Germany
North Rhine-Westphalia

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  • Day8

    Cologne

    Yesterday in Germany

    Our first day in Cologne was a quiet one. Boys were a bit worn out so they spent some time with Vern going to the park and having some lunch at a local Italian restaurant. Whilst louise and I went into town to go to the bank, yes we needed more money, and did a little shopping.

    We did go past the famous Cologne Christmas markets out the front of the Dom and had the most amazing chocolate coated strawberries. There was also some amazing nougat. We are planning a evening at those markets later in the week.

    Tomorrow is Vern’s birthday, and we have a dinner out planned but he is not sure what he wants to do during the day.

    Also there is a photo showing some little hessian bags on a sting on the kids bedroom wall. This is an advent calendar for the kids that Katrin made. What a fantastic idea.
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  • Day7

    London to Cologne

    December 16 in Germany

    Well we left London this morning on the Eurostar to Brussels with a connection to Cologne. We had a great trip on the Eurostar but when we got to Brussels Midi we were told our ICE train would now be leaving from Brussels Nord. Midi is the central station and Nord is like Redfern. This was due to the schedule being out of whack due to the snow in Germany. At least that is what we were told.

    With our transit now being at Brussels Nord, I went looking for food to find most of the station shops shut down on a Sunday so we ate at an over priced take away shop and then went up to the platform. Clearly this station was in need of an upgrade. It looked like something out of East Germany in the 60’s. I have included a photo.

    Our first class compartment on the ICE was great and we really enjoyed the passing scenery. The last hour showed a dusting of snow all over the paddocks beside the train with some snow on the

    train platforms. Philipp had already sent us a picture of his backyard covered in snow this morning but it had already melted by the time we got there.

    Philipp met us on the platform and we headed to the car. From there we went to a Christmas market in a small village. Had gluehwein and currywurst for dinner and soaked up the amazing atmosphere. The lights were beautiful but it was so great to loo k at the stalls without a crowd. I bought a beautiful pair of gloves that are sooo warm.

    Not sure what the plan is for tomorrow.
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  • Day9

    Happy Birthday Vern! You made it!

    What a beautiful morning it is today with the sun shining. We had a great German breakfast and Philipp and Katrin set up a fantastic birthday table for Vern. After singing happy birthday and blowing out the candles on the “beer cake” Vern opened a gift from Philipp and Katrin. It was a beautiful book with a page for each of Vern’s trips to Germany beginning in 1973. Katrin has sourced some great old photos to create a beautiful book with awesome memories. A tear or two may have been shed. So thoughtful and beautiful.

    This afternoon we are off to a different Christmas market for more Gluhwein and food before a special dinner at a Brauhaus that Philipp has booked with the rest of the family.
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  • Day40

    7 hour drive to visit the extra factory and pick up some parts. Really pretty country , very nice hotel , the aero club bunks will b even harder when we get back and this air conditioning will spoil an old guy. These are pictures as we made the trip across.

  • Day454

    Cologne

    September 23, 2017 in Germany

    In Germany the month of September means that it is Oktoberfest time. Obviously. This time last year we'd visited the country's original and largest Oktoberfest in Munich with our friend Ade and we thought it would be interesting and fun to visit a different one this year. We'd enjoyed Cologne when we'd visited in the early days of our European tour, so fixed our sights on their festival. Just before midday we pulled into the familiar stellplatz and were relieved to find a selection of vacant spots. Parking up in one with good access to the park for Poppy, we paid our €12 for 24 hours, had a bite to eat and got ready to cycle in. We'd spent time looking at Köln's Oktoberfest website but it wasn't very clear and gave only directions to the site (no address). Will had programmed a few possible locations into his phone and we set off along the lovely tree lined cycle track that followed the River Rhine. Once in the city centre the going got tougher. It wasn't clear to us where we could and couldn't ride and we needed to wend our way along busy roads with many junctions before we got to the first possible site where there was no sign of the celebrations. An hour after setting off we arrived at a large white marquee with sounds of instruments being tuned and a sound system being tested. We'd not seen anyone else as we approached and it clearly wasn't yet open to the public. Checking website once again we saw the entertainment started at 4:30pm and entry was from 3pm onwards. It was 2:10pm so we walked to a nearby park and found a bench to wait it out. This wasn't going well. Munich Oktoberfest had been open all day with several tents, stalls outside selling food and souvenirs and a whole fairground set up around it. At 3pm there was at least a decent gathering of festival goers, buzzing around the entrance in their dirndls and lederhosen while the brass band played upbeat oompah tunes. This was more like it! We watched as people began to get their tickets out and our hopes fell slightly. Tickets had been available via the website but we'd not needed them in Munich and assumed it was the same set up in Cologne. The saying goes that to assume is to... A doorman informed us that the event was full and without tickets we couldn't get in. Well bang goes that plan! We'd have been unable to get tickets because they would need to have been posted and we aren't at a fixed address.

