21st October – 28th October
Off to the Coburg fortress which towers over the town. We walked through the park grounds that surround the medieval fortress. With its triple ring of fortified walls, it’s one of the most impressive fortresses in Germany. It houses a vast collection of artwork by star painters such as Rembrandt, Dürer and Cranach the Elder. The elaborate Hunting Marquetry Room is a superlative example of carved woodwork and had Dave in awe of the skill of the woodworkers and cabinetmakers of the era. There were also several rooms that housed the weaponry and carriages of the time including of all things, jousting sleighs!
Protestant reformer Martin Luther hoping to escape an imperial ban sought refuge at the fortress in 1530 and there are two rooms dedicated to him as well as the Luther chapel. Back down the hill and a walk through town, stopping to sample the Coburg sausage (bratwurst) which is cooked over pine cones and was very tasty. The markt is a beautifully renovated square radiating a colourful, aristocratic charm with facades and ornate oriels of the Stadthaus (town house) and the Rathaus. After dinner we got rugged up and walked back into town to see the square at night. So pretty with coloured water fountains surrounding the copper statue of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg who married the future Queen Victoria of England. We were pleasantly surprised at how lovely this town is, definitely glad we stopped here.
On the autobahn for part of the way and the rest through some lovely tree lined valleys to Ilmenau. The idea was to come here for the hiking in the Thuringia forest which we may do tomorrow as it is very cold today and would not be a pleasant experience. We crossed over what was the old GDR into East Germany along the way and immediately noted the difference in the houses. No flower boxes and the majority of the houses were covered with slate tiles on the walls, mostly in a drab grey colour. As we got closer to Ilmenau some of the houses had been renovated and painted with bright colours, much more pleasing on the eye.
We had a bad night sleep. The sport hall across from the car park had a party and the noise was huge, lots of people drinking outside, people coming and going right past Tilly talking in very loud voices. We ended up moving at around midnight to a carpark in a small clinic. Not ideal, but we did manage a few hours sleep there. After breakfast we went on a 11km hike along the Kickelhahn rundweg from the stellplatz which took us through the forest along a very muddy trail in places. We did see some beautiful fungi in a myriad of colours, not just brown and white but red and orange ones too, just lovely. We got to the peak of Gabelbachskopf which gave us an awesome view over the valley and the town below. We climbed down to a small cave which was underneath the peak before reaching the Kickelhahn turm (tower). We didn’t climb it as we figured the view would be similar to that at the peak. We passed a small ski run on the way down that also had a bobsled run (closed until winter) where we stopped for our lunch. Back on the trail in a bit of sunshine walking through inches deep of golden fallen leaves with the sun shining through the trees, it was so pretty. I think after all the exercise an early night will be in order.
On our travels, we have come across towns where we are surprised as to the size of them and Erfurt is one of them. Once parked up we went for a walk into town which is about 3kms away. While the walk in was nothing to rave about, the old town is lovely. There are many buildings with very ornate facades and a very large shopping precinct. There are several large churches, one being the Mariendom which we visited. 14th century choir stalls line the side of the church and there are huge stained glass windows depicting biblical scenes as well as a bronze candelabra in the shape of a man! From here we went to the Krämerbrücke, a medieval merchant bridge with shops lining both sides and houses above them. A quick visit to the tourist office and we started to head back. On the way we passed the ice hockey rink and popped in for a look. There was a game on so we stayed for most of the first half. It is amazing to watch the skills of these men on skates, they are so agile, it was great to see.
After breakfast we popped into the ice rink and watched the junior ice hockey team playing. They are just as agile if not more so than the adults although the skills weren’t quite the same. From there it was back into the old town and to the Augustinerkloster where Martin Luther lived from 1505 to 1511, and where he was ordained as a monk and read his first mass. There was a church service on so we didn’t stop for long. A coffee and cake stop before walking up to the Zitadelle Petersburg which ranks among Europe’s largest and best preserved baroque fortresses. We had a great view over the old town from the top of the Petersburg hill. We walked to the Egapark Erfurt, a large botanical garden however as they wanted €6 each to get in, we decided to give it a miss. Instead we walked along the Flutgarben river walk which was lovely with all of the trees and the small river running alongside, and it was free! We have walked about 15kms today, suffice to say tomorrow may be a quiet day.
