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Wednesday, May 8
Our destination today is Borgund the village that has the only stave church that has remained unchanged since the Middle Ages, dates from around 1150 is built entirely of wood it is very simple there is no pews or declarations and the lighting is limited to a few very small openings high up on the walls.

Once we had done a photographs of the church we drove up one of the historic roads into the mountains hopefully looking for a a parking spot for the night, when nothing was found we made our way back to Borgund where we parked on the “information car park” and were later joined by two other German motorhomes.

Thursday, May 9
We left the campground, or I should say the car park, programmed the GPS for the village of Vik and started winding our way around the mountains in the fiords and eventually we came to our first ferry which at the price of NZ$41 was not exactly cheap, the next bit of the road started getting narrow being cut into the side of the cliffs and often it was only just the width of the motorhome with passing bays, it sort of makes a difference when you got solid rock on one side and 100 foot drop on the other. Of course we went through many tunnels on the way, but that is part of the Norwegian adventure.

I had thought there was only one ferry on this route but we ended up with another one just before the destination and that was slightly more expensive so the side trip to see the Norwegian stave church like everything came at a price.

We then started looking to see how we could get back to civilisation without the cost of the ferries and we found if we headed towards Voss on the way to Bergen whilst would be going over a mountain pass had no stretches of water to cross.

Very interesting wandering through Norway you go through vast areas of very little population and then at the top of a fjord you find an extremely substantial town with houses climbing up the steep slopes either side of the water.

The pass we were programmed to go over was only 1000 m but the snow level on the sides of the road for up to 9 m high and the tunnel that we went through at the top had had the snow that covered the entrance of the tunnel recently scraped away. We notice lots of summer houses as were going over the pass our obviously only used in the summer because they with totally isolated from the road with beautiful clean snow all the way round them.

The biggest event we missed today was taking a ferry instead of driving 26 km through a tunnel to get to the same destination, wise decision!

Eventually we passed through the gate that is closed when the snow covers the pass so we were knew we were through the worst of it and we carried on down towards the town of Voss.

Whilst there is still a lot of snow about is starting to melt very quickly, or I should say producing volumes of water which is pouring down from the high cliffs in spectacular fashion so consequently when we are down on the flat driving along side the river there was no surprise to see about 12 people in a group being lectured to an beside them two rubber dinghies, so you don’t need to be a quiz kid to know that they going to be shooting the rapids, and looking at some of the white water will certainly be getting their money’s worth.

We are at a car park on the side of the road right beside the river, right beside some real white water, and we are parked here for the night.

Friday May 10
Today our first destination was Eidfjord, we had decided to abandon our proposed route up to the North Cape and down through Finland as we started to realise most of that travel was still fresh in our minds from last time.

Travelling to Eidfjord as usual took this along the edge of a large fjord until we came to the end of the road which meant a ferry, about NZ$50 later we were on the other side driving straight into a tunnel some 7 km long before we saw another fjord and then another tunnel followed by another tunnel. If you don’t like tunnels don’t come to Norway.

Our first destination was a delightful little town set amongst high snow-covered mountains on the edge of the lake, a quick trip to the bankamat in were on our way again heading towards Heddal in the direction of Oslo, after another one of the inevitable tunnels we came out and on the left we saw this incredible waterfall plunging down a large Cliff face must be almost 200 m in height into a beautiful fjord, we carried on the road and this took us over several mountain passes, not high passes I think the highest was 1100 m, but there was snow everywhere with a few people putting on skis at different times, it got down to 1°C and it certainly looked like it was going to snow at one point.

Just when we thought were going to be in the high snow-covered mountains for the rest of the drive we started going downhill and just past Geilo we pulled into an information spot we will stay for the night.

Saturday May 11
We carried on our way South, were no longer in the snow area but snow was always visible on the mountains around us and all the water we passed in the lake’s still work covered in substantial sheets of ice, not that I would trust any of thy ice at the moment with my weight.

As we travelled the hundred and 20 km south we kept on seeing signposts to some of the old stave churches that are in this particular area, in all we visited five, of varying designs and ages.

