Europe 2013 - Pics and write up

Discussion in 'Europe' started by jonspadge, Aug 17, 2013.

  1. OK so last year I asked my boss if I could take three and a half weeks off of work to go around Europe in the bus. The timing of the trip (in the middle of July and August) worked so I was given the green light and duly booked the Eurotunnel outward and return legs. Only to realise afterwards that I’d booked the departure date to coincide with my 8 year old’s birthday!! This went down badly.


    After much planning and discussion though we decided that we wanted to try and get down to Italy and stop off on along the way to break the route up a bit. We ended up with a plan that looked a little like this:


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    Campsites and hotels were booked as I didn’t fancy getting all the way to Italy without having somewhere to stay and then we counted down the days to the actual event. I got the bus serviced, ensured we had full gas bottles and we invested in a 12v coolbox to supplement the fridge as we suspected it might get hot in Italy and we wanted to ensure we had enough cold drinks on hand. We were not wrong on this front - more later.


    Setting off early we made good time to the Eurotunnel terminal and got on an earlier train. We let my 8 year old open his pressies under the sea on the train which he loved. We then cruised down to a place called Langres which is just North of Dijon. We have stayed in Langres before and had a bed and breakfast booked as we didn’t want to pitch camp just for one night.


    The couple running it were Spanish and American and cooked dinner for us. When they brought out pudding the put a candle in my sons chocolate tart and everyone sang Happy Birthday. We nosed around the town for the evening then went to bed.


    Up early for breakfast in the garden then on the road to Annecy where we were camping in their municipal campsite for 4 nights.


    Its at this point we started to have some fun with the bus. She had started to become difficult to start even though I have a hot start relay fitted. Coming into Annecy she started cutting out at low revs, backfiring and dropping in power.


    We limped into the campsite and set up camp.


    The next day we headed down into Annecy itself which is beautiful and swam in the lake and took pictures.


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    There was a market on selling everything we needed for a barbeque that evening so we got stuck in.


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    My son treated the sausage stall like a buffet!!


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    That night I went online and started to swap messages with the late bay. An air leak seemed to be the most likely cause but I could not see anything. Next day we went out in the bus and she seemed to be behaving herself. So I let it ride - bit of an error that.
     
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  2. Later that evening we then got hit with 24 hours of torrential rain. We were confined to the bus until 4 o’clock the next day but when it cleared we went down the hill to have dinner in Annecy.


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    We tried tarteflette and local wines and chilled out. The next day we took a boat ride around the lake which is stunning.


    The campsite - Belevedere is the municipal one and whilst there were a lot of typical motor homes there it was very handy for the town - about 15 mins walk and also had a restaurant with a terrace which we ate on one evening. Also very cheap.


    On leaving we headed South East towards Italy. We would have to go over the Alps and decided to go for the Mont Blanc Tunnel. Some of the hills were a bit of a struggle but we seemed to be coping. The backfire was getting worse though and going up the White Route to the Mont Blanc tunnel was a bit slow. We cut out waiting to go into the tunnel (they regulate the traffic distances following the fire you see) but got going again and went through.


    The tunnel itself goes uphill then crests in the middle under the mountain before coasting downhill out the other side into Italy. Second gear al the way up the hill but when we crested I knew we’d be fine. This route into Italy is not cheap though - 40 Euros for a one way trip!! However - I decided I needed to get the bus sorted properly when we go to the next campsite.


    We made it to Campsite Fornella on the West bank of Lake Garda around 16:00 that day. It was blisteringly hot - 34c and had been like that for weeks. After putting up the tent we got stuck into some Aperol!!!


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    Lovely stuff and everyone seems to drink it down there. A lot of Dutch guys came over to talk to me about the bus and we started to get a lot of interest in it. They also said that in 5 years of coming to the lake they had never known it so hot. We were camped about 30 feet from the lake with small steps taking up down to the beach:


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    The next day I got under the bus and following Zed and others advice from TLB adjusted the valve clearances - a few were tight. On firing up the bus though she sounded awful and on looking in the back I could see a flame near no. 2 cylinder. I turned off the engine and found that the air hose elbow had come completely off. Fitted it back on with a cable tie and we were back in business.


    We then settled into enjoying 10 nights in Italy. We visited the Isolda Del Garda which is owned by the same family who own the campsite. They have had it for about 400 years!


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    I loved the boathouse and landing stage - was a very mystical and cool place. Then you headed up the hill to the villa.


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    When I got back to the campsite I was taking the recyling down to the bins - as you do, when I came across another late bay. This wonderful 1977 Karmann conversion. It was owned by a German guy who bought it off his father who in turn was the second owner. He confirmed something I’d heard - that these buses are rare in Germany and usually stay in the family - rarely coming onto the open market.


    This explained why we got so many comments when we went to Germany later in the trip. It was in original paint and only went out on the road between April and October. Nice guy - came around to look at my one later that week.


    Now the bus was working again we decided to venture out even though it was still stupidly hot. We went around the lake to Salo which is a wonderful village with the longest promenade on the lake.