On the way to our overnight spot at Thuringerwaldblick we stopped off at Gotha which was once described in historic documents as Thuringia’s wealthiest and most beautiful city, sadly that is no longer the case. The town is dominated by Schloss Friedenstein, built by Duke Ernst I (1601–75), the founder of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. His descendants reinvented themselves as the House of Windsor after WWI and now occupy the British royal throne. We didn’t go in as it is another baroque museum which we have had our fair share of. Apart from the Schloss, the only other thing worth a mention is the beautiful park that we walked through on our way into town. We didn’t stay long before departing for Thuringerwaldblick. The view from our free camp site across a misty wooded valley was worth the drive. We had a nice walk through a small forest and along a little brook before settling in for a cold night.
Our drive today saw us arriving at Friedrichroda through some very thick fog so there was little to see along the way. We have come here to visit the crystal cave called Marienglashöhle. The mineral that was once mined here is called calcium sulphate that when crystallised forms selenit gypsum which was used in churches and monasteries and had a lovely mother of pearl finish. We had a nice walk through the Thuringian forest for a couple of kilometres to get to the cave and joined the guided tour (in German). We were given a pamphlet in English so we could read up on the history of the cave. It had a lovely artificial waterfall, the crystal cave and a very large underground lake where the reflection of the cave walls in the water made it look much deeper than the 2m that it was. We had our lunch in the gardens of the souvenir shop before heading back into the forest and into Friedrichroda town. Only one Main Street and nothing much to note, I think the cave and the myriad of walks you can do in the forest are the main draw cards. We are spending the night in a forest car park, so it should be nice and peaceful.
Another day of heavy fog had us arriving at Eisenach. We stopped at Macca’s on the way and rang the kids however only Daniel and Riss were home and all is well with them. We had a maintenance type day, vacuumed the seats, did the shopping and not much of anything else. Tomorrow will see us venture into town. For the time being, we just need to stay warm.
29th October – 4th November
It was quite overcast today, a little bit of fog and the promise of sunshine, which never happened although it wasn’t as cold as it has been. We walked into town along the pedestrian mall doing a bit of window shopping along the way. A quick stop at the tourist office and a handful of brochures had us visiting the St George church. We walked past the house where Martin Luther lived during his school years of 1498 to 1501 and past the Bach museum which is dedicated to Johann Sebastian Bach who was born and lived in Eisenach. We had a nice lunch at the Brunnenkeller before heading up a very steep hill to Wartburg, a 1000 year old medieval castle that overlooks the forest where Martin Luther went into hiding here in 1521. He lived under the assumed name of Junker Jörg after being excommunicated and placed under papal ban. During his 10-month stay, he translated the New Testament from Greek to German. We didn’t tour the castle as we have seen many in our travels, it was mainly for the walk up for the view and back down through the forest.
We drove a few kilometres to the start of a nature walk that would take us on a 12km round journey through some beautiful forest. A kilometre or so in we came across the first of two gorges, Drachenschlucht (Dragon gorge). At first, the walls were wide apart but the further in we went, they narrowed and ascended steeply to form a wild ravine which in parts was only up to shoulder width. We walked on steel grids over the river below as well as a wooden boardwalk through some of the prettiest scenery of green mosses, lots of different mushroom varieties and the Autumn trees with flurries of leaves falling along the way. It was just lovely. Further along the trail we came across the Landgrafenschluct, (land grave gorge) another gorge however this time, we walked along the top of the gorge for quite some way before coming down to ground level. Again, lots of mosses, mushrooms and leaves falling into a wider ravine which was much more rugged. It was a great morning. We had lunch in the car park before heading off on a short 40km journey along the autobahn to Bad Hersfeld, which is almost half way to Marburg, our next major town. After an early dinner we walked into town to see the lights on the buildings – NOT. Not sure if it is because this is only a small place, but there were no lights on any of the old buildings so we had a small walk around before heading home.
Yay, sunshine and blue skies! We had a walk into Bad Hersfeld after breakfast. It is a lovely town with a nice feel about it. It looks like quite a bit of money is being invested into doing it up. We walked up to the Stiftsruine Turm (castle ruin tower) and climbed 160 steps to the top of the tower which gave us a view over the castle ruins and the park. A quick walk through the mall and back to Tilly for our drive to Marburg, 80 kms away. We took a wrong turn on the autobahn (again) however we ended up on a lovely road that led to Marburg through some pretty countryside. We are now parked in our first paid stellplatz (although tomorrow is free for Sunday) for nearly two weeks and giving Tilly some well needed power.
