Category Archives: #DeutscheBimble15

#DeutscheBimble15 – Ypres. A City for all Seasons

Day 19 – Aachen

1774 Miles

 We departed Lemgo on Sunday morning. Unlike the UK, the Germans and indeed most of the other Euro countries still seem to treat Sunday as a day of rest, so the autobahn was blissfully quiet for a good portion of the 2.5hr journey. We arrived in Aachen and located the campsite, which was a few Km’s outside of the city centre. Nothing to report as we didn’t venture in.

Day 20 – 22 Ypres

1940 Miles

We arrived at Ypres at lunchtime on the Monday, this to be our 20th night in the van. We found the site easily, stopping off beforehand to stock up at the nearby Aldi. The campsite is pleasant and best of all, an easy ten-minute walk from Ypres Town Centre. For those interested, it’s “Camping Jeugstadion” and costs about €15 pn. With EHU and free wifi. Reservations can be made online.

The Town Centre

The Town Centre

For the last three days we have spent the time, strolling into the town centre, enjoying the café bars and war history. Beer features heavily!

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We also got the Mutts boxed off, with a visit to a local vet in the town for his obligatory worming dose, the details of which were duly entered into his passport….he’s sorted!

Ypres. Although the town was left in ruin during the Great War, it was sympathetically rebuilt in the 1920’s and is a wonderful place to spend a few days. Obviously the war features heavily, but they have managed to get the balance right here. It’s not at all sombre, it’s a happy vibrant place to be, but with certain aspects that generate remembrance. For me, it’s a much nicer place than Bruges; it’s small, easy to get access too and very friendly. This will be somewhere we will definitely return, possibly in a car, so we can visit the battlefield sites that surround the area.

The sides streets leading into the Grote Markt

The sides streets leading into the Grote Markt

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The sides streets leading into the Grote Markt

One evening we attended the Last Post at the Menin Gate, which is located 200 metres from the town centre. Best get there early for the best view of what is, a very moving ceremony.

The crowds are gathering

The crowds are gathering

This ceremony has taken place every evening at 8pm since 1928, other than a gap during the German Occupation of WW2, when the ceremony continued at Brookwood Military Cemetary in Surrey. Indeed when the Polish Forces arrived to liberate the town in 1944, the day they entered, whilst they were still fighting the Germans on one side of the town, the ceremony took place on the other side! The names of every Commonwealth soldier killed, without a known grave is listed. A sombre reminder of what my grandparents generation went through.

The Last Post

The Last Post

A side view of the Menin Gate

A side view of the Menin Gate

We also walked around the towns ramparts, which passes through two Commonwealth War Cemeteries; Reservoir and Rampart, both small in comparison to the cemeteries located further outside the town. I always feel peaceful when walking in the war cemeteries, there is something about the very nature of them that makes me relaxed and contemplative, I try to think that these mainly young men, taken in the fullness of their lives are merely resting. A sad place, yes, but certainly very peaceful and atmospheric, their war is done. The Commonwealth Graves Cemeteries are often set in beautiful locations; Ramparts Cemetery on the edge of Ypres town, is one such place.

Ramparts Cemetery

Ramparts Cemetery

Ramparts Cemetery

Ramparts Cemetery

The directions to the cemeteries further outside the town.

The directions to the cemeteries further outside the town.

We also spotted a recent addition close to the Menin Gate, a neat tribute to the Gurkhas who lost their lives in the Great War.

The Gurkha Memorial

The Gurkha Memorial

So all in all, a great place to spend our last night on #DeutscheBimble15, before starting the final leg tomorrow. As I write this, the Other Half is once again practising her hockey swing in preparation for our “Assault on Calais” tomorrow lunchtime. TBH I’m not worried about the migrant aspect, I’m more concerned about the duty-free situation! I’m thinking I will shop at Dunkirk mid-morning, then hit Calais at about Warp Factor 3 with a right flanker..totally unexpected, just before the suns at its highest point! I’ll be in the tunnel before they know it… Fingers crossed!

