The Riesling and Schnitzel Tour.

    2023. The Riesling and Schnitzel Tour.

    It seemed that there wouldn’t be time to write up this tour.

    Few days were without long drives, and those quiet days were busy in other ways.

    But here I am, sitting in the gardens of a Bohemian restaurant early in the afternoon, with a reservation at 6pm, and a head full of stories. There’s nothing for it but to type.

    It’s an important year for us. 

    25 years wed back at the August bank holiday weekend.

    And now this. Minty’s 50th birthday tour.

    How can Minty be 50?

    Leading up to the trip it seemed decadent to take three weeks off.

    Once on the road we were worried it wouldn’t be enough.

    The early schedule was demanding, there were places to be and people to see, and that was when we most needed rest. 

    Big van. Small road.

    We hadn’t broken free of Cornwall before the first major challenge.

    A Google time saving diversion around the longstanding A30 roadworks took us down smaller and smaller lanes until a cyclist flagged us down to warn us of a van stuck on a bridge ahead.

    We were already feeling the pressure and decided to take no risks. A multipoint turn had us facing the direction we’d come in, but now there was a new problem. Ahead of us six cars were waiting to get by. Behind us a longer queue had formed. And there was barely room for a bike to squeeze past ArchieVan.

    With a few years of taxi driving experience I’m used to seemingly impossible jams on narrow roads, but this time I was the cause. Someone had to take control, and that someone was me.

    By convincing six nervous drivers to reverse about 50 meters I created a space to advance to where each could squeeze past Archie. 

    The first driver behind us was happy with his role making sure no one could pass him until this step was delivered.

    Out of courtesy we then let the drivers from behind get by.

    And now we could get on our way and escape without meeting any other vehicles in awkward places.

    Amazingly everyone did what they were told, no one lost their rag, and most even cheered when they were finally freed. Imagine trying the same in Italy!

    It was a tough start and one I’d prefer not to repeat.

    The A35.

    Let’s come back and take this slowly.

    Swing off the A30 at Honiton onto the A35 and everything changes. This is a beautiful road rolling along just inland through some of Devon and Dorset’s finest countryside. 

    Each time I drive it I say we’ll come back and take it slowly – next time perhaps?

    A pub stop overnight near Poole – The Baker’s Arms.

    An early ferry, queueing alongside those heading to the Channel Islands.


    By 2pm we’re rolling off the boat onto French roads for the first time in 12 months.

    It feels good.

    The wide open spaces, big easy roads, and the knowledge that our first stop wasn’t too far away.


    So pretty. So smart. So easy.

    Drive into the harbour area, park up for 10 Euros, and gaze across the water to one of Northern France’s delights.

    Galette. Calvados. Cidre. And a hotel booked for a treat on our way home.

    We’re shocked at the cost of French fuel. Shocked at the hugely expensive French mototways. Shocked at the cost of French beer. And realise Britain isn’t alone in inflation’s grip.

    In the morning a kitten, it’s eyes just opened, found by the lady in the van next to ours. Now it’ll tour in that van with mum, dad, two teenage daughters, two dogs, and a chicken. Had it not strayed its life would have been normal. Sometimes it’s good to get lost.

    Honfleur at dawn. View from a van.


    We’ve toured Champagne before. We love it, but this time there’s no time for its delights.

    Not far south of Epernay Minty found us an aire between the canal and the Marne River. 

    The village has been replaced by a modern shopping area, a small supermarket, a sports bar, flower shop, bakers, fuel station. All in a late 80s improvement zone that improved little, but the bakery is good, and at the bar the French proved they still know how to smoke strong tabs.

    Hard driving.

    As a driver I often cover 250 miles in a day, all on Cornwall’s tiny winding lanes, rarely driving east of Penzance. The shifts are long, and it’s exhausting, but fun.

    Knocking out a similar distance on the motorways should be easy, but it never feels that way. After paying toll after toll after toll on the French motorways we finally cross onto Germany’s autobahns. The cost of the miles falls, and the speed increases. 


    Overtaking becomes strategic.

    Look in the mirror. It’s clear. Clear for maybe a mile behind you. You accelerate. Check the mirror again. There are lights approaching, only just visible, but you must concede. There’s a fair chance that the approaching car is doing 120mph, maybe faster, and at that speed it’ll cover the gap in far less time than it’ll take to overtake whatever it is ahead of you.

    Fortunately ArchieVan is usually the slowest thing on the road. Our 60mph cruising speed is slower even than most of the lorries, and so the manoeuvrer is rarely needed.