We headed up to Landgrafenschloss the huge Margrave Castle built between 1248 and 1300 which is perched at the highest point in town up a steep walk. It offers panoramic views of the hills, Marburg rooftops and the schlosspark. Again we didn’t pay to enter the castle however the climb was worth the view. We had a nice walk around the park where we stopped for lunch. Back down to the Elisabethkirche (church) which is considered to be Germany’s earliest pure-Gothic church. While it is under renovation, you could still see the beautiful stained glass windows and the very ornate high alter. A walk through the botanical gardens and along the river, we stopped for a beer at a cafe on the riverfront. It was very pleasant.
We headed to the Altstadt (old town) which strangely is reached via an elevator or a lot of steps. It is the first old town we have visited that overlooks the neuestadt (new town) and is nestled below the castle. It is a beautiful old town with many half timbered buildings, some dating back to the 1500’s. We walked through the cobbled streets and had a coffee before our Skype call to our eldest son Adam and his fiancé Francesca. We walked home for a quiet afternoon.
We thought we would leave a bit later today to allow the thick fog to dissipate. We were on the road at 9.45 and the fog stayed with us for about an hour. Our journey then was much more pleasant with some nice scenery along the way. There were many areas where there were pockets of thick ice on the ground. We arrived in Winterberg just on 12 so we had our lunch before venturing into town. The town reminded us very much of Garmisch-Partenkircken although on a smaller scale. For a town this small, it has a very large shopping precinct with many sports shops. Pretty white and grey houses surround the town which is the main town in the Rothaargebirge nature park and is the winter sports centre for the region. There is skiing, bobsledding and an ice rink to keep you busy as well as many hiking trails. An indoor heated pool is just down the road from where we are parked and Dave ventured off for a swim. We plan on doing a hike tomorrow, weather permitting.
Happy birthday Riss!
The weather was kind to us today, clear skies and a bit of wind so we set off on our hike. We headed to the ski fields first. There must be 25 of them in this area, all with lots of snow machines down the slopes (not working yet) and several of them with lights for night skiing. We saw at least 3 new ski lifts being installed along with the ski stations although they won’t be ready for this season which starts in December. There is also a ski jump for the not so feint hearted. We had a nice walk through the forest to the Panorama Brücke (bridge) which is a high bridge (not too dissimilar to a treetop walk) although we didn’t go on it. You could see just as much from where the luge course was. Fortunately for us, time trials were happening so we got to watch a few of the contestants go down the ice course at amazing speeds. We had our lunch there before heading back into town. Winterberg has a lovely feel about it, there is obviously a lot of money here, as shown by the houses and all of the building going on. Once home we grabbed our bathers and headed for the heated pool. There are three pools, a lap pool, a shallow heated pool for just floating and an outdoor pool which was empty, as you would expect. An hour or so later and looking like prunes we headed off for a hot shower and then home. A nice way to end the day.
We woke this morning to a leisure battery reading of 10. Not good, it should be at least 12. After quick research of battery places near or on the way to our next destination we set off on a 65km trip to Attendorn again with some nice scenery on the way. We saw huge plantations of Christmas trees that have been tagged by size ready for sale. Attendorn is home of the Atta Höhle, another crystal cave but with stalactites and stalagmites. Our first job when we arrived was to go to the Bosch battery place Dave had located on the net. Two nice gentlemen, one who spoke excellent English, gave us the news that the leisure battery was defunkt! so we have booked Tilly in for tomorrow at 9.30. Not quite the outcome we wanted, but after travelling for 7 months, this is our first major expense, so we figure we have fared quite well. After a quick bite, we headed to our home for the next two nights and have powered up, so to speak. A quick walk into town 600 metres down the road and we were surprised to see the Christmas markets being set up. This is normally done around the 26th November! I don’t think we will be here long enough to see them open. It is only a small place with the cave being the main tourist attraction which we will visit after Tilly’s appointment in the morning.
An expensive morning but all is now well with the leisure battery. We were very impressed with the service we received from the Bosch people. Back to the stellplatz and off we went to visit the cave. The Atta Höhle was discovered 108 years ago although it is millions of years old and as I mentioned before is full of stalactites, stalagmites and stalagmates. There were also many stone curtains, crystals made from calcium carbonate and a pond of very clear water. Although the tour was in German, we did get an English handout and it was well worth it. I was surprised just how many limestone formations there were. After lunch back in the van, we headed on a 12km hike up through the forest to Biggersee, a large lake that has been dammed and is a swimming spot in the summer. There was a mesh lookout that you walked out on which gave a good view of the dam and lake as well as back over the town. Back down the hill and home again. There is a large market here tomorrow so we may pop back into town for a look.
