Devon – near Exeter
St Austell – Cornwall
Bavaria – Germany
It is half term week and we decided to take a short trip away with family ( my ex-sister in law Bridget but more like a sister and her husband Nick and daughter Isla) to a lovely small site just 5 minutes from Exeter but in the beautiful countryside of Woodbury Salterton.
We arrived on Sunday rather late after yet more problems with our heating boiler, set up and then walked to the village to blow the cobwebs out.
We stopped at the Diggers Rest pub for a much needed pint! This is a great pub, really traditional with a wide long bar, open log fire and even better it welcomes dogs. Half of the pub has a wooden floor which we and the dogs could sit in and the other has carpet which the dogs cannot go in – simple. You know exactly where you can go with the dogs, a sign outside the pub tells you this in plain English and they even got a dog treat or two from the owner. Marc had the local beer ‘Otter Ale’ which is delicious and a favourite of his and I had the local stout (yes I had an alcoholic drink).
Next day we went to Otter Nurseries in Ottery St Mary and had a good wander around buying plants and then wondering where in the garden we are going to put them!
After our retail therapy at the garden centre we drove to Sidmouth. This is a much bigger sea side town than I expected. We walked along the esplanade with it’s regency architecture and then stopped for an ice-cream. I now it was a cold February day but you cannot go to the seaside without having an ice-cream and with over 30 flavours to choose from it took a while! Isla had bubblegum, I had clotted cream and ginger and Marc had Toffee and Honeycomb, Nick and Bridget chose to have a drink instead. We wandered into the town which had many high end shops – expensive to ‘you and me’ with a jewellery shop every other building. One had paper weights from £400 to £2,000!!!! We just stuck with the bread, fruit and veg and a couple of bargains in the charity shop with everything a £1.
That night we went back to the Diggers Rest and had a delicious three course meal:
Garlic Mushrooms, Devon figs or soup
Steak and Chips – Macaroni cheese for Isla
and Banoffee cheesecake or creme brulee
The food was wonderful and you could have cut the steak with a butter knife it was so tender.
On Tuesday we awoke to rain – the really heavy stuff that gets you soaked. We drove to Burnham Nurseries – an Orchid specialist nursery as it is the only houseplant that I haven’t managed to kill and they are beautiful. I can grow stuff outdoors and tend an allotment but house plants just don’t normally like me. I bought a cheap orchid at Ikea and since then amassed three more so I really wanted to look at some ‘proper’ ones. The nursery has three really big areas to explore and their own museum section that costs £2.50 to enter that houses their competition plants and the plants they take all their stock from. The great thing about orchids is the variety – over 30,000 different species which means that something is always in flower. I couldn’t resist the blue orchid and whilst it will take a little more looking after and was a bit expensive it will provide me with a challenge to ‘keep it alive’. We also chose a spider orchid which will flower within the next 6 months.
We then called into Trago Mills a large discount store that is over several acres and I bought a solar powered water feature – we just need some sun now!
After having a pork and apricot casserole for dinner together as a family in Boris – not quite the same presentation as the Diggers Rest the previous night but still delicious it was time to head home the next morning.
St Austell – Cornwall
My sister in law Bridget and family invited Marc and I to join them on their trip to Cornwall.
Even though it is near to us, Cornwall is not somewhere I have travelled much; when the children were small we took them on holiday to Cornwall twice and it rained all week both times putting me off completely.
So after a little deliberation I decided to bite the bullet and go anyway and so off on convoy we set, Boris setting the pace and Nick and Bridget behind in their car and caravan.
We stayed at a CL called Saffron Park somewhere Nick and Bridget had been before, although set just off the A30 and being a little noisy from the traffic it was ideally placed for us and as we were out most of the day the noise didn’t matter to us.
We arrived on Sunday and after a quick lunch we set off in Nick’s car to a beach at Portbean where the dogs could have a run around. It is only a dog friendly beach until Easter Sunday at which point a ban is in place.
The beach is small but ideally placed not far from St Austell. There is a car park above the beach which charges only £3 for all day parking. When we arrived at 4pm in the afternoon many people were packing up and going home. There is a small cafe which sells a selection of drinks and snacks along with many of the beach necessities like fishing nets and buckets and spades.
Marc and I enjoyed an ice-cream whilst the dogs played in the sea (well Freddie).
Next we set off to Charlestown home of the tall ships and Poldark. This is a beautiful harbour village with views across the bay. Unfortunately we didn’t see Aidan Turner (sorry Larissa) but the views were still worth looking at!
The next day we set off to St Ives somewhere I have not been before. We parked in the park and ride car park above the town and took the bus down the very steep streets towards the town. This is another beautiful place with beaches aplenty some of which the dogs could have gone on if we had brought them. We had a lovely walk around the harbour taking in the views which were wonderful with the tide out showing off all the fishing boats on their lines. Of course whilst in Cornwall we needed to taste some Cornish Pasties which were delicious from the shop of Philps. We also had a coffee on the harbourside before getting the bus back to the top of the hill.
Next we set off to Mousehole home to the volunteers of the Penlee Lifeboat Crew – Bridget bought a book detailing the events of the disaster in 1981 which was very well written and I couldn’t put it down when I borrowed it the next evening.