    I’m sure Germany could halve its personal travel fuel consumption with a strict 60mph speed limit.

    I’m also sure that no government there will be brave enough to impose such a limit until our situation becomes a whole lot worse.


    On my first ArchieVan tour I visited Wachenheim on the suggestion of a wine loving friend.

    A few weeks later I took Minty there too.

    A few years later we went again to search out the wonderful Café Schellack where we first ate flammkuchen. It was closed. They’d gone to the local sausage festival.

    We revisited. We parked at the campsite out of town and marched the couple of kilometres down to the centre. And Café Schellack was closed again.

    How could they not know we were coming?

    Across the way another café welcomed us with fine Rieslings and excellent flammkuchen. We worried not, and we’ll carry on trying.

    Reward. Wachenheim.

    The Black Forest High Road.

    The Schwartzwaldhochstrasse is one of Germany’s many themed drives and took us for the fabulous 60 kms south from the famous gambling and spa town of Baden Baden to Freudenstadt. At the weekends this gorgeous road thrums to the sound of hundreds of motorbikes, but we had it almost to ourselves. The essential lakeside stop of Mummelsee was busy, but other than that there was no pressure to move quickly.

    Climate change is more visible in Germany than at home. Many of the pines are dying, and many more were wiped out by a freak storm some years back. These have not been replanted, but instead the emerging understorey is being studied to understand what the best future of the forest may be.

    Elsewhere people told us of ski resorts that have not seen snow for a decade, and friends talked of very different winters when they were young.

    Our very our camperstop.

    At home we welcomed Steffi and Andy in their van for a few days at Goldings.

    Friends have parked their van in ArchieVan’s usual rest place on many occasions, but our Bavarian guests were the first true campers. We’d met at Cadgwith and now we were heading to meet them again, deep in the Black Forest.

    Andy and Steffi’s wagon at Goldings.


    After years driving in Europe we’re still delighted at how so many towns welcome van travellers, providing excellent facilities, often for free.

    Schiltach is one of the gem villages of the Black Forest, and despite being small, it has space for at least a dozen vans in the heart of town.

    View from a van. Across the King. Schiltach.

    This was a logging centre where huge rafts of felled trees were once bound with withy ropes and floated on the Kinzig river to the Rhine, bound eventually for Amsterdam. Today the Kinzig is rich with fish, but quiet, although there’s industry here as there is across most of this rich nation. Tiny Schiltach is home to Hans Grohe, the sanitaryware giant, and at the factory you can book to try all their showers in a most unusual visitor experience. We probably could have benefitted from a good scrub, but we passed on the opportunity. We had people to see.

    Pretty Schiltach. Black Forest.

    Local knowledge.

    Andy and Steffi were only 20 minutes drive from our Schiltach stop. Soon after arriving they drove us high into the mountains for a forest walk we’d have never experienced without them. There was a hint of a view over distant Strasbourg, but more interesting were the huge country houses of forest farmers of old. In Britain a house of 150 square metres is considered rather large, greedy even, but here the chalets often top 400 metres. What these hide is the highly efficient multi-generational living that we have abandoned.

    Back at home – Terry sands the bedroom ceiling, while dancing.


    We’re already deep in Germany, in fact we’ll accidentally stray into Austria while trying to find camping near Lake Constance.

    It’s mid-September, but everywhere is busy, full even.

    The huge site east of Lindau is full.

    The next tiny site 20 minutes drive inland is full.

    But Badsee. Badsee has space – and it’s a delight.

    Orderly. Calm. A very German campsite on a south facing slope around a small lake.

    A café for schnitzel. Woods for walking the now reluctant Polly. Swimming. And of course the fascination of seeing the Germans doing what they do so well – loving the outdoors.

    Pelhamsee. Hotel Seeblick.

    Germany is a bloody big country. It’s very nearly three times the size of England. And almost everywhere there’s great scenery to be found. In general we try to go to the place up the road from anywhere we’ve been before, but some are so good you have to go back.

    On our first van trip in 2017 we stopped the night at the Hotel Seeblick on Pelhamsee, now far east of Munich. It was Minty’s birthday. Of course she had schnitzel. And we loved it.

    A fortifying dunkel. Minty at 50!

    This trip has taken shape around a very loose plan to visit a few friends and be back at the Seeblick for Minty’s 50th.

    Two nights of comfort. Three days with a shower when we wanted it. A clean loo. Chairs. People looking after us. Great food (there’s always great food on this trip). A swimming lake. Living in the van is a wonderful thing. Occasionally stopping in a great family run hotel lifts the experience higher.

    From the woods, towards little Pelham.

