Rats!

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Not of course the scurrying hurrying burrowing into your motorhome type rats.  More the tourist attraction type rats in the town of Hamelin.  The river Veser, deep and wide, Washes it’s walls on the southern side.    The city has taken a myth, extracted from a legend based loosely on a piece of stained glass (now lost after over 500 years) and built a tourist industry upon it.

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Hamelin is an attractive city with many interesting historical buildings but the rats give it the edge as far as tourist numbers are concerned.  We spent a few days here on a motorhome site just 500m from the city along the Veser.

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We even partook of the hospitality available here and enjoyed the odd beer or two as well as the famous coffee and cakes in the city cafes. 

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The piper and the rat hold sway here and their combined presence dominates the centre of Hamelin.

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WE were able to watch the re-enactment of the events from our café seats as the piper led his convoy of rats and children through the town although we were unable to spot any signs of them in the river on our way home.

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You can just see Sheila behind the piper’s pipe.

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The scheme obviously works as the city certainly was busy, prosperous and very well cared for.

Just along the Weser where we parked there is evidence of an industrial past.  Enormous disused silos hinted at being a recent transport hub as well. 

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There was also an impressive iron railway bridge.  Curiously though, it went nowhere. it just stopped at the River Weser’s edge.  An impressive sight but you can’t even walk over it now.

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Continuing across Germany we called in at Brunswick on the day they were having a medieval fair.

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I am rather glad we stopped by as they had the only hand wound roundabout with a wild boar to sit on I have ever seen.

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For some here I suspect it was just a good excuse to get dressed up and show off your crossbowmanship, longbowmanship or horsemanship.    The symbol of the city of Brunswick is a lion but the city square was closed off for the festivities but I managed to snap up a dinosaur DSC_6442-1

and take a peek through an archway at the lion.

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We were heading for Berlin and had a few ideas about where we could stay for free.  Driving an eight metre van through a city is centre is no fun but we found a dead end road by the River Spree and along the Landwerhrkanal.  It gave us a fine view along the river towards the Oberbaum Bridge.

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Not a bad view for a free site within a capital city of Europe.   In the evening we had a visit from a neighbour begging a favour.  They had been “camped” there for ten days and the battery of their very old camper had gone flat.  “Could we give them a Jump Start?”  Not an easy matter manoeuvring our van in to a suitable position and connecting the leads but we got there just as another problem was remembered.  They had run out of petrol.  Topped it up from a can and with a lot of groinching, whirring and crossing of fingers it did start. 

We were able to cycle quite easily to the city centre and had a day sightseeing. 

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Bits of the Berlin Wall were still in situ and had been turned in to a monument.

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It all seemed so ordinary just cycling or strolling along what had been for so many years a symbol of fear and oppression.

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The last time I had been to Berlin there had been a whole lot more of the wall still standing and even more crushed to rubble.  I remember picking up a genuine grafitied fragment but I don’t know if it still exists. 

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It is bisuness as usual now for Berlin with all the pomp and ceremony of government and selling Mickey Mouse Chinamade Gegaws to the tourists.

Something I have never seen before, however:

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an E.T. photo opportunity.

I could not pass by without seeing the two famous “Gates”.  The Brandenberger Tor

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and the equally famous but not quite as architecturally impressive: Checkpoint Charlie” manned by two bored out of work actors in appropriately ill fitting uniforms.

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A far more impressive sight is the “Holocaust Memorial” or “Memorial To The Murdered Jews Of Europe”

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Simple in it’s concept,  2711 concrete blocks on a sloping site just a few metres south of the Brandenberg Gate.

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Built around 2004, it is a place for quiet contemplation (and photobombing sparrows) in the heart of the city.

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We left Berlin heading north towards our Sweden Ferry in Sassnitz but the less frequented route.  In fact the patchwork roads got narrower and narrower

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until we were on a bridleway! (Looking for that Gingerbread Cottage again.)

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We came to the ancient walled town of Templin whose gatehouse was now no longer wide enough for the road so had been bypassed but was still functioning as a footpath.

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Templin is alongside a canal that consists of several long thin lakes joined together and was a wonderful place for a walk.  We came across what seems to be a reinstated Jewish cemetery, a single stone inscribed with many names and widely separated dates.  Rather overgrown now but a touching monument nevertheless.

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Sassnitz is on the north German island of Rugen, a holiday destination for millions of Germans.  We stayed for a week on a campsite (A rare luxury!) on the beach near the tiny village of Altenkirchen.  The defining feature of this part of the world is a peculiar deckchair / sunshade / invalid carriage that you meet by the hundreds on the beach, in gardens and in restaurants.  

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Altenkirchen was named for this church.  A pretty and well maintained building that housed some very unusual sculptures in it’s garden. 

