Summer Postcard time, now that we're back home in Copenhagen after our very good vacation in Italy and Germany. No surprises: we were camping down south for 3 weeks, but sometimes it works out better than others, and this was a good one. We had pretty much perfect weather all the way-- when it did rain we were tucked snug in our tent or van, we never got wet anyway, and then the rain went away by morning and the days were hot and sunny. Which is more or less exactly what you want while camping on a beach. We also took some chances going some places we weren't sure of, but everything worked out well... eventually. One event sets up the next, as all you know.
NOTE OF WARNING: When I started writing this letter there was no plan or outline, so it got kinda long, maybe excessively so. Ok, I know there are those who can't be bothered with reading the whole thing-- at least not now, maybe later-- so consider what you've already read up to now to be the Abridged Edition: everything that follows is just exposition of our latest European Adventure. And oh yeah, we had a wonderful time, wished you were there. END OF WARNING.
CHAPTER 1. DEUTSCHLAND UND SCHWEIZ
Marianne and I started Friday directly after work, and ended up near Bremen that same night. As usual, we stopped at one of those big German tankstelle-restaurant-rastplatzen and slept in our comfy cozy little van. Off again early the next day, plan being to meet our German friends Alf & Magarete about noon at a campground on the Rhine River near the town Boppard. We were 15 minutes late, which was pretty good timing, considering the distance we had come. So we did big-city Koblenz together, later dinner in a restaurant at romantic little Rhine-town Boppard. Sunday we went up into the hills on a skylift, trekked around nature, and departed in the late afternoon, A & M home to Weinheim, and us to Switzerland.
We usually avoid Switzerland because of the rather expensive toll-road, but Alf had a year-pass they had used in the summer, so I bought it off him for half price to share the cost, and we drove that way just to experience something new. We were expecting incredible scenery, pristine nature of the Swiss Alps, you know, but it all seemed to be grimy industry and twisty narrow old Autobahn, so I really had to concentrate to get through it, looking at scenery would have been too dangerous. We tried to stop and eat dinner in Luzerne, but by then it was Sunday night, everything was closed, we couldn't find anywhere that tempted us to stop, so we drove on until we couldn't any more. When we awoke we noticed that we were indeed in the scenic Swiss Alps, but then we had to pass through the darkness of the 17-km tunnel at Gotthard Pass, and an hour later we were in Italy.
CHAPTER 2. BENVENUTO A ITALIA
We came in by Lago di Como, and stopped to see the town of Como for a few hours. We'd been there before but we like it, so after lunch we headed further south, taking us past Milano and east toward Venice. So then it was about time to decide where we were going. We often let the weather determine that. Last summer, for example, it was hard to find any sunshine even in Italy. But this year it was blue skies all over.
We had plans to visit a few new cities on the way by, so we stopped in Vicenza, north of Venezia (or Venice, gotta pay attention to those tricky Italian names) because we'd read about the Renaissance architecture of Andrea Palladio. Hey, yeah we're really cultural, whadja think? And later we even went to Padova to see the frescoes of Giotto di Bondone, so there.
But most important was to find a good beach to camp on, make no mistake about that. On the Adriatic (east) coast we bumped into Chioggia (pronounced Kyo-zha), yet another picturesque mini-Venice, actually an island with canals all over the place. Visually it was absolutely incredible; traffic-wise it was Dante's journey into Hell Itself, what a mess! But not only cars and pedestrians and scooters: Bicycles-- myriads of them, like ferocious swarms of bees, with no apparent rule system controlling them; swinging, dodging, hopping, zipping. And along the beach, a Strip of Commercial Tourist Industry to rival Acapulco; camping, restaurants, a zillion pizzerias, roller coasters, merry-go-rounds-- and all of it packed with shoulder-to-shoulder well-tanned people. We would have kept going but we did happen to find a very nice campground in a quiet area on the outskirts of town, so we stayed a week.
Which meant that we too were soon partaking in the bicycle madness of Chioggia, but it was worth it, the town itself was just so charming. We also had our very best Italian cuisine in a sidewalk Fish restaurant there. But for the most we were camping-- basking on the beach, reading books, hanging out at the Olympic-format pool, cooking dinner by our tent, playing guitar (Ron), doing yoga (Marianne), and just enjoying some perfect weather. We took that day trip to Padova (being cultural, as we are), and considered taking the local boat to Venice... but having been in Venice during tourist season before, agreed to avoid it.
We biked around the area, over some bridges to another island, another beach town. Somewhere along the way we drove over some small thorny seeds, triangular with hard needle-sharp spikes pointed in every direction. I had a flat tire first, then Marianne, then me again-- in both tires. That's when we discovered 11 of those little devils stuck on our tires. I had tools & patching supplies, but used them all up to get us back from there. From then on we had to bike slowly and carefully, nervously watching for punctuous danger all the back to our camp. We did make it, but it was high drama all the way.
CHAPTER 3. ON THE ROAD AGAIN
After a week we wanted to move on, find a new campsite. Checked our list of towns we'd never seen, and headed southwest for Arezzo in Toscana, crossing halfway across Italy. There were some famous frescoes in a church there, that was our excuse to go there, but mainly it was to see one of the few towns left in Toscana that we hadn't been in. Nice little middle-ages town, with a well-preserved central piazza stuffed with architecture from every when. We arrived late in the afternoon but even managed to get a glimpse of the frescoes just before they threw us out and closed up for the day. They were not fantastic enough to stay overnight for-- or we weren't cultural enough to care-- so after a few hours we moved on to the next town on our list an hour's drive south: Cortona.
Now Cortona is a REAL cultural experience, and we wanted to see it for the same reason all the American Tourists SIMPLY HAVE GOT TO stop there: because that's where Diane Lane bought that ramshackle Italian villa in the Hollywood movie "Under A Tuscan Sun". Actually, there was a book first, true story it seems, but who cares about that? We arrived just at sunset, having driven up and up and up a windy road to yet another Medieval city perched upon a mountaintop. There was free parking area by the old walls of the city, and from there we walked up the rest of the mountain to the town. It was refreshing to be experiencing a town in the evening instead of the day, mellow lighting; everything was still open, outdoor restaurants and cafés churning with people (and yes, mostly American Tourists, the first-- and last --we saw the entire trip). We came across a poster for the movie in one of the shops, so we knew we were in the right place.
Well, having seen the movie a few times, you know, we tried to find some of the locations. Remember the scene where Francesca does the Sophia Loren bit in the fountain? (assuming you've seen both "Under A Tuscan Sun" AND "La Dolce Vita", right?) Marianne went into a little shop to buy some postcards, and casually asked, "Oh by the way, where IS the fountain?" The shopkeeper sighed, rolled his eyes up to heaven, wearily explained (for the millionth time) that there WAS NO fountain. He was clearly very tired of that question... and Marianne wasn't even an American! That fountain-- and entire Piazza Centrale-- is probably a stage set somewhere in Hollywood.
We slept where we were already parked, just like several Italians in their auto campers were doing, and spent a few more hours in Cortona the next morning. That involved trudging all the way up to the Medici fortress on the very tippy-top of the mountain, strenuous but offering a terrific view. We could see all the way to Lago di Trasimeno, which was where we were headed next.
We'd been camping at Lago di Trasimeno two summers before, so this was not new territory for us. That's the big lake right in the middle of Italy, and Castiglione del Lago is the hilltop town a kilometer over on the Umbria side of the Toscana borderline. We wanted to look up some old friends who should have been camping there by the lake, an Austrian couple, Gerhard and Daniela and their two kids. They HAD been there, but it seems that Gerhard had some kind of medical problem with his arm and they had gone home to Austria a few days before we got there. We stayed for a few days anyway, it's a beautiful area, but we only set up a minimal camp, sleeping in the van rather than constructing our big tent (an hour to erect it, two hours to get it back into the van). We knew about the bugs there-- and sure enough, after 2 nights we were ready to move on again. We wanted to continue camping on a real beach on some seaside, but where? Mediterranean coast? Back to the Adriatic? We were right in the middle of the skinny part of Italy, it was about two hour's drive either way.
