FOR THE FIRST TIME during CORONA: OUTSIDE THE NETHERLANDS – part 1
At home shouts of joy are heard when our government announces that from June 15th 2020, most borders within Europe will be reopened. Of course, these Corona-times are not normal and keeping distance and always washing hands is still the rule. Outside the Netherlands we also have to wear a facemask in confined spaces. But we can go abroad again, so plans are made and immediately worked out. Dick is sewing extra facemasks and early morning on Tuesday March 16th we are on our way to the storage to pick up our motorhome.
We take our time to store everything and Dick quickly construct a few levelers to be used for our double-axle Frankia but around 4 pm everything (except some food) is loaded.
After a good night’s sleep, we drive away from home on Wednesday June 17th. Although the day starts with blue sky and sun, the dark clouds are increasing and it seems as if a violent thunderstorm can erupt at any moment. Also in Brueggen, Germany, where we have planned to stay our first night, the sky looks threatening. Here a shower could burst at any moment.
The parking for motorhomes is very busy and we are glad we arrived around noon because at least now we can choose a place. At the end of the afternoon all places are filled up and the space between the motorhomes is also considerably smaller. Finally, after all these months, we can do some shopping at the Rewe supermarket. Richard already told us that Hohes C, my breakfast juice, is advertised, so when the motorhome is connected to the electricity, we walk, of course with our facemask, to the other side of the street and load our shopping cart full of German chocolate (with rum, grapes and nuts), my juice (the whole stock of my brand) and also some sparkling water because we drink a lot when biking.
It feels weird walking around with a facemask. You breathe much harder, it is warm and while wearing glasses or sunglasses you have a blurred view, but a mask is mandatory so everyone wears it. I find out that people get closer to you because of the false sense of security a facemask gives, so we have to be constantly alert in the supermarket. After all the shopping is done, we sit outside the motorhome and read and talk. Just lazy instead of going out. It is warm and pleasant to be outside and we have nice neighbors to chat with.
In the evening this parking for motorhomes is full and because of the increasingly threatening weather we do not walk into the town to have dinner. Instead Dick sent me to get a kebab dish at a Turkish restaurant across the street. I have to wait for it (with mask) but finally we have a delicious meal, we enjoy in the motorhome.
While having dinner it starts to rain. At first it’s a drizzle but soon it looks like there is a cloudburst and the rainwater gushes down past the motorhome.
We are glad we did not walk to town. In spite of doing almost nothing today, the fact that we are abroad again apparently makes us tired, because just after 9.30 pm we fall asleep, undisturbed by the continuous flashes of lightning and thunders.
Due to the enormous amount of rain yesterday, the sky is completely clear when we wake up at 8 am the next day. The sun is shining. The oppressive heat is gone and it feels fresh and clean outside. It is considerably cooler at 65 degrees (Fahrenheit). After a good breakfast, we dump our gray- and black water, refill our clean water tank with a watering- can and leave the town of Brueggen.
We actually want to go to Linnich, but the access road to the village and therefore the RV parking is blocked (to make a sewer?) so we decide to go to the town of Inden where, high up on the mountain, next to the INDEMAN observation tower, is a nice parking where motorhomes are allowed to stay at night.
It is a bit remote here because to get to the village you first have to descend a mountain but for a single night it is good. Unfortunately, the restaurant here is still closed, but in the afternoon we can climb the viewpoint. So we drink a coffee in the motorhome and after paying the parking fee (only 4 euro until the next morning) we get our e-bikes to explore the area.
Fortunately, there is not much traffic on this weekday, so we have the mountain road almost to ourselves and, feeling like being in the Tour de France, we descend the steep mountainside at speeds of 31 mph. It’s a good thing we have bike helmets.
We have already found out that many caches are hidden in this area, so we cycle to explore the valley of the Inde river. Observing the bike path, it’s obvious that for a long-time few people have been outside. Everywhere the weeds are high.
When we arrive in France later in the week it turns out to be even worse there with weeds-overgrown paths. It makes sense because the French people had no permission to go outside for several months. Our route along the fast-flowing river is quite nice but not spectacular.
This is in contrast to the climb of the viewpoint (with mask) at the end of the afternoon. From the highest point (after climbing endless stairs) we have a beautiful view of the surroundings.
The still functioning brown coal mine (which will be closed in the future to create a huge lake) is the most dominant in the landscape.
After a simple canned meal, we eat Elsasser sauerkraut, we enjoy the increasing quiet around us. Unfortunately, this silence is short-lived because when dusk sets in, the youth gather in this deserted parking lot and loud music blares from the cars parked everywhere.
Oh well, it’s not a problem, because by the time we go to bed it will get much cooler and the cars disappear one by one.