    Friends from our Crete lockdown made the trip out from Munich to join us on the big day. There was fizz, much talking, we mourned the passing of Max, we contacted the others from that lockdown experience.

    Friends reunited. Some on the Crete lockdown crew.

    U Šeēpána.

    We only have two nights in The Czech Republic on this tour.

    The second was dictated by food.

    My research specialist (Minty) has a knack for scanning an area and finding its points of interest.

    We had intended to revisit Pilzen, but van stop options didn’t look too hopeful.

    Instead we headed for U Šeēpána.

    A modest sign. A special place.

    This modest sign hides such delights.

    The family farm has a simple, but wonderful farm to fork restaurant that those in the know travel great distances to experience.

    And it has a most peaceful campsite.


    The gardens grow everything from the vegetables to the flowers that garnish your meal.

    The hedgerows grow the fruits – plums, apples, rosehips, more berries than I recognise, and all contribute to the amazing flavours. The fruits bring the birds – they’re everywhere.

    The vegetable gardens and simple restaurant of U Šeēpána.

    Everyone is family.

    This morning as I stepped from the shower a little lad of maybe 12 years drove past on his tractor, the trailer laden with apples for the kitchen, his sisters were out picking from the garden before they donned their smart clothes to wait on the first guests.

    And the food? Oh my. The food is special indeed.

    We stayed at a very fashionable place delivering a similar experience near Launceston in the winter. It was great, but Minty had the good sense not to tell me how many hundreds of pounds it cost. Here we drank, we ate, and we enjoyed, all for less than £70 including the stay.

    U Šeēpána – go find it. You won’t regret it.

    What is beauty?

    Waking in a van brings a joy that’s hard to impart.

    Before opening your eyes you scan your memory to remember where you are.

    You pull the curtain and the view is likely to be different to yesterday’s.

    This morning mine was a simple birch, backed by a cold blue winter sky. This is beauty.

    Outside the van now I look across this scene. The back of the van, a privet hedge. Nettles. A fence. Untended grass, dripping with dew, leads down past a steaming dung pile to a stand of poplar, birch and firs. The hill climbs – a mix of meadow and more trees.

    Simple. This is beauty.

    There’s nothing dramatic about this, but it’s peaceful. This is beauty.

    Some days we wake by a lake, shimmering in the morning sun, carrying a broken reflection of distant mountains. This, too, is beauty.

    Rebuilding Along the Ahr.

    On our way home in 2020 we stopped at Mayschoss on the sleepy river Ahr. We supported the local economy by buying a couple of cases of their finest Riesling.

    In 2021 the area was devastated by a summer flood that took the lives of 200 people.

    Today we’re in Bad Neuenahr only a few kms along the river where, two years later, rebuilding work continues all around.

    German towns are usually ridiculously clean, ordered, smart. This place takes it to a new level.

    10 meters of flood water devastated the town two years ago. Today teams of builders, decorators, landscapers and bridgebuilders have been working all hours to rebuild the town and to attract vital tourists back to buy their wines.

    Almost every house sparkles with new paint. Lawns are immaculate. New beds burst with dahlias.

    There’s so much still to do. Several teams of builders work on every street. Dixi loos (portaloos) hum in the warm late summer air. In town it’s the oldest, most difficult buildings that have yet to start their reconstruction.

    All this was hard to believe in the wine garden where we were served such excellent meats and cheeses.

    Tomorrow we’ll call at the same establishment that helped look after our Euros in exchange for some bottles. Perhaps they’ll relieve us of some more cash.

    Building the economy. Mayschoss 2020.
    Rebuilding the economy. Mayschoss. 2023

    Next day: Further up river at Mayschoss the havoc is more extreme.

    A bridge is down.

    The tunnel Polly and I walked through is still full of silt.

    A restaurant where we enjoyed a great dinner is missing a side.

    Mayschoss. We ate a fine meal at this establishment on our last visit.

    The vintner where we previously bought wines has suffered damage upstairs as well as having its ground floor devastated.

    Everywhere work goes on among the tourist cars and campers.

    It’s a hive of activity.

    The story from now on will be positive.

    But we’re left wondering – if the best organised, richest European nation is still in this state two years after a flood, then what hope do the rest of us have when freak weather visits us?

    Border crossing.

    It’s still exciting. Even when sometimes you hardly notice. The challenge is to observe the differences.

    The motorway past Aachen slips into Belgium with little fanfare. There’s just a rather scruffy service station at the border that once meant so much. But immediately things change.

    The road is suddenly empty (and rougher).

