Black Forest Gateau-way

Ahhhh, they did arrive! Hooray! We were all excited to be seeing friends for two weeks. Kind of a holiday in a holiday for us!

After a good few days of doing some miles we knew we didn’t have to move for six days and that was a nice thought – especially for Matt who is doing all the driving so far. (this may change… maybe!)

I made a big pasta meal for us all while Simon & Sally setup camp and this is how we stayed for the next six nights, on our lovely big shared pitch in Bad Leibenzell. Big swimming pool, playground, a gate onto the path along the river to an immaculate town. A Lidl and a Netto at either end of the site, for those all important special buys, oh and also food 🙂

We did manage a couple of excursions and it was a novelty to have a car. The first was a cute little barefoot walk in the woods nearby with various things to walk over – mostly different squidginesses of mud. We were the only people there and the kids loved it… although it did take a turn for the worst with broken beer bottle glass pieces to cross! The second was for Matt and Si who did a couple of trips to a great climbing wall in Stuttgart. Matt was glad to have a climbing friend for a while!

Action Shot!


Yes, glass!!

Sunny and relaxing

The Bad in Bad Leibenzell means bath, and this area is famous for its thermal baths. So Sal and I had a fun afternoon at the spa which had a fantastic outdoor pool with all manner of jets. We tried very hard to work out the system without giggling too much. This is Germany, there is always a correct way! Matt and Si also did the same thing a few days later and even paid extra for the fancy (naked!) saunas. Brilliant.

That was about it really. Beautiful town, surrounded by tree covered hills and just hanging out on the campsite. The kids had so much fun playing with Adam and Rachel, it was so nice to see them off and playing all the time – and actually means that we get a break too!

Off to dig some holes while the mums head to the spa!
Very cute eating together

Poor Aidan stated to feel unwell on the last day and when he woke up on the Saturday I was pretty sure it was tonsillitis. We packed up quickly and went to the weekend doctor in Calw and then picked up the antibiotics at a local Apotheke. Quick and free… amazing. I don’t want to talk about Brexit but this kind of thing makes it impossible to ignore when I think in a couple of years we probably won’t have access to this system anymore.  Anyway…

From here we drove the hour and half trip South to the house that Matt had booked in Bad Rippold-Shapbach. It was here we were meeting Paul and Rebecca and their baby Sam. Simon and Sally weren’t far behind us and we all made it safe and sound.

This turned out to be a strange week really. Firstly we were leaving the van for the first time in two months, and we weren’t sure we were ready for such a move! When we were planning our trip I imagined we’d want to have a couple of van breaks, but honestly we had no desire to sleep elsewhere and that’s awesome! The only draw (apart from being with everyone) was a proper kitchen with running water and a sofa. Well, it turns out this place only had a giant table and chairs across the length of a dining room. Great.

Secondly Aidan wasn’t that well so we had to take things slowly. It was a very hot week, and he had a temperature and the house was pretty stuffy. Also antibiotics always make him a bit hyper and he can never get to sleep before nine or ten.

Thirdly, baby Sam was up all of Sunday night being sick. After thinking it was just an upset tummy the following night Adam was sick. Oh great, we have a sick bug on our hands!

Paul felt strange the next day but managed to sleep it off and then nothing for a day. After a lovely alfresco meal in the pretty garden we thought things were looking up – but Rebecca was sick that night. The suspense was terrible. Sal and I cleaned like crazies and no one was sure if they felt unwell or if it was just in their minds! Two days later we were feeling pretty confident we were in the clear. It had been five days since Sam was ill. But then Friday night, the night of the kids party we’d promised, Sally went down with it – Nooooooo! I was right behind her the next morning on departure day. I wasn’t even able to stay in bed as we had to clear up and out. My worst fear for being in the van was a sick bug and it was happening….. arrrrghhhhh

So, this week does sound slightly disastrous, and I agree it could have been a little more fun, but actually we still had a good time! The bug didn’t make us THAT ill. We had some great trips out. Everyone had a vehicle and it was nice to use the van for a little drive here and there. We went to Triberg to see Germays biggest waterfall, and later see the worlds biggest cuckoo clock! Yep, it’s all happening in Triberg.

The bear park sanctuary. Lovely river walks from the house. The fountains and playground in Freudenstadt and a fabulous walk up the Glaswaldsee lake high up in the hills.

Yes it works… although somewhat of an anticlimax with a wheezy cuckoo
Check out those cogs!
Posers!

Evening bike ride from the house – my boy is feeling better 🙂 Also a headtorch… that would make him smile whatever was happening!
Just off the main walking path into town
Lazy lunch by Glaswaldsee
Amazingly we managed to eat together out here most nights!

Oh and the summer toboggan ride was a winner as everyone started taking it far too seriously when the speeds were displayed on the photo screen at the end! A great afternoon of fun.

Paul about to crash into the back of Matt!

It was lovely to be with friends and hang out in a big group. Thanks guys for choosing to spend your summer hols with us!! Big love!

We said our goodbyes early Saturday morning and we were back on our own. I limped into the van and felt OK to travel for a bit. Matt and the kids did a supermarket shop (I vommed in the van) Then we drove to Lake Titisee at the Southern end of the Black Forest. We were going to Austria and damn it we were going to carry on with the plan!! Please kids don’t get it.

P.S. it’s OK… no one else was ill. AMAZEBALLS!! (yep i’m still saying it… whatevs)

Hop, Skip and a Jump

After we left Schnitzmuhle we had a few days to cross Bavaria and meet up with THE ROBBOS up near Stuttgart.

Hop : Regensburg
Our first stop was Regensburg. We’d read that this was a nice stop where the old town wasn’t too spoilt by tourism. Naturally we tried to spoil it, but in the end it turned out to be one of the nicest short stops we’ve had. It has a university which always makes places feel a bit more lively and it’s also on the Danube. The river takes over the centre with three forks through, one being the massive ship canal and lock with the others are the old routes with islands in between and lovely parks. We stayed in a FREE park and ride carpark which was bizarrely about 10 mins walk from the centre (I’m obviously used to bigger cities!). We had a lovely walk around the centre in the afternoon and then the following day a lovely bike ride up to the dams and spielplatz upstream from town. As usual the playground was lovely and we had fun trying to do the outdoor gym equipment (some of which I couldn’t even reach…I’ve almost never felt so short…sob). I also managed a quick risky swim in the very fast flowing Danube with the water “boiling” around me.

Reflections of the centre from the island.
Another lovely playground, Anna and I had a nice chat in a hammock.
Our lovely random swimming spot five mins from the centre of the city…what an awesome place.
NEWSFLASH : Scruffy man emerges from the Danube. Assumed British.
Canoists playing in the currents from Regensburg’s 12th century “Stone Bridge”.

One last thing i’ll remember from Regensburg was having a wander on my own in the evening, it was lovely and buzzy along the river and most of the walk there I was chatting to the guys from work on a video call. Nice to see friends from work and check in on Karl’s house warming…I wonder if any of you guys are reading any of this??? (That’s a cue for you to comment to prove you’re all still OK and will have me back??)

Just after getting off the phone with the “Palace Crew”.

Skip : Erding
When we left Regensburg we hemmed and hawed about how to cover the ground we needed to over the next few days but we settled on skirting Munich and following the Danube west. We’d seen something about Munich airport having a good (and free) visitors centre and we thought that might be a nice stop with the kids (and planespotter Jayne!!!) so I picked a cheap stop near there. It was only when we were nearly there I realised it was in Erding. Now, the beer drinkers amongst you will know Munich is important and that weiss beer is big round there. There’s one that is probably bigger in the UK than the others and it happens to be one of my favourites, Erdinger, and we’d just parked two minutes from the brewery. Sadly I couldn’t get on any of the factory tours :O(.

When in Erding….

The place we stayed was in the carpark of the MASSIVE Erding thermal spa pool complex (again something we hadn’t planned). We neeearly went to the pools but when we saw the price and worked out how much the kids would get out of it we quietly dropped the idea and stuck with the airport. That evening we had a massive windy thunderstorm and the van got rocked about loads, but it was quite cool with us all huddled on the kids bed watching out of the window.

Munich airport visitors centre was a really great stop for kids our’s age, lovely playground, big hill to stand on and watch the two runways, and a few old planes to climb in and look around. we spent the morning there and headed off to re-join the Danube.

Awesome!
Planespotter (not-so) anonymous.
Race, race, race…

Jump : Gunzberg
Nice little stop for eight euros or so, right on the Danube. We setup and had dinner then rode along the river for about 3 km all four of us on our bikes with little Anna doing loads! When we got back the kids made friends with some other girls on the campsite and ran about with torches until far too late :O)

Mother and Daughter take on the Danube (or at least the bike path!)

This was another random stop that had more than we’d expected, here we were right in the carpark of the beautiful looking local outdoor pool. We didn’t have time to go which was a shame but we’ve found so many incidental things at these little local stops it’s been really interesting.

The next morning we got up and had a long motorway drive up to Stuttgart and through to the Black Forest. Autobahn 8 was really cool, weaving through the hills, but was quite busy and hard work to drive. We arrived a the campsite at 1 pm ready to meet the Robbos…..but where were they???…

BONUS MEDIA : PRINT OUT AND KEEP

Berlin To Bavaria

We drove out of Berlin after five nights, still not sure we shouldn’t have stayed longer, but also itching to move on. Our plan was to head to Austria via the Czech Republic before meeting friends in the Black Forest, so again, south we headed.

Saxony
The first stage of our “Post Berlin Period” was Saxony, we didn’t get long but what we saw we really liked. We’d managed a nice long run from Berlin and got right down to the top of Saxony to a good little campsite with a lovely swimming lake.

Turning up at a campsite and finding it has a beautiful swimming lake is a proper bonus!

We knew we needed to make progress so we decided to forge on the next day, only to have an odd day of trying to visit Bastei and failing to get close enough for the kids to walk. In the end we found a lovely walk down to a crazily remote little restaurant in a gorge that we found almost by accident.

This is what it’s about!

That evening we tried to find a cheap camp around a pretty town called Bad Schandau but failed, and then had our first “Sorry we’re full” experience. In the end we found a place that squeezed us onto their tent section and actually had decent wifi (campsite wifi is almost always crap) so we could sort out our plans.

Changing THE PLAN
We’d always intended on heading down to Austria straight after Germany and checking out the lakes before we met friends in the black forest, but, we we’re starting to come to terms with the distances we could cover and still enjoy ourselves. We worked out that the Austria plan was stressing us out because we were trying to squeeze two weeks of travelling into a week, which would have just been flogging ourselves and keeping the kids in their seats more than we wanted. We always said we’d rather see less but enjoy it on this trip and this was the first real time we had to change plans to enact that.

