Category Archives: Mountains

Lakes and Peaks-Euro Style!

At the end of the summer, I ventured off on my last road trip of the season, this time to visit the lakes and mountains of Italy that I hadn’t explored in the past and a revisit of the German Alps.  When I did my Italy country tour in 2014, I was too tired at the end  of the trip to properly visit the lakes region in northern Italy, so this was my first stop and I was not disappointed with the stories I heard of mountains spilling into beautiful lakes. 

Part 1- Italian Lakes and Mountains

Lake Orta

Lake Orta with the San Giulio island glowing at sunset.

 

San Giulio

A lone fisherman works in the early morning next to San Giulio Island.

 

Orta San Giulio

The town of Orta San Giulio with small alleys and a beautiful lakeside plaza.

 

The lakes region is comprised of several much larger lakes including Lake Maggiore and the famous Lake Como. While I visited these lakes, I didn’t get the same intimate feeling as I did at Lake Orta. I did however get to experience a very nice sunset at Lake Maggiore while camping for the night. This photo is un-retouched so you can imagine the intense colors. 

 

Maggiore

A glowing sunset on Lake Maggiore in Northern Italy

 

After a visit to Lake Como and Bellagio (beautiful town but too commercialized and crowded with tourists for my taste), I ventured on to the mountains of the Valle d’Aosta region and the Gran Paradiso National Park near Cogne, Italy. This is one of my favorite locations in Italy, right next to the French border behind Mont Blanc. It really is a great location for hiking and monumental views. 

 

Paradiso

A huge bolder sits beside a stream in Gran Paradiso National Park, Italy.

 

Sunrise

The morning light hits the mountains and glaciers in Gran Paradiso National Park, Cogne, Italy.

 

After a couple of days hiking in Gran Paradiso National Park, I still couldn’t leave Valle d’Aosta without a couple more stops. I went over to Gressoney, which was located in another small valley shooting off from the Aosta valley. 

Gressoney

A tranquil setting in Gressoney, Italy.

 

Gressoney

A castle near Gressoney, Italy appears to sprout out from the pine trees.

 

D'Aosta

A small village seems to be clinging to the mountainside in Valle D’Aosta, Italy.

Then it was time to head out and work my way to Hungary. I got this surprise in the morning after driving in to a camping area at night. 

Bleiburg

Steeples appear out of the trees near Bleiburg, Austria.

 

After spending 5 days in the lakes and mountains of Northern Italy, I raced off to Sopron Hungary for a weekend of running with some friends. Sopron was a very nice town and will be included in the future when I visit Hungary more extensively. Following this, I quickly stopped in Vienna and then off the Alps of Germany

 

Part 2-Bavarian Alps

Having lived in Munich for a couple of years when I was in college, I was familiar with Bavaria’s beautiful mountain region. I used to go skiing there and felt I needed to return to discover some sights I hadn’t seen before. The area has some striking mountain scenery and some famous locations as well.  First stop on my visit was to the town of Berchtesgaden. It was above this town that Hitler had a special mountain top home built as a gift from his staff. Being a fan of history, I wanted to visit this former home, now turned restaurant and visitor’s center. While it was beautiful, I constantly had the reminder of the evil that it contained. At least now it is being used for a more peaceful purpose in a beautiful setting. 

Berchtesgaden

Hitler’s mountaintop home called Eagle’s Nest near Berchtesgaden, Germany.

 

While it was interesting to see this famous house, I am always distracted by mountains and ended up doing a 1 hour hike above the home and discovered some beautiful mountain landscapes. 

 

Berchtesgaden

Some sharp mountain peaks above Eagle’s Nest in Berchtesgaden, Germany.

 

Berchtesgaden

A storm appears to be brewing in the clouds above the mountains.

 

After this quick visit to Berchtesgaden, it was off to my next stop, Germany’s highest mountain, Zugspitze, located near the town of Garmisch. It was here that I used to ski while in college in Munich so I was looking forward to some fond memories.

 

Garmisch

The endless mountain scenery above Garmisch, Germany.

 

Zugspitze

A panoramic view from the top of Zugspitze mountain.

 

For my final stop on this trip, I ended up meeting up with 25 other VW California owners for a weekend of camping and drinking champagne in the Champagne region of France. It was great to visit with these folks from several other countries, all with the same fondness for our VW’s and champagne!

 

VW

This photo (by another VW owner) shows our campground in the town of Valdieres, France.

 

Champagne

Champagne vines next to a plowed field appear surreal.