The illuminated INDEMAN observation platform remains. Because I already fall asleep, Dick wakes me up to watch the light spectacle of the tower, which is lit with almost 41,000 LED lights. It is awesome to see because the colors of the tower keep changing. I don’t fall back asleep until about 12 pm because I am wide awake after sitting outside for twenty minutes to see the illuminated phenomenon.
Despite the fact that we went to bed really late, we get up at 8 am on Friday. We breakfast on our old leftover bread because I don’t like walking or cycling to the village down the mountain and then we drive to the old town of Nideggen in the Eifel. This town is close by and within 45 minutes we arrive already at our destination.
There is enough space in this parking lot because there are only two motorhomes and 10 cars parked and after some debating (where do we park the motorhome?) Dick decides and parks on a nice spot in the sun.
Just like yesterday, a parking place in such a mountainous environment is not really flat so the wooden levelers, manufactured by Dick, are a welcome addition to the levelling of our motorhome.
After meeting and chatting with our Belgian neighbors, we walk into the old town, with beautiful houses, over small bumpy stones. Nideggen was granted city rights already in the year 1313
The terraces in the center just reopened. Before sitting down, we first want to visit the castle, built at the end of 1100 on a great rock massif, to enjoy the view of the surrounding landscape.
This old castle turns out to be the perfect place to celebrate a wedding, because one wedding after the other takes place here.
Unfortunately it is very cloudy and not so warm so we do not hang around too long and walk to the terrace of the ice cream shop in the center of this town. We settle down on the last unoccupied outside table and moments later we enjoy a more than delicious Diabolo ice-cream. Wooow, we’ll feast upon and will definitely come back for that ice.
With a full belly we walk back to the motorhome and in the afternoon I walk around to find a Rewe supermarket and do some shopping. Much to my delight I also find a nice pair of elastic jeans in the adjacent Lidl. Inside the supermarket I put these jeans on over my own pants (I think people will not like it when I am standing in my underwear between the food). The pants seem to fit. When I return home, it fits good. I am so happy with this new jeans because my Levi’s from the Walmart are quite worn out after 6 years.
In the parking lot I also discover a grill house so for tonight we have an address where we can get food. And that turns out to be a good idea because the food I pick up in the evening tastes great. However, it bothers to put on a mask every time you enter a store or restaurant. The cleared sky at the end of the afternoon remain so, when we get up on Saturday morning June 20th, we see a blue sky and sun. Nice because now, shined up by the sun, I can get fresh bread. I buy bread at the Lidl, because yesterday I also saw nice white socks and since my socks are also somewhat worn out, that would be a good addition. Unfortunately this morning the whole pile of socks is gone and so I leave the shop with only bread. When we have breakfast, Dick looks strangely at the fresh bread. It turns out to be a “senfbrot” and the penetrating smell of mustard meets you when you slice it. Not real bread to eat with jam or sweets, but fortunately we also have cheese and ham which tastes better with this special bread. In the future, I better check out which bread I buy. After a tasty breakfast we take our bikes to explore the surroundings.
We are now in the Eifel and it is very hilly and steep so I am very happy that we have our e-bikes. It is not nice that we start with a miles-long steep descent (again we touch the 31 mph) before we can climb up again on the other side of the valley. Dick quickly finds an unpaved steep forest path that leads us deeper into the forest. It is pretty pleasant under the trees because the sun is burning in the sky and it is now 80 degrees.
The steep forest path up the hill is unfortunately not easy for cycling. We are glad that we have wide tires on our bikes so we can handle quite a few rocks and tree roots. The area is rugged and wild and we see beautiful secluded spots and enjoy the steep cliffs towering above us. On one of them is the castle built we visited yesterday; other cliffs are used by rock climbers. We see them walking in large numbers, packed with ropes and climbing shoes.
In the middle of the afternoon we give up and climb back the steep 13 percent slope with our e-bikes.
There is no end to the curves and after having also conquered the bumpy cobblestones in the town, we puff down on our “ice terrace” to have another delicious Diabolo ice cream. We think we earned it. Like yesterday we have to keep a distance from the other visitors and of course disinfect our hands. New is that we also have to give our name, email and telephone number so that if there is a Corona outbreak around, we can be notified. According to Dick our dinner at night deserves a bad mark. Yesterday I saw a can of chili con carne, the label made me licking my fingers (I guess Mike, I have to say: it’s finger licking good) but, mixed with a leftover potato, it turns out not really tasty. And the carne? Dick cannot find anything.
Dick’s criticism of my meals is rare, in our 42-year marriage it happened only 3 times before, but with regard to this dish, which consists exclusively of very strongly spiced chili powder and tomato, I am told that I should never ever again buy this meal.
While I do the dishes, Dick starts working on his laptop to publish the latest developments regarding the Corona measures in a newsletter for our diving club Aqualis.