The NEW Plan
Work our way more directly to the black forest and head to Austria on the way to Italy rather than go out as far as Slovenia and Croatia. All of a sudden we felt happier, the distances were realistic! This meant we could drop into Prague and also check out Bavaria on the way through.

Prague
The next morning we headed off for a couple of hours drive to get to Prague. We felt like we were missing out on Saxony but it had been an unexpected stop that was beautiful and again we felt like we were leaving without really exploring. We chalked it up as yet another place that would stand a couple of weeks holiday at a later date. The trip to Prague was nice and easy, the border crossing into the Czech Republic was a little odd as the road suddenly got worse and there were lots of rough looking tourist shops selling mostly wooden windmills..errr…ok??? It really made us laugh and then a whole class full of children on a trip started randomly waving at us. We weren’t used to border crossings being anything more than signs, but then we got on the motorway and all was ok and boring again!!

Prague was lovely, after an initial false start where we got thrown off a campsite. We arrived at a place we’d picked from googly maps which turned out to be someones garden. After flawlessly manoeuvring the beast down a steep drive and into a spot only about a foot bigger than the van Anna cried too loud for the owner. “Just leave….she is crazy!”…or maybe she’s just three? For the best…didn’t want to stay there anyway ;O). We then found a place just north of the city which was much less uptight and had the amazing boast of having “up to date sanitary facilities” renovated in just 1992!! They had the feeling of a south american prison…but the rest was nice and relaxing.

We had a nice bus and tram ride into the city, a poke about town and….ICE CREAM. We also found an amazing buffet style veggie restaurant for lunch that was full of locals where we piled our plates high to offset the slightly bread heavy diet we’ve had of late.

Kids love trams!
Gratuitous tourist shot.
“…even the most demanding guests…”

Bavaria and Schnitzmühle
After our brief Prague stop we hightailed back to Germany to try and give ourselves a break in Bavaria to relax as we’d moved a lot since Berlin. The journey was an boring rainy motorway run but in a couple of hours we were back in Germany and holed up at one of quite a few free village stops where you can park for free overnight and have all the right drains and taps that you need for the van. We’d plumped for Pleystein which was a sleepy village close to the border with lots of cycling routes and the predictably pretty church. We had a wander around and then went for pizza in a place that I can only assume is setup for takeaway as when we went to sit down it felt like the tables had been laid in the 70s. The next morning we had a ride out on the bikes along an old railway line route with all four of us riding…go Anna!

A lovely bike route from a random free stop, this is what is lovely, finding things unplanned because we have time to explore.
Crates of nice beer in the supermarket…i’m a simple but happy man.

Pleystein had been a quick stop on our way to our main Bavaria event, Adventure Camp Schnitzmühle. In the middle of the Bavarian forest the often mispronounced (hilariously…by Jayne) Schnitzmühle was right down in a valley on a little island attached to a cool hotel. This place was awesome, the river, a swimming lake, firepits and fires allowed, and we managed to bag a pitch right by the river. We ended up staying five nights and we could easily of stayed more. There wasn’t a great deal immediately nearby but that wasn’t really a problem as the hotel had a lovely restaurant and there was a train stop right next to the campsite if you wanted to explore the rest of the area. We spent our time playing in and floating down the river, canoeing, having fires, and generally just chilling out. It was the first time we’d had a relaxing stop since Rugen and we’d needed it.

Daddy’s “helpers”
Best Pitch Ever
Taking to a raft on the swimming lake.

FisherJayne : The only person to catch something with the fishing nets.
I bought a double hammock in Prague…I was not disappointed!

After five nights we headed off happy and relaxed to traverse south Germany and meet the Robinsons!

“Ish bin ein Bearleener”

Corny title I know but I’ve read so much about Berlin and it’s history in the last few weeks that Kennedy’s “We have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in” speech needs a reference.

Berlin is a big capital city, it’s got lots of the bits that other big cities have, but what it has on top is a crazy crazy history of change that in the last 100 and a bit years has been just nuts. This Berlin wears on it’s sleeve (not necessarily by choice) with it’s architecture (not so much old, lots of new, western vs eastern), it’s parks (Templehofer Feld, and some of the huge rubble mounds from post war re-construction), but maybe most is monuments and museums. I get the idea that to be a Berliner means to never forget the recent history of division and war.

I’m not going to talk about what we did in a list as Jayne’s covered that but these are patricular things i’ll remember from Berlin…
– History wherever you look. There’s the obvious, but then the less. We walked out of our camping place into Humboldthain park opposite and there was a hill we walked up for the view. Turns out it was one of many huge mounds created from cleared rubble after the war. I was walking through from checkpoint charlie to the holocaust memorial and stumbled on Hitler’s bunker. It’s just everywhere and not just in the centre.
– An evening ride out into town on my bike. I rode down through Hackescher Markt to Alexanderstraße and Karl-Marx-Allee and being stuck by the sudden change to the monumental DDR architecture. I stopped at a cool outdoor shop called CAMP4 to get Jayne a pannier and me a new shell, then rolled a bit further to the Berlin beer festival which was a bit overwhelming….until I’d had a few beers!

My ugly mug at the top of Karl-Marx-Allee about to do battle with the beer festival!

Battle won

The English bookshop. Sad I know but I’d run out of english books and would rather read paper than tablet if I can. I bought one on Berlin, the Stasi, German history……(and a random booker nominee). I’m justifying the expense on them being souvenirs that are educational!!!
– All of us meeting up and getting lovely street food at a random celebration of something or other near Alexander Platz.
– My afternoon in Berlin with my headphones and time to visit a couple of the more hard to explain (to kids) sights. The parents reading this will understand how nice it was to just be able to roam and not have to stop every five mins for another toilet stop or snack stop. I got to see the Topography of Terror, the holocaust memorial, DDR museum, but most of all I got to walk and make my way from place to place without a pushchair or a child in a sling. It was awesome (I also sneaked in a beer overlooking the river…don’t tell Jayne!

– The wall and how crazy it actually was. I knew, I’d read about it before, but seeing the places and understanding the scale is…well…chilling?

I’ve come away thinking that Berlin would be a fantastic place to spend a lot longer!

Obligatory Wall Pic
Mmmm….train!

Berlin

Matt and I had wanted to visit Berlin for quite a while now so this was a perfect opportunity… ya know, while we were swinging round that way!!

In a tiny period of decent internet access (grrr, this is getting annoying!) we discovered another WomoOase stellplatz in the North part of the city so that’s where we headed! For 30 a night it’s the cheapest way to see a big city – we went straight in for 4 nights, no messin’ and we ended up staying for 5 🙂 We were pretty excited about being back in a big city even though we were pretty pleased to be leaving our own. Hoping to experience some of the culture, buzz and edginess that’s supposed to everywhere (even with kids in tow). It also turns out that we were missing wandering around shops and MAYBE buying stuff! Its been about 4 months since we bought anything (apart from a huge motorhome obvs) and its so nice that this whole process made us sort out everything and give away or sell what we didn’t need. So not buying new things is part of that too, but the lure of “cool” shops was getting a bit much 🙂 Also we had discovered that our friends were in the city at the same time as us and could meet up, Woop!

Our urban camp – love the graffiti everywhere

Our first day was an unplanned wander from the main square Alexanderplatz. We pretty much wandered all day but felt that we never really found anything great. We ticked off a couple of big sights – Berliner Dom, the river, Brandenburg Gate, Tiergarten, etc, but we never quite found the “nice” centre you often find in big cities and sometimes it felt a bit rough. It’s not a pretty place but I think the charm is in the people, vibe and history and that takes a while to come through. Anyway, we managed to hook up with the Marchevski’s at Potsdammer platz and hoped to get a drink/dinner but the kids were over tired and we decided to just get the train back after only a half hour catch up.

Another monument… another selfie. Sorry!
This boy loves a water feature. In fact, we should have done a separate page for town fountains!
Hello Friends!

Day 2 was absolutely lovely. We went a couple of stops on the U-bahn to a local kinder museum recommended by our friends. It was a very simple space with an area for some crafts and a big wooden climbing maze. We just hung out there until lunchtime then headed to the other end of the city to Tempelhofer Feld where we had arranged to meet Marko, Elena, Angelina, and Marina. We walked right across the huge airfield which is now an amazing public park – people rollerskating and cycling and even kite boarding up the disused runway! Deck Chairs, bar, kids playing in the shade… perfect! Then they (and their other friends who were also there) took us to a fab Turkish restaurant in Kruezburg. This was awesome as we’d been a bit lacking in other world foods and veggie options! This felt like the buzzy city vibe in a lovely part of town. Saw some fab shops but couldn’t stop – Nooooooo! Then we went to a gorgeous playground just behind the street we ate in and sat in the evening sunshine while the kids played in water and sand. Excellent. Another late night train ride home and very tired.

Top of the maze
They made American Indian head wear!
Cycling around Berlin!
The view up the runway. Glad we had the pushchair!
En Route to Kreuzberg
Another amazing play park – Germany is so good at this!

Day 3 we took it easier and walked from the van to Bernauer Straße where the Berlin Wall memorial park is. We had a lovely wander until we were rained off. After a hot chocolate stop we went back to the van to have a lazy afternoon. Matt was then able to go out for a city cycle to a shop he’d earmarked (turns out he’s the biggest shopper in the family!) and grab a beer at the beer festival that was happening! He came back very happy and with the Ortlieb pannier that I really wanted! Yay – a souvenir!

The cobbles mark out the location of the Berlin Wall around the city
Berlin Wall for real
One of the many Watchtowers that were in place
maaaaaan, this thing is hard work! Arm workout!

On our last full day we decided to split as Matt really wanted to explore some of the more serious museums and sights. I’d like to think I sacrificed myself as I took the kids to the zoo! It was pretty fun, for a zoo, and we got to see the hippos swimming, and a panda. Yep a panda! I met Matt early evening back where we started our first day, in Alexander Platz, for some food and a trip up the Berlin tower. There was a great street food market on and we sat soaking up the atmosphere with our quesadillas, gnocchi and chips. Then off up the tower – which was a struggle as we were all feeling weary, especially Anna who was getting rather difficult to manage. Those of you who know, know! The tower was great and kinda finished off the trip nicely as you could see everywhere we’d been, and also how different the East and West Berlin sides looked. Fascinating. We cant really go out for late night drinks etc with the kids so we completely miss that part of what makes a city great, but Berlin is definitely geared up for kids. Germany generally has brilliant spaces for children even when you don’t expect there to be any.

I know Matt has a lot to say on this subject so watch this space! We packed in a lot into those 4 days and the kids really loved it. They loved the trains and got a huge amount from seeing new things. They’ve talked about it on and off for a while after, which is great. For me it was a slow burn and I said a sad goodbye to our WomoOase feeling like I was only just getting it. I still never managed to do any shopping, but thats just aswell! Right… lets go South!

