From Bad to Wurst

Sunday 22nd April, Donauworth, Bavaria
The only place in Molsheim that was open and selling wine was in the full blast of the afternoon sun. So we opted for ice creams on the cool terrace of the tea room opposite instead. Here our ices melted so quickly we both got our clothes smothered in chocolate ice cream and had to do some basic washing in the sink when we got back to the campsite.

Hotel de Ville and main square, Molsheim, Alsace

Town Gate, Molsheim, Alsace

Before picking up our onward route into Germany Ian persuaded me to drive along the road beside the railway line so that he could photograph the iron foundry of Victor Heinrich of Molsheim (VHM) which produces many of the manhole covers to be seen around Britain as well as right across France and into Germany.

Manhole Foundry, Molsheim, Alsace

Manhole Foundry, Molsheim, Alsace

The arterial roads around Molsheim and on towards Strassbourg were teaming with vehicles and diversions and we became completely tangled up with the traffic. The roads had all been renumbered from Ian’s map and eventually we cut out of the main routes and found our way across country crossing so quietly into Germany we hadn’t realised when we’d left France.

The weather was scorching hot all day and has continued to be well up into the 30s ever since. It makes driving and camping a nightmare when it it too hot to sleep at night and burning hot for driving during the day. We reached Horb am Neckar in the afternoon. Here we found a small cafe where we were served frankfurters with salad and glasses of chilled apple juice. Things have changed since our last visit some years back and we discovered a modern lift designed to take us effortlessly from the lower reaches of the quaint little town where we’d parked Modestine, up to the highter cobbled streets with the pictresque 18th century Rathaus. Horb is a town of pretty half-timbered houses straggles up the side of a rocky hillside with the river Neckar passing down below.

Rathaus with murals 1765, Horb am Neckar, Baden Wűrttemberg

The campsite overlooks the town but it is a long, steep, winding road to reach it, up through pasture land strewn with myriads of dandelions in full flower and fields of oilseed rape. Ian left me exhausted on a shady bench while he went off to seek out the route up to the campsite. As I sat, almost asleep from the heat, I was joined by a local lady eager to chat with somebody. She told me she lived in the village and liked to chat. Seeing me on my own she thought that unaccompanied ladies usually enjoyed a chat so would I shift up to make space for her to join me! I was rather pleased I seemed to have understood her and told her that I was sorry but I did not really speak German as I was English. She said of course I spoke German, I was talking to her wasn’t I? I conceded I did seem to be communicating and by the time Ian returned we’d already worked out the way we needed to take for the campsite. Arriving at the site, high above the town, we begged for a pitch with shade and spent the rest of the afternoon sheltering beneath the hedge waiting for it to cool down enough to prepare supper and take a cold shower.

This morning we were up by 6.30am as it was already far too warm. Using the minor roads we made our way slowly across country. Driving was generally fine but if and when I made the slightest error I was hooted loudly by drivers of open-top BMWs overtaking me!

We reached the very pleasant little town of Lauingen by lunchtime and actually found some shade to park Modestine before we walked into the centre of the old town where there were several cafes with tables set out on the town square serving drinks, ice creams and kuchen. To one side was the Rathaus with a statue in front of Albertus Magnus, a German theologian, scholar and scientist born in Lauingen around 1200. We selected the cafe on the shady side of the square and ordered a couple of Apfelschorle and a pizza to share for lunch. Then we walked down to the river where cyclists and young families were gathered at a crowded beer garden on the water’s edge, the children splashing in the river to cool down.

Albertus Magnus, Lauingen, Bavaria

Town Gate, Lauingen, Bavaria

Tower in the main square, Lauigen, Bavaria

We continued driving in the oppressive heat, stopping at Donauworth for a stroll in the town and to cross onto the island in the centre of the river, Insel Reid.

Town gate on Insel Reid, Donauworth, Bavaria

Main street, Donauworth, Bavaria

Baroque font cover, Heiliger-Kreuz-Kirche, Donauworth, Bavaria

Nave, Heiliger-Kreuz-Kirche, Donnauworth, Bavaria

Memorial to printers, Heiliger-Kreuz-Kirche, Donauworth, Bavaria

Baroque Altar, Heiliger-Kreuz-Kirche, Donauworth, Bavaria

We camped for the night near Donauworth, the only site for miles around. It was a strange place set around a bright green lake and appears to be full of unoccupied identical caravans and motor homes. We were told to park beside the hedge and since then we have seen nobody. We sat reading in the shade until it suddenly started raining! Joy of joys! It was however short-lived though the air feels slightly fresher.