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    Not sure one of these nuns wasn’t a man though....


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    oxiderenegade likes this.
  4. On the way back from Salo we decided to stop at a different beach instead of going back to the campsite. Their carpark was an olive grove which was a new one on me.


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    We spent most of the time at the two pools on the campsite or swimming in the lake instead of going to Venice or Verona which was the original intention. It was just too hot. To give it some perspective I have never slept in the bus without needing a sleeping bag and having every window open and still been too hot - all night. We even went swimming in the lake at 10:30 at night in the dark to cool down - my kids loved that as it was a very special moment.


    We visited Salo again and ate in a number of Osteria’s and had lovely food before it was time to move on. We were heading up to Germany but splitting up the trip by staying overnight in a hotel in Switzerland.


    We decided to cross the Alps via the San Gottardo tunnel. The pass over the top just looked insanely mental and not worth risking. I now know that the San Gottardo tunnel when completed in 1980 was the longest tunnel in the world at 16.9km and is still the third longest in the world after the channel tunnel and some hole they dug in Japan.


    If you go through this way though be prepared to queue to go through as they also regulate traffic following a fatal collision in the 90’s.It is however FREE so a better option than the Mont Blanc tunnel. An hour of queuing later and we were going through the tunnel - such a different experience from the Mont Blanc one now we were running well again.


    We stopped in Switzerland by lake Sempach which is also known as the Sursee. We had a lovely night in a hotel with a nice meal. I took this panorama picture looking West towards the Berner Oberland where we visited a few years before.


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    The next days drive to Koblenz in Germany started well. We’d put about 170 miles on the clock and crossed the last of the Alps when the bus started backfiring again. Aha I thought, that hose has come off again - pulled over and sure enough it had. Fixed it and then got about another 30 miles down the road when it did it again. This happened a number of times and it was clear that something else was amiss.


    Anyway following a lot of stopping and starting we made it to the campsite which was called Campingplatz Moselbogen on the banks of the river Mosel near a village called Guls.


    The campsite had a restaurant and we ate there then collapsed - it had been a long day.


    Sunday dawned and I took the pipe out. It was split and not in good shape. Took the duct tape to it and used industrial strength cable ties to get it back on.


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    We decided to go to Berg Eltz the next day. This is considered one of the prettiest castles on the river Mosel. We drove out and while the bus was a little lumpy seemed ok. Parked up then took a 2km hike through the woods on the hiking trail. On turning the last corner we were met with a view of the castle.


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    The castle is still owned by the original family who built it over 800 years ago and it complete never being attacked. The family were very powerful traders and politicians who controlled river traffic in the area. We spent some time on the guided tour and looking around.


    On the way back to the campsite though I became more concerned about the bus and in the back of my mind I was wondering how we’d get up the valley and the 300 miles to Calais in 5 days time. I resolved to get some help the next day.


    However, on returning to the campsite I got chatting to a Polish guy who had this rather smart 1930 Model A Ford.


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    He was on a rally and also a journalist to boot for a Polish classic car magazine. He had a really cool dash cam mounted on his windscreen - took a picture of that and resolved to buy one as it had a wrist mounted remote that allowed you to take bursts of stills or switch on and off the video. He loved the bus and took loads of photos - maybe we’ll appear in his magazine write up?
     
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  5. The next day we took the public bus into Koblenz and went to the Deutsche Eck which literally means German Corner. Its where the two big rivers of the Mosel and Rhine meet and has historically been a strategic point on the river as if you can control it you control all river traffic into Southern Germany. It explains why there is a huge fortress build on the cliffs overlooking it.


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    When we got back tot he campsite I bit the bullet and rang the RAC - they said they would send a man to take a look at the bus. In the meantime though we met another British couple on the site, Mike and Jane from Norwich - they had this rather nice 1976 which they had restored.


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    Mike came over and we had a look in the bay and found that another vaccum hose was off but she still sounded like a bag of spanners even with that replaced.


    At this point the RAC man turned up. Or rather a German tow truck bloke who spoke no English, prodded a few bits, looked inside the dizzy cap and then said I would need to follow him (to be towed!) to a local garage.


    We went about a mile up the road to a local VW dealership who took one look and refused to help us. My new German mate though knew an air cooled specialist 10 miles away but they would have to have the bus overnight. By now it was gone five thirty and as we had nowhere else to sleep he said he would come back tomorrow at nine oclock and take me to the garage.


    So, alas the next day I took the following picture!!!


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    Then life got very interesting.......
     
  6. Woodylubber

    Woodylubber Obsessive compulsive name changer

  7. We went for a very picturesque, although silent (I spoke no German he spoke no English) drive down the valley to the garage. On arriving we pulled up into what looked like someones front garden with a few old T25s parked up - not what I was expecting and to be honest I was concerned, And I was right, turned out he’d taken me to the wrong place and the garage we should have gone to was back where we started - about 3 miles from the campsite!!


    So around we turned and off we set. We went back into Koblenz and then I saw this sign:


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    This looked very very promising. Who advertises themselves as a VW Bus specialist? Well Frank-Ulrich Engel does that’s who!!!!


