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  • The final region in Germany we wanted to visit was the SW and the Black Forest. We'd read that Ulm was a nice town and so after a busy week with Ade we decided to stay 2 nights.

    Parked up about a mile out of the town centre, we took an evening walk in through the park and along the River Danube. The crescent moon was slowly sinking in the dark sky and we heard a splash from the river. Upon closer investigation we saw a rippling disturbance moving downriver. Following it, we were able to make out that it was an otter! Its back breaching the surface as its strong legs and tail worked away underwater.

    Once through the park, we enjoyed a stroll around Ulm. The unbusy night atmosphere was quite different to daytime town visits, our attention being drawn to fairy lights, candles and uplighting. The gothic spire of the church was the main sight and was accompanied by the sound of an organ playing from within.

    Returning to the van it was comforting to have a nice warm drink. The temperature has really dropped this last week and we've gone from using the window screens to reflect the sun's heat during the day to putting them up at night as insulation. We turned the heating on but after a while the temperature was still dropping. After reading the instruction manual and fearing we may have an electrical fault, we discovered that one of our gas bottles hadn't filled properly when we topped up with LPG at the petrol station. The LPG system we have is great in that you can fill one or both bottles by attaching the pump to the external filling point without needing to wait until they are empty. We do however, still need to get used to it!

    Thinking it would be interesting to contrast our night time experience of Ulm with a daytime one, we were getting ready to take the tandem in when we looked out the window and saw a black squirrel just 10m away from the van! We didn't manage to get the camera before it scampered away but we made sure we took when we cycled in through the park. Luckily for us there was another collecting nuts by the river! At one point it was shelling them on a branch stretching out over the river and dropping the shells in the water. We'd heard of black squirrels before but these were our first sightings.

    Daytime Ulm was interesting and we treated ourselves to lunch at the old Rathaus (council house), a building that we were drawn to by the beautiful frescos that adorned the outer walls. Vicky had read about a local dish called spätzle that was supposed to be noodles. Some cheese spätzle was on the menu which, when it was served, turned out to be very similar to macaroni cheese. Will had spicy flammkuchen, a favourite regional dish of his.

    There was a free wildlife photography exhibition on at the modern town hall which we enjoyed before heading over to the church, whose gothic tower is the world's tallest. 768 steps and 162 meters later we reached the top! The distance we could see from that height was certainly impressive and we took some time taking it all in.
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  • We picked our good friend Ade up from Münich airport (which is huge!). After we eventually got to the terminal and found him, we shuttle bussed it 10 minutes out to the car park and set off back to one of our favourite overnighters at Hohenwart.

    It was brilliant to see Ade again, if not a little surreal after having spent so much time with just the three of us in the van. (Poppy was very happy to see him too!) The rest of the day was spent walking through the little nature area close to the stopover, showing Ade round the village and catching up. It was topped off with another glorious sunset over the village skyline.Read more

  • Today is the end of our 3 month tour of Germany.

    We have enjoyed ourselves immensely and were beginning to feel at home in the country.

    Perhaps Germany isn't the first place to spring to mind when you plan a European tour but we feel it has been the best country to start off in. There are over 6000 stopovers, many of them free and we haven't had to worry about access to water or emptying facilities. There is frequently parking provision specifically for motorhomes in car parks and there are plenty of places to stay outside of official sites. Will knows enough German to get by well and this has made things a whole lot easier. The roads are great (apart from the relatively frequent 'umleitungs' diverting you around road repair work!) Provision for bicycles is second to none and we've loved being able to access city centres along well maintained riverside cycle tracks.

    The only major stumbling block has been internet access. Few places offer free wifi and the Three data Sim doesn't function in Germany. To get a local Sim you need to register it with your passport and German address. We've tried a few and perhaps it is down to our inexperience but topping up has been difficult and so we've made do with roaming a few days a week on Vicky's phone which doesn't always have enough signal.

    Germany is a huge country and so has a wealth of experiences to offer. We've done a lot of kilometers but we've by no means exhausted the opportunities for exploration. From the islands, white sands and lakes of the North East, to the wine making corridors, romantic road and chocolate box towns of the midlands, down to the exhilarating Alpine experiences and tree clad hillsides of the south. Not to mention the stunning city sights, brilliant beer and interesting culture.

    Vicky's favorite places have been Rügen Island and the Black Forest while Will's highlight has been Oktoberfest in Münich.

    We feel we've been spoiled in Germany because it has been so easy to live in the van here. We've got adventures aplenty to look forward to but the coming winter and countries with less provision for vans are likely to lead to a more difficult everyday existence than we have had here.

    In the coming 12 months we plan to visit the following:

    Liechtenstein (1 night), Austria (about 10 nights), Italy and Slovenia (passing through)

    Croatia (4-5weeks)


    January - April:


    Sweden (passing through Austria, Germany, Denmark)

    July - August:
    Norway (passing into the top of Finland)

    September - October:
    Netherlands (5 weeks)

    Luxembourg (2 weeks)

    October - November:
    Belgium (5 weeks)

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  • We'd read about a fairytale castle nestled on the side of the German Alps and had set today aside to go and see it. We grew increasingly excited as the grey mass of the Alps loomed larger and higher on the horizon. Although the land on the approach was a little hilly, there was a very definite start to the Alpine band of mountains. We were glad our plans didn't include driving through them today.

