Thursday, 21 June 2018

Thursday 21 June - Güglingen

Where's Bertie? He's precisely where he was yesterday, at the Stellplatz at Güglingen.
Weather: Gradually clouding over and becoming cooler until late afternoon, when it started clearing again.

We took our stroll around the town late last evening, then returned to Bertie and re-opened all of his windows, plus his door, hoping that his interior might cool down a bit by bedtime. At 10.30pm, when we retired for the night, leaving just two of the skylights open, it was still 27 degrees.

Today was cooler, helped by a strong breeze, although running was still a sticky affair. I seriously considered a swim when I got back, thinking mainly of how long I could justify spending in a mains-fed shower either end of a swim, but in the end I decided that a run, a swim, then a walk might be a bit more activity than was strictly necessary.

So, after a bit of laundry (running gear was getting a bit ripe again...), a spot of breakfast and a modicum of faffing, we set off to walk the 10km circuit I'd downloaded from yesterday.

That took us through a large variety of fruit and cereal crops (including lots of apples, blackcurrants and huge quantities of grapes), but it was all on tarmac. There was hardly any traffic (off the top of my head, two motorbikes and one tractor passed us), as despite the tarmac, most of these 'roads' were really farm tracks.

That's one serious picnic area! We grabbed the table in the shade for our coffee and cake, and repeatedly had to fish bits of tree/blossom out of our cups.

The elevenses view was mainly over vines

When the route became indirect in its latter stages, we cut short, as we couldn't see that the final distance was going to show us anything we hadn't already seen - plus we were ready for our lunch by then. Having started/ended at Bertie, and with a detour through the town on our way back looking for a milk-selling shop, we still managed to exceed the advertised 10km.

Our expectation, as we sat down for our late lunch, was that, at any moment, the car park would start to fill up around us, exactly as it had yesterday. It didn't, but it wasn't until I went to sit outside an hour or so later that I realised quite how much cooler it had become. Whereas yesterday at 5pm there were around 200 cars here, today there were 8.

The only other news of the day is that I finished my first roll-top trainer sock, which I've been knitting to fill a gap in my packing (or maybe I've just not looked in the right place for the missing pair of ankle socks?). Why go to a shop and buy socks, when you happen to have sock yarn and needles with you?

The second of the pair has now been cast on. I wonder how good a pattern match I will achieve? (note: it is self-patterning yarn, so obtaining a match is 'just' a matter of casting on in the right place and knitting the same number of rows at the same tension.)

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Wednesday 20 June - Güglingen

Where's Bertie? He's at a Stellplatz in Güglingen. Water is available at 10c per 8-10 litres, waste is free. (Exact location: 49.06454, 8.99466)
Weather: Cloudless and hot.

With a few exceptions, when other things get in the way, I write the day's blog post either just before or just after tea. Tonight I'm writing it just before (it's 1745 as I start) and there's not yet been much activity to write about.

My day started with a run. One of the things I like about Germany is the number of off-road bike paths all over the place, which give easy no-navigation-required places to run. This morning I only had to go twenty seconds down the road before I picked up such a path which I then followed for 2 miles before turning and running back. The only downsides of this particular path were the lack of shade and the fact that it went past the sewage works.

The crop fields gave pleasant surroundings for my run, but didn't provide any shade.

It was 22 degrees out by the time I got back at 9am (*really* must work on those early starts!) and after a (cold) shower and a very quick one-item shopping trip, I bagsied the driver's seat and out of town we rolled.

A small and winding road brought us the 15km to Güglingen and as we drove into the huge car park, which housed about 5 cars at the time, I pondered out loud what might be nearby to require such a large capacity. A quick wander told me that the only thing obviously near was the town's outdoor swimming pool.

Usually we try to park so that Bertie's solar panel is in the sunshine. Today we parked as far in the shade as we could and, as the sun moved, we contemplated moving to park crossways to the slots. It's an ignorant thing to do, and not something I would usually contemplate (and indeed, not something we did today, because it is just wrong), but as I said "It's not like there's any pressure on this amount of parking!".

Fastforward a few hours, and at 2pm the schools let out. By 4pm parents were home from work. By 4.30pm there was not a single space left in the car park and the access road had become the overspill parking. I've took a walk around and on a rough calculation reckoned there were over 200 cars here. There was audibly much enjoyment going on at the pool. There is just now starting to be a bit of an exodus.

Meanwhile, we have been mainly sitting outside in whatever shade we can find, variously reading, knitting and crosswording. I did download a 10km walking route just after we arrived but have no inclination to go and walk it in 30 degree heat and unbroken sunshine. Instead we will have tea and, when it starts to cool down a little, will go for a short stroll around the town.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Tuesday 19 June - Schwetzinger and Eppingen

Where's Bertie? He's in a Stellplatz in Eppingen, where electricity costs €1 per 2kWh, and water and waste cost €1 each.
Weather: Sunny start and sunny evening with varying amounts of cloud in between. Very warm.