That is all

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#DeutscheBimble15 – A Time for Reflection

Not the normal type blog, slightly more wistful. Indulge me dear reader.

Day 16 – Rain (Bavaria) 1235 Miles

Early on Thursday morning, we made the final decision that we would start pushing north with the intention of visiting a place where I’d lived as soldier, some thirty three years previous. We started on the 400 mile journey, basically heading up the map in the direction of Augsburg. We followed the Romantic Strasse for much of the way, stopping near Neuschwanstein Castle for the obligatory picture.✓ The area was heaving with tourists and coaches….we moved on.

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

Eventually arriving at Rain, a small town near Ingolstadt, that offered up a free stellplatze…yes free! including electric. So we stayed here for the night, God it was hot, 32c in the shade, poor old Mutts was in bits.

Day 17- 18 Lemgo (North-Rhine Westphalia) 1595 Miles

Next morning up at early doors, with 350 miles to get under our belts we pushed on. The Chucklebus thrashed along the Autobahn, drawing lots of amused glances along the way, we must have been the only brit vehicle in Southern Germany, I haven’t seen any others since Day 9! so much so, I’m almost losing command of my own language, as the Mutts obviously doesn’t speak English and the Other Half is from N. Ireland, you see my predicament. I now talk in Germanglish, verstehen? We reached Lemgo, which is a few miles N/E of Bielefeld, just after lunch after five hours on the road. The first thing that confronted me was the toothless hag on reception at Camping-Park Lemgo. She really was a horrible lady, and as a now recognised master of Germanglish, I caught her anti-British comments and gestures to one of the other guests. However I’m now a grown-up, so I smiled sweetly and booked us in for two nights, whilst putting her name in my mental “Black Book”….C’mon, we all have one!

Right then, the back-story. I arrived in Lemgo on the 10th Oct 1978, a spotty, wimpy, skint, 17yr old kid. This was to be my home on and off until August 1982. During the intervening period, the army would throw everything at me, that would undoubtedly put it’s mark on me for later life. I made really close friends, who are still friends now, I travelled the world with them, I faced danger with them, I got drunk with them,…lots! and like any self-respecting Brit away from home I partied like it was 1999!  I grew up quickly living amongst guys from so many differing backgrounds, you develop survival skills, or you falter and fall by the wayside. The army’s a great parent as long as you fit in!

During this five year period I was exposed to the best in mankind and as part of my service, was also witness to the very worst. I don’t say this to make the story bigger than it is, everyone I served with has a story to tell. But as I write this having spent the last two days reflecting on my time here from 1978, it struck me profoundly how important those five years in Lemgo was to me personally. For all that was to follow in my life, the Lemgo period was the building block, both good and bad. When we came to leave in August 1982, I was happy to go. I felt restricted, unfulfilled and I missed the UK. I felt my life was passing me by, but of course it wasn’t. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was actually living it, full-on, 100%, to the maximum.

Over the intervening years I’ve never felt a desire to return. Now, with grown-up children, and a recent much-loved addition of a grandson, I find myself more and more looking back at my life thus far. Until a week ago I had no intention to return, however, as the days have passed I’ve changed my mind, and realised I may not be this way again, anytime soon. So we’ve visited, and I’m so glad we did. It’s been a weekend of reflections, nothing sad, just a chance to roll back the years and see whats what.

This weekend trip occurs just over thirty three years after I departed. When I arrived in 1978, it was thirty three years since the barracks had been in the hands of the Wermacht in 1945, whilst my dad was serving as a wartime Royal Engineer! A very bizarre set of facts perhaps, but in my mind I’ve established to myself where I am in the family generational markers,…my Grandson was born 33 years after I left here, so a small series of personal links and a nice little timeline for me to ponder.