CHAPTER 4. ANDIAMO ALLA COSTA EST
We decided to head east, to the Adriatic again, since we knew the west coast almost too well, aiming for a town we had camped in over 20 years ago, Porto di Elpidio. Not that Elpidio was an especially attractive town-- being just a center of the shoe-making industry-- but there had been a OK campground and there were some interesting places to visit in the area. We were gambling that it would work out.
Elpidio did not work out, it was traffic hell obstructed by 5-minute traffic lights, and our good old camping place seemed really tiny and the rocky beach allotted to it was even smaller, surrounded by plethora's of those umbrella-chairs you have to pay for, the antithesis of any kind of nature. We drove up and down the coast, looking for something better, what we found was camping places absolutely filled up with those long-term Italian mobil homes, more or less summer-season trailer parks, with no space anywhere for campers with tents. Or some really expensive camps with bungalows and pool, where you had to pay for a family of 4 people (although we were only 2), however your assigned umbrella-chair on the beach WAS included in the price (now that was tempting).
We gave up trying to find a camp there, found that it was easy enough to just park by the beach between towns. Took a dip, and then drove up to the hilltop town of Fermo for the evening. We'd been there 20 years before (by prodigious bicycle expedition from Elpidio), figured no surprises, we'd just drive up, park easily and find a nice restaurant. But we encountered True Parking Chaos-- something was going on. By sheer luck a car backed out of a parking spot right in front of us as we were locked in traffic trying to give up and get out of town again. There was a free elevator from the parking lot up to the town itself, and we found ourselves among hundreds of Italians in a Medieval city with a colossal evening flea market going on in every piazza, street, nook and cranny. All sorts of colorful characters buying and selling, musicians playing, stuff to eat, it was fun.
I must admit, though, that we had our most disappointing meal restaurant there-- and it wasn't cheap. The town was filled up to maximum capacity, getting into restaurant without a reservation was iffy, but we found an elegant-looking eatery where we could come in if we were gone in an hour for the next reservation, so we took it. The menu looked enticing (almost every restaurant in Italy has pretty much exactly the same menu: primo piatto, secundo, pizza), so we experimented a bit. I ordered rabbit, Marianne a pork chop, with extras. Our meal arrived 3 minutes later (set microwave to nuke!), her porkchop was breaded deep-fried fast food, my rabbit had evidently been butchered in a lawn mower, the meat was shredded and full of tiny sharp crushed-bone chips-- and my patate fritte (french fries) were a bowl of ...well, a few potato chips, costing 3 Euros. And the crowds were desperate to get our table, so we just ate up and got out, as arranged.
We drove back down to the beach, found a place we could park overnight. Next morning we had coffee in a beach-bar and laid on the beach for a couple of hours, then decided to find a real campsite. There was an Autostrada nearby that paralleled the coastline, so we hopped up on that, not knowing where we would hop off. We wanted to avoid the big cities so it ended up being Senigallia, between Pescara and Ancona. From there we drove north looking for "campeggio" signs, not sure if this area was as bad as the last.
CHAPTER 5. MAROTTO
We found a campground about 12 km north, on the outskirts of Marotto, and when we checked it out we were surprised to realize that it was just right. So we made the gargantuan effort of setting up our tent again, and an hour later it was our new Home Sweet Home. This place was good for several reasons: a nice cozy little camp, a lovely natural beach, several potentially interesting towns to visit in the area, and a huge COOP supermarket 5 minutes away by bike. We were getting tired of restaurant food, we usually ate best when we cooked our own, and the COOPs are just like American supermarkets-- big, modern, vast choice of different foods, all reasonably cheap.
