Travelling 2,600 miles across Europe in a VW camper
Is there anything more appealing to a person of nomadic sensibilities, then a set of wheels, an open road and no fixed plans?
Search VanLife on Instagram and you'll find no shortage of useful travel pics But [UNKNOWN] images captured the reality of a road trip.
To find out wether [UNKNOWN] lives up to the hype, we took a 20 18 VW camper on an epic two week, 2600 miles road trip across Europe Heading first to Slovenia via Austria before dipping down into Croatia's [UNKNOWN] peninsula, popping up into the Italian [UNKNOWN], a meandering home to the UK via Bavaria, and Germany's [UNKNOWN] valley.
The journey was a steep learning curve, an unforgettable adventure, and never ending quest to find that perfect light.
Join us as we find out what it's really like to live the van life dream.
The first leg of driving was a big one.
an 800 mile 15 hour stint from London acrooss France into Germany and finally to Austria.
getting a huge chunk of miles out of the way at once
Gave us more time to spend later, cruising around the areas we were most keen to see.
So we would arrive to what I would say is our first stopping point of the day.
It's about 10 to 12, we started off at 4:00 this morning.
So it has been a long day.
But believe here is a place for toilet stop, and of course To fill the kettle up with some water so we can make a coffee.
Which means I ger to actually use the gas burners.
Which I find very very exciting to do in a car.
Step one was actually trying to get the thing hooked up, cuz I couldn't really figure it out, and I'm always a bit scared about using gas, incase.
Well, incase it explodes and I get covered in fire and all that.
But it has worked, we have got boiling water, I do have my Aeropress and a nice, fresh bag of coffee which means I get to make lovely, fresh, delicious coffee, in the outside, in the van, which
I find amazing.
CNET mug of course.
Having arrived at our first stop in the beautiful Austrian mountains, we hit our first snag.
What you doing Andy?
I'm filling the water tank of our van, which was empty.
And unfortunately we haven't been provided with the hose which would connect this tap to the van to allow us to fill it up in one easy movement.
So instead I had the, I think, genius idea of doing it about 50,000 times filling up the bottle.
Then just shoving it in the hole.
How many times have you done it so far?
I've totally lost count.
Is there any way of telling when it's full?
But I don't know how, there's probably a gauge somewhere.
With our water tank full, it was time for a much needed sleep, but even that wasn't problem free.
We had a good first night's sleep, the only problem is that we did find it a little interrupted by the car alarm going off.
Now it turned out that we Lock the car by pressing the lock button on the keys which we thought fair enough, that's gonna lock the car.
Turns out that also activates the alarm and there are motion sensors inside so as soon as we moved anywhere the alarm went off very loudly at night.
I don't imagine we were particularly popular but it turned out there's a button on the dashboard that you need to press which locks it but doesn't Activate the alarm, good lesson to learn.
So putting the roof down is fairly easy.
Cuz if we have a look up here, see, we've got the bed bit up on these rods.
So what do you call these, pistons?
I don't know, I'm not very technical.
Surprisingly for a tech journalist.
We pulled the bed down here.
Here we go.
See the sheets is all crumpled because it can't [INAUDIBLE] We make sure that these window panels are all closed, and then I move around to the driver seat and.
I find the keys.
I find the keys, the keys, they keys.
Katie, where are the keys?
I think they're back there.
Where your laptop is.
Here, hiding behind my camera, okay.
You do need the ignition on to do this.
So we'll go [NOISE] Okay, switch it on, and then up here we have this panel and it tell me, roof open.
I know it's open.
That's why I'm closing it.
Pop up roof.
Press and hold.
No, yes fine.
And this closes in.
knowing soft make different things one.
You let go and you done.
Then all we do because it obviously it still looks a little messy is to pull this across, tuck it in.
Tuck it in here, ready, all there, cool.
With the roof closed and our bodies full of bacon and coffee, we hit the road for a few hours of cruising through Austria and into Slovenia With the mountains and rolling countryside all around us, we were pretty sure we'd already found the photographic gold.
Every corner we turned and every village we passed through provided yet another stunning scene to take in.
As we plunged deeper into Slovenia, the views only became more dramatic.
I just found this old wooden rickety suspension bridge a sort of thing.
You'd expect to see in a bad film and the worst thing about it as well.
It actually wobbles and moves which is a little discomforting when you're crossing.
It is a lovely river.
A lovely bit of road here, but I didn't necessarily anticipate this.
I think I had enough of that now.
I'd like some solid ground please.
Well we've had the second night which means this is the second morning if that makes sense.
We had no alarm troubles thankfully because we actually knew how to lock the van properly.
