Thursday, 3 September 2015


We had four weeks to travel and as soon as we knew that we wouldn't be going as far as Sardinia we hoped to spend the majority of those weeks in Germany. We arrived back in Treis Karden a bit too soon for my liking and I beat myself up often for not investing in a decent map of Germany before we went away. We always had the sense that there was so much more to see but it was the availability of camping sites, and clear directions to them, that decided where we ended up.

On our first visit to the Mosel Valley we stayed at Burgen but we had nipped into Treis Karden for a refreshing German beer during the heatwave which hit as we arrived in the area. Now we wanted to stay in the town, even if it was bit cooler by day and a lot colder at night, and have a better look around. It was very traditional and charming and lay next to the Rhine in the valley surrounded by hills and rolling vineyards. We both fancied taking a walk in those hills. There is a map in the town square that tells you where the walks are.

We just wandered up towards the vines in search of pathways that would take us to the top where we saw a huge cross on a hill in the landscape. We soon found it and took to the footpath. At the bottom was a cave with an image of Christ praying and it was only after we had climbed to the top that we realised there was a theme to this walk. Christ was pleading with God to "Let this cup pass from me," and as you walked there were stone monuments and each carried the story of Christ's crucifixion from Judas' betrayal, to his arrest, to his walk through the streets with a cross on his back to the help he was given to carry it, to his actual crucifixion and then his resurrection.

Near the top was a small church and at the top was a huge cross. Near to that was a wooden table that others had carved their names into over the years. Sharp stones were left on that table and so we couldn't resist adding our names too for posterity in a "We Woz 'Ere" kind of way.

After the walk we stopped for an icecream and later went out for our first taste of real German food at a delightful restaurant owned by the Otto Knauf family that has made wine for generations and who organise trips to the vineyard in a waggon where visitors get the chance to taste some of their finest tipples.

The meal was delicious. I had salmon and my husband had chicken. He still talks about it and the meaty piece of breast he had. He found Germany to be his spiritual home in many ways. He adored the country.

On the menu we found this little story which aims to explain the difference between wine drunks and beer drunks. Some of it is a bit mistranslated but the general theme is that wine drunks make better drunks than beer drunks. I like both but I don't think either make me better or worse. Drunk on beer or wine makes no difference. Having too much alcohol of any variety makes me retreat to the nearest toilet with my head down the bowl so I tend not to drink more than enough to make me slighty tipsy but still in control of my senses and the contents of my stomach.

Our camp site was on an island surrounded by water and by a huge lake. There were notices saying fishing was forbidden at certain times of the year which wasn't the time we were there but despite this there were a few fisherman with rods in the water from the bridge and across the lake on the other side which wasn't part of the site.

A young woman pitched up near to us and later her boyfriend joined her with an array of fishing gear. They sat up all night by a small fire as the young man fished. We were due to leave the next morning but as we packed up we noticed he had got a bite. It must have a been a huge fish because it took him ages to land it, with the help of his girlfriend. We both decided to sit and wait to see what came up before we drove away. After some time, the young man managed to get the fish into a net and bring it to the shore. It was huge and I grabbed my camera to take a shot of it as he posed proudly with it in his arms but my camera battery chose that monent to die. I whipped out my tablet to take a picture of this incredible catch but it's difficult to get a shot in full sun and I failed. I just got an orange blur and no more. We asked the lad how big the fish was. He had a little English but he didn't know the weight only in German. "Elf," he said and then chattered something to his girlfriend who said "11." Whether that was 11 Lbs or 11 Kg, we didn't know but it was a damn big fish and he beamed at his catch.

We decided we would try and head for Bonn next. After some time of driving the wrong way, we managed to get back on track and found a road that ran parallel with the Rhine. It was very pretty, very hot and sunny, and we stopped for a while at a picnic area by the river just before Bonn where we made sandwiches and a cup of tea using the car kettle which plugs into the cigarette lighter. It was great but we both knew that stops would take a while because it took almost an hour for the car kettle to boil.

We were on the outskirts of Bonn when we followed camp signs and found ourselves in Bad Godesberg, just across the river from Konigswinter and about a km walk from Mehlem where we found another Stumbling Stone outside of a big house in a very smart street.

We could see two castles in the distance on the other side of the river and we wondered how we could get there when there didn't appear to be any bridge to cross.

It was only when we took a day to walk the length of our side of river, past Mehlem, that we found there was a ferry that crossed the river every 8 minutes and back to Konigswinter where the castles were. The boat ride was delightful. It cost us a couple of Euros each. Once we reached the other side we had a good look around the town and stopped for another German beer. I discovered Kolsch beer here and if anything could tempt me to become a beer drunk this was it. After a refreshing glass at a pub in the town we wandered uphill to find a path to the castles.

At the bottom were donkeys which tourists could ride to the top. Even though the animals looked like they were up for it, because they were very restless, we decided to save their legs and use our own. There was also a train to the top but we wanted to walk. And it was a very challenging walk that took a while but it was beautiful. It went through a wooded area that had the occasional shop such as the dragon garden, a honey stall and a couple of bars and there was an historic picture that indicated the donkeys had been carrying people up there for generations.

The first castle we came across was the Drachenburg. This cost six euro to enter so we didn't bother. Instead, we headed onwards and upwards towards the ruins of the other castle the the Drachefels that looked far more interesting. It was older and the views from up at the top down on the Rhine were spectactular. It was impossible to get a shot of the Drachenfels because it was so big it didn't fit in the camera frame but we did get a snap of the people climbing it's base rock and then some stunning views of the Rhine below from the bar at the top which offered welcome refreshments after the walk.

We had another Bratwurst but the service at the bar, where you had to sit and wait for someone to come and take your order and then wait for the beer to be served, took longer than we had time to wait. It was getting late and we knew the last ferry back across the Rhine was at 9pm and the way things were going, we'd be lucky to get a beer before we had to leg it back down the hill. It was hectic up there and packed with tourists and clearly the bar didn't have enough staff to serve them all. After waiting three-quarters of hour and still no sign of the beers we had ordered, we left. We walked down hill to the next bar we came to and downed a couple of Kolsch in no time at all.

The Drachenfels is said to be the place where the dragon lived who got slain by Siegfreid. I read all about it in a little book I bought from Konigswinter that told the tales and legends of the Rhine and it's heroes and folklore. My other half likes to have tales to bring back for the grandchildren. Last time, during our trip to Italy, my husband got stung by a jellyfish and he told the children that he fought a giant octupus and won. The eldest grandchild now has the scepticism of an adult on hearing such tales but the youngest sat wide-eyed as granddad recounted how he was attacked by a angry octopus, that he fought and won by tying all his legs together before throwing him back into the sea.

This time he told the youngest that he met a huge dragon up there and had thrown water to put out his fire before bashing him and throwing him off the cliff. I think next year the youngest will begin to have his doubts at granddad's stories but for now we all cherish his wide eyed innocence.

We didn't get to Bonn after all but we weren't that bothered. We both preferred to be in the country walking than in the city. We left Bad Godesburg and headed north west and realised that before long if we didn't find somewhere to stay we would be over the border and back in Holland much sooner than we anticipated. We didn't want to leave Germany yet and intended to stay in a little town called Neuss but when we drove through, my husband got freaked out by the tram lines and little streets and wasn't sure if he should be driving in the some of the areas that looked pedestrianised. We got out of there and drove on again and whether it was too soon or not, we found ourselves out of Germany and over the border.

In the next post, I'll write about the castle in the tiny village of Enspijk that didn't exist, Amsterdam, and the last week spent in Rotterdam before heading back to Calais via Belgium and home.

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