I woke up at 0830 after having been interrupted several times in the night – the worst was the community waste collection truck at 0320 at night passing through with its noisy diesel engine. As I slept with open windows to enjoy the lovely salty seaside air, this got amplified a lot.
After taking my usual morning toiletry and having breakfast in the hotel, French style, I decided to have a look after Bretzelmobil immediately. That parking place, I thought, was not really a good one to let it sleep there overnight. But, as always when you are more cautious than necessary, my fears were not reasonable.
So I checked out of the hotel and decided to start driving right away as the weather was cloudy now with patches of rain. As one of my work colleagues suggested earlier to consider also Dieppe as possible one-day-trip-to-the-sea target, I decided to go there and have a look, stopping shortly at Fecamp on the way.
Dieppe has the size of Rambouillet approximately and is spread out along the seaside, including sea harbour with ferry lines to the UK and some remains of castle fortresses close to the ever present white cliffs in this region. Parking places are easily available, directly at the beach which consists also of pebbles.
After having lunch at the Casino restaurant with a nice view over the beach and a little walk on the promenade with some really dark clouds around, I took Bretzelmobil to drive back to Rambouillet via Rouen and the A13. After Rouen, the weather got really worse and it started to rain cats and dogs. Not easy to drive on A13 – especially as many drivers did not select the right lighting for this type of weather – from full scale fog lights with high beam in front to nothing at all. Once you have to put up your hand in front of your face not to get the bright light mirrored from everywhere into your eyes, next time you just need to avoid a car appearing out of nothing behind the spray of a lorry with no lights in use at all – just in time, luckily not too late.
Back here in Rambouillet, I had a nice dinner at home and started cleaning up my flat.
I had a look at my weather app and decided right away. The only partially sunny day in Etretat of this week is today – I need to go… now!
And I wanted to stay overnight, so I have booked a room in Hotel des Falaises, opposite of Le Galion restaurant, via booking.com on the spot. I was quite surprised to see that rooms were still available as I consider this time of the year as Extreme High Season for tourism in Etretat.
The ride was uneventful via A13 and Pont du Tancarville. This time, I decided to go directly to Etretat as I was already late at around 1100.
Too late – with regards to parking. The usual parking place that we take was already full and the cars were lined up along the western inbound road towards Etretat minimum a kilometer away of city limits in any direction – including campers. So, no chance this time, but I needed to park Bretzelmobil in the no-fee parking zone just behind the last houses of the southern Etretat area. Means, a 1.5 km walk towards the beach – but no other chance at all.
As expected and seen in the parking situation, Etretat was full of tourists. I went straight to the hotel check in, got my basic room and continued by looking for a place to eat. Not so easy this time, all places were taken at Le Galion and La Salamandre, so I went to the large restaurant just before – La Taverne des Deux Augustins – and had to wait for one hour to get my food. Some interesting scenes were on display at this place – well noted during my wait time.
An Italian family of six people wanted to have a table that was foreseen for four people only – and got kindly rejected as there was no place available for six at all, followed by some very picturesque Italian swearing in the direction of the public, god and finally themselves. They walked off in anger and came back after 15 minutes, queuing and waiting without a word until they got a table – inside this time. Obviously, they were not able to find anything else.
A German couple just skipped the queue and sat down at an empty table, complaining about no service for 15 minutes and finally been shooed off to the end of the waiting line by a waiter for occupying an unassigned table. They wandered off in disbelief.
I need to say, it is not a problem of communication, but of respect and adjustment to the visiting country’s costumes and organization. And the people there were really working like little cats to cope with all the international guests as best as they can. They had a full house and were advising incoming guests politely that the meal preparation time will be at least one hour after order.
Right to the beach thereafter as fast as I could.
Three times into the water, swimming out towards the little platform. And drying off in the sun – getting some nice color on my skin. The water was immaculate as always, this time even luckily without any jelly fish of any kind. And, as we had full moon, the tidal difference was considerably higher than normal. At full low tide, loads of sandy patches became visible in the pebble beach area and herds of children immediately gathered around it – building sand castles for their princesses in true fantasy.
