Heike invited their friends round for the evening as it was her birthday. After we were introduced we made our excuses and left them to it as our German language skills are seriously lacking! We went back to the van and watched a bit of TV before retiring to bed.
Brian was a star today and suffered two hours in the hairdressers with me (Angela) as I got my hair cut and coloured. I think it was an experience for him, especially as he had to act as translator! Dean went off on the scooter to fill up and to get the shopping in ready for when we leave on Monday.
After that, to get some exercise we decided to take the two dogs for a walk but we think we overdid it with Murphy! When he got back he slept soundly for the rest of the evening…
All the leaves are falling off the trees and as the village is surrounded by farmland there is a wonderful feeling to the place. The dogs were really well behaved and seem to have really bonded as friends.
As it was getting dark as we made our way back we were able to take some amazing photos of the sun setting.
29 October – Hamburg
The last few days we’ve spent wandering around the village, and walking in the various parks that are dotted around. Brian took us to one part of the village when he was walking the dogs and left us there (at our request!) to wander further into the woods to an old airfield, and then we walked back into the village with a coffee break at the local coffee shop that sells delicious cakes!
Yesterday we helped with tidying up the garden and Brian had a fair few trees to plant that were given to them as wedding presents.
Today we made the journey into Hamburg using the train. It is a real pleasure to travel on Germany’s public transport as it keeps to the timetable and is clean! We got the Metro train which is a double decker. The journey only took one hour so we were there by 10.30 and our first port of call was the Tourist Information centre.
Shortly after the above picture was taken a German lady asked us for directions as if we were locals! We apologised and said that we were from England and did not know the area.
We wandered down to the Rathaus (town hall) as we remembered it from last time we were here. It was a lot quieter this time as previously lots of dignitaries were arriving, and that included their entourages as well.
It is a lovely city to visit as there is so much to see and the shops are of a very good standard. We walked to the harbour where the old warehouses still stand, and a lot of them are still in use today. Some were being used to sell lovely carpets, some as antique dealers and there is also a spice museum. There was also a yacht fair going on where if you had the odd £250k to spare you could buy one!
The area is also known as Germany’s Venice as you can see from the picture below.
One other area that we had to visit was St. Pauli where amongst the theatres and bars there is the Reeperbahn, the street renowned for the sex shops and clubs. We wanted to get to the fish market along the harbour edge but as it was getting dark we hopped onto the underground to get back to the main train station.
26 October – Pepper!
Another new arrival to the household – Pepper the pussy cat! He is a real cutie pie and has whipped the dogs into shape already!
Today there was a dog competition taking place that Heike was assisting with, so we took Murphy too to start getting him to socialise with other dogs. The best part of the day was the lovely food that was laid on by the organisers, and the dogs were just as keen to sample the food.
23 October – Schneverdingen
We descended on the newlyweds and were introduced to their new addition Murphy, the Border Collie/Jack Russell puppy they collected on Wednesday. He and Tessa seem to have made friends rather quickly.
The four of us went out for a meal in the evening to the Greek restaurant in the village, but didn’t hang about as the dogs couldn’t be left alone too long.
Murphy and Tessa (More on these later)
22 October – Elbingerode
Today was our ‘work day’ getting everything ship-shape for leaving tomorrow. Brian & Heike are back from their honeymoon and have invited us (or did we invite ourselves?) to stay for a few days…
21 October – Wernigerode
Today we decided to treat ourselves and take a bus into Wernigerode to be tourists for the day, and maybe treat ourselves to lunch out.
The town had a really welcoming vibe, and is full of half-timbered houses. It is overlooked by a castle but we never managed to visit it as we had more than enough to see down in the centre. Many of the shops were selling witches as legend has it that witches used to meet up with the devil on 30 April every year before following him into hell.
One of the shops sold wooden tee-light holders – too complicated to explain so please see the picture below!
We found a lovely restaurant at lunchtime called “Hexen Kessel” or the “Witches Cauldron”. The soups in Germany are delightful so we both plumped for one as a starter – they always hit the spot and warmed us up a treat! Our main courses were excellent, superb meat and washed down with a couple of beers.
