Fun, Fears, & Finances, Frolicking Fulltime for 18 Months Through Europe is a look into the Motorhome Lifestyle from a couple of Kiwi travellers. We hope that this account of our journey inspires you to visit some of the sights, attractions, and countries that we have had the pleasure of enjoying. We are lucky that Alan’s Irish passport allows me, as his wife, free right of movement throughout Europe including the Schengen zone.
Throughout this blog when you see orange text that indicates more information. To access this, just click on the coloured text and a new window will open and you can read further on that particular subject.
Number of Countries and Capital Cities
We’ve visited 23 countries in 18 months, 14 of these included visiting the capital city. Here’s an alphabetical list of those countries.
Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, San Marino, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and lastly the Vatican City.
Capital Cities included Tirana, Andorra la Vella, Vienna, Zagreb, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Paris, Athens, Rome, Amsterdam, Oslo, San Marino, Stockholm, and again the Vatican City.
Below is the map of our 281 stopping points over the past 18 months. To look at photos or receive the GPS coordinates, just click on the marker. The different colours are for the different years, 2017 in blue and 2018 in red.
Russia (although we only visited St Petersburg and then by ferry, leaving Betsy behind in Helsinki). Russia’s size is 3,972,400 sq km making this the latest country, not just in Europe, but in the world, with a population of 144.5M!
The Vatican City is the smallest country in Europe (as well as the world) with 110 acres or 0.44km2, which lies within the city of Rome and has just 840 residents.
Without a doubt it has to be the snowstorm we found ourselves in while driving through the mountains of Norway. We were enjoying glorious sunshine in the morning, but by later that day it all turned to custard (or snow, actually). To share our horror and relief when we escaped, have a read of our blog here.
We had to shy away from picking just one top spot because there are so many interesting, beautiful and varied places to see throughout Europe. Choosing just four still seems
#1 St Petersburg – for the architecture, food, and unique culture.
#2 Istanbul – for the vibrancy and interesting city life, the friendliest people ever, and the unique buildings, eg mosques.
#3 Norway – for the simply stunning scenery, which of course includes viewing of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights).
#4 Greece, nice feeling of freedom, great history, diverse culture and stunning landscapes.
We have visited umpteen museums as you do when travelling and at one point I am ashamed to say that I felt a bit ‘museumed’ out. (Is that even a word?)
#1 Vasa Museum in Stockholm, Sweden. This museum has just one ship, the Vasa, which was built in the 17th century and had a short life at sea of about 20 minutes before she sank. She wasn’t re-discovered until the
#2 Nobel Museum in Stockholm. Just a small museum but packed with the stories and memorabilia of lots of interesting people including
#3 ABBA from Sweden, again in Stockholm. This was nostalgic because it’s music I grew up with and felt I knew these singers pretty well. The museum is about them all individually, their life, how they came together, their successful music career and their life struggles. It’s a very real and moving account and worthy of a visit.
Stockholm was the city of museums, as you can see above. There are fifty-three museums in Stockholm alone!
#4 The Holocaust Museum in Norway provides a real sense of true stories from wartime and
#5 The Renaissance Museum in Oslo also is worthy of visiting.
I could probably write an entire book on Churches and Cathedrals of Europe
#1 Monreale is my pick of the most beautiful church. It’s situated just on the outskirts of Palermo, Sicily, Italy and really must be seen to be believed. The time, effort, expense, and creativity of this church left us speechless. It is one of those places where no matter how many photos you see, they can’t do this justice. If you are in the area please don’t miss the opportunity to be wowed.
#2 Milan Cathedral – from the outside this cathedral is stunning, but head inside and it continues in that vein. This church took 600 years to build, possibly by several generations who dedicated their life work to this beautiful building.
#3 Erice – There are several cathedrals and churches in Erice and all are worthy of a visit. For more information here’s our blog.
#4 The Sanctuary of Vicoforte in Northern Italy is worthy of a mention and a wee look too.
Cathedrals To Wow You
Wild Camping Number of Nights
In the past six months, we have used camping grounds 15 nights (8% of the total nights), camper parking 5 nights (3% of the total), and 162 nights free camping which represents 89% of our sleeping places.
Over the past 18 months (547 nights) we have stayed at 281 different stopping point, and of these 49 (9%) were at camping grounds, 54 at camper parking (10%) and 444 or 81% were FREE camping, thanks primarily to Park4Night.
The only reason we stayed at camping grounds typically is due to family or friends, country regulations (Croatia), safety (Turkey), and requiring EHU (electrical hook up) for electricity (Norway).
