Holiday snaps


On a calm day in summer it is probably possible to cross Lake Garda (Italy’s largest lake) by stepping from deck to gleaming deck of German speedboats. The credit crunch does not appear to have been too debilitating in Hamburg and Frankfurt.

From my vantage point, swimming nervously between the waterskiers in the lake, I could observe European holiday trends.

Russians don’t go camping very much. Italians go camping with their families and friends. Loudly. When you camp by a lake, every tent except yours will have a large boat blocking the path back to your pitch.

The Dutch are everywhere. Tall, tanned, polyglot and assertive. I wanted to detour via the Netherlands on the way home. Just to see if there was anyone left. I expected to find a note at the border: “Holland is closed for the holidays. Back in 3 weeks.”

We moved on to Venice. To a campsite where the website boasted “No need to book, we are never full”. Which was because there was always room for one more tent to be squeezed in. When we returned on the bus, footsore from a hard day’s sightseeing, there was a car parked where we had put our breakfast table. We ate our dinner brushing elbows with a family of seven who were saying their evening prayers outside their tent.

Onwards to the mountains where the holidaymakers were almost all from Eastern Europe. There were Hungarian ramblers, plump Slovak bikers with no inhibitions about public nudity, three lost Russians, chattering Croats, silent Slovenes, some Poles dancing and dozens of Czechs, including a thirty-strong squad of cyclists from Prague and a party of climbing hippies with a guitar on the pitch next door.

The view of the mountains was exquisite and at night the stars twinkled in the clear mountain air. I stood in the dark and gazed at the sky, listening to the soft rustle and sigh of Czechs mating.

5 Responses to “Holiday snaps”

  1. Back when i worked in holland there was a summer holiday period when most people took their holidays. You even got an extra month’s holiday pay*.
    It did mean that things got very quiet for a couple of weeks.

    * depending on your levels of cynicism you might simply suggest your annual salary was divided by 13 instead of 12…

  2. 2 Camilla

    No, there are still lots of people in the Netherlands, we’ve just spent three weeks there. Many of them are out on their boats, getting in our way and generally being keen. If you doubted it you should have seen them fighting to get into the Krammersluis lock on the Volkerak a couple of days ago. (One polite British boat failed to get into the lock _twice_).

    Although when we got back to the Orwell today that was full of Dutch boats too. I guess it’s just a very densely-populated country…

  3. @Alex, i forgot to ask if they’d brought a travel set or were lugging around a full size board on their bicycles ;¬)
    @Camilla, the dutch aren’t famed for their physical politeness (if i can coin such a term, holding doors, letting people past etc). When i first moved over there i thought they were being rude but they just don’t seem to have the concept.

    • 4 alexoutside

      Drew – without getting too pawnographic, it certainly sounded as if they were using full-size pieces 😉

  4. 5 Camilla

    @Drew – yes, we noticed this when we took a 16ft trailer-sailer to the Netherlands many years ago. Our most terrifying moment was being at the head of a queue to get into a lock with our 5hp outboard buzzing like an infuriated hornet and propelling us at about 2 knots with most of the biggest boats in the Netherlands behind us. We knew how a fly feels as the fly swat comes down.

    On the other hand their courtesy in other ways is impeccable. Best moment on this visit was our first morning in a marina at Monnickendam on the Ijsselmeer, when the havenmeester brought us, for free, a little basket with three fruity buns and butter for our breakfast, and a copy of the weather forecast.

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