Showing posts with label germany. Show all posts
Showing posts with label germany. Show all posts

Saturday 9 July 2016

The hills are alive...with the sound of puffing!

Saturday 9 July 2016

We slept well, although the village church bells go mental at 0645 each morning!  But by then the sun is over the mountain and it's warming up.

I was up at 0700, prepared my breakfast and sat outside to eat in the early sunshine.  I waved off our Belgian Motorhome neighbours as they drove off, then readied my bike and kit.  Cathy was having a well deserved lie in this morning so I tried to keep quiet in my 'trip over everything' sort of way! Dropping down from the campsite, I turned left and rode out of the village, heading west.  A combination of roads and excellent cycle paths soon found me in rhythm, humming to myself as I enjoyed the ride and the view.  I can't get over the beauty and cleanliness of these villages. What's really nice is that every house is different, unlike the endless rows of cloned boxes at home.  I had to make a few detours due to road and bridge closures; taking a closer look I suspect some of the bridges may have been damaged in the floods of last month in this area.  

I reversed my route, returning to ride through Simonswald - now the fun begins! Riding out of the village, the road started to climb, following the contour of the mountain - smooth roads with hairpins and a constant ascent of 6.5% according to the bike road signs.  The Germans are very precise - a rough 6% or 7% just isn't good enough!   It's also worth mentioning that every road and junction had signs for cars, bikes and hikers. I dropped down into my lowest gear and tried to pace myself, getting into a steady climbing cadence.  It wasn't lung-bursting, but the climb was relentless.  I stopped a couple of times to admire the view - also taking the opportunity to take in water and suck on an energy gel!  At one point a particularly severe hairpin had me thinking I was done, but I took a short break and continued at a steady pace, aiming for the next white marker, roughly 50m apart.  I had the 'Hiils are alive...' tune in my head as I rocked up the road. The traffic was kind and gave me plenty of space, but it still took me an hour to climb the 6 miles to the next village.  I turned left into the square and stopped to enjoy the moment. 

Turning around and pointing downhill, the fun began! My wingman - Ray - will quickly tell you I'm not a fast descender - unlike him.  I tend to feather the brakes all the way down, reaching the bottom of a hill long after him.  But this was a more gradual descent, although still challenging.  The road was very smooth and I could see the bends well in advance. Moreover the traffic was light, so I went for it.  I think this was my best descent ever.  I sat at the rear of the saddle, adjusting my positioning as I leant into the corners, touching the breaks on blind bends.  The descent kept me above 30mph all the down, my eyes were watering and it was exhilarating!  By the time I rolled into Simonswald after about 36 miles of cycling, I was ready for the coffee down at the water mill. Back at the van, Cathy was sat under the awning reading and I flopped into my chair, not quite believing my great ride. If I could do this  every day I might lose a little of the excess timber around my waist!

A quick change and I walked into the village to buy some food and draw out some cash. We then walked down to the village swimming pool again. Towels spread on the grass, we enjoyed our first swim of the day.  Once dried off I was hungry after my ride, so walked up to order some Currywurst and chips with a beer - amazing grub! Cathy joined me later for a glass of lager, followed by an ice cream each. The rest of the afternoon was gainfully employed sunbathing, swimming and snoozing, both waking each other up snoring! 

Back at Nido Cathy prepared dinner - duck breast with green beans and chickpeas. As the sun sank beneath the hills, it cooled down and the crickets started their evening serenade. Tomorrow we head  into France, but I've no doubt we'll return to the Black Forest. It's a beautiful place - clean air, amazing scenery and friendly, smiling people, who patiently tolerated our 'baby steps' attempts at speaking their language.  We'll be back. 

Post-ride coffee

Post-ride and post-swim currywurst, chips and pils!

Friday 8 July 2016

I don't eat cake!

Friday 8 July 2016

Day two at Camping Schwarzwaldhorn and we woke early to another lovely hot, sunny day, albeit with a bit more breeze, which was welcoming. Breakfast done and rucksack packed, we were out of the van by 0800 and walked down into the village, soon crossing over the road and turning off to start a gentle climb up the Haslach valley. Today we planned to follow a circular walking route, taking in several old water mills, the route known as the Mühlenwanderweg. The day was warming fast and we followed the road past immaculate alpine houses and gardens, before turning off onto a track, climbing higher past sweet-smelling pastures and wild flower meadows. Many of the grass pastures had been cut and were now being turned - mostly by tractor but sometimes by the old fashioned way of manual labour - ready to store as silage for winter feed.  Another point we'd noticed was the very large, long and well-stacked wood piles. Wood isn't in shortage here, but clearly they use a huge amount during the winter months, when this area is covered in snow and ice and many areas never enjoy direct sunshine.  From the different colours of the wood, we could tell there were several years' of seasoning in progress.  Even now, in the heat of summer, the sweet swell of well-aged woodsmoke is prevalent.