We have been fortunate to encounter no problems during our free camping and in fact we have a routine that we follow to ensure the maximum safety for us and Betsy. If you want to know our method then read our blog on how to safely and successfully wild camp by clicking here.
When analysing the costs over the past six months I looked back on the previous twelve month period to see how we compared. Given we travelled from July to November 2018 in the Scandinavian countries, including seven weeks in the notoriously expensive country of Norway, I was expecting the costs to be somewhat significantly higher. What I found instead was that the past six months came in just marginally higher on a per week basis, ie €403 per week, compared with €394 per week in the previous twelve month period. It may have helped that we did stock up on groceries, wine and beer in Germany before heading further north, something I highly recommend if you are heading into Scandinavia.
For an entire account including a breakdown of our costs over the past 18 months, click here.
Motorhome Running Costs (aka Betsy juice)
For all you petrol heads out there (or should that be diesel heads?) who want to know about Betsy’s juice,
Betsy is built on a Renault Master base and sports a 2.3 litre 130bhp diesel engine. We think that getting close to 27 mpg dragging 3.5 tonnes around Europe isn’t too bad. If you want to see more about Betsy, how we came to have her, and all the extra bits that make her a wee bit special, then click here.
Best Gadgets for Motorhomes
As times goes by, there are more things we discover we ‘need’ to make life easier. One of these has been a window vacuum for the condensation issues from the colder countries. This has become Alan’s all-time favourite gadget.
Next, I’d like to introduce you to Jenni. She is my best friend and has saved us quite a bit of money on camping grounds and saved Alan stressful periods glued to the battery readout. (Ladies, do your husbands do this too?)
You see, we discovered that in Norway the sun hardly rises above the horizon in the autumn time which means it doesn’t get high enough to effectively charge the batteries from our solar panels. Therefore, it doesn’t take long before this power hungry couple runs out of power. We knew that our batteries were not holding
We love to cook, hence our name Travel Cook Eat, and without an oven, cooking a variety of foods becomes challenging. Therefore we purchased an Omnia oven, which you’ve probably heard us talk about before, but now there’s a review of this baby and you can read all about it here. Or if you are in need of some inspiration or would just like some new recipes, please see some of our favourites here.
We have recently invested in the Tyrepal TPMS (Tyre Pressure Monitoring System), which has individual sensors on each wheel sending the tyre pressures to a small display on the dashboard. This will alert us if any of our tyres develop a leak, which is important because we don’t carry a spare wheel.
Without a doubt this would have to be the little French village of Oradour-Sur-Glane. On 10 June
History is everywhere you look in Europe, and this is especially apparent to us when we reflect on how young New Zealand is. November 11 2018 signified the 100 year anniversary of the end of World War One. Throughout Belgium and
At school I didn’t take history as a subject, however actually being here and seeing the places that history talks about has changed my perspective. So I’ve devoured as much information as I can to finally learn what really happened, thereby coming to realise that history is an important subject. Better late than never, eh?
#1 When staying with Paul in the Netherlands we went for a cycle to an oyster processor and scoffed oysters and chardonnay in the late summer sun overlooking the two varieties of oysters that were being cleaned and prepared for sale. The reason this was so special is that Oysters and Chardonnay are two of my favourites.
#2 We paid homage to those fallen soldiers of the First World War at a ceremony of the Last Post played
#3 Not long before heading to Europe I was told about my great uncle Bert from the small town of Te Aroha, who came to fight in WWI alongside his brother. Sadly Bert didn’t make it home and we visited his memorial where his name is engraved on the New Zealand Memorial wall at Buttes New British Cemetery outside Zonnebecke. Sadly his body was never recovered so he doesn’t have a grave.
Everyone said it was easy to catch fish in Norway, so being keen fisherpeople we decided to give it a go. We headed out on a small boat and learnt how to use the traditional hand lines. Alan caught the first fish, followed by me catching a small
This time, Alan couldn’t claim his baiting skills were responsible for me catching a bigger fish than him, because we didn’t use bait!
Unusual Local Foods Eaten
Horse – in Italy (dried). It tastes like any other red meat that’s dried, like beef jerky.
Reindeer in Finland. While in Lapland we partook in Reindeer cooked three different ways. Sauteed and simmered with sliced Reindeer roast, lingonberries, pickled cucumber and buttery mashed potatoes. Then sliced Reindeer sirloin, and slow-cooked Reindeer neck with creamy juniper berry sauce, cranberry jelly, local root vegetables and game potatoes breaded with rye. Dining in a restaurant allows one to taste this meat cooked properly, and our preferred option was by far slow-cooked. While it might sound unusual, the meat was lovely and there was nothing I could think to relate it to, or how to describe the taste.
