09 Italy to Germany

ITALY (ITALIA) April 1999

On the ferry one wheel was losing air. Just outside Brindisi we stopped to repair the second flat tyre in 40000km. From the heel of the boot all the way to Rome. We stayed at a coastal resort near the airport to await Liesl’s arrival. There was a strong sea wind blowing and two days later all steel was covered with rust.

Joyous reuniting with Liesl and lots of news from home. (Also our new passports obtained after much perseverance!) We had a whole day at leisure just to talk. Later we found central parking in a corner of the Villa Borghese, from where we could walk to all the sites in Rome. That spot was awarded the floating trophy for noisiest campsite!

The pope was visible, giving a public audience, but St Peter’s Cathedral was not! (Under scaffolding, for yr. 2000 cleaning). Liesl tossed her coins into the Trevi fountain and we continued to the other “fontanas” and “piazzas”Diesel was R5 a litre. We did a nice circuit with Liesl to Sorrento, Capri, Sienna, Florence, Pisa, Parma, Mantova, Verona and Venice.

One weekend in Southern Italy: We stopped midday in Naples to try a pizza, from where they had originated. Next to our parking area was an old fort with a lawn. We saw a bride being photographed, then another and another. Soon there were 8 and more arriving. The grooms all wore dark glasses and the southern Italian-senoras-to-be all had long black tresses, which they flung about in exaggerated poses. We detoured the back streets of Naples packed with Fiats of all shapes and sizes (mainly tiny) and arrived on Mt Vesuvius at closing time. The one souvenir seller helped us park and there we stayed on the volcano for the night. When the same guy arrived the next morning he accused us of encroaching on his space and threw a 10-minute foul language tantrum. We walked up closer to the crater. Later, on the steep, winding way down the engine kept on cutting out. Jan replaced the diesel filter on a precarious spot. We circled our way down to Pompeii where we found this nice big empty parking area. When we returned after trudging round the ancient ruined city, Dipli had been locked in.

We climbed over the high fence with some difficulty but rejoiced at the safe and level overnight parking. Jan adjusted the power steering. Someone arrived with keys for the entrance gate and we had to leave. Dipli had to aim for the gate but the turning circle was now too wide, requiring several reverses. We made it over the busy road where Jan corrected the PS; but then the engine would not start again; sounded like flat battery, but actually was burnt starter motor. It was getting dark. Some New Zealanders climbed in for a drink and a chat. A stretched Limousine blocked the traffic trying to squeeze in next to us. Driver said that he always parked there on a Sunday evening to advertise rental of his car and that we had taken his place and that we were pretending to have a problem. He tried to jump-start us but to no avail. He nevertheless pranced next to his fancy Limo in his shiny black suit for a few hours (The pair of vehicles attracting much attention). The next morning Jan fitted the spare starter motor (having swapped solenoids first) and we were off to Sorrento. ”Never a dull moment…..”

On our walk on the Isle of Capri, Liesl had to carry the rucksack; because she was exercising to do the Fish River Canyon hike back home.

One never knows if the leaning tower of Pisa would be there forever so we had to take Liesl there. We had forgotten how beautiful the cathedral and the baptistery were. The contraption counterbalancing the tower uses 670 tons of lead and stainless steel cables attached to huge hydraulic dampers. The 12th cent. builders would be flattered to see the attention their skew structure still illicits, 800 years later!

The New Zealanders had told us about hot springs and pools in the mountains of Tuscany. We parked there on the first day of a long weekend with a few other campers. When there were 103 motor homes crammed into a small area and more arriving we had to get out of there.

The Michel Angelo Camp Site in Florence afforded a magnificent view over the Arno River and the city. We could walk to all the famous places and Liesl also bought some leather goods from a street stall.

Liesl was particularly keen to see Verona because she had “Romeo and Juliet” as a prescribed book. We were delighted to find more than ”the balcony” of interest in the town, like artichokes and lovely “gelati”.

We walked around Venice one entire day and spent the next day on the canals and the bay using many different boats which also went to Murano where glass is made and Verano, the island of lace.


Suddenly everything was so neat and pretty and everyone so polite.

Vienna was kind to make available central parking near the State opera (again unofficially). We could walk to all the beautiful buildings and squares. While Jan was trudging to arrange Dipli’s new insurance, Liesl found The Spanish riding school, its museum and the Lipizzaner horses of particular interest. We marvelled at the luxurious furnishing of the Schonnbrunn palace and the treasures in the Neue Hofburg.

All to soon Liesl’s month had gone by and it was time to say goodbye. We felt more privileged than sad to have had such a close time with our daughters.

We obtained our Czech visas and then drove west from Vienna and into a corner of Switzerland, where the duty free area of Samnaun saved us $50 on a tank of diesel.


On the way to Zurich, at Maienfeld, we found this beautiful wayside parking area with clean toilets and a fountain, called “Heidi’s fountain”. The next day we walked along the “Heidi trail” to her and her grandfather’s furnished farmhouse. We looked up good friends in Zurich and delighted in the company and shared things, like a hike along the lake, an impressionist art gallery and a cheese fondue.

We obtained new Shengen visas (covers most of Western Europe) and picked up the 3rd party insurance at the Zurich office of AIU. Jan had arranged this in Vienna through American International Underwriters, Wilmington, Delaware.

On the way we visited the wonderful gardens on Mainau Island in the Bodensee.

With friends in the most beautiful town of Stein-am-Rhein, we enjoyed the view over the flooded Rhine River and the barbecues next to it. We also caught up with e-mail and washing and had the (now spare) starter motor repaired.


In Southern Germany we enjoyed seeing a friend whom we had met in Lima, Peru.

The Sahara Club meeting is held annually in the village of Westhofen. There were motor bikes and more than a 100 4WD vehicles in all shapes and sizes. There were slide shows mostly about Libya & the Sahara region, but we met people who had driven through China and Russia, who could provide some useful info. Jan also saw and studied and measured carefully the axles of a Robur vehicle, manufactured in the Eastern part of Germany. Was this to be the answer?

On the way to Stuttgart we stopped to see the friend of a friend who had driven in Africa, India and Australia. He is an orthopaedic surgeon and from a patient who works for Mercedes, he obtained information for Jan to follow up. After enquiries in Stuttgart it seemed as if it would be difficult to find suitable Mercedes axles and it would be very expensive. (Will go to Zittau later & follow up the Robur lead).

In Munich we obtained our visas for Poland. We parked with our friends from Athens and checked e-mail. Liesl was in hospital! Delayed diagnosis of thrombosis in the calf. Should we fly home? Soon it appeared that she was in good care and that her friend, Andre and Ingrid and Jan’s mom were on standby. .

On our last day in Munich we had turned left at a clear intersection. After we had turned, a speeding approaching Opel did not see Dipli and at the last minute tried to swerve in next to us. Crash! He had damaged his left headlight and mudguard but we had hardly a mark. Aggressive driver: “Give me you passport!” “You must pay!” The friendly, sympathetic, English speaking, German police soon came. (yes, you read right!) Because we are foreigners, the procedure took a long time, but was amicably resolved.

East from Munich we went, to the Czech Republic; the country with the best beer in the world, and cheap too!

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