Tuesday 24th April, Ingolstadt, Bavaria
Yesterday we drove to Neuburg an der Donau, a delightful Bavarian town gathered around its 16th century renaissance castle at the top of the steep hill on which the town is built. We vaguely recalled visiting the town one evening on a drive out from our friend Anne’s home in Rohrbach but it looked even more beautiful and impressive in daylight. The weather was marginally cooler which made it possible to explore the old town so long as we hugged the shade. The town slept. Apart from us and the lady in the tourist office everyone must have been at home sheltering behind their dark shutters.

Oberes Tor, Neuburg an der Donau 

Provinzialbibliothek, Neuburg an der Donau, Bavaria

Provinzialbibliothek, Neuburg an der Donau, Bavaria

Doorway with Royal Figures, Schloss Neuburg, Neuberg an der Donau, Bavaria

Twinning links, Neuburg an der Donau, Bavaria

We hear so much about German efficiency. They must indeed be so as they rarely seem to be rushing around. They do start earlier but the few shops we found were all closed and nobody seemed to be around to listen with us to the clatter of falling pins in the deserted streets!

In the stunning building that houses the town library we asked if we might see their wonderfully carved baroque bookshelves. We were told by the charming young lady on duty that we would need to be part of a guided tour available only on Wednesdays. We also discovered the library has over 400 incunables! Fancy that! An awesome building with stunning fixtures and all those early printed books in a town few people in Britain have probably heard of. And then when someone asks to see them they are turned away! That’s German efficiency in action!

Baroque shelving, Provizialbibliothek, Neuburg an der Donau, Bavaria

We had great difficulty in finding any shops. The town map ignores their existence and but for the help of the tourist office we’d never have discovered the tiny, ill stocked supermarket where we found a few items to prepare for our supper. There must be commercial districts to all the lovely towns we have visited but they are hidden well away from tourist areas. Our helpful tourist office lady also told us there was a tiny campsite run by the local rowing club and explained how to get there. This was easier than driving back to Donauworth and proved to be so tucked away behind the club on the banks of the river that we had the place to ourselves! It was cool and very pleasant. We both slept right through until 6.30am when we took warm showers ready to start the day before the heat returned.

Schloss Neuburg from the Danube, Bavaria

It was an easy drive to Ingolstadt and we found free parking down beside the river before strolling through parkland to the centre of the old town. With a town map clutched in his hand Ian guided me purposefully around the sites of the city which excels in massive, brick-built gothic churches boasting some of the highest spires in Bavaria. Their interiors though did provide me with cool benches on which to doze while Ian indulged in his latest passion of examining heavy 16th century carved stone funerary monuments. There was also a good sprinkling of Baroque interiors with painted, carved and gilded altars, including one by the Asam brothers, the masters of Bavarian baroque church design during the early 18th century. Eventually even Ian began to feel the need to sustain the inner man and we found a very German looking coffee shop with a polished wood interior away from the glare of the sun where we relaxed with superb coffee and a couple of typical fresh baked German Kuchen.

Reduit Tilly, Ingolstadt, Bavaria

Vainly hoping to find an English newspaper to catch-up on what has been happening back home we called in at the library. Even Germany however has had to make cut-backs and not only do they no longer have the Times, as they used to do, but they have had to open up a little lunch-time cafe to lure people in! A lady who looked as if she would be far more at home assigning classification marks to the library stock served us with chilli con carne and glasses of Apfelschorle, our favourite drink on a hot day, as we ate our lunch surrounded by back issues of Allgemeine Deutsche Zeitung.

Our time in Ingolstadt was delightful but exhausting. We are getting older and the weather is getting hotter. After lunch it was time to explore the town’s collection of 17th century cannons. They were certainly beautiful, lined up in the castle moat and courtyard. They are outstanding works of art, beautifully forged and decorated yet produced purely to kill, destroy and maim.

Cannons, Neues Schloss, Ingolstadt, Bavaria

Cannon, made in Munich in 1593 by Martin Frey, Ingolstadt, Bavaria

Neues Schloss, Ingolstadt, Bavaria

Ickstatthaus, Ingolstadt, Bavaria

Kreuztor, Ingolstadt, Bavaria

Altes Schloss, Ingolstadt, Bavaria

Finally we continued on the town trail to rediscover the museums, most, mercifully closed. The one on the history of medicine I have already dozed off in during our last visit, when Ian wandered off and returned to find me sleeping peacefully beside the skeletal remains of one of the exhibits. By this time even Ian was feeling weary and willingly agreed to my suggestion that we seek out the local campsite and settle Modestine beneath some shady trees. It has been a good, long day. Tomorrow we drive down to Anne in Rohrbach. She has spent today travelling to Switzerland for a meeting. I hope she will be sufficiently recovered by tomorrow to cope with us!

