Sunday, September 14, 2014

The road to GroƟglockner

Sixteen days after leaving home, we're now on our way back to Antwerp. After Croatia, we've driven through Slovenia, Italy, Austra and Switzerland, arriving in France to meet up with my parents for a few days.

France offered us the typical vineyards and chateaux. What, next to the good company, will stick with me the most is the High Alpine road in Austria. We paid 34 euros to be allowed on the road, but the surroundings of that piece of asphalt are extraordinary.
The drive is rough, maybe even more so coming down than going up. No wonder car manufacturers use it to test drive their close to production-ready prototypes.

It has been quite the trip. I had never expected to give my eyes such a show so close to home.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Northbound again

Leaving Plitvice behind us, we crossed the country heading for the sea. We didn't need to cover a lot of distance, to discover how diverse the Croatian landscape and climate is. In only two hours we went from the cold, foggy lakes and waterfalls to green meadows to dusty mountains to sunbathing coasts.

We followed the coastline for a little while, strolling through old coast towns, eating seafood, drinking something cold. Driving up North and more inland, we spent two days in Motovun, a picturesque town high on a mountain.

We'll be continuing up North, slowly making our way home.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Tolkien's inspiration

The next morning we woke up to another rainy day. We caught up with the rain in Austria and we have been following it ever since. Or the other way around. Even the locals can't seem to stop talking about how much rain is falling.

Between showers, we were able to hike the Vintgar trail. The one hour hike takes you along dangerous rapid waters, bringing you to a big waterfall. If I ever wondered how J.R.R. Tolkien came up with inspiration for his famous novels, now I have a good idea.

On Tuesday, exploring the Postojna cave system by train and on foot offered similar enchanting images.

After exchanging the Slovenian scenery for that of Croatia - still raining - we visited the Plitvice Lakes on Thursday. The non-stop rain had caused a big part of the park to flood. If you didn't mind getting wet up  to your knees, wading through the lakes that were now on top of the trails was definitely an option - one that we took.

We'll spend our last few days in Croatia along the coastline, hoping to at least warm up a little after our wet and cold experience in the national park. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Porsches and a setting that sells them

With the Belgian 'Summer' ending, we are exploring South Eastern Europe. This trip will take us through Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia.

On Saturday, we stopped in Stuttgart to complete our list of visits to the three most popular European sports car museums, after visiting Lamborghini and Ferrari two years ago: the Porsche museum. In my teens, my affinity to fast cars was ignited by spending rainy afternoons at one of my best friends's, attempting to crush each other's track records playing Need For Speed Porsche Unleashed. The brand has succeeded in making its way into my subconscious early on. It would still be a Porsche I'd buy today, if I would have too much money to spend.

In the meanwhile, my interest for fast cars has tempered, making place for a more general interest in the combination of good design and raw engineering. There was certainly a place for this at the Porsche museum. The architecture sets high expectations. Every detail in the building met Porsche's standards; from the toilet pictograms to the elevator interior.

Unfortunately, like in most car museums, they fail to really capture the driving experience. Not once did I hear the trademark roar of a Porsche engine, which I learned to love playing video games.

Leaving Stuttgart behind us, we set out for Bled, Slovenia. This took us through Austria, where we diverged far from the optimal route to visit Hallstatt. This small village, famous around the world, even coined as one of the most beautiful places on earth, is hidden deep into the inhospitable landscape of Austria. Being so out-of-the-way might just be what has made it possible to preserve the charm of this little place.

Getting back into the car, it started raining, and it didn't stop until we crossed the Slovenian border. The type of rain that gives you that claustrophobic car wash feeling. We arrived in Bled well after dark, and went to bed curious of what our surroundings would look like in the morning sun.