***This post was meant to have images with it. However I've had some computer problems and am working on getting all our photos available again....so don't worry....they are coming.****
So it begins. Finally the eurotrip leg of the European experience starts. Lauren and I have started our long drive around Europe. In our trusty Renault Kangoo. It's a small van, we don't really haven anything in Canada like it, maybe a Honda Element is the closest to the shape and size. We spent some time in Berlin with Bernd and Urusla getting it all set up and purchased. They were a huge help and I don't think w could have done it as quickly or at all without them.
The back seat was taken out and Bernd turned my paper drawing into a physical wooden dream. He's a carpenter and loves doing this work. He seemed so excited by the project, that I managed to hold a power tool once during the whole build process. We have two benches running along each side of the van, with space for storage bins underneath. Then a piece of wood that we can use for a table, is placed between the benches and creates a platform for our bed. We picked up all our needs from IKEA, including the foam we us for the bench seats and eventually our mattress. We also hit up some second hands stores in Eindhoven for our pots, pans and kitchenware. It even has space for both our bikes up the middle, but, ideally if we had more set up time and money, we'd put a bike rack on top or back.
We named her Dot, because of a movie that Lauren remembers as a child called Dot and the Kangaroo. The Kangaroo in our adventure is a plush one that sits on our dash. It was a going away present from Laurens food delivery job in Eindhoven. It sits there holding an old German mark in its pouch which we use to make decisions when we can't agree on something..... It's been used a lot. Kidding. She found the Old German mark while doing the most extreme clean on a vehicle ever.
So we set off on Sunday July 10th at 11am. We had planned on trying to get away a little earlier, but Bernd and I had to trouble shoot an electrical issue with the windows. I was able to put the passenger window down, but not up. And I could put my window up, but not down. Any ways, we cleaned some contacts and pulled the door apart, and it worked, so with the ability to put the windows down and up In our non- air conditioned ride, we said our goodbyes to our amazing German hosts and set off.
We headed south towards Oderwitz, where Lauren's family was waiting for us. We had made plans to meet up with them for a short visit. We arrived at 15:00 and were greeted by an awaiting afternoon coffee in the garden by, Altrud (Laurens moms Cousin), Gunther(Altruds husband), Gunar (Son), Steffie (Gunars Partner), Berit,(Altruds Daughter), Ingrid (Altruds Daughter), Dirk (Ingrids Husband) and Lucas (Dirk and Ingrid's 4 yr old Son), plus one more that Ingrid is expecting.
We sat and had some coffee and pastries that Altrud made using cherries and berries from her property. It was a really nice and relaxing visit. We then climbed onto the roof and proceeded to pick and eat cherries for another 30 minutes. Lucas and Altrud even climbed the ladder to join, in fact they climbed it faster and with more confidence than Lauren and I did. Altrud then took us on a tour of her garden and made us envious of her green thumb. She had everything you could think of, tomatoes, peas, zucchini, gerkins, cucumber and peppers to name a few. Gunar then insisted on giving us his TomTom gps unit to use throu Europe. Since we was planing on visiting Canada in September, we could give it back to him then. Since we couldn't refuse, and decided it may come in handy, we accepted our new toy and started back on the road towards Prague. The plan was to get there early enough to watch the EuroCup finals in a bar and drink some Czech beer. Before we left, Lucas gave us a couple presents, a pine cone and a snail shell. We returned the favour with a couple of Paper cranes my mom had sent us while we were in Eindhoven. We had 4 of them hanging from the mirror, so decided to part with 2 and let Lucas hang them in his room.
The country side reminded me of northern Ontario. We finally arrived in Praha (Prague for all the North Americans) just as the kick off started. It took us a little while to. Find a parking spot and ride to a suitable bar, but we had a beer in hand as the second half started. Pilsner Urquell never tasted so nice. We had a few of those and watched Portagul win the cup. We then rode back to our urban camp spot in a very nice part of town. It was our first stealth camp night and went quite well. The area was nice, well lit and was free parking because it was Sunday. It was however hot, and since we were in the city we couldn't leave the back hatch open. Needless to say, the van was a little warm.....quite hot actually... I managed ok, however, Lauren was having some issues. The warmth, combined with the first night within the confined sleeping quarters (she's not a fan of closed, confined spaces) caused her to not sleep well. She switched positions, changed her head position from one end of the bed to the other for a better breeze and gradually stripped down. My fondest memory of the sleep was waking up in to a full moon in Prague. Not the kind that hangs in the sky, but Laurens bum meer inches from my face. She seemed so comfortable, so I let her sleep.
That was only day one.... Of our 40+ day adventure..... More to come.