29 November Köln
Köln was one of the cities we were told had the best Christmas Market so we found a site where we could stay, again literally a stone throw from the Rhine.
Again, we pitched up and then took a walk along the riverside. Along with the barges carrying cargo containers full of goods, there were so many River Cruisers ferrying people of all nationalities to the Christmas Markets. Coaches were lining the riverside, not only from Germany but France, Belgium and of course Britain. Some of these were tastefully decorated inside to add to the ambience.
It took about half an hour to walk in but what a reward! The Market was brilliant, the food stalls were amazing and the aromas coming from them made you want to eat everything there!
They had an ice rink set up alongside and as we walked back later in the evening we decided we’d be back again tomorrow!
27 November Trier
Today we went and experienced our first large Christmas Market. It was the first time we had heard British and American voices for nearly two months! The stalls were decorated, the people selling their wares had all dressed up and played the part and it felt like Christmas was on the way! The children’s rides had lovely music coming from them and all that was missing was the snow!
Here we began our collection of Gluhwein mugs and Angela added to her boot collection with a pair Joseph Seibel ones – heaven!
Friends had also mentioned that Porta Nigra was worth going to see so we went further into Trier to see ‘The Black Gate’. According to the information plaque it was “built in the 2nd Century AD and is the largest and best preserved city gate of the ancient world”.
It is massive and well worth a visit, along with the Cathedral, St. Peter’s. We were in there for well over an hour and it is also an UNESCO site. There was a very peaceful feeling inside and it just felt like a really welcoming place. If you’re interested in the Roman era this is definitely the place to visit as it is brimming with things to see, along with an old Roman Bridge across the river.
As it was getting cold though we made our way back to thaw out in the ‘van, and we decided to go back tomorrow to see the Market at night time.
26 November Trier
Having spent yesterday evening in the company of Roger & Linda, surprisingly we made an early start towards Trier, Germany’s oldest city that borders Luxembourg.
We decided to take the scenic route, avoiding the autobahns so most of the way we were driving parallel with the Mosel. The buildings that line the river are impressive and when we cut into the countryside we were rewarded with the scene of about 15 deer running at full speed across the fields.
Luckily we spotted them in advance as we had to stop the ‘van so the deer could race across the road unhindered! Our excitement was added to later in the journey when we’d driven down into some narrow roads and came across one that had a width restriction of 2m – we’re 2.3m! Both of us stopped breathing for a few minutes, as there was no way we could turn around so we hoped for the best and kept going!
Having safely made it through we carried onto Trier without further incident. There were a few motorhomes already there, but we had plenty of room to find a nice spot. The stellplätz was again right on the banks of the river, this time the Rhine.
We’d noticed on the way in a motorcycle accessory shop, so once we’d set up we wandered over there with the intention of looking at their jackets. Using the scooter more often, and going by past history we decided it would be a sensible purchase! Half an hour later we came away with two (matching!) jackets at a discount, following Dean’s negotiating tactics acquired in his former life…
24 November Koblenz
Today we had planned to go to Bonn on the train but as the weather was so bad we decided not to bother. We will visit Bonn from Köln in the coming weeks.
We had a lay in, followed by a rather long breakfast then scootered the 15 minutes into the centre of Koblenz. We had seen a parking place for scooters the other day which was free. There are some perks to having a scooter!
Once again we were armed with our guide. We set off for the Deutsches Eck (German Corner) this is the point where the Rhine and Mosel meet and there is a very large monument to Kaiser Wilhelm. We climbed up to the top and had a great view across both rivers. You get the impression that you are looking out towards the front of a ship.
We then headed back towards the Aldstadt (Old town) for some refreshment. We ended up having ‘Fish & Chips’ which was a nice treat. Once again we had a quick look around the Christmas market before setting off back to the campsite. As the weather had improved slightly we decided that we would go for a ride alongside the Mosel after we had done a bit of food shopping, including cake.
One thing that grabs your attention is how many vineyards there are on the slopes on either side. Every now and then we saw people maintaining the vines. This must be a labour of love!
We eventually decided to turn around and head back home for a well earned cuppa and our cake. On our return we noticed a British motorhome had arrived on the site. This was the first we had seen since leaving England. Later, as we were heading to the reception to buy some stamps we introduced our selves to them and before we knew it over an hour had gone by, Angela was inside talking to Linda and Dean was still outside with Roger. The poor man hadn’t even plugged his electric cable. They were a lovely couple and we invited them over for a drink that evening.
It must have been a good evening as Dean and Roger finished half a bottle of Malt Whisky.