Having polished that off, we went on a shopping spree to buy some shoes and Christmas decorations (for the ‘van as we did not think that far ahead and left our lovely decorations at home in the loft)
Back at the ‘van we opened the red wine, got the cheese out to warm up and opened the cured meat selection we’d bought that day. Olives, tomatoes, bread…..mmmm!
20 October – The Brocken
Today we scootered into the town of Wernigerode (on a freezing cold and frosty morning) about 7km away and having eventually found somewhere to leave the bike, we booked tickets to go on the steam train up the Brocken. http://www.harzmagic-info.co.uk/Narrow_gauge_railways.html
This is the highest point of the Harz Mountains (1142m).
It was the site of the world’s first television tower built in 1935. Amongst other things it was used to carry the first television broadcast of the summer Olympic games held in Berlin in 1935 and it continued broadcasting until it was suspended by the authorities on the outbreak of World War 2.
The hotel and weather station on top of the Brocken was destroyed by allied bombing on April 17th 1945 but the television tower was left intact. There is an additional television tower which is used by the German TV station Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF).
When the Berlin wall began to be erected in 1961 the Brocken was designated as a high grade security zone. It was used to spy on communication signals from the surrounding area. The television tower was used by the Stasi (East German secret police).
The train journey up the mountain took an hour and a half, and we stood all the way! The ticket sales were well and truly over-subscribed that day and people were getting grumpy. People were standing outside on the gangways between carriages.
As we got higher the ground started to become covered by snow but the sky was so clear and the sun was shining so we could see for miles around. As we left the train you had to be really careful not to go skidding off on the ice – we saw a fair few people end up on the floor!
It was absolutely freezing at the top so we went and bought some Erbsen (pea soup) with a Bockwurst as extra – absolute heaven, but the only downside was you had to take your gloves off to eat it and your hands were frozen in seconds.
We had about an hour at the top so we carefully walked around the top to the trig point taking a few photos, and around the television mast and the hotel. As we were nearing the end we heard the whistle of the steam train arriving so made our way back to the station, only to find there was no more room!
Therefore, we had another hour to wait for the next train so went off exploring again! We decided we would be back in time for the next train, but ended up running (across the ice!) back to the train as we took the wrong footpath back to the station.
Thankfully we made it, only to have to wait 45 minutes later on in the journey to change trains. This gave Dean a chance to take loads of pictures of the steam train as it took on more water.
Then we had to endure the scooter ride back to the campsite, with the sun going down and a rather large lorry getting a bit too close for comfort on the incline. After a couple of cups of piping hot tea we thawed out to enjoy the evening.
Since we arrived in Elbingerode the temperature had dropped and the nights dropped to below freezing with crisp frosts in the morning. Thank goodness for gas! We’ve switched to heating the ‘van with gas rather than electric, as frankly the electric is not up to the job! At least, that is what Angela thinks! The highest temperature we managed to get inside was 27 degrees – just right…although Dean was sat in his shorts!
19 October Elbingerode – Harz Mountains
We left Schneverdingen on the 16th to go to the Harz Mountains. The first place we stopped at was a little village on the outskirts called Walkenried.
Having then looked at our maps and guide books, we discovered we needed to be further into the mountains to achieve our visit to the Brocken. On recommendation we then travelled to a campsite in a village called Elbingerode. However, we relied a bit too much on the old Sat-Nav and punched in the first Elbingerode we saw…
It only took us 25km out of our way and luckily a lovely German chap who was in his garden went and got his map to show us which one we should have been heading for!
It was a real bonus when we arrived, and having got set up we wandered into the village through a lovely tree lined path. On the way back we found a beautiful pond full of ducks.
14 October 2009 Luneberger Heide Walk
Having spent a couple of days getting ourselves and the ‘van back to normal, we took a walk along the heath into Schneverdingen from the campsite. We were lucky with the weather and although it was cold the sun was shining, so the walk of about 7km was really welcome. It was nice to get some fresh hair having been stuck inside for so long.
Another bonus was the Heide Shuttle bus that took us home again in the afternoon, after we’d made a visit to the local bakery to buy some cakes!
