An opera in an Amphitheatre? Don’t mind if we do!

It was way too hot for climbing around Lake Garda. Looking for other things to do, I found we weren’t that far from the city of Verona. Not only being the city of Romeo and Juliet, it also has one of the best-preserved amphitheatres around. After a quick search it also turned out that they perform Operas there, we booked tickets for Nabucco and headed off.

The drive through Arco to Verona showed how much of a tourist trap this area is, not our cup of tea at all. We managed to find a quiet spot to have a final dip in Lake Garda with a spectacular backdrop of the mountains. I can imagine that this would be a great holiday spot when the kids are back at school, September maybe.

View of Lake Garda from the van.
Lake Garda – a chilly dip with great views.

We parked up right in the middle of Verona. The opera was due to finish at midnight and we didn’t want to be traipsing for miles at that time of night. A short walk and we were outside the amphitheatre. More details on the venue here.

It’s an impressive building, although slightly crumbling in places. We heading in to one of the modern booths nestled in the arches to collect our tickets before heading for a celebratory meal out (I’d just accepted a new job!).

Full of pizza and beer it was time for the main event. We’d bought the cheap seats so no dress code for us. The two thousand year old limestone steps to get up to the arena are amazingly smooth.

We chose our perch for the three and a half hour show. It was interesting to see the band set up and watch the tech guys make the final touches to the elaborate sets.

It was an interesting evening watching the Opera. Neither of us have watched a show before and it was mesmerising to see the power of their voices carried around the Amphitheatre without digital amplification. Although we had no real idea what was going on it was a great evening.

Sorry for the images, no camera’s allowed so some sneaky phone shots will have to suffice. You can read the synopsys and learn more about the show here and see the official photos here.

Gränsfors Bruk

Back at the start of the trip when we were buying guidebooks for Sweden Lee got chatting to a sales assistant about the Gränsfors Bruk Axe’s they had for sale as he owns two already and apparently they are rather good. Well, it just so happens that the Gransfor Bruk factory is open for visitors, and it’s not too far away from Stockholm so we made a plan to visit.

It’s a fairly low-key affair at the factory, we turned up and had a wander around the shop. Being very British, we didn’t want to actually ask about having a look around but lucky for us the shop assistant must have guessed and headed over. She quickly switched to perfect English (they don’t half put us to shame with their language skills). We were quickly informed that all we needed was to pop on one of those fetching high-vis vests and we could walk right on in. H&S field day!

Bashing out some double head axes.
Seconds, still hot from the flames.
Shiney, but not yet sharp
Cutting through molten Swedish steel like butter

The number of ‘seconds’ impressively large. Good quality controls.


Adding those American wood handles, and having the final checks

Testing them out. Found a favourite.

Gunshots in the Forest

After a fun ferry trip over – those places are a people watchers dream – we had finally landed in the Netherladns. Border control thought we were a bit mental, “you’re going to live in this, for a year? No hotels? Well, have fun!”

Now time for lots of driving! The Netherlands was pretty, but we managed to drive through it and into Germany in a couple of hours– border control is none existent, there was one sign that we were shifting countries, literally one sign!

The next entertaining challenge was trying to find a crag. There was a little obscure crag on the way to the Netherlands that we thought we’d stop at, just outside Rheine. We found the parking after a couple of detours. Next challenge, find the rock. It was a lovely little forested area, we packed the bags and started trundling down the path “it can’t be that hard to find”, famous last words.

After a couple of hundred metres, we spotted rock. Just a little outcrop, not big enough to climb on but it showed us we were going in the right direction. So we carried on trundling, a nice little worn path, right then left, then right again – roughly trying to find our way on the screenshot of a map from 27crags (which is basically useless as an offline app, complaint going in….).


Gunshots. What the?! We’d seen some images of wild boar on the information stand, so Lee was quick to point out it was probably just some hunting. Not put off we carried on walking through the woods, towards said gunfire.

We found the edge of the forest, lay before us was a firing range but sadly no rock. The bugs were starting to bite now. We took a detour around the other path, still no rock, still more bugs. Time to head off.

Disappointed at our first attempt to climb in Europe we headed off north towards Hamburg and beyond.

Note – service stations are great in Germany, camped overnight with our little van next to the big trucks.

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