Heidelberg, Marburg, Cologne, Moyland, Haarlem, Abbenes
338 days away
438 miles / 705 km since last post
14,516 miles / 23,361 km total
The remainder of Thursday (8th May) was spent getting our washing done, at our campsite near Heidelberg. We decided on eating at the site restaurant in the evening, as it had come recommeneded from the owner. It was a good call actually, as we enjoyed a nice meal with German beer, served by a friendly Spanish waitress and Dutch chef. He also put some Pink Floyd on the stereo later on!
The next day (Friday 9th), we cycled the 8km or so into Heidelberg - a fairly easy, flat ride alongside the river Neckar. Not bombed during the war, we found it to be an attractive old baroque town, with its castle perched 60m above the town and various other old buildings. We a took a walk along the main high street (Hauptstrasse), before heading down a side street and finding somewhere for some pork schnitzel for lunch. The rain was on and off most of the day, but we managed to avoid it nicely by heading some coffee later too.
Just before heading back to our campsite, we spotted a bakery selling some odd looking cakes - basically a round, tennis ball sized thing covered in chocolate. They appeared to be a speciality of the town, so we bought a couple. It turned out that they were round sponges, with a nougart cream centre and marzipan, covered in either white or brown chocolate called Kurfurstenhugel. They were sold in a special little box containing a leaflet which described how they had come about. The original owner of the Gundel cafe, from where we purchased them, had designed them to commemorate the royal couple of Frederick V and Elizabeth Stuart in the 17th century, a fairytale couple of their times. We ate them once we returned to the motorhome later, and they went nicely with a cup of tea.
On Saturday (10th) we drove a couple of hours or so north to the university town of Marburg. It had been raining most of the day, and continued to do so after we arrived mid afternoon, so we decided to stay put in the motorhome for the day at our camp stop.
Sunday (11th) had on and off rain all day too, but it wasn't too heavy most of the time so we walked into the town. Our first destination was walking uphill to the Marbuger Castle. Having not yet eaten lunch, they had conveniently placed a restaurant near the top of the hill, where we made a brief stop for a currywurst. The castle itself was OK, and gave us a view across the whole town.
Marburg is most famously known as the place where the Brothers Grimm once lived and also where their obtained much of their inspiration for some of their fairytales, so references of this can be found around the town. There were some attractive old buildings here, which had obviously been well preserved from medieval times, and it made for a nice stroll, particularly due to a large pedestrianised area. We had a quick coffee in a cafe/restaurant, though we drank up fairly quick as the music being played was beginning to get on our nerves. It sounded like the German version of Black Lace. So, back to the motorhome we went, and we opted to stay here again for the night.
We drove to Cologne last Monday, Germany's fourth largest city. Several kilometres out of the city was a free camp stop at the Park & Ride, with a tram station conveniently right next to it. A little confused about how to buy a train ticket, we finally noticed a ticket machine on board the tram, although after several attempts figured that it didn't work, so ended up with an unintentional free ride into the city.
During the Second World War, Cologne was one of Germany's most bombed cities - it endured 262 air raids, 20,000 civilian casualties and the city centre was almost completely destroyed. The Roman Catholic Cologne Cathedral, despite suffering fourteen aerial bomb hits during the war, did not collapse and was the only old landmark to remain in the city centre. Apparently, the cathedral's high twin spires were used by the Allies as a recognisable landmark to help with their navigation, which could explain the reason why it was never completely destroyed.
The cathedral was our first destination once our tram arrived in the city centre. It has to be said, that whilst we have seen so many cathedrals and churches on our trip, and almost becoming quite immune to their grandeur and magnificent architecture, we thought Cologne Cathedral was quite magnificent. The sheer size of the thing is quite astonishing - 144.5m long by 86.5m wide, and the spires being 157m tall, it is Germany's largest cathedral and the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe. The spires also make the cathedral facade the largest in the world. After marvelling it from the outside, we were also able to explore - for free - the full interior too. It really was fascinating, and we could see why this was Germany's most visited landmark.
Unfortunately, besides the cathedral, there really was little else to see in Cologne - which we had anticipated, due to the devastation it experienced in the war. The only other place of any interest to us was the Ludwig Museum which sounded good, but was closed on Mondays! No matter, after a brief walk around the centre we found the Sion brauhaus to stop in for a swig of the local Kolsch beer, which was very nice. The service was excellent. They only sell the beer in 20cl glasses, but are always on hand to come over with another once you're getting low. Maybe not so nice, were the smoked sausages Stu ordered as a snack. What turned up were two cold, pink, thin, raw looking sausages which didn't look at all appealing. After a couple of prods, Stu was sure he wasn't going to eat them. Instead, he wrapped them in a napkin and then fried them up back in the motorhome!
We managed to time it just right for getting a tram back to the Park and Ride. This stop, whilst free, was quite noisey, so we decided to head a little further north to another camp stop, located in a small area called Moyland. The stop here was really nice, neat and quiet, with just a couple of other motorhomes parked up. It had a cash desk where you could pay for your stay, but they only took coins. Anticipating that the end of our trip is fast approaching, we had actually just got rid of most of our coins in Cologne! A man did come round and open the cash desk later, but for some unknown reason didn't want our cash, but did provide us with the wifi password - result!
On Tuesday, we decided on another rest day - seeing as this stop was so lovely and quiet and with free internet. Another man came around later to open the cash desk, and this time Stu was able to give him some money. It's amazing when you almost have to force it upon them!
On Wednesday we crossed over into The Netherlands, and headed north up to Haarlem, not far from Amsterdam, where our friends Carolyne and Dan live. We had visited them before right at the start of our trip, and we were paying them another visit before we head to the UK again. It was a fairly long drive, and we arrived around 5pm. Carolyne arrived home from work shortly afterwards, and we had a great evening catching up over some good food and wine. Unfortunately Dan was back in the UK for his work, but was due back Friday evening.
On Thursday, Stu and I spent most of the day recovering from the night before! We had bought tickets for a Mac DeMarco gig that evening in Amsterdam, but as the day went on I realised that I would not be able to make it. Stu headed out in the evening to meet Carolyne and another friend, while I stayed at home and slowly recovered in front of the TV. Stu said the gig was pretty good, so I'm glad they had a good time anyway.
On Friday it was another lazy day for Stu and I, but in the evening we enjoyed, for the first time since being back a Bristol - an Indian takeaway! It was absolutely delicious. Dan also arrived back from the UK later in the evening, and now I was feeling 100% again the wine was soon starting to flow as we had a good catch up.
After another late night (I think Stu and Dan stayed up until around 5am!), we all had a very late and lazy start on Saturday. Carolyne fixed us a much needed brunch of sausage sandwiches, then Carolyne and I caught the bus into Haarlem - intending to meet up with Dan and Stu a little later. We had a nice wander around the central market, in the glorious sunshine. Haarlem is a very attractive place. Despite having been here a couple of times now, I think we may have only been in the centre after dark. As the weather was warm and sunny, and it was the weekend, there were plenty of people sitting out and enjoying a drink at the many cafes, bars and restaurant around the centre. We found some outside seating at one of the smaller places, with some much needed shade. The barman who came to serve us was really friendly and helpful. Shortly after, Stu and Dan also joined us, and we spent a lovely couple of hours enjoying the beautiful afternoon over a beer or two.
As early evening descended, we took a short walk over to a Balkan restaurant that Carolyne had recommened, called Dubrovnik - and it was a great recommendation. The service and food were great - even the Macadonian house red wine they served was really good. A thoroughly enjoyable meal, and we would happily go back again.
After dinner we went to a lovely wine bar just on the main square, where we found ourselves a cosy sofa area. What amazed Stu and I, was that this was a Saturday night, and while there were plenty of people around, the city centre wasn't overly packed and neither were the bars and restaurants. It had the calm and more civilised feel of a nice city centre in the UK, but on a weekday rather than a weekend. We headed home after the wine bar and spent the rest of the evening by the fire in the garden.
Sunday was another lazy morning, with croissants for breakfast. As the beautiful weather continued, we decided on a BBQ for later. Carolyne and I headed to the shops to get provisions, and later in the day we enjoyed a fantastic BBQ (Carolyne's homemade burgers being especially good) in the garden. Another great was rounded off with watching Gravity 3D in the evening.
Yesterday (Monday) we said our goodbyes to Dan before he left for work in the morning. While we packed up all our belongings, Carolyne returned to work from home in the afternoon, and after a cup of tea we said our goodbyes. Spending the weekend with them had been fantastic, and it felt like a great way to start the final week or so of our trip.
We didn't venture too far from Haarlem once we left Carolyne and Dan's place. We have about a week left until we need to be in Calais for our ferry back to the UK, so we can afford to take these last few days at a fairly leisurely pace. We headed about 30km slightly south to a camp stop at Abbenes. It's fairly quiet, with some facilities and free wifi. With the weather still being glorious, Stu spent some of the afternoon laid out on the lawn.
Today (Tuesday) we have opted for another day at the same stop. We are in no hurry to see anything in particular these last few days, and thought it might be good to take advantage of the free wifi and start making some more plans for our return to the UK and our forthcoming Australia emigration. Lots to organise, but also still lots to look forward to.