    Seeing Schloss Neuschwanstein (the castle), we pulled up and took some photos but it was shaded so we weren't able to see it in its full glory. However, we'd spotted a cable car going into the mountains. We decided on the spur of the moment to take a trip on it and were so very glad we did!

    The car was enclosed with about 25 people squashed in but it was a reasonable price and sped up the mountain at ear popping speed. The green valley with its 2 lakes opened up underneath us as we passed by sheer cliff faces and over tall pines. When we reached the upper station we saw what a good day it was for it. The sky was a rich blue, as were Forggensee and Bannwaldsee lakes more than a thousand meters below us. The sun was warm but the air fresh with hardly a breeze. There were dozens of people hangliding from this point, leaping off the side of the cliff and hoping to catch a thermal.

    Our attention was soon drawn to some noisy raven-like birds that we identified as Alpine Coughs- we'd seen Coughs on the Welsh coast last year but this was our first sighting of this charismatic high-altitude bird.

    There was a worn scree stone path leading up to the summit of Tegelberg (marked by a huge metal crucifix) and so we set off along it. The views became unbelievably more stunning as we climbed; the imposing mountains spanning out behind us and to our right. The path began to change from walkable scree to solid rock and we came across our first metal cable pinned to the rock at points with solid metal rods. We carried on up the increasingly steep and precarious 'path' and eventually made it to the top, 1707m above sea level. The vertigo had kicked in for Will but Vicky was exhilarated! There was a panoramic view, made all the more spectacular by the rich colours and contrast brought out by the perfect weather!

    On the cable car journey back down we worked out we were just 2 miles from Austria. Upon reaching the base station we were welcomed off the mountain by the sound of cow bells ringing around the necks of a small heard of bullocks.

    We didn't stay here overnight but thought the experience deserved its own footprint as it will stay in our memories for a very long time.
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  • It may not suprise you to know that we have a spreadsheet. It contains a list of European countries, specific places we'd like to visit and what we'd like to do in them. Oktoberfest in Munich, the world's biggest beer festival, was one of those things.

    We'd booked 2 nights in the official 1500 place Oktoberfest campsite. The rest of the year the site was a car park but organisers had installed temporary water and emptying points, toilets, showers, a few small shops, a bar serving food and check in stations where you could also buy metro tickets for the nearby underground station. At €50 a night for the three of us it was expensive but it was very well run and had easy transport to the festival.

    Despite its name, Oktoberfest started in mid September. The two days we visited were its last, with the final day falling on the national holiday celebrating Germany's reunification.

    The festival was in the city centre and the majority of space was taken up by a huge fairground. More people than not were dressed in the traditional brown leather lederhosen or a bosom framing dirndl dress.

    All sorts of wurst in bread buns were available for lunch and after we'd eaten, we headed towards the traditional section where we found one of many huge tents, filled with tables, benches and beer! Ours was decorated with evergreen ropes and had a stage in the middle where traditional dancing was taking place, supported by a brass band and sometimes live singers. The public could use it to dance on but there were regular dance groups showing choreographed routines, some of which included leg slapping in time to the music. There was also a skilled display of 4 men with long whips, cracking them in the air as a sort of drum beat.

    Entry was free but the beer comparatively expensive, with a traditional litre tankard costing €10.50. Tables were waited on for drinks and meals and people walked around with baskets of huge pretzels or decorated gingerbread hearts hanging from poles for you to buy. Funnily enough we were joined at our table by a family whose Dad had originally lived in Sutton Coldfield!

    The festival atmosphere was good and we were glad Ade was there to share it with us. The one ride he wanted to go on was the bumper cars so we visited them on the way back. Unfortunately Vicky left her coat on one and because of the no bag policy, her wallet was in the pocket. When she returned to try and retrieve it, someone had handed in the coat without the wallet. There was no joy at the central lost and found either and so the next morning was spent cancelling cards and ordering a new driving licence and EU health card. We are very grateful to Will's sister Sue, who will post them out to us when they have all arrived!
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  • We are home.

    36 days later we traveled through 11 US States, Canada and Iceland, drove 6344 Kilometers with three different cars. We were on 5 Planes an overall distance above 18000 km. We also had 9 uber rides and numerous train, metro and bus rides.

    We did camping on 12 different Campgrounds and were in 10 different Hotels/AirBnBs.
    We visited more than 10 State Parks, 3 National Parks, and over 10 major cities.

    Overall it was sooooo amazing.
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  • Vicky still had a few things on her 'list of things to do in Germany' and one was to visit the Thermal Baths at Bad Wilbad. The van was too high to park in the baths' multistorey carpark so we left the van at a campervan parking place about a mile away and headed in through the park. The walk was beautiful with the autumnal trees and a rapidly flowing peaty river that had cut a steep gorge through the valley.

