Something fishy

In 2018, an estimated 1.8 billion people worldwide purchased goods online. During the same year global e-retail sales amounted to 2.8 trillion U.S. dollars. Ecommerce in the United Kingdom increased in 2019 by 14.6 percent to over 200 billion euros. So I’m not the only one buying a few things on the internet.

Whilst at home over Christmas we decided to back up our batteries and solar panel output with a purchase of an inverter generator. With the idea for it to be shipped to the Ski 2 Chalet in Les Gets for us to collect when we arrived. Searching around the net for the best price etc, I found Generators Direct who had a good selection and lots of technical information. Before ordering I checked with Ski 2 to make sure they were ok to take delivery and rung the Generator Direct number to confirm delivery cost to France.

With all the arrangements in place I went back to the Generator Direct web site and ordered a Honda EU10i Suitcase Generator. Providing the delivery address in Les Gets. as required. Shortly after I received a payment confirmation email.

It was great to be home for Christmas and spend time with the family in Scotland and to enjoy a relaxing time being at home in Cumbria. Our good friends Gary and Jen who had collected us, transported us back to Manchester airport for our flight on the 3rd January and a couple hours later RyanAir landed us back into Bergamo. After a short wait we were transported from the airport and quickly reunited with Charlie II at Booking Camper‘s (local motorhome hire company) storage facility.

The winter daylight was fast fading as we arrived at the entrance to the Area Sosta Camper Città dei Mille in the centre of Bergamo, where we’d spent 2 days in before Christmas, so we soon settled into the familiar surroundings.

Having drained everything down and emptied the tanks before leaving, our first priority was fresh water. However in our haste the fresh water hose was passed into the van, just as Lesley was preoccupied with mopping up a mysterious liquid coming from the fridge area – a quick look into the freezer explained the cause of the smell we’d noticed on initially entering the van. Fish had been left in the freezer 😱 and awful liquid was leaking out.

So whilst Lesley is trying to deal with the smelly fish juice, at the same time filling the fresh water. Dave helpfully comes in, offers to stand on the water hose to keep it in place but instead stands in fish juice in his size 12’s, the hose flails about spraying water everywhere. What a mess!

After much mopping up, the watery re-acquaintance fiasco was ended, or so we thought. Needing food, we elected to make use of the 10% discounted pizza vouchers given out by the camp site. Arriving back Lesley tried to fill kettle – but no water. Someone had asked Lesley to close the outlet valve but someone had not specified which one. Lesley had closed waste water valve not realising there was a second fresh water valve. So, at 10:30 in the evening we were back out in the dark filling the water again so we’re able shower in the morning. 

Next day Dave spent the morning fitting the replacement solar charge controller he’d smuggled past the airport security on our return flight from the UK. Which, wait for it, gave us chance to catch up on our washing, yeah…..

As we drove west across Bergamo, our route to washerie was lit by gorgeous winter sunset.

I won’t dwell on small(s) talk, but we spent an interesting! time talking to a local Italian with OCD who spent 60 mins folding his family’s laundry! – Oh we know how to live it up on a Saturday night!

Avoiding the Swiss Vignette or the performance-related heavy vehicle fee (HVF)? or tunnel tolls. There are a few ways to cross the alps either via the one of the high alpine passes or the more expensive tunnels routes. We chose to enter the country via the Simplon Pass.

Making it to the top of the pass before it dusk, reminded of us of making the same journey a few years ago in a hire car without winter tyres. We emerged from a tunnel on the Italian side near the top of the pass to 4 inches of fresh snow. On that occasion we managed to spin, slip and skid our way over the top and on to drier tarmac on the other side.

On this occasion the snow ploughs had cleared the roads days ago including the summit car park, where we enjoyed a quiet night on our own under the stars, with only the early morning trans border commuters to break the silence of the mountains.

The next morning we headed down to the town of Brigg in the valley floor for supplies. 30 kms further on we climbed up again to find the motorhome parking place we’d identified near the small hamlet of Savièse, high above the town of Sion.

Disappointingly the parking area was for some reason fenced off. However we managed to squeeze Charlie on to a levellish spot close by with super views of the mountain villages lightning up the hillside at night.

The next morning we ventured off for a short uphill walk to find the Bisse de Savièse Torrent Neuf. Nieither of us had heard of a Bisse before but reading later up they remind me of the leats we have in the UK (artificial watercourses or aqueducts dug into the ground, more often to supply watermills).

