After our stay in the hotel in Prague, we stayed an extra three days at the campsite on the eastern edge of the city where we had left our motorhome. We got quite friendly with a Norwegian couple that were parked right beside us and it was interesting to listen to their views and their travel experiences. By now we have heard the joke so many times that we will need a visa to visit whatever country the comedian comes from that we do not even rise to the bait. However, Roy Hodgson, Captain Wayne and his team of massively overpaid failures are responsible for me getting a lot of stick since the disaster that will forever be remembered as England’s night of football shame. The Scottish chap parked at the other end of the site must have run to gloat about our loss to Iceland and now it is all I hear. I have never been ashamed to be English but I am now. My older brother and my youngest brother both married Welsh ladies. Would that entitle me to put a Welsh dragon on the back of our motorhome?
We drove out of Hungary into Germany heading north towards Dresden. In Germany it is free to drive on their motorways but the signs above us indicated that we were now on a toll road. The German government would love to charge “foreigners” for driving on their motorways but the EU says if they charge then they have to charge everyone including their own people and even the Germans have to follow rules. The other big difference is the speeds you can drive on motorways. My satnav, as well as giving me directions, shows the speed I am doing and the speed I am allowed to do. As soon as we got on the motorway the latter indication disappeared. With the right car there is no speed limit! At first the motorway had two lanes only. Our speed warranted us to overtake the constant stream of heavy goods vehicles trundling up the inside lane. A look in the mirror would show the nearest approaching car to be a long way behind. Glance back as you pull out and that car is almost on you. It isn’t every large car that drives that fast but whilst we have been driving at 70 mph, we have been overtaken as if we were standing still. I did find that first day’s driving quite tiring because the concentration required keeping safe whilst maintaining a reasonable speed was immense so I was quite pleased to pull off the motorway at the Dresden turn.
We pulled into a 10 euro a night site, just across the road from the steps that take you down to the River Elbe. Later on we followed the path into the city full of magnificent old buildings. I know the Allies pounded this city constantly during WW2 but I am sure that all the history we saw was not just clever reconstruction.
The Elbe is a huge, fast flowing river and as we walked along the river bank there were lots of boats out on the water taking people for cruises up and down the river. A little further on we had to get passed two coach loads of people being dropped off right by a Viking luxury river cruise boat. The more we see these luxurious looking craft the more we think that we will take more notice the next time we see one of their television adverts.
Now we were getting closer to all the interesting buildings and all the spires and we were now opposite the large, substantial buildings on the opposite bank.
We instantly knew that we had chosen a must see, tourist destination as soon as we saw the first party of photo snap happy, selfie stick wielding Japanese. What they will they do with all the pictures they have of their own faces with a special tourist attraction in the background? It is fun to watch them, especially when that important, special photo of a historic building or statue is not complete unless a family member is leaping up in the foreground.
As usual we got a tourist map from the information centre and we toured around all the fabulous buildings and unlike many cities we have visited recently; all the major attractions were in a relatively small area so we enjoyed seeing everything highlighted without having to walk miles to do so. I will let the pictures tell the stories of what we saw there and we walked back along the river bank having enjoyed our first day in Germany.
Later that evening, when the light was beginning to fade, I walked back to the centre and took some pictures of some of the fabulous buildings now lit up against the night sky. I got to the quiet road where there is a very long frieze of a royal hunting party, on horseback, all the way down the side of a building.
Tucked right up in the shadows of the building opposite stood a lady playing a violin and it made for an enchanting, magical moment. It is something I will always remember.
It was just as well I was getting used to the pace of the German autobahns. I drove 148 miles, most of it on the motorway, to get to Magdeburg which is a small city and boasts to be the capital city of the German Land of Saxony-Anhalt. This city also stands on The Elbe and the camper stop we chose was right in the city and the front of our van was only a few meters away from the bank of the fast flowing, river.
The designers of the tourist map had done their utmost to make this city appear to be part of the tourist circuit but the Japanese were nowhere to be seen. There are some substantial buildings and there is a Roman excavated site that is worth seeing.
On the main road, directly opposite the very old, highly decorated post house there are some statues of nude people who appear to be celebrating the state of their nakedness.
However we then came to the reason we had driven to Magdeburg. We came to see “the Green Citadel of Magdeburg”. Much of the city was destroyed in 1945 and the reconstruction of the city started in 1951. For his last architectural work, the artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, designed this highly visible building with its uniquely different façades with golden globes, large coloured beads, 900 different windows and a flowering meadow on its roof top.
There are small shops, boutiques and galleries, coffee bars and restaurants and fancy being able to tell people you live in a fairy-tale palace.
We wanted to see the real Germany away from the large cities and the tourist army that invade them. We drove along a quiet motorway and as it was a Saturday then most of the big trucks were not on the road and we then took a single carriageway road, northwest, to the small town of Celle. Behind the main car park there is an area set aside for motorhomes and there are emptying facilities but no electric hook up.
In the town all the 500 half-timbered houses dating back to the oldest built in 1526 are all under preservation orders and have been extensively restored so modern shops are housed in these beautiful buildings. There was a thriving street market taking place around the centre squares and the atmosphere around the busy streets was quite electric with lots of noise from happy, chatting people.
We went into the town church and then paid 1 euro each to climb the 234 steps to get to the top of the tower to get a view of the town and the surrounding countryside. The views were definitely worth the euro. I seem to be able to climb these towers quite easily but I always manage to feel giddy coming back down endless spiral stairs. Later on we needed to get some provisions and the downside of the preservation orders is that the nearest supermarket was quite a walk keeping it well away from the historic centre.
July 4th…… Rotenburg
The less said about Rotenburg the better. Elaine spent a long time studying the maps and the internet to give us the best route across Germany. I suddenly announced that we should change the direction of our route so Elaine came up with fabulous pictures of the city of Rotenburg with lots of interesting places to see. We arrived at a 5 euro a night site on the outskirts of the town and walked in to the centre. None of the “interesting” things were there. It was just a town with lots of shops. Defending herself, Elaine showed me again what should have been here. We were at the wrong, rotten Rotenburg. Germany is a bit like France. They like to confuse! There are 3 Rotenburgs in Germany and the one we wanted was way down south.
The good thing was the site. It was situated at the north end of a large lake and there was a beach area with nice sand, a lively bar / restaurant and a very well equipped , outdoor, gymnasium. The German couple from the van next to us gave us some “nice” places to visit on our way towards the Netherlands and unfortunately we followed their advice.
July 5th ……Oldenburg / Papenburg
The first of their recommendations was to go to Oldenburg. We pulled into a free Stellplatz (a German motorhome stop) right by a motorhome dealer. The book said it was 3 kilometers to get into town so Elaine and I agreed that we should walk in rather than take the bikes. Big mistake. The 3 kilometers ended up being more like a 4 miles hike and the heavens opened on our way there so I have now had the second ever Kebab meal in my life because that was the nearest place to get out of the rain. To be honest, Oldenburg was OK as there were a few interesting things to see and probably the most interesting was the old looking church with lots of spires but the inside was the most modern interior I have ever seen. Interesting and quite quirky but Oldenburg is not a place I would put on a need to see top 10.
We hiked back to the van and by that time the weather had improved. Our German friends had given us a must see place just 15 kilometers further on but we decided that what they like is not to our taste. Instead of staying put for the night we decided to move on so I drove on to Papenburg which is a very small German town just before the Dutch border. We saw windmills, dykes and the typical Dutch lifting bridges as we approached the town and our stop for the night was in the grounds of a hotel.