Next Porthleven driving past St Micheals Mount (a trip for another time) where we had a very enjoyable cream tea.
Tuesday we awoke to glorious sunshine and the wind had dropped making it a very warm day.
After a lazy start to the day we went to The Lost Gardens of Heligan. It was beautiful with many rhododendrons and azaleas in flower. The gardens are over several levels and at the bottom of this once large estate is a jungle area with many tropical plants, ponds and a Himalayan rope bridge! We had a fantastic day and only explored a portion of this vast garden. Our only tip is to pack your own food and drink and the prices are eye watering.
Being just 1 mile from the gardens we then drove to Mevagissey for fish and chip supper, the perfect end to a short break.
Bavaria – Germany
Well we left England very early on Sunday morning (3.30am) when Marc got in from work and had an easy journey down to Eurotunnel arriving at 9ish (in other words I have slept since then and can’t remember). The brilliant Eurotunnel check-in machine asked if we wanted to take an earlier crossing – of course we do and off we set to country No 2 France, after driving in France and then Belgium and Holland we arrived in Germany within 24 hours of leaving England. (5 countries in 24 hours!) We did stop at Genk in Belgium overnight and we certainly needed our sleep and went to bed at 8 o’clock or 7 in English time!
We arrived at our first stop, a stellplatze at Randersacker just south of Wurzburg and ……. well it just didn’t feel right. The description was that it was a vineyard but it turned to be behind a warehouse and so we decided to go to a campsite in the ACSI book a few miles further down the road.
We had originally chosen the stellplatze at it was only a 6km bike ride in Wurzburg the place I wanted to visit – now it was going to be more like 20km – ONE WAY, so I went to bed early again at 8 o’clock to recharge my batteries ready for the trek the next day.
We are currently staying at an ACSI site in a small village called Frickenhausen just south of Wurzburg called Knaus Camping. It is situated right on the river Main which we can just about see through the trees lining the banks of the river. Many barges pass by but as their is an island in the middle of the river we can’t see them very well – never mind it is a really pleasant site with a very friendly, chatty and amusing owner (so some Germans have a sense of humour, dry but funny much like me).
The bridge over the river next to the site has been knocked down and a new one is being built which according to the owner might get finished in two years time or maybe longer so that we can’t realistically get a bus into Wurzburg and apparently it really isn’t the place to take Boris. We are advised that the cycle into the city is beautiful as there is a tarmacked cycle path all along the whole length of the river.
Just as we were about to leave on our bikes whilst Marc was locking up the van I noticed a blue tit go into a small hole in the electricity bollard next to us with a beak full of worms/bugs, he then popped back out, fly into the trees and came back with more. I managed to motion to Marc what was going on and the result is this………..
I don’t know why but every year I do this, usually in March/April; I get up and the sun is shining and on go my summer clothes – what a mistake, it bxxxxx cold!! Halfway to Wurzburg and for the rest of the day I am freezing, you would think that by my age I would have learnt by now and to add insult to injury all the other cyclists on the path were in their lycra with a woolly hat and scarfs up around their faces like a cyclists version of a burka. What on earth Larissa will say when she sees what I was wearing I dread to think.
The cycle along the river was in fact beautiful and we were amazed by how many birds there were and the lovely constant song. We were treated to a barge being loaded with sand…..
After some 12.5 miles we arrived in Wurzburg – a bit of a trek for our first time out on the bikes this year and something we will probably pay for later. After a very nice coffee to warm us up we set off for The Residenz.
We had parked our bikes on the river front with views of the Marienberg Fortress.
We then wandered through the old town, past the trams (lovely to see), the old university buildings and a very minimalist but beautiful church.
We then arrived at The Residenz. This is the former palace for the prince-bishops taking 60 years to complete starting in 1720 and finished in 1780 it is a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the most important baroque palaces in Europe. Bavaria is full of palaces and castles and there are many on my list to visit during this break, the costs for all these soon add up and so I was really pleased to find out that the company that owns them have a scheme where you can buy either a 14 day or annual ticket for a much reduced cost. As we are here for a month that meant an annual ticket – a family ticket covers both of us and at €60 euros is a bargain compared to the price of the individual tickets it would have cost 15 euros for this and 12 for the fortress later on and that’s just today’s places.
We were a little put out that photos are not allowed, and we had to put our bags in a locker. However when we went into the first room there were many people sneaking out their small cameras and taking photos and as I had packed my little camera Marc went back to the locker room to get it! Yes we were very naughty.
The first room was very large and looked out over the beautiful gardens and aptly called the Garden Hall has some stunning ceiling frescos shown below:
From here was the Vestibule Hall which is currently undergoing restoration and so covered in scaffolding. This then led to an apparent world-famous staircase designed by Balthasar Neumann with an unsupported vaulted roof with is covered by a fresco measuring 18 x 30 metres by Tiepolo and is one of the largest ever created. It was certainly stunning.
The pictures aren’t as clear with my little camera but I hope you get the feel of the beauty.
The tour continues from room to room with beautiful tapestries, silk wallpaper and the most amazing marketree and woodwork.
Before leaving the interior behind we were treated to the truly sumptuous church, full of marble, gold leaf and lace – it was jaw dropping in its richness.