A bisse is an irrigation canal, generally 5 to 10 kilometres long, taking its water from a torrent or small river at the bottom of a side valley resulting from the melting of glaciers. Its purpose is to supply water to various crops, orchards, vineyards or simply meadows for fodder.

The big difference between the Bisse in Switzerland and the leats we have at home are the sections constructed with timbers fixed to the rockface. These channels and super scary walkways carry the water round the contours of the mountain. It is mad, crazy, gravity defying and completely awe inspiringly ridiculous.

As it was winter the walkways are closed (for safety reasons!) I think in all honesty we were rather relieved. Otherwise I may have not be writing this? Clearly we did make it safely back to the van and set off towards Martigny and the French border.

Having planned to just drive through Switzerland we had not stopped to change any euros for Swiss Francs, Stopping at the first bakery, Lesley had the embarrassment of ordering bread (and cakes) only to have put them back when she found they wouldn’t accept euros cor cards.

The route from Martigny over the Col des Montets and the Route de la Forclazto to Chamonix was a proper mountain pass with lots of hairpin bends to negotiate first up then down. Not a journey I would fancy in any vehicle in the depths of winter.

After topping with LPG and supplies in Cluses in the valley we made up the last 15 miles to Les Gets and the Perrieres parking lot, at the bottom of the red ski run making our home a ski in – ski out location for the next few weeks.

I hadn’t expected to hear from Generator Direct over Christmas and the New year holiday period, but as it was the now the 5th January I was beginning to think it strange I had not heard anything regarding a delivery date. Having sent an email the day before I decided to ring them.

There was no answer from the telephone number I ‘d previously used before Christmas. Finding the Generators Direct web site. I rang that number. They had no record of our order. Alarm bells started to ring. Soon all became clear.

Generator Direct it transpired was a clone website of the perfectly legitimate business Generators Direct.

We spent the best part of a morning on phone to the credit card company and registering an incident with Action Fraud (police team dealing with this type of fraud). According to Generators Direct the clone web site had been set up 6 weeks before xmas and we weren’t the only ones to be caught. After taking lots of details the card company told they had to give the scam supplier time to deliver and to ring back in 30 days and they will refund our money.

The moral of this tale then, if it smells fishy it probably is fishy…..

Toodle Pip

D&L

Dolomite Sprint

A report out this week found that foreign language learning is at its lowest level in UK secondary schools since the turn of the millennium, with German and French falling the most. Therefore I’m ashamed to confess that I’m rubbish at languages and almost always defer to Lesley, that is except in the case of Russian. Where I have a handy phase or two “Moye sudno na vozdushnoy podushke polno ugrey!”

Travelling around the South Tyrol working out what the language is can be very confusing – as although part of Italy, the first tongue of the locals in the Süd Tyrol is German. So you end up not knowing whether it Buongiorno or Guten Morgen…or even some obscure regional Dolomite dialect.

Arriving at the pretty town of Brixen/Bressanone (the map producer is also confused) was a place, we realised later, we have been to before, although not a town with great memories. As on a ski trip a few years ago our friend Rosie O’Shaughnessy fell and broke her hip the very instance she first put her skis down on the snow. Which resulted in a air ambulance journey to Brixen hospital.

We walked into town from our motorhome car-park heading for the Xmas market and hoping (Dave) to find a place for a pizza. The market in front of the Cathedral was quite small and was selling the Italian variation of Christmas market gifts (plastic domes with shakable glittery snow scenes). Not tempted we wandered around the old town admiring the Advent calendar on the windows of a building in the square, but not finding pizza we ended up eating back in Charlie II.

Technically the bumps they call the Dolomites are in the Italian Alps, but they’re quite different in appearance from the rest of the Alps. Although in many ways when the sun catches the soft brown colouring it can make them more striking than say Mont Blanc, Matterhorn or or Eiger. That said, the Matterhorn is pretty stunning..!

The Dolomites, also known as the “Pale Mountains”, take their name from the carbonate rock dolomite. This was named after 18th-century French mineralogist Déodat Gratet de Dolomieu (1750–1801).

After 12 consecutive nights without mains electric, we decided we needed a bit of luxury. Biting the bullet, we paid €28 to the campsite in Corones for a hedge protected pitch, electric hook up and hot plentiful showers with toasty-warm heated floors.

