Just at home and again we leave home
Germany, July – August 2020
There is still some work to be done on the motorhome, including installing a step at the driver’s door, so immediately after returning home from our previous trip, we bring our Frankia to our dealer Raema in Nederweert and now, Saturday July 18th 2020, we can pick up our motorhome. The new step at the driver’s site is effective and an enormous help to reduce the distance between street and car. Finally, Dick can use this door.
We drive back to Rotterdam, where, at a propane shop, we fill up with propane just before closing time. We are cheerful because now we do not have to stay home until Monday if we want, we can leave tomorrow.
Due to holidays and of course Corona, my sister Hannah and her husband Henk have not yet seen our motorhome so we decide to pop in at their home in Noordwijk on our way to Varsseveld, where we want to spend the night. A fantastic idea because finally Hannah and Henk can see where we gave our heart to and it’s also wonderful to talk together and hug each other.
Actually, the latter is not yet allowed, we still live in Corona time, but it feels good. We have a nice chat, show the motorhome and drink coffee. After some hours we have to leave, so we say goodbye and drive to the eastern part of our country.
In Varsseveld is only one motorhome parked so we leave ours next door and then walk into town. The temperature is significantly higher than in the western part of our country (it is 80 degrees), but that is also caused by the lack of sea-wind.
At our favorite restaurant “Enzovoort” we are immediately recognized and after some talking, we decide to dine out tonight.
The restaurant has a German night and you can eat as many schnitzel (pork meat, Austrian art) as you can. So, who can refuse such an offer? Next time we will take our food to the motorhome. Of course, we walk around this quiet village. No one is outside except at the ice cream shop next to the church. There, all tables are filled with ice cream-licking people and we join them.
Because it is actually too hot to sit inside the motorhome, even with all the windows open, we take our chairs outside and enjoy the warm summer afternoon, until we walk to our restaurant.
When we arrive at the terrace of “Enzovoort” at 7 pm, there are already quite a lot of people, but one table is reserved for “the two from the motorhome”. We did not know we were famous. Again, we are not disappointed with the food. Unfortunately, we cannot eat more than 2 schnitzel. We enjoy to sit on the terrace (it’s for the first time in months) and the outside temperature is good, so we stay on the terrace until 10 pm.
After breakfast on Monday morning (of course with fresh bread rolls) we drive to the outdoor shop “Obelink” in the town of Winterswijk. Here we look for a new lightweight camp-table. After 42 years our old table needs to be replaced. Despite the fact that there are many camp-tables, most of them feel unstable. Finally, we find a suitable one, but we want to look at other shops too so we leave without a table.
We stop in the town of Nottuln, Germany. Here is a large car-park next to the swimming pool. Not very attractive, so we drive on to the small town of Telgte, where we arrive at 1 pm. The parking here is more pleasant, a gravel parking along the river on the skirt of town. As soon as the motorhome is parked, we walk into town.
Telgte has a beautiful historic city center with a Wallfahrt Kapelle (Pilgrimage-Chapel) and a beautiful wooden statue of the Virgin Mary. You notice directly that this town is a place of pilgrimage from the Jacob’s shells, bricked up all over the sidewalks. A sign you regularly encounter on the roads leading to Santiago de Compostela, a famous place of pilgrimage in Spain. In older times pilgrims were wearing this symbol (you could find it at any beach) and it protected them against thieves. They knew that the poor pilgrim had nothing with him.
Telgte is a small town and we slowly wander through the old streets and of course we regularly take pictures and visit the church and chapel. After a while we have seen all the streets so we follow a geocache route. This leads us to the Stolpersteinen (stumbling stones) placed in front of the former houses of the (Jewish) victims of the Second World War, forming a monument.
By 6 pm we found all the geocaches, stop wandering the narrow streets and walk back to the motorhome, enjoy a glass of wine and a simple meal of rösti (potatoes Swiss art) with sausages.
Tuesday the weather is unchanged, lots of clouds but also some sun and blue sky with temperatures of 66 till 70 degrees. We have found another cache route that gives us the opportunity to explore the area around Telgte. There are about 35 caches hidden so the bikes are taken out and we are on our way to look for a cache. The route takes us first through forests and arable land, along fields of high uprising corn and over quiet sand paths, the last part back to the motorhome leads along busier roads and is less pleasant.