 

That wraps up this mini trip that I did in September. It was going to be longer but was cut short by one solid week of rain, which is not much fun when you are living in a van and running out of dry clothes. Overall, the trip ended up being almost 4,000 kms (2,485 miles) with lots of great scenery, delicious food and new friends. Now it’s time to work on 6 months of photos and start planning next year’s trips.

Happy Trails to all!

 

Trip

A Google Earth view of the route taken on this trip.

 

 

 

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Viva Espana!

Recently returned from a mini trip down to Spain (or Espana as they say!). I had a meeting with my running/drinking club (Hash House Harriers) in Madrid and decided to extend the trip and explore the Aragon region in the northern Spain Pyrenees. The trip started off and a good note with the first night in the old town of  Ainsa. It is located in the lower mountains of the Pyrenees while still having some great views of the bigger hills.

 

Ainsa

A view from Ainsa of a mountain range in the Pyrenees covered in clouds.

Because it is not prime tourist season yet, I was fortunate enough to be able to park (with about 20 other campers) just outside the village with spectacular views.  I continued on the next morning taking the scenic route and ending up with a stop in a gorge called Mirador del Rio Vero.  While the gorge looked like a beautiful hike, it was the vultures that were resting on a rock ledge that seemed to catch everyone’s attention. We were all waiting for one to fall asleep and fall off the ledge and then recover in a graceful flight. Didn’t happen but still fun to watch 🙂

Vulture

A volt of vultures resting up before heading out for the hunt.

It was then on down the road as I had to be in Madrid by that afternoon. Unfortunately….bad luck as my VW camper lost all power in the rolling hills outside of Zaragoza. I was able to get the VW restarted and carefully returned 70km to a Zaragoza VW dealer. It was not a good prognosis but on the positive side, the dealership was across the street from the train station, so I left the VW there and jumped a train for the weekend in Madrid. When I returned, I found after 5 days, they hand’t started any repair, so I got to spend 4 more days in Zaragoza. I was only planning to do a drive by of Zaragoza but it worked out much more than that….and I’m glad as I was able to discover this nice city with it’s cathedral, chapels and great food. The main cathedral, El Pillar, is a must see, both inside and out.

cathedral

The Basilica of our Lady of the Pillar stands majestically above the Ebro river.

After the car repair, it was a direct shot to the Pyrenees. The excitement started to mount as I began to see the snow covered peaks in the distance, with small villages sitting serenely in the foreground. My quest was finally being realized!

Binies

The little village of Binies, acting as a gateway into the Pyrenees.

I went to visit the town of Hecho, recommended by the guidebook, but I was not particularly taken by the setting so I went a bit further seeing a sign for a campground up the valley.  After driving about 5 miles up a windy mountain road, I found the campground….closed! So I kept on going another few miles until I came upon a clearing that was gorgeous. I did encounter a road block by some locals but quickly bypassed that!

sheep

Some local sheep owning the road. They were as curious as I was.

A little further up the road and I encountered more free range animals. In this case, it was a small group of horses with the adults wearing cow bells. This colt was very friendly and kept coming up to see what I was doing.

Colt

A friendly colt in the mountains above Hecho.

I proceeded to make a nice dinner and wait for the sunset which was going to be coming in fairly soon. It was well worth the wait as I saw some gorgeous cloud and light play on the mountain tops.

Hecho

The sun setting and clouds drifting on a Hecho mountain top.

From here it was on to my final destination which was Torla and the Ordesa y Monte Perdido national park. This was where the big mountains were, with hiking trails passing waterfalls and flowing rivers throughout. It really was a paradise and a place that I will return to often.  A definite holiday destination for me in the future.

Torla

The small town of Torla, the gateway to Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park

I ended up bypassing the national park and staying in Bujaruelo valley where there were numerous hiking trails and a great campground.

Bujaruelo

A river flows down the beautiful Bujaruelo valley.

Bujaruelo

A mountain range while hiking in the Bujaruelo valley.

 

Bujaruelo

A waterfall while hiking in the Bujaruelo valley.

 

Bujaruelo

A panoramic view of the Bujaruelo valley.

 

I ended my trip a couple of days early as thunderstorms and heavy rain came rolling in. The good thing is that this paradise is located only about 5 1/2 hours from my house so I will be able to return and explore much more. Highly recommend visiting this region if you like mountains, rivers and waterfalls! Happy trails and Viva Espana!

 

Also posted in Spain Tagged |