Today, although the camp is gone, the buildings survive, but are now converted into apartments. The drill square is now a children’s play area, complete with grass and trees….I like that, it’s something good, let me show you:

Lemgo 1941 - SS Parade outside what was later the rear of the Naafi

Lemgo 1941 – Parade outside what was later the rear of the Naafi

Now the next picture showing the same view today.

The children park

The childrens park

Later we strolled into the town, I hadn’t realised what a beautiful place it was. It’s history had completely passed me by when I was a young man, probably rightly so, I was busy in other areas! But now looking at it, sat in one of the 16th century squares, enjoying a drink at one of the now numerous pavement cafes, I realised how differently the world looks when your seventeen, compared to what I was viewing now as a world-wiser middle-aged man. Time is a great educator!

Cafe Life. Near the Rathaus

Cafe Life. Near the Rathaus

The Rathaus square

The Rathaus square

The top of the Mittle Strasse, Lemgo

The top of the Mittle Strasse, Lemgo

Tomorrow, normal business resumes. We are driving across to the border city of Aachen, where we will overnight, before heading to Ypres in Belgium for a three night stay.

Thanks for indulging me.

That is all.

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#DeutscheBimble15 – And Jack Came Tumbling Down!

Day 13 – 15 Tannheim (Austria)

1126 Miles

We left Oberstdorf early on Monday morning, not really sure where we would end up! At some point we crossed over into Austria, so I stopped, coughed up the required €8.50 for the vignette, that is a charge for all foreign vehicles on Austrian roads…(Why don’t we do that in the UK, a nice little earner to help improve our road system). We then started to climb up into the Tyrol, through a series of hairpins, great fun for me…

The area

The area

We were heading to Ruete, our plan was to stop briefly, have a few pics in Austria for the album, then swing north to Fussen. That plan dissipated as we climbed to a height of about a 1000 metres and the vista of the glorious Tannheim Valley opened up in front of us.

Tannheim Valley

Tannheim Valley

We spotted a campsite on the mountainside, directly below the Einstein Peak and after a conversation with Caroline at Camping Alpenwelt we decided we would have three nights here

http://www.tannheimertal-camping.com

The site is fairly small, quiet and well equipped. We bagged a south facing pitch at the top of the site…well happy!

The Alpen Welt Campsite

The Alpenwelt Campsite

We spent the afternoon on a stroll down to the main town of Tannheim. Just a 30 minute walk away. Through the small alpine hamlets, pasture land, then into the clean, beautifully designed town.

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During the walk I’d been taking note of the peak that dominated the skyline above our campsite; Gilpfel Einstein, at 1860m it was a chance to bag a decent peak by British standards, and with great weather and a fairly well-defined track with just a hint of scrambling, well within our capabilities.

The Assault on Gipfel Einstein

Next morning, we were on our way fairly sharpish, I wanted to get up on top by lunchtime. Initially the approach was through a forest track, that climbed, and climbed and climbed! It took about an hour to get to the point where the terrain changed, the path became narrower, steeper, more rocky, this was the start of the grafting stage.

As we climbed, we came across a memorial fixed to a tree. A loose translation below:

The memorial to  Gottfried Ammann

The Way to God is Over the Mountain

in Memory

of 

Gottfried Ammann

The Host of the Shepherds Hut

For you God, you created us, and our heart is restless, till it rests in you.

                                                                                          Holy Augustine

We were now 2/3rds of the way to the top and the Other Half was requiring that tender, nurturing encouragement, that ex-British Army NCO’s are famous for. I like to call it “The velvet fist in an iron glove”. I went through the A-Z of “Encouragement Tips for Sadists. By now she hated me, it wasn’t only the heat of the sun burning into my back as we climbed. Oh by the way! did I mention the wasp sting? Little blighter crawled up the inside leg of my Borat style shorts and stung me on the inner thigh, I’m sure I caught the glimmer of a slight smile on the face of the Other Half, through my tear-filled eyes. You might think this was my Karma moment?, oh no, this was to come later!