We continued to climb, grateful for the deep shade provided by the very tall trees, mostly conifer, but occasionally oak, beech and hazel. The air was warm and scented with pine resin and Cathy even found some tiny, ripe alpine strawberries. We didn't see another soul until we started to drop back down into the valley.  All the paths are very well sign posted and at one point we saw a signpost for a waterfall about 3km away.  It meant doubling back a little, but we decided this would be worth it.  We eventually left the forest and walked up a steep road in full, hot sunshine, before turning off along a rocky track, heading steeply uphill alongside a fast flowing stream. We reached the waterfall and enjoyed its coolness from the bridge above, before doubling back to a spot that allowed us to get to the water.  The spring was ice cold and clean and we filled a water bottle, drinking this clear, refreshing  mountain water.  I had a paddle but Cathy stripped off to her underwear for a longer cool off, including soaking her hair.  I managed to split my shorts getting out of the water - clothes just don't last these days - they were only 20 years old!  Cooled and invigorated, we ate a sandwich before reversing our route and picking up the Mühlenwanderweg again. Descending into the valley, we stopped off at Wehrlehof-Mühle, which was open with a visitors book and local jams on sale with an honesty box. This mill was built in 1879 and was used to grind the local walnuts to extract the oil. We had a wander around inside, looking at the tools, utensils and nails they'd found when digging around. We sat outside in the shade to finish the rest of our lunch, using an old grindstone as a table.  It was very peaceful - the stream running below us, birds singing and the bells around cows' necks ringing harmoniously in the next field.  Back down in the valley it was now really hot, so we decided to head back, but after 5 hours and about 8 miles of steep mountainside, we were happy. On the way back we stopped off at the Konditerei (cake shop) and bought some Black Forest Gateau.  Well, we'd expended loads of calories on our walk and we were in the Black Forest!  Now "I don't eat cake!" but it was light, creamy and very tasty and went down well with a cup of tea. A quick change and we were off to the swimming pool again, where we spent the rest of the afternoon swimming, sunbathing and reading. 

Cathy returned to the campsite and I popped into the local supermarket for some breakfast bread and tomato/curry sauce for our Currywurst.  I also spotted some local clear 'firewater' made from cherries - well, it'd be rude not to! On the way back I watched the baker carry his well-risen dough on a plank to the wood-fired bread oven outside - a true artisan. I fried some onions and cooked some bratwurst on the BBQ, enjoyed with the bought curry sauce, a salad and a glass of local, light red wine, still a bit fizzy given its youth.  Cathy was almost falling asleep in her dinner, so after washing up she crashed out, while I sat outside in the warm evening, watching the hills darken. It's now 1030pm and there's still a warm orange glow in the sky to the west - I love these summer evenings in mainland Europe. The campsite's quiet, the odd quiet murmuring in caravans and tents and the occasional car or motorbike along the village road. The flowing river below continues to fill the silence as it tumbles over the rocks. What a beautiful way to end a lovely, relaxing day.  Tomorrow Cathy's planning a lazy day at the van and the pool, while I'm going to go for a long bike ride along these smooth, undulating and sometimes steep forest roads.  Followed by the inevitable swim and sunbathe of course! 

Now that's what I call a wood pile!

Lovely cooling waterfall and delicious spring water

When in the Black BFG!

Homemade currywurst

A sign in Nido's window....just to make a point!

Thursday 7 July 2016

Black Forest Silence

Thursday 7 July 2016

Nido's pitched at Camping Schwarzwaldhorn, a peaceful campsite on the outskirts of the lovely village of Simonswald. The village sits in one of the many valleys in the Black Forest, with pine trees and high mountains all around us. It's been a chillin' day.

