The most beautiful mornings

If you have been following our travels, you might already guess, that this post is not going to be filled with hotel recommendations. Instead this is a list of the 5 most memorable mornings, in the most memorable places around Europe for this duo of travellers. They are listed chronologically, since it would be way too difficult to determine which is prettier than the other. They are all beautiful, for different reasons.

One: Étretat

This morning has a load of memories attached, which might be the reason why it stands in this list.

It was the first camping / hiking trip we did together. We had been sniffing out places to camp in Normandy from maps and google. The first stop was on the cliffs bit outside Étretat. We arrived in the dark, only the beam from the light house near by was sweeping the waves and the white cliffs. The air was chilly and moist, the sound of the sea and the seagulls carried us to sleep.

The atmosphere in the morning was magical. Before opening my eyes I was transported to the sea, with the sound of the waves rumbling the rocks on the beach, the echo sounding from the cliff beneath us and the seagulls screeching on top of everything.

I still remember the salty moist in the air as we opened the tent door and looked over the English Channel. A fresh coffee on a camping stove with no rush to go anywhere made the morning perfect.

Two: Duror Bothy

The bothies of Scotland, who would not love them. One night on our grand tour Scotland we spent in the Duror Bothy, an old house with a rich history. On the way there we had gotten a little lost in the forest. Waffle did not have his smokes and all the fire wood was wet and the rain kept pouring down from the sky.  We were less than happy as we slowly started to get the stove working and the smoke actually going up the chimney.

During the night our (or well, Waffle’s) peaceful sleep got interrupted by a culinaristic mouse, who was after our chocolate mousses and Parmesan cheese.

In the morning the surroundings had changed. The grey rain had passed. The shy warmth of the sun was pulling fog out of the soaking forest and the fresh smell filled the glen. The bothy was still warm and our gear had dried up and now had a faint scent of smoke embedded in them.

It felt such a luxury then, to wrap warm clothes on while the water for breakfast was boiling. A piece of nature, with morning sun and the first signs of coming spring. There was such harmony there!

Three: Mt. Olympos

There was no second thought over picking this one. The day before we climbed the whole bloody thing, that is Mt. Olympus in Greece and came half way back down too, to a manned refuge, Refuge A.  No need to say, we were a bit tired. The plan of getting out at night to watch the stars was ditched as we drooled in the dorm room beds at 8 pm.

Oh, the morning then. We were up before the sunrise, having our yogurts with honey and thick slices of brown bread. Outside there was going on just the kind a spectacle you would expect a sunrise to be, on the world’s most mythical mountain.

The horizon over the Aegean sea was flaming in the light of the rising sun, leaving the slopes beneath us completely black still. Slowly the light started to tickle the peak of the Olympus itself, turning the grey rocks into orange. We and all the other hikers were there, just staring at the emerging light as the new day began.

Four: The Welsh Moors

It was one of our extemporish trips, this one. There sometimes are cheap ferries to cross the English Channel, and we love nothing more than cheap tickets. So there we were, searching for our third spot to camp, going through the small roads printed on the map.

We found a spot next to the river Usk, close to the town of Llanddeusant and the Usk reservoir. There was a small stream there and a view to the Black Mountains of the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Already during the night we could hear our neighbours. There were a herd of Welsh mountain ponies grazing on the moor around us.  The morning brought fresh and wet palette of pastel colors. No spectacular sunrises, nor musical sea scenes this time. The serene quietness and peace of the ponies made the memory of this morning stick to my mind as one of the most beautiful we have had.

Five: Refuge in the Fagaras

The evening before we had a choice. A mountain rescue hut above 2000m of altitude in slightly freezing conditions, or a hotel.

Hut it was, of course, plus it looked cute on the pictures in google.

As we reached the hut a slight feeling of doubt was creeping into our minds. It was practically just a large tin can with wooden platforms to sleep on. Still we stayed, stuffed our faces with large hot portions of food and tried to sleep. Huddled together like piglets, shaken awake every time the cold went too deep into our muscles.