When we had arrived Friday morning there were lots of empty spaces all around us, just one older couple to our far right. Of course, that old Mama never stopped talking, either to someone or on the telephone, but she was easy enough to tune out. However, campers kept arriving so that by evening we were tightly surrounded by new neighbors on every side, mostly just young couples doing a weekend on the beach. The family that wedged up right against the back of our tent had 3 little giggling happy rambunctious girls that were still laughing at 1:00 in the morning. But they were no problem, because the Italian concept of weekend musical entertainment from the camp's bar-cafe is Italian pop music screwed up to top volume. We've learned years ago: never pitch your tent near the bar. By Monday the camp was almost empty again.
The larger town of Senigallia was only 12 km south, so we spent Saturday checking it out. Just happened to be market day, once again jam-packed, but still a pleasant town, old fortress right in the middle of it. Marianne found a new bathing suit in one of the shops, which I was allowed to buy for her birthday (what a relief, I had to find SOMETHING!). We got beers in a cafe to use the toilet, standard operating procedure for tourists, right?
Sunday we drove to Urbino, a Renaissance city famous for its huge palace, which also served as the Museo Nazionale, where a famous painting by Raphael was supposed to be on display. Oh hey, good enough excuse for us. It was a 40-minute drive by Autostrada, otherwise it's a real chore to drive through the mountains (there's a limit to the sacrifices we'll make for culture). For once we found ourselves almost alone in an empty ghost town full of gigantic old buildings-- Sunday dead, you know-- which was kind of nice. We went to the museum, saw "Girl With A Unicorn", which was a rather pretty painting-- yes, Raphael is cool after all. There was a statue of him wa-a-a-ay up at the top of the hill, so we had to crawl up to that too. Then we drove back to the coast, stopping in at Fano just to look, but it wasn't much, so we went home to Marotto again.
CHAPTER 6: SUMMER'S LAST GASP
A last couple of days just enjoying the summer weather, hanging out on the beach, cooking dinners outside on the gas stove. At night we'd read, Marianne was painting wooden penguins for a puzzle, I'd play the guitar. I had two guitars along for the ride, my usual traveling classic, and a solidbody electric I could hook up to my compact little Roland mini-studio with headphones, and play full blast without disturbing any neighbors. We also had a laptop with us, I worked on some projects, watched DVDs a couple of times, it was nice to have access to the high-tech equipment, but one is always careful not to show it off to much, for obvious reasons.
Then one day we went to the beach early, it was perfectly warm, the ocean flat and calm. We went back to camp for lunch and when we returned to the beach an hour later Summer had ended. A storm was brewing out on the horizon, the wind was cold, the waves were pounding, and we knew that it was just about time to start heading on home.
Another sign had been running out of cooking gas in the middle of making lunch. I was frying four eggs, halfway through the process when the stove farted, and went dead. Our neighbor, the old Mamma, was home so we went to her with our frying pan and a meager Italian vocabulary, "Senora, gas finito..." We'd never spoken with her before, just nodded a few times, but she understood, grabbed the frying pan and popped it on her stove, contributing salt and pepper, couldn't do enough to help, and we got our eggs fried after all.
When we came back from the beach, considering our next move, looking at the sky. It's no fun to pack a wet tent, but we figured we'd be all right until the next day, just pack everything but the tent and sleeping bags and be ready to roll. We'd find a restaurant that evening. But about dinner time the little old Mamma came over to us with her own frying pan in hand and asked, "Vogliano mangare con noi?" She knew we had no more gas, you see, so she offered to invite us for dinner.
I can speak enough Italian to say "O no thanks, we'll just go to a restaurant tonight"... you know, to politely avoid being a bother, but then she gave me this incredibly disappointed look, and showed me the frying pan chock-full of tomatoes and rice, and I knew that the only really polite thing to do was accept. And hey, why not? I called to Marianne, "We're invited for dinner!" She was reading in the hammock, popped out enthusiastically, ready for dinner-- and some more Italian culture, only this time the real thing.