I took dinner in Le Galion which was, to my surprise, not fully booked. Excellent as always, no need to say.
Afterwards, I took a little walk on the promenade and returned back to my hotel room short thereafter.
Today, I have decided to return to Rambouillet, mainly to look after my two cats Luna and Nera. I left Chatel after a good Savoy breakfast and drove down to Evian.
I still remember my good friend from the US telling me if you think that Evian is better water than any other, read its name backwards and that is what you are… ;-). But for sure, Evian is a nice and expensive place at the southern shores of Lake Geneva with a marvelous view to the Jura mountains in Switzerland and its surroundings. Luckily, I got a small parking place for Bretzelmobil and was able to take some pictures.
After this short stop, I followed the lake shores down to Annemasse where I joined A40. Passing on to A6 and A19, I took the exit at Pithiviers – paying EUR49.80 for using the autoroute network – and joined Rambouillet happily after 3279 kilometers.
After a nice breakfast and quite an important bill in Switzerland as expected, I continued to drive westbound. I followed the already know path I had discovered with Sven in 2010 with some slight modifications.
After my departure from Bergun, I drove northbound towards the city of Chur, passing Lenzerheide, a city well know for its Biathlon winter sport events, and crossing Parpanpass at 1547m altitude. Quite strange, there is no indication at the summit, just a Postbus stop called “Parpan, Hohe” exists. Nevertheless, the decend towards Chur was great and the view spectacular.
Via Disentis, I followed the Rhine river valley to my first real pass road crossing for today – Oberalppass at 2044m summit altitude.
The up and down drive continued through Andermatt (1400m) and up Furkapass at 2431m towards my personal summit for today. During my decent towards Kanton Wallis, I stopped at the Belvedere (2300m) to take some pictures of the Rhone glacier. Quite impressive how much got lost of it since I have been there for the first time in the late 1980s. I still remember seeing the glacier in front of me. Today, you need to look closely uphill to find some rests of it. In the photos, you can clearly see where the glacier was 20-30 years ago.
After having lunch in a nice restaurant next to the young Rhone river just after the main Furka pass descent, I continued to drive along the Rhone valley, not missing a great view on Leuk Earth Station on the northern hills above the town and taking a stop at Goms’ suspension bridge. I took the challenge and crossed it in both directions. What an experience – just being supported by six centimeter thick wooden planks and six steel cords, 90 meters above the Rhone river, swinging in the wind and by the rhythm of the people walking over it.
After passing Sion, turning right, I continued following the Rhone valley up to Monthey. Then I climbed Morgins Pass to 1369m summit altitude, crossing the border to France and arriving at Chatel – still at 1220m above sea level.
After a good french style dinner – Aperitif, three course meal with wine, Digestif – I slept very well and woke up refreshed in the next morning.
Yesterday, I have taken a good dose of pass road driving by crossing over nine different ones in the Alps.
From Munich, I have taken A95 to join Garmisch-Partenkirchen, continuing on to Mittenwald and Seefeld, the latter already in Austria. The first one was the decent of Zirler Berg towards the Inn valley. By driving through Kematen, I joined the Kuhtai pass that took me for the first time above 2000m altitude.
After the descent, I followed the Oetz valley up to Obergurgl where the Timmelsjoch pass road begins. This is one of the most spectacular ones in the Alps and not easy to drive with its narrow roads, tunnels and turns. The summit lays at 2500m+ (a fee of EUR 16 applies) and presents the overpass to Italy. The descent towards the Passeier valley was rather slow and difficult as many not so used-to tourists blocked off local traffic by doing 20 kmh instead of possible 50 – 60 at allowed 50 – 80. And… they did not move into turnouts either. So I was able to play with Bretzelmobil a bit and use its 350Nm torque for some overtaking maneuvers. I love it!