Our day was not over when I posted yesterday's blog. At about 7.30pm we set off to walk back into town, which is a decent length of stroll away from the motorhome parking, to find ourselves somewhere to watch England's first match in the World Cup. I'm sure the bars would have been buzzing with people shouting at the TVs on Sunday afternoon, when Germany was playing, but to watch a couple of foreign teams play we had no problem with finding a front row seat and joining the only two other people intent on watching the match. Mick was the only person who reacted in any way to what was going on on-screen.

A couple of hours later we left, Mick happy that Harry Kane had grabbed a late winning goal, and me happy that I had made good progress on the sock I'm currently knitting.

Mick with beer and football; me with knitting and water. I am so Rock n Roll!

With the late kick-off (8pm local time) and a decent stroll back to Bertie after the match finished, it wasn't the earliest of nights.

Accordingly, it wasn't the earliest of mornings either, and I probably would have lounged around in bed even longer if it hadn't been for a desire to run before the day got too hot. I took myself around the outer perimeter of the Schlossgarten and sweated in a very unladylike way. I'm going to have to start getting up earlier.

Grocery shopping before we left was an easy affair, with Lidl being about 100 paces from Bertie's door and once our haul had been stowed (which always seems to involve a game of 'fridge Tetris' even tough Bertie's fridge is very generously sized), we were away. Again, it wasn't a long journey, taking us 45km to the town of Eppingen (twinned with Epping in the UK, appropriately).

The town looked like it was going to be interesting as we caught sight of it on our drive in, so soon after lunch we walked the very short distance to the centre. This is the first notable building we passed on our way...

...and from there it was half-timbered houses agogo, many of them exhibiting a delightful wonkiness:

The town is not a big one and it didn't take us long to decide that we had seen all there was to see, whereafter we ambled along some of the cycle paths nearby, not that we found anything noteworthy there.

Our preference at the moment is to spend at least two nights everywhere we can and whilst Eppingen it is a very attractive town, I'm struggling to think of what we might do here tomorrow if we stay. As there are a lot of Stellpltäze in this area, I'm favouring a short hop to another one, to see what we find there.

Yet another 'I've no idea!', this time in the form of a water tap.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Monday 18 June - Schwetzinger

Where's Bertie? He's exactly where he was last night, at the Stellplatz at Schwetzinger.
Weather: Sunny start, then clouding over but dry and very warm.

Armed with a backpack containing both elevenses and lunch, off we set to walk all the way around to the other side of the Schlossgarten (castle gardens), to their entrance. We knew nothing about the place (indeed, we didn't know about its existence until we chose to come here) but from its representation on the map, it looked to cover a considerable area and contain a lot of paths:

Well, what a place! I knew the gardens were going to be quite a size, but I expected a large chunk of it to be semi-wild. The reality is that it is a huge ornamental garden, with a significant smattering of follies (temples, a mosque and various other buildings). Later reading the Wikipedia entry, I could see where the author was coming from when they described the palace as being a modest size (in the context of palaces, I suppose; compared to, say, our house, it's ... palatial) with the gardens being completely out of proportion, such that the place should be described as the 'Schwetzingen Gardens and Palace' rather than the other way around.

With benches appearing in even greater number than sculptures and follies, it wasn't difficult to find nice spots for elevenses (overlooking a lake) and lunch (next to a fountain). Shade was required for the latter break; it was jolly hot when in the sun today.

We certainly didn't cover all of the paths, but after 3 hours of ambling around (covering over 4 miles), we felt that we had seen a bit of all of the sections. By then we had decided that the €6 entrance fee was a bargain. It would have been so for the gardens alone, but it turned out also to cover entrance to various buildings, such as the bath house, mosque and orangery, as well as a couple of information/museum rooms, where we probably would have spent a chunk more time if our German skills were up to the job of deciphering the information presented.

Below is a selection of photos of the day. Ordinarily I would add captions to give a hint as to what they show or why I've included them. However, because of how I've put this blog post together (a much quicker method than I usually use), I can't see what photos I've put in or in what order they have appeared, so please forgive the lack of info.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Sunday 17 June - Mannheim and Schwetzinger

Where's Bertie? He's at a Stellplatz in a car park in a retail area, just outside of the town of Schwetzinger (exact location: 49.37788, 8.5581).
Weather: Glorious start, but soon clouding over. Still warm.