Once outside we could take as many photos as we like as we wandered around the beautiful gardens which are open all year and free.
Making our way back to the waterfront we passed many more beautiful building with great architecture and the cathedrals and churches. We then crossed the river to climb up the steep hill to the fortress.
The Marienberg Fortress dates from the 8th Century and extended in the Middle Ages. Unfortunately many areas of the inner courtyard had scaffolding around the buildings. We went into the museum but the only bit that interested me was the bishops robe area which had very intricate extensive embroidery. There were many paintings but it is not an area I know anything about or have much interest in.
The views from the fortress however made up for the disappointment.
The next photo shows just how far we need to cycle back as you can see the motorway bridge in the distance which is our half-way point back to the campsite.
After some refreshments it was time to head back to the bikes and ironically as we passed over the bridge we seen the barge that we had seen in the morning being loaded with sand passing through the lock!
Yes that Dachau! We left Wurzburg this morning (Thursday) and travel some 350km towards Munich. We arrived at lunch time as we left at 7am!! The campsite we have chosen Camping Ampersee is wedged between two lakes and is small and it is a family that owns and runs it along with a restaurant on the lakeside. We were made instantly welcome and information regarding Dachau and trains to Munich soon handed over along with a wealth of advice.
After lunch we decided to cycle the 6km to Dachau to visit the memorial grounds of the former concentration camp. I must admit I didn’t expect it to be so big, I had an impression that most of it would have been built on or bulldozed over as one of the lesser known camps but I was in for a very big surprise.
The road that the former prisoners were made to walk from the train station is now a walkway for you to explore and contemplate, the road way outside the main wire of the camp is full of information boards, and facilities such as a cafe and toilets. To visit Dachau is free, though we could have paid for an English guided tour if we had got to the site in time (which we didn’t as I got us lost again).
The first thing we encountered was the gate with the words that translate to “Work makes you Free”.
Stepping through the gates a shudder ran down our spines and stayed with us for the duration of the whole visit, it was very un-nerving. Straight in front of us was the parade ground or the area that the prisoners had to report to morning and night for roll call. To the right of us was the Maintenance Building.
This is now the museum and there is so much information inside that by the end of the tour I was exhausted.
Firstly I had no idea how way before the war the camp was used for those in opposition of the Nazi party. Hitler only came into power because after the 1st World War the country was new to the election process and there were so many parties to choose from that the electorate failed to elect a party with a majority vote. It was decided (I can’t remember who decided) that the country be placed under Emergency Measures and the military were put in charge. Someone suggested that Hitler be the Chancellor in 1932 and within a year he had converted Dachau munitions factory into a concentration camp putting those in opposition to him in the camp! He then very quickly passed several laws that forbade the Jewish population from working in many of the jobs e.g. banks, civil service etc. At the same time he started to ’round up’ those who were unable to work – disabled and mentally ill people were placed in another concentration camp at Linzt and euthanized – all this before the war even started.
Just before the war started he released many of the political prisoners and there are accounts of two Jewish men managing to escape to China and the USA just before war broke out.
In 1939 new prisoners were inturred mainly any foreigners and Jews and they were made to work building new barracks and expanding the camp. Those who couldnt work were killed, it became such a problem that they then built a crematorium to dispose of the bodies.
The museum was fascinating as well as harrowing – I had no idea there were so many camps. One of the first things we encountered was a map showing the exact number and the categories: Concentration camp, Killing Camp, Euthanasia Camp, Youth Re-training camp the list was almost endless.
The body responsible for the memorial have done an amazing job of presenting the information with the mantra “Never Again”. There is an apt sculpture just outside the Maintenance Building of broken bodies.
One of the barracks has been rebuilt/reconstructed to represent the conditions showing the very small wooden bunks and the very inadequate toilet and washing facilities. The prisoners were expected to get up, made their beds, have the very little breakfast that was provided and wash and carry out all their toiletry needs within an impossible time scale and be ready on the parade ground to work.
The next picture shows the scale of the complex as you can see some raised areas which outline the individual barracks and this is only half of the area in the photo.
We both came out of Dachau with a deep, deep sadness and tears in our eyes, I cannot really describe how it made me feel, it was like someone had ripped out my soul, stamped on it and put it back. It is not somewhere I ever want to visit again, it left a truly black mark on my soul that humanity could do such terrible things to another human being and on such a horrific scale. I do however think that everyone should visit one of the former concentration camps especially the younger generation because I think it would really benefit their thinking.
Schloss Nymphenburg – Munich
After our very sobering afternoon at Dachau, the next day we cycled the 3km to Olching to catch the train into Munich. The German public transport system is far superior to ours. There is a cycle track all the way to the train station, plenty of bike parking spaces/racks, a ticket machine where you can select the language. We chose a group saver ticket as it worked out cheaper than 2 individual adult ones, it included transport on the train, underground and tram over the two zones (one in Munich and the other where we were staying) for €15.90. Once in Munich some 20 minutes ride away we took the underground to Rotkruzplatz and then the tram to Schloss Nymphenburg all courtesy of the tram and train/underground map provided to us by the owner of the campsite. It was simple to understand and we were soon looking upon the splendour of the Palace.