11 October 2009
Today was a sad day as Maura & Ted were flying off back to Australia via Dubai, so we called in for a coffee and to say goodbye. We found it very upsetting as they are very special to us and the last time they came over was to see Tom (Angela’s dad) in 1999.
We hope to get over to Australia soon to spend more time with them, and they both looked so well it was great.
In the meantime they’ve promised to look into Skype so we can talk more. We were blessed that they made the effort to travel all that way, so thank you Maura & Ted. xxx
10 October 2009
Dean and I got round to their house about 11am to find all the English had gone as they had prior arrangements, so we (along with Heike’s brother) watched them open their presents and helped polish off some more food.
Unbeknown to us, the rest of the family went out to a restaurant in the evening so we spent a cosy night in together.
9 October 2009 Brian & Heike’s Wedding Day!
Well, what a good omen we awoke to! The weather was perfect, a crisp autumn day and the sun shone all day. We thought we’d have plenty of time to get ready but as usual we were running around at the last minute trying to get everything ready!
The taxi arrived so we were at the venue a full hour beforehand, so off we ventured to the park for a wander round.
Heike arrived in a VW campervan with her father and she looked absolutely stunning.
Brian was stood at the entrance to the Theeshof to welcome her and present her with her bouquet. Tessa their dog carried the rings!
The wedding was very similar to an English wedding but the bride and groom had hardly anything to say! It was so lovely to see them both tie the knot as they are a lovely couple and they deserve each other.
As they left the venue they had a ‘guard of honour’ from Heike’s class of children who threw confetti over them, and then sang a song for them both.
So many things happened throughout the day – they were set tasks by their friends that involved them working together. In the picture below a sheet had a drawing of a goal keeper with a hole cut out beneath them. Each side of the keeper two love hearts drawn. In turn they each had to cut one out and then throw a ball through the hole in the bottom of the sheet. Oh, I forgot to mention that the scissors were blunt which meant that they had to work harder.
In the evening they put on little sketches for them. One of these was the story of Cinderella and her prince, and we established it was loosely based on the two of them.
Later in the evening, a number of ladies sang a song that was hilarious! They were all laid with their backs on top of a table and all you could see of them were their chins that had top hats stuck on them along with faces drawn. You really had to be there to appreciate it but the ladies put so much effort in it was just so funny!
Another funny moment was when Brian was practising (and trying to tell Heike how to…) his wedding dance – how camp can one guy be?!
We did have to acknowledge that German weddings are so much more fun, and they continue the fun with their wedding gifts. These ultimately involve the giving of money but they are presented in all manner of ways. One was a bottle filled with sand (and money) and had drawing pins stuck on the outside so the only way you could get inside was to smash the whole thing.
Someone gave them a feather filled pillow full of money (Brian ended up in the garage covered in tiny feathers), they had to fish through sand for another one, and someone had created a handball pitch with rolled up money as the goal posts complete with jelly baby figurines (one of which was Heike)!
A suitcase full of goodies for their honeymoon was also given as a present…watch out the next of our friends who tie the knot as we have a plan!
The evening reception was great fun as the music was varied, and everyone was up and dancing especially Brian’s friend Chris!
We were reasonably sensible and left the party at 1.30am only to find out that the disco was turned off at 5am and the last people left at 6am!
8 October 2009 Schneverdingen
The day before the wedding! As the weather was so much better than the previous day we caught the bus into Schneverdingen Town centre. We walked up to where the wedding was going to be which was at the Theeshof.
It can best be described as an old farmstead that has been kept as a museum that shows how life used to be all those years ago.
We then walked back into the town centre to meet up with Angela’s mother, Aunty and Uncle. Her Aunt Maura and Uncle Ted had come all the way from Australia via Ireland and Portugal. It was great to see them as we last saw them in 1999. They both looked great.
As we arrived we were introduced to Heike’s family and some close friends. During the evening we had a few beers and a large pot of Gulasch soup had been prepared. Mmm Lecker! Although most of Heike’s family did not speak English and we could not really speak German we all still managed to have a good evening with lots of laughing!