    Palais Thermal contained some of the oldest thermal baths in Europe. The red sandstone building, whilst attractive, didn't draw undue attention when looking at it from the outside. However, the inside was stunning. Mosaic tiled floors led the way through arched doorways into high roofed chambers containing different baths. There were smaller ones for up to about 4 people, medium and larger ones about the size of a learner pool at a leisure centre. Beautiful mosaic wall tiles lined the lower sections of wall, stone pillars rose up from the water, inset arches framed wall paintings and gorgeous stained glass windows whose colours sometines shone on the opposite walls. In the larger baths white stone statues featured in the centre and you could lie back in the warm water and study the stained glass ceilings.

    We were glad to be visiting when we did as there were very few people there and at one point we were the only ones in the main pool with the statue of Venus at its centre.

    The original building had been added to and the complex had a further 2 floors of saunas, plunge pools, showers, swimming pools and an ice machine for you to cool yourself down. On the 2nd floor, you could sit in a sauna or swim in the outdoor pool and have views over Bad Wilbad and the funicular railway trams making their way slowly up and down the autumnal hill opposite.

    This isn't normally the sort of thing we are drawn to do but one of the aims of our travels is to experience things we wouldn't have otherwise and at €21.50 each for 4 hours it was accessible and something we won't forget. We even got into spirit of indulgence and had had a glass of prosecco whilst lying back on wicker loungers in the opulent 'Moorish Hall' lit by around 100 square metres of stained glass ceiling.

    We stayed the night about 70km away in Nurtingen.

    (The photos of inside the baths are from leaflets and a poster).
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  • One of the good things about staying in an area for a while is being able to spot events and plan for them; something we haven't done much of when passing through regions. We'd seen a poster for a 'culture festival' prior to Ade's arrival and put it down as one of the very few events in our diary.

    There was a huge number of stalls showing sculptures in wood, stone, metal and clay, paintings, handmade clothing, soaps, jewellery and decorations to name but a few. The majority were excellent quality. There were willow weaving workshops, circus performers, a traditional band and a theatre.

    We watched a children's show that was a combination of Jack & the Bean Stalk, Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks. Even though Vicky & Ade didn't understand much, it was entertaining and we found it interesting listening to the German nursery rhymes.

    We enjoyed the day, but were rather full with culture by the end and so returned once again to our peaceful stopover at Hohenwart.
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  • The morning's rain and dark sky were unpromising but they were to bring an unexpected surprise! The terrain became wilder and as we climbed above 1000m the rain turned to sleet, then snow! Proper big snowflakes! It was 'Narniaesque' with dark towering trees becoming coated. At some points we were surrounded by Christmas trees sugared with white snow. Vicky was driving and was so excited she had to pull over and get out to dance!

    We repeatedly passed a distinct snow line as the changing altitude caused the temperature to rise and fall. The town of Freiberg had rain rather than snow when we went in search of some more Black Forest Gateau. The old town area was beautiful, with the forest rising up behind a square that contained a red sandstone church and rococo architecture. The gateau was more artisan than yesterday's, with a different sort of spirit flavouring the cherries. It went down all too quickly and we drove on to find a place to stop for the night.

    There had been lots of parking along the forest routes and we got the impression the area would have been packed had we visited in summer. After driving farther than we'd planned, to investigate a string of laybys we'd seen on the sat nav, we doubled back to one on a ridge at 1174m above sea level with an incredible view.

    The joy on people's faces as they pulled up and looked around them wasn't something that we'd seen evidence of in city centres, no matter how beautiful the rococo architecture!

    We were able to walk 50m to the other side of the ridge to watch the sun set then get up early the next morning to watch the sun rise from the van while we listened to Melanie's 'Baby Day'! As an extra treat the temperature dropped to 0°C overnight and the snow stayed to reflect the early amber rays and crackle underfoot when we got out.
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  • Nurtingen is a handy stopover 15 minutes away from the garage. It costs €5 a night but we used a voucher giving us 2 nights for the price of 1.

    For about a month now there has been roadside pumpkin stalls with honesty boxes. We've been meaning to buy one to make soup but many have been difficult to stop at for the van so we were happy to find one that was easy to pull in at along the way!

    Will had booked the van service via email and one of the receptionists spoke good English which made things a lot easier. We'd been asked to get the van there by 8am and be prepared to leave it until 5pm. They'd offered us a hire car at a good rate but unfortunately they didn't allow dogs so that was a no no. However, we were able to stay in the van until they took it in at 9:30am, then took Poppy and her rug into the comfortable waiting area where she made herself at home. The service was completed and the van taken on a test drive by noon. There was a hefty bill but we did get:
    a) Peace of mind that the engine would be in the best condition for tackling the Austrian Alps
    b) A 'free' tin of sausage! (Don't ask whether this is the German equivalent of mints because we are still trying to work it out!)

    We chilled out at Nurtingen for the rest of the day with Vicky giving the van a good clean and Will taking a saunter in to the town.
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