Friday, 28 August 2015
TRAVEL ADVENTURE PART 3 - MOSEL VALLEY TO BASEL
We had a great time in the Mosel Valley and were sorry to move on but we decided we could always come back for a second visit on our long way back home. Ultimately we were heading for Basel in Switzerland where the Rhine begins before turning around and heading north west. Meanwhile, we had quite a bit of Germany to get through and wanted to experience the Black Forest area as well as sample the pampering spas in Baden Baden.
We stayed two days. The weather was glorius and very hot. It was about a 40 minute walk from our hotel to the centre of town via the delightful Lictentaler Allee where we saw a variety of wildlife including a heron fishing in the water.
It's a stroll you don't want to rush and we took our time marvelling at the statues, flowers, the ducks and herons, and we watched the children playing in the stream that ran through it and people sitting in groups with picnics in the park as well as the grand former Austrian/German palaces along the other side of the River Oos.
We found a nice bar near to the spas and spent a while sitting under the shade of a vine. Vines were everywhere across Germany. They trailed along trellises, hung beneath windows, marched in straight rows on hillsides, covered fields, and grew wild in the countryside. Bars were in a cluster in the centre and people sat on outside tables enjoying food and drink and the sunshine.
The one we were at had a piano player providing background music and entertainment but when we walked on, a dummy at a bar around the corner did the job on a mechanical stringed instrument. It was very lifelike with a huge smile so we took a picture because it reflected our happy and relaxed mood.
One thing that drew our attention, and which I thought was a fantastic idea, was to have an emergency defibrillator in the street. I've never seen one elsewhere especially in Britain which nags about lifestyle, bans you from having choices, and prefers to insult you if your lifestyle is not Government approved in terms of what you choose to eat, drink or smoke. My husband reckoned that a public defibrillator wouldn't last two minutes in our home town. "Some smack-head would probably break it from the wall and try to sell it on the black market for a few quid," he said. I had my doubts and I think if the Governemnt really wants to save lives and if charities like the BHF are really serious about saving people then they would do well to promote concrete methods of saving lives rather than flimsy ideological fluff and stuff based on junk science and scaremongering.
We went and had a look at both spas. There was the Friedrichsbad which looked amazing although I couldn't imagine Roman and Irish as a cultural couple so that added interest. It was definitely the one I preferred to the more modern and sterile, which to me suggested lack of character, Caracalla Spa. We took a sneaky look inside before going and then googled both when we got back to the hotel. Apparently the Friedrichsbad only allows you to go native and, to be honest, we were both a bit too British for that sort of thing so we went for the Caracalla. It was the most relaxing and yet invigorating experience we'd had and we both want to go again. I hate cold but the idea is that you swim in the warm water and then go in the hot saunas, which had temperatures ranging from 45 degrees to 80 degrees, and then in freezing water. I missed out the last bit. I'm always happier and more relaxed when I'm warm. Cold is torture in my view but my husband took advantage of all the complex had to offer - almost.
There was an upstairs but there was a sign saying clothes had to be removed past that point. Were they really naked up there? We had to take a peep and so we crept up and took a look and sure enough there were men laying on sunbeds with all their bits hanging out loud and proud for all to see. We went back down again. My husband fancied it and so I told him to make the most of it while we were there but when it came to the crunch, he decided maybe another day but not today. That day would come later in Bad Bellingen, by accident and not design, but for now we were both relieved to have had the experience in swimwear.
Kehl looked enticing on the tourist map of the Rhine we had bought in Cochem but when we got there it was a huge city and we inadvertently drove into Strasbourg on the French side where neither of us wanted to be. The traffic was horrendous and we always aim to get out and away from traffic choked cities because we inevitably get pushed into directions we don't want to be. Thankfully,we managed to make our way back across the border to Kehl and so we parked up and had a look around.