Finally, we are back at 3 pm after 16 miles of cycling. While Dick put his bike away, I cycle to the supermarket Edeka where I hope to find some frühstück (breakfast) juice. We were informed by Richard (a friend from the diving club) that there is a commercial and it is half price. Unfortunately, the stock of my beloved juice is completely gone. Was it in short supply or just panic-buying? Anyway, I cycle back in vain, no juice!
While we sit outside, we hear music. Under the bridge of the road is a group of accordionists who practice in the open air. Curious I walk to the good sounding music and when the musicians notice that I stay longer, I have to participate and I get rhythm balls pressed into my hands. I don’t think that’s such a success myself, so after waving it for a while I put the rhythm balls back and limit myself to listen and sometimes, if it is a well-known German song, I sing the song softly, not loud because Dick always says that I sing out of tune.
And meanwhile, Dick is busy because he has to log the 35 caches we found. When the musicians are about to break up, Dick is ready and also has a look at the spectacle and sing. When we walk back to the motorhome it’s already 8 pm so we decide to eat only some potato salad with frankfurters, but after our day out that tastes fine and we go to sleep early.
Wednesday, July 22nd we get up at 8 am and after dumping our gray- and black water at a designated place in a nearby town, we drive to Horn-Bad Meinberg, a town with historic bath houses and thermal springs. Next to a spa, providing services for health seekers, is a beautiful, well-kept motorhome place.
Due to Corona the spa is closed, so on the grounds is enough space and we can choose where to park the motorhome and after paying for the night at the further deserted swimming pool, we walk into the town. Everywhere in the center the different buildings and spa’s are either closed or deserted.
It is unbelievably boring here and outdated, there is not even a shop. And then it also appears that the Externsteinen, the rock formation consisting of narrow, high rising rocks are only open on weekends. And this visit was the reason we came here.
Dick immediately asks how my preparation has been. After looking around in town and walking in the park where we have a view of the hot springs bubbling up from more than 1000 feet deep, we also search all the geocaches in the town and walk back to the motorhome.
Next door is a large forest. We wander over narrow paths in this forest which consists of different types of trees (also exotics). We see Canadian Maple trees and also encounter the gigantic Sequoias at various places in the forest. This forest behind the campground is really worthwhile. After hiking and climbing (there is a lot of height difference) for almost 5 miles, the sun is still shining so we sit outside until 7 pm. When we go inside, we don’t cook extensively but eat simple meatballs with salad. Unlike the places where we normally stay, large car-parks on the outskirts of the city, this site between the forests, a campground only for motorhomes, is an oasis of peace and you really don’t hear anything around you. I find it a little boring and I am glad we leave next morning. We supposed to stay here for another day, but due to the closure of the Externsteinen we leave.
Just outside the town of Höxter we stop at a large car-park, bounded by a lake. It is very busy here with motorhomes and day trippers. Here should be a water tap and dump option. We drive around but can’t find anything. We need some fresh water and fortunately we see a man walking with a watering can and follow him. Dick with the motorhome and I go on feet and so we find a building on a hill where it’s only possible to dump your black water if you bring up your portable lavatory but you can also tap fresh water. Only with a watering can, so 12 times we walk back and forth between the water tap on the hill and the motorhome in the parking lot. Then our fresh water tank is full and we can continue our journey.
An hour and a half later we arrive in Northeim. In the huge car-park I have chosen are car wrecks and old caravans parked. A group of people working on fairgrounds or maybe gypsies? We do not know, but this place does not look very attractive to park so we drive on to the supermarket Lidl. Here is a nice car-park for our motorhome and we are also closer to the center of this beautiful old town. The streets we walk through consist all of timber framing houses. It is just wonderful to look around and slowly we wander around. This town is really more beautiful than the pilgrimage town of Telgte.
After a few hours we have a drink on an attractive terrace on the central market. We immediately reserve a table for tonight. And that table is neatly waiting for us when we arrive at 7 pm.
That cannot be said of the food. After one hour we inquire when our food is coming. The kitchen has forgotten to cook for us. Fortunately, the sun and the lack of wind keep our stay on the terrace pleasant and the burgers, when they finally arrive, have a really good quality.
