Doezum, Groningen, Boutange, Cloppenburg, Verden An Der Aller, Thedinghausen, Bremen
20 days away
189 miles / 304 km since last post
1,066 miles / 1,716 km total
On Wednesday we decided on a very lazy day. We were staying at a campsite in Doezum called Landgoed Jonker, and as the weather was fairly miserable we took the opportunity to relax and stay another night here. Thankfully the weather brightened up for a couple of hours in the afternoon which meant we could take the bikes out for a ride around the local area. It's a fairly quiet place so there didn't appear to be much to see at first, besides the (largely restored) 12th century church. However, when we rode into the local park we stumbled upon a large enclosure filled with animals you'd never normally see together - they had goats, chickens, peacocks, geese, ducks, a turkey, deer and, quite unexpectedly, some wallabies! They also had an aviary with canaries, budgies and what I believe to be some sort of doves. They all appeared to be very well looked after too. We made it back to the motorhome in perfect time as it rained just as soon as we put the bikes away!
By Thursday morning the weather had improved significantly - sunny and warm again! We left Doezum and headed east to the province of Groningen. Apparently, tourists don't normally venture this far north in The Netherlands. If the city of Groningen (named after the province) is anything to go by then we can understand why. Not the prettiest of places to be honest, and little to hold our interest, so we didn't stay too long. On top of that some local nutter approached us and whispered "it's dangerous here" - way to encourage the tourism. However, a further hour or so driving south-east, towards the Netherlands-German border, we stopped at a place called Bourtange. This is a tiny town, but its draw is that it is home to 16th century restored fortifications - one of the best preserved in The Netherlands. It is small, but it was well worth the visit. You can even walk (or in our case, cycle) around the outside edge of the fortifications. After a short cycle around we stopped for an ice-cream then a beer in the small town square.
Once back in the motorhome we decided to carry on driving and cross the border into Germany, heading for a place called Cloppenburg. We found a free camp stop in our book which was located in a museum car park. As we pulled in, we saw the reassuring motorhome sign and there were a few other motorhomes already there. It was absolutely fine and a nice, quiet spot. It had been a long day of driving today, with bike rides in between, and bangers and mash for dinner had never tasted so good!
Friday morning we left our camp stop at the museum and headed for Bremen. Instead of taking the direct route via the motorway however, we opted for the more scenic route taking us through Wildeshausen, Bassum and Verden An Der Aller. We saw lots of farmland and stunning looking villages - so much more enjoyable than a boring motorway.
We actually stopped in Verden, parking in a shopping complex car park. After making ourselves some lunch, a local German guy stopped me to ask about our motorhome. He said he was thinking of buying one himself and wondered if we had any tips. I told him we were quite new to it all ourselves so are probably not the best people to give advice, but we had a bit of a chat and I told him a bit about our motorhome anyway.
We took the bikes out to cycle around Verden. It was a nice town, quite pretty, next to the Aller river. There were a couple of things I didn't expect to see in Verden. First, they had a Woolworths - bit of a blast from the past, and it wasn't like the Woolworths supermarkets in Australia but actually like the old ones in the UK. Second, we came across a John Lennon memorial. My GCSE German coming into great use here as I managed to translate the wording on the plaque which stated it was commemorating the time that he filmed the anti-war film 'How I Won the War', in Verden in 1966.
We cycled back along the river and then back to our motorhome. We drove part of the way from Verden in the direction of Bremen, but stopping at a free camp stop in an area called Thedinghausen - the plan was to venture to Bremen the following day. It appeared as if we had picked yet another quiet stop, with just a couple of other motorhomes also parked up. We made the most of the sunny weather by putting out the awning and sitting outside with a couple of beers.
Soon after we saw quite a lot of people arriving and making their way to the land to the side of the camp stop. They tended to be men and women of a certain age dressed in some kind of uniform. Stu ventured over to have a look, stating that it seemed to be a party for some sort of guild. They had some music and singing going on for a while, but it was not causing us any problems. What was slightly irritating was that later on in the night some lads decided to show up with their crappy cars and start belting out music and revving their engines. Thankfully this didn't go on too long, but it just goes to show that you get idiots everywhere!
Today (Saturday) we took the drive up to Bremen. Luckily, our book indicated a camp stop right near the centre for €13. When we showed up it looked pretty busy, but thankfully we grabbed a spot not far from the entrance. As there was no one here to collect the money, the idea is to put it in an envelope. Unfortunately we had nothing smaller than a €50 note so took a quick ride on the bikes out to try and get change. I tried a cafe up the road first, but she wasn't willing to part with any change as she said they would need it for tonight - thanks! So instead we headed down to the river where there was an outside bar, and grabbed a couple of drinks in the sun, whilst also managing to get some change.
After popping the cash in the envelope back at the camp stop, we took the bikes into the town of Bremen. It was well worth the visit, the marktplatz (market square) is the oldest part of Bremen. The town house is found here which dates back to the 15th century, an amazing gothic style building and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are a couple of statues to be found around the town hall. One is of Bremen Roland from 1404, the city's protector. The other is Gerhard Marcks' bronze sculpture from 1953 called Die Stadtmusikanten (Town Musicians) which portrays the donkey, dog, cat and rooster of the Grimm Brothers' fairy tale. There were queues of people lining up to get photos of themselves holding the legs of the donkey. Not entirely sure whether this was just the easiest part to hold onto or whether they were trying to harness some sort of power from it!
Other things to see around this area were the cathedral, and the Böttcherstraße - a narrow street containing different art and craft shops. One of particular interest was the Bonbon shop where you could watch the sweets being made. They also had a great food market which was worth a wander around.
A few streets away we found the Schnoor, which is cute area of small, well-preserved crooked lanes, fishermen's and shipper's houses from the 17th and 18th centuries, which are now cafés, artisan shops and galleries. We stopped outside a small bar along here for a beer - another opportunity to impress Stu with my extensive GCSE German. Two beers ordered and the bill requested successfully!
After a great afternoon cycling and meandering around Bremen we headed back towards the camp stop. On the way we took a scenic ride along the river, making the most of the glorious sunshine. We rode past quite a lot of miniature dwellings, which we assume must be some kind of summer/holiday house. It was strange though as they all had large gardens, which made their homes look even smaller by comparison.
Back at the motorhome we met our neighbours from Norway who were really friendly and chatty. When we told them of our intentions to head up to Norway they gave us a couple of brochures on some scenic drives to do - very kind of them.
This evening we had a couple of panic moments. Firstly, the gas heating didn't want to light. Next we found that the iPad didn't want to charge on electric! Some perseverance on both meant we did get them both to finally work. The heating just required a few more attempts, and the iPad needed rebooting. However, after dinner our friendly Norwegian neighbours knocked on the door and said that something was leaking underneath our motorhome. On close inspection it appears that our waste water tank has a leak! Not particularly pleased that we have yet another problem, however, in the scheme of things, it's not the worst that could happen and is certainly not on the same scale as the fridge problem from a couple of weeks back. That said, we should still get it looked at at some point.