We passed a lot of old Norwegian buildings made from logs of would in the log cabin style and of particular interest were the storehouses that were built off the ground by stacking stones onto top of each other at each corner of the building, on top of which around tree trunk was placed about 40 cm high and they sit ported the round joists on which the rest of the building was built.

Sunday, May 12
We carried on our drive towards Heddal and the largest Stave church in Norway, and being a Sunday we arrived as the congregation was filing in, as a rather pretty sight with over 90% of the women being dressed in national costume, the man were just dressed normally, it is interesting when you think of the bird kingdom, the male of the species is always extremely attractive, for example the Peacock, Paradise duck, and so forth but when it comes to the human beings all that is lost.

Once we had walked round the church admiring its construction and taking plenty of photographs we then headed back on the road we had just come in on and set the GPS for Stockholm which was about 630 km away so after going through numerous tunnels on the Norwegian side and then passing lots of lakes we crossed over into Sweden and when we arrived at Arjang we headed off to the commercial campground was just on the outside of town beside a lake, but nobody was in attendance at reception, what is very early in the season and a campground is full of statics so is not as if they probably need the extra money, so we went back into town found a car park and a here for the night.

Monday, May 13
After peaceful night we carried on our drive towards Stockholm and after a few kilometres found a sign to what looked like a reasoning large campground, we stopped there and yes they did have a washing machine and dryer so we checked in for the day, and did all of our washing enjoyed looking at the lake that were beside, however it was so cold and unless you were equipped for this particular climate, you did like us and stayed indoors.

Tuesday May 14
Washing done, and the motorhome replenished we carried on our drive towards Stockholm stopping again nearer one of the thousands of lakes for the night.

Wednesday, May 15
Today were carrying on our drive to Stockholm stopping to have a look at to palaces situated on a large lake on the way to the city, first one was on the edge of the lake near Maniefred and today was the first day it was open for the year for visitors, the size and the immensity of the place made you realise just how much money it took just to build the establishment let alone run it.

 The second one was on an island, it was as large, but it was not open yet for the season.

Then it was on to the ferry, we found its location with the tom-tom GPS, we had no idea of sailings but we knew there was a little more than a four hour boat trip’s arriving done at the dock we found a line for the boat to Tallinn, got on the line, eventually reached the top, and found that for 2800 Swedish Crown we could be in Tallinn by 10 a.m. the following morning. That certainly was better than driving all the way round the Gulf of Bothnia and then having to take a ferry from Helsinki so we paid our money and drove on board.

Once on board I decided to change all the different currencies I had into the one that was used in Estonia on to my delight I found it was euros, we then went on upstairs to the dining lounge and after paying €30 each we had dinner and decided that it was certainly a major rip-off, but then what you expect in this type of situation.

The good news was there was free Wi-Fi so I logged onto Amazon and downloaded a pile of E books.

Thursday, May 16
It was a peaceful night in the cabin of the ferry, I cleared the emails this morning on their free Wi-Fi, then at 9.30am we went down to the motorhome and before we knew what was happening were driving off the ferry so I first step was to head out of town with the idea of returning to Tallinn on a planned visit.

Our first destination was Kasmu out on the Peninsula in the middle of a national Park where there are a lot of nature walks some as long as 14 km. It is a beautiful location with lots of holiday homes and most of them looking out into the Gulf of Finland.

We decided we could going to stop early for the day so we headed on towards Vosu and found a parking spot beside the ocean an area designated for swimming although not too sure many will be doing that at this time of year.

Friday, May 17
Today we carried on our drive towards Narva on the Russian border, our first stop was Altja village which is a very small village with ornately thatched roofs and log cabin style houses, right beside the sea and it looked very peaceful and most desirable spot.

We carried on our drive through enormous forests, everything was very clean and beautiful and when we got to open ground it looked like a lot of the crops had been sown, beautiful fine day which unlike Scandinavia with a temperature of was in single digits with moved into healthy double digits but with  still a cold breeze blowing off the Finnish sea.

