26th November - 8th December (Greece, Italy, Austria, Germany, Belgium, UK)
by Alex & Kathy
Our third and final continent was to be a brief affair. By now we had caught the scent of home, and were out of money. So we kept our visits brief, but were lucky enough to enjoy the hospitality of many friends and acquaintences along the way.
We absolutely nailed Greece, transiting the country in less than a day in time for an evening ferry to Italy. We had neither the cash nor the weather to do any justice to this part of the trip, but it was great to have a bit of a preview for any future travels in a place neither of us had spent much time.
Our first real stop, then, was Italy, having disembarked in Ancona. The era of paperwork was well and truly over, as no one was in the least bit interested in our Landi. Long live the EU. We had a fantastic drive through Umbria to Perugia, staying in a youth hostel I'd stayed in some years before. We sat in a bar with vino rosso, coffees, Guinness and free wi-fi and just marvelled at how all these things could exist under one roof.
Perugia is quite a fashionable hotspot in northern Italy, and with the cold weather we were forced to wear all of our clothes continually for days on end. Needless to say all 3 of us were feeling a little scruffy and out of place in beautiful Perugia. We'll be back wearing Armani...
Onwards to Rome, via some nice medieval towns on the way, and we had a luxurious 3 days at Alex's father's flat, eating, boozing and catching up. We also got to meet up with an old friend of Kathy's from university who had been living and working in Rome for 8 years. Good old belly laughs....
Italy was not exactly the most Landi-friendly country to drive in - as well it shouldn't be, given how old and beautiful the towns and streets are. But from Perugia to Rome to Verona we felt like an absolute GIANT on the road. Andi could gobble up 3 of those smart cars for breakfast. In Verona at one point we actually had to do a 3 point turn to do a 90 degree right turn. We took the hint and pushed on.
From Verona we crossed into Austria which was by far the coldest leg of the trip. Try driving through this in a leaky, drafty Landi!
From Austria we crossed into south western Germany, staying with the sister of a German neighbour from Mulanje, whom had some of our things in storage in their enormous barn. Although we had never met, they showed us such fantastic, warm hospitality. Apart from working during the day the couple run a 'bed and bike' station during the summer for people cycling along the Rhine. As they said the world comes to them every summer and their house is really wonderful. Recommended! www.radstation-meissenheim.de
Onwards and northwards to Frankfurt, where we caught up with friends who had previously been placed with GTZ also in Mulanje - Andi and his girlfriend Lisa and Christophe. We had a great 2 days trying local 'specialities' like hand cheese (!) and apple wine. Andi, we now know what the Musik is...
Andi the Landi was named after original German Andi (spelt with an 'i'), so it was an awesome reunion all round.
Lastly, but by no means least, we had an easy penultimate leg to Brussels to stay with my cousin Niamh and her husband Chris. I don't think I'll be able to describe the gastronomical treats that awaited us. For the first time in a long time on the morning of the 3rd day, and the last day of our trip, we felt anything but ready to leave!
It's amazing sometimes when you spend time wandering far flung places that you forget how much stuff there is right on your doorstep. We just can't wait for the next trip back to Europe - you couldn't cover it in a lifetime. It also provided handy training for life back in the UK. Alcohol tolerance was slightly improved to around 3 beers, holding a conversation with more than 1 other person, dairy reintroduced although not without difficulty, and on our final day we had been up past 11pm 4 days in a row.
Our final day was spent on motorways, ferries and in service stations. We had one last flurry of red tape, having to drive from Ramsgate to Dover in search of our final carnet stamp, but finally cruised into Peterborough late on the 8th. So the Landi hasn't quite made it to London soon, but it will, oh yes.
A massive thank you to all of you who hosted us on our last few legs. We finished our long trip home on such a high, and you must give us the chance to return the favour! Thank you also to all of you who supported the trip, in so many different ways - proper thank yous coming soon.
Over and out
Alex and Kathy