Thursday 26th April, Rohrbach, Bavaria
Yesterday was cooler but just as dry. By 9am we had left Ingolstadt behind and were driving through the huge hop fields of this area, known as the Holledau, where teams of workers were out helping the new shoots appearing from the soil to wind themselves around the poles in the correct direction. Some plantations were also cutting back the surplus tendrils to ensure only one shoot from each perenial root made its way up the seven metre pole. This it achieves at the rate of around 10cm per day. As far as we could see there were thousands and thousands of poles, each one requiring assistance to get started! The workers must have been even more grateful than me that the weather had turned cooler.

We also passed through fields of Spargel. This again is a basic crop of the area at this time of the year. Green or white. It is considered a special treat by both the French and Germans. It’s okay but does lead to rather smelly urine.

We stopped in the main street to fill up with diesel. Much cheaper here than in France or England. Then we made our way to Anne’s house. Rohrbach has grown enormously over the years that Anne and Ray have lived here but we found our way to the house without any difficulty.

Soon we were sitting on the terrace in the sunshine until driven inside by the gusts of a stiff, chill breeze. We chatted most of the morning, mainly with fond memories of Ray and his gentle eccentricities. He was one of the town’s distinguished residents and will be greatly missed, not only by his family but by many of the residents of the town to say nothing of the loss to Astrophysics.

After lunch we drove with Anne up to the stables where her horse Norman loafs around in the huge meadow with a dozen of his cronies eating bright yellow dandelions and rolling around in the dust and dried horse manure. The sight of a sugar lump soon had him captured and he accompanied us back to the stable where Anne groomed him, removing much of his remaining shaggy winter coat amidst clouds of dust. Soon he was gleaming and even his main was untangled. He was perfectly happy not to be ridden and eagerly returned to the field to make sure he wasn’t missing out on his fair share of dandelions. On our last visit Anne also had Hal, her first horse. Unfortunately he had a bad fall a year or two back and shattered his hip so badly he had to be put-down. This was sad news and we recalled how patient he was as Anne led him around the stable yard carrying a petrified Ian as he tried to learn to ride – or at least not fall off when Hal bent his neck forwards to munch the grass, stoically ignoring Ian’s gentle kicks in his ribs and Anne being fierce with him.

Anne grooming Norman, Rohrbach, Bavaria

Leaving the dozen horses in the safe care of the stable cat we set off for a stroll through the hop fields. Here, between the hops, a crop of colza has been planted, making double use of the ground. We needed the exercise of a walk and puffed our way up the hillside as we skirted the plantations. The breeze and a few clouds made the walk comfortable for us.

For supper we decided to go to the very pleasant Italian restaurant in the village. We arrived to find it closed. There are not a surfeit of restaurants in such a small town and Anne only knew of one other. It turned out to be far nicer than it appeared from outside and we spent a very pleasant evening enjoying lasagna with local beer until we eventually left around 10pm. Back home we slept wonderfully. It is good to spend a night or two in a real bed with a bathroom of our own rather than tramping across a field in the dark and sharing facilities with the entire campsite!

This morning I received a message from Charlotte to say she was back home in Munich and could we manage to visit her before we moved right out of the area. Anne has paperwork to attend to tomorrow so was glad to get us out from under her feet for the day. We walked down to the station to check out tickets and costs. There were three people ahead of us in the queue. It took forty minutes for us to be seen and sold the appropriate ticket which, for some reason, we needed to sign for! The journey takes thirty minutes and cost us 33 euros on a ticket valid for five people! It was, we were assured, the cheapest way to Munich.

Back home Anne had returned from giving an English lesson to one of her Syrian refugee students. With no other commitments for the day she suggested we visit the Celtic/Roman museum in nearby Manching. This proved to be really good. A magnificent building has been constructed to house the collection of artifacts found on the site. Today there were very few visitors and whilst it was excellently signed in German I decided to be lazy and paid for an audio guide in English. It was well worth it, giving me far more information and making the Celts in particular appear as real people, skilled in so very many ways – fighters and warriors of course, but also showing that they were skilled craftsmen, able to cast metal, produce weapons, jewellery, utensils, coins, glass and ceramic vessels. They were able to weave fabric and stitch using large needles produced from animal bone and deer antlers. There were burial chambers and water wells, iron was easily obtainable from just beneath the surface and known as bog iron, used for weapons and tools. Many of the latter looked very similar to those still in use today and their purpose was easily identifiable. Rituals and customs were revealed, food and diet explained. Ornaments, cooking pots, barrels, amphorae, all were created in this Celtic/Roman city. Later the Celts disappeared and the area was eventually populated by the Romans with their different culture, religious beliefs and customs.