As yesterday morphed into evening people started returning to their cars from the strange allotment-esque area next to where Bertie was sitting, many pulling folding trolleys, and within an hour or so the car park had almost emptied. That set me thinking a bit more as to what that area really was, and the conclusion I reached was that it is the inland German city equivalent of British beach huts. Many people in cities live in flats without gardens - these are their gardens, complete with substantial mini-house-like 'sheds'. That theory was backed up when I re-read the entry in Park4Night, which said the car park was next to the 'gardens'. I had originally thought that was just a poor translation of 'park', but when I switched to the German and French text my theory was supported.

By nightfall there were just a few cars left and we suspected, from seeing the manner of dress of their owners earlier, that they belonged to people attending some sort of a do nearby. That do finished sometime just after 4am and twenty minutes later, after we'd been woken by various chatting people passing by on the street, we witnessed the phenomenon where a car parked nearby will suddenly grow extra doors, all of which need to be opened and closed before the owner can drive away. I reckon the two nearest cars had at least eighteen doors each.

It was probably only a quarter of an hour before the chatting and door slamming stopped, so far from the worst disturbance we've ever come across (and as I've said before: if you're going to sleep in public car parks, you can't complain about other members of the public using those car parks at any time of day or night).

Opening the curtains this morning, a little later than intended, it was a clear blue sky that greeted my eyes. I made haste: a long(er) slow(er) run was on the agenda for me this morning and I wanted to get out there before the day hotted up too much. As it goes, Neckarau Park is a fantastic location for exercise on a hot morning, as so much of the extensive path network has a heavy canopy of trees overhead, meaning I was seldom in the sunlight. Even at 8.45 on a Sunday morning, there were hundreds (and I don't think I exaggerate at all there) of people out exercising. The Nordic walking contingent were particularly noticeable, as it's unusual to see so many people independently undertaking the activity.

It must have been knocking on for noon by the time we dragged ourselves away from Mannheim and we didn't come far. Ideally we wanted to visit a service point today, and that we could achieve here in Schwetzinger, a whole 14km of driving from our start point. We weren't sure if we were going to stay here, but arriving to find plenty of other vans in residence, we thought it couldn't be as bad as the couple of reviews I'd read had implied (their only complaint was the road noise and perhaps Sunday afternoon isn't the best time for us to be a judge of that).

The map told us that just along the road are the castle gardens, so after lunch we ambled along for a look. It turns out that one has to pay for entry and the only entrance is right on the other side. When we finally reached it, we discovered that it's not just gardens, but also a Palace. Unfortunately, there is only one English language tour of the building each week and it takes place on a Sunday at 2.15pm. We arrived at 3pm. So, we won't be visiting the Palace.

We will take in the gardens, but we decided to leave that for tomorrow, instead taking a stroll around the castle square and the bit of old town nearby.

I'll leave you today with a selection of the many sculptures/art installations we saw around the town:

I've no idea!

The town is famed for its asparagus, which is the subject of this sculpture. The market stall behind was an asparagus vendor.

Of the four corners of this junction, three contained art installations (two are visible in this shot).

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Saturday 16 June - Mannheim

Where's Bertie? He's in the same car park as last night.
Weather: Mainly sunny. Warm.

I had a good night's sleep, oblivious to anything going on outside, and would describe this spot as a nice quiet one, with very little traffic passing at night (it's a dead-end road, that leads only to the car park of the Strandbad recreation area).

Mick, on the other hand, did not sleep well, although on analysis, probably only because he was too highly alert for anything going on outside, rather than because anything did go on.

As a result, when I sprang out of bed just after 6.30, deciding it was early enough to have some breakfast before running at 9am, Mick continued to slumber - or as much as he could with me banging around making porridge and tea.

The ParkRun surprised us by taking a slightly different course from the one shown on the website (and thus different from the route we recce'd yesterday), but it was good and enjoyable - for me at least. I finished having beaten my previous overall ParkRun PB (set at Toulouse in December 2016) by 18 seconds.

Unfortunately, it was an understandably grumpy Mick I found when I crossed the line jubilant at my success. He had suffered yet another recurrence of a calf pull that has plagued him for years.

About two thirds of today's participants were locals, the rest Brits, and when we went for coffee at the Strandbad restaurant after the event we found ourselves sharing a table with some of the former. Perhaps a good thing from an 'immerse yourself in the local culture' point of view, but a bit tricky when you seem to have forgotten most of the limited German language you once knew. Thankfully, the chap next to whom I was sitting spoke good English. His son was around 14 so mainly communicated by grunting...

ParkRunners chowing down on breakfast. The terrace proved to be a good place to watch passing traffic on the Rhine.

Looking upstream from the beach outside of the restaurant.

We had been the first to arrive for coffee and were last to leave, just before noon.

