because Heculaneum didn’t get hit by lava or other major ejecta from the eruption, many of the buildings are remarkably undamaged, providing vast amounts of information about how people lived.
Another amazing fresco

San Valentino alla Muta to Nesselwang

Sun, 27th Jul, 2014:

I actually managed to sleep last night without having to get up and shut all the windows. That’s mainly because it was so cold, we didn’t have any of the windows or skylights open. When I say cold, it must have been all of 12° C – a temperature not encountered for several months. In fact, I don’t think we’ve experienced anything under 20° C for the last month, so this was a bit of a shock to the system.

Today, we didn’t actually intend to travel very far, so a leisurely breakfast followed by a bike ride seemed the thing to do.

San Valentin nestles at 1470 metres above sea level between two lakes: Lakes Rescia (Reschensee) and Muta (Haidersee). Lago di Rescia is quite long – about 8km – with the small town of (guess what) Rescia at the Northen end. Rescia is the last town in Italy before the Austrian border. We decided to do a round trip of Lago di Rescia.

It was still pretty cool when we set off into the teeth of a Northerly wind. Being a lake, the trail around it was pretty flat and so easy going, although there are a few short, sharp climbs & descents on the Western side as we came back.

There were loads of kite-surfers out on the lake, though not a single windsurfer. Seems like windsurfing is pretty much dead these days :-(.

Kitesurfers. I noticed they were all wearing winter wetsuits!

The most interesting thing about Lago di Rescia – apart from it being in a stunning location – is that it has the top of a church tower sticking out of it, by the town of Curon Venosta. An odd place to build a church tower, you might think, but this one was built long before the lake existed, and succumbed to more contemporary requirements for consistent water supplies. It’s now a protected structure, apparently floating on the lake.

I wonder what happened to the clock?

We cycled up to the border crossing; about 2km N from the top of the lake. We can now claim to have cycled from Italy to Austria and back in a day!

Surely not a selfie?
The orange Orange at 1455m (MTB people will understand)

Time to move on…

We hit the road after lunch (i.e. about 15:30!), over the top of the pass where we’d cycled, & on into Austria, pausing only to buy the obligatory “vignette” that allows you to use the Austrian Autobahnen – valid for 10 days, mind.

Over Fernpass – a wonderful, twisty, steep pass that bring back memories from long ago when we lived in Germany, and travelled over Fernpass several times. We got lucky with traffic today: It was all heading South. And there was a heck of a lot of it. An astonishing number of vehicles were Dutch and Belgian – probably 30% of all vehicles – with the remainder being German, Austrian and Italian.

We crossed Austria in surprisingly quick time, leaving us feel ripped-off for the vignette, and on into Germany. We have holed-up in Nesselwang in the Allgäu – the southern-most part of Bavaria – for the night. Again, it’s a place that holds lots of memories for us having stayed here several times when we used to live in Germany. We also came here with both Joy’s parents & my parents on separate occasions, and once with Joy’s sister (in the winter). Nothing much has changed – which pleases me greatly, as there is no need for anything to change. The Gasthof Post Brauerei is still there, as is the Gasthof Bären – where we felt compelled to have a quick beer tonight.

Gasthof Bären, Nesselwang

We also located the Bäckerei, so I can look forward to major pretzel overload for breakfast tomorrow. It’ll make a change from all the horrible bread we had to endure in Italy!

San Valentino alla Muta

Sat, 26th July, 2014:

Last night, there was a huge storm. It started at around 04:30 at which point I had to do the rounds of closing all the windows & skylights, and place the drip-collection bucket. By 10:30, it was just beginning to ease off bucketing it down, though the lightning & thunder carried-on a while longer. We left Lazise with the intention of driving back up to Heiterwang, in Austria.

With one thing and another, it got quite late when we actually left, and I needed to empty the contents of my bank account into the fuel tank. We’d seen a relatively inexpensive petrol station on the road from Peschiera del Garda – about 10 mins drive away – and decided it would be worth the drive to save on the fuel (which is very expensive in Italy). We pretty soon realized that the traffic was really heavy around the lake. Then came the dawning realisation: It’s Saturday: change-over day for most holiday-makers.

Fuel bought, then back the way we’d come, hit the main road and came to an immediate stop. 20 million holiday-makers all trying to head back to the Autostrada leading back up to the Brenner Pass. Sense of humour failure rapidly followed. After we got moving, we decided to take the back roads – seldom a good option in Italy as anything that’s not a motorway doesn’t have any tolls and is therefore not fit to be driven-on: I’m sure I’ll need new shock absorbers when we get back.

Long story short; we took the main road all the way up to Bolzano, running in parallel with the Autostrada. Sometimes we were stopped; sometimes the Autostrada was stopped. We then decided not to go over the Brenner Pass, but instead to head West from Bolzano, through Merano, and along the “Weinstrasse” (this part of Italy is mainly German-speaking) and over the Rescia Pass. We’re presently at 1450 metres above sea level in San Valentino alla Muta. A spot high up in the mountains between two lakes, that’s as cold as it is beautiful. And it’s raining.


Fri, 25th July, 2014:

We left our overnight spot early yesterday as we knew we had a long, long drive ahead of us up to Verona: Some 630km if Google maps is to be believed. We also had the additional challenge of not knowing exactly where we’d be staying when we got there.