The next top was at the Kohtla underground mining Museum, its location where they did massive oil shale mining, they claim the mining was done from the 19th century, but ceased in 1995, there are massive shale all deposits around the world 60% of them being in America but the main problem is the cost of extracting the oil, which will become less of a problem as the price per barrel of middle eastern oil rises.

We went on a tour of the mine which was situated underneath what appeared to be the administration building, and the workings were about 5 to 10 m down and was as cold almost as a deep-freeze, there was certainly enough icicles about to make you think you’re in the Arctic region or somewhere.

Most of the as it exhibits were still working on appeared as if the tour was given in multiple languages via a radio headset. It was certainly good to get back into the warm outside the area of 15°.

We carried on our way towards the Russian border we saw many signposts towards old churches and most them we stopped at to add to our collection, they ranged in ornate Adobe and stone churches to stone and of course wooden. We finally found a quiet spot on the side of the road we will be spending the night.

Saturday, May 18
Today was another fine day with the temperature topping 25°, one big difference with noticed between Scandinavia and Estonia is where as the cows et cetera are still in the winter barns here in Estonia they are out grazing in the fields. Another thing nice about being early in the season is the mosquitoes or sandflies have not had time to hatch and so we don’t have to worry about them.

As we been travelling through Estonia with seen large flocks of Geese flying in their V formation and then every so often we see large flocks of them on the ground I guess taking a rest, who be interesting to know where they going to and where they came from, but I worry about that another day.

Today we travelled to Stalin’s uranium city called Sillamae it was a mine for uranium until 1991. It looks like that was one of the first things that the new government of Estonia closed down. The city itself was built in Stalin’s time and the architecture shows this time very strongly. Quite a boring city and just another place in the history of the world.



to top right....

We then drove on to the border town of Nava and if anybody wants to cross over into Russia at a border post that has very little traffic would be this, whilst we are there were no queues and everything seemed to flow very smoothly.

It has a population that is 96% Russian speaking and whilst were in their local supermarket we noticed that all of the signs for the grocery items, were in Estonia but everybody there spoke Russian including the checkout girl. I guess this is to be expected in a border city, but we quickly left Nava and headed towards lake Peipsi to have a look at some of the Russian Old Believers Orthodox Convent.

 The Russian people in this area are what is termed “old believers ”these are people that split away from the Orthodox Church around 1600 and moved to Estonia with a now number about 15,000.

We’ve stopped on the edge of the lake close to the village of Vilusi in a well-positioned car park, Russia is on the other side of the lake the lake is so big we cannot see the other side.

Sunday, May 19
We carried on our drive towards Tartu, was another fine day and today the temperature got up to 31°C, and is still early spring. The roads are quite empty in this part of Estonia, and we drove through a lot of villages by getting off the main road, there are a few new houses a lot were very old and some badly in the need of a good painting, quite a few churches on the way some Lutheran some Orthodox, and we saw one old wooden church that did not stand the test of time with the roof collapsing.

Eventually we had left the lake and went on to the University city of Tartu, the second largest city in the country and after a quick walk around the old town we moved on South towards our next destination.

Estonia’s got slightly larger population than the South Island of New Zealand, but has about a third of the land mass of the South island so that’s a pretty good reason why were not encountering very much traffic.

Monday May 20
We set off South on another fine day across the beautiful Estonian countryside our first stop for the day was at Kiidjarve to look at the Watermill it was built in 1914, and then to go a little bit up the road to look at the Taevaskoja sandstone cliffs run along the striking Ahja river which is regarded as one of Estonia’s most beautiful.

As we drive through Estonia were surprised to find at many of the petrol stations a recharge station for electric cars. This is the first country with a ever seen this in will be interesting to see how long it before they become commonplace.

It was then on to Polva which is set around and artificial lake of the same name and is an interesting little town.

Then the village of Votu which is known for its 18th-century wooden architecture and evidently is the centre of a lot of nature walks.