A decision then had to be made: where to go next? We looked at a map. We pondered. Then we moved all of half a mile back down the road to last night's location. It's a nice area, and Mick was going to be resting his leg for the rest of the day (employing our bag of frozen peas well), so why not stay?

Canoeists and other people too

I took another stroll this afternoon, taking me first to another section of the river, where people were out canoeing and water-skiing, then looping around to the area behind Bertie. There I found a community that looked to me like it was originally allotments with large and substantial sheds that have now been converted to houses (weekend houses?). The plots are all very modest (allotment sized, really), and most of them are growing fruit and veg, with the rest sporting well-tended lawns. All of the pedestrian avenues that criss-cross the community are gated, but with the gates mainly being open today I walked through. All very neat, twee and nice.

Now we're sitting around for the evening (in a balmy 30 degrees inside Bertie as I type this; that dress I bought at the start of the trip is getting plenty of wear!) we should probably look at the map some more and decide where we're going tomorrow. In reality, we'll probably do that about 10 minutes before we leave in the morning.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Friday 15 June - Bad Dürkheim and Mannheim

Where's Bertie? He's in a car park at Neckarau Park on the south side of Mannheim (exact location: 49.44984, 8.46362).
Weather: Sunny intervals and warm. Most sun this morning.

Last night's Stellplatz at the vineyard at Bad Dürkheim may have given us pleasant green surroundings, but (as I mentioned yesterday) it was also right alongside a road. That road wasn't massively busy and, thanks to how often we sleep in laybys, we're reasonably immune to passing traffic, but this road was particularly noisy - not helped by the number of tractors that trundle up and down. Thus, I was awake not long after six this morning, which wouldn't have been so bad if I had gone to bed earlier and/or hadn't suddenly remembered at 2am that I hadn't put last night's leftovers in the fridge (at least in Bertie the kitchen is only two paces from the bed).

This morning was a relaxed affair with the main feature being a bit of laundry. I think I've mentioned before that, for me, laundry is the one downside of living life on the road, without mains water or electric and with little load-carrying capacity for labour-saving devices. We can go for three weeks without needing to find a laundrette (not because we carry lots of clothes, but because we wear the same things until they start to become offensive), but there are certain things (mainly running gear) that can't wait that long. So this morning I set to a bit of hand washing so that we won't smell too bad when we run in company tomorrow morning.

A grocery shop and a failed attempt to obtain wifi at McDonalds waylaid our departure from Bad Dürkheim and I'm a little ashamed to say that we left the town without having made any attempt to look around.

The drive to Mannheim wasn't long (less than 30km), but a bit of excitement was thrown in when a 2.1m width restriction was suddenly announced about 100m before it applied. Bertie's only 2cm above that limit, but it would have been a tight squeeze to fit him through the width barrier that had been put in place at the start of the roadworks to which the restriction applied. Thankfully there was no-one behind us as we made a very late dive for the adjacent road exit, and a bit of a panic on the part of the navigator (me) with the sudden need to redirect us to the next bridge along the river.

It was gone 2pm by the time we arrived at our destination, by which time we were ready to eat a scabby dog. Thankfully, a plate of bread, cheese and salady bits doesn't take long to prepare.

After lunch came the only real activity of the day, as we set out to fulfil the reason why we wanted to arrive here today, rather than first thing tomorrow morning: to walk a recce of the ParkRun route.

The route mainly runs through a green tunnel of trees...

...although there are some open areas...

...and a nice stretch along the Rhine, which is running very high and fast at the moment (the barges were making hard work of getting upstream):

A ParkRun is always 5km long (give or take a couple of hundred metres, particularly if it's a wiggling course and you take the racing line), but we managed nearly 6k on our recce. It was an incident of neglecting to look at the map whilst busy chatting and a resultant backtrack.

Plenty of people were out enjoying picnics at the recreation area that sits the opposite side of the car park from the ParkRun course.

After all of that, the day was rounded off nicely by me finishing my latest yarny project. Following on from my success at crocheting blankets and knitting socks, I decided a couple of months ago to see whether I could manage to knit a jumper. This evening I was most chuffed, not so much by the successful completion of said jumper, but by managing to un-cast-off half of the cuff of one sleeve, to drop four stitches down six rows and to pick them back up again in pattern to correct an error I had spotted.

A big woolly jumper over my frock. It's not currently the weather for such a garment and I hope it stays that way for the rest of this trip!

As for tonight's nightstop, I always have concerns about staying in a car park in a location such as this on a Friday night. We've opted for the car park that looked the slightly less likely, of the two options available, to attract undesirable company overnight, but I won't be holding my breath for a quiet night. I'll report back tomorrow.