If looks could kill………...

If looks could kill…………

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On the final ridge

During this stage of what we will now call “The Epic Struggle”, we’d been overtaken by about 4 groups of German/Austrian couples and a couple of old geezers cheerily making their way to the summit. I had sort of hoped they might be gone by the time we reached the peak, but no such luck, with our last scramble tottering precariously between victory on one side, and a substantial period of falling on the other, we made it! Bless the locals, they must have had a discussion about us, as they sportingly raised a resounding cheer as our sunburnt heads and one x knackered poodle appeared over the final precipice! Gipfel Einstein was ours!

Victory!

Victory!

The view

The view

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Not bad for an iphone snap

A happy bunny.

A happy bunny.

We stayed on the summit, long enough to savour the views, give the Mutts his dinner and rehydrate ourselves. We then commenced the walk down. No Problemo you might think? Now it’s been a long running saga between me and the other half about the state of my boots, well the soles actually, which are almost worn flat in places! I’d been whinging for the best part of 12 months that I needed a new pair.  If the truth be told, I’m to tight to fork out on a new pair, and she won’t encourage me to buy new ones, so stalemate!…Mistake No 1.

You guessed it, about 15 minutes into the descent, I was happily skipping from rock to stone, interspersed with steep gravel tracks, when my world suddenly took on a new aspect, as I found myself defying gravity(but not in a good way) as my feet seemed to leave the ground on their own accord…..snap, nano-sec thought…”this is going to hurt“. Somehow I turned over mid-flight and crashed to the floor, pretty much unable to break my fall, very conscious that my forehead was just about to smash into the rock…..Now a few weeks ago, I managed to crowd source a new Tilly Hat for my birthday, basically I blagged a couple of friends and family to chip in for it. It’s my pride and joy!  So, as my head closed in on the aforementioned rock, I’m sure sub-consciously I was thinking…”Tilly Hat/Forehead/Blood/Avoid and as such, managed to put the brakes on my neck muscles. All I felt (from this part of the body)was the front peak softly resting between the rock and my forehead.  This dear friends was only part of my Karma moment!

I managed to get to my feet, light-headed and a little sore on the knees, with a cut hand, and with “gentle encouragement” from the Other Half staggered to a nearby tree for shade and to sort out my ailments. As I plonked myself down, I dumped my daysac on the ground…Mistake No 2.

I watched in horror as my daysac, suddenly rolled down the steep bank I was perched above. Faster and faster it rolled. This bag contained my wallet, camera and the crucial van keys. Mutts our wonder-dog, dutifully chased the bag, at one point I even fancifully thought he might grab it, and return it to his master, like always happens in the Lassie films. No chance, after a few seconds, and with a hop and a skip, he lost interest in that game and returned to me looking for bloody treats! Then in my ear I heard these comforting words “Off you go pet!” as the OtherHalf made it clear this was my mess, and I was WAS going to have to get us out of it. So with bleeding hand, grazed knees, stung inner thigh and bruised pride, I descended down the steep bank for about 100ms, where I recovered the daysac, that had fortunately caught in some bushes, before falling any further. I was knackered, sore and ready to go home!

After that, I lost my appetite for alpine walking, and returned to the campsite, looking like a bloodied survivor  from “The Last of the Alamo.”  Meanwhile the Mutts and the Other Half, strolled in like true alpine warriors…..like they were born to climb!

Later today, we are strolling to a nearby hotel, where rumour has it, you can see Germany’s highest mountain the Zugspitze from the restaurant balcony! Now that’s my sort of Alpine trekking!

Tomorrow we head to Fussen, and the castle made famous in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang… Schloss Neuschwanstein.

That is all.

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#DeutscheBimble15 – Cows with Bells! and other Trivia.

