The weekend was spent with Jade and Vince (daughter and boyfriend) who slept in the van. We did not realise how bouncy is was at the back when people moved at the front. We do now! The van was parked at a marina in Maastricht so that was the first place to explore. The town is popular with tourists for shopping and had a large growing international student population. There is some debate as to whether Maastricht is the oldest city in the Netherlands. Some people consider Nijmegen the oldest, mainly because it was the first settlement in the Netherlands to receive roman city rights. Maastricht never did but it may be as old or older. One of the sights to see is a 13th century Dominican church which has been converted into a bookstore.
A trip into spa on Sunday which to me didn’t seem to be a very nice place but I’m sure it’s different in the summer. On the way back to the van we went via Jelhay which was our first stop and it looked so different with no snow.
That was the end of our Bavarian trip with a four hour drive through storm Doris to get to the ferry. Come back again in April when we set off for a trip around Scandinavia.
After driving all afternoon we finally stopped at Piesport which is the biggest wine growing centre in the Mosel region. Between Piesport and Ferres, the biggest Roman wine pressing facility north of the alps was unearthed in 1985 and partly reconstructed. The weather was bad so it was just a walk along the river.
We have lost the snow again but found a lovely little town called Sasbachwalden after stopping at a couple of other places that didn’t feel right. When we arrived it was just a short walk around the town to stretch our legs and found a nice pizzeria. It was the best pizza I’ve had and it only cost €18 for 2 pizzas with extra toppings, a large beer and a large radler. Sasbachwalden is in a valley so we took a 13km walk up and down the hills around which turned out to be one of the best walks we done. There was all these little sculptures, fantastic views and a waterfall that you walk down and it can not be seen from the road. The path is approximately 800 metres long with 225 bridges crisscrossing the water. As we were walking across the bridges Andy was imagining we were in Lord of the rings and it did actually look like Lord of the rings.
We found the snow again in Schönwald and parked at the bottom of a ski slope. Day 2 and the slope is closed to skiers so Andy decides to get his little sled out and go down the slope. All goes well until he decides to go down a steep part that isn’t very smooth. I’m taking a video and half way down he goes over, face first in the snow! He marked his face so it must of hurt but he still carried on.
The trip today was going to be a short walk to the nearby town of Meersburg and look at ferry prices while we there to take the van across the lake to the town of Constance but decided to go as foot passengers instead, today! After all, that’s what it’s all about making snap decisions of where and when to go places. The ticket man came around the boat and asked what ticket was needed as they can give you the buss tickets as well. No, we thought a nice walk to the town would be nice but quickly changed our minds when the nice ticket man explained it was 7km there. The price of a return for the ferry and bus, for the 2 of us was only €19.60.
It was a bendy bus and it was my first experience of being on one. We sat in the middle of the back seat and what a weird experience seeing half the bus turn the corner before you do.
The town of Constance dates back to the Stone Age. Because Constance almost lies in Switzerland, directly adjacent to the Swiss border, it was not bombed by the allied forces in WWII. The city left its lights on at night to fool the bombers into thinking it was actually part of Switzerland.
On the way to our next stop we decided to stop at the Erwin Hymer museum. I was a bit dubious wondering if I would enjoy a museum about caravans but I was pleasantly surprised.
The lady at reception didn’t speak a word of English but somehow we understood everything she was telling us. She gave us an iPod showing us how to use it and it translated everything inside to English. You follow this ‘road’ around the museum and you go through different countries learning the history of caravans and mobile homes. To see how much they have changed in just 20 years is amazing and all the way around are interactive things for children to do as well. In four countries you can dress up and have your photo taken which are then put onto a postcard for you for only €3!
The stop that night was Stetton which sits next to the largest lake in Germany, Constance. It borders Germany, Switzerland and Austria and is fed by the river Rhine. The lake was formed by the Rhine glacier during the ice age and is a Zungenbecken lake (tongue basin which is a hollow that is left behind by the ice mass). The lake has only frozen 8 times! 1077, 1435, 1573, 1684, 1695, 1795, 1830 and 1963.