We had a rather nice evening with Rosa and her husband Elizio. They were in their 70's, from a town called Citta di Castello, north of Arezzo. Yes, we actually conversed with them for hours. I speak enough Italian for the basics, Marianne speaks pretty good French, and Elizio had worked 12 years in France, so between us we could communicate rather well. The food was basic stuff, not bad, nothing special, but the experience of finally coming in contact with some Italians beyond the customer-in-a-restaurant level was rather lovely. It didn't hurt that Elizio had some of his home-made white wine in plastic bottles-- it was purrrty good --his hobby he said, he only brewed 10,000 liters a year for friends and family, parties, Christmas. We finally said "buona notte", but the next morning they invited us for coffee-- and breakfast.
It rained a little that night, but the tent was dry next morning anyway, so we got it packed and about noon started the long road north .
CHAPTER 7. WIR FAHREN ZUM NORDEN
It was a long way and a long day to Innsbruck, but that's where we ate dinner. It was the 2nd of September, which was Marianne's birthday, so we wanted something special. We found a classic Austrian gasthaus along the road, sehr gemütlich, and for the first time in 2 weeks there was a menu with new food on it. Italian food can be really good, but pasta and pizza can also get pretty boring, in fact we'd only had one or two superb dinners (and one or two crap dinners), so we went a little crazy with the dumplings and sauces and thick chunks of meat and gobs of vegetables you get in Germanic cooking. Not that we ate so much, we only ordered one meal each, but the waitress was rather amused at how much we enjoyed it, especially when I assured her it was "himmlisch" (heavenly) after 2 weeks in Italy.
Of course, we couldn't exit Austria without picking up our usual stash of the local Stroh Rum (80%), which is expensive and hard to find anywhere else. Great for bananas flambeaux, hot toddies, hot buttered rum, winter drinks, and of course, good old rum & cola. Then we had a long hard push, out of Austria into Germany, west to München, halfway around the ring, then swing north toward Nürnburg. We usually try to visit a new German town every time we pass through, and this year the target was Bamberg, but we had a way to go yet.
We started looking for a rastplatz to spend the night, but only found some dedicated truck stops, not that good to camp out in. I was pretty tired of driving by then, but we kept going. It was almost midnight when we found a rastplatz on the Autobahn that was to our liking, just past Ingolstadt.
Next day we had coffee and a pretty good breakfast in one of those modern new "Axxe" Autobahn restaurants that are showing up all over Europe. The old days of crappy-but-expensive highway food pirates seems to be coming to an end, the new eateries are really nice: now you can get all kinds of healthy good-tasting food for the same price you would pay in any city. So much for our early start, but we were in Bamberg by 10:00 in the morning anyway. Parked by the river and took our bicycles into town.
CHAPTER 8. BAMBERG & RAUCHBIER
Bamberg is yet another of those medieval German towns with a thousand-year-old cathedral and half-timbered houses, perched on 7 hills and a river. Quite beautiful, extremely romantic, very comfortable. It's a university town, they are always a little more fun, catering to a younger set of people with less money to burn than rich tourists. There were lots of tourists there, but mostly Germans as far as we could tell, and most of them on bicycles just like us. It's said that the Alte Rathaus is one of the most photographed city halls in the world, since it was built on a tiny island in the middle of the river Regnitzaum to thwart the high price of land 600 years ago, and since it was too big for the island they had to put it on stilts over the water.
There was a riverboat tour, so we took it, figuring it would effortlessly take us past hundreds of picturesque houses. It took us past about 30 houses, and then we were out of town, going through a slough system and out into the heavy-industry zone and a rather impressive mountain of scrap-metal. It was not much of a tour, I wouldn't recommend it-- but actually we got a really good experience from it anyway. We sat up on the open deck next to another couple slightly younger than us, and started talking with them, in German of course.
