Friday, 17 August 2018

Friday 17 August - Heidelberg & Mannheim

Where's Bertie? He's in a car park at Neckarau Park on the south side of Mannheim. It's the same place he spent the nights of 15 & 16 June.
Weather: Sunny for most of the day, with cloud, rumblings of thunder and a bit of rain coming in late afternoon.

Having surveyed the options for where we could spend tonight, so as to position us reasonably well for a quick visit to Neckarau Park (Mannheim) tomorrow, I set the SatNav for a walkers' car park that sits up above Heidelberg. It was an 'interesting' drive up there, involving a closed road, a diversion and some streets made a bit tight by cars parked on both sides. Then we arrived to find the whole car park to be on a bit of a slant. There were a couple of spaces (not free at that time) that would have been acceptable, but we decided that we would stay there only for lunch and a walk, then would continue on to Mannheim today.

It was a pleasant short route, through old, mixed woodland, although it was lacking viewpoints. Not that today's air clarity made for good views where we did find a break in the trees:

Back at Bertie, the SatNav (with Google Maps as a sanity-check back-up) took us back down to the River Neckar via a much better route (minimal tiny roads and no closures), and half an hour or so later we were installed in Mannheim, where I'm hoping to go for another little strollette later, assuming that this rain passes.

Snapped out of Bertie's window when stopped at traffic lights.

The only other not-really-news of the day is that, after spending a few days watching Bertie's 'miles to empty' read-out, and comparing it with how far away from Luxembourg (land of cheap fuel), we decided today that the numbers were a little too close for comfort, so pulled in to put €10-worth of diesel into the tank. Hopefully that will see us over the border, and as far as a fuel station that doesn't have a big queue of border hopping fuel-tourists. We will find out tomorrow...

The rain barely lasted any time at all and wasn't too heavy, which is a good thing as I've only just remembered that I opened the roof light above Bertie's bed when we arrived here. A late evening stroll has just been had through the wooded park and along the river. At the Strandbad (riverside leisure area) the car park was heaving, and we expected to find great groups of people picnicking and barbecuing. That wasn't the case, as the dry weather has caused barbecues and open fires to be banned. The river itself is rather smaller than it was in mid-May too:

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Thursday 16 August - Obrigheim and Mosbach

Where's Bertie? He's at a Stellplatz in the town of Mosbach (exact location: 49.36087, 9.14760).
Weather: Wall-to-wall sunshine and hot.

Whilst walking along the river yesterday afternoon we came upon an information sign that told us that we were just 500m away from the start of a heritage trail that visits the few visible remains of a Second World War aircraft engine factory, and its supporting infrastructure. The factory itself was situated within 56000 square metres of underground tunnels, which had been commandeered from an old gypsum mine.

With information provided in English, we thought it might be moderately interesting, and we seldom object to a walk through the woods, so this morning that's what we did.

It turned out that the only sign with any English on it was the one photographed above, advertising the route. Those situated on the route itself weren't even set out in a Google Translate-friendly way. We made do, and it was, as we'd hoped, moderately interesting.

Down there are the sites of the four concentration camps from which forced labour was taken to create the factory and then to run it. It started in early 1944 and ended with the war in 1945.

This tunnel was a very effective air conditioning system today. From a couple of hundred metres away we could feel the cold air eminating from it. The tunnels were very firmly closed off to prevent access.

There had been a bit of dithering before our walk as to whether Bertie should stay put on our riverside pitch today, or whether we should move a few km up the road to Mosbach. By the time we were back from our walk, we had decided to move - something we nearly regretted when we ran into yet another road closure blocking our way. Our perception is that the Germans don't often employ temporary traffic lights, but instead operate road closures. It feels like not a single journey goes by without us seeing at least one.

Even on arrival, I wasn't convinced we'd done the right thing in moving, as rather than being parked on a river bank, with nothing between us and the water, we were now in a compound of other vans, with wooded slopes around, but no particular view.

