Tuesday, 25 August 2015
RHINE TRAVEL ADVENTURE PART 2 - ROTTERDAM TO THE MOSEL VALLEY
We decided to head for Koln (Cologne) after leaving Rotterdam and we arrived late so headed straight for a hotel. It didn't look like they had parking but it was at the back of a hotel via a lift for cars which took it to an upper level. We booked in got settled and then had a walk around the city, saw the glorious Cathedral and visited a church, where I again lit a candle as usual for my Mother near her favourite saint Mary. This is something I always do in memory of her because I'm not a religious person myself but she was and if she has the place in heaven that she wanted then no doubt her spirit will be spent sat next to her God and in a church where the Virgin saint is prominent.
There were many photos around that showed the awful damage of WW2 bombing and the blacked out shadow of the Minster with nothing but flattened destruction all around. My husband bought the poster below as a souvenir. I said the war was a tragedy in many ways. So much culture and centuries of historic construction gone during nights of terror. "They started it," my husband quipped back and I sighed. "Maybe they did but that's not the point."
War is terror after all no matter who is bombing, shooting or killing who and destroying cultural buildings isn't a lot different to what the Barbarians in ISIS are doing to historical sites in Syria and Iraq - although the difference is of course that ISIS thugs are just brain-dead philistines but there was some strategic purpose to WW2 bombing and devastating Koln was done in the belief that it would help bring the war to end quicker while demoralising the Nazis. I don't even think of them as German in the same way I don't think of ISIS members as being Muslims, despite their claims of being devout.
We decided to head back to the hotel after stopping for a meal in the town. We both wanted some German food but neither of us could understand German menus and a lot of what we saw on people's plates looked similar to what we eat at home. In fact, the more we travelled through Germany the more we came to the conclusion that there isn't a lot of difference between Germans and Brits, except for the language which had it's similarities, and I wondered why the hell we fought each other twice in one century. We watched a man trying to train his dog and he used the words "Sit" and "Stay" and "Comen here" (or something like that) but most German words sounded a bit rude to our English ears with a lot of words ending in Farht.
Once back at the hotel, I used the balcony to smoke. I had asked for a smoking room but as usual they were all taken. Only non smoking rooms were left but as it had a good sized balcony, I was content. While sitting out there a couple of police cars went past underneath us and was followed by a march. We had no idea what or who were marching and demonstrating and for what reason. I guessed they were Turkish Muslims but it wasn't until I got home that I google translated the words on their banner. It was to protest the bombing in Suruc in Turkey and a plea to hold those responsible accountable. If I'd known that when I saw them pass, I would have shouted my support but instead I just watched it go by in confusion at what it was all about.
We set off again the next morning with no clear idea of where we wanted to go. Basel in Switzerland was the end point but we were a long way from there and we still hadn't found the little Rhine towns and hamlets we hoped to see. But at least, in Koln, we finally found the river that inspired our holiday.
More motorway madness followed and we headed for Koblenz just because it was the next big town on our map. We crossed a huge bridge which my husband said probably just went over a town but I said we should pull off and have a look. We followed a road round and then eventually came off onto a smaller road and we passed small Germanic type villages on each side with the Rhine running through. We realised we were in the Mosel Valley.
I kept my eye out for camping signs which we followed but the camp site jumped out at us. My husband braked sharply and indicted to turn in when we spotted the entrance to the site at Burgen and then got blasted by the motorists' horn behind him, followed by lots of angry gestures. "Oh-oh, the indicator's not working," he said as he pulled into Camping Burgen. There was no one around but the sign said it was closed between 1pm and 3pm and we had just missed the reception staff.
He spent a few minutes tweaking and fiddling under the bonnet and the indicators worked again. We decided to go off for a couple of hours and explore and then come back. We drove along to Treis Karden, crossed the bridge and drove along the other side of the river for a while then turned and drove back. I think we were both tired but just for a moment, neither of us realised we were on the wrong side of the road because there was no other traffic about. Then I saw a car coming head on and my husband wasn't going to move. I yelled :"What are you doing! We're on the wrong side!" just as the motorist in front of us began to steer his car towards the river and away from us. My husband woke from his complacency and managed to get to the correct side to avoid forcing the unfortunate German into the Rhine. I spent the rest of our holiday knowing that somewhere in Germany was a German who hated us with good reason.