I have never been so happy to be woken up by sunrise, to be able to crawl out of bed! Or well “bed”. It took courage, to shove a toe out of the sleeping bag to the freezing air of the hut. We quickly changed another set of clothes on, had extra portions of coffee, hot chocolate and cookies.

Getting a move on, blood circulating the muscles was priority number one. After a bit of movement, the decision to stay was rewarded. A crisp layer of frost was coating the mountains and the clouds were floating around us, letting through an occasional sun ray.

The sheer happiness of surviving this night makes the memory of the morning so beautiful.

There would be plenty more….

But these ones really stand out.

Having these breathtakingly beautiful mornings is one of the biggest reasons why we carry our homes on our backs while we travel. You plant yourself where ever you feel like and enjoy the 5 star surroundings. With no irritating tourists around and zero costs. Usually that means, that we go through some amounts of pain and suffering before getting there. That, I think, functions as a clue, that sticks the memories to our minds forever.

 

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My Favorite Corners in the World – So Far

I am now rather useless with my right hand being all packaged up. I can read, write, make a cold lunch and wonder around endlessly. Time does not go especially fast when you spend it like that. It rather lingers and pokes weird areas in you brain.  Today I was reading a book (Katja Kettu, Surujenkerääjä) side by the Scheldt that runs by Rupelmonde. Funny that river, you can see the time passing as the docs screech and whine with the tide pushing them up or down. There is also this a yellow buoy that bounces and turns with the currents. I don’t know, somehow it catches my eye every now and then. It has the ability to make my mind wonder, so I let it wonder, and let you suffer the consequences.

Today, I was thinking all the places I have seen so far, all the places that have left memories behind. So here you have it, the travel destinations I would not mind returning to, maybe they are part of your journey too, or will enter it somewhere in the future.

Finland, that sometimes cold and dark corner on the edge of the world came to my mind first. Probably for obvious reasons; my roots are there and a big part of my heart is there. I like the mentality of the Finns, I like the food, love the nature and miss the sauna. As well as the sense of peace and serenity. The “Lake district” is, to me, dear above all others.

One place I have feelings for (sorry Waffle) is the northern France. There is our favorite buggy beach. A third home for us, in some ways. There I have done quite some learning and had some of the happiest moments in a good while. There is of course more to northern France than Les Hemmes. I am very fond of the nature and the landscape of the area, it has a flow to it. It calms me down and the waving fields of grain makes me feel like home. The white cliffs are there and you can see England with a bit of luck, I like it. Normandy is great too! And as we are talking about France, there are the Vosges, containing the first ever mountain I climbed on the Christmas day, 2014. As well as plenty of wild blueberries in the late summer!

Mm, speaking of England, well, Great Britain. Which part of the island do I like best? That is a tough call. The first encounter of its wonders we had in the Lake District, with fairy tale valleys and soft hills, and views to the sea. Scotland, of course Scotland. It is just a magical place with the lochs and mountains. More touristic though. And the latest conquest, being a small part of Wales. The best thing about Wales is the fact that it is so compact, you know. Right next to mountains you have the seaside. Wild ponies were a definite bonus.

The place that left the strongest memories was probably Mt. Olympus in Greece. The hike up Olympus was probably the heaviest I have done so far. We were in a bit of a tight squeeze with time, so we hiked the whole mountain up (almost) and came down the half way. That process caused quite some pain, my heart was complaining and Waffles hair was full of icicles. The following morning brought us the most beautiful sunrise with clouds beneath our feet as well as the best breakfast ever, partially because we were hungry as wolves. The suffering and the amazing reward after it just got stuck to our heads, and it is now turning more and more golden!

Can’t leave without mentioning Montenegro. That country, with is mountains, gorges, people and culture just blew our minds. It really is a pearl, still a little bit hidden from mass tourism. And it just is magnificently beautiful. Go there.

