Well, 2023 didn’t quite go how we expected but it has been an interesting year. We started with medical issues and ended with medical issues but had a great time anyway. I broke my ankle in Canada the week before we were due to leave for France where our RV was waiting for us in Marseille. We figured that I could heal just as well in France as I would in Canada. Obviously, this affected many things, including the fact that I didn’t actually start riding my e-bike until early July. Apparently, my bones take a long time to heal. Mike did try pushing me in a wheelchair on cobblestones (which you can’t walk on with a broken ankle) but that didn’t work very well.
2023 was supposed to be the year we spent mainly in Germany, but we actually ended up spending more time in France than in Germany. As many of you know, France is not our favourite country. The people overall are the least friendly that we have met on our travels and their drivers are outrageous. In seven years in Europe our car has been involved in three accidents – all in France! Not once was our car moving when the accident occurred. Once the car was parked, once we were stopped at a red light and once, we were stopped at a pedestrian crosswalk. Between my ankle, with some doctors’ visits and physiotherapy and the car repairs we spent three months in France this year and only two months in Germany.
For the short term visitor, France has spectacular areas for sightseeing. It has the mountains, the sea, the ocean, medieval hilltop villages and much more. Waiting for our car to be repaired allowed us to visit and spend more time again in Avignon, a city in France that Mike and I really liked.
My cousin from England managed to come out and visit with us when we were near Nice which was very nice. We also spent a little time meeting up with relatives of a Canadian friend of ours.
When we left France, we took a rather circuitous route to Germany. We started in Switzerland, which I love even though we know it is expensive. We toured around Liechtenstein, which didn’t take long. We then visited Austria’s panhandle on the way to Munich and then on to Germany’s Romantic Road. The picture above was taken from one of our campgrounds in Switzerland. The sunsets were absolutely gorgeous, and it was a lovely area to tour. Mike and I really took advantage of our self-guided audio tours this year. In Switzerland we toured the major cities of Zurich, Geneva, and Bern but we also spent time driving through the mountains and rural areas. With canes and my foot in a walking cast, we did more driving than in other years.
Mike and I very much like Bavaria. It had been 20 years since we last visited Munich together, I had been there a little more recently while I was working. It is a city we quite enjoy. This time we got to tour The Residenz, Germany’s largest city palace and was it big! After Munich we drove to the Romantic Road, which is known for its castles and Bavarian architecture. In addition to the lovely sights, we also saw some somewhat unusual things as you can see here.
While exploring the Romantic Road, we had to decide what to do next. Our original plan had been to head back west to the Rhine River and tour that area. We changed our minds (not unusual) and decided we would try and visit the Rhine next year, but this year we would visit eastern Germany where we had never been. I was now cycling again, and this would give us the chance of connecting up our previous cycling path from the Adriatic right up to the Baltic Sea.
To connect up to the Baltic we actually had to start in Czechia. We had previously ridden from the Adriatic in Italy to Prague. This time we continued north from Prague. As you can see in the picture, we did make it to the Baltic and Mike insisted on getting his feet wet. We spent 11 nights in Czechia and then returned to eastern Germany which was splendid. We started in Dresden when friends from Norway came with their camper to join us. That was very enjoyable. There are a lot of lovely towns near Dresden including Leipzig and Meissen. We kept heading north. We spent our last two weeks in Germany camping on the Baltic. We spent quite a bit of time visiting Rügen Island, Germany’s largest island. It had a lot of lovely things to see but one sight that really impressed us was a large building filled with huge, excellent, sand sculptures. We did have some cycling issues when we got away from the roads and ended up on paths covered with deep, soft sand. We often had to push our bikes, which wasn’t fun.
We spent two weeks exploring Germany’s eastern section of the Baltic coast and had a great time. We then left to drive south through Poland. We hadn’t spent any time along Poland’s western border before. We were really glad we did this year. We encountered more English in Poland than we had expected. Many of the towns and cities that we visited were really lovely. Our favourite was probably Wrocław. The market square was huge and really interesting. The city was also filled with whimsical dwarfs everywhere which were great to see. An unexpected delight in Wrocław was the Racławice Panorama, a monumental 360° painting of a battle scene that you viewed from the centre of the room. There was real earth and bushes and fence posts placed near the bottom of the painting and you couldn’t tell what was real and where the painting itself actually started. It was very impressive.
Seeing all these lovely towns in Poland really made Mike and I regret that we hadn’t a chance to visit Ukraine with its great cities before disaster overtook them.
At this point in time we were heading south to Slovenia where we thought we could find somewhere to store our RV and car for the winter. We quite quickly drove through the corner of Czechia and Austria, spending a couple of days again in Vienna enroute. We arrived in Slovenia and camped and biked right across the centre of the country visiting multiple towns and cities that we really like. Biking was a bit tricky because of both the weather and the terrain. We ended up on mountain paths that we should never have been on and once ran out of battery power in the very deserted mountains. These might not be the tallest of mountains in Slovenia but they were plenty high when you tried to push your heavy e-bike up a rocky path.
We cycled in Slovenia from Maribor to Celje to the beautiful capital city of Ljubljana and on to Koper in the Gulf of Trieste on the Adriatic Sea. Slovenia has to be one of our favourite countries on this trip. It is very small and yet it has the mountains, seaside, super close proximity to Italy, Croatia and Austria and very friendly people.
We found a long term parking lot next to Trieste airport that was set up with electricity and water for a few campers; They would store our vehicles for a reasonable monthly rate. It worked out great. We had a ride in and out of the airport and managed to get an afternoon flight instead of early morning which meant that we didn’t need a hotel for the last night after winterizing the RV. It also meant that we arrived back in Canada at a much more reasonable hour than normal from Europe. We spent about five days camping near Trieste and managed a visit to see Venice again. Away from the tourist areas, Venice is quite interesting, but there are far too many people visiting that island.
I said that the year ended with medical problems. Well in my family, three of us: my mother, Mike and I, were the only ones that had avoided covid. Mike and I must have unknowingly picked it up on the flight home and visited my mother as soon as we got back. All three of us now have covid. Mike and I are starting to recover ten days later but my mother is very sick, and we are quite worried and obviously feel awful about it.
I can’t give you all the statistics about costs of campgrounds and fuel etc. this year because my spreadsheet on my Android tablet just disappeared in October and no, I didn’t have a good backup. I spent ages trying, but there was no recovering the file. I honestly have no idea what happened.
I can tell you that in 2023 we travelled 41,000 km by car and motorhome with 75% of that being in the car. We rode our bikes about 2,000 km and we spent 239 nights camping. Below is a list of countries that we have had the pleasure of visiting over the last seven years. You might remember that the original plan was for this to be a three year trip of a lifetime. We are looking forward to returning in a few months for the start of year eight.
|2017 – 2023
|Croatia (includes covid)
|Norway (2019 w/o RV)
|Finland and Russia
|Iceland (no RV)
|Total nights in Europe: