Wachenheim, Wachenheim, so good we went there twice.
On the way down through Germany my first solo stop (i.e. not visiting friends) was at the wonderful Riesling producing town of Wachenheim. That was thanks to a recommendation from Marlon and Silke up in Aachen.
I’ve talked about it so much since that we decided we had to go there together to make sure I wasn’t getting carried away with the romance of “one man and his dog will travel”.
The day would have been a great one no matter what – the sun shone for the first time in a week or more, and Germany sure does look good in the sun.
After the autobahn chaos I’ve already mentioned, we arrived, slipped into the spot next to mine of two weeks ago, and set up camp.
The ease of driving your house around.
Actually typing those words makes me think of how easy setting up is in the van. There’s no confusing tent that seems to need a different treatment every time you take it out. There’re no flimsy pegs to try to hammer into concrete ground using a shoe or some other inappropriate implement. There’s no need to pee seven times during the night because your sensitive bits are cold. It’s even easier than going to a hotel because you don’t have to keep running back to the car for yet another charger (that you probably left in the last place anyway). I watch caravaners setting up and breaking camp and I reckon we have it easier than them too.
All we have to do is make the bed and pack it away, keep the van tidy (you have to keep on top of this) and give it a daily sweep out.
Back to Wachenheim.
I don’t like repeating things, even if I have loved them.
I rarely order the same meal.
I avoid going to the same place twice in a row.
I even take a different route to the same place as often as I can.
So I was quite surprised to find myself back in the Cafe Shellack ordering the same amazing Schinken und Frühlingszwiebel, and then washing it down with more fine Riesling. But I felt no sense of betrayal – it was so good, and I’d have it all over again.
Our own Romantische Straße.
Our route from Wachenheim to tonight’s stop, Baren Camp, just up from Zell on the river Mosel, was a true romantic road.
First stop – an excellent little supermarket for a stock up on vegetables and fruit, with only a few bottles of delightful Riesling, then through Bad Durkheim en route to the regicide sounding Kaiser Slaughtern. I’d driven the road before and knew it to offer several beautiful castles perched on outcrops, pencil thin churches, and the village of Frankenstein!
Across the Pfalzer Wald, and then the Saar-Hunstruck it felt as if we were in perpetual undulating forest. This was the Germany I’d promised Minty and I’m happy to have found it again.
As we approach the Mosel the houses get smaller, there are older houses, and slate hanging becomes more popular. It is not necessarily as pretty as some of the countryside we have driven through, but you can’t help but be impressed at the gradient of the vineyards – if it’s that hard growing the grapes then the wine must be special!
It’s also awe inspiring to have camped right by the river and see the truly massive cruise ships and coal barges pass in front of your van – hopefully we’ll get a photo before we leave.
The slippery slope of the easy bottle.
I know I’m only a month into van ownership (well, a year, but an active month) and I’m highly aware of the honeymoon effect, but blinking heck I love this life.
Even though today was only our third properly sunny day in nearly four weeks I’ve loved every day.
So what can possibly go wrong?
Well – two things so far.
The first is my love of covering ground. I have to train myself to spend more than a night in each place where we rest. It’s just too easy to fold away the bedding and move on.
I do need to address this, but not this trip.
The second is the bottle – especially when they are as superb as those we have bought on this trip.
You pull up somewhere beautiful. Apply the hand brake, shake out the chairs. And open a bottle. Wonderful! But what happened to my three days of abstinence a week?
I’ll raise a glass to that!
Now, let’s go and find dinner.
The beauty of touring.
The beauty of touring – yesterday morning walking along the banks of the Mosel in awe at the size of the vast coal barges, and cruise ships on the river, then this morning walking through the Wald, the beautiful extensive German Forests.
The Mosel Valley.
On the Mosel there’s a Viking River Cruise boat – I wave to Peggy, my mum, who loves a river cruise, and I’m beginning to see why, cruising between beautiful places in the lap of luxury…
I’d like to see a ship pass through the huge lock systems – and I wonder if little boats use the same locks… I‘ll need to ask seafaring Spencer, my new nautical reference.
After wonderful wines at Judith 1, a café in Bullay, we stopped to stock up on a few bottles further along the river. Buying from the grower always feels good, even if it costs just as much. I’d rather he did better on each bottle sold.
I have to take us back to Judith 1 and the strange, but tasty, meal we had there. The menu seemed more impenetrable than previous ones so we went for the thing we had least idea of – Reblaustoast. No surprise to be served toast, but interesting to have it topped with ham, and melted blue cheese (good so far), garnished with tinned peaches, pears and a scattering of grapes! It felt very 70s but hey, that’s OK.
I think most of the world’s camper vans, certainly most of the Dutch and Germans, are concentrated along the Mosel. I have never seen so many campers, motor homes, and cyclists. Being a Saturday there were thousands of motor bikes too. There’s room for all though and the attraction is strong. I want to come back and spend more time here.
Eifel National Park.
We’re now national park hopping and spent the night in my favourite site to date, a simple unadvertised place in Hammer, a little hamlet in the Eifel National Park.
I must come back with time to walk in the woods. An hour this morning truly whet my appetite, and this is the perfect time to do so. The trees have just started to turn. The nights are cold, but, if the sun shines, the days are great, starting at a couple of degrees above freezing, but possibly getting up to 20 in the afternoon.
We got into our first tight spot a little before finding the site.
The lady at Google was talking us through the historic town of Monschau, which incidentally had a 2.5T weight limit (we’re 3.5T at full weight but probably a shade under 2T normally going on). As we descended the 1 in 7 (bloody steep) hill the streets narrowed around us in a most un-German manner.
To add drama they were cobbled which had everything shaking in the van, and then Mrs Google suggested a switchback that even a Smart Car would have failed at. There was no way that Archie could do it, even without the tourists scowling at us.
We drove on a few hundred yards to pull up and study the route and realised that whatever option to took for our chosen site involved this crazy turn. We could see huge vans on the site on the Google image, and there was no way they could have gone through the town, but without a decent map we couldn’t work it out. No problem though as carrying on for 15 minutes got us to the Hammer site.
The homeward leg.
Within an hour of Hammer we were on the A3 heading for Liege, and soon we’d left our lovely Germany behind – we’ll be back soon.
No exploring in Belgium, just enough driving to realise that much of Belgium’s roads are being worked on, and pretty much all of the others need to be. The countryside, from what we saw, made even England look smart.
At a border service station there are scores of Polish trucks – the drivers cooking dinner, playing tennis, sleeping off hours on the road, and, alarmingly, drinking beer!
It makes me ponder the life of the trucker. Hour upon hour of supposed concentration, probably dreaming of some girl they hardly ever see, visiting so many countries, but knowing little about any of them, save which have good service stations. I used to think it was a life I’d have liked, and maybe 30 years ago I would have. But not in today’s quota driven world where efficiency comes at the price of most of the things that make life good.
We’re now sitting outside enjoying a bottle in our shambly site of Camping de la Sablonniere, near the town of Maroilles. Facilities are ancient and in need of love, but this farm house site has real charm.
The sun is shining and it’s still warmer at 6.30 that it has been for most of the month on the road.
And life is good.