We had a really good laugh swapping stories and chatting about the places we had visited and where we were headed for next. During the evening we exchanged contact details and said that we will definitely keep in touch.
23 November Güls
Having seen the recent devastation inflicted on Cumbria and Southern Scotland we’ve been feeling quite thankful that the weather has been kind to us the last week or so.
Today that changed! It had been really windy all day, and the rain kept coming and going. That meant our original plan of going via train to Bonn was postponed to Tuesday.
So as not to waste the day we got our ‘Learn German in 30 Days’ teaching kit. It wouldn’t be so hard if we knew English properly as they keep talking about ‘prepositions with the accusative’ and ‘modal verbs’.
We would have known the difference about 20 years ago but neither of us can remember it now! Maybe we need to learn English also…and before anyone tries to correct our grammar, don’t bother!!
22 November Güls
Today was a day of internet usage! As it is so expensive to use the system we’ve got, we store up everything we need to research and then go online and do everything in one go.
We had a lovely long breakfast of hams, cheese and salad along with a cafetiere then knuckled down to updating the website. Nobody was on Skype but hopefully some more of you will look into it so we can have a chat….hint, hint!
21 November Mosel River
Having had a busy day yesterday we set off in the other direction along the Mosel towards the village of Winningen.
Again, the sun was shining and we saw barges go past, gliders up in the air and part of the walk was alongside a vineyard. Dean had thought ahead and sandwiches appeared when we reached the village, along with coffee and cakes!
Our intention had been to walk back, but a bus turned up so we decided to jump on it and save our weary feet.
20 November Koblenz
The campsite we found is about 8km outside of Koblenz in a place called Güls and we were able to park about 200m away from the Mosel River. As we sat in the front of the ‘van we could watch the barges go by!
Armed with our map we walked into Koblenz along the river path, and it was such a beautiful day. The sun was so warm we ended up having to strip off layers along the way.
The walk took a bit longer than we anticipated so by the time we arrived we were ready to eat. Having checked out the return journey (been caught out once too often to not check straight away!) we found an Asian fast food restaurant. The quality of food was excellent – you pay a little more but you get a fresh meal cooked!
The city is one of the prettiest we’ve seen so far, with lovely buildings ornately decorated. Christmas had started early as they began their Christmas market today, but alas we never managed to sample the Glühwein…maybe next time?
Dean remembers these from the 80’s and is keen to take us to a market in the evening as they are supposed to be quite magical. We noticed that the true meaning of the festive season is at least mentioned here with depictions of the Nativity. It feels less commercial somehow, at least at this time of year.
On our way back we had to stop at a scooter repair shop as the rear light had blown on the bike. Trying to find the name of what we were after, and then ask someone for a shop that might sell it was a bit of a challenge but Dean coped admirably!
18 November River Werse
We have both made a commitment to try and exercise more so today we put on the trainers and Dean got himself into his Ron hill Tracksters (army regulation circa 1984) for a walk/run along the river.
We knew we could not run the whole way so the plan was to power-walk…hmmm! All went well and yes we did run some of the way, so the shower afterwards was wonderful.
Later on that evening though Angela could hardly walk! After getting everything ready for moving on tomorrow (cleaning and laundry) she laid on the sofa (or our equivalent of) and did not move for about four hours. Dean played on the computer sorting out all our pictures.
The upshot of this being that Angela’s exercise regime no longer involves running!
17 November Münster
Today was Angela’s birthday so we got up early and headed off to Münster to get a full day of sight-seeing in. The weather was not brilliant but we were wrapped up and armed with our guide we set off on our tour.
One of our main aims was to visit the Lake Aa that is supposed to be surrounded by lovely eateries around the harbour. We can only guess we were there at the wrong time of the year as there was only place open and they were not impressed we only went in for a coffee.
In the Cathedral there was a beautiful astronomical clock that was really impressive. The churches in Germany are very diverse and they can be a real revelation. None of them look the same and seem to have something unique in each one.
The city was preparing for the forth-coming Christmas market that starts at the end of November but there will be plenty more of them for us to see along the way.
As it was a special day we found a lovely old-fashioned restaurant called the Altes Gasthaus Leve and had a lovely traditional German meal. The picture below will testify to that and the service was excellent. We were offered help with translation if needed and the staff were very friendly!
We both felt like falling asleep after the meal so we went and got a few provisions (mainly wine, cheese and bread for the evening) and headed for the bus. Having sung the praises of German punctuality the last five weeks, we had to wait over an hour for the bus that should have come every 20 minutes!
