Oct 23 2012

What a difference a day makes

23rd October 2012

What a difference a day makes – and a thousand kilometres.

We woke on the morning of 19th to sunshine and – dare I say it – warmth!  I am sure that it was unseasonable, but we arrived in Kiel in Germany and started reducing the layers.  No more beanie, hiking boots were no longer required, and the short sleeves emerged!  The weather topped a balmy 24C when we stopped for lunch at a rest stop on our journey south from Kiel.  Just couldn’t actually believe it!

In an effort to make progress south, we utilised the super efficient autobahn system and headed around Hamburg towards Bremen.  Our aim for the day was Osnabruck – and a campsite near there.  Unfortunately, we were caught up in Friday afternoon traffic, which was strong competition to the M25 London ringroad on a Friday!  We left the motorway – we really didn’t need to be there! – and made our way towards a campsite marked on our map near Dummer (!).  Fortunately, it was open (something we were still to discover was a luxury in itself).

The campsite was on the shores of a little lake.  Most of the lakeside was a ‘naturpark’ – a nature park with fields, forests and lots of birds (OK, mainly geese and ducks).  The rest of the lakeside were dotted with small clusters of holiday homes, which looked shut up for the winter.

Our lack of exercise was revealing itself in slight grumpiness, and as we had arrived in daylight hours, we hopped on the bicycles and went for a little 45 minute ride along the lake.  It was wonderful to be out in the fresh air and watch the sun setting over the water.  The remaining ducks and geese were heading to roost.

This is what the adventure is about!

The night time temperatures were also a treat – rather than being bundled up and in the tent as soon as we could, we sat outside long after sunset enjoying the evening.  It was 13C – but after camping near freezing, it felt rather comfortable!

We decided that the next morning we would delay our departure, and take the time to cycle all the way around the lake – a mere 19km, which may well have been 39km for the level of fitness we have lost.  However, we were up and about before most of the locals (what time do they get going in Germany?) and so had the whole lake to ourselves as we cycled.  Just gorgeous.

Our aim for the day was to reach the Mosel Valley, south west of Koblenz.  This is one of the wine growing regions, and the river cut its way through steep sided valleys adorned with row upon row of grape vines.  There seemed barely enough space for the small villages to fit between the base of the valley sides and river itself!

First priority was a camp-site for the night.  First site was up in the mountains without a river view – it seemed a crying shame not to be able to see the water.  The next site we found had reached the end of the season (warning bells started sounding!) and so was only open for 1 more night (we needed 2).  Lastly, we found a campsite which was based on a tiny island in the middle of the river.  Still open to the end of the month (fortunately), we managed to find a little spot overlooking the water.  Idyllic!

Our plan for the next day was to enjoy the cycling paths up and down the valley.  The Mosel valley prides itself on having cycling routes on both sides of the river from Koblenz at the north east end, almost to Trier on the south west end – a distance of more than 100km (I think!).

We awoke to fog!  Well, shouldn’t have been a surprise really, being in a valley, and temperature inversions and all the rest of it.  As we slowly prepared for the day, the fog turned to mist and the sun started to shine through … but it bore no resemblance to the clear skies and glorious sunshine of the day before.  However, undeterred, we hopped on our bikes and headed up the river towards the village of Cochem – a mere 13km away.

It was eerie cycling along the river in the dimly lit surroundings – every now and then the sun would shine through.  By the time we reached Cochem, however, the sun had managed to burn off the remaining mist and fog, and we were treated to clear skies and sunshine – finally!

We spent a few hours exploring the tiny town, walked up to the castle which overlooked the river, indulged in a German pastry and had our lunch on the river banks.  Then, saddle sore after 3 days on the bikes – we trundled our way back down the river to the campsite.  A mere 34km for the day, but a healthy start to getting back in shape.

Early start the next morning, as we planned to meander off the beaten track and look at the beautiful autumn colours.  One of the aspects Viking Explorer misses about Norway is the very distinct 4 seasons – something which the UK lacks.  He was looking forward to the yellows and golds, oranges and reds of the autumn trees, and the German landscape put on quite a show.

Our aim for the day was somewhere east of Strasbourg, still in Germany, and with the days still light until 7pm, we were happy for a slightly longer drive to find a campsite.  We continued to follow the sunshine – having already started to take it for granted – until we found ourselves heading into a dark line of clouds.  And that was it.  Sun gone.  Temperature dropped from 22-24C down to 16C.  Shocked back into the reality of autumn.

We came up short on the end of camping season.  The first campsite we went to was actually across the Rhine in France – and required a ferry crossing rather than the bridge on our map.  We turned and headed to our second choice – closed for the season.  Then our third – closed for the season.  Aaarrggghhh.  Fortunately, a kind couple at this last campsite gave us the name of a town about 10km away where there was another campsite not marked on our map, but they had no idea if it was open or not.  Off we went … and to our great relief it was still open.  By now it was 6pm.  We had spent almost 2 hours searching.  But at least we had a place to sleep.

1 comment

  1. andy cook

    Good to see you are on the move south,
    and also getting out on the bikes – it is a nice way to explore and get out of the car for a while and some excercise
    we like taking our bikes on trips too, where are you carrying/storing the bikes? we put ours where 2nd row seats normally are. having them on back boot/towbar would make access to boot awkward, and bikes would get damaged on difficult trails and on roof impossible due to rooftent and low branches

    we camped near Strasbourg this summer, at a site in a village called “Sand”, just East of Strasbourg and north of Offenburg

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