    Come across a truck and it’ll cruising at an economical 90km an hour. In fact everything is slower.

    The cows. They’re more plentiful. And they have such big rumps. Charolais, Limousin and the impressive Belgium Blue.

    The cars are, well, a whole lot cheaper. Yes, there are the big Mercedes and BMWs that terrorise the autobahn, but there are far more humble vehicles too. Renaults, Citroens and Dacias. Even some that haven’t been washed this week (or year).

    For all that Belgium is clearly a poorer nation than its massive neighbour, I’d choose a Belgium house over most in Europe. The modern Belgium house stands out. There’s a simplicity of design that seems to have been agreed at a national level. Fenestration is so much more interesting. Windows are uninterrupted by mullions, bars, or other detail. There’s a consistency of brick that’s pleasing. I haven’t been inside one yet – but I bet they’re a delight.


    We’d have stopped at Durbuy, labelled the most beautiful town in the world, if there had been camping available. Instead, we’re downstream at Barvaux. And we intend to stop for two nights to slow down, rest the driver, rest the research team, and try some beers.

    Durbuy. Aims high. Misses. But beautiful nonetheless.

    Barvaux Breakfast.

    It’s market day.

    There are maybe 50 brocante stall holders, their wares spread on the ground in the old marketplace. 

    In the cafés folk drink strong beer and wines. Not just a hardcore few, but the vast majority. And many are smoking too.

    In Germany there’s a morning contingent of vigorous, healthy looking mums and dads cycling with their young children to school. In Belgium there’s a morning contingent waiting for their first cigarette and an 8 percent beer to wash it down with.

    I understand statistics. I know my sample of one isn’t reliably representative. But I suspect it is.

    Barvaux breakfast. For the strong.

    Cesky Krumlov.

    Finally we’re stationary for a few hours and I can look back to the most dramatic town we’ve seen since our long travels a few years ago.

    From the Wacau wine region of Austria it made sense to head due north in Czechia to visit one of its gems.

    There’s parking for vans right outside the baroque gardens of the castle complex. With the UK’s generally negative approach to van travellers it never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to travel across Europe and park in the very best places. Often for free.

    Cesky Krumlov castle was founded in 1240.

    Jesus and the tower. Krumlov.

    Most of what we see today dates from the 1600s.

    Its engineering, and sheer courage defies belief.

    The truly staggering castle complex sits across a ridge of rocks that all but the most daring architects would council against building on today.

    The Cloak Bridge is three stories high. That’s three stories that sit on top of an already towering three tier system of arches. This was completed in 1777. 

    Clark Bridge. Cesky Krumlov.

    Britain was still fighting the Americans in their war of independence, we were knocking up some pretty amazing buildings (Blenheim Palace 1722 for example) but knowing a little about the difficulties of simply building a house, I can’t look at something like this and not be filled with awe.

    Na Louži.

    As the rain fell we slipped into Na Louži, ordered two dark beers, and a sausage.

    Nothing remarkable about that. 

    But what beer! And what a sausage! 

    Beer in very heavy glasses with ceramic drip catchers.

    Sausage scored in two directions, served with sauerkraut and grated horseradish.

    When I come back to Cesky Krumlov Na Louži will be my local.

    Bald guy. Anticipation of fine things to come. Na Louzi.

    Grundlesee. Karlstat.

    Two places a long way apart. But when thinking of our tour before sleep last night I remembered the need to mention both.

    Karlstat is easy – Free parking on the banks of the river Main. 50m long river barges slide past in the mist. In town a cycle event has just finished, and everyone is drinking in the streets, in a very ordered German way of course.

    ArchieVan am Main. Karlstat.

    It’s surprising how many healthy looking Germans climb off their super expensive cycles and light a cigarette. Perhaps German fags are still good for you?

    Grundlesee. This is a place to spend a week. A smaller Austrian lake with a simple campsite at the Gossl end.

    We spent two nights. We had the smallest sample of their fabulous walking trails. The swimming was the best I could imagine, sweet water of a perfect temperature, no threat and more to go at than I could ever manage. Several huge restaurants serving great food and drink with views beyond the imagination of anyone who hasn’t been.

    Just like pretty much everywhere the fee for camping in this paradise was a modest 27 Euros.

    Grundlesee. So many pictures, which one to choose?

    On the road. Off the road.

    Three weeks travelling was a magical thing. To stop was hard. But we’re fortunate to love the life we live in Cornwall too. We work on that luck every day.

    We’re acutely aware of the beauty that surrounds us. Noticing the good stuff makes every day easier.

