Looking back, the education I received in my formative years largely passed me by. Algebra, grammar and the periodic table all failed to make a lasting impression. However I do remember the school trips. I was one of the kids lucky enough to have parents who could afford to pay for the ‘educational trips’ on the train to Paris, the German tour of Cologne & Koblenz and the unforgettable outdoor activity holiday to Lake Bala, North Wales.
Clearly those early memories had a strong influence. It therefore comes as no surprise that touring around Europe by campervan is in part due to those seminal adolescent influences.
To get the most out of our meanderings a bit of research is required. Firstly we decided to spend the time before Christmas in Germany, that narrowed it down a bit. Neither of us have spent much time in Germany, so we toyed with ideas like the Octoberfest (but we’d get there too late) the German Christmas markets, some walks in the countryside and how about Berlin.
Slowly a rough plan emerged but more investigation quickly revealed that Germany is a huge place with absolutely loads to see and do. After a bit more internet-time a couple of themes started to emerge ‘Culture, Architecture and Nature’ and UNESCO World Heritage sites have these covered in spades. In fact, if you’re looking for the C, A & N hot-spots in Deutschland (or indeed anywhere) you perhaps need look no further.
After leaving the World Heritage Site at Vogelsang, we avoided Bonn and Koblenz and drove 150 miles northwest to Marburg with its elegant castle that looks down on the town below.
Charlies berth for the night was a small Stellaplatz next door to the towns’s main camp site. There was considerable faffing when we arrived whilst the two of us, like some hyper version of a Laura & Hardy double act tried to service our toilet cassette. I really hope no one saw us pair trying to simultaneously feed the meter, keep our food grade the hose away from…, open and close the high pressure tap. Oh ‘such fun’ and it really didn’t take that long to dry out!
Our next ‘port of call’ was the large town of Kassel with our sights firmly set on the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe on the outskirts of Kassel, which is of course a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The extensive park, sprawling over 240 hectares and took 150 years to be completed. The beautifully landscape park is a great place to spend time in and has a number of amazing attractions (including the Löwenburg Castle).
The 1,725 ft tall Karlsberg hill towers over the park, topped by the Hercules Monument, from where water is released over a waterfall that rushes down to the gardens via a stunning gravity fed fountain below. That sadly, closes for the season in early October. However seeing the scale of this water management here has given me a few ideas for our more modest water feature at home.
Although the scale of the gardens is impressive many of the structures have been designed to look like roman ruins. This faux approach personally doesn’t work for me, ok yes people do create folly’s, in large parks, stately homes etc, but every structure here look fake and Disney!
We really enjoyed our walk through the park and the next day we went off-piste to play in the extensive grounds this time on our bikes. We were able to enjoy and experience the natural, less-tamed beauty of landscape, which probably will have a greater lasting impression than the designed-to-impress, man-made elements of the Bergpark.
Our next stop was the medieval town of Hann. Münden, when we arrived it was rammed with other motorhomes. We did manage to squeeze in Charlie and connected up to the last remaining electrical hook up point amidst the muddy spaghetti of other cables.
Only after inserting our 1 euro coin in the machine did we discover why the last connection was available; the socket wasn’t working! Oh well, the next morning before we left we tried one of the other outlets and managed to get a few hours battery charging as someone else had kindly left a few watts unused.
We sat at a nearby bakers to have a coffee just in time to watch the 12 noon performance across the square of these figures emerging from the windows to play along with the 16 bells on the face of the Town Hall.
All very nice. Alas, once they’d finished we went off in search of a cash machine only to discover ‘I couldn’t find my hat’. We checked our pockets, looked in our bags, nowt… Ok so now it’s time we really put google translate to the test. The not overly friendly woman in the bakery who had given us an old-fashioned look when we’d ordered coffee, looked at me even more strangely when we returned and I enquired Entschuldigen Sie, Ich habe meinen Hut verloren?
After much searching and various hurried trips retracing our steps to the bank and then back to the bakery, then the tourist information office. To be eventually very relieved to find ‘meinen hut’ hooked on a roadworks barrier near the bank….
Last night we parked up in the designated area outside the Hainich National Park which is one of the 16 national forest in Germany and would you believe it?, yes it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This sprawling deciduous woodland is home to several rare species of animals and birds, and the park contains the last remaining central European beech forests. Although the fantastic range of vibrant autumn colours in the forest we have been through were not so obviously evident here.
The first attraction of this park was the tree top canopy walk that lets you enjoy a bird’s eye view over the entire parkland and beyond. But another time there are also an abundance of interesting walking and bike trails to explore.
The long wooden walkway meanders its way along the tops of towering trees and spirals upwards to the observation tower. En route, visitors are fed nuggets of information about the forest and its flora and fauna. One interesting observation we read on an information board asked the question can you name as many trees as makes of cars?
Now not many people get the chance to see exotic wildcats that have been reintroduced to the forest going about their business in their natural habitat. This rare, shy creature, is almost never seen in the lush wilderness of the forest below the observation deck. But without a word of a lie I did manage to feast my eyes on this very life like picture of one, even the paw print in the top corner is real….!
I also spotted this caged cat purring along one of the walkway’s aerial challenges for children. She’s just a big kid really…
Well that rounds up the last few days. It just leaves me to recall once again the instant when I first tasted French bottled water on that 1965 train trip to Paris. The schoolboy reaction I had to the revolting carbonated, most distinctly mineral flavoured water was… Yuk. So, imagine my delight when Lesley made the tea with the same foreign fizz she has accidentally brought in Lidl this week. But hey, at least we’ve only another 5 x 1 litres bottles to go.
Dave & Lesley