Waking up in a quiet spot surrounded by silver birch trees, leaves still crispy from the cold night despite the morning dew. Bleary eyes open and try to adjust to the unexpected golden carpet of autumn leaves laid out before us. Bound for the Baltic coast, we hit the road and the first stop on our journey together was Marlbork; the largest castle in the world by land mass. After a wander around the 13th century Teutonic fortress we hit the road again only to witness the most spectacular of sunsets.
Despite the cold, it was a warm and cosy night’s sleep tucked up in the van. Early to bed so early to rise, by 07:30 we were ambling along the beach as the sun rose to its 45° position in the pastel sky. We were surprised to see a few brave characters working out on the sand in nothing but trunks, Then, watching a man going for a brisk dip in the Baltic Sea was enough to give us goosebumps! A quick visit to The Bunker, Westerplatte (where the German invasion of September 1939 began the Battle of Westerplatte and consequently the Second World War) was damp, eerie and grey. However every single memorial, just as every last grave in the cemeteries, was adorn with candles lit in memory of those passed.
Gdańsk welcomed us with its charming architecture just as the skies were beginning to clear. By the time we’d climbed to the top of Bazylika Mariacka our legs had turned to jelly and our pulses were racing. We were met with a 360 panoramic view, our eyes taking some time to adjust from the gloomy tower to the bright, white clouds above our heads. After the exertion of the church tower climb we stopped for a bite to eat along Utica Piwna (“Beer Street”), enjoying the fresh northern breeze as we sat outside and tasted some typical ‘pierogi’, washed down with a half pint of Tyskie.
Back in the van for just 20 minutes to reach Sopot and then Gdynia, completing our tour of the Baltic Tri-city. A glorious blue sky welcome us to Sopot where we managed a picnic on the beach and pleasant stroll on one of the biggest piers of Europe. Gdynia was a charming surprise, gentle hike before dusk through a thick, golden forest led us to a sandy beach where gentle waters dissolved into pastel shades on the horizon. Losing track of the time we pulled each other along, meandering through the trees on our way back to the van.
The road to Warsaw was long and thick with fog, but choosing to enjoy the journey and not solely focus on the destination made for a memorable ride. By morning the fog still hadn’t lifted. Monochrome and industrial, Warsaw was a spectrum of grey. We saw the Old Town Market Place; deserted first thing on a Sunday morning and later fill up with tourists. By lunchtime our bellies were rumbling finding refuge from the damp cold, we sat down in a cosy and traditional restaurant to enjoy some Polish dishes: more ‘pierogi jarskie’ and ‘grzane wina’.
Before we knew it, it was already time to head to Modlin airport and part company. 3 days 800km and hundreds of new memories lining our pockets.
PHOTO: Diogo Baptista
Making the most of the last days of summer exploring Tuscany on a road trip.
A 3 hour drive down from Emilia-Romagna to Umbria through the mountains, the roads illuminated by the near full moon. Parked up for the night in what turned out to be a great spot, we awoke to the sunrise in misty pastel shades across the tranquil waters of Lake Trasimeno. After a peaceful lakeside morning it was time to hit the road and explore the area. Open air showers and during off in the sun. We then spent the afternoon in Assisi wandering down shady, cobbled streets and following our noses which eventually led us to a pizzeria.
Fiery skies accompanied us out of Assisi and down the hill… dark, thunderous clouds to our left and a burning sunset to our right. Wind whipped through the cab, time to stop for a quick picture.
Winding Tuscan country road took us back to the lake where we set up camp for the night, prepared a waterside dinner and savoured the tranquility of the place and the evening.
Adventurous smiles across our faces as we hit the road, ready to continue exploring. Quick stops in the medieval wonder of Montepulciano before carrying on through the Val d’Orcia. Just off the main road a shady clearing between vineyards made a lovely spot for lunch and a lazy afternoon rest in the hammock. Occasionally, a tractor would pass by otherwise we just relished the stillness of a balmy, September afternoon between the vines,
We reached Florence by nightfall, stopping briefly for a coffee and to see the sunset on the outskirts of Siena. The moon was full, Piazzale Michelangelo was nearly empty and the glittering city lights mirrored the starry sky above us. What a welcome. Mushroom risotto prepared for dinner on the banks of the Arno, which also turned out to be a stunning breakfast spot at dawn the next morning. 7am church bells proudly chimed as the sun climbed out from behind buildings and took her place in the sky.
Lovers recording memories and leaving their mark on Ponte Vecchio. The bustle of locals and tourists in the centre of Florence on a Sunday morning, surprises around every corner.
PHOTO: DIOGO BAPTISTA
LOVE IN COURAÍSO
Nestled beneath the trees on the banks of the Coura River in a shady spot, passionate bodies bathe in rays of sunlight. Nature offers some refuge from the heat and electricity of the festival, leaves filter light onto the sleepy look of those who enjoy the paradisiacal ambient. Energies recharging, folded into each other. Bodies meandering downstream, along with a parade of unicorns, ducks and bits of inflatable fruit. Bodies floating together, lingering to cover themselves under branches. Companions - new or old - interlaced, by the limbs of their bodies. Couples in "Couraíso" resting by the river. Bodies oblivious to the world around them.
Aninhado sob as árvores nas margens do Rio Coura num local à sombra, os corpos apaixonados banham-se em raios de sol. A natureza oferece algum refúgio do calor e da eletricidade do festival, as folhas das arvores filtram o iluminar do olhar sonolento de quem aproveita o ambiente paradisíaco. Recarregasse energias, dobrados um no outro. Corpos no rio serpenteantes a jusante, junto com um desfile de unicórnios, patos e pedaços de frutas insufláveis. Corpos flutuando juntos, parando em recantos para encobrirem-se sob galhos. Paixões - novas ou antigas - entrelaçadas, pelos membros dos seus corpos. Casais no “Couraíso” descansando junto ao rio em corpos desconectados do mundo ao seu redor.
Fotografia: Diogo Baptista
What is Boom?
Boom is losing your phone in the sand at the Dance Temple, thousands of Boomers raving on top of it. A new friend stops partying and spends hours in the dark helping you look. You decide to stop stressing and let go of anxiety... you laugh at the irony of ‘disconnect to connect’, written on the back of the Dharma Dragon newspaper. So, you go on an adventure with this new friend, time flies but Boom is a temporary infinity. It gets colder, you’re cloaked in a fresh dew that darkness brings. There’s a light that guides you to exactly where you need to be. Exploring, you lose track of time and stumble upon the humbling sight of the full moon blanketed in a midnight blue night’s sky, setting over the lake. Shimmering, it sends ripples across the almost still lake and goosebumps along your skin. It’s the perfect moment. You’re silenced by the beauty of the moon set and, together with your new friend, you huddle together to keep warm and watch it all. The moment is serendipitous. You’ve made a new connection; one that’s pure, raw. It happened so naturally that you barely even realised...
What’s Boom, you ask? That’s just 12 hours of Boom.
Photography: Diogo Baptista
My Caravan Stories