28th November – 4th December
We left the Rhine gorge area on our journey today which took us on the autobahn to Mainz, 25kms from Bingen. Again we didn’t know that Mainz was in an Umwelt zone so we cautiously made our way to the stellplatz. We had to drive through a detour which increased our stress levels a bit, however we arrived without incident. We had a quiet afternoon relaxing and will head into town in the morning.
We rugged up and headed into Mainz, walking through the back streets until we got to the Rhine. There is a nice walk along the river which in the summertime would be full of people. We walked up to St Stephens church but didn’t go in as there was a service on. We visited the Antike Schiffahrt Museum (Antique Ships) which houses the extraordinary remains of five wooden ships of the Romans’ Rhine flotilla, used around AD 300 to thwart the Germanic tribes then threatening Roman settlements. Also on display were two full-size replicas of Roman ships and a collection of scale-model ships. Next stop were the Christmas Markets which were the biggest we have seen to date. Lots of people out and about which adds to the atmosphere. We also visited the Dom St Martin, a 12th century Romanesque cathedral built of red sandstone. Its predecessor went through a literal baptism by fire when it burned down in 1009 on the very day of its consecration. I would have thought there was a message there! We continued around the Christmas markets for a little while longer, partaking in a currywurst for lunch before heading back to the warmth of our Motorhome.
We managed to leave Mainz without any problems being in the Umwelt area. The heavens opened up during the night and the rain continued for most of our journey to Worms. We stayed on the B roads mainly however the road did run near the Rhine part of the way and through a huge area of vineyards. We stopped at Macca’s just outside of Worms and spoke to both of our sons and their respective spouses as well as my sister who is in Perth for 3 weeks with work. It was great having them all together for a chat and a laugh. We are allowing the weather to dictate to us today, so we are staying put and using the time to plan the next leg of our journey. Hopefully tomorrow will be less wet and not so windy.
No rain today but it is still windy however we ventured into town and had a walk around. There isn’t much here as far as historical buildings go as it was heavily bombed during the war. We did visit the Alte Synagogue (old synagogue) which was destroyed by the Nazis, but in 1961 it was reconstructed using stones from the original as much as possible. In the garden, stone steps lead down to an extraordinary, Romanesque-style Mikwe (ritual bath) built in the 1100. We also visited the Kaiserdom (Dom St Peter and St Paul) where we were surprised by the interior which was built in late Romanesque style and includes a lavish canopied high alter. We had a walk around the Christmas markets and stopped for a warming Gluwein before heading back. After lunch we drove 20kms through farmlands and a small forest to the town of Viernheim where we have an appointment in the morning.
We left Viernheim and headed to Ladenburg, the home of Dr Carl Benz which is about 12km from Heidelberg. We had a walk into the old town along the Arno river and was pleasantly surprised to see it all intact with no damage from the war as well as several Roman ruins. The town had many crooked half timber houses, some dating back to the 16th century. We met a lovely lady, Gisella who was from Chile and she had lived in Ladenburg for 15 years. She was more than happy to chat with us, giving us snippets about the town and the sights. The square had many Christmas stalls however with the town being so small, they are only open on Fridays and the weekend and Gisella told us to knock on her door if we came back on Friday as she lives right opposite the square. We headed back to Tilly and decided to do another walk along the Gruner weg which meandered along a small brook and through a bird sanctuary. We came across a large bird cage with pigeons and a paddock with cute little goats and some chooks. We don’t know why it was there or who owned it.
After walking into town, we hopped on the train to Heidelberg. After a short 15 minute train ride we arrived at one of our favourite towns. We walked the 4kms to the old town and rather than wander around there first, we took a lovely walk up along the philosopher weg, which is on the opposite side of the Neckar river and goes through what used to be vineyards that now grow fruit and vegetables. You get amazing view of the Schloss from this side and as it was a lovely clear day, we weren’t disappointed. Across the river and we walked up the steep cobbled burg weg to the castle gardens which at 80 metres above the old town gave us a good view down. The castle is partly in ruins and is said to be one of the most Romantic spots in Germany. From there it was back to the old town which was bursting at the seams with Christmas markets, even bigger than Rüdesheim. They even had an ice skating rink set up with skates for hire that the children loved. We had a nice lunch in Das Gasthaus before walking back to the train station and heading home.
We took our drive to Sinshein via Heidelberg travelling along a parallel road with the Neckar river. The castle looked amazing from the other side of the river even though it was raining. Once we left the river the scenery was rural. We have come to Sinshein for the Technik museum that houses cars, planes and tanks, with the biggest draw card being an Air France Concorde which Dave is very excited about seeing, but that is for tomorrow. We did walk around the perimeter of the museum where you can see all of the planes however we get to walk through them tomorrow. There are also planes several mounted in the car park, a Hungarian Malev, a mig fighter jet and an odd looking helicopter. I must admit, I’m looking forward to it as well as I have a fondness of planes as my sons will attest to. In fact I think my eldest son would enjoy this museum as well. He will just have to look at the photos, sorry Adam!
