Well trip 6 – our first major trip in our second year is underway. The goal is to make Budapest, but only if we don’t have to rush too much through southern Germany. If we don’t make it then we’ll just have to do it on another trip.
We’ve definitely become more laid back. It took us a fair few days to get the van packed this time, whereas previously we could do it in an evening! OK – packing was dispersed in between me getting mullered in Modern Warfare on the Wii…. A few other events delayed our departure too, but then we settled on leaving on the Thursday. Unfortunately Mel saw the weather forecast so she wanted to delay till Friday to ensure the sea was calmer. Then Thursday evening Mel got an email regarding an 8-day locum job, and after a brief conversation via email on Friday they wanted her to pop in! So our Friday morning departure got delayed to such an extent we’d be arriving too late, so instead we decided to leave anyway and have an afternoon/evening spa and a massage for Mel in Brighton then headed out Saturday morning. Good news though – Mel got the job which will pay for another trip, though it does mean we now have to be home for Christmas as the job starts just after.
With no fixed plan, TomTom set to “Germany”, the route went via Gent in Belgium – a place we’ve driven past so many times but never stopped. Till now. A free aire with a short 2 mile (well should have been) walk into the centre (there is also a tram and #3 bus). The outskirts were very uninspiring, a little dowdy, and not much to recommend. However the centre area was lovely. As usual for Belgium, a cross between German and Dutch, with a huge selection of old churches, squares and al-fresco bars. One of the squares was very Dutch reminding us both of our first trip and “Slagroom”….
On Sunday we decided to head to Bonn as our first German stop before meandering around southern Germany. The journey was dull as anything – almost dead-straight motorway with an annoying side wind. Surprisingly though the route touched southern Holland which was a little unexpected. We stayed a short walk from Bonn and the Rhine which were pleasant enough. Continuing south to Koblenz where the Rhine meets the Mosel and then having to debate which valley to explore on our journey south – Rhine towards Mainz or Mosel towards Trier….
As Mainz is probably en-route for the way home we opted for the Mosel route along the river and just enjoyed the uniquely German villages and towns along with its own mini Milau Viaduct (If you drive the road you will know what I mean!). We ventured up the mountain in search of a castle but called it off as it was getting dark and it appeared to be Longleat-esque with a long (long!) entry drive, massive car park, and closed. We thus decided to wild camp in Muden before it became pitch black. With heavy rain and strong winds it became a movie night with the hatches battened down.
The route to Trier along the Mosel is very long and twisty with many loops! The entire route is dotted with campsites and Reisemobileplatz (aires) – but the majority are closed in late November! We were fortunate enough to find one near Zell where for a euro we could top up tanks. Through the many pretty villages along the river we stopped at Cochen and had a good walk up to their castle as well as buying some local wine. On arrival at Trier we just parked in the park and ride and walked in exploring some basic Roman ruins and the Christmas market before polishing off the wine.
Waking to a lovely day (!) we decided to only have a short drive and make the most of the weather. We headed towards Wadern which, to be fair, was a characterless modern town. They did however provide a free aire with full facilities so we wisely topped the tanks and headed off for a long work in the forest nearby. We spent the evening looking at the map (for a change!) and realising how close we were to places we’ve already been to (such as Metz in France), and how our route for the next few days virtually touches Switzerland and Austria. A bit unexpected though I guess our Geography is improving!
On our last day of week 1, we decided to head towards the spa town of Baden-Baden but via the slower roads and the Deutsche Weinstrasse from Bad Durkheim to Dorrenbach before eventually hitting Baden-Baden – a fairly long drive with a fair few stop offs taking pretty much the entire day. We visited Hambacher Schloss where they have an annual Hambacher festival. As usual we missed this and Mel doesn’t much like burgers anyway. From there to Saint Martin, a very quaint and pretty village with old traditional houses, then down to Borg Trifels another castle. Now at least we know why they build castles at the top of hills – its because when the enemy get to the top they are too knackered to fight! Finally from there to Dorrenbach which was a tiny village similar to an old Tudor English village.
Then the last quick stint to Baden-Baden (cutting through France!) ready for tea and to explore the town at the start of week 2.
Overall a lovely start to this trip – loads of new sights and the fact we’re going a lot slower than expected says it all. The downside is sadly that we’re so far out of tourist season (late November) that the “wine regions” are pretty much closed up shop and most of the villages are like ghost towns. On many of our walks we don’t see anyone! This is a shame as the lack of others dampens the atmosphere in the smaller places. That said – the roads are clear 🙂