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Emma & Maneesh on the Big OE

Germany - The North

GERMANY | Thursday, 6 August 2009 | Views [426]

Em and one of our bakery snacks for the day.

Em and one of our bakery snacks for the day.

 

July 30th

Today we were up early again, and said goodbye before Jeroen went off to work. We spent until about 10am getting everything packed, and back into the van. Mascha had baked us a Dutch Breakfast cake the day before so we had some of that with breakfast. It is a dark loaf, similar to a spice cake or gingerbread I think. Very nice! We were on the road at about 10:30am. We drove east from Amsterdam towards the German border. We stopped at supermarket to get some bread and meat for lunch, and stopped off for lunch at a nice leafy rest stop on the side of one of the motorways. After lunch we crossed the Netherlands - Germany border. Again there was a small blue EU sign but nothing else unfortunately. We decided to start to search for a campground and found one about 30km into Germany at Hörstel. It was a large campground next to a huge pond with fish in it. Everyone camps in amongst the pine trees around the edge of the pond, with a nice view of the water, and the kids swimming in it. After doing some hand washing to take advantage of the wind we played the mini golf at the camping ground. It was lots of fun and there was a young Dutch couple there who we got chatting to (they were our age – we're young for camper-vanning!). I won, but Em wasn't too far behind. The afternoon had gone by the time we finished golf, so we went back to the van and cooked dinner. After dinner the Dutch couple, who turned out to be our neighbours in the campground came in for a cup of tea and some cake. We had nice evening talking with them.

July 31st

Today we were up earlyish for a run (which was very pleasant, alongside cornfields), then after showers and breakfast we packed up our campsite and left. On our way out of the campground we stopped off and emptied our waste water, chemical toilet and cleaned Sven with their high pressure hose. Sven did not appear to be, but was actually very dirty. I guess that's what happens when you do a lot of driving. We drove further east into Germany. We stopped off in a small, pretty, German village for lunch, then drove a bit further and arrived at Dirk at Tina's house in Pötzen at about 3:30pm. Potzen is a very small village, nestled in a valley of wheat and corn, between forest-covered hills. Dirk and Tina, and their brilliant boys Finn (3yrs) and Tom (1yr), are the friends we bought Sven off back in Ireland and they have since moved back to Germany (they are originally from Germany). Potzen is near Hameln, and the nearest large city is Hanover. After hellos and picnic of tea, blueberry muffins, and apple tart in the sun, we all walked up to the local town swimming pool and had our first swim in about 15 months! It was a warm, sunny afternoon so it was nice to be in the water again. Finn and Tom loved the swim as well. Time seemed to disappear and we left the pool at about 6pm and went back to Dirk and Tina's house for dinner. After dinner the kids were off to bed and we sat outside and had a beer and a catchup, then went off to bed too!

August 1st

Today after a small sleep in we had a tasty German breakfast of breadrolls (which Dirk picked up fresh from the bakery this morning) with all sorts of condiments, including boiled eggs, honey, nutella, cheese, smoked salmon, and jam. It was a great start to the day. After breakfast we did some washing then we all headed into Hameln, the home of the story of the Pied Piper, which is just over 10 minutes' drive from their house. We had a nice walk around town in the morning sun, including through the cobbled streets of the medieval part, which was amazing. Great big wooden framed houses, similar to those that we saw in Rouen, all beautifully preserved or restored. We had lunch at a nice cafe next to the river, then afterwards we went to the shopping centre for a couple of bits and pieces, and headed home. After a short stop we went to the pool again, but the day had cooled off and rain threatened, so neither Em or I swam. The rain came about 10 minutes after we left and it was generally cooler. However the sun quickly came back so we were able to enjoy a nice summer evening BBQ. For dinner we had wurst (sausages), stuffed mushrooms, and vegetable kebabs. The kids went to bed shortly after dinner and we sat outside and had a nice relaxing evening.

August 2nd

We were up at about 8am, and after breakfast Dirk, who is a jack of all trades, (and currently a Social Worker), welded a new piece of exhaust pipe on Sven, while I pretty much watched. The last 5 inches of pipe fell off on our trip to County Kerry in May, so it was not a major, but good to have it done. Afterwards we dropped Sven into the mechanics for tomorrow, to get a wheel-bearing replaced. This was planned, after we had an engineers reports done before we bought Sven. We thought the best place to get maintenance done on a VW is in Germany. Once we got back we had lunch, then we all went for a walk up a big, forested hill. It took about 1 ½ hours to get up the hill. Finn managed to walk most of the way which was impressive. Dirk pushed Tom in the pushchair, which was also impressive! At the top of the hill is a cafe and a lookout tower. You can walk to the cafe from many surrounding towns which is nice (and you can't drive!). We had a wheat beer and an ice cream, then climbed the tower and admired the view. It was a little cool sitting still so we got back onto the track and walked back to Dirk and Tina's. We got home at about 5:30pm. Em and I cooked curried potato and dhal for tonights' dinner. After dinner we watched 'Once' on DVD, an Irish film that won Best Soundtrack at the 2008 Oscars. It was quite funny, very Irish, and had some fantastic music. Afterwards we went to bed.