It was built by Elector (king) Ferdinand Maria to celebrate the birth of his son. This was just his summer residence! It was began in 1664 and is included in our Bavarian Palace card. We were allowed to take photos here as long as we didnt use the flash and the first room we walked into “The Great Hall” was awash with gold!
What followed was a short tour of some of the restored appartments but what will always remain with me was the impact of the great hall when first entering the building.
Outside is the Palace Park which is open to the public and spans a vast area, we walked to the individual palaces in the garden. Whereas you and I might be lucky to have a summer house in a corner of the garden the wealthy of that era had a palace built in the garden (which is actually a park) or in this case 4!
Some of the garden is formal with fountains and a canal which you could pay €15 each for a short trip (needless to say we weren’t paying that).
The first palace in the park was Magdalenenklause. This is a ramshackle of a place and was built deliberately in the style of a ruin – I would have sacked the architect if he had shown me the plans. Inside it is a church with shells and pebbles decorating the whole of the inside resembling a ghrotto.
A further wander around the park
and we came to my favourite of the palaces Pagodenburg. This palace is covered on the inside in blue and white and was truly beautiful, it has and upstairs area in case you got tired from playing croquet with a chaise longue.
After a further wander into the park we came across Badenburg Palace with its very old and valuable chinese wallpaper, a sunken pool and some cheeky monkeys (see if you can spot them)
We didn’t explore the whole park as it is very large and as we wandered back towards the main palace we took in some more lovely scenes.
Marc had said whilst we were walking in the park that he wanted a beer. He doesn’t usually drink beer but he fancied a German/Bavarian beer. We looked at the prices in the Palace cafe but they were an ouch and as we walked back towards the tram stop I spotted a beer garden and in we went. We had a wonderful lunch – so simple yet delicious. It was boiled potatoes with parsley, spinach cooked in a cream and topped with fried eggs – it was divine.
After our successful trip into Munich on Friday we decided to catch the train again on Saturday so that we could visit The Residenz.
However like in Britain certain sections of the railway were closed for maintenance over the weekend. Being completely oblivious to this we set off as usual only realising that there was a problem when the train stopped 5 junctions short of the Haupbanhof (central Munich station) saying it was the end of the line! We hadn’t understood the public announcements because it was all in German so got off and looked for a person who told us why and which train to then catch to get us the rest of the way. This was going to be the tone for the rest of our visit as once we got off the underground connection to the Residenz which is a massive building we couldn’t find the way in – again due to renovation work going on and it being moved!
This was the political and cultural centre of the first dukes and then the kings of Bavaria. This was the house of the ruling dynasty of the Wittelbachs family.
It must have been fashionable at some time in the past for the aristocracy as the first room we entered was the Grotto.
The next room was amazing however ‘The Antiquarium’ was used for banqueting and you could see why.
The next major room after we eventually found the correct way around the palace was the Ancestral Gallery where one of the Wittelbachs had paintings of all of his ancesters painting on the wall showing their lineage so that anyone who came to the palace had to walk through this hallway and see the reasons why he was King.
Next to this was the treasury room where the king kept his treasures to show off to all his ‘hangers on’ though today it was just full of the dinner set.
Because the palace is undergoing restoration work in one of the wings it was very difficult to navigate. It is usual to follow the arrows but as large sections were closed it didn’t really make sense and you would be confronted with arrows in different directions and not really knowing which way was best. This meant that we may have missed some of the rooms.
One of the strangest rooms and the weirdest thing I have ever come across was the reliqueries room which did have amazing goldsmith work containing bits of bone. The bone was supposedly from former saints and the king had to get permission from the Pope to have them. This room was full of gold cabinets with bits of bone, a hand, a skull or an arm bone in and it is all so valuable that it is now stored in a strongroom in the palace. It was beleived that to have a part of the saints in your possession meant that you had a receptical to god.
Next was the chapel for the ordinary citizens of the court and then the chapel just for the kings use…………..
Gold was in plentiful supply for the Kings of Bavaria, including many gold clocks, a silver clock that was as tall as Marc and I and many beautiful items of furniture inlaid with gold, silver and precious stones.
The rooms were beautiful with lots of sumptious furnishings.
There were also some random items like:
and a lovely example of Chinese Lacquered wear
black mirror polished vases
Silk wallpaper and more gold!
The main treasures of the palace are now stored in a seperate part of the building and a further charge is payable to visit them. With our annual ticket this wasnt a problem and we were treated to many delights, including St George’s reliquary (1586-1597) lots of crowns, swords and orbs, glasswear, ivory and a lovely vanity case.
We didn’t take in any more sites in Munich as we didn’t want to leave the dogs in the van for too long……….. anyway it gives us an excuse to come back another day. The train situation was just as bad on the way back and a journey that would take 20 minutes took nearly an hour with changes and getting information. It was quite amusing that on Friday when the line was fully open there were many members of staff on the platforms and around the concourses to assist but none to be seen on Saturday! Perhaps the German transport system only works when the whole system is in place, once one thing goes wrong the whole thing falls apart.
After the busy last few days we are now in a lovely campsite on the German/Austrian border, in fact we could probably walk into Austria if we so wished. We were going to Passau but I didn’t fancy staying at the stellplatz for any length of time so we have come here and will visit Passau on our way out later in the week.
