2018 Zomervakantie

In August 2018, our family took a two week driving holiday from our home in The Hague, the Netherlands, to Lake Garda, Italy – via Austria and Germany. You can follow along here:

2018 Zomervakantie Days 13 and 14 driving home

This is post is part of our 2018 Zomervakantie – for an overview of the whole two weeks, visit: https://dutchaustralian.com/2018/08/15/2018-zomervakantie/

The original plan was to take our time driving home and spend a few days along the way in Ulm and Heidelberg.  However after a week camping, I was really keen to get home and the family agreed.

The scenery along the way was lovely for parts of the trip. We also slept quite a lot. Luckily my husband likes driving.

We spent a night in Ulm on Monday 13 August. My husband planned to set the alarm at 6am, however it was only 3am when he did wake us.  He had been having trouble sleeping and decided it was best to just leave.  The girls and I thought it was great to nap in the car and make progress.

We arrived home in the late afternoon and were happy to be home! Lots to unpack…

For the full photo album driving home: https://photos.app.goo.gl/GQjTiF1JMfrGEUWbA

2018 Zomervakantie Day 12 – Lazise

This is post is part of our 2018 Zomervakantie – for an overview of the whole two weeks, visit: https://dutchaustralian.com/2018/08/15/2018-zomervakantie/

We visited the beautiful town of Lazise, only about 15 minutes away from our campsite. With it’s impressive medieval gate and castle, it’s a lovely place to wander for a while.

It’s a port town, on the water, so we watched the ferries come and go:

For more information: https://www.laelazise.it/?lang=en and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lazise

Impressed by the huge flowers:

Hot day again, so gelato was a must…

Discovered a lovely shop with beautiful bright ceramics: Garda Ceramiche

Loved their lemon bowls and plates, bought a small one to bring home.

Image: Garda Ceramiche

Back to the campsite for the girls to have a swim, and I watched a beautiful sunset at the lake:

For all our Lazise photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/rcvqJJGZeCU2a8Eq9

2018 Zomervakantie Day 11 – Medieval Dinner

This is post is part of our 2018 Zomervakantie – for an overview of the whole two weeks, visit: https://dutchaustralian.com/2018/08/15/2018-zomervakantie/

We spent the day at the campsite and near the lake.

There were some markets to browse as well.

The girls and their cousins had fun on a rental peddleboat:

In the evening, we walked about 1km to the Medieval Times restaurant:

Their promo video:

It was fairly cheesy but fun. Hard to hear anything over the absolutely ear-splitting noise of people bashing their metal plates on the table for most of the evening.

Also a bit hard to see much from where we were sitting up near the back.

Food was quite good – a lot of it though – a whole chicken per person and I was so sad to see all the food waste. We asked for a bag to take our leftovers home.

Overall still a fun experience.

For the rest of our Day 11 photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/FV8jTcUz8vHACBXx6

2018 Zomervakantie Day 10 – Verona and Gardaland

This is post is part of our 2018 Zomervakantie – for an overview of the whole two weeks, visit: https://dutchaustralian.com/2018/08/15/2018-zomervakantie/

On day 10 of our summer holiday, our girls stayed with their cousins and their family at the campground while my husband and I took a city trip to nearby Verona.  If you read my earlier post, you’ll understand why I was keen to get away from the campground!

Parking was quite easy and affordable and from there, it was a short and picturesque walk into the city centre.

It seems that the Verona Arena hosts some pretty spectacular events, including an annual world-famous opera, and they were in the process of bringing in props for an upcoming performance.

We explored the city for a while.

Of course no visit to Verona is complete without the Juliet statue.

In the evening, we went to Gardaland Themepark. They had a special evening entry price. In the middle of a hot summer, it was a good idea to go in the cool of the evening too.

I’m not personally a bit theme park fan but the girls had a great time. I discovered the shows and enjoyed these. An Italian version of Broadway was quite interesting!

The 5 elements show and the Pirates show were also both fun.

Tip: if you come by car, make sure you don’t wait right until closing time to leave. We left a little early as I wasn’t feeling too well, and were back at the campsite within about 10 minutes. Our relatives stayed on – and were stuck in the traffic to leave for an hour.

For the rest of our photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/FthCCbrrZr1zp94Y9

2018 Zomervakantie day 9 – Sirmione

At first we had planned to take a boat from Lazise to Sirmione but as I’d been feeling unwell, we thought the car would offer us more flexibility.  We didn’t even make it very close to the centre when we were redirected by traffic police.  Soon, we realised why – Sirmione is located on a narrow peninsula jutting into Lake Garda, and traffic is an absolute nightmare.  From where we parked, it was about a 1km walk in the heat, but at least we were moving instead of sitting in the traffic jam that many cars and busses were stuck in.

