Friday, 26 August 2011

Day 34 - The last day

It was our last day. Woke up to the sad realisation that the trip was pretty much over and next week I would be back in work.
I did not want to dwell on this too much so put it to the back on my mind and we got on with breakfast and packing up the van.
Check out was not till 12 so we had a pretty leisurely morning. After a nice shower and shave I was ready for the day. We planned to park the van and up somewhere and head into Cologne again to have some lunch in a place which was recommended to us by Lexy and her boyfriend.

The lunch was called curry wurst and was essentially German sausage with cheese in a curry sauce. It was lovely and we were both stuffed afterwards.
Once we had lunch we headed back to "the dom" as Rachel wanted to get some more pictures with her camera. That done we decided that we should make our way back to the van and start the drive which we planned to do overnight to dunkirk. The drive was 400km so we planned to stop a few times along the way to eat.

We got caught in a huge rain shower on the way back to the van and got completely soaked which was fun for a bit but after a while made us a bit cold. Back at the van we changed into some dry cloths and hit the road.

We drove for a couple of hours before stopping for dinner. This stop only lasted about 45 min and we were making really decent time so we decided that despite our ferry not being till 12 the next day we would just head to the port and see if we couple get an earlier ferry.

In the end we made it to the port around 12 which meant we were a full 12hours early. Luckily we were able to change our ferry and we on one by 1am heading back to the UK.

It was a bit of a sad way to end the trip as everything happened so quickly but it made alot more sense than just killing 12 hours.

Back in the UK we just had the 55 mile drive to Rachel's mom's and then the journey was over.

Was a great trip. Will post up some stuff on the highlight and all the stops we made as well as the cost of things at a later date.

Final photo with the van - Cologne 25th August 2011

Day 33 - Leaving Manderscheid and Cologne

Woke early (before 8) as we wanted to get to cologne early but before we did so we had a stop off to see one of the volcanic lakes in the nearby towns.

Although it took us a while to find despite it was huge we eventually did. We walked down to the lake. The water was lovely and warm, 21c apparently. There were a few people which we swimming which looked lovely but unfortunately we did not have time so we took a couple of pics and then got back on the road as we were still 150km from Cologne
Volcanic Lake
Back on the road we made it to Cologne in decent time and arrived the campsite which was right on the Rein pretty easily.
Once we had set up the van we had a quick bite to eat before making our way into the town. This proved to be pretty easy and we jumped on the tram and we in the town in no time.

Once in town we head straight for "the dom". It was very impressive and definitely worth a visit.
We walked to the top of one of the towers which involved a rather sweaty 500 stair climb up a spiral staircase. I did not make it to the top as I am not a big fan of heights but Rachel said the view was great.

That done we met up with Lexy and her boyfriends Chris and they showed us around some nice parts of the town which we off the beaten track. It was great to have someone local to show us around as we were able to get a proper feel of the city instead of just visting the normal tourists spots.

This took up most of the afternoon and evening and included visting some cool local bars and well as having a drink outside a church which has for some reason turned into a cool spot to hang out and have a drink as drinking in the street in Germany is not illegal. It as a wednesday evening and there must have been 150 people sitting around drinking and chatting.

All in all it was a good day and was great to see Lexy who I have not seen in about 6 years. We are very thankful for them to showing us around the city. Will upload some more pictures in a later post which I plan to do on the highlights of the trip.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Day 32 – Manderscheid

Woke up and had some breakfast before heading into town to the tourist information. Manderscheid is home to two castles and so we decided that we would go and see them and then go by some supplies at the local supermarket.
The castle was very interesting but we found it a touch strange that in the English guide, which we bought only about 70 per cent of the castle was covered. 

Once we had seen the castle we headed back up the huge hill on our bikes. This was a real test and called for the smallest possible gear practically all the way.
Back at the top of the hill we waited for the tourist information to open again after lunch, as we wanted to enquire about a bike trail which we had picked up a leaflet on but was all in German.
It turned out that to get on the trail it was about a 10km cycle ride from where we were so we decided to give it a miss.
We cycled back to the site and chilled for the rest of the afternoon.
In the early evening I cycled back to the local shop to purchase some food and some wine for dinner. We had steak and a bottle of wine and then went to bed.
The site was pretty nice but very noisy with kids so if that is not your thing then I would say avoid it. In the morning we planned to head to see one of the volcanic lakes, which the region is famous for before heading to cologne to meet a friend.

Day 31 – Leaving the Black Forest

Woke up early as we wanted to be on the road by 10am. Usual routine of packing the van up and checking out from the camp site. Rachel bought some locally grown apple juice, which she later went on to smash all over a petrol forecourt.
Again we had to go over the mountain pass to get back to the motorway (autobahn), which was a killer on me and the van. Again 2nd gear most of the way, which proved pretty unpopular with those behind us.
We stopped at the top as there were some amazing views and so Rachel could eat her black forest gateaux before it turned to mush in the sun. 