5th December – 9th December
Today was a very different day for us, visiting the Auto and Technik museum. There are two sites, one housing old American Cadillacs, army tanks and planes from Germany, America, Canada, Russia and Switzerland. There were many displays of soldiers in bunkers with their weaponry, old musical instruments, just too much to mention. We spent 3 hours in the first site before heading to Tilly for lunch. After that it was off to site two where the Concorde, Tupolov (Russian supersonic plane), and several other planes were housed that we could walk through. All of the planes outside were displayed like they were taking off and banking which made it difficult to walk up, but it did look funny as not only were we walking uphill, we had to walk on an angle also. In the Concorde and Tupolov they had left some seats in and I was surprised at how little room there was for the hostesses and passengers to move about. The cockpit had so many dials, levers and switches. Inside site 2 there were cars, cars, cars and more cars, some dating back to the late 1800’s. Included were formula one racing cars, old Mercedes, BMW’s, Mayback cars which I had never heard of but we’re just beautiful. Most of them had been restored to their former beauty. There were even cars that were used as staff cars for Hitler and Himmler with bullet proof windows and steel enforced bodies. Quite a bit of war paraphernalia as well as old and new bikes, both motor and push bikes, old train engines, the place was huge and there was so much to see. We spent just over 5 hours in total at the museum and although it was €14 each to get in we thought it was well worth it.
We had a very cold night with the temperature falling to -3.50°. We had ice on every window but still no snow. We drove to Speyer along the B road (not the autobahn) which also has a Technik museum that displays a Boeing 747, a U-boat and the space shuttle to name a few although that is not why we have come here. It is just a stopping point on our journey south although we did walk around the perimeter of the museum as part of our walk. We are back on the Rhine river so walked along there into town. I’m amazed at just how many river cruise boats are still operating this time of year. There were three moored just in Speyer! We visited the Kaiserdom, a Romanesque cathedral with square red towers and green copper dome. It’s interior is startling for its awesome dimensions (it’s an astonishing 134m long) and houses the sarcophagi of eight emperors and kings, along with some of their queens. We had a quick walk through the Christmas markets and then scootered home as it looked like rain and we left the vents open, however it never eventuated. Will have a proper look tomorrow.
The stellplatz we were parked in was €5 per night however the machine was broken so we didn’t pay anything, which was a good thing as we had very little sleep due to traffic noise, mainly big trucks zooming past all night, suffice to say we changed our plans. Instead of going into town we packed up and drove to Rastatt along the B roads through farming land. There were low lying clouds sitting just above the pastures and it was lovely. We had a phone call from our kids which was a nice surprise. Once parked up, we had a little walk around the local park and along the river front before coming home. Hopefully we will have a good night sleep and check out Rastatt in the morning.
We woke to very heavy fog however we ventured into Rastatt. It is only a small town with not much to see. We wandered around the shops for a little while and then through the small christmas markets. Back to Tilly for lunch before setting off for our next destination along the Autobahn to Offenburg which is half way to Freiburg. We are parked in the car park of a Carthago dealership for free with free power and filling and dumping facilities. Shouldn’t all Motorhome dealerships offer this? We have come almost a full circle (although not of Germany) by being back in the black forest region, which is one of many of our favourite places. We could quite happily do this section again however more of the world awaits us.
We had a lovely drive today, travelling through the Black Forest again. We stopped along the way in the lovely town of Gengenbach which is filled with half timbered houses in the old town. The hillsides that surround are full of vineyards and orchards and was used as the hometown of Augustus Gloop in the 2005 version of Charlie and the Chocolate factory. We walked through terraced vineyards to the Jakobskapelle, a 13th century chapel with views through the valley that reach as far as Strasbourg on a clear day. On the road again travelling through some stunning scenery typical of Bavaria with cloud covered hills, pastures with horses and sheep and the beautiful Swiss style houses to our destination of Freiburg. The stellplatz is in an Umwelt zone however the proprietor tells us as long as we don’t park in town, we will be fine. Fingers crossed again!
Another very cold night, -3.5 and thick ice on Tilly’s roof, poor girl! After breakfast we walked into Freiburg and you guessed it, straight to the old town. The Freiburg Münster took 300 years to build and was partly destroyed during the war however the beautiful stained glass was removed and is now in place again after the meticulous reconstruction of the cathedral. We walked partway up Schlossberg mountain to get a view over the old town where we had our lunch. The view into the valley beyond was made even nicer with the low cloud. Back into town and a walk around the Christmas markets before stopping for a pint of the local beer and heading home.
This is our last post from Germany for the time being. We have been here for 4 months and have seen some amazing sights, hiked some fabulous trails and stayed in a variety of places. Apart from the odd train/traffic noise or party, we have been extremely lucky with our choices of overnight spots. We have found the people to be warm and friendly and will go out of there way to help under any circumstance. We have managed to understand most of our conversations with non-English speaking locals with the help of lots of pointing and laughing. The food is cheap, the beer is good, even the wine isn’t bad, what more could you ask for.