    We pulled into his garage and there were buses everywhere. We got the bus off the loader and they got to work straight away, straight up the ramp, plugs out, compression test - they told me to amuse myself for 30 mins while they took a look. 30 mins later Frank came up to me and said “I’ve ordered some parts for your bus” - now my heart sank when he said that as I needed to drive away that night and be on the road to Belgium the next day. His next sentence made my day though - “They will be here in 45 minutes and we’ll have you working by two o’clock today”. Take a walk and come back then.


    So I took some time looking around the Engel yard. They had a nice 69 prototype they were restoring on the ramp. I talked to the guy who was fabbing the panels and he reckoned he was going to have it off to paint in a week - they must work fast in Germany as it looked like it needed more work than that.


    Lots of lates tucked away...


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    One had a weird high top on it with side windows. I couldn’t get in there properly but took a pic. No idea what it is though.


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    Crusty beetle anyone?


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    Ever seen three Synchros in a row except at a show? How about one with a working bulldozer/snowplough attachment as well?


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    They also had loads of T25s with various conversions.


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    And a nice Westie they had just finished restoring.


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    After taking pics for a while I took a walk around the local area, had a coffee and cake, walked to the river and then wandered back. Along the way I spotted this Tattoo shop. Couldn’t help wondering who you would choose to do your tat if you went there. Chopper or Rene?


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    I got back to Engel’s and they had fixed the bus. They replaced four or five hoses that had split and also a pipe in the right hand side carb (Franks English was good but he had trouble explaining the part to me). They also reset all of the valve clearances and changed the plugs. Compression test on all four cylinders was spot on so as far as they were concerned she was good to go. They insisted I took her for a 10-15km test drive (on my own) BEFORE I paid them to make sure I was happy with their work.


    I was over the moon - she drove as good as she ever has so I settled up with Frank, said my goodbyes and headed back to the campsite.


    All in all this little episode had cost about half a day. While I was gone my family walked out to the village near the campsite and had a nice lunch. We then went down to the river and swam in the shade of the vineyards.


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  8. The following day we packed up and headed North West to our last stop. A night in the Belgium city of Ghent. We arranged to stay in an Apart Hotel with secure off street parking which was very cheap for all four of us. Arrived without incident with the bus running perfectly and chilled for a bit before we walked the 10 minutes to the city centre. I’d never been to Ghent before and it was absolutely beautiful. We walked around taking pictures and had a nice dinner before we went back for bed.


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    The following morning we got up early, had breakfast and then went back into the city and bought a load of Belgium beer glasses and bits and bobs. then we headed back towards Calais, picked up the Eurotunnel and headed home after 3 and a half weeks and 2050 miles of holiday.


    We paid a lot of tolls coming down through France but didn’t pay a penny coming up through Germany - so if you fancy going to Italy then I personally would go back down that way next time to save money.


    I was less than impressed with the service provided by the RAC and will be speaking to them on Monday. Depending on what they say then I may or may not start another thread on here regarding European breakdown cover. Alls well that ends well though.


    Even though we had some bus issues overall the trip was amazing, in fact I enjoyed the adventure of all of it and the memories we had. Both trips over the Alps, the time spent chilling at lake Garda and all the nice food and drink we had. We met a lot of really friendly people who wanted to chat about the bus.


    Thanks to Mike and Jane who helped us when we were a bit down in Germany, all on TLB who came up with ideas to help me temporarily fix the bus in Italy and of course Herr Engel of VW Bus Engel in Koblenz. I certainly think we should have a TLB register of European garages of repute!!


    Would do it all again in a moment and it has in no way put me off travelling in Europe in the bus. I’ll just take some more bits and pieces and tools next time. Bye for now - thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed it.
     
    scooper, theBusmonkey, daisy1 and 5 others like this.
  9. Welcome home! Thanks for that - beautiful photos and great write up. Glad things turned out good in the end :thumbsup:
     
    Greenwesty likes this.
  10. Fantastic pics!!:):)
     
  11. That was truley wonderful to read and see, what an experience for you and your family, you have inspired me .........it must be fate ..........you met a couple from Norwich !
     
  12. Thanks all. I seem to have missed the pic of the German Karmann off of the original post. Here it is: [​IMG]
     
    Mrs Moosey likes this.
  13. What a cracking write up, much better than some of the stuff I read in C&B Etc.

    Some beautiful pictures also.

    Send it in to the usual mags and be famous :)
     
  14. Wouldn't know who to send it to. Glad you liked it.
     
  15. My guess would be the editor, which if you have a mag their details are normally there somewhere....
     
  16. I believe this is the editor....

    james_peene@ipcmedia.com
     
  17. Great thread and great service at Engel's!
     
  18. Brilliant write up and great pictures. Sounds like a terrific adventure!
     
  19. Thanks so much for such a brilliant write up and photos, I was transfixed!!!

    Sounds like you had an amazing time and its made me even more determined to get to Carcassonne and Monaco next year :thumbsup: :D
     
  20. Great thread and great inspiration for us next year! :)
     

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