Then we walked into the old town, about 1km away through parkland, and soon decided that it was most definitely worth visiting.

It's another historic town full of half-timbered buildings

I'd already picked up a leaflet at the Stellplatz which set out a tour of the town, taking in the most historically interesting buildings and features (plus the old people's home, built in the 1980s, which was a bit of an odd inclusion in the tour, even if it did win a design award for how well it integrated old with new). We'd managed to find our way to Point Of Interest No 3, unable to understand any of the information about them, when I noticed that I was standing outside of the Tourist Information Office. They had a copy of the town tour leaflet in English, allowing us to get much more out of the rest of our visit.

This was described in the leaflet as the 'Kiwwel Poo Spring'. Initially I thought it a bad translation, but then I read on. In the 19th century, toilets in Mosbach consisted of cider and wine barrels set up in quiet locations, such as in the narrow gaps between houses. This was odd behaviour to the people from outside the town, thus Mosbach residents became known as 'Kiwwelschisser' (Bucket Pooers). Over time this morphed from an insult to an accepted name for a Mosbacher, so much so that this fountain has been built to commemorate it.

Back at the Stellplatz, the rapid progression of summer made itself known when the sun dipped behind the nearby hill at just gone 6pm. That was a welcome occurrence, with a drop in temperature soon following. It's 2030 as I type this and now quite a pleasant temperature to be sitting outside. Perhaps there's time for a bit of alfresco crochet before darkness falls?

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Wednesday 15 August - Obrigheim

Where's Bertie? He's 20m away from the River Neckar, at a Stellplatz at Obrigheim (exact location: 49.35039, 9.09959).
Weather: Overcast start, clearing slowly all day, such that there is now not a cloud.

Over the last couple of days of perambulations around the Stellplatz at Lauffen, I'd seen a number of Waymarkers and had gleaned from them that there was a 10km lollipop shaped route. I didn't go out of my way to find the start point (Bertie was parked near the 1km & 9km marks), but today I decided that, rather than simply running up and down the river, I would follow the markers.

It took me meandering through the vinyards and orchards that run up from the river - with the emphasis on 'up'. It seemed when I finally reached the top that I was standing on the highest ground in the vicinity.

Within half an hour of arriving back at Bertie I was (cold!) showered, breakfasted and we were on the move, heading for Obrigheim, 40km down-river.

Given more time, I'm sure we would have been waylaid with at least a night in
Bad Wimpfen, which looked like a place worth visiting, but as we are now on a schedule, we stuck with Plan A.

The Stellplatz here (which is a shared car/motorhome parking area, running parallel to the river) is in mixed surroundings. We've walked in both directions along the river today, and the valley itself is attractive, with a large flat plain, bordered with steep slopes covered in trees, meadows and orchards, with large clusters of houses. That sounds lovely, but there's also a lot of industry and infrastructure nearby, which makes it feel a lot less like we are in an idylic landscape.

Here's an illustration, with my view as I sat outside crocheting this afternoon:

But walk the few paces to Bertie's back bumper and look very slightly right, and the outlook becomes less attractive (and at times, quite noisy!):

As well as watching the huge commercial barges passing on the river, our in-Bertie entertainment this afternoon has come from our neighbouring van. We can't understand a word they are saying, so have no idea what the content of their conversation is, but they come across as Herr & Frau Grumpy, completely displeased with everything they see and hear, including each other. It's a wonder they travel if everything makes them so unhappy! (Or, to give the benefit of the doubt, maybe it's just an accent and mannerism thing and they're really perfectly happy ... although I haven't heard them laugh or seen them crack a smile yet.)

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Tuesday 14 August - Lauffen

Where's Bertie? He's still at the Stellplatz at Lauffen.
Weather: Wall-to-wall sunshine to start, clouding over later, before clearing again. Pleasantly warm.

There's nothing to write home about today.

A run for me first thing, along the river and through the vinyards under a clear sky:

A walk into town later...