In the evening, before going to bed, we discover a tick in my foot. Dick can get rid of it but then, while looking at it, I drop it on the carpet of the motorhome. The rest of the night I dream of a troop of ticks, marching to our bed to find fresh meat. I really don’t sleep peacefully, but Dick snores like an ox.
Sunday, June 21st, the sky shows its best side and when we get up at 8 am, the sun is shining in the blue sky.
The tick-army was apparently not only present in my dreams and struck anyway because now I find a huge specimen at Dick’s belly. Fortunately, the monster is fairly easy to remove and this time we make sure that this tick really dies before disappearing into the trash. After breakfast with the leftover mustard bread from yesterday, it is still less tasty bread than I thought, we leave this nice place with its fantastic ice cream restaurant and drive to Bad Munstereifel, an old walled town in the Eifel. A drive of only 22 miles.
Because we arrive already at half past 10 at the parking, we can choose from empty places and find a nice spot with a view over the sunbathing area of the swimming pool. Normally you have to pay for this parking place at the pool, but because of Corona, pools in Germany are still closed and the water faucet and dumping facility is hermetically sealed, so now you can stay here for free. Even electricity is not charged. I needed to dump our black water, but now that is not possible, I change our toilet cassettes. It is not often necessary but in case this occasion offers, we have two toilet cassettes. In the afternoon we walk through one of the city gates into the town. All houses have been beautifully restored, but whether people really live there? It seems as if this walled town only consists of restaurants and outlet stores, but it is lovely to walk around here. Unfortunately it is Sunday and then the shops in Germany are closed, even in a tourist town. And that means that it is quiet in the old streets, but also that I have nowhere, and I mean nowhere, the opportunity to buy something. And that while one after another sport- and outdoor shop (in outlet form) appears. Dick get off cheaply.
After walking around the beautiful city walls and admiring all city gate, we wander through the narrow medieval streets and find a place on a high populated terrace by the water among all the other tourists, who cannot shop. We order, yes again, a delicious ice-cream. Well, it is not as good as the one in Nideggen, but sitting in the sun it tastes good. Because other people are pushing for a place, we do not hang about too long on this terrace and when our ice-cream is finished, we wander around again. After all, there are also some caches to look for.
At the end of the afternoon, after walking around for 5 miles, we return to our motorhome and sit outside in the sun for a while. We are tired of the many climbing and wandering in the steep streets of Bad Munstereifel and despite the fact that it is the longest day today, long before even dusk falls, we leave for dreamland.
Unfortunately Monday morning it is gloomy weather (we get up at 7 am) and there is no sun to be seen. At 10 am we are already in Gerolstein, our next destination, where, at the parking for motorhomes in town, we dump and take water. Although this parking is large and spacious, we don’t find it attractive enough to stop now, so I quickly look for another destination and find Weingut Pauly along the river Moselle in Palzem, Germany. We decide to take a look there. When we arrive at the Vineyard, 90 minutes later, a place is left even for our relatively large motorhome. Because the parking spots are very narrow and the owner gives (next to me) also instructions on how to turn in, parking takes Dick a bit longer than usual, but finally we stay at our spot high above the Moselle.
The temperature has risen considerably and is around 83 degrees (and rising) so our afternoon bike ride along the Moselle is quite nice. The little wind that blows here comes over the water. On the other side of the river is the town of Remich in Luxembourg. Here is also the only supermarket in the wider area so we walk inside and buy food.
As in Germany, face masks and disinfecting hands also apply in Luxembourg, when entering the store.
I am really glad when Dick discover a large rack of Crocs in the supermarket. And it’s filled with two pairs of bright yellow crocs in my size. When Dick also discovers a black and red pair in his size, we no longer hesitate and load the 4 pairs of Crocs into our shopping cart. After 6 years our old ones are in urgent need of replacement. The cashier gives us a surprising look.
Because we bought fresh food, we cannot stay around in Remich, so we cycle the 4 mile back to our motorhome. Despite our cooling bag in the saddle-bag where we store our food, the outside temperature is too high to hang around with food for a long time. The temperature has risen above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. When we are back, we are lazy and stay outside, read our books and do our administration.
The sun is burning so we look for some shade of a tree the rest of the afternoon until 7 pm when we visit the wine cellar of the Vineyard. We taste different types of wine.
Next to the owner with his wife and son, there is another couple also tasting (all of us keeping distance) and while enjoying the different pressed grape varieties, we discuss the Corona crisis, world politics but also the problems of this small town. Of course we leave this wine-tasting with some bottles of good wine. It is good that the meal we have around 9 pm does not require much attention, because the tasting glasses were not only very large, but we also tasted many types of wine. We sit outside until late in the evening, enjoying our view. It cools down a little at 11 pm. At night we sleep with all the windows wide open.