Food Market!
I love the little chats these too monkeys have!
Tall tower thingy. It was high and the lift was super fast!

It’s Baltic out ‘ere!

This entry is going to cover almost two weeks so I’ll break it into location headings so we can all get though this!

But first an intro…

My overarching memory of the Baltic coast will be…rain. We’ve had about four thunderstorms, barely a day without a downpour and the most mosquitos I’ve ever experienced. Our clothes have been damp…our washing has been damp and getting it to dry it has been a real battle…BUT this is such a beautiful bit of coast. Lovely classy seaside towns with glorious, safe, sandy beaches.

Lubeck – Rain
What a beautiful place, we arrived on a Saturday night (after a quick stop at decathlon where I bought a new chair…very exciting!) and it was lovely to have a quick walk into the town before the kids got too tired. We got up the next day thinking we’d have a nice mooch about…but no…we’d landed ourselves in a town on a Sunday and German opening laws mean that EVERYTHING is closed. It’s something that has caught us out a few times now as this was ditched a long time ago in the UK. It rained on an off all the time in Lubeck, this turned out to be a trend.

Holstentor Gate, not sure if this was before or after or during the rain…probably all of those things!!
German playgrounds are great…they are everywhere and they are nice….and they are actually kept working! oh, and a lot of them have pumps!

Boltenhagen Swingolf – Dry but boggy…from the rain.
We drove out from Lubeck and east along the coast planning to stay somewhere simple and quiet. After a bit of faff we found a lovely little stop for just over five Euros behind a cafe and Swingolf place (which seems to be a bit like a glorified pitch and putt?!). We rode our bikes around and marvelled at the biggest slugs and snails in the world, no joke they were huge, massive. The next morning we had our first taste of beach for this trip down in Boltenhagen… and it was sunny!

Wismar – So…much…rain
After Boltenhagen we drove further east to a place near Wismar with the plan of a couple of days on a bigger campsite and a day trip into town. The campsite was the kind of place we’re not keen on, more holiday park, a bit grim, and very pricey. A bit more planning would have told us this, but that would mean taking things a little more seriously which is a bit lame, right?…right? In the end we stayed in their carpark for half price but could still use their loos, win win. Our plans did however get ruined by rain. This time a deluge which had us packing up and leaving after one night as sitting in the van, in a carpark, watching the rain got boring very quick. The change of plan turned out OK in the end though when we found a free carpark in town, had a look round, then went to the local swimming pool. We’d been promising the kids a swimming pool for a while and this turned out to be quite and experience. Loads of slides, a wave machine, and the whole of the rest of the town looking for something to do…bedlam…and two very excited kids.

Wismar….it rained!

Warenmunde – Some rain, and an eventful carpark.
An evening drive from Wismar brought us to the lovely Warenmunde. A beautiful baltic coastal town just West of Rostock, with a gorgeous beach and for Aidan the most exciting thing, a lighthouse. We stopped for a couple of nights in a carpark just back from the beach and had a great cycle into town where we went up the lighthouse and looked at all the boats in the docks. We even bought a nice new fancy “stunt” kite which then refused to fly as the wind had died down…doh.

Warenmunde lighthouse was a fantastic budget four euro outing :O)
At the top!!!
Warenmunde from the top.

Rugen – Rain-Sun-Mosquito…rinse…repeat.
After a nice early morning dip on Warenmunde beach we got in the van to head to Rugen. We’d had recomendation for Rugen from friends (Thanks Marko and Elena!) and everthing we read sounded great. We covered quite a lot of ground and topped of the gas cyclinders at a garage in Stralsund, which made me jump when the seal on the euro adapter popped and I had LPG firing out everywhere. After that bit of excitment we forged on and got to what was supposed to be a one nighter but ended up being our home for our whole stay on Rugen….Prora Wohmobile Oasis!

Sitting out one of the rainstorms…about an hour after this it was blazing sunshine….not before it soaked all our washing though.
The lake (Kleiner Jasmunder Bodden) just back from the beach was lovely too. Rugen has a lot of different things going on in a small space.
Looking out into the lake.
VANBOW

Highlights of the stay were:
– The beaches, which were long, sandy and really shallow shelving so lovely and warm. Within seconds of arriving at any beach Aidan and Anna started digging holes and building big reservior systems.

Lovely!

– The ruined Nazi resort at Prora that is now being re-developed post re-unification but must have been an amazing and spooky sight in the 80s when it was all ruins for miles and miles.

Riding down to Prora, this was the Kdf Nazi resort nearly 3 miles long. Just behind it is a beeeeeeautiful beach.
Some of the old blocks at the the beginning of being re-furbished.

– Binz, beautiful seaside town, but not in the Skegness way, a lovely classy mix of beachside bars and bucket and spade shops. After Warenmunde we’re figuring they know how to do the seaside on this coast!
– Cycle paths through the woods and along the beaches, we rode for miles and could manage completely without moving the van.
Naturerbe Zentrum, a cool woodland nature centre with a treetop walk and massive tree viewing platform. Also a lovely cafe with veggie options…woop!

Lots of balancey challenges on the treetop walkway.
The view of Rugen from the top was awesome.
Down the inside of the viewing tower.

– Aidan’s top would be HMS Otus, the British submarine that an enterprising guy bought when it was decommissioned in 1990 and moored up for people to view. SO MANY BUTTONS AND PIPES!

A little boys dream…pipes, dials, switches, and two massive engines!