I think that is enough? So maybe something about the future plans. The first thing we are going to do, is to travel to Romanian mountains in a few weeks. We found ridiculously cheap tickets with Ryanair, from Weeze to Timisoara, bit more than 12 euros for the two of us, there and back. I love living in Belgium. By the way, if you have already been there, we are very happy to hear your tips and suggestions on where to go and what to see!

 

Which places have left their mark on you? Where would you love to return, or the opposite, where would you not go to ever again?

The Faces of Greece – Day Two

Sunday came, chilly and sunny, giving another face entirely to our surroundings. Thanks to early night, we woke up before the sun, to witness one of the most beautiful sunrises. It lit the horizon into flaming orange, contrasted by the pure white clouds right underneath our feet. The colors the sun shone to the mountaintops, breathtaking views!

Mountainy breakfast and large coffee. ready to face just about anything!

Clouds over the Mediterranean. Litochoro in the distance. 

Hearty breakfast shoveled down and we headed back down the mountain to our car. We had the Mytikas, bathing in sunlight, looking after us as we wandered on with sore muscles crying for help. The lower end of the trail is easy going, well walked path, so we advanced fast.

The difference in surroundings was immense. The day before, when we made our way up, everything was whitewashed, hidden in clouds.

It was almost warm already, the frost was melting.

Now we could see the surrounding peaks and the full colors of the nature.  Usually it is rather boring to take the same trail back, where you came from, but this time it was different.

Sometimes it is good to look down and see the small things.

We had planned to have a relaxed day after climbing Olympus. So we took the car and headed for the coast. In a few moments, we left the wintery mountains behind and embraced the warmth of sunny seaside. Out of the mainland Greece, there are three narrow peninsulas pointing South-East. The middle one of those was our destination.

Olives, just hanging.

During summer months that area is filled to the limit with tourists. Now, in the end of October, we found empty beaches and quiet roads. We stopped by small bays to admire the blue Mediterranean, shining under the sun. Found quite some olive trees and again, unbelievably nice and warm hearted Greeks.

Change to the scene.

The Chalkidiki peninsula has a big national park. The terrain seems to be full of heather. heather calls for honey. And we passed row after row of beehives. Stepping out of the car and getting close to those boxes brings the smell of sweet honey into your nose, especially if there is some sun warming the hives.

At first we did not know what these boxes were. So we got closer until we were surrounded by busy bees.

Sure, the nature, olive farms and sea was beautiful. But we were in for a real treat. After dipping our tired feet into the sea, we started leaving for the airport, driving back on the other coast of the peninsula. After turning behind a corner there was, in front of us, the second highest peak of Greece. A mountain growing straight out of the sea.

We had a marvelous view on the Mount Athos. Athos towers over the autonomous monk state, that occupies the third one of the Halkidiki peninsulas. Reaching almost up to 3000 meters of height, it is rather impressive sight. I would have been happy to climb it, but unfortunately, no women allowed.

Athos, straight out of the sea.

So we were left to the shores, admiring the best from far. We did catch a very beautiful sight of it, with setting sun behind us, and pale moon right next to the mountain, surrounded by calm sea. I could have just stayed there, breathing it all in, letting the evening surround us. But there was a plane to catch.

Look carefully, and spot the moon.

Timing was perfect in this shot!

Driving towards Thessaloniki, we were surprised by yet another amazing scene. The sun making is journey down, touching the side of the mountain we had climbed just the other day. Creating a beautiful landscape with the silhouette of Olympus, and all the shades of blue.

Call it a cherry on top of this weekend.

All in all, Greece plated the table with immense beauty, versatility and friendliness. We experienced pain, tiredness and joy. Plenty of joy. I think me and Waffle are now even closer to each other than before. If that is even possible.

I am lucky to have him.Some more pictures can be found here: Our Flickr account