    We’re nearing the end of a long build process. We’ll soon move out of the caravan that has been home for close to three years and into the house where pretty much everything is to our design. It’s exciting. It’ll be a joy. But I’d happily take to the road again tomorrow.

    Goldings. So nearly home.

    On writing.

    During our long tour time was on our side. Almost three years and little that had to be done each day beyond honouring our good fortune by learning what we could about our surroundings.

    On a short tour like this it’s hard to justify the time it takes to write up the day gone by.

    Yet, that writing makes the day better.

    Knowing you’ll write helps you see more, notice the small things, probably to take more photos as well.

    It’s a habit, one that I’ve fallen out of, and one that I’d like to regain.

    The branding on the van is now very subtle yet we still picked up a few new followers along the way. Thank you – you’ve inspired me to get this post finished, albeit a month later on a glorious October Sunday overlooking St Ives.

    Morning dip. 6.30am at Pelhamsee, Minty’s birthday lake.
    Bridge of Cloaks. Krumlov. With trainee Goth.
    Plenty. The apple trees that line the Czech roads.
    View from the beer garden. Grundlesee.
    Cesky Krumlov. Czechia.
    Le Vieux Bassin. Honfleur.
    La Cambe. German war cemetery.
    Post art. By the Goldings earwigs.

    18 Replies to “The Riesling and Schnitzel Tour.”

    1. A beautifully written narrative of a wonderful trip – so alive it’s as if we’re there with you.

      I had forgotten how much I used to look forward to reading your weekly updates when you were on tour. A wonderful tonic for a Sunday afternoon.

      Hope you are all well. Big hugs all round and belated Happy Birthday to Minty.

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Ah Lord Hewitt.
        It was worth writing just to hear from you again.
        Thank you for your kind words.
        Life in the far west is good.
        We’ve been in a caravan for a while (almost three years) but should soon move into something with novelties like insulation and heating.
        I trust you’re both well. Perhaps you’ll venture this way one day…

    2. Really great to read up on the adventures of the Cornish Wanderer again. It sounded a thoroughly enjoyable three week trip.

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Thanks Rick
        It was a long drive, but worth it.
        Great food, fine beers and wine.
        We’re very lucky.
        Look after yourself.

    3. Liam Alexander says: Reply

      Well boy! I’m sat in a bar in Berlin, next door to the venue awaiting the beautiful Polly Harvey. Saw her last night. It’s been a while. Probably the best I’ve seen her and so I picked up a ticket for tonight. I’m truly glowing.
      You’ve had an amazing trip. Thank you for your beautiful words and gorgeous photos. See you soon my friend

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Well done boy.
        Give Polly my love.

    4. What an unexpected treat from Bavaria and beyond! Jx

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Yay! Time. Time is the thing that’s needed. I don’t spend anywhere near enough of it doing nothing (nothings like writing, reading).

    5. Gillian Cooper says: Reply

      Nice to see you still have the touch of writing your adventure in September
      Sounds great have been to some of the places you visited in my former life
      Lovely picture of Amanda with Polly bet she loved being back in the van tryst she is keeping well and looking forward to moving into a more warm and comfortable home
      Cannot believe it has been 3 yrs since you started the project
      Hope the gremlins did not eat Amanda’s birthday card hope it arrived safely
      Sending love to you all
      D&G 💕

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Good to hear from you.
        It was certainly rewarding to be back on the road. We all need a change of surroundings to help us understand where we are, and where the rest of the world is.
        The little dog is closer to 13 than 12 these days and has slowed down dramatically, but she still seems to enjoy herself.

    6. Great to read your travels again. You seem to find most beautiful and interesting places. Are you home for Feast, you can join us singing again? Mike

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Good to hear from you Mike.

        I certainly intend to be there, but I’ll wail from the sidelines.

        I hope Penzance is treating you well.


    7. Gareth Entwistle says: Reply

      Great read and fantastic you are on your travels.
      What’s not to live about beer, sausage, sauerkraut and horseradish?
      Lovely stuff

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Cheers Gareth. Good to hear from you. You’re right. Success, it helps to line up the right ingredients.

    8. Greetings from Germany, Kelvin! And good to hear, that you are all doing well! I would bring you bread and salt for your housewarming if you weren’t so far away!

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Margret – good to hear from you.
        Germany (and Austria) looked after us very well in September.
        Today winter has arrived in Cornwall – a crazy storm is raging here and making the caravan a frightening place to be.
        Best wishes to you both.

    9. Wonderful! I must get Ethel ready again for another long outing before either she or we expire,

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        You must! Keep travelling.

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