While it was windy at the 2500m top at 20 degrees, Meran at 300 meters altitude had no wind and 37 degrees. So I decided not to stop here and to continue to the next one – Passo Stelvio. In German, it’s called Stilftser Joch. It is the third highest pass road in the alps that sports completely paved roads – up to 2760m altitude. 49 turns upwards and 39 downwards are the ultimate enjoyment of driving in the Alps – at least for me. After a short pause to take some photos, I continues towards Livigno, a tax free area of Italy via Passo Foscagno and Passo d’Eira, both at around 2200 meters altitude. For sure, Bretzelmobil was filled up for 81.1 cents per litre, profiting very well from this tax excemption. Towards my place to stay over night, I had to take three more pass roads. These are Forcola di Livigno (2315m), Passo del Bernino (2330m) and Albula pass as 2315m. Bernino and Albula are also very interesting for me as Swiss railroad lines run parallel to the roads – over architectural interesting bridge and tunnel constructions.
I have taken a hotel reservation in Bergun, just 15 km down from the Albula pass summit, still at 1400m altitude.
The sound of a mountain thunderstorm let me drift off to sleep easily after this 9.5 hours drive over 480km. Absolutely great!
Two things to do in Munich were on my list this time.
After a true Bavarian breakfast (Weisswurst and Bretzels), I took Munich Metro towards Deutsches Museum. A most fascinating place to visit with loads of demonstrations of technology – also to try out by yourself. Definitely worth a stop for at minimum 1/2 a day.
The production of artificial lightning and its effects have been very amazing.
On the way back, I found a new companion to protect my house: an original Bavarian Wolpertinger.
In the evening, after having some rest in the hotel after walking through the museum a lot, I had dinner at Paulaner Biergarten. Roasted Pork and wonderful Dark Weissbier were a perfect match.
Tomorrow is an early out day – going to the Alps driving pass roads!
Two weeks ago, Muni and I decided on our summer vacation plans and we decided on going for some days to Lithuania to visit the grandma and family of Muni as last year. However, we thought about a short trip of 2 to 3 days within that time since the airport of Kaunas is at the moment the main international airport here in Lithuania since Vilnius is closed due to construction and renovation works for 3 weeks and moved all operations to Kaunas as well as the airport of Kaunaus is not far away and easy to reach. So, we had a look around for an interesting offer to an interesting destination and came across the cheap fare of Ukraine International for €100 return to Kyiv. After checking the prices for accommodation and finding a nice Airbnb arpartment for €30 a night in walking distance to the Maidan, we decided on going to Kyiv for 3 days.
The flight to Kyiv was pretty good with Ukraine International, after arriving at the airport we went to check-in counter to get our boarding passes and to register my Flyingblue card which went rather smoothly, also when the waiting queue was a bit chaotic and people trying to skip the lane we got our tickets and registered my card successfully. Afterwards, the typical procedure with security control and passport control to leave the European Union in a very modern terminal in Kaunas which was very pleasant also it is quite small. The seats have been comfortable and the aircraft was clean. However, also here the cost savings are clear with only a complementary paper cup of water and for the rest of food or drinks you had to pay which I kindly denied since the flight was only one hour and twenty minutes
Arrived in Kyiv, the adventure started. First through the passport and border control where we got our stamps which worked absolutely without any problem for us and getting the first Ukrainian money at an ATM, we went to the bus and taxi station of Borspil airport. We had not really a clue how to get to the place where we had to pick up our key for the apartment. We knew that there is a bus to the central station which we also found and which was quite cheap (about €2,5). However, we did not really have a plan how to get from the central station to the location and since we did not know anything about Kyiv’s infrastructure and how far or easy it would be to get there, I decided to ask how much a taxi to the location would be at the official taxi stand. There, we met a very friendly taxi driver who was speaking quite good english which offered his taxi (a Volkswagen Caddy with 650.000km’s) including a taximeter for 450 UAH which is around €15 and was certainly a good option for the 35km to the city centre. During the whole time finding out and discussing about what we are doing, a unoffical taxi guy was annoying us with his offer to bring us to the city. Luckily, I figured out quite fast what this guy was doing and was ignoring him directly from the beginning. He was quite pushy and after the fourth time of annoying us we send him to hell and took the offical taxi which we discussed in the mean time. So, lesson learned, also in Kyiv you have unofficial taxi’s like in Paris which are just a scam to the tourists and the official taxi’s are the fastest and safest way to get into the city with a fair price which is very cheap compared to other large European cities.