The site is in the middle of nowhere with forest all around and the owner Ad is very friendly and welcoming. The site has massive pitches , ours is at least 14m in length and when we arrived there was only one other person on the whole site. Now there are 5 of us but we are all in seperate little fields, thats how big it is. The sun is shining and we are going to spend a few days doing nothing – well thats the plan.
Yesterday we walked into Austria – yes Austria. It sounds an amazing feat doesn’t it but as the campsite is only 2km from the border it was quite easy really!
We left the campsite, went through the village and out onto the open road towards Austria, the road was quite busy so we then walked on the path into the forest. Because we were in the forest we didn’t get to see anything but at least in my very sad mind I can say I have been to Austria…………..
We left the lovely site at Gottsdorf on Wednesday and drove down into Passau staying at one of three stellplatz the town has to offer. The one we chose is just off the main road in Passau, next to an underground car park and next to the river Ilz. It is noisy here, but there is a lovely walkway along the river to a beautiful park and a bit of a beach area so the dogs can paddle – just as well as it reached up to 30 degrees here. The only drawback was the paying machine, to stay here is €8.00 which isn’t a problem but the machine only accepts coins or a German EC card, so we had to go to the bakery to get some change.
After setting up and a quick cup of tea we walked into the historic city of Passau.
This is a beautiful city on a promontory at the confluence of three rivers; Danube, Inn and Ilz forming The Mighty Danube. The city was burnt to the ground in 1662 and rebuilt by Italian Baroque master creating a truly Italian looking city.
We took to the water and paid for a river trip which operates daily from a docking opposite the town hall. This is the Danube and it made me very emotional as we set off and they played Strauss’ Blue Danube as it was one of my dad’s favorite pieces of music.
The trip was wonderful, we went past so many of the historic buildings of Passau all in the glorious sunshine and had the back of the boat pretty much to ourselves.
We went upstream to begin with and then once past the church of St Paul we let the current turn the boat around and travelled downstream meeting the river Ilz (where our Boris was) and then turning around the promontory into the River Inn.
At this point we passed the salt tower which is where the salt from the mountains was weighed and loaded on barges. Then we came to the cathedral of St Stephen, before turning round and heading back.
The trip lasted 45 minutes and was worth the €8.70 each that we paid. Once back on land we seen the markings on the wall of the town hall showing how high the water has got during floods and were amazed at how high the water got in 2013. The town hall was a good 5 metres above the water level and just look!
We had a bit of a wander down the narrow medieval back streets, got some groceries and on the way back stopped at a lovely little Biergarten (beer garden) with lots of lovely shade for a Bavarian Beer – well whilst in Rome!
Whilst there we decided to have a traditional Bavarian lunch of sausage, mustard and pretzel. They don’t fry their sausages but put them in hot water to warm through and when you eat them you remove them from their skin. The sausages came in a soup turin with water in and the pretzels had just come out of the oven, it was delicious.
We didn’t stay long in the city as it was a very hot day and we had left the dogs in Boris and because of where it was with the windows firmly shut (just in case). The afternoon was spent with Marc and Freddie soaking up the sun and me and Molly in the van trying to stay cool in the 30° + heat.
Berchtesgaden – The Eagles Nest
After our very hot day and night in Passau we got up early to set off to our next stop at Berchtesgaden further south in Germany and once again on the border with Austria so much so that the sat nav kept trying to send us into Austria as it was a shorter and quicker route. Unfortunately I hadn’t bought their version of a tax disc and so I had to get out the map and with a few cross words between the driver and navigator we eventually got there. The stellplatz is next to a campsite and whilst it advertised you could stay here for €15 per night that turned out to not be quite true. It was unfortunate as the lady didn’t speak any English and my German is limited to ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ (sorry Keiran I haven’t managed to even load that language course in German you got me). I think that in order to stay more than one night you needed to pay a guest supplement of €4.25 each BUT this did mean that we could use all the facilities of the campsite including the very beautiful, stylish and new swimming pool!
It was wonderful to swim in that lovely pool, it was just the right temperature and the views of the mountains with snow on was mind blowing.
We came to this part of Germany so that we could go up Eagles Nest – Hitlers former tea house in the mountains. After much research we decided to go on an orgainised tour as the bus stop was half way up the mountain some 8km from the stellplatz and with the coast of the mountain bus and admission fees it worked out only slightly more expensive.
We cycled into nearby Berchtesgaden some 6km from the stellplatz and after having a quick beer went across to the Tourist Information centre where the Eagles Nest Tour Company was based. We had pre-booked the trip as it can get very busy and sometimes people have to wait days for a space!
The coach took us to the point of the mountain buses and the new documentation centre which has many display boards on the Obersalzberg area which the Nazi party took over (compulsary purchasing the properties) in order to build their own military zone and fancy alpine houses.
It also featured how the general public got sucked in by the propaganda machine, how the only way of communication was via newspaper (state controlled) and then the wireless. Hitler made the wireless suppliers make a radio that was cheap enough for the masses and the radio waves limited to German radio only. Then once the market had been saturated with them the only thing broadcast was Hitler and his propaganda. The average person had now idea of what was really going on and this was before the war even started so you can only imagine what it was like during the war.
