EMILS about route
Me and Madara, we have rather different views rather often, but the positive thing is that through talks we can always find out, why the hen came first (or the egg, according to Madara), are there more white or black stripes on zebra's back, or what if the Earth is neither flat or round? When we started talking about the route of the trip, we realized that the discussion won't be enough, so we decided that each of us will plan his or her own route and later we will simply put them together. That is why I am not going to hide the cards up my sleeve anymore and will come out of the cupboard and quickly present to you our proposed route.
Let us start in the company of cepelinai-eaters and move forward to the grand nation of zurek and soplica. Then we will fluidly continue our travel through Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina as far as Croatia, un further on around the sea border of Europe. As you see, the water will be near us all the time. Although I am afraid of fish, I like to be in and near water. Let us start with the Croatian coastline, and through the land of the Lannisters*, reach Italy. This is our favourite part of the world, where I am gradually becoming like Emilio Gonzalez, a grown-up man, with real stubble growing at last on my chin, the lover of warm sun, wine and olives. Madara’s hair is always blowing in the wind (you are acquainted with old movie classics, where heroines used to walk around, usually New York, with their chin slightly lowered, licking their lips, while their curls madly flattered in the breeze, and Tom Waits was singing in the background, don’t you? I am sure, you feel, how sexy it is...) For those, who have not grasped it yet, I will explain, that we like it there, when the weather is hot, and the scenes beautiful. By the way, mine and Madara’s thoughts about Italy match, and this was the easy-peasy pat of the route planning.
At the beginning we had a rather different idea, that we might go by ferry from Liepaja to Germany, -but then the enlightenment came, that August is not as far away, and, as far as we reach Italy, we will already have to put our thick winter parkas on. This was also the primary reason why we will go to the most distant point of Roberto’s native land first, and then move further along the coast up to Morocco, Portugal, France and England. Yes, we will drive around all the Italian lo Stivale, meet the famous Russian star Timati at St. Tropez, will pass the winter in Morocco, and experience England with its expanses at the very end. We have no idea, what we'll see and where we'll be, therefore I am telling you the very essence at present, but the rest will happen by itself.
I adore visiting small towns and places, meeting people, seeing how they live, how they talk and gesticulate, I am also always eager to work in some farm, probably to stay for some time in the desert, and, yes, to feel the people, what they are like "THERE". So, I would like to see Oradour sur Glane, the French town destroyed by Waffen SS, inspect the flea markets of Brussels, join the bazaar commotion in Fez, Morocco, etc.
I could see that the nature, the road, places to see, will be beautiful, already when drawing up the route. I will put a full stop now and add some pictures of the places we are going to visit, where we will possibly sip our coffee from tiny cups, having hung our feet out of the van’s windows, and watching the scene with an absentminded smile. Smiling and saying nothing.
*The Game of Thrones series was shot in Dubrovnik.
MADARA about route
The target of this post is to help both you and ourselves to find the answer to one of the questions heard most often: just a minute, where are you exactly going to? We have agreed upon the making of the route outline first, and calculating the total lengths and limits, and only then building it in detail with the separately thought-over omg-that- I- must-see- or-I'll- die places and objects.
Our trip from Latvia to Croatia we have intended to perform in according to the waltz rhythm. To say nothing of Lithuania, Poland, despite of its ill fame, still seems worthy of examination, to but nooot enough to hang around there for more than a few days. We could afford one day for the old town of Krakow, the next - for Wieliczka salt mine, and the third one - to have a closer look at Auschwitz. There are a lot of nice places worth seeing there, but I believe that we will be dead set on to start the Real travel, see the places, which we won't be able to visit any weekend. Certainly, we have not done it yet and will hardly do, but such is the nature of man like.
Slovakia comes next, through which we will enter Hungary, visiting the tempting and miraculous lake Štrbské Pleso, reflecting the peaks and spruces of the High Tatras, and the Paradise national park. Really charming - forests, mountains, hanging bridges, suspicious-looking narrow plank-ways, sticking to the edge of a precipice, and waterfalls, - a verdant and rustling world. Beautiful, what else could I say! And Hungary means also Budapest. Beauty of the night.
Then we will reach the love of our life - Croatia. Songs of cicadas, the scent of acacias in the darkness, the Adriatic Sea reflecting more than just the sky. Little white houses with tile roofs scattered among the hills and squatting next to the coastline. We will drive also to Makarsk with the bright pier, having collected the warmth of the sky in its ancient walls, which beckon to climb the wild trails, and then we will visit the Paklenica national park, which is called the hiker's paradise. We will allow the high white cliffs to surround us and will check for the first time, whether we are so fond of hiking, as it seems now. Because right now I am more than sure that it is probably one of the very few physical activities I might like. That brings us to our next stop at the Premuzic hiking trail along the mountain tops. Then we'll rest on the beautiful island/town of Istria, another wonderful national park Risnjak, and the right time for Slovenia will have come then.