Once arrived at the place where we should pick up our key, we had to find where the address is located. Our host send us a picture of the entrance which was a bit of help. However, the location was located in the middle of the biggest shopping street in the city centre next to the Maidan and a lot of people and shops where around which did not make the search easier. After walking around for 10 minutes, we found the place and got in contact with the concierge who was taking care of the keys of the host women. Of course, he was an old almost retired man around 65 years old who did not speak a single word of English. And how should it be, of course we have been lost in translation. With hands, some words of Ukraine, a phone call with our host Leona and a big Daaaaa, we got our key and were on our way over the big Khreshatyk street towards the Maidan and our small apartment in a neighbor street of the Maidan. And to our surprise, the city was fully alive, a lot of modern shops and modern dressed women and men, very modern and expensive cars (Mercedes S-Class’s and G-Class’s, Audi A8, BMW 7 series … you name it), the streets and houses are in good quality and not many if any questionable people walking around.
After we found our apartment, which was not that easy since numbers were missing in the court of the building complex and the preparations of a Ukraine marriage of one of the neighbors confused us as well, we found the entrance and our apartment.
The apartment was a typical studio with a combined sleeping, living room and kitchen in one and a separate bathroom and was absolutely fine. It even had air conditioning! Therefore, we rested a bit and then started our first tour around the Maidan. Underneath of the Maidan is a shopping centre which is called Globus where we had some lunch in a Ukraine chain restaurant which was recommended on tourist webpages for good and typical Ukraine food. And indeed, it was very delicious and we only paid for two persons including drinks, main course and desert stunning €5,20. From there, we continued with our little evening exploration of the city towards some of the most beautiful churches of Kyiv: St Sophia cathedral, Mikhaylovskaya monastery and St Andreas church. The Ukraine people are very religious and a lot of people went to the church for the evening service and to do prayers. Fore sure, the churches are absolutely stunning in terms of design and colours.
We continued our little tour to a small little hill were we had a stunning view onto the St Andreas church and around the old town of Kyiv. Already at this time, we felt that these 3 days here in Kyiv will be quite exhausting since the city is very hilly with step streets and a lot of stairs. After a small walk around in the old town of Kyiv – and getting lost several times on the map and in translation – we had a beautiful walk along a closed city garden and ended up at a local brewery where we had a beer for about €1,50 for the half liter. After some resting there, we came to the golden gate of Kyiv where we found a Georgian restaurant and decided to try this one out. We had some very nice food there and with fully stomachs we finished our little tour via the Kreshatyk street and the Maidan to our apartment. In total, we walked 14 kilometers and made 26.000 steps that day.
The next day, monday morning, we woke up quite late and planned our trip. After a quick breakfast at Puzata Hata, the place where we had lunch the day before, we started our trip with the Kyiv Metro to the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra also know as the Kiev Monastery of the Caves. The monastery is directly at the hill next to river Dnepr which required quite a steep climb up to the monastery. The monastery, which has several churches includes also the caves where monks are buried in coffins which have a top of glass so that you can look into them and see the mummified dead monks. You can only walk around in the caves with a candle in your hand which gives you enough light to see. However, the caves have been so crowded with religious people, kissing every coffin and praying to the monks that there was plenty of light and I was very afraid to burn somebody with my candle.