It also told of the Hitler youth organisations how all the former clubs and societies were banned and all children had to attend the Hitler Youth for boys and the alternative for girls. The most surprising thing was the Mothers Cross. This was a military cross awarded to mothers of Aryan race who had the most children! Those who had 4 had bronze, 5-6 silver and over 7 the gold, the mothers were awarded these medals like a soldier for carrying out heroic duty such was the fever to have more Aryan German children!
From the Documentation Centre we were led into the bunker system which connected Hitlers house, and many other buildings and barracks under ground in event of invasion and the necessity to run the war away from Berlin.
Next we waited for the mountain bus to take us up the treacherous road that is only open once the snow has melted and only to these buses.
Once at the top we walked through a 124 metre tunnel into the mountain to the elevator that takes you to the top. It is an amazing feat of engineering – an elevator in the mountain – very 1920’s/1930’s in design but we were not allowed to take photographs.
The views from the top were breathtaking.
This was truly an unforgettable experience, our guide was full of information on how this area became so important to Hitler, how it was developed and how it was almost completely demolished after the war due to shame. The Eagles Nest was only kept on the proviso that it became something that was nothing to do with Hitler and war and so it is a restaurant/cafe/bar and Marc enjoyed another beer whilst I had a piece of cake.
We were told that we were extremely lucky to have such good weather as 50% of the time the cloud is so low that you cannot see anything, either that or it is raining so we feel doubly blessed to have had glorious sunshine.
Lake Cheimsee and Herrencheimsee
After our couple of days at Berchtesgaden and our really enjoyable trip to Eagles Nest it was time to turn around as we had reached the furthest most point of our trip.
Next on the tour was Lake Cheimsee as I wanted to go across to the island and see Herrenchiemsee Palace built as a replica of Versaille. As with all planning things change, originally we were going to stay in a stellplatz near Prien as I thought that was the only ferry point. My reservations were that the stellplatz reviews were diabolical, stating that the woman who runs it charges a lot of money with many ‘add ons’ and squashes you in like sardines so out came the ACSI book. With limited internet it made it very hard to work out much more than the site was 6km away from Chiemsee which also had a ferry port and so off we set to Camping Kupferschmiede.
We had a lovely reception by a young man in Lederhosen who said we could have any pitch we wanted. He also provided me with a map of the area and said that there is a ferry point just 10 minutes walk away around the lake and produced a timetable. Perfect. We set up camp on a section all by ourselves and within 10 minutes we had two other vans parked either side of us when the rest of the site was practically empty. Well we did what we always do and moved pitches to the other side of the campsite in a much bigger pitch and much quieter.
We spent Saturday doing washing (boring) and house work (more boring stuff), that evening we took a stroll along the lake to the town of Seebruck to see where the ferry port was and took in the views.
We really love the way that they decorate their houses. I must come up with an idea for the end gable of our bungalow!
Next morning we caught the ferry to Herren island to visit Herrenchiemsee. This palace was another of Ludwig II unfinished palaces. He wanted an exact replica of Versaille as he had an obsession with Louis 14th of France (the Sun King).
On the way across we saw some stunning scenery and the other important island of Frauen. This housed a former monastery – hence the name Frauen meaning woman.
Next we turned the corner to Herren (men island) and in the distance we could see The Old Palace.
You needed to book your guided tour at a booth just off from the jetty and we had 45 minutes until our English speaking tour. The walk to the ‘new’ palace was a 15-20 minute walk or you could take a horse and buggy ride.
We took the horse and buggy ride – I love horses.
The palace was absolutely wonderful and dripped with gold. Unfortunately you are not allowed to take photos and as it was a guided tour you couldn’t sneakily take them either. If money allows I will buy a book at the end of the trip and scan in the photos to show you. I really enjoyed the inside of the palace with its gold, frescoes, chandeliers, drapes, porcelin but the most wonderful room was the hall of mirrors and just over 100m in length with windows on one side and mirrors all the way down the other framed in gold. It was truly spectacular.
My only complaint other than the no photos policy was the speed at which the tour was set meaning that we couldn’t take it all in very well it was a like a route march.
Once the tour was over we sat in the beautiful gardens with the amazing fountains – again a copy of those at Versaille (somewhere else on my ever growing list of places to visit) and ate our sandwiches before looking in the museum to see some of the furniture taken from other palaces of Ludwig II.
We then wandered around the gardens towards the old palace.
The old palace was beautiful because of its simplicity. It had some amazing frescoes in some of the rooms and others just had plain furniture and see through lace drapes that almost sparkled in the windows. Downstairs in the palace was a feature on Hitler but it was all in German and would cost us €5.75 for a translation!!
The views across the lake on the way back to base were wonderful.
Hurrah to day we have internet and I am sure you are fed up with all the blogs you have been bombarded with but I have caught up!
We are in a lovely village called Oberammergau. This is the place that the village performs the Passion Play every 10 years (next one 2020) as a promise to God that if he saved the village from the plague during the Black Death they would perform the 6 hour play every 10 years as thanks. The village was saved and they have done this ever since.