En route we took a detour for some food from the market stall in Brunico (Bruneck). Here, there’s a new Mountain Museum created by a local hero, the climber Reinhold Messner, but unfortunately along with all the shops it was closed for a two hour lunch, maybe next time.

Slowly recovering from the shock to budget from the campsite, our next priority was a top up with diesel and what turned out to be another hit in the wallet. Looking back I think we were spoilt by the price of fuel in Belgium where diesel is typically €1.20 per ltr. So it came as quite a jolt, when at the first Sud Tyrol stop we had to pay €1.70, yes €1.70 per litre.

Heading southwards, we passed through the Italian ski resort Cortina d’Ampezzo (the site of the 1956 Winter Olympics). This reminded me of one of the very first special cars I owned a 1966 Ford Cortina MK1 GT. 

The Ford Cortina wasn’t always destined to be named after an Italian ski resort. It started life as Project Archbishop and could have been Caprino, until somebody realised the latter is a slang word for goat dung

It was just lovely driving through Dolomites, carefree in the sunshine and although some of the roads were narrow there wasn’t much traffic. So we were both woken up with a fright, when after a bit of climbing to go over a high pass, (with Sat Nav trying to make us turn round) without any earlier warning a 3.0 m high tunnel sign appeared immediately before a hacked out hole in the rock with the road going through it. Our Carthago is 2.85m high so all we could do was close our eyes and keep to the middle……!

Charlie and I admiring the views!

I wonder how long this piece of tarmac string would be if it were stretched out straight?

After a couple hours of climbing up the twisty stuff we found our target for the night, the small ski town of Arabba. We didn’t stop to ski (a mistake in hindsight) and left early the next day after a free overnight carpark (including free hookup!) care of the very generous people of Arabba. With a bit more up to come we made our way on to toward Selva Val Gardena. As we reached and descended down from the highest part of the route we passed an attractive looking ski town of Corvara and Colfosco on a high plateau with some great looking ski runs.

Back once again to familiar territory, we stayed one night in Saint Christiana (one of the smaller satellite villages of the Selva Val Gardena). Finally Dave had his pizza wish in a posh hotel preening itself for the big influx of visitors at the weekend when the Ski World Cup Series comes to the area. We missed that but were entertained by daft locals practicing handbrake turns and Lewis Hamilton style doughnuts on the snow around a pole in the centre of our huge carpark at the ski station.

Finding free (or low cost) places to park in this region are rarer than hens teeth. Having been to this area a few times before our aim was to go ski at Alpe di Siusi. We weren’t permitted to park at the ski station but we discovered ‘The Sporthutte’ – a small out of town pizzeria restaurant in Kastelrotto with parking for campers including hook up but no other services for €25.

The upside was ‘The Sporthutte’ gave us a €10 meal voucher for each night (2) we stayed. Dave had pizza and beer two three nights in a row. Happy man.

The Seiser Alm is an easy part of the Sella Ronda ski circuit with lots of easy reds and blue runs, just perfect for us to get our ski legs going.

One of my favourite places to stop and eat/drink when out skiing is in this small hamlet with a pretty church. When we’ve been before, the warmth of the atmosphere pours out of the door when you go inside. With a large traditional green tiled oven being the centre piece of this cozy welcoming spot.

Alas no more, I haven’t got a photograph of what it was like before. But it has been gutted and completely modernised, all very trendy and chic with spot lights and coordinated coloured seating with matching throws! But they have ruined it. I’m utterly bereft. sob, sob

The car park at the base of the Seiser Alm gondola gets very busy and we were concerned that it might be tight for Charlie to make his escape after our last day, but he managed ok and we set off for an overnighter at Trento or is it Trentino?

After a couple of really enjoyable days of perfect skiing weather in the Sud Tyrol it was time to make positive tracks towards Bergamo and to find the storage place we’d organised for Charlie whilst we returned home to the UK.

Before leaving for Manchester, we caught a train just outside the campsite and the ticket (very cheap) entitled us to go on the buses and the funicular railway up to Bergamo’s picturesque old town, where there was time to explore the cobbled streets and catch up on some last minute Christmas shopping.

Shopping complete, our last task was to wrap a parcel for the rellies in France. With an attractive combination of tourist maps sealed with gaffer tape the package was ready for dispatch. Ah but don’t under estimate the frustration Italian postal bureaucracy can impart. One hour and many yards of brown tape (to cover the maps) and €44 lighter and the gifts were finally on their way.