Our final destination for the day was Vastseliina to look at the remains of a 14th century castle which was built by the Germans as a defence against the Russians and evidently became the site of a miracle in 1353 and subsequently became the place of pilgrimage. It was completely destroyed during the northern war in the 18th century and the ruins are a vivid reminder of a once fiercely contested area

We stopped for the night in the castle car park and looking at the map it appears were about 5 km from the Russian border.

Tuesday May 21
We set out on another fine day to traverse the almost empty roads in fact when we saw another car was almost time for celebration! There are very many old wooden houses throughout the country and outstanding thing about all of the houses, new or old, is the large stacks of firewood stacked up near an entrance which leaves you no doubt as to what the winter is like in this part of the country.

There is a lot of work going on in the fields with a lot of tractor work happening everywhere, but there are obviously many crops that are planted late autumn that are now starting to grow. We see large fields of dandelions, must check some time see if there is a practical use for these yellow flowers, they are so thick on the field they must be a commercial crop of some sort.

The first spot for the day was the highest point in the Baltic states, I wonderful 318 m, little bit different to the giddy heights of last year of 5000+ metres, they have a tower there from the top of which you can easily see all the way to Russia and Latvia, obviously on a fine day.

From that giddy height we went on down to Rouge, described in the guidebooks as a small village that perfectly embodies the charm of South Eastern Estonia and said to be the most beautiful village in the country. Well today it had massive roadworks, piles of dirt and mud everywhere, and really nothing of beauty anywhere, so it was on to the next location…..

Sangaste Manor in the village of the same name built in the late 19th century by a German Count said to be a copy of Windsor Castle and a rather dry English guidebook comments that whilst it has 99 rooms the decorations inside are hardly up to common standards let alone Royal standards. Evidently it is currently the favourite place for wedding receptions.

As most of Estonia is blanketed with snow throughout the winter skiing is extremely popular and we went past the centre of this winter sport in the village called Otepaa we saw one chairlift they carried the skiers up to the 300 m peak. Obviously most of the skiing is cross-country skiing and the Estonians are often gold medal winners in this event.

A stop for the day was the village of Poltsamaa which boasted of a 16th century castle and behind that we found a nice quiet parking spot where we could watch the locals trying their hand at catching whatever fish there was in the small lake.

Wednesday May 22
It rained extensively on the night and carried on through most of the day as we carried on our drive towards Tallinn, we turned off towards Paide to see if we could get any Wi-Fi in the village, the answer was no, so we carried on through extensive roadworks towards the capital city finding that Tallinn Central campground very easily, it’s a large sealed area with basic amenities but close to the city.

They had Wi-Fi available near the reception area and were able to download our emails, and one of them told me of the report on our house the did not sell, it looks like along with the cracks and bits and pieces that have to be fixed because of the earthquake we also have too reclad the outside and probably change the roofline in some way so it looks like an early return to New Zealand for the writer.

Thursday May 23
Today we caught a taxi into the centre of Tallinn at the old city and as spent an enjoyable half day wandering round the old town. The old town was packed as four cruise ships had arrived in today so the town was crowded with almost every nationality all busy taking photographs all busy following a guide hearing the stories about the different buildings and whatever, we were happy to wandering by ourselves and really enjoyed the glimpse history that we found in this old city

Friday May 24
With the imminent return to New Zealand looming up we decided to start wandering our way South and will try to get a transit visa across Belarus so we can pass through Kiev on my way back to Holland.

We started our drive south but did a small sidetrip to look at one of the world renowned bogs in this part of Estonia, there was a boardwalk through the bog and the circuit was 5 km taking you through the bog and through the forest. Then it was on South stopping for the night at Parnu in the car park for people that wanted to walk through the forest.

Saturday, May 25
Today we carried on our drive south crossing over into Latvia and almost immediately into bad roads, that there has its own currency so we filled up with diesel whilst were in Estonia’s we wouldn’t have to mess with another currency.

The main road South to Riga took as down beside the Gulf of Riga, but before we got to the city we turned South East towards Belarus stopping near a village called Jumprava in behind a ruined building on beautiful we large car park.