Nobody queues any more so when one finally turned up it was every man for himself – never mind those with buggies! At least we had some entertainment while we were waiting as two locals decided to have a bit of ‘handbags at dawn’. It was nothing like in the UK though – one of them held up the other’s leg so he couldn’t get back up and fight – genius!
16 November Münster
Having said our goodbyes to Steve & Elke we set off for Münster and found the campsite really easily. There was only one other motorhome there as we were on a sort of stellplätz just outside the campsite proper. We decided not to pay for electric as we knew we could go more than three days without it.
As we had arrived early without drama, we got straight on the bus into Münster. The journey only took fifteen minutes and as we hadn’t eaten we headed for the nearest food hall. This turned out to be a ‘Kochloffel’, sort of a McDonald’s type establishment that Dean had fond memories of from his army days…
We wandered around and checked out the Tourist Information Centre and came away armed with a map and guide of all the sites we planned to visit the next day. As is the norm in Germany, the bus turned up on time so we got back safe and sound and opened a lovely bottle of wine.
The only downside was we were parked under trees, so no satellite or TV for us. This was a shame only because tomorrow was Angela’s birthday and we wanted to speak to people via Skype but were unable to.
14 November Bielefeld
Today we were picked up by Steve (Dean’s friend from his army days) and taken back to their house where Elke greeted us with a hug, tea and cheese and tomato on toast – what a great welcome! We tried to meet up a few weeks ago when we were in the area but Steve’s work schedule was too busy so we had to put it off.
Last time we visited them was about five years ago but it was like we’d never been away! We spent ages chatting but then our stomachs told us we needed to eat so we got a taxi into the town and went to the same restaurant/bar we came to last time.
The meal was great. Dean ordered a Zigeuner Schnitzel, Elke pointed out that the word had connotations to a Gypsy lifestyle which she and Steve thought was appropriate.
The wine and beer kept coming so we stayed there and as the evening wore on we were joined by one of Steve’s friends and his wife who are both serving soldiers.
Her parents also came along, who turned out to be wardens of a C&CC site. They gave us some advice, and we had a few laughs as it turned out we had a mutual friend – they say it’s a small world…
After they had left we ventured onto another bar for a nightcap then got a taxi home…after a kebab pit-stop!
Thanks Steve & Elke for making us feel so welcome – we will be back to see you again!
13 November Bielefeld
We arrived at this campsite yesterday in anticipation of seeing friends at the weekend, so to kill some time we hopped on the train into Bielefeld to go sight-seeing.
Dean called Steve to tell him we’d arrived and were sat in a lovely little cafe eating a tuna fish salad and a spicy chicken salad. We then stopped by the shops and collected our bottle of wine for the evening before getting the train back.
On our return we got settled for the evening.
However, we woken about 1am by the sounds of emergency sirens immediately outside the motorhome! Dean got up to investigate only to be confronted with some poor chap being carted off in an ambulance.
Things settled down after a while, but it took ages to get back to sleep!
9 November Osnabrück
These early mornings are not natural!
We walked into the town to get the bus into Osnabruck at 9am, and were wrapped up in thermals, scarves, hats and gloves. It was freezing!
This time we went straight to the Tourist Information Centre and got a street plan with all the main attractions of the City. Osnabruck was once the largest garrison town of British forces outside of the UK, now there are none.
We visited the Town Hall, the Cathedral of St. Peter and the Castle amongst other things. The castle is now the main building of the University and it felt like Oxford with all the students escaping on their cycles to go off to lunch.
The plan had been to visit Bielefeld the day after via train, but Dean managed to get hold of his old army friend who lives there. We have arranged to go and see them at the weekend so have decided to leave it until then.
8 November Walk to Bad Laer
Yesterday was a complete washout with the weather but we were determined to get out and go for a walk. The surrounding area has loads of walking and cycling routes, all within walking distance of the campsite.
From the map we had bought the village of Bad Laer looked an interesting destination, and was only 8km away. The weather behaved itself so we went without waterproofs, and ended up stripping off layers as it turned out to be a real mild day!
We met many people on the route – Sunday strollers, Nordic walkers, joggers and cyclists. The walk was well sign posted so we could have done it without a map.
As it was Remembrance Sunday, we were conscious that we wanted to observe the minutes silence somewhere along the walk. Along the route we came across a War Memorial for the soldiers who lost their lives in WW1, a very poignant reminder of the devastation experienced on all sides. We managed to find a hut along the way that coincided with 11am, and after the formalities we continued on our way and found a very large tower half way along.