After the visit to the Lavra, we went on our little expedition tour to the motherland monument where the national museum of the history of the Ukraine in World War II is shown as well. The monument is in a large park and our walk over there was again quite exhausting since we took most likely the worst and most indirect way there since our map was unfortunatly not really detailed and bad. Arrived there, we have been again lost in translation as there are very few signs if any which describe where to buy tickets. Of course, the little cashier desk which found in in a side room had only one counter with a Ukraine speaking women which sold us the ticket after finding out how it works, somehow. Actually, I wanted to go up to the 91 meters of the statue but it was closed since it was very hot and since the whole statue is made out of metal, you can think how hot it can become. So, we bought the ticket for the museum and for the lift up to the platform in 36,6 meters. The museum was very interesting and shows the story of the WW2 but also about the ongoing war in the eastern Ukraine with an exhibition of personal belongings of soldiers which have fallen in the last 3 years. Unfortunately, and this is a large problem for everybody who can not read cyrillic, all texts in the museum and also at the Lavra are in cyrillic and not translated into english. That means a lot of information is missing for us since we were not able to read it. Nevertheless, the view from the statue was quite impressive and the elevator ride up to it is an experience for it-self.
After our visit, we met two dutch guys out of Dordrecht which is basically one town further from Breda and had a little talk before we continued our walk around the park to a small airplane and war vehicles exhibition where I was able to sit in a cockpit of a MIG-23 and Douglas DC3. By around 35 °C, we have been at this point already quite exhausted and decided to go back to the apartment and skipped the botanic garden. Luckily, we found a bus which brought us basically directly back to our apartment for about 0,08 cents. We rested and had a little siesta before we went out for some dinner at a Ukraine place and finished our day with a walk around the city centre of Kyiv where we found a small little nice park and discovered a bit the night life before we went to bed.
Tuesday, our last day in Kyiv, we started the day with packing our suitcase and bringing back the key to the place where we picked it up where we found this time an old Ukraine women which of course did also not speak any english. We left our suitcase with her and headed for some breakfast at the Puzata Hata and some shopping thereafter. Around lunchtime, we had a walk to the Ukraine parliament and around the park with the Mariyinsky Palace before we headed back to the Maidan and Kreshatyk street around 15:00 where we picked up our suitcase and the old lady. We searched for the next taxi and went to airport way in advance to be sure on time for our flight in the evening at 19:30 back to Kaunas. The airport terminal in Kyiv Boryspil is very modern and new. The Check-in was fast and in perfect German language. Thereafter, through security and passport control where we got our second stamp for leaving the Ukraine before going to the gate. The flight back was not quite as enjoyable as we first thought, through a large family with very fluttered kids but had nevertheless a beautiful sunset to watch during the whole flight.
That was our small trip to Kyiv which we really enjoyed. What we recognized during our visit is that very few tourists from western countries or Asia are visiting the city. Much more local Ukraine people and Russians as well as from the Baltic states are visiting Ukraine as tourists. Therefore, the tourism in Kyiv is an emerging market for us in western Europe and therefore is a at the moment a perfect time to go there to see the city in its beauty before the commercialization for tourism which will come most likely since the city absolutely beautiful. Also, we never felt unsafe during our whole stay in any kind. Of course, you should not be lightheaded with your belongings as any large city but besides of this, Kyiv is as safe to visit as any other city in Europe. In addition, the city is quite reasonable in terms of prices, espeically for young students like Muni and me.
A six hours drive over 584 km put me in the city center of Munich. I followed Autobahn A9 all the way, passing through the federal countries of Brandenburg, Sachsen-Anhalt, Sachsen, Thuringen and Bayern.
The drive facts:
Start at 1211km
Gasoline fill-up at 1275km – consumption 6.6 l/100km
Fastest velocity measured at 1465km – tachometer 235kmh, GPS 222kmh
Passing the former border between East and West Germany close to Rudolphstein at 1495km
Lunch at 1500km
Arriving in Munich at 1795km
The drive was uneventful and very enjoyable indeed. Especially in Bavaria, it is just priceless to drive under blue-and-white skies.