And maybe my favourite bit….
– Anna learning to ride her bike with pedals, she is one determined little lady!!

“I’M DOING IT” She was so pleased with herself…and was so determined….watch out world!

Moving south to Berlin and Parsteiner See – Finally some lovely weather, but oh boy the bugs!
After five nights on Rugen we were feeling itchy to move on (the travelling life is finally getting us) and we struck out for an evening drive off the island to head south. We had a nice little stop in an empty field in the middle of nowhere then moved on to try and find a campsite just shy of Berlin that had been recommended to us (Thanks Tibor/Hensi)…but couldn’t seem to find it anywhere. A friendly local lady took pity on us and sent us off to somewhere which maybe wasn’t where we were aiming but was gorgeous. An old fashioned strip of a campsite along the side of a grogeous lake two kilometres from the Polish border. super relaxed and family oriented with the focus being on swimming in the very shallow and perfectly clear lake. We were on a bit of a schedule as we wanted to get to berlin to see friends and only stayed for one night but evening and morning swims were both beautiful. One thing that was very noticable was a lack of big motorhomes (like ours!!) and many more retro caravans, it all felt like we could well be in the DDR in the 70s….FKK swimming for the locals included!

The swimming lake at Parsteiner See, shallow way out, sandy bottomed and clear. Idyllic.
Camp Seppo…I think I’m starting to relax a bit.

Finding Our Deutschland Mojo

We left the supermarket in Wernigerode and went off into the woods to find somewhere to park up and have dinner. We found a walkers car park and stopped for a few hours and it was lovely, we had dinner, we had a little bike ride into the woods and then we were ready to head off for an evening drive to Wolfsburg.

Wolfsburg was the first piece of the plan for the next few days and it was mostly my choice. Most people won’t know of Wolfsburg but it is secondly a small town with a ruined castle, but firstly, the home of Volkwagen! I’m not exactly a car nut but having had a lot of VWs and having been the custodian of a very rusty old 79 bay window for the last 5 years, Volkswagen holds a bit of pull for me. I was thinking that we’d swing by there as a stopover on the way north and drop in at their museum for a few hours as a kind of pilgrimage and to see some old bugs and buses. How I underestimated how it would turn out.

We used Camperstop and found a stelleplatz right next to the factory, we didn’t realise it was actually in the factory carpark. It was all nice and secure, a little bit noisy as there was a boy racer roundabout nearby (presumably loads of “max powered” golfs ragging around) but that wasn’t anything a price of 6 euros a night couldn’t help us ignore. We had a decent nights sleep but had no idea what to expect the following day but we got the inkling there was more than a museum from the bigtop we could kinda see from the van, oh, and the presence of a Ritz Carlton.

The next day we paid our 30 euros to get into the “Autostadt”. It was awesome. Like a theme park cross with teletubbyland cross with the science museum with a seasoning of car showroom if you looked really hard. It had inflatable things all over for the kids to bounce on, it had loads of simulators for them to learn how to drive, it had the craziest three floor climbing thing that looked like it had been created by an architect, and for Aidan, “sprayers” and fountains everywhere. Oh, and a car museum, which in the end felt like the least important bit.

He’s up there….on the top of the biggun!
Both kids got to make this ball airlifting toy from scratch. No queues, nothing we just wandered up, they cracked out the pillar drills.
Anna showing Jayne her skillzzz
Awesome inflatables everywhere, top age limit 13, #sigh.
I thought I’d found a crack in the perfectness…i thought it was rat…no…Coypus roaming the grounds….really????

We ended up staying for two nights so we could spend a full day there and we still didn’t get to do the kids driving bits or the lake swimming right outside the factory power station. Maybe next time.

After all that excitement our next stop was well needed. We headed to Uhlenköper which is a lovely quiet campsite which is much closer to what we’re used to back home. It’s chilled, all a bit eco, and it had two things that kept the kids and I happy.

Firstly, a natural swimming pool. picture a normal pool but with reed beds down two sides, water like lake water, and loads of tadpoles and water snails swimming with you. Something really pretty special.

Chillin.
Me swimming with the fishes, well, the tadpoles and snails.

Secondly, an old fashioned pump and a sandpit, sometimes its the simple things, especially with my little engineer kids.

Aidan in his element.

We stayed three nights, and really felt like we relaxed. We wavered on staying another night but didn’t want to have to skimp on the Baltic or Berlin before we needed to head south so decided to move.

An uneventful drive (apart from a fun stop at Decathlon) has brought us to Lübeck. I’m typing this in a carpark five minutes from the centre with the the front of the van overlooking a lovely river. Can’t be bad :O)

Onwards, to Germany!

Felt quite sad to be leaving The Netherlands but the expanse of Germany awaited and we had been looking forward to exploring this country.  Even so, we were unable to decide on a plan for the next few days. We thought we’d have had more free time for planning, but it hadn’t felt like we’d had much free time at all.  Last minute decision we chose to drive across to Bremen as it sounded lovely and was only a couple of hours drive away. The sat-nav journey time didn’t seem to be decreasing very much and the kids were really unhappy passengers, so we stopped (Lidl shop stop!), regrouped and changed our minds back to the previous days plan of heading more into central Germany.

Lidl have kids trolleys… absolutely the best thing that happened to them today!