It was worth the visit though, very beautiful.


Photo album: https://photos.app.goo.gl/t88VSnBcBrcszqA46

2018 Zomervakantie Day 8 – Lake Garda

This is post is part of our 2018 Zomervakantie – for an overview of the whole two weeks, visit: https://dutchaustralian.com/2018/08/15/2018-zomervakantie/

Today we stayed at the Campground, Camping Lido. The girls love the pool. I read a book. Really, really hot. Must hit 40 in the daytime in the tent. We have a small fan but it doesn’t do much.

Looked into some day trips (though didn’t end up taking any).

The girls were excited when their cousins to arrived – my husband’s sister and his family are also camping here. They were lucky to get a quieter, shadier spot!

Had a BBQ for dinner

Watched sunset at the lake:

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2018 Zomervakantie Day 7 – Parco delle Cascate waterfalls

This is post is part of our 2018 Zomervakantie – for an overview of the whole two weeks, visit: https://dutchaustralian.com/2018/08/15/2018-zomervakantie/

Parco delle Cascate

We took a trip to Molina, a medieval village, and a lovely walk to the waterfalls. Especially on a hot day, it was a great way to spend a few hours. It was about a 45 minute drive, much of the last part was very narrow windy roads, but with lovely views.

Entry to the park was 6 euros for an adult and 4 euros for a child. There is a small shop with ice creams, and reasonable toilet facilities.

The girls enjoyed finding beautiful stones along the way.

Some looked like flint – and then we found an interesting example of how humans lived in prehistoric times, enhancing a natural cave with animal skins – perhaps they even used some of these very stones.

Walking trails were well maintained, and some places had information signs in Italian, English and German.

The waterfalls themselves were lovely. Popular but not too crowded. One even had a swing, though there was a long queue.

It was a pretty but hot walk back from the waterfalls to the village:

So we rewarded ourselves with some tasty Italian gelato!

High recommend! On to day 8…

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2018 Zomervakantie – Days 6 to 12 Lake Garda Dutch camping

This is post is part of our 2018 Zomervakantie – for an overview of the whole two weeks, visit: https://dutchaustralian.com/2018/08/15/2018-zomervakantie/

We left the Austrian Alps in the morning on day 6 of our Zomervakantie and headed for Italy.  Around 11am, we arrived at Camping Lido, situated on Lake Garda, Italy.  My husband had booked a “camping”, which is a very popular type of holiday for Dutchies.  What I didn’t realise, and was actually quite shocked by, was the number of Dutch people we would be surrounded with. Playing Dutch music and eating Dutch food. Not that I have anything against the Dutch.  It’s not what I expected though in Italy.

The first thing I noticed when we arrived was the heat.  As soon as we stepped out of the air-conditioned car, it was hot and humid.  We knew it would be hot at that time of year, but this was actually quite hard to take, even as a Queenslander!  The next, was the noise.  It was a crowded campsite, with music absolutely blaring from the pool.  I soon learned that this would become the “new normal” for the week, with both the heat and noise being at very high levels from about 10am-11pm every. single. day.

Though I have been inducted into the Dutch holiday village type holiday by my husband in the past, where until now, we’d booked a cabin or cottage, this was my first time in a “rent-a-tent”.  In peak season, cabins in Italy were just beyond our budget and I thought I could cope ok with camping.  I was wrong.

I’m writing this blog post some time afterwards, where I’ve had time to think it though and process it all.  Let’s just say it’s my first and last time spending a week at a “Dutch camping”.  After absolutely hating it, I’ve had to completely reassess my own expectations of a holiday.  I THOUGHT I didn’t mind camping, that I was quite a social person and didn’t mind a bit of noise.  However after even just the first night at this campsite, I was looking at flights out of there.  I stayed though, and learned more about myself and the Dutch camping experience.

I’ve since had many conversations with “both sides of the Dutch camping scale” – and possibly will receive more comments on this post too.  For the camping fans, they seem to love the “gezelligheid” and say it’s great for the kids.  Here’s my take on those two.

