Saturday, 30 August 2008

a less adventurous adventure?

Despite having already visited five countries in 3 weeks (6 if you count the five minutes we were in France) this leg of our Grand European tour feels distinctly less adventurous than our last. This may be for purely superficial reasons - we're used to being on the road now and the novelty of living in a campervan has worn off, while for my part I have been to all five of these countries - Belgium, Luxembourg, The Nertherlands, Germany and Denmark - before. However I think the reasons are more cultural.

Northern Europe simply is not different enough to feel as much as adventure as, say, traveling through Thailand would (though we're guessing here as neither of us have been to Asia). The towns and cities, while beautiful, new and exciting are not alien to us despite the little differences: indeed Ribe in Denmark reminded me strongly of my home town of Cirencester, except with a Viking Museum instead of a Roman one. For all the intricate canal systems, decorous Rathauses and ancient city fortifications we have seen little that we cannot relate back to our English experience, unlike the tiled houses of Portugal, the relics of Moorish Spain or the Roman ruins in Italy and France. The landscapes we have driven through haven't evoked for us a way of life all that different from our own, pretty as there are. In the south there were countless times, in France, Spain and Portugal, when the surrounding countryside and vegetation reminded me strongly of African vistas, while the lack of traffic on the roads (unlike the busy North) increased the sensation of other-worldliness and exploration.

Plus, we have to admit, we're being totally spoiled up here in North Western Europe. We don't just mean Fran and Henning's wonderful hospitality at their flat in Kiel, but in general. Campsites have been cheaper and yet better equipped: showers hot and strong, camp kitchens available for use, and toilet seats and loo paper a given. None of these was guaranteed at campsites further south, even those in Italy and France. Linguistically we've been having no problems either, for even though we speak even less Danish, Dutch and Flemish than we do Spanish and Italian (that's to say none at all) EVERYONE speaks English. We've hardly had to try at all to get by.

So, basically, while we're having a wonderful time and have been to some brilliant places we're not feeling like we're being particularly adventurous at the moment. We're hardly heading up the Inca Trail or even crossing the Carpathians. Still, we'll be in Poland soon. And after that Slovakia and Hungary; if being vegetarian in Hungary isn't an adventure I don't know what is.

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