Matt found a free overnight parking place by lake Dümmer  which mean’t only a short drive. Luckily we got to enjoy this and the lovely playground for an hour or so before it started to rain, and it didn’t really stop raining for the next few days. The next morning matt took the kids on a rain walk around the lake while I packed up the van. We had now ironed out our plan to start driving further south to the Harz mountains and then slowly back up North to the Baltic Coast. We won’t be able to have another chance to go into central Germany if we don’t do it now.

Very rainy morning. Waterproofs at the ready!

We made the most of the rainy day by travelling and we headed to an ACSI campsite that had a pool (we’d been promising a pool for our next stop!). A quick stop at our first German bakerai for some lovely bread. I’m going to enjoy the bread here!

This campsite was run by a very grumpy man who was almost annoyed that I was bothering him. Also the pool was closed due to bad weather… oh dear (how can a pool be closed for a bit of rain?!). We paid for 1 night and got all our washing done. We had lots of fun exploring the toilets and other facilities (in the rain) – this seems to keep the kids occupied for hours!
The next morning matt found a tick on his leg! This was quite scary as he was reading up on all the things that could go wrong. We packed up the van quickly and went to the local doctor while the kids and I wandered around the little town park. There always sees to be an interesting playground around every corner.  Matt got some good advice and was looking a lot happier after seeing the very nice doctor. (and also a quick chat with Dr Dr Paul!) We continued with our plan and spent the afternoon at Externsteine. This is a collection of unusual vertical rock stacks in a national park. Had such a lovely walk in the woods, the kids loved it. But after just commenting on how much better Anna is at not falling over so much she had a really big fall and smacked her forehead on the stony ground. Poor girl… she hurt herself pretty badly. I carried her all the way back to the van where I could check she was OK. She was fine but had a big bump on her forehead and some other cuts. Matt took Aidan back to the stones and they paid to climb up to the top. It’s nice for Aidan to do some stuff without Anna sometimes.

Externsteine rocks
Climbing to the top of the rocks selfie!

I made dinner in the van in the beautiful car park and we stayed there all evening until closing time. These simple things seem to be the most enjoyable – and feels kinda strange still that we can just make food and do everything wherever we are! Pyjamas and teeth, then a night drive over to the Harz mountains. We stopped at another Stellplatz in the mountains and this one was also brilliant. Only 1 other camper in this huge carpark at the bottom of the pretty German town – Launtenthal.

Great overnighter… Burstie is looking pretty happy!

Woke up to the sounds the river and had our breakfast on the grass and the kids rode their bikes all around. Discovered this village had some old mines and we went into the museum  just opposite the carpark. Ended up here for a few hours as it had an underground boat experience and mine tour! The kids had a great time. Off we went to the next village where there was more going on, but the kids slept straightaway. We parked up unable to do anything so decided to take our chance with the sleeping children and just go straight to another campsite where we could hopefully stay a couple of days. Pool still needed to happen! It was a lovely campsite in Hohegeiß, but the pool was an extra cost. Luckily the next day was the summer party and free swimming all day! Bit dreading that, but turned out to be really nice. Had party music playing all day. The massive pool was on the edge of the woods and wasn’t busy at all. Matt and I both had lovely swims.

We had pretty much run out of food so went for a walk up to the town only to find the shop closed. There was no-one around and it didn’t seem like anything else to do. We were missing a town or some other life. We had a few hours of time that evening and it was nice to get a plan together for the next few days. We both felt like we were not settling into our first week in Germany. Not sure why, but a bit like we were missing out on things near by or not able to make the most of where we were (obviously can’t do long walks\biking in the mountains etc with kids and that can be frustrating at times). Anyway, we had a plan – onwards!

On the little mining train ready to go in the mountain!
Anna loved this train thingy!
Me (jayne) in the distance!
Pool Party Erdingers! We even got to keep the plastic cups 🙂

We left the campsite after 2 nights for the town of Wernigerode via Thale where there was a cable car to the top of the mountain and a toboggan ride up there. Brilliant fun!! We even bought the posed photos of us zooming around the track!  Another Stellplatz stop in the town with views of the castle, window shopping, pizza in the main square, playground, bakery breakfast and a big supermarket shop. We were on our last rations!  Choco Leibniz fully stocked up… happy 🙂

About to take on the HarzBob! Hold on peeps…
Cable Car
Don’t look down… arrrrghhhhh!
Wernigerode Schloss
Mini Leibniz!

The Netheregions

My post…my title! This is going to end up being a longer one from me for the end of our Netherlands epiphany.

In the end despite it’s loveliness we did end up leaving Delft on the Friday morning. We were a little torn but we wanted to take the kids to do something really Dutch on the Friday before the weekend so we decamped and went to see the windmills at Zaanse Schans.

They were awesome. There was a touristy village bit with clogs and cheese and trinkets but the windmills were great, especially since it was windy enough for them to be running. We took the kids round three of them, dye grinding, oil pressing, and a saw mill. Being able to wander round and see them all running was pretty impressive.

Me and my Anna…that’s her new “cheese” face.
If you know my boy…you’d know this was heaven.

After the windmills we headed off to Hoge Veluwe National Park. We stayed in their campsite which was lovely and much closer to the kind of camping fields we’re used to staying in with our other van (should do a page for that!). Open meadow, lovely facilities, pitches roughly marked and not really adhered to. We wanted to give ourselves a break as we felt like we’d been moving a lot so we decided to stay two nights, which in the end turned into three because the park was so great.