Camping and Gezelligheid

I truly did my best to see this side as well, and yes, it was nice to meet a few other people and there is a level of “camaraderie” when camping.  However, my experience was that many of the people staying there had limited consideration for other campers.  I know some was beyond their control – screaming babies and very, very loud snorers are unavoidable I guess.  The chain smoking, barking dogs, late night talking and loud Dutch music was something perhaps more controllable.  That was another of my main issues.  Why drive 12 hours to Italy, to then consciously surround yourself with all things Dutch?  Tents were REALLY close together and my husband admitted that after a lifetime of camping since he was a kid, this campsite was one of the noisiest he’d stayed at.  Moving to a “quieter” spot was not an option, it was fully booked and we were restricted to the “area” we prepaid.  Different areas of the campsite are owned/run by different – mostly Dutch – companies.  Like I said, I thought I was social but I’ve come to realise that I really, really need a good night’s sleep and some time on my own each day to be able to be that.  Beyond the other campers, the fact the campsite themselves charge a small fortune to “sleep” there (130 euros a night for a rent a tent in peak season), but then blast booming music every night until 11pm ruined the week for me.  I’m all for gezelligheid but I also really value at least bit of my own space and air and a decent sleep each day.  After a week’s camping there, going back to my own bedroom was just bliss.

Kids and Camping

In terms of the kids (aged 9 & 11) – yes, they had fun.  It was great to see them running off to the pool with their cousins as we met my husband’s sister and her family there.  I still struggle sometimes with the degree of freedom that is generally given to Dutch kids but as I hate swimming and the pool, I wasn’t going to spend the day hanging out there watching them.  This worry did add to my stress, but there were at least lifeguards on duty and the girls quickly made friends. And, can you believe, we ran into old classmates of both girls – from the Netherlands, staying in the same campground in Italy!  My concern for the kids though is that is was just constant, constant, constant activity and noise.  Between the pool, slippery slides and the “animatie” (kids shows) and other music/shows through until 11pm every night, they rarely got any kind of down time.  Yes, they had fun.  However I think kids need to learn how to unwind and relax a little on holidays too.  They did enjoy the day trips and took some books to read, but in terms of the “kids love camping” argument, I think kids can have fun in plenty of other ways too.

Looking for the positive

So what did I enjoy?  Honestly, not a lot.  Particularly when I ended up getting sick.  Not having your own toilet nearby is an inconvenience when camping, but when you’re not well, it’s hell.  I also struggle to understand why we left a perfectly good house at home, with all the conveniences, to pay for a very very hot tent, amidst constant noise.  I found I came back more stressed than relaxed.

We enjoyed a BBQ by our tent one evening which was nice, but I didn’t like having to carry all our greasy dishes so far elsewhere to wash.  Our daughter shattered a glass over her hand doing so, but luckily wasn’t hurt badly.  The camp shop had a few tasty Italian foods, but alongside a large selection of Dutch food!  I did have fun at the local Italian supermarket, and discovered the delicious Limoncello.  It certainly crossed my mind that getting and remaining drunk may help me cope with a week camping, but unfortunately alcohol can tend to make me feel quite sick and in this case, even more miserable.

One night, when I was too hot and stressed to sleep (and couldn’t block out the snoring in a neighbouring tent), I found a wonderfully quiet spot to look at the moon and stars at 2am by myself.  I realised that being out in nature is one of the best parts of camping, but that this kind of campsite did that a complete disservice.

My effort of learning some Italian to speak while in Italy was a bit wasted, I only spoke to a few Italians on the entire holiday.  I did meet a lovely Irish family – “I found someone who is speaking English!”  my husband declared to me and despite the fact we both spoke the same native language (amongst a sea of Dutch campers), they were lovely people too.  A music quiz by the pool on the last evening with them was fun.

I read several novels cover-to-cover, something which I rarely find time for but not an activity I would particularly miss if I didn’t do. So many people seem to relax by reading novels, and maybe I’m reading the wrong books but I always end up feeling a bit like I wasted my time. Our tent had very little shade so it was too hot to relax and enjoy reading a book for most of the day anyway.  I tried the swimming pool but have never really been a pool person, certainly not in that level of chaos and noise.  Not long after I was at the pool one day, one swimmer was sadly airlifted to hospital after hitting his head on the side.  I feel sorry for whoever it was but am glad it wasn’t my children.

Wifi was available but too slow to be any use.  I didn’t miss it particularly, though it may have been handy to be able to access my meditation podcasts!

The location on the lake was lovely, though it was hard to find a place which wasn’t saturated with noise or smoke to enjoy it.  I sat at the end of the pier for a while one day until I was joined by a group of bomb-diving Dutch teenagers, complete with their floating speaker blasting Dutch music!  I didn’t at all begrudge them having fun, and did consider jumping in with them but imagine they would have thought I was a bit weird.  I did experience some amazing sunsets by the lake though despite all the noise, and really wish some of the other people around me had stopped to take it in as well.

Staying where we did was handy in terms of location to take day trips to places such as Verona and Sirmione, both beautiful spots.  We also had fun at a Medieval dinner.  