Days 9-12 Stettin – Oberstdorf

1091 Miles

After departing Hinterholz, we drove south to Meersberg, which is on the shore of Lake Constance, the area was absolutely “rammed” with pesky tourists! so we continued on for a few kilometres, finally getting a spot at Stettin, a “Nothing much to write home about” sort of place. So we stayed a night, and then moved swiftly on the next morning.

Our next port of call was Oberstdorf, deep in Southern Bavaria, just a few kilometres from the Austrian border. This was more like it, and vaguely familiar! It turns out I was here in 1982, doing a spot of military skiing, I don’t remember much about that alcohol-fueled fortnight, other than an incident in a Bavarian cellar bar, involving a wall-mounted red plastic lobster, the loss of my Harrington jacket and along with my mate Gags, barely escaping the cellar bar (called the Aquarius”) with our lives, albeit battered andbruised….ahhh happy days!  Anyway, I’m now assuming the bar is long gone, along with the local Chief of Police, and my Harrington! So we decided to park up at Camp Rubi and have three nights in this glorious place.

Camp Rubi

Camp Rubi

The site is nestled below the Nebelhorn, which is some 2224 metres in height and a mecca for parascending.

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Fortunately the ever-efficient Germans have laid on a cable car, so that lazy good for nothing Brits, can get to the top of the mountain without breaking into a sweat…”I’ll have some of that” I cried.  So on an overcast early Saturday morning with sandwiches and wet proofs packed, Me, the Other Half and Mutts the dog, made our way to the Nebelhorn Bahnhof. With a steely determination, that makes the British famous the world over….We would get our cable car ticket, we would ride that cable car, and we would get to the summit of Nebelhorn at 2.224metres! (I’m filling up with pride as I pen this).

 Eine Problem! The Mutts had to wear a muzzle in the cable car, which the ticket office, with an eye on profit also sold! To say the Mutts was not happy was probably an understatement. Looking a little like Hannibal Lector, he whined, he howled, he pawed at his face…errrm #embarrassing. I suspect Mutts was doing other things when they were handing out British “Stiff upper lips” at Dover on the outward-trip.

A nice chianti……..

A nice chianti……..

So after a stiff talking too, threats of violence, pleading, and bribery we managed to drag him onto the cable car.  This routine continued at the next two stops, until we finally made it to the summit, which would have been quite a pleasant ride, if we’d have been lacking a certain dog! 

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In between

In between “Dog Wrestling” a snatched shot from the cable car.

We’d started the journey at the bottom “ala brit” union jack shorts, cut off tee-shirts, flip-flops, you know the routine. The type of stuff you can see on any British mountain on any given weekend of the year. By the time we had reached the top, the summer kit was away and we were fully gore-texed, because unlike the base of the mountain, it was raining sideways at the top.

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We then started the walk down, which took a couple of hours. A really enjoyable walk, along quite steep tracks, in the rain, until we dropped below the cloud base and could really enjoy the alpine views. Brilliant. Even the dog enjoyed it.

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1970’s German Tourism Poster

Oh! Another bucket list item ticked off….Cows with bells!

A cow…with a bell!

A cow…with a bell!

This afternoon, we’ve been invited to an old army buddy’s house a couple of Km’s outside of the town, for a couple of beers and a bite to eat. Should be be good.

Next? Maybe a bit of the “Romantic Strasse” from Fussen – Augsburg…. basically heading up towards Munich.  We move on tomorrow morning, Monday.

That is all.

