Our journey north through Germany continues ... and closer to home we get. In just over two weeks we will be back home in the UK, with an Elddis Homecoming planned.
Our time in Germany so far has been enjoyable - a trip to BMW and then to Hymer and the Erwin Hymer Museum, the Group now Elddis' parent company.
A sombre trip to Dachau, in sharp contrast to the natural wonders of the Alps and the fairytale castles of Bavaria.
And, after the delights of nearly 18 months of Mediterranean cuisine, the German food feels heavy-going: the traditional dishes of bratwurst, sauerkraut and heavy meat dishes with big spuds are not going down well!
'Spargel' in all shapes and sizes
However, what has been delicious and absolutely seasonal has been the 'sparkle' as we call it - real name in German 'spargel' or as we call it in England - asparagus. We have been fortunate to follow the asparagus season up with each country having it in Italy, Croatia, Slovenia and now Germany and we might, if we are lucky, even catch the tail end of it in England when we return in just over 2 weeks!
We both love asparagus in all shapes and ways and will pay the price for good local seasonal stuff and some of the best we have had to date has been here in Germany, even more precisely in the lovely Black Forest town of Freiburg, where currently a whole range of it could be bought and eaten almost everywhere. Our purchase was from the daily market set out all around the 11th Century cathedral. The exception here is that the white variety dominates the green and is of course a whole different flavour, much more delicate then its green relative.
Lovely white asparagus in the pan, back in the motorhome
White asparagus served with butter and ham
We arrived in Freiburg on the Monday, after leaving Lake Konstanz and the idyllic walled town of Meersburg, with its exceptionally good wines. The idea had been another overnight stop beforehand in Triberg, the Black Forest cuckoo-clock capital and also gateaux pilgrimage site with Germany’s highest waterfalls to boot as well.
So with all that happening, we were a bit disappointed when we pulled up at the Aire in the main town - which was essentially a slightly larger than average concrete garage with no doors. Given there were only 3 places we were concerned as we approached that we might not get on site but upon arriving we could quite understand why we were the only motorhome there.
We parked up anyway and walked the short distance to the main high street and almost immediately both of us became further despondent, with neither of us seeming to get that warm, cosy feeling from the very linear high street. But cuckoo clock heaven it was ... if of course cuckoo clocks are your thing!
Cuckoo clock heaven ... or hell
Now we have over the course of the trip brought many souvenirs, but thankfully no cuckoo clocks are coming home with us. The range of clocks (and prices) are phenomenal but with the average price being €400, who actually does buy them?! Apparently a lot of Americans do and we saw 2 bought while we were in one shop - each to their own I guess.
Oddly, I have to confess to disposing of one just before we left that had sat in our attic for about 10 years, a rather weird 40th present to an ex lodger, but certainly not of the €400 kind. A bit more school woodwork type (sorry Joe if you are reading this, but you never came back to collect it... I wonder why!!)
Cafe Schafer-the ultimate black forest gateaux
But what of the Black Forest gateaux in Triberg? Now that was indeed truly scrumptious, with Café Schafer using an original 1915 recipe - resulting in a very sinful treat of this layered chocolate cherry brandy cream treat. This gave way to a small Black Forest gateaux challenge with 3 other samples along the route and we both agree that here the chocolate part of the cake is much lighter in colour and density, with more cherry brandy flavoured cream in and on it then we might have at home - making it a much easier cake to munch your way through (although I doubt any less calorific). A really delightful cake. I might even bake one when I get home...
Also in season are the 'erdbeeren' - strawberries to you and me. With so many being sold anywhere and everywhere, we are munching our way through them on a regular basis.
Wonderful sweet local strawberries.
In between all these yummy delights the rest of the week has been a real mix weather-wise, with absolute scorching sun in Frieburg for 3 days and then a proper deluge on Friday, pushing us onto a camp site to do some washing.
Such was our love for Freiburg that David decided a German haircut was called for one evening after a hard day cycling along the river, having spied the hairdressers on the way into town. One of the most common statements we have heard on our trip is “well, they all speak English don’t they?” ... Well, oddly they don’t, and the hairdressers was no different with the young girl reeling in horror as we approached her making snipping gestures towards David’s curls. Fortunately - or unfortunately for her - her client at that moment could speak a bit of English and translated between us that it was not great style we wanted, just a bit shorter. The usual ‘A George Clooney’ joke brought for once, much, if not perhaps a bit too much laughter, before a razor was wielded on David’s hair. Thankfully there were no injuries and the end result was exactly what a haircut should be – shorter.
Such a lovely day and cycle
Who could resist the cooling waters
In Freiburg, these water channels run throughout the old town - providing water to all, but never used for sewerage
Sporting the new-look haircut we headed closer to the Rhine itself which gives for a ‘natural’ border between Germany and France and could not resist the call of France - Strasbourg in fact, for an afternoon.
In no time at all after we had left NiKi parked safely on a stellplatz we were outside the Cathedrale Notre-Dame having a glass of my French drink of choice - Pastis. A marvellous short drink which is very easy on the stomach and good for digestion after all that heavy German food.
Strasbourg and my French fave - Pastis
With so many languages now buzzing around in our heads the French were less than amused by our Si’s, Ya’s, Danke and Grazie’s with most of the waiters just shrugging their shoulders in that wonderful nonchalant way the French have.
Notre Dame in Strasbourg
We are finishing this week off in one of Europe’s most famous spa towns –Baden Baden where England’s two most well-known Victoria’s have taken avail of the mineral rich waters and it’s probably as a result of those two’s visits that have pushed the prices up here so high!
A very large beer in Baden Baden for David
Germany for us has not been a cheap date, with coffee being about €2.50 to €3 per cup and very sub-standard compared to the coffee we came to love so much in Spain, Italy etc. Main courses are around the €20 mark and the much-famed German beers are London prices at about €4/€5 per glass.
We are staying on more Stellplatz or demi-aires, as I would call them in Spain, which are cheaper than camp sites with an average cost of €8-€12 per night plus electricity and water on top. So, all in all, our money is not going as far by a long way and we are eating in the van more often - but we are also eating more truly scrumptious seasonal food in house so, all in all, hopefully balancing out.
Good old 'english' curry for saturday night treat!!
Really, do I need a wash? It’s not my birthday!
So Going Naked is what we did in the famous Friedrichsbad spa, to get the bodies of Venus and complexions of Cleopatra. In this particular spa, which is the original one in the town, there is no option - clothes off or no entry! So come Sunday morning, we were there banging on the doors at 9am, straight in, down to the buff and away we went around the 16 areas of steaming, scrubbing, hot and cold bathing. It’s the cleanest I’ve been probably since being scrubbed at a Hamman bath in Morocco years ago and I’m wearing my new squeaking clean body with pride!
After those 3 hours of water and cleansing I should be fine until we get home! Obviously fully naked mixed is not everyone’s choice, but there are single sex days and there is also another spa option next door where swimsuits are allowed and it’s more of a mix of cleansing and swimming.
Friedrichsbad spa – the original
As Mark Twain said about the place - after 10 minutes you forget time, after 20 minutes the world. We wouldn’t go that far, but it was a wonderful experience and well worth the money!
With just 2 weeks to go, stay with us for the last few days of our travelling...
Our Route This week: