The journey home was hampered by the heavy rain which turned the busy Autobahn into a river of spray. The volume of traffic, roadworks and accidents added almost an hour onto our journey each day. We were used to travelling in short daily hops so it was not really a problem and we were able to find somewhere to stay by mid afternoon – first near Berlin, then Hannover and our final stop before Calais was in Belgium. Therain eventually stopped and we were able to enjoy a glass of wine in the evening sunshine.
We drove east from Brandenburg for several hours and reached Poland in the early afternoon. Our camp site in Poznań was beside a man-made recreational lake, constructed in 1952 by damming the local river. Lake Malta was just over 2k long and 500m wide and was used tor rowing events. The lake was surrounded by a promenade, cycle tracks, cafés, a hotel and an amusement park. There was an artificial ski slope and thermal baths and the whole area was surrounded by grassland and mature trees.
The campsite was almost full on our arrival and the weather was warm and sunny. The next day it was raining so we spent some time enjoying the thermal baths. There were connecting pools inside and out and we emerged two happy hours later very, very clean.
There were dedicated cycle paths everywhere and we cycled into the old city centre where there was a large market square with shops and pavement cafés, dominated by the Renaissance style town hall, now a museum.
The final attraction on our tourist itinerary was a visit to see our expedition truck, which was being prepared to have the chassis sandblasted ready for spray painting.
Bad Kissingen was a spa town in Bavaria. It had beautiful parks well served with cycle tracks and you could cycle for miles through the parks and along the river banks. Splendid hotels and apartments overlooked the central rose garden and there were also lots of medical clinics; we noticed a high proportion of elderly folk out and about with walking aids. We spent a happy afternoon in the local spa, swimming in warm mineral water. You could swim through barriers and enjoy the sunshine outside.
It was time for a hair cut and we found a luxurious looking establishment on the main street where you just walked in and waited for the next available stylist. Although it appeared busy I didn’t have to wait long and very soon I emerged, washed, cut and finished for €33.
Most European camp sites displayed signs and notices in English as well as in their native language; our site only had signs in German – it was true the majority of campers were German but there were also Italian, Swedish and Dutch and it made it difficult to obey the rules of the camp. We had to used Google Translate a lot, with some bizarre results. An elderly Swedish couple at the next table in the camp site restaurant explained that East Germans historically had no love for the British. I hoped they were wrong – think so as they were playing Rod Stewart type piped music in the toilet block, so things British couldn’t be all bad.
We spent a couple of nights at a campsite near Besançon, eastern France on the River Doub. The large camp site was just off a dual carriageway next to an industrial area and it wasn’t particularly attractive or well looked after but it was surprisingly busy with French, Dutch and German campers. We guessed they used the site to visit Besançon, with its 17th century fortifications and citadel.
We continued our drive north and reached Germany a couple of hours later, making a brief stop en route at the Unimog Museum in Gaggenau. I am not quite sure why we stopped – I suppose one of us was interested. . . . .
Our next campsite was in the village of Enzklösterle (pronounced something like Ens klers te le) in the Black Forest. It was a fabulous drive through the mountains, we climbed to 3,000 feet before going down to 2,000 feet into the valley. We had a warm welcome from the owner and were soon settled in his beautiful and well kept site. We walked into the village later to find something to eat. They were early diners in those parts and dinner was normally served between 5.30 and 8 pm.
This was hiking country (ski in the winter) and we were given a leaflet suggesting various walks we could make from the campsite, most of them seemed to take four hours or more and were described as uphill – you can guess how we didn’t spend our time! Tourists were valued in the Black Forest and we were given complimentary passes to the local bus and tram services.
There was a continually running water pipe near our pitch marked “No Drinking Water” but I noticed several campers filling up kettles and jugs from that tap. I was told it was spring water from the mountain, untreated but certainly drinkable. I made tea with it and it was delicious. We were so used to the taste of chemically treated tap water or, even worse, water stored in plastic bottles and it was a real treat to have the pure thing. But I did boil before we consumed it as I didn’t want to risk getting atape worm or some other nasty disease. We seemed OK – so far.
RIP Anne Wright x
We were staying near Lyon in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of France. The campsite was in the countryside a few miles from the village of Montrigaud. It was the weekend and the site was busy with laughing families enjoying the warm (hot) weather. The restaurant, with its wood fired pizza oven, was unsophisticated but popular with the locals and appeared to be open at all times. The site was attractive and very uncommercial, the owner found us to a shady pitch, secluded and surrounded by mature trees. There was a small swimming pool, well used by families staying on the site and a boules area where several groups were playing, while others were spectating enthusiastically.
We spent two lazy days at the site and resolved to return when we were next in the area. Our next stop was Besançon, about four hours’ drive northeast. Motorways formed a triangle around our point of departure and we followed our satnav cross country through farmland and heading north to join up with the motorway towards Dijon. We didn’t realise we had taken a wrong turn until the satnav announced we should make a u turn, which we ignored. The drive was so beautiful, rolling hills with fields of wheat, lavender and sunflowers and deep forests of walnut trees. We drove for an hour and eventually reached a motorway and realised we had taken a huge detour and were further away from our destination that when we started out. Hey ho.
We had a very good reason to return to the Narbonne area – we wanted to stock up on wine. We had stayed at the campsite three years earlier and, whilst having a meal in the campsite restaurant, we enjoyed two pichets of the local rosé wine, served very cold – it was dry and very delicious. We were so enthusiastic about the wine that the patron recommended we visit La Cave de Gruissan in the nearby town where the local wine was sold by the bottle as well as in 3, 5 and 10 litre boxes. You could also buy the wine dispensed from a pump to fill your own container as you would fill a petrol can with fuel. On this occasion we bought rosé and red wine in 3 litre boxes and paid the equivalent of £2 a bottle.
We met a charming family at Les Mimosas – Jackie and Tony who were travelling with their grandchildren. They were camping in a couple of tents and we were impressed how stoic they were as it was extremely hot, the wind was strong and especially noisy at night. Isabella was a teenager and her sister, Amelia was a few years younger.
Isabella and Amelia were due to be flower girls at a family wedding in September and I asked them to send me a photograph. So Jackie, Tony, Isabella or Amelia – if you are reading this on a dark winter’s evening, my email address is email@example.com. We would love to see a photo of the flower girls!