At first we were going to stay at the stellplatz but then I noticed that the site that the stellplatz was on is in the ACSI book and therefore it worked out better to stay on the site and what a good decision that was. We are now at Camping Oberammergau.
The lady on reception was fantastic, as we were talking I asked about the bus to Linderhoff (the next palace) and she said that if we could give her a €10 deposit she could give us a plastic card that would enable us to get the bus for free! Yippee and even better the next palace on the list is also available via a slightly longer bus trip (instead of another car park stopover) and also free. We get our deposit back when we return the card – perfect. So we are now going to be staying 3 nights here so we can visit Schloss Linderhoff tomorrow and Schloss Neuschwanstein on Wednesday.
The site looks a little sad because the pitches are laid with that horrible grey building stone but the facilities are wonderful. The shower room is downstairs of the swiss chalet style home of the owners and looks just like a very high end bathroom.
The internet is free and the whole village is full of cycle and walking paths and the lovely buildings with paintings including ‘Hansel and Gretle’ house and ‘Red Riding Hood House’.
I am currently sitting in the hallway – much bigger than you could imagine on some conservatory cane chairs as the internet is better here updating you all.
Tomorrow we go to Schloss Linderhoff – only 2 more palaces Marc honest.
Today we caught the bus to Linderhoff from the stop just outside the campsite. The driver appeared to be in a bit of a hurry as the speed along the very twisty turny roads!
Linderhoff is beautiful, small in comparison to the others we have visited.
The palace can only be accessed via a guided tour and this time the lady who conducted it was very knowledgable and we didn’t feel rushed.
Again no photos were allowed so I have the ones in the book
The gardens were beautiful and we walked up onto the Italian styled terrace to take in more views of the gardens and palace before walking up the other side of the valley to the music room to eat our sandwiches.
We couldn’t take a photo of the full waterfall cascade as it is currently being repaired.
We then walked to the Moorish Kiosk
Again this was something that you couldn’t actually go in but could look at through a thick layer of glass – hence the book photo.
The Venus Grotto was also closed but we knew about this before we came to Germany as it is undergoing a major restoration.
We then walked to the Moorish House again no photos of the inside and for some reason not in my book either.
We then got the bus back to camp and had a lovely BBQ in the glorious sunshine with the mountains all around.
Tomorrow the last palace and a 1 1/2 hour bus ride.
Today we went to Neuschwanstein to the fairy tale castle. The bus trip wasn’t as easy as I had hoped as we needed to make a change and the castle area was an absolute tourist spot and was heaving. It was hell. There were coach loads of Japanese and American tourists and queues everywhere. We got there at 10.30 on the bus and the first guided tour in English was 12.10. So we had an hour and half to kill!
We went and got our tickets for the bus ride up to the castle as it is a very steep 1 mile climb otherwise and waited 30 minutes for a bus!
The first thing we did once off the bus was walk to the Marienbrucke (bridge) from which you could get a good view of the castle.
We then took the remaining trek to the castle itself, stopping in a restaurant for something to drink, though we ended up having Liver Dumpling Soup which was delicious as it was really quite cold and at 8.00 that morning when we left the van we weren’t really prepared for cold overcast weather.
The tour was manic, there must have been about 60 of us, it was very hurried and the inside of the castle was a real let down; it was very dark, with dark pictures from many of Wagner’s Operas. It was in complete contrast to the other palaces/castles we had visited and I am glad we did this one last as if it had been the first one we wouldn’t have bothered with any more 1. because of the amount of people and 2. because it was so dark and deary inside.
By the time we got back to the campsite at 4 we were exhausted.
Scheidegg – Skywalk
Tomorrow we are off to Scheidegg before heading back into France for the journey home.
On Friday we drove along the German/Austrian border to Scheidegg and a stellplatz.
It is really hot and the stellplatz and car park next to it is really busy but fortunately there was a space for us. After a much needed cuppa we set off on our bikes to Skywalk.
Thank goodness for the electric as it was up hill all the way.
Skywalk is a suspended walkway amongst the trees. There are several pillars from which the walkways are suspended at differing heights and one very big tower that extends well into the sky. Thank goodness for my knees that it had an elevator that took us straight to the top from which we had wonderful views of the Austrian alps in one direction and Lake Constance in the other.
From here we climbed down the stairs to a lower platform, the walkways bounce as you walk, it is great and as usual I let my inner child go wild as I bounced along much to the very stern faced German’s. I am sure they are either born without a sense of humour or have it removed at birth!
The place was packed with so many families enjoying the sunshine and letting their children blow off steam – it was great to see and a pity we don’t have anything like this in England.
After much bouncing and climbing it was time to ‘come down’ and me being the child I am went via the assault course – video to follow!
The ride back to the stellplatz was fun also as it was all downhill, I got up to 24mph before I thought it best to apply the brakes!!!
The Netherlands July and August 2017
We set off at an unearthly hour of 2 am this morning, Marc had just got in from his night shift and after some last minute packing (milk, passports, dogs etc) we set off for Eurotunnel. I made good ground and we arrived at 7.30 however I don’t know what was wrong this morning but we ended up getting onto the train half an hour after our time slot along with many others who should have crossed before us!
We travelled north through France into Belgium and up into South Holland. We took a 6km tunnel under the Westerschelde sea and arrived at our campsite De Ontdekking at 2.30 this afternoon a marathon 12 hours on the road! We must be mad.
The site is beautiful, set on a fruit farm and we have a lovely pitch next to the apple orchard with a wild flower meadow in between us.
It is a 5 minute walk to the Oosterschelde a former estuary; South Holland has many finger like projections of land with estuarys and rivers, after a major flood in 1953 it was decided to build a large dam across the Oosterschelde to protect Holland from North Sea flooding.
We had a fun couple of hours letting to dogs run on the beach, chasing stones and splashing in the water. The Oosterschelde is a haven for wildlife and for those interested in water sports.
Tomorrow we are going to cycle across the Oosterscheldekering (the dam) and go to the Neeltje Jans Theme Park, but for now it is time to relax and to get an early night so that I can catch up on some much needed beauty sleep.
Today we got out the bikes and cycled along the dyke to the Oosterscheldekering. This is the dam that shuts the tidal estuary of the Oosterschelde. When the area was hit by floods in 1953 the Government decided to shut off all the tidal inlets along this coast either by dams or dykes to avoid such a disaster again. When the floods hit over 1800 people lost their lives and over 18000 livestock.
The Government set about closing the tidal inlets, however when it came to the Oosterschelde there were protests due to the environmental impact a large dyke would have. In the end it was decided to build a barrage type dam so that sea water could still go in and out of the delta but could be stopped in the event of a storm surge.
In order to construct such a structure they built an artificial island in the middle and named it Neeltje Jans and that was where we headed.
The dam supports a roadway which has two lanes, one for normal traffic and one for works traffic and bikes! Fantastic a road all to ourselves! The views along the cycle path were fantastic with the Oosterschelde delta on one side and the North Sea on the other.
We arrived at Neeltje Jans and the Theme Park of the same name. This is a fantastic place, with so much to do you could spend easily a couple of days here.
Just inside the entrance was a display of art made out of the rubbish found in the sea. It was really thought provoking.
I really wanted to see the dam/barrage and so we paid €3 for a guided tour of the dam structure. The dam is made of 62 concrete pillars each weighing 83,000 tons. The artificial island was made so that the pillars could be constructed on site and then move to their final position by a specially made barge. The pillars support all the hydraulics of the gates and the gates themselves as well as the road.
We walked through the road as it is hollow and were able to see the structure of the hydraulics on the inside. The oil to operate the pistons of the hydraulics is a massive 7000 litres at each end of each gate!
Next we were able to walk out onto a walkway along the edge of the barrage gates and up on top of the pillars themselves.
The gates are left open so that the delta has fresh sea water into it every day supported the wildlife of the estuary. The gates close only when the tide is expected to raise by 3m. The pillars are marked showing the height of the water at 3m and the much higher height of the 1953 flood. So far the gates have closed approximately twice a year to protect the land of this area of the Netherlands.
After some lunch we went into the Delta Experience, a room that is set up like a bedroom with a big clock on the wall and windows to the outside. It is the night of the storm and with all the sound effects you could really imagine being there – it was quite frightening. We were then led into another room with an animated film of a farmstead next to a dyke with the sea water battering the top of it. Mum and Dad are trying to put sand bags on the top and the girl is crying from the window of the farm for her parents. Next a siren sounds and all of a sudden water pours in from a broken dyke in the distance and is soon up to the second floor level with half of the brick work of the house missing. Mum and Dad are still on top of the dyke clinging to each other. This story ended with the girl climbing across the gap from the house to the dyke via someone else’s roof that got stuck in the gap.
It was a very stark reminder of the power of the seas. Next we had many pictures of the aftermath of the event of 1953 and you could understand why this barrage needed to be built.
After this it was time to take a boat trip onto the Oosterschelde. The views were amazing but the highlight for me was seeing a seal in the water!
Not only does the park have access to a section of the barrage and boat trips but it also has a full size water park of slides and things for children, sea lion, seal and birds of prey shows, an aquarium, and a hurricane simulator. Like I said plenty to do and this was just some of what I can remember!
On our way out we noticed that next to the bike park is a plug for you to charge your electric bikes; pity we didn’t have a 2 pin plug
As we cycled back we crossed on the sea locks that allows the boats access to the sea and delta. By pure chance a yacht was passing through the massive lock after a trip out on the ocean.
Tomorrow we leave this wonderful sight and beautiful area of the Netherlands with a promise to ourselves to return and head for the windmills.
Today we left the wonderful campsite at Zeeland and headed inland and northwards to Alblasserdam. We are staying in a camper park (a car park with camper facilities) on the dockside on the edge of the town and within cycling distance of Kinderdijk.
We decided not to cycle today and instead we caught the water bus to Kinderdijk taking in all the scenery and the barges on the river.
Kinderdijk is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the site of 19 windmills that formerly drained the polders (land areas inside the dykes). We are currently below sea level as is most of the Netherlands in this area and the only way they could farm the land was to dig big drainage ditches and dykes to hold back the water so that the land they drained they could use.
This is a wonderful area with big drainage ditches either side of us and windmills on the far banks either side of us and is typical of the landscape of that era.