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?

Skye and Goodbye to UK

So The Isle of Skye was in front of us. And so was the first night we would spend on the island. We were looking for cover from the wind and rain.

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That was clearly a mistake. The small biting flies, that we later learned were called midges, gladly populated calm and covered places too. And they like to invite their friends to the parties as well. We were covered in them. Literally. And those animals, they feed on insect repellents.

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Seals, Eagles and Tourists. We survived the rain and the bugs somewhat sane. We referred to our small book of hikes, and there was described a nice beach walk, going through a wildlife spotting area. We did not get to the hike, we got stuck to a small cabin with a nice man and binoculars. there were dozens of seals in the water, fishing. The man was also expecting a White Taled Sea Eagle to make an appearance. Allegedly there should have also been a lot of otters around.

We had a nice chat about the local wildlife and sheep herding with the man in the hut and witnessed immense joy when the eagle finally appeared, suddenly there was loads of people armed with binoculars and cameras with huge lenses. Apparently it was the event of the day. It was easy to spend half a day there, looking at the playful seals and the eagle. Finally we drove off to check out our new hoods. The coastal views of Skye are beautiful. The landscape there is rough and sharp, creating a strong contrast to the greenery and roundness of the hilltops.

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The Storm. It ended up being rather late when we finally got the idea of finding a place to stay. Tent was not really an option, since there was going to be winds up to 100 km/h passing by. We started searching for B&B’s. Very popular name for a B&B over there seems to be No Vacancies. It was getting late, and we passed more and more places that did not even answer the door. And the wind was picking up, so much that our car was feeling it too.

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We started to be desperate after returning to our car from yet another door. But all of a sudden, there was a car turning to the yard, a lady stepping out and asking if we were looking for a place to stay. She said that she might have something and ran away for a moment. When she returned, she was holding the keys for the tiniest hut you could imagine. It had a mattress, a kettle and electricity. She was even a bit ashamed to show it to us.

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That hut, it was more than we had dared to hope for. And it was cheap! I could have hugged the lady, she really did safe us from a horrible night. We slept comfortably, listening to the raging wind outside, at times it sounded like some of our hut was taking off. We did end up reserving the hut for a second night as well. If you are on the move in Isle of Skye I warmly recommend you to drive just a bit north from Uig and stop by the White Wave Adventure center. The people are wonderful there!

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The following day was windy and rainy and sunny and many things in between.

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We did not do too much hiking thanks to the weather. It was rather much nicer to stay inside the car and stop for photos every now and then. Though we did happen to pass by the Staffin Bay during low tide, so of course we needed to go search for the Dinosaur foot prints.

Ridges, Pools and Beaches. The next destination was The Fairy Pools at the Glen Brittle. The Pools are beautiful thing to see, as long as you can handle being surrounded by people. It really is amazing how much tourists come to those places.

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We quickly got off of the main trail and started to look for more breathing space up from the ridges surrounding the glen. The view is great from up there. You can see all the water glistening on the surrounding ground and there is nobody there. We went off trail, which is much more fun than staying on well walked paths.

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The ridge walk we topped off with a nice stroll around the coast, spotting some owls and finding some Polish company in a wild camping spot. We shared some whisky, traveling tips and jokes.

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Now there is a small pin on Poland in our “map of future travels”. We still need to get that map though.

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The coasts offered us plenty of fun for the next day. We went exploring old ruined villages on one of the peninsulas.

Those show really the power of sheep. Back in the day, they simply just threw people out of their homes, shipped them to Nova Scotia and herded sheep in the old village lands.

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The whole island breathes history. You can see the age of the mountains there, they really look prehistorical. That is confirmed by the dinosaur prints on the rocks of Staffin bay.


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Meeting Friends. We had planned to meet my Armenian friends from Finland who happened to be visiting Scotland at the same time. We picked a crossroads on the island to meet at.In the meanwhile we had found and tested a perfect camping spot at the seaside with no midgets and a lot of playing lambs and roadblocking cows.

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We were early at the point de rendezvous and Armenians were late. So we decided to climb up to a ridge while we waited. Ridges are something you get hooked to. And the valleys do look much nicer when you climb on top of them.

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We already had learned that the trails drawn on the map are not always the same thing as the trails in the real life. Especially suspicious it is when the trail in the map is a straight line. Since it is very common in Scotland to hike off trail, the trails on the map are often nonexistent. You just stand under the top you want to reach, and climb there. Simple. Or so you think until the first swamp you meet.

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The other part of the trailish thing is there.