We breakfasted outside this morning, then Cathy sorted out the van while I popped down to the supermarket to get a few victuals.  We said goodbye to our neighbours - Ian and Helen - swapping contact details, before driving out of Meersburg.  We've noticed a few things about Germany, one being that the roads are very busy - much, much busier than France and almost as busy as UK, although there are more arctic lorries here, given it's a hub for so many other countries.  We drove along with a great view of Bodensee to our left, before heading into quieter countryside, typical of the Germany we expected to see. As we reached the Black Forest, we drove up,and down long, smooth, hair pinned roads with lovely houses and farms on either side.  I noted how much I'd enjoy riding some of these later on my bike.

We passed through the village of Simonswald and turned left and up a steep road to the campsite.  The owner was outside and directed us into a small pitch, not realising our sliding door is on the opposite side to European vans, so I pointed this out and turned us around. He directed me in, but was trying to reverse me up the slope at the back of the pitch.  This really wasn't helped by him calling us the 'Brexit Van' to a watching audience, so at this point I was starting to see red!  We'd voted to remain in the EU and I had printed and laminated posters to state this, anticipating such a reaction from some, which is now displayed in the windscreen. I think he saw the look on my face and made himself scarce, leaving his wife to check us in. With a great view over the hills, awning, chairs and tables out, we decompressed over lunch.  Although the campsite is expensive, it comes with free bus passes (a taste of things to come!) and free entry to the village swimming pool.  We packed our gear into a rucksack and walked down into the village to get our bearings. This campsite doesn't take any form of credit or debit card - only cash - so I needed to find an ATM first.   On our drive in, we'd noticed that there were very few campsites or Stellplatz,  but plenty of hotels and guest houses.  This has really surprised us, given the German's love of the outdoors. 

Cash found and after a quick bimble through the village, we walked to the swimming pool. This is an excellent facility - an Olympic size pool, with two children's pools and a separate diving pool. It was surrounded by grass, a children's play area and volleyball court.  In addition there was a snack bar, selling hot food, cold drinks and beer - imagine that in the UK!  The changing rooms, toilets and showers were immaculate.  Adjacent were football and tennis courts.  We'd noticed that almost every town and village had similar facilities - clearly their council tax is spent in the local community, not sucked up into some central government black hole.  We enjoyed a good couple of hours swimming and sunbathing, with lovely views up into the hills. We'll definitely be using this every day.

Back at the van, showered and sorted out, we sat outside to eat dinner and watch the sun set.  It's been a very relaxed day and I know we'll sleep well tonight - the heat of the day is disappearing in a cloudless and now almost pink evening sky.  Tomorrow we plan to hike in the hills and hope to find a café serving some real Black Forest Gateau.  But don't worry, we'll work it off in the pool! 

Great view from the van 

chillin' in the shade

What a great village facility - and free!

Wednesday 6 July 2016

Swimming with ducks

Wednesday 6 July 2016

Nido's parked up in a Stellplatz in the town of Meersburg, by Bodensee, also known as Lake Constance. There's about 40 vans here and we have enough room on our pitch to put out the awning. It was touch and go as to whether we could stay here, as the ticket machine refused every card I owned and we didn't have €12 in coins - very frustrating. Cathy went to the market a few metres away to buy a couple of pretzels to get some change, so we were able to scrape together enough for a night, although we'd probably stay longer if we didn't have to find the coinage to pay. It's very frustrating when this happens as the majority of visitors are foreign and even the locals are unlikely to have bags of Euro coins to pay. 

With a castle looming over the lake and medieval houses lining the waterfront, Meersburg is a snapshot of the typical, fairytale Germany, with a pedestrianised Altsadt (old town). A short way downhill from the medieval Obertor gate is the small Markplatz, from where Steigrasse runs down past rows of touristy shops to the lakefront and Seepromenade. A lane parallel to the Steigrasse leads to the Altes Schloss and Neues Schloss, the formidable old castle and Baroque palace respectively, that dominate the upper town. 