Stop 10 is Füssen, 5km away from the Austrian border and known for its violin making. The former Benedictine monastery, St Mang is in Füssen whose history goes back to the 9th century. Füssen hasSaint Mang (Magnus of Füssen) as its patron Saint. He and his brother Theodore were two monks from the Abbey of Saint Gall and are considered to be its founders. St Mangs feast day (6th Sept) is commemorated with a holy mass followed by a procession by torchlight through the old part of the city. During the week of the saints feast, a special ‘Magnus wine’ is sold, with only 500 bottles produced.
Snow was forecasted so a move was wise as we didn’t want to be stranded in a village that only consisted of a church and a bank. Oberstdorf is a skiing and hiking town in Southwest Germany in the Allgäu region of the Bavarian Alps. Every year in December, Oberstdorf hosts the first part of the ski jumping four hills tournament. The tournament has been going since 1952 in Oberstdorf, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Innsbruck and Bischofshofen. The champion is the one who gets the most points over the four events.
We seem to be at the right place at the right as the World Cup ski jumping was happening the same weekend we are here. It was a 5km walk to the Heinz-Klopfer-skiflugschanze so we were going to pay to go inside this time but when we got there it was cash only and we didn’t have enough. There was another entrance which was another 1km walk but that was cash only so we stood outside and watched a couple of the jumps before turning around and walking back.
On the last day before moving on was a 19km walk to the end of the valley and back. There was nothing at the end apart from a farmhouse, a restaurant and a hostel so after a beer we went back. Andy decides he wants to start kicking lumps of snow at me, I’m not having that so at seeing a nice big lump of snow I go to stand behind it to give it a kick in his direction when the next thing I know the snow is up to my knee!
When Andy was about 14 years old he went on a skiing trip with the school in the Austrian Alps in a little town called Bichelbach so we made it one of our stops. We found the little ski slope for beginners and watched the youngsters for a while before Andy turns and walks away. “Where are we off to now?” He wants to find the hotel he stayed in but can’t remember which one it was. “What did it look like?” He can’t remember that either! “Where are you going then if you can’t remember which one or what it looks like?” He wants to find a tourist information and ask them what hotel he might of stayed in 45 years ago! I couldn’t help but laugh imagining this young 20 year old behind the counter. Thankfully the tourist information was just a little stone hut thing with leaflets in.
First thing before anything else, Andy decides to clean the van. This would normally be fine except it’s pretty cold outside so the water turned to ice and we had a very nice ice rink going around the van when he finished. From the campsite you can see a ski run and this weekend hosted the FIS ski World Cup. To get into the arena costs between €23 and €48 depending on where you want to sit/stand but we are on a budget and look at all options available. About 100 metres up the slope we could see a place to stand and from there the last third of the course. Andy had his binoculars out looking at the scoreboard, telling me who was up next and their times.
When the German skiers came over the finish line, the crowd just erupted and the noise was quite overwhelming. Austria came 1st, Sweden 2nd and Germany 3rd. It was a pretty good day and we didn’t spend a single cent. The evening was spent watching, from the van, a helicopter go up and down with all the equipment. As night fell 4 piste bashers went up to do their thing then one started coming back down and trailing behind it was what looked like fairy lights. When I looked closer, it was all the workers coming down on skis and each one had a light and the sight was absolutely amazing.
Making the most of the free bus passes we went to the Olympic stadium which I think Andy was more impressed with than me. Not far from there is the Partnach Gorge which I was impressed with. Lots of pictures were taken but you can’t capture the true experience of seeing a frozen waterfall and walking underneath the huge icicles. When we got to the other end we decided to take a different route back as the Gorge was quite busy and some tight spaces where only one person can go through at a time. I think we must of chosen the hardest route back! It was a steep climb up the side of the mountain, equivalent to 54 flights of stairs. At the top was a restaurant where we stopped to have a beer and radler and from here you can rent sleds to get back to the bottom down the other side but we didn’t find this out until we were already at the bottom.
