17th,18th,19th/06/2018 Berlin, Germany
Just before we left we managed to get up the castle tower in Lagow and it was worth it for the pictures I could take up there.
On the way, we pulled into a fuel station to fill the tank using all the zlotys we had left. The old chap who filled the tank was bemused when I filled his hand with all the small change we had over. We just had to laugh. To speed the journey, we jumped on the Polish toll road. After the short run on the toll part of the motorway, Elaine handed over a 5 euro note, and the nice toll lady gave Elaine some change in zloties.
I am really excited about our visit to the city of Berlin. My memory takes me back to the exciting spy books I have read based on Berlin, like John Le Carre’s, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and Smiley’s People. Who could forget the role matt Damon played in the film Bourne Identity and Michael Caine, who played Palmer in Funeral in Berlin. Well, tomorrow we will be in that city. I know the Berlin Wall is not there anymore, but I gather there is still a massive difference between East and West Berlin. So, it is going to be interesting to find out.
Elaine’s nephew and his wife, Lee and Angela, are flying out to see us so we have had to find a campsite attached to a hotel. We are at Hotel and Camping Sud, and we are parked right by the river bank and close to the bar and the hotel. They won’t arrive until late, so we are relaxing, sitting watching the many small and large boats pass by.
From here we will just have a short bus and then a train ride to get into the capital and the journey shouldn’t take more than half an hour. The nice, quiet, reserved couple(lol) arrived about 11.30 that evening and I shouldn’t think anyone else got any sleep in that hotel until I insisted that it was time for Elaine and me to go back to our motorhome.
Day 2, Berlin
The four of us had breakfast outside our motorhome and then we went off to go into Berlin. Once we had a map of the capital it became clear that all the things we wanted to see were spread all over the city. Although we had bought a 24-hour travel ticket, we were better off going on a hop-on, hop-off bus so we could listen to the commentary about what we passed, to know where we wanted to get off the bus to look at anything a little closer.
We soon got off the first bus. The lady who was giving the live commentary was not very good. She spent most of her time talking in German and holding private conversations with the two ladies of her own age, sitting on the seats opposite to her. I interrupted her flow of German and said that we were English, and we wanted to know what she was talking about. It improved slightly but we still got off that bus and waited for the next one. This lady was brilliant, so now we were all pleased that we had spent our money on this form of sightseeing. We hopped off and on at different places and one place we all wanted to see closer was the Brandenburg Gate.
The bus, anyway, could not take its usual route because of the World Cup. The gate was cordoned off and huge screens had been set up, so the German matches could be screened for the public.
Of course, the bus took us to Check Point Charley and the bit of the Berlin Wall that has been retained for prosperity. We had a great day of sightseeing and as usual, I will put some of the photos I took on the blog.
We took the train back Wannsee, the closest stop to the campsite and sat in the front garden of bar/hotel and the laughter and the conversation between the four of us never stopped. Later back at the campsite, we had a great meal Elaine had prepared, whilst watching the Germans at the bar watching the German team’s defeat against Mexico. I have never known Germans being so quiet when in a gathering of their country people.
Day 3 Berlin
Before going off for the day, I booked a Channel Tunnel crossing for Sunday the 24th of June. This year’s tour is nearly over. All good things have to come to an end at some time and we have left ourselves a nice easy four-day drive, to cross from Berlin to Calais.
For a total change from the hustle and bustle of big city sightseeing, the four of us took the bus back to Wannsee and then took a ferry ride across the large lake there to the small town of Alt Kladow.
We had a look around the town and then had a wander beside the lake before catching the ferry for the return trip. We had a barbeque in the evening. Whilst chatting it came up about the hour difference between where we are now and the time in the UK.
Angie said, “if it is an hour earlier back home, why can’t some one phone up and tell you the result of the football match before you have seen it here”. I never thought of that! We will still be this side of the channel on Saturday evening. The draw for the lottery is at 7-30 pm, so if some can text me the lottery draw numbers, I will have plenty of time to buy a ticket on line.
After another great night with the pair of them, Lee and Angela went off to their hotel room we had an early night because of the early flight back to Manchester for Lee and Angela. It would also be an early start for us as I had promised that I would drop them off at the airport in time for their flight.
20th/06/2018 Dortmund, Germany
We said our goodbyes after a memorable few days and we got on our way. Elaine had divided the drive into four easily managed drives. I felt really good, so I drove on passed the first stop and stayed on the motorway until we got to Dortmond. We pulled into a camper stop, just outside a marina having driven 329 miles on the very busy Autobahn. The boss of the site came over to introduce himself and said he saw very few English using his camp. There was a lot to look at there, and of course photograph.
In one corner of the marina, I counted fifteen carp, all swimming on the surface on this very hot day.
21st/06/2018 Antwerp, Belgium
We woke up to rain. We were soon on our way. I was really pleased that we had driven so far yesterday. Although the rain soon stopped, the wind started to blow very strongly. The cross winds were horrendous every time we went passed open land. A lot of the time it was safer to just get in the first lane and stick to the same speed as the countless lorries going the same way as us. Our route took us towards Eindhoven and we were crossing yet another border into the Netherlands. With all the flat lands around, the cross winds were difficult to deal with, but we soldiered on. We crossed yet another Schengen border into Belgium. The 187 miles we did today took longer than our drive from Berlin to Dortmund, so I was pleased to pull into the little site for our stop for the night. I just cannot believe how cold it is here. The high wind and the grey sky are about as cheery as the frosty countenance of the receptionist here. Just as well we can keep smiling.