We couldn’t find any campsites in Verona, so our plan was to stay at Lazise – the same Sosta close to Lake Garda that we stayed at 3 weeks previously when heading South – and then travel in to Verona from there. The only feasible way to do this would be by train from Peschiera del Garda; some 15 minutes drive away,  but a lot of ifs and buts needed to be addressed for this to work…

  • There must be reasonably regular trains between Peschiera and Verona
  • There must be a car park available at the railway station in Peschiera
  • The car park must be able to fit our motorhome
  • We would need to be in the car park early enough to be able to park, assuming it would fill-up with commuters
  • There must be camping places available in Lazise (it IS main holiday season now, and Lake Garda is an EXTREMELY popular destination)

So we altered our route to get to Lazise via Peschiera to check out the situation.

It turned out to be a 10 hour drive up to Peschiera, with a couple of short stops. We found the station; it had a car park that charged just €6 to park all day; there were trains every hour. So far, so good,

Drove to our parking area / Sosta in Lazise – just 5 motorhomes parked there (there are places for about 150, although only 2 toilets & 2 showers!). Everything falling into place. This happens very rarely for me.

We managed to get up, breakfasted and off-site by 08:00, giving us plenty of time to get to Peschiera in the rush-hour traffic. There was none. The station car park was empty. Most excellent.

Train tickets cost just €3.30 each and the ticket machine was working. Bargain. We were on the 09:01 train & in Verona by 09:20.

First stop was the Porto Nuovo (the “new” gate, built some time in the 17th century). Then a walk up to the Roman amphitheatre (or arena). This is the 3rd largest surviving Roman amphitheatre (after Rome and Capua), and is just 3 metres larger on each axis than the one at Pompei.

In the summer, the arena is given over to concerts every evening. Tonight’s performance was to be Carmen. Tickets were available (as long as you have deep enough pockets), but the performance only started at 10pm and was due to finish at 1am. There were no trains back at this time which made the opera a non-starter for us. Pity

Instead, we walked up to the cathedral and spent a good 1 1/2 hours in there; walked over to the oldest bridge in Verona (Roman, but destroyed in WWII and rebuilt using the original materials), saw the ruins of the Roman theatre (under renovation, of course), and Juilet’s balcony; most of the ancient piazzas and generally walked the soles off our shoes. We then paid to  visit the arena: I’m sorry to say it was probably the worst €6 each for for  long time. There’s actually nothing to see; no guide book or any other form of information available; nothing about the history or construction. Disappointing.

Other than the arena, a very interesting day – also not too hot (though certainly hot enough in the sun). We even got a train back – having first stopped at a cafe for a “craft beer” (Hirter – an Austrian brewery. Marginally better than average Italian beer). We caught a suitable return train and our van was still there in the car park, and hadn’t been broken into. Excellent!

Again, no pictures due to lousy internet connection, but watch this space…


Thur 24th Jul, 2014

I noticed it before we left Pompei. In fact, I’d have had to be blind not to notice it. We have an attack of ants. Not the huge ones that seemed to prowl around Gargano: these were small. What they lacked in  stature, they made up for in numbers. There were millions of them, inside and outside.

We cleared them out as best we could – which wasn’t very, as we were in a rush to get off the campsite before the 4pm deadline, but I couldn’t really figure out where they were coming from. The only theory I had at the time was that they were perhaps scaling the electric hookup cable that lies on the ground, and passes into the van’s garage, though I hadn’t noticed an army of ants on the cable when I disconnected it.

It was while we were driving up to our overnight stop that I think I figured it out: where we were parked in Pompei, there were citrus trees all around. These were great for providing shade from the sun, but not so great for depositing loads of wet, soggy leaves in the fly screens on the skylights. I remembered that the branches of one of the trees was in contact with the roof. That must have been it. It would certainly explain why they were marching up & down the roof, down the back of the van, through the door seals & into the van.

We STILL had ants in the van and on the outside two days later – despite having driven through a number of torrential downpours – though continual removals of the stragglers with a bristle brush did seem to finish them off in the end. I’m happy to report zero quantity of van-based ants tonight.

Addendum: 26/7/14: Just found another ant taking a stroll across the dashboard.

The Pompei ruins (Wed, 23/7/2014)…

…are quite literally on our doorstep. The main entrance to the ruins is a mere 200m away from where we’re parked in this otherwise not-so-wonderful campsite.

We’d already bought tickets yesterday for both Herculaneum & Pompei. This was fortunate, as – by the time we got to the entrance, several coaches of assorted Americans, Japanese, et al and a train load of other visitors all arrived at once, eager to join the queue at the ticket counter. We breezed through & bought our audio-guides in double-quick time.

The ruins of Pompei are vastly more extensive than what has been excavated at Herculaneum. The first excavations of Pompei were started in the 1750s, although the lack of knowledge of preservation methods resulted in many artefacts being irretrievably lost. Only a small portion of Herculaneum has been excavated due to it having been built over, and the slight inconvenience of people living in the buildings over the site, so it’s not really well understood how big Herculaneum was.

On the other hand, it’s known that about 70% (IIRC) of Pompei has now been excavated. Nothing else was ever built over the site, so access is easier.

Pompei is still being excavated, explored (slowly) and renovated even today. Unfortunately, this has resulted in many of the buildings being “out-of-bounds” to the visitor. However, the sheer scale of the place still gives plenty of opportunity to see how it was governed and administered; how the wealthy & the less wealthy lived; the houses that doubled as shops; the villas and so on.

We managed to spend 5 hours there, and were getting pretty hot & footsore after that time, although we probably only saw about 50% of the ruins. If you ever get the opportunity to visit; do it.

We needed to get the van out of the campsite before 4pm to avoid another day’s charge. We managed just in time, and then started the long drive North, heading up towards Rome before finding our overnight stop – once again in San Giovanni Incarico, having been unable to locate the preferred Sosta that was allegedly at Cassino.

Again, poor internet bandwidth prevents me from uploading photos, right now, but I’ll do this later when I get chance.