We left Donauwörth quite early this morning - the wind was still blasting through the trees. Having made the decision to leave the Romantische Strasse to the hordes of tourists, our journey to Bondensee was about 3 hours. We stopped by the lake at Friedrikshafen for lunch, then continued for another half an hour along the coast road to this Stellplatz. Hot and bothered, we had a cold beer under the awning. I chatted to the owner of the British van next door before we packed our swimming gear and walked into the old town.  Meersburg is a very pretty medieval town, with a castle on the high cliff above and a great view of the lake.  It's a hub for the many ferries that cross the lake. We saw a sign for the thermal-heated pool, so paid to enter. It was a lovely area, with a couple of very warm heated pools, plus easy access to the lake.  There was plenty of warm grass to relax on, plus showers, changing pods and a bar.  We were soon ready for a swim! The lake was quite warm and we really enjoyed swimming in fresh water, sharing the water with several ducks within neck-wringing distance! After a while we moved over to the thermal pool for a few lengths in the warm water. We joined the families to dry off and sunbathe and snooze on the grass, before enjoying another lake swim. We were finally chilled out. Dried and dressed, we walked through the lower town - quite touristy - but found a small bar where we ordered Currywurst and fries, sitting outside to eat with a glass of local wine. A short while later our Stellplatz neighbours - Ian and Helen from the Lake District - walked past. We sat together for a few drinks, chatting about motorhoming and travelling in general.  They were a lovely couple and easy to talk to - enjoy the rest of your trip. Walking back up the hill, we sat outside with a brew in the warm evening, feeling very relaxed.  Ian and Helen gave us some tips for places to visit as we enter the Black Forest tomorrow.  I think I'll need to do some serious cycling miles over the next few days to earn a big slice of Black Forest Gateau! 

PS - sat outside tonight with a clear sky, we saw the International Space Station fly overhead - a first for us. 

Our first view of Bodansee - get us in that water!

Where we sat for a drink and some currywurst

Our first official currywurst in Germany!

Tuesday 5 July 2016

Donauwörth by the Danube

Tuesday 5 July 2016

Nido's parked on a free Stellplatz in the town of Donauwörth, another town on the Romantische Strasse. We're parked side on with the sliding open towards the river Danube.  This historical town was in early times a fishing settlement, on the confluence of the Wörnitz and Danube rivers. 

We slept well as it cooled down during the night and after breakfast, topping up fresh water and dumping fluids, we drove south, following the brown Romantische Strasse signs along the road.  Our first stop was the town of Rothenburg op de Tauber. The silhouette of this former Imperial Free City rises high above the Tauber valley. The town is surrounded by historic fortifications, with seven well-preserved towers and walls, which we were able to walk around in places. The medieval town centre is full of lovely half-timbered houses and a Baroque town hall. We enjoyed our walk, although it was quite touristy. Back at the van we carried on down the road, planning to drive for another hour or so. We pulled into the Stellplatz at Nördlingen, a town built in the centre of a huge meteorite crater, but decided it was a bit too open and noisy for an overnight stay, so decided to carry on to Donauwörth. Once parked up, we had a brew sat overlooking the Danube, before walking along the river. Cathy cooked a lovely dinner of Schnitzel, with garlic potatoes and salad. We drank some of the local young Riesling wine, very similar to Portugese vino verde, sat outside the van in the shade. Although sunny and warm with clear blue sky, it was blowing a hooley, which caused some of the small sweet chestnuts in the tree above to fall and bounce around and on us!  Later we walked into the town, but it was a disappointment as it all looked pretty new - I think the RAF beat us to it! So back at the van, it was brew and chill time before bed.

We've decided a change of plan is called for.  We were aiming to drive all the way down to Füssen, but we think most of the medieval towns will be similar.  So tomorrow we're veering off to Lake Constance (or Bodensee as the Germans call it), to find somewhere for a few days to relax, swim, cycle and enjoy the lake. That's the beauty of the campervan - the ability to change direction at the drop of a hat. 

Rothenburg op de Tauber centre

Great views from the town walls

Lovely potager at the base of the walls

Old bus loaded with presents outside the Christmas decoration shop!

Storks nesting on the rooftop - a common sight

Covered town walls walkway

Monday 4 July 2016

Hot in Röttingen

Monday 4 July 2016

Nido is parked up at a Stellplatz beside a flowing river, on the edge of the town of Röttingen. It's right on the Romantic Strasse and a typical small, medieval town, surrounded by the old walls and high towers at the town gates.  There was only us and an old Austrian Motorhome here when we arrived (and it looked like they'd been here for a few weeks) although more vans arrived during the day. Although only 30 minutes from our night stop, we felt we needed a day of little travelling and some decompression time. So we're staying here until tomorrow morning.