Eventually we figured out that the guy was American (hey, he spoke pretty good German), so I admitted that I was too (they'd only heard Marianne and me speaking Danish). His name was Phil, from California, and she was Jeana from Bamberg, the only real-live German among us. We warmed up to each other and they invited us to a local gasthaus to try the famous rauchbier (dark smoked beer), which was pretty good. Besides a nice rapport between us all, they were interested in Marianne and me as a couple: that an American Guy like me could settle down with a Danish Girl in Europe, because that's what they were trying to work out. They were obviously quite in love with each other, but Phil also loved his California Life Style and Jeana was a dedicated Bamberger. At present they were going back and forth a lot-- it helped that Jeana was a stewardess for Lufthansa, but still that's a tough commute. In the 18 months they had known one another he'd come to Bamberg 4 times. We traded addresses when we parted, maybe we'll get the rest of the story later.
We left Bamberg late, too late to drive all the way to Berlin-- well, I could have, but I didn't want to arrive in the middle of the night. So when we found one of those nice "Axxe" rastplaztes about an hour's drive before Berlin, we stopped driving early, about 8:00, took the rest of the night off. We had a pretty good dinner in the restaurant, then spent the rest of the evening in the small-but-cozy living room of our little rolling house. Had drinks, Stroh Rum & Cola, played guitar, read books, slept around midnight.
CHAPER 9. DIE NEUE BERLINER UMWELTZONE
We were in Berlin for 2 days-- strenuous but fun, since we couldn't drive into the recently established Umwelt Zone (new rules, need a green ecology sticker that we can NEVER get with our cute little old un-filtered diesel van). It's to clean up the air in city center, of course, and several cities are doing it already-- Copenhagen may be next. This was the first time we had come to Berlin since the new law took effect.
So we had to park just outside the city and bicycle in from there, but that was okay, it's also what we like to do. We don't tend to do lazy vacations. However, we must have biked 60 km in those 2 days-- after pedaling all over the city the first day we ended up in a restaurant on Oranienburger Strasse about 9:00 in the evening and had to bike over 10 km (6 miles) in one push back to our van. Took almost an hour, we slept well that night.
We passed by our old favorite hotel in Berlin, the Etape Hotel near Potsdammer Platz-- which is inside the Umweltzone, so now we can't even get near it with our van, so it's lost to us (sigh) --then again, what used to cost 60 Euros a day with parking was now 80 Euros,and it is only a boxroom Hotel, so we were glad not to pay that. We were living in a very nice neighborhood on the edge of Grünewald, for free.
We've been in Berlin so many times now that it's not easy to find anything new, although we did visit the old stadium built by Hitler, for the 1936 Olympics. Rather like a time-capsule, and going for a swim in the nearby Olympic Pool was a trip through the old DDR-- it's still being run as if it was East Germany; restricted information, strict rules, entered via a rather long dreary walk through a double-fenced pathway with barbed wire STILL on top (bicycles not allowed-- no reason why, it's just VERBOTEN), past a sinister-looking Watchtower, ponderous stone building, all so heavy and gray, totally unlike the light and colorful modern Germany. Pretty cool.
Halfway across Berlin my bike went flat again for the 6th time. Fortunately we managed to find a bike shop and buy a new tire & tube, there were just too many mortal wounds to keep on fixing. Otherwise I'd have had to push it a long way back to the van-- even if I took a bus back to the van I still couldn't drive into the Umweltzone to pick up the bike. I changed the rubber and my bike was --Achtung!-- Reborn! No problems after that.
Otherwise we just hung out in our same old favorite places we knew so well: the 4-floor book store on Friedrichstrasse, the Opera Café, the world's coziest Starbuck's at Hackescher Markt, shops along Oranienburgerstrasse; enjoying what was left of summer that far north of Italy, not being tourists, but being Berliners. We could live there, easy.
But 2 days was enough for this time, we were tuckered out, it was time to go home to Copenhagen and collapse. So we did. The best way to end a good holiday is to be satisfied and not really wanting any more, and we were all of that.