Early in the morning of Tuesday June 23rd it is already warm, also because the wind completely died down. I take my bicycle to cycle to Remich for fresh bread. Unfortunately the cactus supermarket is still closed but after some inquiries I find a bakery that is open. We enjoy the fresh bread and then take the bicycles for a ride. This time not along the Moselle but through the hinterland through forests, fields and vineyards along the slopes of the Moselle. It is nice that regularly we enjoy the coolness of forests because the temperature rises quickly and already in the morning the temperature passes the 90 degrees. After a few hours of cycling on unpaved paths we arrive back in Remich. It’s very busy here. Many families walk around and the shops are still closed. Today appears to be the national holiday of Luxembourg. No wonder we encountered so many hikers around Remich and so many families at the campsites, forming a ribbon, along the Moselle. When we are back at the motorhome at 4 pm we immediately look for shade. It is best to stay there with this high temperature and without any wind. Because all the shops are closed, we cannot buy meat so we have simple spaghetti with lots of vegetables and mushroom sauce.
The next day we get up at 8.15 am and without having a breakfast (we will have breakfast later) we dump and fill our clean water and when Dick has stored away the electric cables, we leave. First we stop in Remich because we want to fill up with diesel in Luxembourg (less expensive). Then at a parking along the road Dick has to fish a cache from a tree (it’s not without a struggle because a piece of the rod stays behind in the tree at 26 feet height) but finally we arrive at our new destination, the city of Mettlach, Germany. At the parking lot of the brewery we find a nice spot.
As soon as we are parked, we first have breakfast. We skipped that this morning because of the lack of bread. Then we buy a parking ticket at the Tourist Information (you can also pay with a parking app that we do not have) and explore the town. A cycle path eventually leads us to the bank of the river Saar. It is wonderful to cycle here because there is a cooling breeze and the trees along the waterside provide also sufficient shade. Less attractive is that it often concerns oak trees and everywhere are signs that we really have to watch out for the oak processionary caterpillar. Don’t know how to do that because most of the geocaches here are hidden inside the mighty oak trees. As our trip progresses, I feel more and more tickling on my body.
Finally we arrive at the “Saar Schleife”. The place where the Saar makes a big bend. This is clearly visible on the GPS, but to be able to observe this natural phenomenon you have to climb the cliff on the other side of the river. Around 3 pm, after another horrible descent from a long 13 percent steep slope, we are back in the old town of Mettlach where, again, we sit on the terrace of an ice cream shop.
Once again we have to leave our address details and disinfect our hands. It’s not necessary to wear a face mask as long as we sit down at the outside table.
The ice cream is tasty but I have to work for it because it contains skinned fruits. And I am definitely not going to eat the skin of a mango, melon and pine-apple. With sticky hands I finally finish my ice cream. Dick had a less laborious ice cream but thanks to his disinfecting alcohol spray I can clean my hands.
After visiting the beautiful old church ruin, behind the Abbey, where the headquarters of the famous ceramic producer Villeroy and Boch is situated, we return to the parking.
The parking lot is now filled up with motorhomes. Fortunately, there is a breeze and under our awning we can sit in the shade. Our arms and legs are scratched by berries bushes and thorns and our body is itching. Could we have given a lift to some stinging hairs from the oak processionary caterpillar? Of course we will have dinner on the terrace of the brewery tonight. Renate and Dieter always tell us how delicious the cooking is in such eateries. And they are right because Dick’s rumpsteak and my cream schnitzel are of exceptional quality.
No wonder that during mittagtisch (lunch) and dinner the terrace is completely full with people. The delicious freshly tapped beer contributes to the fact that we don’t wake up until 8:30 the next morning.
Although we had a late dinner yesterday, the freshly made bread tastes delicious. Contributing is that we can have breakfast outside in the sun. With a well-filled stomach, we grab our bikes and start climbing again a 13 percent steep road that seems to be endless. From the top Dick point out the path into the forest.
We discovered a series of 25 caches in this forest that we want to search and with these temperatures, forest trails are of course the ideal environment to stay. Unfortunately, after cycling 330 feet into the forest, the path is blocked and there is an imminent warning not to drive any further due to forest work.
So, we turn around and decide to drive around the opposite bank of the river Saar. There is also danger there because of the huge numbers of oak trees with their hairy caterpillars, but that is less deadly than a falling tree trunk on your head. Again we enjoy a lovely breeze over the water and see wonderful places along the path. The best thing is a chapel high on a cliff on a narrow forest path with an outlook over the Saar and the town of Mettlach. Because of the excellent food and the beautiful weather in the evening we take again an outside table at the terrace of the brewery and enjoy once more an excellent meal.