Tuesday, 1 September 2015


Taking a train is clearly easier than driving when you don't know an area and neither of us had been to Basel before. We'd driven through, decided the traffic was too manic, and headed out again to find camping nearby which we found at Bad Bellingen. The train from nearby Rheinweller took 30 minutes at a return ticket cost of four euros and 50 cents. It's so easy to travel by train in Germany. You just type in where you want to go and you get times, cost and ticket with the touch of a button.

We were hungry when we arrived so we stopped at a kiosk not far from the railway station that sold Arancini - a snack I fell in love while travelling around Sicily last year. The further you get away from the roots of a particular dish, the less authentic and tasty it is and this was true of the Swiss version of this Italian treat. That's not to say it was awful because it wasn't. It was very nice but not quite the same. I think the sun was the missing ingredient, perhaps. We paid up in Euros and thought no more about it until the next time we tried to spend some money.

My husband collects fridge magnets and aims to get one from each place we visit both at home and abroad. He chose a nice one of the Basel flag but only when he tried to pay for it did we consider that we were in a different country. The lady behind the counter said she didn't take Euros because Switzerland has it's own currency - Swiss Francs. We both felt a bit silly because we should have realised. We left a bit red-faced and empty handed and then went off in search of a cash bank for money we could spend. We got 20 Swiss Francs, bought a fridge magnet and wanted to spend the rest before heading back to Germany. The 12 SF we had left weren't enough to buy a small loaf of special Basel bread that I wanted to take back for supper so I asked the lady in the bakery what it would buy. For 10 SF, and a handful of small change, we got two small cakes. They were beautifully wrapped and very nice but we got the idea that everything here was more expensive than over the border in Germany.

We sat by the river to eat them and watched people swimming. The day began a little overcast when we set off but it became bright, sunny and hot as the day wore on. Some of the people swimming held what looked like swimming aids to keep them afloat and it only became clear what they were holding onto when they got out of the water. They were sealed waterproof bags, something like this that held their clothes, bags, shoes, and phones which all looked bone dry when they got out of the water to get dressed.

We wandered around the town some more, found a cigar shop advertising one brand named after one of Britain's most iconic former Prime Ministers, it's always good to get a little reminder of home when we're away, and ambled around the colourful town hall with its frescoed court yard, statues and the poshest public toilet door we had ever encountered on our travels.

Just off the main street was a charming residential street. It would have been great to get a taste of more of Switzerland and had we been able to follow the original planned route then we would have done but reluctantly Basel was as far as we would go into the country this time. Maybe next year.

It was long and exhausting day and we arrived back quite late after the long walk from Rheinweller station to our camp site at Bad Bellingen. We packed up and left the next day and headed back towards Rotterdam and ultimately home via more German Rhine towns that we hoped to see.

Speyer looked lovely as we drove through so we decided to park up somewhere near the Cathedral and stay awhile. I think it was the huge plane on display outside the Technik Museum that caught my husband's eye but we didn't get time to look around.

There were some statues in the grounds and nearby a man was playing The Godfather Love Theme, Speak Softly Love, on an accordion. He played so well it made me think of my Italian mother and brought tears to my eyes. I wished I'd videoed it for all to enjoy but instead I just got a photo of him.

I was still feeling a bit weepy when we got inside the cathedral which was beautiful and serene. It was so quiet, I hardly dared to breathe. I lit another candle for my mum by St Mary and sat awhile just to enjoy the peace and tranquillity.

The feeling wouldn't last and we soon hit the road again in search of camp sites. We wanted to stay near Speyer so we could come back and spend more time exploring the city but after miles of driving, we still hadn't found anywhere. We stopped off in worms in hope to get a hotel but they were all full. We were running into the start of high season and "no vacancies" was a reply we had in three different towns after leaving Speyer. Eventually, even though it was getting late and we were a few hours away, we decided to head back to the Mosel Valley where we knew there was plenty of camping and more than one site.

We came off the motorway several times at brown tourist signs hoping to pick up camp site signs but we never did and just added hours to what had become a very long journey. We came off again at the Nahe valley and at about 11pm found ourselves pulling into a camp site at what we learned the next morning was Bacharach. The pitch we got was tiny and crammed between two other tents. Only after we got settled did we realise that we were right next to a train track with noisy freight carriages clattering past every five minutes. My husband jut got his head down and got on with it but I was dead tired and as much as I tried to sleep the train noise just kept getting louder. I literally thought I was going to be driven insane before morning.

We wanted to stay two days but it would be impossible if we wanted to keep our good temperament so we checked out as soon as possible. The owner was lovely and only charged us half price because of the bad spot we had. The camp site had been full but he didn't want to turn us away after we arrived so late and bedraggled so he took pity on us and squeezed us into the only spot we'd fit. We were grateful for that and having a safe place to stay for the night. Things had got so desperate at one point that we thought we'd have to sleep in the car in a motorway layby but even those were full with lorries parked nose to tail.

We just couldn't find our way out of the Nahe due to the awful map we had that only had big and slighter smaller towns on it off the motorway and we found ourselves driving up and down the same stretch of road not knowing whether to go this way or that. We didn't want to but we had to get back on the motorway and so headed north west. At least we knew there was camping at the Mosel and that was near Koblenz which was signposted on the motorway and on our map.

A few hours later and we there. We stopped at a Bratwurst kiosk for lunch and made a cuppa with our car kettle as we watched people water skiing in the Rhine. Burgen, where we stayed on our way up, was a bit further along the road. It was the two hour closing period when we arrived so we had a look at the other camp sites nearby. In the end owe chose Mosel Island camping which had campers, tents and yachts pitched on an island in the middle of the Rhine.

The photo below shows our tent and car by the lake where we were pitched and where we witnessed a huge 11lb carp being caught and landed by a young couple who had been up all night fishing - but more about that, the walk we took that told the story of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection, Bad Godesburg and the Dragon Castle at Konigswinter in the next post.

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