I thinking he’s having a last minute sit down waiting for his sleigh to arrive before heading off to do the rounds.

There we go a quick Sprint round the Dolomites brings an end to our 2019 Rundfahrt. With Charlie safely berthed for the next 2+ weeks at a motorhome storage place. All that’s left to do is to maintain our sanity as we negotiate the joys of the RyanAir check-in experience for our flight home to Manchester.

Thanks for reading – please leave your comments. The next post will be in 2020, lets see where the new year takes us….

Toodle Pip

Dave & Lesley

Any Russians speakers will have translated “Moye sudno na vozdushnoy podushke polno ugrey!” to My hovercraft is full of eels” and Monty Python fans will no doubt wish to point out the phrase was from the 1971 sketch ‘Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook’ so in fact not Russian at all …….

Go No Go

If you want to drive a vehicle in Austria and it weighs more than 3.5 tons (including all lorries, buses and heavy camper vans). A mileage-based toll applies on Austria’s motorways and expressways and you need a Go Box. The box costs €5 to buy and it must be loaded with a £75.00 minimum pre-payment. owch.

Electing to enter Austria without a Go Box meant avoiding the motorways and sticking to the minor roads, unless we wanted to risk a rumoured €2,000 fine. Following this plan the initial part of the route was a 600m decent down through Möserer. Judging by the smell of the Carthago’s brakes, if they could talk they would have shouting ENOUGH already!

This image doesn’t look as steep as it was but the descent was about 600 metres in about 6kms.

Care had to be taken after going through Landeck town to avoid the motorway tunnel and take the by-pass. Safely avoided we negotiated our way over the Resia /Reschen pass and into Italy.

Having spent the morning before we left walking the Leutasch Gorge and then with the 3 hour non motorway drive we ended up arriving about 4:30 at the parking lot on the other side of the lake from Reschen am See, just as the sun was going down behind the hills giving them a pinkish tinge.

Charlie looked a bit lonely on the huge, free, ski lift car park, which was empty waiting for more snow to entice the skiers before the lift opened in a few days time.

The lone Romanesque bell tower was part of an old church from the 14th century, which was drowned along with the rest of the town’s buildings when the water flooded in and is the only remainder of the old town of Graun and former life in the valley.

There are many stories and legends about the flooding event, and the lonely bell tower is often the main subject of them. One oral story of the locals about Lake Reschen is quite scary. It tells that the church bells sometimes still ring in the deepest and coldest hours of the winter nights. And the fact is that they were removed 60 years ago, a few days before the waters came and drowned the church and the lower half of the tower.

Heading down from the mountain ridge into the valley below we set our sights on a Carthago dealer near Merano.

The water tanks on the Carthago are accessible from inside the van. The white tank is for the fresh water the black is the grey water from the sinks and shower.

Normally you should be able to open the grey water tank (lever above red cap), but it’s become disconnected from the valve in the tank! With this jammed open we now run the risk of a frozen pipe if we rely on the tap at the end of the discharge pipe. (oh no, we’ve not got to get the hair dryer out again!).

So after some research we found the nearest Carthago dealer not far from Merano and booked Charlie in for 2 days later on Monday morning to get his water works fixed.

With the weekend to wait for the waste water tank to be fixed we settled in Merano’s very busy motorhome parking place and because it was the weekend, it seemed half the motorhomers in Italy had come to see the Christmas market.

Apparently the Penguins quite enjoy being steered round by the ears!

How could we pass by a stall selling Bombardino’s – Just has to be done

The next day the garage had Charlie fixed (common fault) in half an hour for €25 and once more we were free to head of to Brixen and up into the mountains.

We are still learning about e-bikes, I like to use mine in the TURBO setting to zoom up the hills and go as fast as I can. Lesley is more frugal (I can’t possibly comment why), as a consequence I use more battery.

Being a kind and generous wee soul Lesley offered to swap batteries for a quick 6 miler up the hill behind Merano, meaning she’d would have to make what was left in mine last!. A slight navigational error on my part meant the route grew to 10 miles. No problem for me with Lesley’s battery on board. But…… well my battery did last 6 miles. Oh dear!

When traveling in the van and taking photos it is inevitable you are going to capture a fair bit of Armco or crash barriers in your images. So I think we should celebrate the much overlooked and over photographed essential piece of infrastructure.- Here we’re taking the toll free route via the tunnel whilst the A22 Autostrade towers above us.