The next morning the sun is shining, although there are also some clouds and our fresh bread rolls taste good. The temperature slowly rises to 72 degrees. We decide to stay another day and take our bikes to cycle around in the area. Of course, our route is determined by the many caches that are hidden here. Soon we arrive on a beautiful cycle path that leads to a lake. I actually want to take a different path when I see Oak trees everywhere and after discovering an enormous hairy caterpillar on one of the oak trees. But Dick says leaving this path is nonsense. This caterpillar is probably a completely harmless specimen because the annoying Oak Procession Caterpillar sticks always in large clumps together.
In addition, there are other dangers for geocachers such as ticks, thorn bushes that completely rip up your legs and mosquitoes, swarming around you in large numbers and puncturing your skin, so I should not whine.
Thereby we continue our ride around the large lake, which originated from a gravel excavation.
It is an extremely deep lake and there are warning signs everywhere that swimming is dangerous. But the bike ride is beautiful and there is no one to see. After a few hours we cycled around three lakes and found the necessary caches.
When we pass a Burger King on the way back, we stop and have a delicious milkshake on a terrace. That tastes good because it is now 80 degrees. With new energy we cycle up into the hills and cross a grass runway of an airfield at the top, now we don’t have to make a detour of more than 3 miles. After going on all fours under an electric fence, we are between a herd of cows. They look dangerous and huge when staying between them. The cows are curious about our actions, because after we put back the geocache, found among the herd, they come to see what we were up to on their territory.
Eventually we are back at the motorhome after 5.5 hours and 16 miles cycling. What a wonderful trip. We don’t like cooking ourselves (I am a lazy housewife), so I grab the bike to take out dinner and we have delicious Turkish food in the evening.
Saturday, July 25th, we continue our journey and slowly we climb higher and higher into the mountains. We arrived in the Harz. Our goal is Hahnenklee, a town on a mountain plateau. It is extremely busy and not only the streets of this beautiful mountain town are full of tourists, the car-park is also overcrowded. So, after a glimpse at the beautiful Norwegian staff church we drive on to Goslar, where it is also busy. But here is still enough space on a lawn to park. It seems as if entire Germany and many Dutchman are on holiday here because it is very busy in the center.
Fortunately, the crowds are mainly concentrated on the central city squares and we have more space when we wander around the small streets in this beautiful world heritage town. Distance is still important because Corona still rules.
The town is beautiful.
There are many old buildings, sometimes very colorful and sometimes completely covered with slate roofing and we walk around almost 5 miles. When we return to the motorhome 5 hours later, almost all vehicles are gone, so the majority of the parked cars and motorhomes consisted of day trippers. Now there is more space, we move our Frankia to a better, greater place. Although our spot is beautiful, it is not leveled and does not sleep comfortable.
Our choice to have dinner in the evening on the terrace of restaurant Lindenhof, next to the motorhome, is a good one because the food that is served is of excellent quality and tastes exquisite.
Sunday morning, we wake up by the pattering of raindrops on our skylights. What a difference in weather compared to the past days.
Fortunately, the rain stops as we drive further east and when we arrive in the town of Quedlinburg it is dry and some blue sky appears. Unfortunately, this parking for motorhomes in town is really too short for our motorhome so after we filled with clean water and dumped our grey- and black water and are called names by a motorhome owner (according to him we take too long to dump and fill up) we drive further.
The parking in the neighboring town of Gernrode is not really attractive so we drive on and eventually end up in the town of Thale, on a large car-park next to the chair lift. The mountains rise around us. We both like this place and after finding a nice spot to park, we walk into the town, lit by a lovely sun.
In Thale there are many sculptures in all kinds of shapes, usually consisting of wood carvings in multiple colors.
As everywhere in Germany, all shops are closed on Sunday, but nevertheless it is a pleasant town with, at the train station, a pleasant terrace that serves delicious food, as we discover during a late lunch.
On Monday July 27th there are more clouds but every now and then the sun appears and with 72 degrees it is really a temperature to cycle around. We don’t have to think long where we want to go. Yesterday on our way to Thale we tried to visit the Teufelsmauer, worth seeing sandstone rock formations in the Harz Mountains, which rise up over a length of 13 miles. It was so busy that we could not park our motorhome so today we take our e-bike to have a look there.
It is only 8 miles from the town of Thale and we arrive before the crowd. We follow the path by bicycle for a while, but then stairs show up and we have to park the bicycles. We climb the endless steps until we reach the top of the hill where the black rocks rise high above us. A beautiful view and it is no wonder that the bizarre shapes of the rocks are surrounded by sagas and legends. The most famous saga is that of a bet between God and the devil. The devil proposed to God to divide the land among themselves. God agreed on the condition that the devil could only keep that land that he could enclose with a stone wall overnight (until the first crow of the rooster). During the night while the devil was building his wall, an old lady was on her way to the market to sell her chickens and rooster. The old lady was terrified when she saw the devil at work, stumbled and fell, whereupon the rooster in her basket woke up and started to crow. This made the devil think his time was already up and he became so enraged that he destroyed the wall he built.
And yes, if you look around and see those crumbly black rocks rising above you, such a saga comes to life and I understand that even Goethe was fascinated by this place. I don’t stop taking pictures. Nature is overwhelming. While more and more people climbing up, Dick and I slowly descend again and we continue our ride. Not yet back home because we want to look for a number of geocaches in the woods. The road through the forest takes us steeper and steeper up. In some places we even have to put our e-bike in the lowest gear and on turbo mode to manage the climb.
We climb higher and higher up into the mountains. When we finally arrive at the top, we enjoy beautiful views of the area again and again. This route demonstrates that you discover beautiful places in search for geocaches. Unfortunately, we also have to descend again and a number of hair-raising steep descents, often more than 20 – 25%, over steep grassy plains and forest paths, come up. When we almost finished our descent, it starts to rain.
A good opportunity to test our plastic ponchos, purchased at Action for 0.59 cents.
It turns out not to be such a success because we descent on a faster pace than 19 miles per hour and this thin plastic cape flutters around us, creeping up and flapping in the wind in a way that everyone we pass by, looks at us.
Fortunately, it starts to rain really hard when the bikes are stowed away in the motorhome.
When the weather clears up at the end of the afternoon, we walk into the town center of Thale.
Now all the shops are open and while we slowly walk and do some window shopping, I see a pair of beautiful Nikes. After I tried them on, they turn out to be so comfortable that they leave the store in a bag with me. Because we were not able to discover a bakery in the immediate vicinity of our car-park, we have breakfast on Tuesday with old bread, after which we continue our way on narrow mountain roads. Just outside the city wall of the town of Stolberg we find a nice empty car-park and Dick park our motorhome. The weather has improved considerably and the sun is shining brightly, only now and then shaded by clouds, it is 75 degrees. Once again, we arrived in a beautiful old town.
And for us Dutch also an important town because Juliana van Stolberg, the ancestor of the “House of Oranje”, our Royal family, grew up in the castle that dominates this beautiful town.
We walk around, look at the beautiful old houses, some even dating from the 13th century. Sometimes the houses are so crooked and sagging that it is hard to imagine that they are still standing.
But all houses look very well maintained and have been beautifully restored.
The temperature has risen again and the coffee and cake on a Corona proof terrace near one of the city towers tastes good.
The tables are very well spaced here and the service is done, as is quite normal in Germany, by waiters wearing mouth masks.
Both the coffee and the pastries taste delicious and after we have rested a bit we walk back through the village to our camper.
To burn off all these calories, in the afternoon we climb a few more steep slopes rising next to this picturesque village. Of course, to search for geocaches.
It brings us to the beautiful Harz Nature Reserve. No wonder so many tourists come to the Harz. Early in the evening we walk to town for dinner. We find a lovely spot on a, in sunlight bathed, terrace. Unfortunately, the meal we are served is not very tasty, not common in Germany. The waiter shrugs when we complain about the food and we leave the terrace without a tip. At no time we’ll eat here again.
To get to the city of Erfurt we have to make our way through the very narrow streets of Stolberg on Wednesday morning.
Sometimes there are only two inches between the motorhome and the walls of the houses, but Dick knows how to manoeuvre and leaves town unscathed.
We are driving in the mountains because one hairpin after another appears. One road has 38 turns, an ideal road for motorcycles. Finally, we leave the Harz behind us and enter the rolling countryside of Thuringia.
We looked up the address of a laundromat in the student city of Erfurt and as we get closer to the center, I worry whether we can find a car-park for our motorhome. We are lucky because less than 980 feet from the laundromat is a parking facility for our Frankia. After looking around in the laundromat, we (Dick) carries our laundry out of the motorhome and we fill the washing machines. Fortunately, there are not many people inside so we can use some large machines. After studying how to put the machines into operation, where we get some help, and getting the necessary 2-euro coins, everything can be cleaned and after 3.5 hours we store all our clothes and bedding again. It is now 1:30 pm and our place for the night is only 3 miles away, so we arrive soon at the car-park close to the center of Erfurt. It is warm now, 87 degrees and we take our e-bikes to ride to the center. Normally we would take a tram-ride, but Corona times let you make other decisions.
And it turns out to be a good choice because after a few miles we are already on the main square in Erfurt, where it is extremely busy. All Germans, enjoying holiday in their own country.
The terraces in the center are full but there is enough distance between the tables and when we see the ice creams and a free table at the edge of the terrace, next to which we can park our bikes, we take a seat and a little later we enjoy a delicious ice cream. Of course, we also cycle around in the streets of this pleasant student city. The beautiful old buildings are impressive and the river running under the houses is a wonderful play area for the children. From the square in front of the large Cathedral we have a look over the city and late in the afternoon, we cycle back to our motorhome. We discovered that close to our car-park is a Chinese-Thai restaurant so we do not cook ourselves and Dick send me for Thai food. Definitely a good choice because the quality of this food is really very good and it tastes delicious. The next morning, Thursday July 30th, we only have to drive 16 miles and arrive in the city of Weimar before 10 am. From a distance you know that you are approaching Weimar, because on the mountain behind Weimar a high tower rises up, behind which lies the former concentration camp Buchenwald. This tower (the Mahnmal) serves as a warning that what has happened must never happen again.
In Weimar we find our way through the city. Fortunately, the motorhome in front of us misses the exit to the car-park for motorhomes so we are the first to choose a nice spot. The thermometer already indicates 78 degrees and it seems to be getting warmer by the minute. Not really a temperature for walking around in a city, but we are here, so we walk to the center and of course admire the statue of Goethe and Schiller.
After walking around for some hours, admiring the many monumental buildings and looking around in the park along the river Ilm where we find a spring, we can no longer resist an ice cream restaurant and when a table in the shade is vacant, we take a seat. With the current temperatures, in the early afternoon it is already warmer than 86 degrees, you really want to avoid every ray of sunshine. With a huge ice cream in our stomach, we slowly walk back to the motorhome parking. It is busy and all 40 spots are now taken. This morning our motorhome was in the full sun, now we enjoy the shade of a neighboring tree and spend the rest of the afternoon outside, reading a book and having a nice chat. Although it is not common to place seats in parking lots, with these temperatures nobody says anything when you sit outside. During the night it doesn’t really cool down so we sleep with all windows wide open.
The next day, after a delicious breakfast with fresh bread rolls, we get our bicycles, fill our water bottles with water (really necessary at these temperatures) and set out for the former concentration camp Buchenwald.
In the woods on the Ettersberg, just a few miles outside Weimar, the construction of Buchenwald started in 1937. After its liberation in 1945, this concentration camp was largely demolished.
The camp gate, some watchtowers and the crematorium are still there. Several times already we visited this impressive place, the first time in 1990, just after the fall of the wall, but we have never cycled to the former camp. This is not easy because it is a lot of climbing, but it also shows how far this camp was tucked away in the woods.
When we arrive at the gate of Buchenwald it is already very busy, lots of people are waiting for a tour. It turns out that the cremation furnace can only be visited by organized tour. Due to the long waiting list, we decide to skip this part (we have visited it twice before) and we limit ourselves to walking around independently on the grounds where the barracks used to be.
We also visit the newly designed museum, but we do not like that as there are no clear walking routes and because it is quite busy. We have to pay more attention to our environment and try to keep a distance to other visitors than we have for the exhibited affairs.
After walking around for 2 hours, we leave Buchenwald somewhat disappointed. This visit was clearly less impressive than our previous visits.
Because it is still early in the afternoon and warm, we cycle into the woods next to Buchenwald and spend the rest of the afternoon there.
The cycle paths penetrate deep into the woods, it is wonderfully cool and the caches are challenging. Almost all of them hanging high in the trees, so Dick has to show a lot of patient and balance with our fish-rod to fish them out.
We are not back at the motorhome until 5 pm. Again, we have a lovely meal outside in the car park in the shade of the tree and enjoy the relative coolness in the evening.