My favourite evening was heading out for a tasty Italian dinner at a local restaurant with my sister in law and her family, after which all the kids stripped to their underwear and dived into the lake!  They didn’t want to walk all the way back to the tent to get their swimmers, and these are the kind of great memories that good holidays are made of.  Right afterwards, we were hit with a huge storm.  I have to admit I was kind of hoping the campground would be flooded or tents blown away!  It did at least cool things down a little, and was one of the nicest nights in our tent as the heavy rain drowned out much of the noise.

By the last day, I actually had to laugh when I woke up with a spider centimetres from my face in the tent!  Somehow my foggy morning brain knew I wasn’t in Australia and it wasn’t likely to be a dangerous one…and at least it wasn’t a snake.

Overall, I did my best to stay positive and allow my husband and kids to have a great time, but I can now say from very much first hand experience that it’s not my kind of holiday.  Before I left, I read a great blog post:

Holiday tips for highly sensitive people

I tried to put some of these practical tips into practice, but as you’ve read above, the environment didn’t really support that.  We did forfeit our last night and head home a day earlier at least!

The day we returned home, I saw the devastating news that an Italian bridge collapsed, killing around 43 people.  We didn’t drive in this area, but it reminded me to put things in perspective.  Yes, I had a tough week, where I got minimal sleep and was not the best version of myself at all.  However we all returned home safely.

On the other end of the spectrum, alongside the Dutch camping fans, I’ve had many friends and colleagues tell me later “Oh I’d NEVER do that!”.  I think as my husband was raised doing these kind of holidays, he has fond childhood memories he’s trying to recreate for our children and I appreciate that.  However I’ve certainly come to better make the most of the simple pleasures at home.

Would I camp again?

My husband and I actually met on a camping trip on Fraser Island.  I had fun on that trip, and remember sitting outside on my own at night under a stunning, starry sky.  Even with the danger of dingos stealing your food, potential for snakes and spiders to infiltrate your tent, having to dig a hole as a toilet, and being with backpackers who weren’t exactly quiet, being out in a beautiful beach location overnight spoke to my soul.  One of my favourite holidays ever was a weekend camping trip to Belgium many years ago.  We went with friends whose good company kept me calmer, and I again had quiet time to think under starry skies.  I’d definitely try camping again, but only for a night or two, and as a trade off to enjoy being out overnight in an amazing natural – preferably quiet – location, under the stars.

Are you a (Dutch) camper?


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2018 Zomervakantie – Day 5 Reuttener Seilbahnen

This is post is part of our 2018 Zomervakantie – for an overview of the whole two weeks, visit: https://dutchaustralian.com/2018/08/15/2018-zomervakantie/

We had a relaxed morning at the lodge and then walked for a short distance to the Reuttener Seilbahnen.

Our accommodation gave us a 50% discount card for the return journey making it around 30 euros for a family.

What a delight at the top to hear the cowbells as we stepped out of the cablecar! Then to discover a fabulous obstacle/experience course for families – they encouraged you to take your shoes off (which we didn’t) and walk over different surfaces such as sand, grass, gravel, water and dirt. It really was a picturesque scene to be high in the mountains, watching families just enjoy walking together.

There was a choice of three restaurants/cafes near the peak, we walked downhill a little and chose one that ended up being very family friendly….neat kids “alpine lounges”, a trampoline and a few animals including bunnies and shetland ponies. We shared a tasty apple strudel and had some “worst” (sausages) for lunch. The garnish came as a surprise, I thought it was grated cheese and put around a large spoonful in my mouth – but it was a kind of spicy cabbage I think!

I’m really glad we talked the girls into walking down the mountain instead of the cablecar. It took us around an hour and a half, and was quite challenging on my hips and knees, but was a really lovely experience. Not only was it a gorgeous sunny day, with lots of wildflowers in the fields, you get a real sense of satisfaction looking back on a huge mountain and realising you walked the whole way down!

Afterwards, we were quite tired, so took an afternoon nap. Around 3.30pm we decided to go back for a swim in the lake, at the request of our youngest. On the way there, we saw a lot of cars parked alongside the river leading to the lake, and people all along the banks so we decided to join them instead. We talked to a local lady who said so many people were out this afternoon not only as it was weekend, but it was the warmest the river water had been since around 2003 (at about 22 degrees). It sure felt colder to me and I didn’t swim, but Bas and the girls actually swam across the river, which was a decent distance but with a very mild current. Again, we were surrounded by majestic mountains and the water was glorious shades of blue and green.

Back to the lodge for dinner – leftover pizza from last night! We were joking that it was crazy to be eating pizza in Austria when we were headed to Italy tomorrow…..

Now, we’re all writing our journal entries, me as this blog post, the girls in their diaries. The lights are twinkling on the nearby mountain tops, illuminating the local castle ruins. We didn’t make it to those but perhaps next time. On to day 6…

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