And the very word Slovenia tells you everything: it really is sLOVEnia. Have you ever seen those mountains, meadows and cows? Live postcards! Look at Logar valley! Glance around Bled – a castle in the middle of the town, situated on an island in the middle of a lake, which, in its turn is surrounded by mountains and forests. Like a fairy-tale. And what about the Triglav National park with mountains, turquoise rivers and lakes, grass so green that it burns the eyes, bridges and plank-ways, and so much beauty. Submerging into it, we will certainly walk along the Soča path, which will challenge my unsettled fear of height, while crawling across scary bridges. And those colours! LOVELOVELOVE. Another glass of wine or bottle of Dobrovo (rattle of the small drums), and, here we are, Italy!
Oh, Italy. Love at first sight and from the first hot night, and bianco frizzante. Therefore, we will drop our van at Punta Sabbioni for a day or two (will stay there ourselves, as well), and without any haste will go to the place, where this love started - Venice. It is expensive there, you must manoeuvre among the crowds, but the charm of the city somehow deletes all the negative arguments. Pamparampamparam, and we have reached Ancona. We will take a walk around Monti Sibillini, then move towards Bari, to look at the conical trulli huts in Alberobello and Grotta delle Poesie, which, as they say, is God's favourite bathing place and the dwelling place of poets' muses. And you must believe it, when you see it. The mountainous and dusty Matera, which seems as if taken from some fairy-tale, another abode of gods Costa degli Dei and the lovely Scilla, where, they say, one can park the van the way it is seen in Instagram – with its door open to the sunset. Although I've just read that the Amalfi coast is foul against the van-travellers, and it is impossible to ignore it. So-o-o beautiful! The delicate nymph gardens Giardini di Ninfa, and then all our roads will have taken us as far as Rome. I could not say this city allures me, but, when the road takes you somewhere, you should go there. Civita di Bagnoreggio does allure me, only I hope, it won’t turn out to be an enchanted kingdom of the snoozing forces, which we will wake up, and as the result we will have to blow up the bridge separating it from the rest of the world, in order to save our lives. Does not sound too incredible, when you look at it, does it? Vines, cypresses, and the violet golden haze of Tuscany. The Val d’Orcia wine path will inebriate us with its magnificent views and, naturally, with wine. Becoming dizzy in Italy somehow seems much nicer and politer than the same process in Latvia, doesn't it? And then I will get my Cinque Terre at last. The colourful houses, mountains and the sea, and endless paths through beauty, beauty and only beauty. I really cannot assure you that my heart does not explode from all that prettiness. But it is not nearly everything. Although Emils tells me that this post is already too long. I am sorry.
We will visit France and Spain three times. We start with the bourgeois-style drive from Monaco to Saint-Tropez. We will land our bodies at Villefranche-sur-Mer, a village slightly shaded by the big pearls of the Côte d'Azur, which, despite of its noble location, has managed to preserve the charm and intimacy of a small village. A little rest from the sea and people awaits us during a wild drive in cabriolets and hiking in the semi-wild Verdon Gorge. The river looks pure turquoise there, surrounded by white rocks, and there we should borrow a boat or life vests at least. I have no idea, what should happen, to make me visit nightclubs, on the other hand, if I do not do it in Saint-Tropez, it would be a shame to try it somewhere else. After that - back to our comfort zone, which is nature, which is the exact offer characteristic to Marseilles. Lavender fields in Gordes, Forcalquier, or Malaucène (they won't be in blossom during our visit there), the tiny Calanques Toulon bay, which deserves to appear in some movie, the Camargue pink (PINK) salt fields next to Aigues-Mortes, still preserving the air of Middle Ages, and the roundish russet cliffs of Roussillon where ochre is mined. It looks like dropping into some town, to calm down our blood pressure.
In order not to faint from culture shock, we will slowly get closer to the pavement, cafes, and civilization slowly, taking our first steps into the Sant Feliu Guixols region, where towns interchange with beaches one could only dream of. And then - hello, Barcelona, where our to-do-list means following the route of Gaudi to Sagrada Família and the Güell park. In case we would like to smell any other town or city, we might go to Tarragona and sit down for a while in the seaside amphitheatre. Later on, we will air out the town atmosphere in the sea breeze in Vinaros. After that - some more city of Valencia because it is impossible to go past it. Emils has nice memories about his sister, Denia and Alicante. Fortunately, two of these women's names are also the names of towns, so I will let him enjoy these pleasures once again. To be honest, I could not go past the Las Salinas de Torrevieja, even if Emils hated this region. The Pink lake. THE PINK LAKE. One should lack both – a beating heart and Instagram, to miss the visit. Continuing with the same theme and #pink, we should by all means stop at La Muralla Roja. Patios in Córdoba, in its turn, is like a flower full-stop to the candy floss-like dream. To regain touch with our masculine part, we are going to hike in the Sierra Nevada mountains and roam around the Almeria fort of Alcazaba and the cathedral, which does not sound as a place full of testosterone but is like that. For real. Cabo de Gata nature park and Playa de Monsul will give the winds an opportunity to shake our hair, and our spirit – to take a free glide there. The mountains and the sea shore are by all means the best place for the spirit to kick off, isn't it?