22nd /06/2018 Nieuwpoort, Belgium.
Today, the sun is out but the wind hasn’t abated. We have only 81miles to do today so we took a nice easy drive to this small town which lies right on the North Sea coast, and close to the French border. Our drive tomorrow will be only 48miles all down the coast road to get us to the Eurotunnel, Calais. We took a walk to the sea front and looking at the roughness of the sea I was very pleased that we had chosen to use the tunnel and not one of the ferry routes to get back home.
The beach here is amazing but you would have to be a hardy soul to sit on the beach today. We did watch a few groups trying to launch some rubber dinghies into the surf, but the incoming waves were much too strong.
23rd /06/2018 Calais, France
We arrived at Carrefour’s car park to wait for our train ride under the English Channel. We parked in an area set aside for motorhomes and there was a constant flow of vans, in and out, all day and night. The whole area around all the channel tunnel complex is surrounded by high, very secure looking, fencing topped with razor wire. We saw no sign anybody trying to find their way into Britain by breaking into vehicles. It all appeared very safe and secure.
We spent quite a few hours wandering around the huge, two level shopping complex and saw people with large trollies, laden mainly with alcohol, going back to their vehicles. We found that we could buy a good quality, French Merlot wine for the equivalent of £1 a bottle so we went to get a trolley of our own.
We would have an early start, so we settled down for an early night. No such luck! A group started playing very close to where we were parked, and they were just the opening performers at a full on, rock concert. If that wasn’t bad enough an accompanying firework display started just before midnight and that went on for a full 20 minutes. So much for our early night.
Our time for boarding was 08.50 and we were amazed just how easy it all was. We were waved through the French border control and the English customs officer just looked at our passports and asked “are there just the two of you?” Above us, machines scanned our vehicle to make sure we weren’t bringing in any extra passengers. As we were early we were sent to a holding carpark until it was time for our train. Of course, we had to wait right by Eurotunnel’s own “duty free shop” but it was nowhere near as cheap in the Carrefour store. Even the coffee was over-priced.
Our crossing was called and in no time we were driving up the train carriage to stop right behind the vehicle in front of us. 35 minutes later, we were driving off the train and because of the time difference, we effectively arrived in England before we left France. The road off the train took us straight onto the M20 without any delays and we were home, here in Amesbury, at 10.45 am. A great trip over for another year.
A summary of our 2017-2018 tour.
By the time you read this we will be home in Amesbury. We left home on the 3rd October last year and have added, in total, 8137 to the mileage on the van. We have been in 14 different countries and have crossed 18 borders. The new countries we have visited are Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Poland and we will definitely be returning to these countries. They have been a revelation and there is so much more to see there.
We have driven on motorways and on roads so narrow, we just drive hoping no one is coming the other way. I will laugh when someone complains about potholes on English roads. We have driven on roads so bad that that I am surprised that our teeth haven’t shaken loose. I have driven through many large cities without any problems until now. The new satnav we bought especially for the trip decided it didn’t know where it was whenever we went under the over-head wires on tramways and whenever it wanted a rest, it would just turn itself off. How that particular machine hasn’t been thrown out of the window, I will never know.
We have met some amazing people from all different nationalities. We have met up with our Australian friends, Brian and Wendy, and have travelled with them for many miles, and have hired cars together to travel to places not suitable for our motorhomes. We have helped each other overcome small problems with our motorhomes when they occurred. How great was it when we met this pair in Croatia on our last trip?
We have eaten out a lot more this tour and Elaine has added some new recipes and food ideas to her food preparation repertoire. For instance. for breakfast, Elaine will now do fruit in a bowl, covered in plain yoghurt with a good layer of runny honey. We were first given this after a Greek meal and now it has become a regular treat.
I just love doing the blog which I started on our initial European tour, just to let the family know what we were doing and where we were. This trip in the 18 blogs I have written just over 35,000 words and WordPress tells me that it has been read in the following countries this year UK, USA, Greece, Norway, Poland, Morocco, Spain, Romania, Portugal, France, Bulgaria, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, Philippines, Australia, Thailand, South Africa, Vietnam, United Arab Emirates, Germany, Russia, Netherlands, Italy, Japan, Croatia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Sweden and Indonesia. I just wish my old junior school English teacher was still alive. I would have sent her the blogs and a copy of my school report that she wrote at the time.
Travelling like this wouldn’t be possible for us without the technology that enables us to keep in to keep in touch with those important in our lives. My first thank you I have to give, is to Elaine. Her organizational skills have been amazing. I tell everyone, I am just the driver, and the Toilet Wallah and Elaine has plotted our course throughout this journey and is the perfect quartermaster. She is the brains of the outfit. My second thank you goes to the family. None of you have made us feel guilty about being away so much and doing our own thing and thank you Lynsey for handling our post so expertly. Special thanks go to Steve, our next-door neighbour. How you have looked after our house etc. is greatly appreciated and Elaine and I, both know that you have taken neighbourliness to another level. Thank you, Steve. Finally, I want to thank anyone who has read my blogs, especially to anyone that has read all 18. For you I say thank you for your perseverance and your endurance.