As you can see it's sort of parked in this wooded bit of a campsite that we found in Slavonia.
The great thing is, how close we are to the lovely river which as you can see is clear and blue so you can't see [INAUDIBLE] is clear and quite void.
It's a gorgeous spot.
And [INAUDIBLE] we get to listen to the river all night.
And wake up, and make coffee.
And it's great.
The van's been super comfortable, as you can see we are plugged in the electric point over there, so that we can
I have the lights on, I'm charging devices, and the fridge has been on.
And we have the awning.
Sitting beneath the awning last night was really nice.
I see a hand waving.
But being river adjacent wasn't just good for relaxing.
Slovenia's So��a river is crystal clear and cuts its way through the stunning landscape making it a haven for watery thrill seekers.
Go on the head.
On the head?
The water was truly amazing, but once we dried off we had to make our way to Slovinia's famous Lake Bled.
So we're at Lake Bled now, whihc is one of the most Photograph spots in all of Slovenia probably the first image that will come up if you just Google Slovenia.
In fact I think this particular island with the church on it is one of the screen savers of the new Apple TV.
It's just a gorgeous spot photographed to death.
Problem is, is that we've come here and if we took a closer look, yes, completely covered in scaffolding.
Which does somewhat ruin the ambiance.
So we're shooting away anyway and trying to get some cool, nice looking shots from different areas around the lake.
And as you see, the light's great, got these beautiful clouds overhead.
It is marred somewhat by the church that looks a little gross right now, whether or not I decide to Photoshop Some of the scaffolding out later, I don't know, I might not be bothered.
But it is a little dissappointing.
But what do we do when the odds are against us?
Keep shooting anyway.
No, we go home and cry.
By this point we'd realized our kitchen suplies were slightly lacking.
We did pack many of the absolute essentials, on this trip.
Such as washing up liquid but neglected to bring any sponges because we're idiots.
So instead I'm using antibacterial surface wipe as a sponge.
I'm not entirely sure if that is healthy, but we haven't died yet.
So I'm going with it's fine.
Think we need a new system.
It's a great game, though.
Washing up done, we hit the road with a beautiful blue sky overhead.
We had a lot of ground to cover over the heart of Slovenia and as we drove further into the country the motorways and main roads gave way to single-track paths through forests, winding mountain passes flanked by cattle, and long sweeping ribbons of tarmac that gently curved across the pretty rural landscape.
Although the roads were narrow the van was still easy to maneuver.
It was comfortable to drive and because it's an automatic all we had to do was point it in the right direction and sit back and enjoy the ride.
Because we had our accommodation with us there was no rush to get to a hotel for a particular check in time.
That gave us the freedom to take a winding route over the next few days, cruising through the countryside, enjoying the slower pace as we picked our way through the hillside villages.
Our route took us through the charming town of [UNKNOWN], surrounded by picturesque vineyards to cruise through and with its tight, winding streets The father was classic of many of the towns and villages we passed through in Slovenia.
The hills were dotted with old villages, each of which provided plenty of opportunity to snap some nice photos, not to mention opportunities to stock up on farm fresh olive oil and wine.
We've arrived in Croatia now, in this small town, the name of which I forget.
But it is very similar to what I know of Tuscany in Italy.
Vineyards, rolling green hills, lovely old buildings.
It's a gorgeous little spot to explore.
And certainly this view is a shot that I really want to get.
The narrow streets of the old villages and the snaking hill roads weren't always easy cruising, but that didn't mean they weren't enjoyable.
These are really really fun driving roads.
These snake through the forests and over the hills and even when we got these really tight And it bends.
It's still super fun.
And I thought I really wouldn't like driving this because it's a big van and it weighs several tons.
Particularly, when we got all our gear in and the water tanks fuel and the fuel tanks full.
But it handles really really nicely.
It's the proper sport van.
And when you put your foot down you really go.
That is great.
It's so much fun.
And these roads are the best place to enjoy it, particularly when the sun's out.
And the sky is blue, and we're driving through Slovenia's wine region.
I'm hoping to pick up maybe a case, maybe a couple of cases.
Of the finest produce.>> Eventually, the road took us to the Croatian coastal town of Rovinj where we were met by a beautiful sunset.
Our time in Rovinj meant relaxing.
Instead of seeking out mountains to hike, we strolled, cycled and swam along the coast.
Enjoy the amazing food and wine and even made a new friend.
One of the cool things I do like havng in this van is one of it's drives I get to sit back here and approaches while it edits Work station, I've got the table up, and I'm backing up all my photos and videos so far to this WB MyPassport Wireless.
