This has been our biggest week for countries visited. We departed Italy with sadness, having gone from loathing, to a something of a love affair. (I think Italians would like that a little bit as all emotions are covered!).
Leaving Italy - with mixed emotions!
We slipped over the Alps through the Resia pass into Austria, and immediately had to find a vignette to pay our toll to get through Austria. €8.50 gives you a week of travel and we only needed a day’s worth, but the fine is a minimum of €150 ... so we paid the €8.50 and vowed not to spend another cent in Austria!
As we moved along, we spotted a sign saying ‘Duty Free fuel and booze'. A quick left and we ended up going up a 19% incline on a seasonal road in to Switzerland. We did however get some diesel for 94ct a litre and some other duty free items. On the way back, as we went down suddenly the dashboard flashed up ‘low brake fluid’ ... that was a bit nerve racking. Back safely in Austria we made haste to our next stop, Germany. Unfortunately, the weather that had stopped us coming earlier was still very bad, so our planned alpine stop was postponed and like the accomplished motorhomers we have become, we changed plan.
I have always wished to visit Dachau and pay respects to the memory of what had happened there, so in the driving rain we pushed on and stayed near the site. The next morning we drove to Dachau, please click here for that experience, as a separate post is more befitting.
After this somewhat harrowing morning, we decided to visit the BMW museum in Munich. After what we had seen earlier in the day, it was very uplifting.
Karen at the BMW museum
This is a real example of German inventiveness and grit, re-building a shattered car manufacturer from pretty much nothing in 1946 to the luxury giant it is now. Still mostly owned by the same family, the Quants, it sums up for me the German mentality, build it, improve it, keep it.
The BMW building
My biker girl!
If I remember rightly, my brother George had this car in this colour. So classy!
The weather forecast for the following day promised wall-to-wall sunshine, so it was back to Garmisch-Partenkirchen for a trip to the top of the Zugspitze, the tallest mountain in Germany. This is not Karen’s thing, being both claustrophobic and afraid of heights. The sun did shine and I took the train to the stop at 2,650mt and then the cable car to the peak at a hefty 2,962mt.
From here I could see the four countries we had been through in the past days: Italy, Austria, Switzerland and, of course, Germany. At a cost of €53 for the return trip it is not a cheap option, but having done the journey it was worth it for me. The view was so memorable and the force of the sun was amazing.
The idea that a train would run up to virtually the top of a mountain is so strange - a 5km tunnel was built to do it.
For me again what was so impressive was the quality of the engineering to get up to the top, so German! Garmisch itself is a very lovely town with lots of cycle paths and hiking trails, plus, in winter, skiing. We were amazed that the wild seemed tamed and accessible - a feeling that has not left us since we have arrived here in Germany. Everything seems manicured and looked after.
The view down from the tallest mountain in Germany. NiKi, the motorhome, is in this picture!
It was very cold and so bright.
You can see four countries in this picture!
The run up the mountain.
Much as we liked Garmisch, we had an appointment in Bad Waldsee, so we set off and on the way we stopped off at the two most visited castles in Germany: Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!
We decided that we were a little castled out and as Germany is not a cheap date we would just take a walk around them rather than visit. That said, stunning! We loved it, though it was one of the busiest places we have been so far, with tour buses and tourists everywhere. The castles were truly lovely and fairytale. Reminding us of Disney and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. We stopped off for a small beer and the lady there told us that we were lucky it was really quiet, as the weather had been so bad. It did not seem that way to us!
The original fairytale castle!
Arriving in Bad Waldsee
Welcome to the Mother office!
We had an appointment to keep…. So why Bad Waldsee?? Well, it is the home of the Erwin Hymer Group of course!
Some of you may well be wondering why on earth we’ve pitched up with our ELDDIS motorhome at the Hymer Factory, here in Bad Waldsee – midway between Munich and Stuttgart…
Well, for those of you who missed this major piece of Caravan Industry news back in February, Erwin Hymer Group has bought The Explorer Group Limited – home of Elddis and our Elddis Encore – creating a Caravan and Motorhome giant and paving the way for many exciting opportunities to come – both in mainland Europe and back home in the UK.
So, when we realised that our Long Way Back route would be taking us past Erwin Hymer, Elddis’ new Parent Company – or should that be Muttergesellschaft?! – the wheels were swiftly put in motion to give us a bit of a State Visit. Elddis people spoke to Hymer people and, with great efficiency, we found ourselves overnighting at Erwin Hymer Group’s very own Stellplatz /Aire, with a morning tour of the Factory.
NiKi joins her sister-brands outside the Hymer factory
The tour of the plant was amazing for both of us. Four production lines running in tandem, producing Hymer caravans, coachbuilt and A class motorhomes, all at the same time. What was striking was the quietness and calmness of the facility. Everything arriving to be placed into the vehicle at exactly the right time. Rather than have people stoop to attach something, the vehicle was raised to working height - so impressive! They are constantly looking to employ more people, but it is hard to find the right staff and unemployment is less than 2% in the area. Maybe I should learn German and go 'Bad'!
Hymer's belief that it is home to the best motorhome manufacturer in the world is all pervading and impressive. One comment was that any van produced by the Group was one of the best in its class. I can only assume that is why Elddis is now part of the group, as only the best will do.
Outside the famous Erwin Hymer Museum
Erwin leads you in!
We were also able, in the afternoon, to take in the spectacular Erwin Hymer Museum at our own pace. This was a testament to the inventiveness of Erwin Hymer, it was a fun experience for us both.
The only British motorhome, so far, in the Erwin Hymer Museum! We're sure this could now change!
The inside of the British van
Now this is a Motorhome! It cost about £100,000 in today’s money back in 1961.
The original Hymer and an original.
We had been told on our travels that Germany has some of the best kebabs in the world and have to say near the Hymer Stellplatz there is a very good one: Serce Kebab & Pizza. We suspect the guys at Hymer might already know about this place... Enjoy!
Doner Kebab - sinful but lovely!
Meersburg, Lake Konstanz, beautiful town with great wines
After our two-day stop cooking up a storm at Bad Waldsee, it was time to move on again a short journey to Lake Konstanz. We are getting lucky with weather - rain at night, cycling weather during the day.
Germany again hits the spot with lots of cycle routes - and it has to be said for us, lots of bike envy - their electric bikes are awesome! We took a run to the town of Friedrichshafen, on our bikes and found it is the home of the Zeppelin factory, and all its history. I took the opportunity to visit the museum and was fascinated. It was very well put together, and was fantastic to see modern Zeppelins flying overhead.
Zeppelin in the sky
A reconstruction of the interior of the Hindenburg sitting room.
Germany feels very strange after all the Mediterranean countries we have visited. The supermarkets are not impressive. Lidl at home is similar to all we have seen. There are no Tesco-style shops here, as far as we can see. That aside, as you would expect, everything here works, and rules are meant to be obeyed! One thing caught us on the hop when shopping. Cans and plastic bottles have a 25ct deposit. We can assure anyone that this concentrates the mind, making sure you bring back your stuff for recycling!
It is only just over 3 weeks before our adventure comes to an end and we return, back to the UK after 17 months on the road. It seems like only weeks ago we left and coming back will be strange. To think, we had never been in a motorhome before the trip, apart from a two week run in New Zealand many years ago!
Our Route This Week: