We left quiet Bevern and discreetly (as we could) borrowed someones wifi to update this site then headed north following the river weiser.  We stopped at Hämelschenburg to look at the castle there which was okay but nothing else there to see, then headed off to the town of the Pied Piper – Hameln.  Surprisingly the town doesn’t match the fairy tail looks, and the Piper having got rid of the rats now has a following of American tourists.  Not all bad! 🙂

There is a marked footpath around the town which shows you some of the more interesting sites though in fairness nothing really mind blowing – though also in fairness, no rats in sight.  Continuing northward we stopped in Springe for an overnight stop, again a reasonable place, but similar to the last few places, we’d say “nice but not awesome” and a bit samey. 

So with our route up the Wiser taking us to Hanover, only just remembered we need an Umwelt sticker to enter the city.  These are based on the emissions type of the vehicle, and as ours is new it does comply with Euro IV emissions but a bit annoying as we don’t have an appropriate sticker and not sure I can be bothered to get one… 

As such, on arrival to Hannover we had to route to the outskirts and take a very efficient tram into the centre.  Hannover.  Hmmm.  We had expected to have to spend a couple of days here, but really there wasn’t enough to keep us here and entertained.  The city has reasonable shopping and an interesting tourist walk which shows some of the older and more interesting sights, but its astounding how Germany has mixed some superb architecture with drab concrete and really awful buildings.  OK they had to build a lot, and quickly, post WW2, but even so they have ruined many a nice place.

So on to Hildesheim, the Romanesque capital of Germany, where the story continues.  From the outskirts the town is a complete dump and worth avoiding, but sticking with it and getting into the old town shows of a completely different view.  OK the “old market place” is stunning, but some of it is a 1980’s rebuild.  That said, the “rose trail” is a tourist walk worth following and it takes you (via concrete trash) to some stunning and beautiful old buildings and some UNESCO sites.  This makes the place worth a visit.

It was late evening when we got back from our walk and it just started to dump down (again), so faced with trying to find somewhere to stay the night we opted just to hide in the corner of a supermarket carpark.  Oh my – what have we become!?

After a convenient stock replenishment we headed towards Celle which another old town with over 500 timber framed buildings.  Judging by the size of the car park, and perhaps 40 vans in various places the initial outlook looked promising…  Even so Celle was a pleasant surprise – the old town is quite large, the market bustling, and the buildings very pretty and almost fairytale.  The intricate detail of the buildings decoration is easily missed.  We would recommend visiting Celle – well worth a visit, and even plenty of free motorhome parking and facilities.

We actually enjoyed our walkabout in Celle, so decided to have another night there taking time to relax and enjoy the parks, coffee in the square, and enjoy wandering and actually seeing Celle in the sunshine.  To celebrate Mels birthday (21st again!) we decided to have some beers and meal out al fresco in the sunshine from the newly returned summer.  We chose the “Steak House” which was the most German place next to the Taj Mahal, Pizza, Pasta, and Indonesian, and in fact had a superb meal.  My pork steak from the “advice” menu was probably the best pork steak I’ve ever had, and Mel said her veggie mushroom thing was also top notch.  Neither of us could finish so recommended for around €10 for the main course (all you need, bar beer of course).

With some fresh bread bought from town we headed towards Bergen-Belsen which is where the Nazi concentration camp that killed Anne Frank was located, now a memorial and museum.  Interestingly, Mels mother used to look after a lady who was actually sent to Bergen-Belsen during the war but was one of the lucky survivors.  When the camp was liberated over 60,000 people were freed, but over 13,000 of those died within a few weeks due to the unrecoverable condition they were in.

We would recommend a visit to Belsen – get a guide from the information centre before walking around the grounds, and of course view the exhibition of films, photos and stories.  We spent a fair amount of time here – incredibly moving and very sad and emotional.  Interestingly I’m currently reading Kasztner’s Train, a factual story of how Kasztner saved Jews by bribing the SS, and unbeknown to me as I’ve not read that far yet, one of his trains ended up in Belsen.  I also recommend this book as it is even more graphic for me as it talks in details about places we’ve been on our tours.  Until you experience such a sight first hand it is hard to comprehend – and even then its shocking.

After Belsen we just made headway north overnighting in a small modernish town called Salzhausen.  Pleasant enough and the drive on all the back roads was superb with loads of dream country cottages (aka mansions!) with really neat outhouses and barns…

In the morning the sun was shining so we went on a run on one of the many marked paths, but boy -was it hot!  We had to turn back after a couple of miles as Mel started to get groin-strain pains.  I blame Matt Damon.  So after a 4 mile run and a decent shower, we then topped the tanks and decided to clear Hamburg on our northerly trip.

Beyond Hamburg Germany becomes decidedly Dutch like, so much so we started to see Dutch flags.  Slightly confused we checked TomTom to ensure we were still in the right country, and just continued to a place called Brunsbüttel where there is a massive double canal lock on the Kiel canal which enables ships to cut through Germany rather than go round Denmark.  Huge container ships were passing through and only half filling it – puts UK canals to shame!  No idea if it was one of the biggest around but there were viewing platforms and a fair few people watching.  Even Mel said it was interesting, now I fear her getting a notepad out and being a ship-spotter….

We saw a sign for a “fisch markt” the following morning, so the next day we got up and went to see what it was all about.  Only to find nothing there – so we reread the sign only to notice it was actually taking place in a town 30 miles away.  Oops.

The weather wasn’t beachy weather so we headed due north to Heide where they had a superb aire – better than a lot of campsites.  We walked into the town which wasn’t anything special, then after hearing a big thunder clap the skies turned dark so we headed back to the van quickly – but not quick enough….  We just about made it to a bus shelter when the rain came and caused flash floods!  Within minutes the sun was baking so we decided to go back to the van and actually look at the maps of Denmark and plan a rough idea about what we wanted to do there.  Once a rough plan was made I played some angry birds and, at last, managed to get 3 stars on all levels!  To all angry bird fans that is an achievement, if you’ve never heard of angry birds – don’t buy it – its the most addictive and annoying game I’ve seen and its a relief its over. 

Week 3 ends with the sun/thunder/sun repeating itself – at least the van is looking like it has been washed!

Continue to week 4

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