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#DeutscheBimble15 – Black Forest Heaven

Day 7 – 8 Neustadt – Hinterholz(Black Forest)

940 Miles

We left Neustadt early on the Tuesday morning, with no real plan, other than to drive to Baden-Baden and pick up the Bundesstrasse B500. This tourist road, built in the 1930’s takes you south from Baden-Baden, through a 2.5km tunnel, it then climbs over the high ground that dominates the north of the Black Forest. The road cuts below the highest point at Hornisgrinde at a height of about 1000m. So to give that some perspective, the road at it’s highest point is just a bit lower than Mt Snowdon. It’s fairly underused, although the pace of life picks up in the winter as the cross-county skiers arrive en-masse. The Chucklebus dealt with the road admirably, although the new set of rear brake pads we had fitted prior to the trip had an opportunity to bed in on the way down! Especially when the one “pimmelkopf” on the road…a middle-aged brit biker, decided at one of the numerous suicidal bends for an overtake. (We saw him later down at the base, I signalled what a good rider he was!)

After climbing over that feature the landscape changed and the area became a mixture of huge swathes of forests interspersed with alpine style villages and pastureland. Beautiful, isolated and peaceful. At this stage we were following the satnav, which took us deeper into the forests, off the main routes…life was getting interesting, lots of switchbacks, hairpins and hill-climbs, all within steep forestry.

This is where we are now. Hinterholz

This is where we are now. Hinterholz

Eventually we ended up in a small hamlet called Hinterholz, consisting of two houses, one of which was a stube. http://www.hinterholzstube.de

Hinterholz. The van is parked behind the facing barn. The pub to the right.

I spoke to the young fraulein who answered in perfect English. Yes! we could park the van here for €5 per night, with electric, “just park alongside the barn”. Happy days, what a fantastic spot, even the mutts was doing cartwheels, especially when he spotted the goats! It turned out that english-speaking Julia was the niece of Heinz, the proprietor of the pub, a really nice guy, who has the good fortune to live in what many brits would consider to be paradise. We certainly did. Without hesitation we decided this would be our base for the next two nights.

The Parking Space!

The Parking Space!

A view!

A view!

Another View!

Another View!

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A damp stroll back to the Chucklebus

So we’ve spent our time doing some forest walks, glimpsing sight of the occasional deer, and generally chilling out. The weather hasn’t been great, similar to the UK I suppose, although slightly warmer, despite the rain. This evening we are planning on a bratty and a couple of beers at the stube, we still can’t believe our luck in finding this….perhaps this is the norm? We will see as we move further south towards Bavaria over the next few days!

Tomorrow we up sticks and drive south to Meersburg, on the shore of Lake Constance.

Stube Update: For “Essen” this evening. Black Forest dry cured bacon(makes a change from gateau). Also rib steak sausage cutlets. Washed down with ice cold Alpirsbach BierVery rustic and very South Germany. The doggy bag is on a full security lockdown until tomorrow.

That is all.

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#DeutscheBimble15 – I Ain’t Getting Wet!

The Route From the Moselle

The Route From the Moselle

Day 6 Bremm – Neustadt

815 Miles

Today started off with the best of intentions, we would spend another 24hrs in the Moselle, just one more night! This time we planned to move to Wintrich, which we quite fancied as the campsite was right on the banks of the river…problem was, it was raining…heavily. Now don’t get me wrong, the Moselle is pretty impressive by anyones standard, but when it’s raining, I might as well be stuck in a hole on Senneybridge…been there, done it, got the tee-shirt. So after a quick discussion with the “Other Half”, we decided to say auf wiedersehen to the Moselle and make tracks further south to Neustadt and hopefully better weather, which would also put us closer to our goal of reaching the Black Forest. Much better to be moving with a purpose, than static and staring out of the van window at a rainswept valley….we can do that at home!

