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Pococks Travels: Norway to Greece PDF Printable Version E-mail

 

POCOCKS TRAVELS from NORWAY TO GREECE

Audrey and Graham Pocock
March 2012

We met Audrey and Graham in January 2012 at Camping Finikes near Finikounda in the Greek Peloponnese. A retired Australian couple, touring Europe and Turkey in their motorhome (Bruce), they left Finikes at the beginning of February. Audrey sent us this account of their journey from Norway to Greece.

In Norway

Briefly, we left Australia at the end of March 2011, bought a motorhome (to be called Bruce) and set off towards Norway. Disaster number one happened in Norway when the hard disc broke on my PC, losing a lot of information I had on it. This was around Trondheim.

From Trondheim we made our way very slowly to Nordkapp. It was a wonderful trip and the weather was just magic. We kept on driving north passing through the Arctic Circle, where we stopped to have the usual photos taken and deposit the white wine in the snow to cool it down while sitting in T-shirts surrounded by snow with all the other motorhomers. It was wonderful.

From there we sailed to the Lofoten Islands - the most beautiful islands I have ever seen. There we saw for the first and only time the Midnight Sun, which was a fine thing to see. The Lofotens are quite spectacular and lie off the coast of Norway, quite high up and way out to sea. They are joined to the mainland by a bridge in the far north and indeed we crossed that on our way back. Graham caught a couple of trout in the Lofotens and a couple of large cod. The fishing is fantastic there.

The wonderful thing about Norway is everybody's right to park where they like, as long as it is not within 100 metres of someone's house. It is a great place to motorhome as there are so many places to stop and empty the toilet, fill up with the beautiful fresh mountain water and the views are just incredible - and all free. Huge waterfalls cascade down the sides of hills and mountains, with a different view at every turn.

The downside is the high price of everything. Alcohol is prohibitive. We didn't realise that we could have had all our 4 cases of Carrefour wine confiscated and have to pay also for the fine, but they didn't search us. We had forgotten that Norway is not in the EU. You wouldn't want to have to buy bottles of wine every night there. Food is also expensive, although thingslike salmon steaks are actually cheaper than in Oz.

Anyway we finally made it to Nordkapp, which was freezing and very unwelcoming. It cost A$100 each way for the tunnel to pass under the sea to the island where Nordkapp is, plus A$100 to stay in the most northerly camping place in the world, with no facilities whatsoever, except for a strip of tarmac. We all sat there in our motorhomes, as it was almost impossible to get out. We froze. We had on all our clothing and were still freezing. We couldn't put the heater on, as the pilot light kept going out because of the fierce wind. But we had made it to the most northerly place in Europe and indeed the island has the most northerly city in the world. It was a shock to freeze there, as we had been so blessed with such beautiful weather all the way up and then this. Atmospheric one could call it. We were allowed to stay 48 hours for our A$100 worth but we just wanted to leave after 24 hours!

Finland

And leave we did, turning south again but this time into Finland. Again, easy to stop anywhere, if not using the aires in the book. It was quiet and safe with lots of reindeer loping along. We did venture on a walk to a country church in the middle of nowhere and along the way came across places to stop and stay overnight and light a fire with all the wood one could desire. This was still far up north, between Norway and Russia in the country of the Samis.

Later we drove to Rovaniemi, Father Xmas Land – very commercialised with piped Xmas music in the aire all night. Not what one wants at 3 in the morning - someone singing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” - but, like Las Vegas, ya gotta go there if it's at the end of the street.

Finland was quiet and, unlike the rest of Scandinavia, a lot of people don't speak English, which surprised me. My favourite aire there was very close to the Russian border and about 400 yards from a monastery. It was down by the lake (yes, I know there are thousands of lakes in Finland) and so peaceful and quiet, just a few monks passing by in their robes on the way to the monastery. We went to visit it the next day. It was so lovely inside with a very Russian Orthodox feel about it. I felt I was in the middle of a Chekhov play. I loved it. And the aire was gorgeous, but maybe it was just the weather.

And so through Finland to Helsinki, which was okay but not as exciting as I had wanted it to be.

Estonia

We then crossed the Baltic by the largest ferry I have ever been on, with so many cars, trucks and people. Unbelievable! But a good crossing in wonderful weather still. (How could we keep on having this fantastic weather?)

We stayed 2 nights in Tallinn, spending a long and lovely day there, and just loved it. Estonia's capital is such a beautifully restored city with the walls still intact and with wonderful restaurants, people dressed up in period costume etc. We were very impressed. The fact also that little Estonia has the Euro is a plus for this small country (or maybe not at the moment with the downturn of the latter)! Its neighbours (Latvia and Lithuania) are still using their old currency. Unfortunately, we were not to see Riga or Vilnius (their capitals).

Swiftly through Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Holland and France to England

In Finland we had made a decision to drive back to the UK, find a place for the motorhome and fly back to Australia, because of family illness. This we did travelling, 3000 kilometres and 10 hour days in our motorhome through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Holland and then France to England.

We flew back to Australia and stayed 3 whole months before flying back to Europe to resume our trip. Having collected Bruce from dry dock at Heathrow airport (Purple Storage), we started off for France.

France

This was now October 2011. We had never been there in Autumn before and I must say it was quite lovely. We stopped at the “Moet” champagne place in Epernay and then on to Nuits-St-Georges and Beaune, just lovely in Autumn shades. Then it was on to Chambery and so into Provence.

Italy

The weather all through France up until then had been glorious but now we were into the dreadful rain and storms that the north of Italy was suffering and so our intended walk through the Cinque Terres was quite out of the question. Indeed, I think a dozen people died in the region. We were very lucky to keep missing it, although we did have rain.

And so it was on to Lucca and then Florence again (we did this 2 years ago), Arezzo and Assisi, which we loved. From there, back down to Rome again and the same campsite as 2 years ago. We spent another day in Rome and then down and across the country to the very tip of the heel in Brindisi for the ferry to Greece.

Greece

We are at the southern tip of the left hand finger of the Peloponnese, in a lovely campsite less than 100 metres from the sea, which we can hear while in our bed. There are about 10 groups of us at the moment, mostly German, some of whom come every year for months at a time. We have a key to our own toilet and shower and are pretty happy, waiting out the Winter and going on trips whilst we are based here. We will probably stay until mid-February. After that we will head towards Turkey for about 8 weeks and then back north via Bulgaria and Romania and over to the UK, where we plan to be for most of the British Summer. That is the plan, which I suppose is always open to change.

The weather here has once again been kind to us and at the moment I am sitting outside in shorts and T-shirt with the sun blazing. However, it's a short day and dark about 5.30 pm. Everyone is in the process of putting up their Xmas lights and advent candles.

We love the food here and are eating so well and cheaply. We also love the people, so friendly and helpful. The German lady across the way seems to hand us over her baking about twice a week to have with our tea, so it's like one big happy family. Her husband is still swimming of a morning (he must be in his seventies). Rather him than me.

We've also been with Spiros (owner of campsite) to watch how the olives are processed. Graham has been to help pick them and for his efforts we have been rewarded with olive oil, olives from last year in a jar and new olives for us to process this year. I have never in all my life seen virgin oil the colour that we have. The taste is incredible.

Continued at: Pococks Travels from Greece to Turkey