The park was the same as the rest of the Netherlands, based around bikes. It’s mostly forest with some open land that is supposed to resemble the African veldt. Its all criss-crossed with bike lanes full of people on “white bikes” which are free to use anywhere in the park. It has an art gallery and sculpture garden but predictably all we did was ride around the woods exploring for two full days. Aidan is getting EVEN faster on his bike and we’ve finally relented and let Anna have her pedal bike albeit without the actual pedals on, despite it being too big for her she’s doing really well.

The other really nice thing about this stop was having company. The Hamilton family we met in Bruges had the same place on their list of Netherlands “places to see” and we had a two night overlap with them. The kids loved playing with Edie and Flynn and for us it really nice to have a couple of evenings sitting out late watching bats and drinking beer with Sinead and Steve. The only negative is that I’m now lusting after a fancy torch!! Here’s their blog check it out.

The Seppings peloton taking a break (note the cheese face!)
Anna on her pedal bike (sans pedals)
A “white bike” and my steed, note Anna’s bike AND my rucksack on the back, the width caught me out a few time when I was mucking about

We left the park on Monday morning and felt ready to move on. We went north and dropped in on a touristy spot called Giethoorn which is a sort of quaint village with canals for roads. We rented a whisper boat and buzzed slowey about with Aidan on the tiller.

Helmsman’s eye view.
Aidan takes control….arrrrrgggghhhh!!!

After that we started to head roughly east towards Germany and picked somewhere random to stop from Camperstop…and boy what a choice…it was awesome. Five euros got us a stop in a lovely couples piece of land that they had made as natural as possible with ponds and trees. They also had some things that I liked a lot and something the kids liked a lot. PIGS (Hungarian Woolbacks!) for me, and a trampoline (springy!) for the kids. We got oursleves a lovely pitch hidden away in the wild bit, and settled in, then…..it rained…well…it poured….40mm in about an hour. I started to get nervous and we had to do an emergency reverse through the boggy ground to make sure we would be able to get the van out. We ended up closer to the house which was much nicer as we got to chat to Anika a lot (and be closer to the pigs!!!).

Daddy takeover!!
My friends…I miss them already.

The following day it was time to head to Germany….off we went…we’re leaving the Netherlands having liked it far more than any of us expected to.

Dam…

We should have stayed in Bruges for that extra night we’d paid for (by accident)… but hindsight is a wonderful thing.  Our sense of adventure kicked in and we wanted to try a free parking experience using Park4Night app to offset the cost of this extra night we didn’t want.  There were loads of stops listed up on the coast near the delta in The Netherlands where we wanted to explore next.  The kids went to sleep as planned and we had a lovely drive into Holland… here comes the but… Anna woke up really upset with achy feet and upset about not seeing the horses, which in turn woke Aidan up who was cross at Anna making a load of noise.  Oh dear! We had to pull over for a while and get snacks.  A quick check of the app and we decided to stop somewhere nearer, right on the edge of Lake Veere in a region called Kamperland!  It was about 11pm and deserted. we pulled up by some bushes in the carpark and thought we were sorted.  But then we got nervous and googled about The Netherlands free camping rules. Turns out its illegal.  So we moved to a nearby motorhome stopover 5 mins away, which had amazing automated check in with credit card…phew!

The next morning we enjoyed this fancy carpark with super shiny facilities and then drove back round to the lakeside where we’d been the night before.   Beautiful!  Cafe for a power up and the kids had a lovely few hours playing with stones at the lakeside.  We then headed off to see the Delta works dam and drive across the bridges.  This was the main reason we’d taken this route North and it was really impressive. We were able to stop and see one part of the dam close up and also stand right underneath one of the many huge wind turbines!

We got to our next campsite early evening up in Rennese just behind the sand dunes.  We decided to stay 2 nights here to slow things a little and enjoy the location.  Didn’t have a great feeling about this campsite but it was fine and the kids got to enjoy the beach, swimming pool and easy cycling into the buzzy seaside town.  The bike lanes are fantastic, it is so lovely to see everyone meandering around on their bikes.  Aidan is loving his bike and we felt confident enough for him to go on the road into town!  Matt and I sat and made a good plan of what to do next.  We definitely want to enjoy more of The Netherlands. Guide books and maps out (my favourite thing to do!).

Early start on Thursday up to Delft via Rotterdam for a quick hello.  We hoped to have an easy stop in this city for a few hours but turns out this was a foolish idea in a motorhome!  Need to get used to having this vehicle and its limitations. Matt did brilliantly and we ended up stopping on a small island just south of the city centre.  Had lunch in the van and explored the immediate area.  Boats, bridges and a playground.  The kids were pretty happy! We didn’t’ attempt anything else and made the quick drive to Delft. We stopped at a great campsite just outside this beautiful Dutch town, and then enjoyed the rest of the afternoon in the playground and the kids on their bikes going up and down our section of campsite.  Anna is desperate to ride the pedal bike so Matt took off the pedals and she can now use it as a balance bike.  She is so determined!

After an early dinner we set off on our bikes the 10 minute cycle into the city centre to have a wander and find ice cream.  Brilliant!  What a lovely place, Canals, cobbled streets, bikes everywhere.  This is how we need to be doing it… easy does it!  The kids in bed at a reasonable hour and I’m sitting in the van typing this during a dramatic thunderstorm :0) … we may stay here longer…

Great location but not brave enough to risk the fine.
Our “official” stop in Zeeland.
Hours of fun with a bowl and some stones.
Driving over the first section of the DeltaWorks dam.
A closer look…
Great parking spot!
Miles of sandy beaches and dunes. Shame about the jellyfish, we didn’t want to swim!