7 October 2009 Camping Parc Luneberger Heide
After an interrupted sleep due to the awning flapping and heavy rain we woke up to more persistent rainL we were supposed to be going out on the scooter today to have a mooch. As Angela prepared breakfast (Oven cooked sausages) I walked down to have a shower, only to return 5 minutes later because the showers were coin/token operated. This may have been said to us when we checked in but must have been lost due to the language barrier. At least the sausages were ready, very nice they were in a roll with tomato ketchup.
The weather was so bad all day so we stayed in the van until late afternoon when the rain stopped for a while. We took the opportunity to go out for a short scooter ride (wearing waterproofs) into Schneverdingen. We went to Brian’s house but they were all out collecting family from the airport in Hamburg. We then headed back to the campsite in the rain stopping off at the local supermarket to do some shopping on the way.
The rest of the day we spent reading, listening to the radio and watching TV.
6 October 2009 Camping Parc Luneberger Heide
We went to reception and had a different experience to last night! The nice man behind the desk did not speak English (Unlike last night’s man), and why should he you might say. Anyway with my very rusty and very bad German and his little English we agreed that we would park up on pitch number 384 for two weeks. We were given a map of the campsite and were shown where the sanitation blocks were and all the other relevant information we required.
First job of the day was for Angela to fill up with fresh water and I was to empty the waste water and also the thetford…….I always get the good jobs! For those not familiar with camping a ‘Thetford Cassette’ is the chemical toilet, although we do not use chemicals!
After we were full we drove round to our spot and set up.
We chose this site for a couple of reasons, the first one being that it was only a twenty minute scooter ride to Brian and Heike’s house. And second that is was right near to the Lüneberger Heide which offers lovely cycle and footpath routes around the nicest parts of the heath.
Once we were set up we called Brian and invited them over for tea. They turned up, Brian, Heike, Josephine and Tessa the Australian Sheepdog thirty minutes later with cake and fresh bread rolls.
After the tea and cake ceremony was over they all left and let us finish off getting sorted. Before they went Heike invited us over for a meal that evening.
We pottered about for a while, had a sleep then got ready to scooter over to Brian and Heike’s for our meal. We had a slow roasted (5½ hrs) Lamb joint and roasted vegetables. It was one of Jamie Oliver’s recipes Heike told us. And very well executed it was. We did it justice by eating it all! Mmm, Geshmack gut!
The only downside to the evening was that we had to tear ourselves away from the good company, the huge log burning stove and worst of all it was teeming down and we got soaked by the time we had got back to the van. It is a lot scarier scootering around the countryside in the dark as opposed to daylight, in the rain and on the right hand side of the road! But we did it. We had a port before bed…….purely medicinal? We did get wet! Good night.
5 October 2009 Folkestone
Well, here we go again! Off on our adventures and this time we are heading for Germany.
The night before the ferry crossing (Dover-Dunkirk Norfolk Line) we booked into the Caravan Club site ‘Black Horse Farm’. It is handy for the Port of Dover as it is only 15 minutes away. We had booked the 6am crossing so were up early to get there in plenty of time. It took us longer than anticipated and we arrived at the holding area at 05:30. We had only been there for about 10 minutes when the announcement came that we were to board.
We set sail at 06:00 hrs UK time and arrived after a pleasant crossing (and after a full English breakfast) at 09:00 Local time.
We were heading for a place called Schneverdingen (Between Hamburg and Hannover). It is where Angela’s brother lives with his partner Heike and they are getting married on the 9th October. Our initial plan was to break the journey with an overnight stop about half way as our trusty sat-nav ‘Snooper’ had worked out that it was going to be an 8½ hour journey.
As we decided to share the driving more this time we ended up doing the whole journey with only four stops. We finally arrived at our campsite at 7:30 pm, the journey was going really well up until the last 60 km when we began to slow down. We eventually came to a standstill and then for the next hour we were in stop/start mode. This was very frustrating and tiring considering we had almost reached our destination with no problems.
We parked up at the checking-in bay and walked down to the reception. A man was just locking up for the night when he saw us. As it was fairly late and dark we parked up in a holding area and were told to return in the morning to check in proper. We were told where the shower block was and then we were bid a good night.
We had a nice shower then got into bed and watched a DVD on the laptop before going to sleep called ‘Burn after Reading’ (Thanks Tim).