    The 40 minute cycle back into the city centre was stressful. Having to find our way amidst car fumes, cigarette smoke, noise and hoards of people wasn't fun and when we sat down at a table outside a café in the old quarter, Vicky was in a foul mood and Will was irritated. A 0.2L beer each did a little to lift our spirits and we wandered around town in search of food to substitute what we'd planned to have at Oktoberfest. Will found a pork sarnie but there was no lebkuchen hearts anywhere to be seen for Vicky so we returned to the van and she had her fill of Aldi biscuits.

    Later that evening we'd made the decision to try and get a bit more out of Cologne than it had delivered so far. We went to a café bar in the park that Will had seen selling beer earlier in the day. It was just our luck that it was shut on a Saturday night! We persevered and eventually found a bar in the little run of shops close to the stellplatz. It was open and advertised an Oktoberfest special of a Maß of beer for €7. Hooray! The quiet bar was very different to the rumbunctious festivities we'd been looking forward to but we had Oktoberfest bunting above us, a litre of beer each and we were very happy to be able to be there. So happy in fact that we ended the night with a second litre and swayed our way merrily back through the park.
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  • Day784

    Lobberich stellplatz

    August 19 in Germany

    We've chosen the corner pitch out of the three provided at Lobberich stellplatz. Leafy trees on two sides give us a little privacy but the large billboard behind us makes sure we don't mistake it for a countryside setting. Saying this, the quiet residential estate has little passing traffic and has has an urban park with a small lake beside it.

    It was another long journey today but we are getting closer to Dunkirk, as evidenced by the increasing number of British cars passing us on the motorway. Will was pleased to get out in the canoe for a short time while Vicky got stuck into her latest knitting project and got creative in the kitchen too, preparing courgette and sweetcorn pancakes for tea!
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  • Day452

    Dümmer See & Stemwede

    September 21, 2017 in Germany

    Feeling refreshed after a couple of days at Harpstedt we continued on our journey towards Luxembourg. We toured Germany for nearly 4 months when we set off on our travels but two places we didn't visit were Dümmer See and Stemwede. We'd previously spent a couple of summers at a little campsite near Dümmer Lake and while we were there we visited an open air music festival at Stemwede. We have fond memories of the area so we decided to drop in and reminisce.

    Despite it being over 4 years since we'd last seen the lake and its surroundings, nothing much had changed. It was a warm day with a light breeze but the windsurfing shop and school were closed. We had a short wander along the tarmaced path that ran parallel to the shore. People walked dogs, jogged and cycled, making the most of the good weather. We had thought about hiring a dinghy but despite a few lessons taking place for school kids at one of the small marinas, nowhere seemed to advertise rentals, so Will made a picnic and we set off in the canoe. As we climbed in off the wooden launch ramp, the sights and smell of the washed up weed brought back memories of when we used to windsurf from here. Our route to the opposite shore was rather circuitous because we'd forgotten about the line of buoys marking out the nature reserve by the shore where boats were prohibited. Dümmer's scenery is low key rather than stunning. The water is full of sediment, the perimeter cordon means there is a lot of time spent away from the surrounding countryside, which is made up of low lying fields, forest and a few wind turbines. It was however a great feeling to be back and out on the lake! We passed several sail boats and as we were approaching the channel of buoys that allowed us access to a marina, there was a large wooden craft under engine power taking 30 or so tourists on a sightseeing trip. Hauling the canoe up a handy launch ramp, we left it on the grass and ate lunch on a bench looking out on the lake and marina. We could have hired a sail boat from here but by now the wind had died and we were glad we had paddle power to get back to the van. The round trip ended up taking nearly 3 hours so we were a little tired by the time we had driven the short distance to the free Stellplatz overlooking a park in Stemwede. Along the way the large fields of corn and cereals that had already been cropped reminded us of the music festival ground but we didn't actually pass it. Our overnight spot was on grass with a short walk through the adjacent forest where Shaggy Ink Caps grew between the leaves and needles. It was quiet and seemed the perfect place to chill after an enjoyably tiring day.
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  • Day68

    Buchenwald concentration camp

    September 2 in Germany

    Spent half the day visiting the memorial was light rain the entire time. Unbelievable the things people can do to each other. This was the first camp liberated by the allied forces, the third us army arrived there on 11 of April 1945. The SS fled . Approximately 21000 inmates including more than 900 children and teenagers were liberated.Read more