I'm pulling all the footage from my drone, from my various SD cards from my camera, from the GoPros.
Everything is being backed up at the moment.
I do get a little Little bit trouble.
Stick if I try and do too much, so I'm really not gonna do full edits right now.
But basically, just transferring all over the data so that I can keep on shooting when we get to the [UNKNOWN] Later today.
I think we've got about five hours of driving, four hours.
Probably about that, something like that.
I am fully belted in here, so obviously totally legal.
I'm being Safe, and so I'll get a nice view of this lorry and everything as we pass by.
So that's quite nice.
Our journey into the Dolomites in Italy signaled a sharp departure from the landscape we traveled through so far.
Jagged peaks and pine forests replaced the green fields, and the higher we climbed, the more narrow and winding the roads became.
We'd also said goodbye to the beautiful Croatian sunshine, and as we drove further into the peaks, the weather got worse.
We are well into Italy now, and we are climbing higher and higher into the Dollar Mines.
Now the weather is awful at the moment.
It's cloudy, it's gray, it's raining I personally think that this is what the mountains and the dolomites, this area, is how it looks best.
Everything looks super dramatic and moody, all the greens of this metered gray green Means the way that the clouds all hang around in like little strands and wisps through the trees.
I think it looks so cool, so cinematic and I would love to be out hiking and shooting.
The problem is, is that it is absolutely hammering down with rain and so we just kind of think, well.
Do we stop now, spend an hour hiking to get absolutely drenched, and then have to dry the stuff off?
Or hopefully just carry on and go?
We've only got 20 minutes until we're at our stop.
See what the weather does and then see if we can maybe go back out to some these locations, which saves a few
Map points on Google Map as we've been driving through just to make sure that we know exactly kind of where we want to go to if the weather picks up.
But it's one of the things that we are having to say, well, on one hand, it looks great.
And I think it looks better now than it would do with bright blue sky.
This empty blue sky.
This is so cool.
But I just cannot be bothered going out and getting absolutely soaking with rain.
As you can see, the weather is absolutely atrocious.
It is hammering down with rain.
It is definitely Raincoat time, probably won't be using the sun awning on the van but we are in the Dolomites and it looks great.
I love the clouds, I love the colors.
I love the whole moody dramatic atmosphere that this weather has brought What I don't like is that I get drenched and my gear gets drenched every time I leave the van.
So I am hoping that the rain stops, but maybe some of the clouds stays.
But eventually we made it into the heart of the mountains among the jagged peaks of the Dalomite.
So there's the Refugio Auronzo.
That's where we've just been [INAUDIBLE] to sort of get prepared and we're walking basically come around this path and it's all the way around there sort of and around this gap.
Here, to the other side.
So you see over here the weather is still [BLEEP].
So not entirely sure we're gonna get anything at all.
So I'm already planning on coming back for sunrise.
But even in [BLEEP] weather it's bloody dramatic.
And here's what you get with a bit of Patience and perseverance.
The sky's clear the sun opens up to caption these rocks and give us this gorgeous rainbow.
I don't know how to sprint up to try and find a good spot before the clouds come back.
But we've got some good stuff.
My patience in waiting for the clouds to pass really paid off with this amazing rainbow but by evening wasn't done yet.
So right now, as you can see, it's pretty much completely dark out here.
Over the mountains dark and back the way I came, pretty much completely dark But the refuge still has its lights on.
I'm seeing a little bit of light on the outside, which I think looks pretty cool.
You can't see it at all on this phone, of course.
But by using a longer shutter speed we can bring out a lot more of that light.
And, you probably can't tell very well here unless I do that, there's a lot of different colors in that sky, blues and pinks.
And the refuge itself has come out really nicely.
The mountains had put on a great display, but there was still more that we hoped to see.
You can see, obviously, very little due to the lights because it's dark.
It's actually almost midnight, and My alarm, sadly, is set for 3:30 AM, so that gives me, at best, three and a half hours sleep.
And that's if I fall asleep immediately, which I tend not to.
The reason is is because sunrise is at about 5:00 to 5:30 and wanna hike, there's about an hour's hike to a location that we wanna find.
So even if we leave at 3:30 we're getting there for about 4:30 to more like quarter to 5:00 and then we have to find like a good location and get ready for when sunset really kicks off.
So it's an early start.
But hopefully be back here by maybe eight, probably have a couple hours of sleep then, but it's definitely good night for now.
As you can vaguely see it is just starting to get a bit lighter, still need my head torch lighting the way ahead.
But it looks like the clouds are clearing a bit.
There's already some fair sky poking through.