Röttingen was first mentioned in 1275, although the first settlement was thought to have been around the 5th century AD.  In the 16th century it became more economically important  because of the wine production. In August 1953 Röttingen was proclaimed the first "Europastadt" in Germany.  Young people wanted to build a common Europe. The proclamation aimed to demonstrate the idea of living in unity and freedom and marked the start of the journey to the European Union. Given events in the UK over the past couple of weeks, and having walked around this restful, peaceful place, it's a shame others don't feel the same way.

After breakfast we followed the satnag to this stop, driving across very smooth roads through fields of wheat, potatoes and corn. Once parked up we had a walk around the town - very pretty and didn't take long. In particular, the allotments running alongside the river were immaculately kept, with a mix of vegetables and flowers, each with its own old-fashioned water pump and shed.  We said " morgen" to a few of the owners as we walked around, finishing up at the bakery to buy some bread.  This being our first trip to Germany, the variety of breads were a bit overwhelming, so we pointed at one we liked the look of and with a "bitte", "danke" and "auf weidershen" we returned to the van. After two long days driving we still wanted to stretch our legs a little, so took a walk along the river footpath. Back at the Stellplatz we sat in the shade as by now the sun was out and it was hot - yay!  A brew and a light lunch and it was time to chill, read and watch the wildlife and flowing river.

A little later I unhooked the bike and went for a spin. Turning right out of the Stellplatz, I was soon cycling along a smooth, wide cycle path through the valley, both of the steep sides covered in vines. The Germans really know how to promote cycling. I followed the green cycle signs - even through the towns and villages - and felt safe away from the traffic.  If it was like this at home, I'd be out every day, rather than staying off the roads to avoid the speeding motorists.  I only rode out for about an hour, but it allowed me to see some of the real southern Germany - lots of small, well-tended allotments, healthy fields and clean, tidy and very pretty villages. Back at the van we sat in the sunshine before enjoying dinner sat outside by the river.  We finished off our day with an evening walk around the town, pausing to listen to the live music at the outside concert by the wine museum.  A local chap stopped to speak with us, telling us about the structure of the medieval houses and how many had been encased in concrete but we're now rotting from the inside.  He also told us about all the younger people moving away, leaving just the older generation living in the town, although a few Syrian refugees had arrived, bringing a welcome addition of young children to keep the school going.  Tomorrow we'll head further south down the Romantic Strasse.

Original wattle and daub on one of the medieval buildings

Lovely aire by the river

Sunday 3 July 2016

Long haul to Lauda-Königshofen

Sunday 3 July 2016

Nido's parked up in his first ever Stellplatz.  In fact, this is also our first time in Germany too. There's only us here - €5 for the night, but the hotel where we pay appears to be closed tonight, so its a freebie.  It's a very quiet aire in the village of Marbach, not far from the town of Lauda-Königshofen, which sits in a small valley with vines clinging to the side.

We slept well last night, although the local cockerels decided to have a crowing competition at 0430! After a quick breakfast, I dialled in the coordinates for a Stellplatz near Würzburg at the start of the Romantic Road. But before that, we drove a short distance up to the Polygon Cemetery and the New Zealand Buttes monument, which also encompassed the new British Cemetery from those killed in another battle in 1917. It was very peaceful and, as always, immaculately kept. The birds were singing and we soaked up the silence. It was so different 100 years ago, when Polygon Wood was a muddy quagmire and water logged trenches. We wandered around, reading the gravestones and paying our respects to these brave men, some of them only just out of boyhood. 

Back on the road, we decided to drive all the way to our starting point, despite the 6 hour estimate on the satnag.  So it was a long haul down Belgian and then German motorways. It rained hard for some of the time and the roads were busy, much more than France.  We stopped for lunch and continued on for a couple of hours, before pulling in again for a brew. Eventually we left the motorway and arrived at the Stellplatz. It had 90 spaces and is next to the massive Hymer World Motorhome superstore by Wertheim.  There was plenty of space, but was within hearing distance of the motorway; after the long slog we fancied somewhere quieter. But I took the opportunity to empty the grey and black water at the service point, then headed for the Stellplatz we're now on.  Cathy cooked a lovely chicken one-pot dinner, enjoyed with a bottle of Muscadet.  It's been a long driving day, so an early night is called for, then tomorrow we'll really slow down and start to enjoy the delight of the Romantic Road, slow heading south.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning

We Will Remember Them