That’s it for now we managed to get through Austria without a Go Box and I survived giving Lesley my No Go battery, just!

Toodle Pip, Dave & Lesley

I thought it time to apologise for the many typo’s you have to endure when reading this blog, but to point out it could be worse!

Gust becos I cud not spel It did not mean I was daft. When the boys in school red my riting. Some of them laffed. But now I am the dictator. They have to rite like me. Utherwise they cannot pas Ther GCSE.

Some of the girls were ok. But those who laffed a lot. Have al been rownded up. And hav recintly bean shot. The teecher who corrected my speling. As not been shot at al. But four the last fifteen howers. As bean standing up against a wal.

He has to stand ther until he can spel. Figgymisgrugifooniyn the rite way I think he will stand ther forever. I just inventid it today.

We nearly missed Mittenwald

We almost drove straight past Mittenwald. Our plans as we left Garmish was to head for Innsbruck for a quick look at the Austrian Christmas market, before making a dash for Italy. However we were still uncertain whether we needed a ‘Go-Box‘ in Austria as Charlie II is over 3.5 tons.

On a whim we elected to stop another night in Germany and Mittenwald was the last town before the Austrian border with a Stellplatz. An empty, quiet spot by a river with mountain views to wake up to.

Because you did so well with the riddles on the last post I thought you’d like one more – or maybe not? Answers on a postcard.

A woman is sitting in her hotel room when there is a knock at the door. She opened the door to see a man whom she had never seen before. He said “oh I’m sorry, I have made a mistake, I thought this was my room.” He then went down the corridor and in the elevator. The woman went back into her room and phoned security. What made the woman so suspicious of the man?

Once again the cycle paths took us past some intersting spots including the back of this beautifully decorated wood shed

It really isn’t that cold – Ok I’m lying it’s blumin freezing

Even though it was cold we still decided it would be ok for a bike ride, so wrapping up warm we headed for one of the many cycle routes found via our friendly Komoot app.

The pretty Lautersee lake

As our cycle experience grows, we are learning from lessons along the way. Firstly if a route looks rocky and stupidly steep, it probably is! and before ordering food at a restaurant make sure you’ve brought enough CASH.

Needing a warm up, we found Gemütlichkei restaurant serving local comfort food right on the edge of the lake. The wood burning stove soon warmed our cold hands. Lesley went for the flat potatoes with apple sauce and I had the spinach Spätzle washed down with a small beer. As they were both specials the menu pricing (in German) wasn’t very clear. Perfect. Except when we came to pay they (like many places in Germany) didn’t accept credit cards, for the €22.50 bill…. In the end the waiter was very nice and accepted our emergency €20 note and our gratitude….

Chapel of the Queen of Mary

With warmed hands and red faces from our embarrassing payment saga we headed down the trail and back to the town.

Ace mountain “biker Dave” with the ever so slightly more impressive Karwendel Alps in the background

We really enjoyed a whizz round the area and decided (shock horror) to stay another night to do a walk to the gorge.

We are on the receiving end of a Pay It Forward moment today. Recovering in the van after our ride, there was a knock on the door and instead of the carkpark attendant wanting see our ticket it was a Tila. A German fellow motorhomer who’d arrived a couple hours earlier, came over to offer us a bottle of beer. Tila was passing forward a similar experience he’d had from a Brit whilst he and his wife Kirsten had been touring Scotland.

We ended up spending an enjoyable couple of hours chatting to to this lovely couple and listening to their experiences of travelling through Greece in their converted lorry and discussing the need or not for the Go-Box.

Meeting Tila and Kirsten once again served to underline that it’s not the places you go to or the things you see that makes motorhome travel enjoyable and enriching, but most definitely the people you meet along the way.

Leutasch-Klamm Wasserfallsteig – The sign says “Access Forbidden”

To save time we cycled to the start and began the ‘Mountain Spirit Gorge’ with the walk up first section most definitely ‘up hill’. This is an amazing and special place. And for us because it’s winter and was technically closed (when there’s been recent snowfall), we once again we had the place to ourselves.

They started building the Walkway in August 2003 and finished in August 2005. The total length of the walkway is 450meters. The Hell bridge is 24m long and the Panorama Bridge (picture above) is 27m long. It is very steep-sided and was not opened to tourists until 2006.