Ronda. Not even a city. Although might be one, built by elves, hence the Puente Nuevo bridge could not have been built by the inhabitants of this planet. Most probably the elves, having got well from their youthful maximalism, retired, and moved to Zahara de la Sierra. But those who were originally hippies, invented the blue town of Júzcar. Do you know any other place with a blue town?
Morocco. The country, which is often treated with caution, but I suggest visiting it from all my heart. The desert, camels, mountains, the sea, snow-capped cedars and monkeys, blossoming cherry-trees - you can have it all there in one single day. That is the place where we will spend the colder months of our journey. Let's start with the white and lacy Asilah, then catch the last warmth at the Al Hoceima seaside national park and see the already mentioned blue town of Chefchaouen. Then we will string tightly our hiking boots and go forward to conquer the Talassemtane and Tazekka national parks. The first one is greener, the other one - rockier, and both are super thrilling. The Tazekk park is so full of animals that we will meet at least a squirrel there for sure. Fez, my old, arcane love. Reminds me of a patchwork town from the times of Aladdin. I am already aware that Emils will not agree to take a local guide there, but I know the fact as well, that you cannot get out of the maze on your own. Just like it happened with the German tourists who were lost for 2 hours there, until they met us and our guide with all his moustache. To regain confidence, we will draw a lot of strength from the nature at Dakhla and Khenifra national parks. Afterwards we will feel small again at the footsteps of Todgha Gorge and next to the Aït Ben Haddou Gates. Oh, my, I have cheated you, by saying that the sea and the mountains are the best runway for the soul. The greatness, spaciousness and tranquillity provided by the desert is so huge, that one feels happy and honoured to be so tiny. Therefore, we will go to Merzouga, and probably get as far as the great travelling Erg Chebbi. I have another dear dream - to pat a desert fox, see the cherry-trees in blossom, and after that we might return to Europe.
On our way to Portugal through Spain, I would like to see only Arcos de la Frontera, then we’ll quickly drive over to Praia da Marinha and Praia de Benagil, just because. OMG. Take a look at it! And at Sagres! And Serra da Arrabida! The tiny, striped huts of Sinesa will serve as a warming-up for Lisbon, for which I am ready to afford one whole day. Just like any other city or town. Well, OK, Sintra does not leave indifferent even me, due to its colours and ornaments, and beauties, Palacio da Pena and Castelo de los Mouros, undeniably impressive. Peniche carries on the grandeur, by adding the force of the nature, but Aveiro - the Portuguese version of Venice will definitely make us giggle and raise a glass of white wine to the glory of all the Venices of the world. Do you know, where it might be impolite to drink white wine? In Porto. The Douro Valley will certainly provide a decent alternative. Another glance at the Peneda-Gerês national park, and we are ready to return to Spain for the third time.
This time I found very few places I must see there. Not far from the very impressive Lugo, stands the truly fantastic Praia As Catedrais. Ribadeo is also not far away, and Donostia looks like a rather nice, but overpopulated patch of land. After roaming along the nature trails, my Latvian "people are too close, when I see them" theory might hit an unprecedented level.
What has France to offer for our second visit there? Oh, nothing much. Just the giant sandpit of Dune du Pilat, - an island with a fairy-tale castle Mont Saint Michel on it, the white Falaises d’Etretat rocks, and the Loire valley with all the castles. I would like to avoid Paris, just because it might be nice to visit it, dressed in beautiful gowns and full of peace, but not standing in the traffic jams and worrying, where to park our van in order not to find it overturned and burnt later on. If, however, it lures me in, we will go to Rue Crémieux, then quickly to Calais and over the channel - to England.
Originally, I would not listen to a word spoken about England and Dover, desired by Emils, but, having started my research about the offer of England, I realized that to go there to see only Dover really is not worth it. The prettiest end of the strait is situated as far as 9 hours' drive form there. That is why we will visit Samphire Hoe, Beachy Head, Birling Gap and the Nessie-like Durdle Door. To dilute the rocky views with some greens and furry horses, we will walk around the Dartmoor and Exmoor national parks. Further on from the seaside cliffs we will find the crumpled landscape of Brecon Beacons, and the Snowdonia national park will take us into the past, but the Lake District will be just the way it sounds like - full of lakes and beauty. Northumberland is another dwelling place of magical beings because who else could hide themselves in the Peak area and beyond the Hadrian's wall? We might even poke the end of our noses into Cambridge, but after that - off for home by all means!
Now let’s go homewards through France, which will be already covered for this time, then Antwerp, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, which perhaps is really worth visiting, Bremen, Hamburg and Lübeck, all the three of which I'd rather avoid, but while it is impossible to teleport yourselves from Calais, I believe we could find something joyful to see even in this stretch of the road.