Back on the motorway we headed for another site listed in the cool camping book. The drive was approximately 300km and we made pretty decent time so were there by late afternoon.
After arriving we spoke to the man who ran the site and he informed us that we could pitch where ever we wanted. After checking out some of the pitches we found one which was not too far from the hook up and set up the van only to realise 15 min later that the hook up connection was not the correct one for the van. Rachel went to speak to the man to see if we could borrow the correct adapter but he was rather rude to her and seemed to not like the English and said he had no adapter so we were without hookup, or so we thought.
Once all set up we began to make dinner of potato hash. While sitting preparing the food I noticed that a further 20 meters along the pitches there was another hook up box which from a distance seemed to be the right connection which we needed. I walked over to find out that this in fact was the case so we decided to move pitch. Don’t know why the guy on reception could not have just told us this but clearly he was a knob.
After dinner we just chilled out in the van as it was a bit cooler and we did not want to sit outside. This was probably the best thing as the site was rather noisy with kids as it was a bit of a holiday camp.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Day 30 – The Black Forest

Woke up and headed straight to the local bakery which we were told would be open from 7.30 till 10.30am. As we were low on all the essentials we got croissants for breakfast and a few other bits which of course included beer. Don’t think you would find a bakery in the UK selling beers so it was all a bit strange but I was not complaining.
We returned to the van to have breakfast and get ready for the day. The plan was to walk to the local fish farm to buy some trout for dinner and then later in the afternoon do one of the cycle routes that run through the Black Forest.
After making some lunch to eat later we headed off in search of the fish farm and after about 25 min walking we found it. It was a very German affair and eventually we got up the courage to attempt to ask for some fresh fish to take away. After many hand gestures and pointing we eventually had our fish and walked back the site to put them in the fridge for this evening’s dinner.
That done we packed our lunch which we made earlier and headed off on the bikes. The plan was to do the shortest route, which we had seen which was about 17km, That was the plan but it did not quite work out like that. Although it mentioned that the walking and cycle routes were very well sign posted we struggled to make sense of which way we should go. After about 8km we stopped for some lunch and to try make sense of where we were and where we needed to go. After lunch we worked it out and headed for the trail. By the time we had actually made it onto the trail we had cycled over 10km so we decided to head off up the trail and see how we got on all along thinking that we could always turn back if we did not think we would do it in time.

I think we maybe covered the first 4km of the trail which was all up hill before we decided that we would not make it round in decent time if this bit was anything to go on so we decided to turn around and go back.
On the way back we stopped to collect some wood for a braai (bbq).
Back at the site I used the solar shower to have a quick wash, as I was very sweaty from the bike ride. The water was lovely and warm and it was perhaps one of the best showers I have had on the trip and definitely the most fun. 

Shower done I set the fire going as when cooking with wood it takes at least an hour for the coals to form and be at a good cooking temp.
Coals ready we wrapped the fish in foil with some garlic and chilli oil. Although I am not a big fish lover it tasted lovely and made a nice change from the usual food we had been eating. 
Fresh Brown Trout

As mentioned before it was a lot cooler in the evening so as soon as the sun set we were in the van as the dew was setting in.
All in all a good day. Tomorrow we would leave and head to another site recommended in the cool camping book.
The Black forest was a lovely stop and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes a bit of peace and quiet with some walking or mountain biking. This is definitely somewhere I would come again.

Day 29 – Leaving Luzern

Woke up early as needed to cycle to town to pick up some coffee that my mom asked me to get. That done we packed up and hit the road.
Today’s destination was the Black forest, which was about 300km. Rachel started driving. It took us a fair amount of time to get there as the last 20 km or so were over a mountain pass which meant driving in 2nd gear for about 30 min which was not fun and probably did no good for the engine which was already running hot. The pass was seriously steep in parts but this did not stop a number of cyclist tackling it at a snails pace. It really must be a lung and leg killer.
Once at the site we picked out the best pitch available and set up. This site was very nice with a little stream running through.
Set up done we wandered down to see what was available. As it was late Saturday everything was closed but we were informed by the site owner that the bakery would be open in the morning along with a fish farm further up the river which we could walk too and purchase fresh trout.
The rest of the evening consisted of sitting gazing at the stars of which thousands could be seen due to the sites remote location and very little light pollution and having some dinner. A lot cooler in the evenings in Germany so we actually had to use the sleeping bag but did mean a more comfortable nights sleep was on the cards.