Having climbed 122 steps we were rewarded with lovely views of the Teutoburger Wald, and drank our flasks of tea we’d smartly packed! Further into the village there was a lake with lots of ducks and swans so we fed them with the stale bread we had brought with us…only to find as we walked further round that we were forbidden to do so!
As is the law in Germany, when we got to the village we dutifully found a bakery/coffee shop and availed ourselves of coffee and cake. Sadly, we also discovered that no buses were running so we would be walking back!
We did make it back! After a shower and dinner, Dean started updating the blog and Angela lay on the sofa unable to move!
6 November Bad Rothenfelde
‘Rain, rain go away, come back another day’ that is what was going through our minds first thing this morning. It had rained all night and was still raining when we got up.
As we had not planned to stay here we did not know what to expect from the place, how big it was or what it had to offer. After breakfast we set off towards the town centre equipped with a small map which we had obtained from the campsite reception. We also bought a walking/cycling map of the area as it looked like there were a few walks we could do. Fortunately the rain had stopped so we set off.
It only took 15 minutes to walk the short distance into the centre of town and we were pleasantly surprised with what we saw. There was a good selections of shops amongst which were clothes, butchers, souvenirs and a few bakers. There are also lots of Coffee shops and Ice cream parlours. The Germans are like the French in as much as they like to have fresh bread and rolls every day. They also like their cakes and they make them very well. There is so much choice it sometimes takes a while to decide which one to have. I suppose we will have to try all of them while we are here!
We noticed a tall long structure which we thought at first was some sort of dam. The plaque on the wall named it as ‘Altes Gradierwerk’ built 1773-1777 it was 175 meters long and 13 metres high.
Not too far away there was a similar structure called ‘Neues Gradierwerk’ that was built 1818-1824. It was 412 metres long and 10 metres high and this one had a windmill on top.
Both had water permanently seeping from top to bottom. We found out later that they were salt pans as explained in the following http://www.bad-rothenfelde.de/gradierwerke/
5 November Here’s to a better day!
After an incident free night we got up and had a nice breakfast. On looking out of the window we found that we were still the only ones in the car park!
We were heading for Bielefeld, only 11 miles away. An old army friend lives there and we wanted to meet up with him. We decided that after yesterday’s run around we were going to stay on a campsite for a few days so we could do a few days sightseeing.
With only a few kilometres to go we hit a queue of traffic as the road was being resurfaced. As we approached the campsite we both looked at each other and knew that we would not be staying here. I’m sure it would have been ok and it was ideal for getting into the town centre. It just didn’t give us a warm feeling.
Luckily we had a backup plan and shortly afterwards we ended up at a place called Bad Rothenfelde. Although it was too far to scooter to Bielefeld it could be reached by train. Campotel, www.camotel.de was a hospital during the Second World War, and then it was an Army barracks until 2000 when it was turned into a campsite.
4 November What a day!
We had to leave Braunschweig this morning as the maximum stay was two days, although there were two caravans on site when we arrived and they did not look as if they were about to leave in the near future!
We set off at about 10:30am and headed for the town of Celle. According to our travel guide it has a lovely Schloss (Castle), a beautifully decorated Rathaus (Town Hall) and boasts over 500 half-timbered houses.
Unfortunately we never got to see any of the above as the two stopover sites we were heading for did not feel very safe. There is a general rule with all motorhomers – when wild camping in the UK, staying on the Aires in France or Stellplätz in Germany if it does not feel safe then follow your instincts and move on.
We left Celle and decided to head for Minden. Dean was getting excited as it was his home for four years when he served with the Army in the 1980’s. Minden is a beautiful city that has evolved due to its strategic location on the River Weser. It has a wonderful cathedral ‘Dompfarrkirche St Petrus and St Gorgonius’ as well as a nice Rathaus.
Unfortunately (AGAIN!) we didn’t get to see any of Minden as the stellplätz in Minden was closed! We couldn’t believe our eyes when we arrived as the whole car park where there are normally 100 parking places set aside for motorhomes, was taken up by fairground rides and food stalls! We had turned up at the same time of year as the annual fair! What are the chances of that happening?
Still smiling, we parked up at the edge of the car park and had a bite to eat. We checked our stellplätz guide and found another one nearby in Bad Oeynhausen. We set off and shortly after arrived in a queue of traffic……we were beginning to think that someone had it in for us!
After getting through the traffic our trusty satnav indicated to us that we had arrived. I missed the turn so at an appropriate place we turned around and headed back………
Oh my, or words to that effect! The parking place was right next to a very busy main road and was not big enough to take the motorhome and trailer. Although according to the guide it had 4 places up to 12 metres long. What do you do in a situation like this? Well, you just laugh, get the guidebook out again and plan your next stop.