The weather was hot and blessed with blinding sunshine. Campers and their children paddled and bathed in the Rhine which had sandy shores like a beach. I didn't fancy it much myself. Huge barges went back and forth on a regular basis but my main objection to swimming in the river was the fish. Unlike in the sea, the fishes were close to the shore and despite the fact I am a fisherman's granddaughter, and I was once married to a fisherman, anything that lives and moves in the sea gives me the creeps, fish most of all.
The photo above was the view from our tent which had the Bischofstein Castle in the distance which is pictured below in the day and at night with lighting that makes it look on fire. We watched the moon rise and then quickly disappear without trace on the other side of the mountain behind it. We wanted to try and visit but we had no idea how to get there so the next day was spent drinking wonderful German beer in a beer garden and trying to work out how to take a boat trip which we never managed to do.
We aimed to try and follow the river and stopped at Cochem because it was stunning. We drove into the car park looking for a spot and managed to pull into the last one available. A woman approached us and gave us a parking ticket that still had two hours on it and she didn't want to throw it away. We saw there was another beautiful castle up on a mountain but we wondered if we'd have time to get up there. We tried but didn't find the path. We did find some WW1 war graves and wandered around the main square and cobbled streets off it. I fancied my first taste of Bratwurst so we stopped at a kiosk under the bridge. My husband tried a currywurst which was a sliced bratwurst in tomato sauce (not ketchup) with curry powder sprinkled on top. There was mustard on the counter to put on the bratwurst but I wanted tomato sauce instead if he had it. When I asked, the man who served us began a cheerful tirade about how he walks miles every day back and forth from the grillstove to the counter and now I was making him walk more because I should have asked him before he finished my order and then I added insult to injury by ordering two coffees as well.
"Again you should have asked me before ordering your bratwurst and now I have to turn back and walk over there and then back again. I am the troll who lives under the bridge," he said with a cheeky smile. I think that was just his banter. The bratwurst bought there was the best food I had all holiday. It was delicious. My husband enjoyed his currywurst too. Neither of us had another until we got back to the Mosel on our way home a couple of weeks later.
The war still hung over us and every time I saw a charming old and historic building in Germany, my other half couldn't help his mischievous self. "We missed that one then," he said as I reminded him that it had been 70 years since the war ended and it really was time he got over it. "Don't mention the war," I said. "It's getting very tiresome."
Cochem was so beautiful that it remains one of my highlights of the trip.
We followed the river when we moved on but because of our useless motorway map, we didn't know if we were going the right way. That's when we started using the compass to ensure we kept going south west through Germany and not north west back to Rotterdam. We were aiming to get to Baden-Baden because I'd heard about its wonderful spas. We wanted to find camping and drove around for a while when we got there but we could only find hotel signs. We eventually succumbed to the idea that we would have to have another hotel stay and we found a charming little place called the Deutscher Kaiser. We asked how much it was per night and the lady who ran it told us it depended if we wanted a nice room or a not so nice room. All smoking rooms were again taken but the cheap and not so nice non smoking room we were offered had a window. It wasn't plush but it was very comfortable and luxurious enough when you're used to a small tent. The hotel was about 30 minutes walk through the delightful Lichtentaler Allee to the centee of town and the spas. The Allee was littered with references to Kaiser Willhem and Otto Bismarck as the heroes of Germany and there was a distinct absence of any commemoration or mention of WW2 or the Nazis.
We later found the occasional tribute to persecuted Jews in other towns in the stumbling stones we found in their memory but I'll write more about that in the next post when I'll also write more about the wonderful Baden Baden and Bad Bellingen - a place we never intended to visit, we hadn't even heard of it before, but found fortuitously and we are so glad we did.