We did some shopping. I bought a new bag to cary all my junk around and he bought a new shirt. We wandered around some more and that's when we came across the first Stumbling Stones. These commemorate the Jews taken by Nazis from their homes and businesses to death camps. It really brings home to you the agony these people had to endure. Imagine running a business or living in a beautiful home before being taken, having your property stolen and then being put in what can only be described in any religion as a living hell. Stumbling stones allow you to see exactly what was lost and by who and you can really feel that pain in that moment you stumble across one of these subtle little brass tiles in the street. I assumed this one was a family who ran the shop that the tiles were placed in front of.
We didn't stay in Kehl and after a couple of hours, and finding nothing that really interested us, we carried on towards our end point of Basel. I really wish that nations would put at least one camping sign on motorways indicating whether or not camping is available in that area once you come off. The Dutch managed that OK, and we found that greatly helpful, but Italy, France and Germany don't. To find camping you have to come off onto smaller roads. We ended up coming off several times, driving around and finding nothing and then heading back to the motorway again which added hours to our journey.
We came off again at what looked like a small road only to find we had exited at a motorway road works which took us nowhere except to machinery that no one operated. We wondered how we'd get off this because there was no clear exit. Suddenly, from nowhere, a man appeared on foot. He approached and told us what we already knew - that this was not an exit but roadworks. Luckily for us he spoke perfect English as many Europeans do. My other half asked him if he knew of any camp sites nearby and we were both delighted that he did. We showed him our European road map and were not at all surprised that the place where we'd find camping - Bad Bellingen - wasn't on it. He marked it for us, told us how to get back on the motorway and which exit to take and low and behold within half an hour we were pulling up at Lug Ins Land.
This video shows the site and if we'd had children with us, I'm sure they would have loved the activities there too. The video doesn't show any tents but there were plenty as well as camper vans when we were there.
A strange name but a very nice place in the countryside with a marvellous view of the Rhine in the distance and my husband, from a farming family, found his ideal Porsche.
The camp site was about 1.7km from the town and another spa via an inspiring country walk along the Rhine. We were delighted to get another chance to go to a spa before our holiday ended. However, we were both left rather red faced when, because of a language problem, we paid extra to enjoy all the saunas and only found out that we had to be naked when we tried to get in. I determined that no way was I taking off my swim suit but as we sat in a 70 degree sauna with lots of aromatic steam, a man came in naked and we felt, well, rather overdressed. Outside of the sauna, an older woman without clothes was bent over reading a magazine completely comfortable. I swallowed my reservations, took a deep breath full of courage, looked at my other half, said :"Let's do it" and within a moment, we were taking those swim suits off. I held mine strategically placed at all times. Later, when we got back to the camp site, we sat drinking gallons of tea to get over the shock of doing what we thought we'd never do. When in Rome, and all that, or in this case Germany, and we had a giggle while lamenting our lack of language skills. Had we spoken German, I'm sure the ticket staff would have told us what we were letting ourselves in for but not having German, and coming across one of the few Germans who didn't speak English, meant most of what we did was via signs - ie: holding up two fingers for two tickets and the reception lady showing us on the ticket how much it cost.
The camp site was also 1.2km from a place called Reinweller where we found we could take a train to Basel. We'd been there once and drove through but straight out again after not finding camping and now we discovered that we could take a train and within half an hour we'd be there.
However, the day we enjoyed that first long walk to Rheinweller was a Sunday. There was nothing open but we stopped at a shop that had a vending machine outside with drinks and sausages and it was just across the road to the small train station.
I rather liked the bronze pig outside of the shop but more than that, I loved the walk. It went along grass paths, through a tunnel under the road, by the side of the river, and up to the village.
In the next post, I'll write about Basel the people swimming in the river with a clever bag that allowed them to take all of their belongings with them and keep them dry, our embarrassment at realising we had no money to pay for an item that we wanted in a country outside of the Eurozone, our couple of hours wandering around the gorgeous Speyer, and our night in hell in Bacharach before going back to the Mosel, where we learned that, apparently, wine drunks make better drunks than beer drunks, and on to one of our favourite stops at Bad Godesburg and Konigswinter across the river where we told the grandchildren Granddad came across and slew a dragon.