Looking across the river when standing with our backs towards the 'new' town

...took us past this sculpture, sited on a traffic roundabout:

"What's that about?" we wondered, but not for long, because I spotted an information sign across the road. Google Translate came to the rescue.

A detour was taken on the way back to take us over the new bridge, from where we could look down into the major civil engineering project currently taking place in one of the pair of locks below. I'm not sure whether it's just us, but we do find major building projects fascinating and can often be found paused at viewing points to see what's going on.

We had already stood and watched a digger at work on a different building site, excavating a trench that left just about a foot's width of earth between the hole and the adjacent river. This lock project was by far the most interesting, though, as we watched a massively long drill being retracted and dismantled.

Mick tried a little jogette this afternoon, to see how his calf is doing. He came back in one piece.

News from the Stellplatz is that there are 11 vans here so far tonight (10 of which are parked sensibly). Mick noted today the inconsistency I had missed yesterday: there's a stated maximum of 4 vans allowed, yet 8 electric points have been provided.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Monday 13 August - Lauffen am Neckar

Where's Bertie? He's at a Stellplatz, on the River Neckar, just outside of the town of Lauffen. (Exact location: 49.06967, 9.16292)
Weather: Rainy from around 1030 until 1430, with a bit of blue sky appearing later. Still pleasantly warm.

Having tootled 22km down river this morning, we arrived to find four vehicles already within the Stellplatz, and two parked outside of it. There was, however, a free space within the marked area, so we slotted Bertie in, only then to find that there is a 4-vehicle limit here (same as the last place). We weren't worried. How can it possibly be policed without knowing who was here first?

Soon after our arrival, one of the other vans left anyway, leaving just four of us within the official area for most of the day. As I type there are five within, and three without. I wouldn't be surprised if more turn up later. (Incidentally, the Stellplatz is a corner of an absolutely massive - and otherwise completely empty - car park next to the outdoor swimming pool complex. I would guess that said complex has had a very busy summer, and given how many fine weather days there have been, it's unsurprising that no-one has chosen to visit on a rainy day like today.)

A five-minute stroll along the river was managed upon arrival, but as the first spots of rain hit us we declared it to be coffee time and paused only to say hello to a very friendly cat as we scurried back to Bertie.

At 1400, with the rain still continuing, albeit lightly, we decided that getting wet was preferable to being cooped up, so into the town we went. Our starting point was the old fortified town, sitting above the east side of the river (the opposite side to the Stellplatz). It's all cobbles and olde worlde, set within the remains of the town walls.

Narrow, bulging old buildings featured, as captured in the first two of these three snaps. On the right is one of the town gates.

This sign had us all excited - the first English language sign we've seen, if not all trip, then for a long time. Although there were plenty of other information signs, this was the only one with a translation.

The new(er) town, on the west side of the river was less interesting, and quiet too, even in the commercial centre, with many of the businesses currently closed for two weeks for their summer holidays. It didn't hold our attention for long.

Brief consideration was given to having a swim after 1730 (when the entry fee reduces from €4.20 to €2.50), although the main attraction was the thought of a mains-water shower afterwards - something we've not had for 9 weeks now. But we'll be home within two weeks (yikes, where did all that time go?!), where showers consisting of more than 5-litres* of hot water will soon cease to be a novelty! (*Bertie's hot water tank capacity is 10 litres. We can both get a shower from one tank, with some left over for dishes or laundry.)

(An aside, only slightly related to today: A couple of years ago I bought a wifi booster. It wasn't a cheap bit of kit, and in buying it I knew that if it ever paid for itself (compared with using mobile data) then it would take a *very* long time to do so. However, it is convenient, especially in Scotland where so many houses host a BT Wifi hotspot. It's proved even more useful in Germany, as the FON hotspots here (which can be used with a BT log-in) limit you to one device at a time. The booster is one device, but via its own router, ten devices can be connected to it. Today it has proved its worth by giving us access to the free wifi at the swimming pool, which is incredibly fast - probably helped by there being no customers using it at the pool today. I downloaded three newspapers today in five minutes, versus two in an hour in Stuttgart.)