Elk in Norway at a truck stop. Not exactly the place you expect to try exotic meats, but there you have it and it was tasty enough, served with cranberry sauce, boiled whole potatoes and crunchy vegetables. Alan’s meal was another traditional treat, bacon with a creamy cabbage and potato mix. Wasn’t really my cuppa tea but it was tasty enough. We can’t remember the name, so if you know it, please send us a message below. Thanks.
Wild Moose in Sweden while staying with friends. The Swedish Government allows one moose and one calf to be shot per year per 1,000 hectares in order to regulate the numbers. For our friends who cooked and served us the
Don’t freak out when I tell you about the most unusual food we tried in Norway. I am already feeling a little defensive when writing this but stay with me. The meat, again tried in a restaurant, was Whale! I know, I know, it sounds like I’m supporting an industry that is reviled around the world. However, keep reading for more education about this dish before judging.
The whale was served lightly fried (meaning almost raw) with mushroom stew (aka sauce), fried vegetables, red onions and potatoes. My first impression of whale meat was that it reminded me of
I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat it again and by comparison, Elk and Reindeer were much tastier. Overall I was happy to experience just once in my lifetime.
Now here’s the thing about eating whale in Norway. The Minke Whale, which is native to Norwegian waters, is not endangered, the catch is very strictly regulated and the is 100% sustainable. The industry is far smaller than historical levels, largely due to the relatively low demand but whaling seems more a cultural thing for the people than just a source of protein.
The Norwegian Government recently ran a promotion of whale meat as a fine dining experience. It was a complete failure. Younger, environmentally conscious people struggled with the whale meat concept and now all government funding has ceased. It will gradually die out over time.
A local ex-fisherman we spoke with said the economics of whaling are poor, people have stopped eating the meat and therefore less and
What Took Our Breath Away
Most Beautiful Scenery
The Åland Islands. This archipelago of 6,500 named and 20,000 unnamed islands
We couldn’t go past the simply sublime scenery of Norway. Not only were we blessed with fine weather,
Sometimes the best way to show the beauty of a country is with video. Take a look at these two videos of the stunning scenery in Norway and let us know what you think.
People We’ve Met
One can’t help but meet people along the journey and we consider ourselves very fortunate to meet some of the loveliest travellers around. Some of them have even invited us to stay with them as we passed through their home countries on our travels. Let me introduce you to the people we’ve met. The place name in the box is where we met for the first time.
If we’ve met you and you can’t find your photo here, please email me at [email protected] and include details of where we met and a photo. Thanks.
Hover over the text for the right arrow to appear, then scroll through to see our friends. These appear in the order we met people.
Vojo & Susi
Mr & Mrs Emichetti & Ettore
Jan & Marja
Pip & Ross
Mesut is the owner of the Boomerang Cafe in Eceabat, not far from Gallipoli. If you are in the area stop by and have a drink with him. He has memorabilia from Australia and NZ, although not enough from NZ, hence the tea towel we gave him taking pride of place in the middle of his cafe.
Tommy & Zoe
We first met this cool couple, Tommy & Zoe, in Istanbul, Turkey in November 2017, then again recently in Spain. Tommy is from Ireland and Zoe from the Canarias Islands. Here we are celebrating Tommy’s birthday with a shop bought
Dan & Cornelia
Vaggelis showed Alan how to fish in the Greek waters of Nea Peramos in December 2018. Afterwards, he took us and the fish to the local nearby Taverna where it was cooked and served to us, yum.
Jordan and Alex
Dorel, Oana, Ciprian & Irina
Mitch & Sue
Katherine & James
Helena & Harkin
Michelle & Tim
Ulla & Bodo
The Family Again!
Lisbeth, Christian, Mikkel & Bertram
Lisbeth is my oldest friend (since 15 years old) and it was wonderful meeting her family again in Denmark where I celebrated and was spoilt on my birthday in July 2018. We then went camping together for a week in Skagen.
Mette & Polle
I’ve known Mette since I was 20 years, and it was great meeting her husband Polle for the first time (and she got to meet my husband, Alan).
Vladimir was our friendly guide in St Petersburg, Russia. He was uber knowledgable about his city and gave us an insight into what it was like growing up in the Soviet regime. If you need a guide I’d be happy to connect you.
Grethe & Villy
Wilfried & Lisbeth
The very talented Wilfried (artist) and Lisbeth (people person) graced us with their fun, laughter, and project (www.face-europe.eu). Here Wilfried is painting Alan while Lisbeth interviews him about his life. If you want to be part of this project, please contact them through their website above.
Or Pin yourself for later.