Our friends arrived and we all drove back to our camping spot through a herd of cows having their lunch at the road and followed some sheep who were clearly singing “Vamos a la playa!” when they ran to the shoreline, after raiding an old cemetery.

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We had last seen the Armenians in February, right before I left from Finland. So there was some chatting to do. A lot had happened in both ends. We shared beers, food and a campfire in the sunset, looked at the sea and ran to the hills.

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I Can See Ben Nevis From Here! I had found a nice looking ridge walk for us climbing 3 mountaintops and hopefully showing us a nice overview of Skye. We had luck. The day was clear and sunny with no wind what so ever. We started on walking from the village Luib up the side of the Glas Bheinn Mhor. A humble little round hill.

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That was our first top on our climb towards Grabh Bheinn. The thing about that walk was that when ever you went up, you came back down at least half of the way before ascending to the next top. So we descended from Glas Bheinn Mhor, down in between it and the Belig, nice looking steep and green thing.

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In that shallow point came our first moment of thinking. There was no clear route up, only gravel and boulders. That took some map reading, route planning and high hopes. but we got up. None of us had no idea how to get down, but we were up. And the view. Clear skies allowed us to see far. Dozens of mountain tops, including Ben Nevis, and the sea all around us! The wind was still, and so was the sea, some small islands looked like they were floating in the sky. Beautiful.

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The Raven On Top. So we got our breaths back and started to figure out how to get down on the other side of the peak. The surface was steep and rocky and we were off trailing. We had no clue if we actually could get down that way or should we return to the at least as difficult descent behind us.  At this point it is good to mention that one of us has a fear of heights and a flu.

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We made our way down, sliding, scrambling and half running. We dropped down about 350 meters only to find a rocky and steep climb of bit more than 400 meters in front of us, to the peak of Grabh Bheinn.

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It was again a bit of a question mark whether or not we would be able to get up, not that there were too many options. So we set off, hands to the ground and scrambling. Circling boulders and trying to keep the correct direction, which is surprisingly difficult when you are ascending steeply and unable to have a decent overall view on where you are. We found the starting of the narrow, narrow ridge, narrow I’m telling you! And were happy there really was no wind, or mist or anything. Since the ground was falling over 200 meters on each side, right next to us.

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We were rewarded on the top of the mountain. The view, it continued to be unbelievable. And the feeling you get, when you have reached the goal you saw all the way from the starting point. The peak really was a peak; a tiny area where we all just fit on to. We enjoyed the sunshine, the view and some snacks before starting the final descent.

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Then we got a visitor. A raven passed by, noticed us and came to sit on a rock close to us. Curious thing he was, trying to figure out who we were and what on earth were we doing up there, in his domain. We had some bird friendly cookies that we started to crumble for the raven. We did manage to lure him closer and closer. Such a beautiful animal he was, as black as black can be, he clearly was disappointed when we started to leave.

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Whales, Napping. We left the raven and started looking for a way down. there was a big boulder in front of us and it was not clear on which side it was actually possible to get pass it. After a moment of careful map reading, narrow strips of land you could trust to step on and stones you could hug for extra support, we reached the steep ridge covered in gravel and stones. So it was again the matter of just sliding down. Looking back to where we came, I was quite proud of myself and Waffle and my friends.

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Look carefully, you’ll find the Armenians.

We finally got down, back to the road and started walking to the cars alongside the beach. We saw something moving on the water, and then a cloud of mist rising up. There were whales swimming around and a man filming a documentary about them. We went closer, got to know, that the whales were actually a part of the group that had stranded close by a few days earlier. They were sleeping and waiting for their family in a calm bay. What an ending they provided for the day!

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The Storr. We drove to the cliffs, close to Staffin and found a spot to throw out the tents and a bottle of whisky. I think we all slept quite nicely after such a day of walking. Next day, our last day, we were going to head for the Old Man of Storr.

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The must-see thing on the Isle of Skye. So there we were alongside all the other tourists. When we reached the Old Man the lighting decided to be almost perfect, the green color of the grass was beautiful and the sheep looked at their best. We planted ourselves for a lunch on top of a hill, looking at the stone. It was the last day on the island for Waffle and me. We did not really feel like returning home.

We said our goodbyes over a glass of beer, took a final look at the whales, who were still napping in the bay, and left the island. It was a long long drive. We stopped somewhere close to Carlisle for the night. And drove the next day the whole way down to Dover, through France and back home.

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What we noticed, was that 3 weeks is not enough to see Scotland; we will need to return, we miss the mountains. I would also drown you into our pictures from there; but that would not be smart. So if you want to see more of them just visit our Flickr.