CHAPTER 10. DAS IST ALLES
And that was our Summer Vacation 2008.
Oh, wait! There's more--
Om Morgenen da vi vågnede op i vores lille "campingvogn", parkeret lige rundt om hjørnet fra den berømte Kurfürstendam boulevard, sagde jeg til Ron: "Der er nok ikke mange i vores alder der gider overnatte på denne måde!"
Ron svarede : "Jeg er glad for at du stadig er villig til at gøre det!"
Jeg sad så lidt og tænkte over hans svar. Jeg har egentlig aldrig spurgt Ron om hans grunde, ud over at det er en gammel hippiedrøm han har haft, og nu så mulig at realisere da vi købte vores usexede, men billige og praktiske vogn. Så her er mine grunde til at gide gøre det.
Vi ligger rigtig godt på vores dobbelt størrelse futonmadras. Jeg fryser aldrig , vi har et lille nødtoilet. Det er ligesom det mest basale der er ok. Derudover er vi begge glade for den frihed det giver altid at have et sted at sove når vi rejser. Det har tidligere givet os mange problemer at finde overnatningssteder hvis alt ikke var bestilt på forhånd hjemmefra. Det bekymrer os ikke mere. Det er jo så også iorden at tænke på at vi ved at sove i bilen sparer mange hundrede euro i løbet af sådan en sommerferie. Måske denne sommer 1000 euro.
I Berlin cyklede vi til det olympiske svømmestadion og fik en skøn svømmetur i meget historiske omgivelser, samtidig med at vi fik et dejligt varmt bad. Og som en afsluttende bemærkning fra en gammel 68er, vil jeg sige at det er rigtigt hyggeligt at stå under et valnøddetræ med modne valnødder der ligger for mine fødder (jeg elsker valnødder), og iagtage en ræv der krydser alléen mens jeg i al fredsommelighed stå og børster mine tænder, og Ron pumper vores cykler. Og så afsted over gaden, til et lille morgenmadssted, og sætter os ved siden af nogle tyske håndværkere ved de udendørs borde. Det var de grunde jeg lige kom på.
Glade sommerferie hilsner fra Marianne.
(translated from Danish)
One morning as we woke up in our little "camping wagon", parked just around the corner from the end of the famous Kurfürstendam boulevard, I said to Ron, "There's probably not so many people our age willing to spend their nights like this!"
Ron answered, "Well, I'm glad you're still willing!"
I thought about his reply a while. I'd never actually asked Ron for his reasons, assuming he was just living out an old hippie-dream, which became a possibility once we'd bought our un-sexy but cheap and practicle van. So here are my excuses for enjoying this lifestyle.
We sleep really comfortably on our double futon-mattress, I never freeze, we have an emergency toilet. It's like the basics are quite OK. Beyond that, we're both glad for the freedom of always having a place to sleep when we travel. Earlier, we've had problems finding somewhere to spend the night if everything wasn't reserved in advance from home. We don't worry about that any more. It's also pretty neat to think of just how many hundred Euros we save in the course of a traveling vacation by sleeping in the van. Probably about 1000 Euros this summer. (10 nights, @ 100 Euro average hotel price-- $1,427.73 US Dollars saved just this trip!).
In Berlin, we biked to the Olympisches Stadion swimming pool and had a great swim in very historical setting, as well as a nice warm bath. And as a final comment from a 60's veteran, I'd like to mention how nifty it was to be standing under a walnut tree with ripe walnuts lying around my feet (love walnuts), and observe a fox crossing our quiet little parking-street while I was peacefully brushing my teeth and Ron was pumping up our bicycles. And then we crossed the street, over to the little local breakfast-bar, where we sat at one of the outdoor tables along with some friendly young German carpenters. Those were some of the reasons I could come up with.
Happy summer holiday greetings from Marianne.
Ok, there I think that's it for now, from both of us.