Roman shipwrecks, Kelten-Römer-Museum, Manching, Bavaria

Roman silver hoard, Kelten-Römer-Museum, Manching, Bavaria

Both cultures traded widely and there was evidence of this with coins, ceramics and weapons from other parts of the Roman Empire. They built timber-framed houses, used joints and wooden dowels and even designed and constructed ships for river transport.

By the time we eventually left it was too late for lunch so we stopped in the town for coffee and a snack before driving to Anne’s favourite Spargel farm where she is friendly with the owner who is also a sculptor and potter. Clean out of green asparagus but we were assured that the recipe Anne planned would work with the larger and thicker white Spargel. As I write there are sounds coming from Anne’s kitchen so I must away now for my initiation in Spargel peeling.

Tuesday 1st May, Weimar
Such a hectic few days with so many things happening. Where to start?

That evening we made contact with Charlotte who was back home in Munich going stir crazy on her own and wanting company. We told her we’d be down next morning and I’d take in filled rolls for lunch. She though had other ideas and when we arrived we found her perched on her kitchen stool producing a meat based Flammkuchen. This we ate together with Bavarian beer and salad while Charlotte told us of her ordeal in hospital. She is slowly improving and once her spine has healed over she will go off for rehabilitation in a spa somewhere. Later she will need her hips replaced to match her knees. Soon she will become Bionic Woman with her titanium joints, poor Love! She is determined however and will certainly succeed in getting back on her feet though it is cramping her travel plans for this summer. She won’t be up to making it to England as we’d all hoped.

With Charlotte following her serious operation, back home in Munich, Bavaria

With Charlotte giving us orders from the top of the stairs we went down into her basement to sort out her washing machine and hang the clean washing on lines to dry. We also emptied the dish-washer, filled the cupboard shelves and generally did as instructed as we spent a very happy afternoon with a friend we have known since she arrived as a young au pair in south London back in the 1960s. Too soon the time passed and we bid Charlotte farewell and returned to Munich’s main station for the train back to Rohrbach. We arrived home around 6pm and after a quick shower – the weather had been very hot again – while Anne gave a pre-arranged guided tour of Wolnzac Hop museum, we left with her to meet with a group of English ex-pats for their regular monthly meeting together for a meal out. They take it in turns to organise the evening. This time it was in an Indian restaurant and there were about a dozen British residents who have been meeting for some forty years, though the individuals come and go over the years. We were very intrigued at the different reasons they had for being long-term residents in Germany and the chances of fortune that brought them all to this part of Bavaria.

This was our last night with Anne. Next morning we packed Modestine and before we left Anne drove us down to the town cemetery to show us the peaceful setting where Ray now rests in a pretty, leafy corner. Ray was a charismatic, charmingly eccentric character and we imagine him sitting, rather like the Petit Prince, on the asteroid that bears his name looking cheerfully down on us all.

Ray’s temporary memorial at his tranquil resting place, Rohrbach, Bavaria

We were with Anne for just three nights but we did so many different things it seems far longer. We drove northwards and soon found ourselves in the Altmuhltal where we stopped to enjoy the atmosphere of the little village of Kinding, a delightful and popular place for weekend lunch at the village inn. Nearby was the village church and a small stream passing through the village had plenty of fish swimming below the little bridge. It was in this area of Jurassic limestone that Alois Senefelder discovered the use of limestone to produce printing blocks and thus invented lithography.

Fortified church, Kinding, Bavaria

We continued through this delightful area and by evening we found ourselves camped on a very pleasant site at the edge of a village which we explored the following day. This took us on a very hot walk across the fields and steeply up into the centre of the old town where the village band, in their Bavarian costumes, were all sitting on the terrace of the local hostelry with their musical instruments, waiting to lead the village parade once the Sunday service finished and they had their full quota of members.

On the wall of the church was a plaque commemorating the bravery of a member of the community who had opposed the Nazi regime and suffered the inevitable consequences.

As we continued northwards we discussed plans for our onward travel. The roads were good and fortunately not crowded with traffic. Germans drive quite fast and rely heavily on their breaks rather than their gears. Needing to break on a curve I was horrified when the brake failed to respond! I managed to hold the road and fortunately for us there was a level, straight road with nothing immediately ahead of me. We slowed down and I managed to bring Modestine to a halt beside the main road. Obviously we couldn’t sit there all day. So with hazard light flashing we crawled along using the gears to control the car and turned off down the first side road we came to. It led to a small village with a garage on the outskirts. I simply turned into the garage and stopped on the forecourt. And there we remained for the next 20+ hours!