So I think we could be in for an absolutely cracking sunset.
It's early, I haven't slept.
I don't remember which ones which.
I've been hiking for probably about an hour now, it's pretty tough going, cuz the altitude means it's quite tough to take proper breaths.
So now going very light, And I'm still not at the spot I want to be.
I'm getting a little nervous that it may have taken too long to get here.
As you can see, we've got some lovely light over there, and those guys themselves are just ready to be lit up.
Gotta carry on.
After a long hike, we were finally in position, waiting for that glorious sunrise to erupt and shroud the landscape in beautiful, golden light, except that it didn't.
There was no direction to this light, no contrast on the rocks, and no beautiful, golden hues.
Our shots were flat and dull, and not even a coffee in the mountain Rifugio Locatelli did much to help our moods.
But again, a bit of patience made all the difference, as it wasn't long before some direction to the light brought out great shadows and contrasts on the mountains, letting us capture more of the shots we really wanted.
Our hick back down in the daylight was certainly easier and a lot more enjoyable, as we really could soak in what has to be some of the most dramatic scenery found on the planet.
With more to be found further down.
So we've come to this absolutely gorgeous lake, as you can see.
Beautiful water, lovely colors.
There's gorgeous old boathouse here.
The trees in the background and the mountain here that's just catching the last of the evening light upon the tops there and we've got some lovely blue sky above it.
Now to capture this I've got my camera on the tripod.
I've got circular polarized from the top.
And I'm probably gonna be doing a blend of two exposures.
This one, which as you can see rather overexposed with a five second exposure.
There we go.
In order to get enough detail in the boathouse and trees, and then I'm going to do one, which is a little bit under at 1.6 seconds, that manual focus already on this, in order to make sure that we've got plenty of detail left in the sky.
On the mountains and then I'll blend the two of these together in Lightroom and Photoshop later.
Driving around the Dolomites meant more narrow paths, more winding roads, and a lot more beautiful view to take in.
It's where the freedom of having the van really became apparent.
Any road we wanted to take we could, and any time we wanted to stop to get some shots we could do that too.
Time wasn't a factor for us, and it made us feel like it was just us and the road.
As we hit the 2,000 mile mark on our trip, we came to our next photo stop, the [UNKNOWN] Magdalena Church, nestled in the Italian countryside.
We have made it up the windy roads to Santa-
Santa Madalaina is what it's called, and there's a very iconic church right here.
Basically, I wanted to wait for some really good light on it.
I'm gonna get pizza while we do so.
I've seen some really, really great shots of this place, so I knew I wanted to come, but one of the few things that I didn't really get from the photos is the fact that you're shooting from up against this electric fence.
This is one of the biggest wild snails I've seen [INAUDIBLE].
So as we're shooting the lights changing
The sun is going down towards the right of the scene and we're just seeing the last of the beams coming across the field illuminating the chapel and the trees around the base of the mountain leaving the sky all moody and dark and cool and it's just gonna look so nice when it's headed to
Our last stopping in Italy was the Alpe di Siusi, Europe's largest alpine meadow.
We hopped on the cable car to get the area and immediately hit the hiking trails that crisscrossed their way over the beautiful green valley.
I'm being normal.
While the dark clouds added some cool drama to the scene, the heavy rain followed meant it wasn't long before we returned to the van and fled across the border to the German region of Bavaria.
For the full two days to make it back to London, we went fully off piste, detouring by the vertiginous vineyards of the Riesling producing Mosel Valley, and past another castle worthy of a fable or two.
The tall, turreted, charmingly timbered Burg Eltz.
It's surprisingly hot in Germany at the moment, and we're in the wine region, so I'm fairly certain that after we're done this hike up to the castle and then back to the van, I'm going to try and drink all of the wine I can find, obviously once we've parked up and I'm not needing to drive anymore and also find some big German sausages
There's no innuendo you can possibly find there.
We'd become used to a meandering style of travel.
The VW California played its part perfectly.
It had been more than just a bed on wheels for us.
It represented a freedom to take our holiday and our lives in whatever direction we wanted.
Unencumbered by hotel check in time or bus schedules, we wound our war across Europe for almost 3,000 miles, detouring when we wanted, stopping to take in the views when we wanted.
If the weather sucked, we could simply drive on to make the best of our next location.
We made our way back into England on the Channel Tunnel from France.
And as we drove the final roads back to London, we both agreed it was exactly that flexibility that made this trip so enjoyable.
Not having to abide by anyone's timeframe but our own, made us masters of our own destiny.
And that's a feeling we won't soon forget.
And certainly we can't wait to take our next van life adventure.
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