After checking-in at Angelo’s hotel, I bought a ticket for Munich transport and went to the town center – Marienplatz. After a short walk, passing Munich’s toy museum, I arrived at Hofbrauhaus to have some beers and dinner. Another time very enjoyable indeed!
With a big smile on the face, I returned to the hotel.
However, not sleeping right away – the Hotel Fire alarm went off! Somebody was smoking in the room a bit to much as it seems. That guest will have a good bill to pay now as the fire brigades arrived in full alarm gear, automatically notified by the surveillance system. Nice to see – nearly everybody evacuated the hotel peacefully and gathered at the designated meeting points.
On my rest day in Berlin, I decided to do stuff that I haven’t done in this city yet – or just such a long time ago that I can’t really remember it anymore.
First, I had an opulent Champagne breakfast with luxury food, followed by a swim in the hotel pool spa. Very enjoyable indeed. Nice to see that they have not refurbished the pool are at all, still the same as I know it from 1999.
Similar to Amsterdam, I took a river cruise. On the Spree through the Government district. The weather was 100% sunny and the ride extremely enjoyable. The trip started close to Friedrichsstrasse train station with Stern und Kreis Reederei. The ship, well booked indeed, brought its passengers down to Castle Bellevue and up to the locks just after Museumsinsel.
After a short lunch in a steak house, I went on visiting Nofretete. For sure, not her in person, but her bust that is on display in Neues Museum on the Museumsinsel here in Berlin. The bust is part of the Egyptian collection German archeologists have gathered and sent to Europe during several field trips in the late 1800s. It is impressive how much has been excavated and how well it is preserved. Unfortunately, direct pictures of her are prohibited close to the bust, but I got her from the distance (see below).
I tried to find some clothes in the summer sales afterwards at KaDeWe, but there was nothing that jumped into my eyes – quality, price and style in mind. Nevertheless, in the high class restaurant area, I enjoyed a 5J jamon iberico sandwich with a glass of wine – absolutely excellent.
I have closed the day with a dinner in Kreuzberg – Austrian style at the Restaurant Jolesch. Two large Wiener Schnitzel with a glass of “Gemischter Satz” from Vienna and Apfelstrudel afterwards. Absolutely delicious. Tripadvisor was once again very right.
Today, my trip continues. Planned are 500-600 km of driving. What would be my next target?
After a wet but lovely day in Amsterdam, I decided to change location. So where to go?
I was fed up of rainy days – which would continue at the coast line. No way I would let my time rain down on me – that’s no fun in Summer.
I was hungry for speed while driving – Bretzelmobil needs to run!
I wanted to go for some good distance on roads I have not taken yet or hardly ever in the last 28 years of driving.
So my decision: Let’s go to Berlin, Germany!
Raw data of the trip:
Start in Amsterdam at 558km already driven.
First gasoline fill-up at 678km – 40.6 liters, consumption 5.98 l/100km or 39.3 mpg.
Border Netherlands – Germany at 725km.
Top speed of this trip at 740km – tachometer 233 kmh, GPS 220 kmh.
Lunch at truck stop near Porta Westfalica at 860km.
Former border West/East Germany close to Helmstedt at 1030km.
Around 1080km – at minimum 30km above 200kmh+.
Arriving in Berlin at 1211km.
Hence the driving distance was 653km – in 7.5 hours including 1 hour stop for proper eating – Schnitzel with Paprika Sauce, Fries and Salad.
I found a nice room at Steigenberger in Berlin that served us already very well during earlier visits.
So, the rest of the day is told as fast as the trip went by. I took the BVG travel card, available for free at the hotel front desk, and took the S-Bahn to the governmental district, followed by walking to Brandenburg Gate and Alexanderplatz. After having dinner in a small but cozy Asian type restaurant with some beer to digest, I returned by U2 to Wittenbergplatz and fell into my bed for a good man’s sleep.