Ain’t no mountain high enough

“When nothing is certain, anything is possible.

road trip planning

One cork, one road trip plan

One ordinary sunny Tuesday, when Dewa and I were having a bottle of Prosecco with fresh strawberries, the idea for another late summer road trip was initiated. What? Prosecco on a Tuesday, decadent? Not for us, we live by our favorite saying ‘simply because we can’.

Things even got better. Pronol, the grape farmer, invited us to a free wine tasting at their vineyard in Italy. At least, so read the bottle’s label. All we needed to do was keep the cork and bring it. And so the plan for our 2014 road trip was born: Italy it is, Pronol and Tuscany our aim, Switzerland en route. The cork in the fruit basket remained a cheerful reminder for the next 3 months. On the morning of our departure I figured it was about time to check the exact location of the Pronol vineyard. This appeared to be in the Northwest of Italy, north of Venice. We would have to cross the Dolomites on our way to get there. Excellent. And so we went on a road trip with a cork.

sunset

Dewa, me and a gorgeous sunset

From my hometown we drove to Dewa’s 230 kilometers away to pick up her passport (minor detail). On the way we had lunch in Belgium, later we set up camp in Germany. In two days we drove through the Eifel, slept in the Vosges in France, traveled the Mosel river and the Black Forest in Germany before we got into Switzerland. Here we made our way through rolling valleys of tempting green meadows with the cheerful sound of cow bells the size of church bells. We bathed in the natural Turtle-lake and ended up camping at 1500 meters at a ‘Gasthaus’ where the grumpy owner and his not-so-empathic wife made us pay a compensation for driving up their steep, private road. It was well worth it. We discovered Liechtenstein, a tiny European monarchy, but before we knew it were in Austria. Here we crossed the Silvretta pass and way too many people for our taste, and kept going east alongside a high mountain range, to later track back west on the other side of the same mountains, now again in Switzerland. Spent the night drinking schnaps and eating bratwurst with deer hunters while learning Romanish language, all once again for disobeying another traffic sign.

Hochalp wild camping

Camping with a 360 degrees view at 1530 meters on the Hochalp.

Then we climbed foggy passes to reach Italy and the Dolomites. One week on the road and we made it to the wine region where our wine tasting was awaiting us. Unfortunately we never found Pronol. We did however find the Chianti region, and slept in our own vineyard-for-the-night. We encountered cute ancient hilltop settlements, an ugly impoverished beach town and lush jungle in unexpected areas. Indulged in the charming manners of older, Italian gentlemen who still understand the art of complimenting women. Reorganized our cabriolet to serve as a camper and stayed at a glacier for the night in wind and rain, to be welcomed by fresh snow on the mountains in the morning. On other days the sun rising behind the mountains at 7 a.m. warmed our skin and shone its magical early morning light. Many nights our modest camp was lit by a growing number of stars.

Bob, our fierce, faithful camper cabriolet agile steered narrow curves and climbed high passes and proved to be our best companion. At 20 years of age, he hardly moaned on our escapades. We only seemed to have a stowaway bird behind one of the wheels, singing at low speed. While Bob had liters of local gasoline with a bit of motor oil on the side, we nourished ourselves with local flavors like schnitzel, wines, chocolate croissants, golden delicious apples fresh from the tree, salami, pizza, grapes, homemade pasta, cheeses, coffees and lots of mouthwatering ice-cream. We learned some, too. Who would have figured that Parmesan cheese is from Parma? Oops. Right.

While the local food was excellent, the local tongue was confusing. German seemed to be the universal language, even in France and Italy. Not that it mattered to me. In spite of some theoretic knowledge, I don’t speak either one. We got by with what we learned on the road, hands and feet and most importantly, a smile. After two weeks and 5.000 kilometer through 7 countries, amazed by the pristine views of mountains, lakes, valleys and glaciers and inspired by the tranquility and beauty of our wild camping spots, we made our way back home.

breakfast

Luxurious high altitude breakfast

Where most people going on a holiday aim to get to their destination as fast as possible, our way of traveling allows for ultimate freedom, no stress and unlimited straying. Halfway our trip we did not yet reach Tuscany. In fact, at that moment we had no clue of the distance to get there. Our idea of a road trip is simple: no GPS but just old-fashioned maps on a detailed scale, no fixed destination but only a direction (which can be altered on the way), no highways, just back roads (unless necessary). Also we prefer to escape the crowds, which is why we usually don’t visit touristic highlights and big cities on road trips. Last but not least, we prefer wild camping surrounded by nature. Just us. Every day over coffee we take the map and look where we are going next. Nothing fixed, just an idea. We’ll see whatever comes our way. It could well be my life motto: when nothing is certain, anything is possible.

We have mastered the routine of finding narrow roads, high zigzag passes, quaint little settlements, tranquil wild camping spots and amazing views. Our images are different, because we look for different things. We make an effort to not follow in the footsteps of (too many) others and to find our own best-kept secret little hotspots. We are usually surprised and rarely disappointed. Yes, we take some risks, too. Getting lost is not part of that. It’s part of the trip. You simply can’t get lost when nothing is fixed, no route, no stay, no destination.

 

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