As we drove further down the Moselle, it was clear the Germans had “Capital Projects” spilling out of their ears. Bridge building, new roads, general improvements, all designed to support what is effectively a string of villages, supporting a huge drinks and tourism industry. It made me feel as a Brit, fairly inadequate. We just don’t seem to have the will or desire at a political level to get things like this done. If the Germans managed the Lake District, or the North Wales Coast, the transport infrastructure would be very different. The picture below is a bridge, being inserted across the valley, to improve on an existing bridge, that supports a large village…..that’s it! It’s huge and shows a level of commitment that we seem to lack.  Bloody Germans! 🙂

A little bit of bridge building

A little bit of bridge building

Another thing I discovered on todays run…German FM Radio…Oh!! I was in heaven…I found a nationwide station where every track is a classic. No adverts either…Here’s a selection, which those of a certain age or style will appreciate:

Winds of Change – Europe

Who’s got the Look – Roxette

Stairway to Heaven – Led Zep

Hotel California – Eagles

Everybody Wants to Rule the World – Tears for Fears

Never Can Say Goodbye – Gloria Gaynor

Basically it was my entire apple music collection….who wouldn’t want to drive to that?  The “Other Half” had a face like fury, she still thinks she’s 15yrs old and is into Taylor Swift/Rihanna/Mumford & Sons and suchlike. There wasn’t a song I never sang the lyrics too over the period of the 3hour drive…a marvellous day…..For me!

So now it’s a another winery in another Stadt. This time “Weingut Schafer, a peaceful location, just a couple of kms outside of Neustadt. Tomorrow we’re planning to head to Baden-Baden and start the Black Forest stage.

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The entrance

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The view from the Chucklebus

German FM Update. They’ve just played “Disco Duck!”  Big Thumbs up!

That is all

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#DeutscheBimble15 – The Schlep Down South!

Day 1 N. Wales – The Tunnel

300 Miles

Full of joyous optimism, we drove down to the tunnel, sadly that bubble burst about 2hrs into the journey, as we heard reports on the radio that Operation Stack was in force on the M20. Basically the French were kicking off on their side, so our crossings were delayed. The M20 from Junction 8 was now officially a lorry park. With all approaching routes gridlocked. Happy days.

Not to be deterred, we had an overnight stop planned, so we snuck away from the traffic jams and drove the back-roads through the stunning Kent villages and byways, eventually stopping at New Romney, buying excellent fish & chips and parking alongside the shingle beach to enjoy them as the sun was setting. As a child of the 60’s this area is ingrained in my mind. This is the general location that “Dads Army” is based on, a little piece of old England, also I’d spent a lot of my military service in and out of the area on various training stints , so I had a wealth of lamp-swinging stories with which to bore the “Other Half”, normally involving copious amounts of beer and other pub-based shenanigans!….zzzzzzzzzzzzz She slept well.

New Romney beach

New Romney beach

Tomorrow would be another day.

Day 2 Kent – Brugge

379 Miles

After a overnight stop at the services at junction 11, at 0700hrs we attempted to get in the queue to Junc 11a, the mystical location of the tunnel access. Operation Stack had been lifted, all was looking good!,  OMG! Queue of death on the feeder lane into Junc 11a and not a police officer in sight, pandemonium reigned. People were wandering around the motorway, walking the dogs, and making new friends. This is a motorway right? No mate, it’s a bloody car park!

The M20 Carpark

The M20 Carpark

To add insult to injury, The Tunnel publicity department was pumping out meaningless messages via SMS/twitter apologising for the delays…apparently due to an “Incident” at Ashford. Since yesterday we had been following Kent police/highways twitter feeds. They all talked about the queues, but gave no detail or solutions, it was gridlock. Then we decided to tune into local radio…and after about 20mins of inane drivel and cheesy hits of the 80’s, the announcer suddenly piped up Smashy & Nicey styleee…

”Ok folks, I’m hearing there is a lorry broken down at junction 11a. If you’re in a car, avoid the inside lane, you should be able to get access at the point where the lorry is stuck” I could have hugged him. I swung the Chucklebus into Lane 2 and drove through the traffic like the PM’s House of Commons convoy on a Wednesday lunchtime. Within three minutes I was in the tunnel access area. What a very British shambles!