As the river can swell in a flood it was necessary to locate the walkway at a height of at least 15 m above the foot of the gorge.

It mind boggling how they managed to drill the rock face. The walkway sections are constructed with steel supporting brackets and bridge abutments drilled then somehow bonded to the rock so that the whole structure seems to hover above the river.

The walkway was constructed with the help of dodgy looking temporary platforms anchored in the rockface, with the workmen suspended by ropes on the top of the gorge.

The construction costs of the Austro-German project to build the 970 metre long walkways in this steep sided gorge, including the steel and the two bridges, was approx. 1.4 million euros, supported by EU funding.

So what a great place, we didn’t even visit the violin museum! or the Karwendelbah cable car up to the ski area on the Austrian border. Ok so there’s no doubt that Mittenwald will be a much busier place in the summer time, this is definitely going on the not to be missed next time either list…

Toodle Pip

D&L

Answer – You don’t knock on your own hotel door and the man did.

Driving in and out of Austria

So this is a quick blog to play catch up and show some of the highlights on our route from Ravensburg through to Fussen, briefly into Austria before arriving at Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Lake Constance

I’m driving home for Christmas
Oh, I can’t wait to see those faces
I’m driving home for Christmas, yea
Well I’m moving down that line
And it’s been so long
But I will be there
I sing this song
To pass the time away
Driving in my car
Driving home for Christmas

Chris Rea
Lesley at the wheel – Singing the song that became the sing along tune, as we approached the final weeks of this part of our trip.
Austria in the distance
A borrowed image of Neuschwanstein Castle, we gave it a miss due to far too many tourists even in December
Charlie II parked up in Schwangau near Fussen
Schwangau church
Charlie II admiring the view
Plansee Am – Austria
The road to Eibsee Lake – Near Garmish Germany

The video of the engineering of this cable car impressed the hell out of me when I first saw it.

It was quiet here at night at the bottom of the Olympic Ski Jump after the workmen had gone!

Garmisch-Partenkirchen is famous for the Kandahar, with its vertical drop of 940 metres, it is the resort’s signature downhill run. We like thousands of others have skied it but very few would want to try to beat the sub two-minute record time for its descent.

The Zugspitze cable car

Not all our plans quite worked out on the trip. In the North of Bavaria we arrived too early for the Christmas markets like Nürnberg and the ski season hadn’t yet started when we arrived here.

Next stop Mittenwald then through Austria again to Italy

Toodle Pip

D&L

PS – Sorry for the accidental early publication of a version of this blog

Puzzled in Bavaria?

I have decided growing old is not all that it’s cracked up to be. Forgetting peoples names, appointments and where I’ve put things, are all signs that like many of my generation, I am gradually losing it. Finding out that brain ageing to some extent is inevitable, is quite depressing. So is brain ageing a slippery slope that we just need to accept? Or are there things we can do to reduce the rate of decline?

A quick internet trawl and you find a growing body of evidence suggesting that people who experience the least decline in cognition and memory all share certain characteristics

  • regular physical activity
  • pursuing intellectually stimulating activities
  • staying socially active
  • managing stress
  • eating healthily
  • sleeping well

So to encourage you with some intellectually stimulating activity I have found 3 riddles I thought might help? If you don’t want the exercise ,the answers are at the end of this post….

1, A murderer is condemned to death. He has to choose between three rooms. The first is full of raging fires, the second is full of assassins with loaded guns, and the third is full of lions that haven’t eaten in 3 years. Which room is safest for him?

2. Can you name three consecutive days without using the words Wednesday, Friday, or Sunday?

3. This is an unusual paragraph. I’m curious as to just how quickly you can find out what is so unusual about it. It looks so ordinary and plain that you would think nothing was wrong with it. In fact, nothing is wrong with it! It is highly unusual though. Study it and think about it, but you still may not find anything odd. But if you work at it a bit, you might find out. Try to do so without any coaching!

EDWIN HYMER MUSEUM

Today we are slowly making our way down through Bavaria to the spa town of Bad Waldsee to visit the Hymer Museum. Hymer is one of the most well known and best quality motorhome manufacturers, so after finding they had a museum we decided to to add it to our plan.

The serpentine ramp you follow up to the 1st floor – I doubt some of the old cars displayed there would have made such a steep gradient towing their caravans behind.

The museum is not all about Hymer but more a history of caravanning from its earliest beginnings.