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Each piece was made of several twisted metal rods that individually meant nothing.  It was only when viewed at exactly the correct angle was the image revealed.

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We had experienced several distinct springtimes this year as we journeyed south.  One particular indicator was of course the plants in flower at the time. 

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Poppies amongst the rapeseed.   It was an ideal place for cycling and we took advantage of the network of cycle tracks.

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Our campsite was next to what I took to be a nature reserve.  On closer inspection I found the remains of an extensive network of aerials.  This abandoned piece of cold war listening station had been taken over by a variety of mammals and birds.

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Quite a treat for a cold war survivor.

This was the week of Sheila’s birthday and we had booked a lunchtime  table at the only restaurant in Altenkirchen.

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A good meal and plenty of beer of course.  Even a little bubbly to finish off with.

At the end of the week we were off to the ferry port via a 1930’s Nazi inspired holiday camp that was to have held 20,000 holidaymakers.  The concept was abandoned in 1939 but many of the buildings are still there and some are being “Gentrified” and apparently appear on “Airbnb” . 

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Then an overnight ferry to Trellborg.  

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Our first view of Sweden through the opening train deck of the ferry at dawn.

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Spring is here

Spring is here but we are heading north.  I am sitting here in the freezing cold among snow capped mountains remembering what spring was like long ago. Sorry about the delayed blog but we have just been enjoying ourselves too much.

Luckily we have our photos to remind us.  Sheila’s favourites: poppies.

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First stop in France is the bridge designed by Eifel of tower fame.  He clearly had one idea and was going to use it standing up or laying down.

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Pretty town snapped from the road.

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We generally frequent the least travelled roads wherever possible and we often have them to ourselves.DSC_5856-1

Occasionally, however, other travellers have the same idea.

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We get to park up in some delightful spots like this sometimes.  That is our bonnet on the extreme right.

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I couldn’t resist this one.  It reminded me of the entrance to Tolkien’s Moria with the two trees guarding the door.  “Melon” was the password if you’ve forgotten.

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Now I did promise Sheila “Not so many birds” but as we crossed a lake just south of Paris, we saw some Wonderful wildlife.  There were dozens of huge carp up to about 30lb (15kilo)  swimming below the bridge and loads of birds.

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Hope that’s not too many.

But what about the feral parakeets in Paris I hear you ask.  OK.

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Phew got away with that one I think.

I have never come to terms with the difference between UK wildlife and that of equivalent latitude mainland Europe.  Luxembourg is no warmer or colder than us but they boast some unusual wild animals.  They even set up schools to teach turtles the green cross code by the look of things.

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Even the nuthatches have superior looking accommodation and even a postcode.

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Somehow, though I don’t think that the humans get big enough for these bikes.

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Now this isn’t a bird although it flies and it is nearly big enough.

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many of the free places we stop for the night have a rule that says in effect “No Camping Behaviour” which roughly translates to no tables and chairs outside.  One such site exactly on the Luxembourg Germany border displayed the notice.  I cooked the roast chicken and sundries for tea and took the lot; cutlery, glasses, wine, food, plates and even lace edged serviettes down to the waterside to enjoy at this picnic table.

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Worried about spiders in the home?  Then get yourselves one of these.  I watched this littlun gather half a dozen before ferrying them back to his chicks.

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There is a tiny tributary to the Moselle whose valley is crossed by the most extraordinary footbridge near the village of Morsdorf.  A wire suspension bridge crosses the 360 metres at up to 100 metres above the ground; not for the fainthearted.  We arrived just as the heavens opened and the “Donner and Blitzen” started.  We tried a few photographs, sheltering the camera from the downpour and set out across the bridge with accompanying thunder and lightning.  Soaked but exhilarated, we reached the other side where we read in clear English that we should not cross the wire bridge if there is a chance of lightning!

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I sit in the passenger seat more often than not with my camera at hand in case of something interesting just popping up.  If I am quick enough I might just be able to see the leftovers from the Cold War peering up over the tops of the trees.

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The Rhine presents a formidable barrier to traffic but even where there is no main road bridge  plenty of small ferries operate on minor roads and in villages straddling the river.  I seem to remember some while ago the going rate for crossing was about 2.50 Euro but this vessel charged us 10.50 Euro after the conductor gave us a just a cursory glance to estimate our length.

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Very much larger vessels ply these waters and our ferryboat had to negotiate the crossing with this moving majestically by.

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When I was about 12 years old,  I visited Germany with my family and one of the most enduring memories was of a statue on a remote hill in  a forest.   I could even remember that the statue was called“Herman’s denkmal” in German, pretty near the extent of my uptake of the language.  I had to go searching for the bronze warrior with his sword in the air.  When we found him of course he wasn’t as big as a child’s memory would have him and he was surrounded by ticket offices, guides, tourist information centres, amusements, food outlets and all the rest of the touristy paraphernalia.

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