Sunday May 26
Today we headed towards the Belarus border with the hope we would get a transit visa to cross that country, we did try getting a visa from New Zealand but first you have to get it invitation and then apply to your closest Belarus consulate which in our case was London, but the promise of an paid invitation did not eventuate so we had hopes of a transit visa at the border.

Arriving at the border it was easy to exit Latvia and drive on to the Belarus border crossing, incidentally Latvia appears to have a very large population of Russians and we found that the preferred language have both Latvia and Belarus custom stations was Russian with very little English being spoken so was good have Luda on board.

At the Belarus crossing were told no, we cannot get a transit visa so we had turn round and go back to Latvia.

This meant we were entering Latvia from Belarus and had to go through all the customs procedure that people do from that country.

The most interesting experience, which we’ve never had in any other country was at the Latvian border were asked how much fuel we had now our tank, this I think must be a Latvian “thing” so be ready if you ever visit a Latvian friend, do not be surprised if he asks you, how much fuel do you have on your tank?

This question did worry us a little bit so once were away from the border we headed south to Lithuania were as usual we spent the night and a parking spot on the side of the road.

Monday May 27
Today we carried on our drive across Lithuania, we had not driven through eastern Lithuania before but it did not take as long to work out that we felt the better scenery was in the West.

Just before we reached the Polish border we found an old Customs border crossing parking spot which was wonderful for our evening camping

Tuesday May 28
From our parking spot we only had to drive about 2 km and we were in Poland and then it was just a matter of following the GPS South along the side of the border of Belarus, the scenery was not that different to any of the other visits to Poland so we made quite good time travelling just within the speed limit until we found a good parking spot on the side of the road about 60 km from the Ukraine border where we spent the night.

Wednesday May 29
This morning we drove a few kilometres reached the Poland Ukraine border near the city of Chelm, is the first time we had entered the Ukraine through this border, but apart from the wait at each custom station, there was no problem, in retrospect it would have been probably better to have arrived at the border is very early or very late, and this of course is the situation at most borders.

Was then out onto the highway to Kiev, a very good road with not heavy traffic, of course the countryside is very flat, very huge forests that were driving through and lots of evidence of water everywhere. We pulled into a parking spot on the side of the road for the night.

Thursday May 30
Today we carried on our drive towards Kiev, but knowing what the traffic was like in this city we chose to avoid going around the ring road to get to the campground and instead about 50 km out of the city we did a right-hand turn to take us to the main road from Lviv to to Kiev.

Once on the main road was an easy drive to the campground which was on our side of the road and avoided doing any U-turns as the other route would have required, driving and we had our number plate copied and we drove on in to see a large group of French motorhomes that had been on a trip from France to Russia to the Ukraine and were here at the campsite to greet us along with a group of 22 Dutch caravans and motorhomes that were on a trip to the Ukraine and the Crimea.

As this will be the last trip in our European motorhome we gave it a good clean out at the campground, and Luda packed up several suitcases of clothes and other items to leave at her father’s house in Kiev.

The office has got free Wi-Fi so was in to get a downloadable all of our emails on the information from the real estate agents and builders concerning our Scarborough property confirms my decision to return home early to New Zealand and I’m planning on getting a flight in the first two weeks of June.

We have seen almost everything we want to see in Europe or that can be accessed from Europe and whilst there are some places we could go back to there are other spots around the world that are calling us so that is goodbye to Europe hello the rest of the world.

Incidentally if anybody wants to buy a 2009 German registered motorhome at a fraction of the new price, that is registered and insured until mid April 2014 and has every conceivable extra added and is fully equipped with bedding, dishes and cutlery, washing machine, extremely good kit of tools, is completely self-contained which allows you to wild camp almost anywhere, and could possibly be a good motorhome for two or three couples to own as a syndicate with each couple using it for four or six weeks each year.

It is stored near Amsterdam so you can fly in to Amsterdam, a short taxi ride to the storage facility, throw your suitcase into the storage “garage” at the back of the motorhome, and drive away on your European vacation.


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