A Trabant from the former GDR with custom aerodynamics!
The Trabant is often vilified as being among the worst cars ever made, but during German communism, it was a status symbol. If you wanted to buy a new Trabi the waiting period was between 11 and 18 years. And it cost as much as one year’s salary. Which seems pretty expensive, but the Trabi had an average lifespan of 28 years because if you were lucky enough to own a Trabi you took meticulous care of it
This caravan’s interior represented the height of luxury

You could tell this caravan was the ‘dogs doodah’s’ with all its ‘mod cons’ and a hefty price tag to match. Lesley now wants a bath in our van!

Yes this is a 1930’s Morris Oxford Motor caravan

The Brits were some of the early pioneers in the motorhome world, entering the field with a “Timeless classic”.

The interior of the Morris Oxford – You can imagine the sales literature of the day describing the interior as ‘Home from home’
Not much difference between the Oxford and the interior of a Hymer 2020 model then!

Carthago City

Hymer has a huge factory in Bad Waldsee, but a few miles down the road in the town of Aulendorf is Carthago City. Deciding it’s ok to take ‘coals to Newcastle’ a few weeks ago we managed to book ourselves on an unscheduled Carthago factory tour with a free place for the night to park Charlie II amongst a few of his brothers and sisters.

Carthago only produce one of their model ranges (the E line) in Aulendorf , all other models are made in Slovenia 

They say confession is good for the soul, and yes it is probably a bit weird, but as both of us have spent a large part of our working lives in factories, even now we are retired, Lesley and I both still enjoy going around factories.

We were surprised to find assembly is from the inside out, with the sides, roof and the cab assembly added last.
The top 150 mm of the side panel is curved over at the top edge to meet the roof panel. Very neat.

Manufactured beside the assembly line, the side panels are made from a hard foam sandwiched between 2 aluminium skins. The roof is the same, except the upper surface is made from hail resistant GRP. The use of a complete aluminium exterior forms a Faraday cage that is alleged will protect against a lighting strike (but not wolves and bears).

The complete cab is pushed forward as one of the last operations.

We both went away quite impressed and reassured with the construction methods Carthago use to make their motorhomes.

A Motorcaravaner’s lament

Last night I sold my motorhome, today, the tear drops flowed;
Tomorrow’s urge will surely be, to get on down the road.

No longer can I sit up high, in that roomy Captain’s chair;
No longer meet the friendly folk, in campsite here and there.

To mountains, towns and seashores, where we often went to look;
We’ll long remember all famous places, written in our log book.

Through many years and many vans, our travels have been vast;
But the time has come to hang it up, sad now those years have passed.

If you get caught by wanderlust, or pressured by life’s load;
Just buy, or rent a motorhome, and get on down the road.

Before leaving the area we went back to Bad Waldsee to pay a visit the thermal baths. With dedicated overnight parking outside, it would have been rude not to!

The thermal baths were excellent – boil your head steam rooms, outdoor jacuzzis, water massage jets and a fast flowing river

Bad Waldsee lake
Bad Waldsee is a pretty place especially with the Christmas decorations added

Each of the Town Hall’s 24 blue windows were numbered and were being opened in turn during Advent.

Ravensburg

Our next stop was the town of Ravensburg, famous over the world for jigsaw puzzles
A busy Christmas market in the old town’s ‘Marienplatz’ (main square)

Once again our Moho parking spot was only a 15 minute walk to the centre of town. So we had a good wander around the traditional and the Christmas markets during the day managing to avoid the many temptations (felt handbags) although unable to resist enticing smells coming from the food stalls.

Ravensburg with the lights on
Our night out at the Ravensburg market Christmas ‘rave up’ the local swing band singing familiar festive songs mainly in English .

Merry Christmas to all our readers…

Toodle Pip

D&L

Oh yeah the answers to the three easy riddles Ans 1 – The third room. Lions that haven’t eaten in three years are dead. Ans 2 – The three consecutive days, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.Ans 3 – The letter e, which is the most commonly used letter in the English language, does not appear even once in the paragraph. Post a comment if you got all three

Castles, fairytales & legends

The well-known and much loved story of The Pied Piper luring rats away from the city with his sweet song has darker origins than the classic tale – a tale that can be traced way back to the Middle Ages. According to legend, in the small town of Hamelin in Lower Saxony, masses of children disappeared at the same time without trace. No one knows where they went, but suspicions are with a rat catcher who bewitched the kids away after The Town Mayor refused to pay him for a job.