This was turning into a magical mystery tour! Our next stop was Herford, home of Herforder Pils.
It was not too far away, in fact it was the next junction off the main route 2. Dean and his old army colleagues know this route well as it was the main road from Minden nearly all the way to Calais when driving home for annual leave. Unfortunately, it is also where a couple of friends had lost their lives whilst travelling home on leave.
At last! We finally arrived at the car park in Herford which was right next to a sports complex at 4:30pm. There were a few cars, an abandoned caravan, nice houses to the rear, street lighting and it felt ok.
We had been joking on this last leg of our journey that if this site was no good we would break the golden rule of motorhomers and park up on a motorway service station and set up a rota for sleeping, two hours on, two hours off. Fortunately we did not need to do this. We had a meal and watched a bit of TV.
During our meal we saw a steady stream of cars arriving, and all around us the car park began filling up. Herford is either a very health conscious town or we had picked the night when there was a big sports tournament. This did not worry us as it meant that there was always someone around to keep an eye out for us. From about 9pm onwards there was a mass exodus and by 10pm we were the only ones left!
The driving had tired me out so I went to bed at 10:30pm, Angela stayed up watching the TV, and if the truth be known I think she was a bit nervous. I went off to sleep straight away but I was woken up by Angela climbing in to bed at 03:30. I asked her if her patrol was over and if she felt it was safe to come to bed!
3 November (Ivor’s birthday)
After a heavy night of rain we woke to the sound of more rain! This stopped after breakfast and it looked as if we were going to have a nice day.
We gathered our essentials – German phrase book, English/German dictionary and camera then set off for the town centre. Dean had seen a footpath last night just behind where we were parked that took us into town instead of walking along the main road.
It was a pleasant autumnal walk through Bürger Park as the leaves of the trees were changing colour from soft yellows, deep orange through to brilliant reds.
Our first target was the Altstadtmarkt (Old Town) portal of the Gewandhaus (cloth hall) as mentioned in the guide book we’ve bought. Also we wanted to see the Marienbrunnen Fountain. All around the centre there were lots of half-timbered buildings with ornate carvings.
Having visited the Tourist Information centre we went to the Cathedral (Dom St. Blasii) where the tomb of Heinrich der Löwe (ruler of Saxony and Bavaria, known as the Lion) resides. They had about 24 different sheets of foreign translations, but peculiarly none in English? We lit a candle in memory of our fathers as is our custom now, and it was more poignant as today would have been Ivor’s 73rd Birthday.
03/11/36 – 05/05/04
We were hungry by now so treated (?) ourselves to a Currywurst and chips, washed down with a Becks. After that we set off for some retail therapy as there were so many nice shops you just had to go into them. Germany doesn’t seem to do ‘cheap’ shops, but you get what you pay for we suppose!
Dean has poured us both a glass of wine, and we’ll have a toast in memory of Ivor.
2 November Braunschweig. Die Löwenstadt (The Lion City)
We had our last breakfast with Brian & Heike this morning after which Heike left to go to school (Heike is a teacher) and Brian took Tess for a walk. We put everything away in the van and got ready to leave.
When Brian got back we had one last cup of tea and then set of for Braunschweig. According to our Satnav the journey should only take a couple of hours but towards the end of our journey we came to a standstill on the motorway. We hardly moved for two hours and at the next junction we were diverted due to a serious accident.
We eventually arrived at our Stellplatz on Theodor-Heuss Strasse at 14:30 pm. There were three caravans and one other motorhome already there so we were a lot more at ease. It’s always nice to have someone to call on if needed…safety in numbers!
We had a cup of tea and Dean wandered off to get some provisions. He came back half an hour later with a loaf of bread, four rolls and a freshly made Pizza. We watched a bit of TV then went to bed ready for a day of sightseeing in Braunschweig.
What a lazy day we had today! (Apart from loading the scooter onto the trailer).
We had a late breakfast and spent the rest of the day in the house. I kept the wood burning stove going, Angela did a couple of loads of washing and Brian was on the laptop in between playing with Murphy. We also had lots of cups of tea! Heike and Tess were out all day at a dog agility event and were not due back until five pm.
As it was our last night there we were planning on taking Brian & Heike out for a meal to say thanks for putting up with us for the last couple of weeks. However, Heike called to say that she would be late so we ended up having a Chinese Takeaway which was very nice indeed.