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Sunday 12 August - Steinheim an der Murr

Where's Bertie? He has not budged an inch. He's still in the Stellplatz at Steinheim.
Weather: Wall-to-wall sunshine and hot (as I type, at just gone 7pm, it's still 34 degrees inside Bertie. It is starting to cool down outside).

An excellent start to the day for me: a 12-mile run along the River Murr and then the Neckar, almost entirely on dedicated cycle/foot paths (mainly shaded too), with a bit of off-tarmac here and there. All was quiet when I set off, on a much cooler morning than any of the previous few weeks, but by the time I was approaching half way, other runners and cyclists started appearing. I'd seen lots of both by the time I returned to Bertie, but the runner that wins the award for a hard workout is the chap who I followed for a short while, before he suddenly disappeared up into the vinyard terraces. As I passed the gap in the lower wall, he was storming up the steep stone staircase.

Gorgeous morning for a run along the river, and for floating in a hot air balloon above it.

My pace was exactly what Mick had expected it to be, so he was waiting for me at the bridge at the end of the car park when I finished. He then took the role of chief photographer as I went and sat in the river. Much colder than my previous two river immersions, but very nice for the thighs.

Hopefully it's understandable that the rest of my morning involved eating, drinking and reading, but we did take ourselves off this afternoon for a walk along the other nearby river (the Bottwar - much smaller than the Murr, and for most of the time it wasn't within sight anyway).

That was a sweaty business, so shade was sought when we returned, which has equated to sitting behind Bertie, under a large oak trees, which is regularly dropping acorns. It's a wonder neither of us has yet been hit.

I'd my translation amiss? Women's parking places?!

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Saturday 11 August - Stuttgart and Steinheim an der Murr

Where's Bertie? He's at a Stellplatz at Steinheim an der Murr (exact location: 48.96387, 9.27980).
Weather: Mainly sunny, but some cloud around. Warm.

Our parking space last night was about 6km from the Stuttgart ParkRun location, so only a 10-minute drive away. All the same, we set out early (at 7am, for a 9am run) so that we could nab our preferred parking space for Bertie and have breakfast once we arrived. Forty-five minutes later, after a vast tour of the roads of Stuttgart, we finally found our way around the closure of the road upon which the ParkRun is located (or at least, we found a way that only required us to drive a few metres up the closed road). Then we found that, due to the re-astro-turfing of the all-weather pitch at the sports stadium, 'our' space had been closed off. All's well that ends well: we found a slot into which Bertie more-or-less fitted, and I discovered that even though most of my runs over the last seven weeks (since I last ran at Stuttgart) have been pretty flat, the longer distances have paid off. On the remarkably hilly course, as ParkRuns go (150m ascent over the 5km), I managed to achieve an overall ParkRun Personal Best. Much chuffed, was I.

With the running done, we joined about half of the participants at a cafe a few km down the road, where I should have ordered two breakfasts and two cups of tea. By the time I decided I needed more, the queue was prohibitively long. After an hour or so of chatting, sitting in the sun was getting a bit much, so saying goodbye until next time we should find ourselves in Stuttgart, off we toddled.

To Steinheim an der Murr we came (via a Lidl and a service point). It's not an interesting town, from what we found on this afternoon's wander...

It's Saturday, so of course we ran across a wedding.

...and, as I discovered when looking at the map this afternoon, it's not where I intended us to be today. Seems I got confused between the town of Murr and Steinheim an der Murr, which are only a kilometre or two apart. Ne'er mind, this location will suit us just fine. Steinheim sits (as its name suggests) on the River Murr, but it also has the River Bottwar running through it. They merge just to the west of the town, then further merge into the River Nektar a few kilometres further to the SE. Geography lesson over, what that means for us is easy access to riverside paths.

The Murr, which runs about 30m to the left of Bertie.