When, lo! as they reached the mountain-side, 
A wondrous portal opened wide,
As if a cavern was suddenly hollowed;
And the Piper advanced and the children followed,
And when all were in to the very last,
The door in the mountain-side shut fast.

Robert Browning, The Pied Piper of Hamelin: A Child’s Story
This castle is real but the image is borrowed

Heading south from our over night in Esslingen, we found a great stellplatz (car park) in Bad Urach, complete with hook up, next to a pool a bar and a short walk to the town. There is also some good walks and cycle trails nearby.

Once again with the aid of Komoot we were able to plot a good route to have a zoom about on the ebikes. Although, we had to leave to make the steep climb up to see this water feature, which was billed as a waterfall. It was worth the yomp up, but it featured too much water re-routing by man for my taste.

Oh dear….. But it’s only flat at the bottom….

Admittedly we aren’t experienced bikers, but we do carry a tools, a repair kit and a quality pump. So getting a puncture shouldn’t be a problem? Or should it? The one thing we/I overlooked was that the pump was only suitable for….. our old bikes with Schraeder valves!

I only had to push 2 kms back to the van. So with the horse well and truly bolted, all that was left was to find a nearby bike shop with Presta to Schaeder adaptor and another spare tube.

Bad Urach

Whilst enjoying our two days in Bad Urach we heard there was a good castle not too far away. We made an early start and after stopping off en-route to visit the Washerie in Tübingen to ‘do our smalls’ we easily found Hohenzollern castle, sitting on a solitary bump amidst a flat plane south of Hechingen.

You don’t have to a military historian to work out why most castles are built on a hill. a) Few armies would be eager to attack up a steep sided hill, b) It’s got to be easier to defend by throwing rocks burning oil down on any foolish uninvited guests c) Lookouts could spot trouble coming a mile off, allowing plenty of time to stock up at Lidl, in case of a seige.

Hohenzollern Castle

Search for sights led us to the parking for the castle with spaces for three motorhomes. The walk up through the forest up to the castle is steep but the views from the walls of the castle are stunning.

BTW "Dracula has moved out of his castle for a few weeks. He's getting it revamped"
if only they’d cut back the trees a bit

The Hohenzollern Castle is the third of three hilltop castles built on the site. The first castle on the mountain was constructed in the early 11th century. However although it was constructed in gothic revival style the current castle was built in 1850… so it’s Victorian then!

We joined a guided group for a tour of the interior, unfortunately the guide was all given in German so we missed almost all the detail. But we picked up a few snippets. And we got to wear some very comfy over-slippers to protect the library floor from our hobnail boots.

Access once you reach the top of the asphalt switchbacks, is through an internal cobbled road that spirals up inside like a medieval carpark, complete with portcullis and draw-bridge. Designed to be suitable for horse, carriage or Daimler, me thinks

You can learn lots of useless facts coming to a place like this. For example, as it couldn’t be properly heated it was too cold to live there in winter. Partly because of that, Burg Hohenzollern has never been a royal residence.

The castle belongs to the Prussian royal family and does contain some interesting artefacts including the Prussian royal Crown. Amongst the displays’ is King Frederik William IV snuff box collection. Amassed after it’s said he was shot in battle but was saved when the shot hit a snuff box in his breast pocket.

We liked the route from Bad Ulrach so much we decided to go back that way to get to Blautopf Blaubeuren. So named because of the unique spring feed blue pool. The water’s peculiarly blue colour, varying in intensity due to weather and flow, is the result of physical properties of the limestone in the rock.

Blautopf (Blue Pot)

Next the Blautopf is a Hammer mill fed by the water from the spring

Numerous legends and folk tales refer to the Blautopf. Its characteristic colour was explained by the account that every day someone would pour a vat of ink into the Blautopf. 

The fish must like the colour of the water as the river flowing from it was teaming with sizeable looking specimens

Although we may never know the true events that fuelled the Piped Piper story, there are still lessons to be learned from fairy-tales, myths and legends.

I wonder if you can recognise what story the advice below is related to? – Throw all caution to the wind and have a grand adventure! Follow the white rabbit, drink from that mysterious bottle and go to tea parties with strangers. You’ve already made so many other inadvisable decisions in your life – what’s the worst that can happen?

Toodle Pip

D&L