Where we were parked was next to a hotel, and I’m not sure if it was a wedding, but there were several people outside in the biergarten drinking until well after 2 am, suffice to say we did move to the other side of the carpark for a bit of sleep. We did end up walking into town after breakfast to the markets. It was quite large with lots of stalls selling clothes, food, plants and tools, all of the usual market stuff. We then moved to the ACSI site, purely to do the washing. Dave gave Tilly a wax while I did the laundry and the housework. Fortunately for us with it being November, it was maintenance time and the electrician was working on the wiring for the laundry. Doesn’t sound ideal does it? He had to manually override the system so we had power which meant it wasn’t being charged to our token. Should we tell or shouldn’t we? Of course we should and we did but as nothing showed on the token she said she couldn’t charge us, bonus! We ended up having an early night due to lack sleep from last night.
8th November – 12th November
Our destination today was 20kms up the road to Plettenberg for the sole purpose of having the fridge looked at. While it is keeping cold we sometimes have problems starting it when using the gas so we figured it is better to get it looked at before it breaks! Had a quick walk around the small town and we are now parked up just outside of the service centre for an early 8.00am appointment in the morning.
Another day of good luck! We got to the service centre, Wick GmbH, a quick look at the fridge uncovered a small blockage in the pipe which they used an air hose to blow out, all done within a couple of minutes, no charge! We were sure it was going to be expensive so a nice surprise. The service centre is also a dealership for Chausson Motorhomes and I had a peek while waiting. Very nice. From there back to Attendorn for food shopping as we had run the fridge contents down just in case there was major work required. A quick cuppa and on the road again to Engelskirchen, half way to Cologne. The scenery was very nice through some little towns. We had a walk around Engelskirchen town and along the river past some lovely big houses before heading back.
On the autobahn again today to Cologne which is the fourth largest city in Germany. The stellplatz is huge, with places for 65 Motorhomes right on the Rhine River and strangely a lot of the places were reserved which is the first time we have come across that. We walked the 4kms along the river to the city but didn’t venture in to the old town, that is for later. We could see the cathedral from the river and we are very much looking forward to a visit. We did however visit the chocolate museum not that we were interested in how it was made, we only wanted to purchase some nice Lindt chocolate to have with coffee. We passed a few of the river cruise boats on the way and they looked very luxurious, especially the APT boat. We stopped for a beer and a rest before heading back for the night.
We woke this morning to lots of talking and laughter. When we looked out of the window, several people were dressed up in fancy dress. I asked the lady next door what it was all about and she told me that on the 11th November every year there is a carnivale in the Altstadt which explains why the stellplatz was full and the reason for the reserved places. It gets very crowded and she told us to get there early, so after breakfast we hopped on our bikes and headed into town. She wasn’t joking when she said it gets crowded. Even at 9.30 in the morning there were thousands of people around in some very clever costumes. There were food and drink stalls all around and a huge stage where the bands played. Lots of police about and they had security guys checking bags for glass bottles. Alcohol was allowed to be bought in and believe me, it was. We got talking to a nice group of German ladies who kindly shared their schnapps and champagne! It did get a bit nasty at one time when the lady in front of us was hit in the head by an obnoxious lad and the crowds were a bit pushy trying to get close to the stage, but it was fun for the time we were there, about 3 hours. They have a huge carnivale that goes for one week in February each year, can’t imagine the crowds then! We managed to get out unharmed and had our lunch before walking to the cathedral, however because of the carnivale it was closed for the day. Back on our bikes and home to the peace and quiet.
We decided to do something completely different today, we went to the Cologne zoo and aquarium which was about 1km away from where we are staying. A short walk along the river before a change in direction saw us arrive not long after opening. There were all of the usual animals but we did see some beautiful pink flamingoes and for about 30 minutes we watched silverback gorillas playing. Such powerful creatures and very fast moving. The elephant enclosure had about 10 elephants, three of them babies. We watched the seals being fed although they had to work for their fish by performing. We then had our lunch watching the elephants. The hippodom housed 3 very large hippos in a big pool with a glass side but as the water was quite dirty you could only see them above the water. From there it was off to the aquarium which also included some reptiles and an insectarium. There were some very colourful fish, mainly from Asia and a few species from Australia and overall we had a nice day.