  • Day453

    Lunch at Wissinger & Wetter Stellplatz

    September 22, 2017 in Germany

    It was Friday and as we were no longer in pricey Norway or Sweden we could reinstate our routine of eating Friday lunch out. We told the sat nav to avoid motorways and tootled through agricultural land that was dotted with little towns and villages. After a while we spotted Wissinger Eck, a nice looking pub at a crossroads. Parking at a nearby supermarket we went to investigate and found they had daily specials at very reasonable prices. The bar was smokey but the manager welcomed us and gave us the option of sitting in the beer garden, a paved car park with wooden tables, benches and chairs with cushions, throws, coloured tablecloths, burning lanterns and flowers. They'd put a lot of effort into making this little sun trap a pleasant place to be and we certainly appreciated it. Will ordered beer and Vicky an alcohol free pils along with liver sausage and fish, the two daily specials. We couldn't quite follow what was said but realised when the fish fingers appeared with a slice of sausage loaf, that there was fewer fingers available than they normally served so they were substituting. This was fine with us. The food was reasonable and the manager attentive. We revelled in the warmth of the sunshine and this Friday treat. When we came to order the day's desert, the extent of the food shortage became apparent- they didn't have any, despite the fact that we were the first lunch time guests. The manager again substituted with 3 mini cornettos each but didn't charge us. (The bill came to €15). He became even more stressed when someone we assume to be his mother in law came out of a nearby bungalow on a zimmer frame and plonked herself down at a table expecting to be fed. 'We don't have any food!' he cried in German, almost pulling at his hair. Oh dear. It really was a lovely pub and we enjoyed our time there, we just hope they can get more organised in the future!

    Nearing our overnight stop we were sent on an 'umleitung' (diversion) due to a closed bridge near to the stellplatz we had programmed in. Wetter was a large, quite industrial town and unfortunately the sat nav took us along a maze of small residential streets with cars parked either side and not much room in between. We used our better judgement when it tried to send us down a very narrow cobbled road marked as a cycle track! Just as we'd given up hope, Will turned into the car park of a swimming pool and we saw signs for camper van parking. What a relief!

    Wetter stellplatz was a gravel car park with grass around and a small green corridor ahead of it where people walked, cycled and played with their dogs. There was dog mess in the parking area but a gravel track snaked down the hill to a riverside walk we would have explored further if we weren't moving on in the morning.
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  • Day39

    Cologne

    August 4, 2016 in Germany

    Heading towards Cologne the area became extremely industrialised. The vineyards, wheat fields and trees were replaced by huge buildings, towering chimneys and metal tubes snaking up and down and occasionally emitting some gas high up above us.

    As we approached the city, the skyline stood out as distinctive, with its bridges accross the Rhein, two cathedral spires and tall skyscrapers. We'd deliberately not arrived at a weekend and were glad of this as the 60 place stopover was packed. Luck was with us though and we found a free spot overlooking the river, its grassy floodplain and a path leading to the town. Vicky wasn't feeling well so it was great for her to be able to sit in the van with her crochet watching the world go by.

    Cologne is supposidly one of the world's great 'pink' cities with 1 in 10 people being openly gay. It was heartwarming to see a same sex couple strolling hand in hand. In so many areas, conditions are such that people don't feel able to express themselves, whether it be their sexuality, gender, fashion sense or even opinion or belief if it is different to that of the perceived populus masses.

    Despite being bombed extensively in the second world war, Cologne still has many historic, mainly religious sights to see. The Cathedral seemed somewhat too large for us to take in close up and there were too many other buildings close by to be able to step back sufficiently. However the intricate stonework was breathtaking together with the beautiful stained glass windows filtering the afternoon sun through in a rainbow of colour.

    We enjoyed a local Kölsch beer sitting at a table outside colourful old buildings in the Altstadt (old town) area overlooking the Rhein. We took a trip to the 4711 House of Cologne to see the tap of eau de cologne flowing for you to dip in to, then indulged in another treat of bramley apple crumble cake and lime strawberry cheesecake with a chocolate icecream drink and coffee.

    The day in Cologne was wrapped up with a walk over the raiway bridge to the viewing tower in Deutz. The steps up the bridge had special bike tracks and its wire mesh barriers were covered with 'love locks' built up by decades of couples proclaiming their love for each other by locking a padlock with their names and often memorable dates to the bridge. The glass sided, 28 storey high panorama tower did as it said, with a platform you could walk round to see 360° views of Cologne, the Rhein, its bridges, Deautz and beyond to the industrial zones on the horizon.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Nordrhein-Westfalen, North Rhine-Westphalia, NRW, Renania del Norte-Westfalia, Rhénanie du Nord-Westphalie, Renania Settentrionale-Vestfalia, 노르트라인베스트팔렌 주, Северный Рейн-Вестфалия, Kuzey Ren-Vestfalya

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