The campsite we are on gave us a free bus pass each so we used them to get to Eibsee lake. The lake was frozen over and plenty of people had and was walking across it so I was brave and started walking. The walk on the lake was 3.5km and most people don’t know but my worst fear is drowning! There were a couple of islands in the middle of the lake and the ice had started to defrost on the edges and I could hear the ice cracking.
According to my Garmin Vivosmsrt HR+, my heart rate reached 148 bpm that day and I think that was when we had reached one of the little islands and for some unknown reason, Andy is standing on the edge of the ice jumping up and down! Why? I think I’m going to fall through the ice and die so I’m moving away from him and all the way back to land, I think I can hear the ice cracking underneath me. Safely back on solid earth , heart rate a lot slower, we decide to walk back thinking it’s no more than 6km….. 8.5km later we get back to the van and get the gludwein out.
Up for a nice early walk up the mountain which was equivalent to 25 flights of stairs and after 4.76 km back at the van.
Stop 7 was the other side of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Just a short walk in the afternoon as we had already done the mountain in the morning, around to the ski slope and back. On the way back a woman was walking towards us with what looked like horses but as she got closer we were very surprised to find they were not.
Often we look around at other vans to pick up little tips that may be obvious but you don’t realise until you somebody else do it. For example, people having buckets at the back of there vans? They had their taps open and had their water running into them so their water didn’t freeze. On this camp site we saw this …..
For those of you who don’t know, this is a vent where steam comes out from our heating/hot water and that is a peg? Realisation hit us that it is to prevent this ….
What a brilliant idea! No more frozen sides for us.
Augsburg is next and is the 3rd largest city in Bavaria and Germany’s 3rd oldest city. Augsburg was founded in 15BC and is the only German city with its own legal holiday, the Augsburger Hohes Friedensfest, celebrated on August 8th. This gives Augsburg more legal holidays than any other region or city in Germany. A lot of people may like Augsburg but to us it’s just another big city so we went in search for our first Bratwurst ( which is a German sausage ) and could not find a single place that sold one but there were plenty of Kebab places so kebab it was.
It was still early so we decided to move on to Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Stop 4 is Dinkelsbühl. The city was founded before 1083 and every summer they celebrate the city’s surrender to the Swedish troops in 1632 during the thirty years war. The legend tells that when the Swedish army besieged the town, a teenage girl took the children to the Swedish general to beg for mercy. The Swedish general had recently lost his young son to illness and a boy who approached him so closely resembled his own son that he decided to spare the town.
The summer breeze open air heavy metal festival has been held in Dinkelsbühl since 2007. When we left the van to go into the town, I asked Andy “are we going the right way?” Yes is the answer! After about 5 minutes Andy gets google maps out and says “oh, we are going the wrong way” After 1km of walking we are back at the van and there in front of us is the town.
Stop 3 is Bingen am Rhein and it was -1 when we arrived at 11.30am. The town was about 4km away following the river which was quite a nice walk. We walked through a small park which once had industrial towers in that had been demolished.
Yes, the bananas were fake! I have no idea why there were bananas? At the end of the park I spotted Egyptian geese so I’m trying to shush Andy so I can get a picture but they must of heard us…….. They all turned and ran towards us and just stood there while I took my pictures.
Stop 2 is in Urmitz on the river Rhein. In 4th millennium BC Urmitz contained one of the largest fortified settlements of the time but this archaeological site has since been destroyed by modern constructions. Just a short 5k walk yesterday along the river before it got dark.
Today however we thought a walk to Koblenz would be nice as the sat nav said 2 hours to get there but with me keep stopping to look at the birds it took 3 hours and ended up 12k so we got a train back which took 8 minutes! Temperature is now -7 even the snow has ice on it.
I am also doing a bird count this year of how many different species I see and so far the total is 62
Here we go on a new adventure and this time it’s around Germany. Our first stop is in east Belgium at Lac de la Gileppe with a dam that was built in 1867 for the wool trade but is used mainly now for drinking water and hydropower. Next to the lake is a 78m high viewing tower with restaurant built in 1984. To get to the top are glass elevators which are not as scary as I thought they were going to be.
We did not expect any snow yet and the temperature last night was -4