#SubaruOfftrax – Getting into the flow of things

July 20-27th

With a mid morning start in London from our apartment in Hammersmith courtesy of GoWithOh Apartment Rentals, we left OfftraxOuback (Elly, Michael & Andy) in London and headed to Dover to catch our ferry to Dunkirk, France.
Hello, mainland Europe! Not even an hour on the road we felt we needed to see the North Sea and its beaches in Niuwpoorte, Belgium. After an extended stopover we hit the road and didn’t call it quits till 10pm. Whew! First day in and we’re already tired and about to sleep roadside at a random service station in Belgium. Setting up our Robens tent was done easily thanks to some practice beforehand in the UK. Quite surreal to camp out at service station amongst the truckers….
The following day we drove just a 100km to Luxembourg City where we ran into The Gingerbread Men, a fellow team from Scotland. After a quick walkabout the small ‘city’ we grabbed some local brews and hit the road again, aiming for somewhere in Germany. At the last minute it was decided to visit the head office of Subaru Germany. Hello Volker Dannath and team. Over coffee and some photos we discussed our lengthy trip ahead us and were back on the road in no time. Having our brand new XV we were cautious to push her on the autobahn…save that for our way back! The drive to Nuremberg was scenic with wind and solar farms dotting the way. Being in Nuremberg we had to eat the local specialities. Unfortunately for Jess that meant A LOT of sauerkraut, while Corinne tackled a massive pork knuckle. Who knew Frank’s Red Hot tasted good on sauerkraut?!?! Later that evening approaching our hotel we could hear a couple getting it on. Soon to discover that the noise was coming from 3 floors above in our hotel, on our floor. Never forget ear plugs!
The next day started off slow and dreary-musts been the rain…
After crossing into Czech Republic we immediately stopped for gas thinking it would be cheaper than the Euro. Wrong! So pricey. Thankfully the Czech brews were dirt cheap and plentiful (that were not consumed, just packed in the back for later 🙂 Enroute to Prague we just so happened by chance to have the opportunity to visit the Pilsner Urquell brewery, (thanks to Jess’s navigating and influence). Now we drank the cold goods over heavy duty typical Czech food. Meat sweats anyone?
The drive into Prague near sunset was stunning! The statues, colours of buildings, bridges. Wow! We hostel’d it up in the city somewhere near the crazy TV tower with babies climbing it. Parking proved to be tricky as we were mainly in a residential area, but after some persistence we managed to find a spot on the street side. In a nearby park we pulled out the large map and over beers we planned the next week or so, making tough decisions. Unfortunately due to timing, etc we were going to have to pass on making it to see our Rickshaw Run buddies, The Austrians and have to forego Milan and Corinne’s hometown, Pavia. With that decided we were free to head out and eat sampling more local food and drink.
Considering we have close to 4 months of travel, it never feels like enough and we’re always on a tight schedule trying to pack in as much as possible, but having to make room to get our work done (photo editing, uploading, and the evil curse of s l o w wifi, always testing our patience).
Therefore the following morning we were up by 7amish to move the car and at the famous Charles Bridge by 9am, letting the exploration begin. Again, its the buildings and the amount of detail put into them, along with the cobwebbed statues that always gets us. So different than North America….
That afternoon we met with a local photographer and Subaru rep to tour the city for photos, hitting the Presidential Palace amongst other sites. Our car, she sure likes getting all the attention… Took a earlier night after sampling beers at a local distributor, Beer Geek. Favourites of Prague: buildings & beers.
Early the next morning we finally met up with OfftraxOutback gang outside the city in a campground on the river for breakfast, then just an hour’s drive to Kutna Hora, the town home to the church made of bones, 1000’s of them! Despite the hoards of tour buses, it was well worth the journey to see such a creepy, unique, in your face kinda setting. Due to major construction, the drive to Bratislavia, Slovakia took 4hrs instead of 2hrs. Though we were only going to be in the country for a few hours / kilometres we still had to buy a vignette for the car, costing too many Euros. While GPS on our phones rhymed out crazy street names, we struggled to keep up over so much laughter I swear our GPS is Slavik…. After checking out the quirky ‘blue church’, we toasted overlooking the Danube. Back on the road and still on the hunt for ice, which is impossible to find, we stopped at a massive Tesco just outside the Austrian border thinking we’d score there….nope. It was a sweet girl at McDonald’s that came to our rescue. With the CocoFina Cooler now properly chilling, we set off for Vienna. By dusk, we knew we couldn’t reached Vienna and so settled an hour outside in the Linz area at a campground that just so happened to be located next to the worldest largest chair! How lucky are we?!?!
As I was saying, to fit everything in, sacrifices need to be made. This morning was one of them, getting up at 5am to get to Salzberg, shoot the sites, then hightail it over to the Subaru offices for a meet & greet with the staff. This however meant, that by noon we were in the Alps and entering the famous Grossglockner Park. Though 34 Euros to enter may be pricey, it was well worth every cent. Throughout the 48km of road we encountered several ‘test cars’, motorcycles and cyclists! The idea of cycling 48km up and down curvy roads hitting an altitude of 2571m is nuts! Props to all those doing it on bike.
Needless to say the views were amazingly beautiful; some all green, other areas of glacier and snow at a chilly 8 degrees! On top of it all we celebrated amongst fellow drivers and cyclists with a cold one. Lower down at a warmer temperature we set up camp for an unforgettable evening in the alps.
The drive down to Italy was equally as beautiful the next morning, and full of hairpin turns. Immediately upon entering the autostrada the Autogrill logo was seen and espressos were consumed. Best chain of service stations I’ve discovered. A must for anyone visiting Italy, as you’ll quickly fall in love. As planned, we headed to the Marepineta camp north of Trieste to meet the Outback gang. No sooner had we had the teepee and tent setup, a mini ‘bora’ roared through the area bringing a ton of never-ending rain. Once the Outback arrived we set up shop in the rain and started the ‘reunion’ party with a wet bbq and a few Aperol Spritz.
With rain forecast for the next week days we had a slow start, but eventually made it into Trieste for a seafood lunch. By late afternoon the sun appeared and so did we, at the beach now. WooHoo the Adriatic Sea! Knowing we had an early drive day we called it quits at a respectable hour.
After our first week on the road we’re feeling much more comfortable, both in the car, of which we spend an average of 8hrs in per day, organizing everything, routing and most importantly, our expectations. Onto week two and into the unknown!