After that, everything went smoothly, albeit with a 2hr delay. Once we exited the tunnel at Calais and headed for Belgium, the migrants were clearly in view, roaming along the motorway and initial junctions, but we were heading the wrong way, so there were no issues for us. By 3pm we were parked up in Brugge at Camp Memling, for an overnight stop. Expensive by our standards, it served our need, as we had always fancied a trip to the city.

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The site is about a 30min walk from the city centre, and we enjoyed a couple of hours mooching around the little streets and squares. Mutts particularly enjoyed our meal, at a restaurant in the main square, hunkered down under the table, covertly receiving his gifts for being a good boy, in the shape of frittes and the occasional slice of omelette. …He’s never been so well behaved!

Later I slept the sleep of 10 men.

Day 3 Brugge – Bergan (Moselle Valley)

630 Miles

Another long run today, moving some 250 miles from Belgium, through Holland and into Germany, a bit like the Blitzkrieg of 1940, but in reverse order and slightly (just) less aggressive in style. I have to say, what an easy drive. The motorways in all three countries are well maintained and tightly controlled. The lorries seem to apply better lane discipline, not sure if it’s through legislation or routine, either way it works. The “Other Half” did a sterling job on the maps (she will be reading this), as we headed up to Antwerp and then swung across towards Eindhooven, Koln and Koblenz, before hitting the Moselle Valley and heading west in the direction of Burgen, our overnight stop.

Burgen

Burgen

Later in the afternoon, I got all military, ordered the Other Half to get her kit on…”Where we going pet, a stroll along the river?” … Nein mein liebling! Das Burgen Hof…. pointing vaguely up to the wooded feature that dominated the skyline on the one side of the horrendously steep valley…. even the dog gave me that look that speaks volumes.  So off we went in 26’c heat, following a well-marked track for an hour until we reached the top of the feature called the “The Burgen Hof”. A much-need opportunity to stretch the legs, after the confines of the van for the previous 48hrs. At the top we were rewarded with a glorious view, across a huge swathe of forest and pasture land, very scenic.

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From the Hof, down to Burgen

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Check me out with my “Crowd Sourced” Tilly!

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A Buzzard!

The area is home to a large number of “Maüse” Buzzards, we saw groups of them hunting within a fairly small area, whereas in the UK we only tend to see ones or two’s, here we counted 6-7 grouped together, the dog stayed close! Great to watch though, even the “Other Half” was impressed with what I’d laid on (cough).

Day 4 – Ernst

646 Miles

It rained, we mooched.

Day 5 – Bremm

668 Miles

The sun shone today, everyones happy again. So now we’re parked up at a small winery called “Oster-Franzen”. A nice 5 mile stroll this afternoon, up the Hechherd.

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Starting off from the stelleplatz at Bremm

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Grapes, grapes and not a drop to drink!

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Very nice

Later this evening for the cost of €10 we attended a wine-tasting for idiots, seemed apt! The “Other half” of course, being a culture vulture and N. Irish to boot, necked all 4 x glasses, in 4 easy movements….so the “Token Brit Couple” were back in the van by 7.30pm, with a curry and the guilty conscience bottle of riesling I’d bought off the proprietors to try and make amends!

That is all.

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#DeutscheBimble15 – The Countdown

The most eagerly awaited event in our annual calendar is nearly upon us. ! Last year we wetted our appetite for foreign jaunts with our #LeGrandeTour14. This year, in a few short days, we”ll be heading into the heart of Germany on #DeutscheBimble15. Hoping to get leathered on cheap wine in the Moselle Valley, stuff ourselves silly in the Black Forest on ham or cake(I’m a brit, I assume that’s what the area is famous for?), get lobster red on the shores of Lake Constance and finally some alpine meanderings before heading north back to Calais and whatever fun awaits us there. (The “other half” is polishing her hockey stick and practising her swing as I write!) 

I have a route in my head…sort off. But nothing booked other than the tunnel….seat of your pants stuff, that’s what keeps the blood flowing old boy; What could possibly go wrong!

To be continued…………..

That is all.

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