August 3rd

Up a little late, after breakfast Em and I walked into Hameln, just over an hours walk through the lovely forest of beech and fir trees. In Hameln, we stopped in for a snack, which we ate sitting on a wall next to the river. We bought the soundtrack to 'Once', and tracked down a couple of other bits and pieces at the shops. We climbed the bell tower of a church in the town square, which gave a great view over the terracotta rooftops of the old town. I had another snack in the afternoon, but Em wasn't hungry. Em finally bought some new sunglasses after trying for quite some time. We looked in several fantastic kitchen shops, before meeting Dirk at 4:30pm in town, where he picked us up on his way home from work. Dirk had just talked to mechanic - the wheel bearings did not need replacing, just readjusting; the brake pads needed replacing; and a couple of other things needed doing as well, so will have to wait until tomorrow lunchtime before we can collect the van. When we arrived home, Dirk started the BBQ, and we enjoyed another nice summers evening eating the BBQ outside, although I got a bee sting on the top of my foot, while playing chase with Finn. We had nice sweet strawberries for dessert which Em and I picked up in town today. That evening we just sat around a listened to music and read. We had to say goodbye to Dirk as he starts work at 7am!

August 4th

Trying to continue our habit of the past few days we were up early. This morning we went for a run up the hill where we walked up to the tower and cafe on Sunday. We did not go right to the top, only about half way, but it was nice to be out on such a stunning morning – great view over the valleys, with a bit of mist still hanging around. Once we got back, we had showers and breakfast, then got all of our bits and pieces together. Tina had dropped the kids at kindergarten, and when she got home we had a coffee with her. It was about 11am by then so we went into town with her to pick up kids, then she dropped us off at the mechanics where Sven was. Here we said goodbyes to Tina, Finn, and Tom, then got back on the road in Sven. We were ready for more driving after 4 nice relaxing days with Dirk, Tina, and the kids. Our first stop was the essential of the day, food. We drove to a supermarket in Hameln to get a few lunch things, ate lunch, then started our drive north towards Hamburg. About an hour into the trip we were stuck in a traffic jam for about 20 minutes for no apparent reason. One highlight of this was a fantastic red Ferrari which was about 3 cars behind us. It was very cool to have a good look at it. Once we got closer to Hamburg we choose a campground and found it eventually. Unfortunately it was full. But Em did very well and got directions for another one from the lady that did not speak English. After a slow trip that was where we ended up for the night. It was very nice, with lots of trees, and a very helpful office lady. We sat outside in our fold up chairs and ate dinner in the sun.

August 5th

We did well again and were up early, to find another hot, sunny day. After breakfast we bussed and tubed into Hamburg city centre. Hamburg is a big port city, on the River Elbe. The city is spotlessly clean, it has more canals than Venice (although Amsterdam seemed to have more canals than Hamburg), and the transport system is excellent. Once we'd bought our day pass transport ticket, which covered trains, buses, and boats, there was nothing to check them all day – no machines or people – they must trust everybody to purchase the proper tickets! Our first stop was going to be the Hamburg City hall, which has more rooms than Buckingham Palace, but there were no tours today, so we sat outside and planned our day. Our first job was to get stamps. Post offices seem surprisingly difficult to find over here, Europe wide so far from what we have experienced, but we did find one in the end. From here we started touristing again. Firstly we went to Chile House; a 1920's dark brick building shaped like a cruise liner. I did not find it that stunning to be honest, it sounded much more impressive in the tourist guide. We left here and walked along the old docks, then crossed river into the new redeveloped area of the city centre, and saw the plans for the amazing Opera House which is under construction there. After this we caught a boat up and down the Elbe River, which was really enjoyable. We had a great view of the city and the HUGE port, and saw a really big container ship come in. Once we had finished our boat ride we walked through a park, then through the 'Reeperbahn' district to the Beatlemania museum. The Beatles spent a large part of their 'pre-fame' career in Hamburg playing at a couple of the clubs there. We spent nearly 2 hours there. It was fun, and had lots of little interesting facts, and focused largely on their time in Hamburg specifically – for example – George Harrison was only 17 when they went to Hamburg the first time, and when the police found out, they deported him to Liverpool. Afterwards we tubed to central station and came above ground for a beer and wurst (sausage), then we tubed back towards the camp ground. At the shops near the bus, we bought some German potato salad, and some wurst to cook for dinner, then bussed to campground and got into the delicious wurst! In bed by about 10:30pm, exhausted by all the walking in the hot hot sun.

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