It was Sunday and nobody does anything in Bavarian villages on Sundays except go to church. We were not near the church and the place was deserted. Eventually we pulled ourselves together sufficiently to phone our insurance in England and seek advice. They sent us around from one department to the other complete with piped music while I became increasingly agitated on my “Pay as you Go” phone. I was told I needed to keep the phone switched on. Yet another worry with no access to electricity to recharge it!

The garage was open for fuel and had a tiny shop and a toilet. We asked if we could use the toilet as we were broken down and stuck indefinitely awaiting rescue. We were told it was for customers only. We ordered a coffee while taking it in turns to use the facility but feeling they were rather mean to charge us a euro each time unless we bought something from the shop. Eventually the lady on duty discovered a packet of vouchers offering “buy one get one free” for coffees and gave us a batch. In the end we were there for 24 hours waiting for a rescue to be organised! We slept on the garage forecourt and once the shop closed we were left without even a toilet until the following day!

Meanwhile, having eventually been informed that we would be rescued next morning we turned off our phone and walked down into the village in search of food as everything we had on board needed Remoska to cook it for us. Without electricity we’d soon consumed everything we had that was edible cold or raw.

Nothing at all was happening in the village. It was pretty much deserted throughout the afternoon. The unlocked church offered us a haven of cool and we dozed on the cushioned benches beneath the altar overlooked by 16th century tombstones of the Bavarian aristocracy.

A cool haven for stranded travellers on a hot day. Monastic church, Sonnefeld

Votive image, 1569, Monastic Church, Sonnefeld

Choir, Monastic Church, Sonnefeld

Crossing to the silent pub we found a bar with someone on duty but no customers. We asked if they could provide anything to eat. Impossible! The best they could do was sell us a couple of glasses of apple juice and the use of the toilet. My feet had blistered walking down from the garage in the heat and we both felt hot and exhausted and pretty fed up by the time we’d walked back to Modestine standing forlornly on the garage forecourt amidst the smart new Opel cars on sale. Eventually the lady in the garage shop came to tell us she was off home now. She then gave us a paper bag filled with the cakes that had not been sold at the till during the day. FOOD! We ate them all with gusto! They were typical garage food, doughnuts with chocolate on and croissants with cheese inside. However we were touched by her change of heart and her sympathy. She turned out to be very kind and at least we had something to stop our tummies rumbling.

Next morning the garage opened at 6.30am. Word had got back to the management that the Brits were occupying the forecourt. Coffee was provided and the toilet made freely available. We’d been assured by our insurance that we’d been collected and taken to a citroen garage at 7am. At 8 I rang the road rescue in Britain who informed me garages were not yet open in Germany and it would take time to find anywhere willing to help this Monday as the following day was a national holiday and many garages were not opening at all over the long weekend. We explained Germany was an hour ahead of Britain not an hour behind and the one we were at had been open for nearly two hours already. Unfortunately they were not able to help us with a 21 year old camper van as they had none of the tools or expertise to deal with her. They were really Opal salesmen.

Our insurance eventually found a garage willing to look at her some twenty miles away and the German road-rescue service ADAC turned up and loaded Modestine onto a trailer, rescued us and drove us to the town of Kronach.

Rescue! Sonnefeld

Rescue! Sonnefeld

When we arrived Modestine was unloaded and the rescue lorry drove away. In the garage they told us they were fully booked today, and tomorrow was a public holiday so they couldn’t do anything until Wednesday!! Our despair was evident! The boss rang a friend from another garage who offered to assess what was needed. We spent the day with them as they stripped Modestine of her wheels and left her dangling on a ramp while they sent us off into town in search of food. Many hours later, after we’d returned and been taken into their own home behind the shop and offered tea and friendly comfort, and been introduced to all three generations of the family, several of whom were working on Modestine’s brakes, they announced they’d finally got her road worthy again! They were a delightful family and were unbelievably kind to us. It cost us over 400 euros but it was about what I expected and meantime I had an afternoon of intensive German conversation where I discovered I knew far more German than I ever realised. Ian was rather stretched at times when his understanding of classical German and his knowledge of the writings of the poets of Germany’s Age of Enlightenment did not always provide the vocabulary he needed for discussions about brake shoes, wheel bearings and hubcaps.

However, Modestine was well again and we could move on to Weimar, to this camp site with its wonderful hot showers and electric hookup! We slept like logs and this morning were none the worse for our adventure. I am though, cross with the pig’s ear our road rescue service provided and for which I pay around £130 annually to ensure emergency help in Europe.

The essential is that we are fine and none the worse for our adventure.