Our two nights on the posh campsite has turned to four. A sleepy relaxation has come over us and we can’t be bothered to move, plus the town of Rüdesheim am Rhein has an awful lot to see and do. Looking at the weather forecast it seems that the unusually hot weather will be over by Thursday so we’ll save our trip south towards the Black Forest until then. When we’re in Scotland we long for the sun but the reality of day after day of temperatures well over 30c in high humidity can be exhausting. Someone please remind me of that when I’m moaning in March in Bathgate.
When we asked to stay for two more nights the owner told us we would have to move because they were expecting 36 Norwegian vans to arrive in the area we were parked in. We’ve been surprised to see how many tourists there are here from Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Germany is obviously a hugely popular holiday destination. In lots of ways we fully understand the appeal but there is one thing that we find a bit trying. It can be very noisy. It has never occurred to me before that Scotland is quiet but we realise now that it is. We’re used to a quiet house and when we travel we go to the Highlands or the coast where there is very little noise. Here in the Rhine valley there is a railway on both sides of the river and the freight trains are enormous. We were sitting having a meal in a pleasant restaurant the other night when a train carrying thousands of cars came to a shuddering halt right outside the window. The sensation was bizarre. One minute we were looking out at the beautiful water and the next there was this great hulking freight train right beside us. Back at the van the circus was packing up ready to leave. Trucks were running for hours while they hitched up all their various trailers. We’ve come to realise that our tolerance for noise is low and we’re looking forward to some quieter places to visit.
One amusing side effect of the circus-as-neighbours debacle was that they had laid some hefty trunking across little road that separates the circus field from the campsite, to cover the electric cables and water pipes they needed. Sitting outside our van we were treated to a lot of surprised grunting and swearing as cyclists bumped over the trunking, only to realise that it was bigger than they thought and that the impact on bottoms was more painful than they expected. You’ve got to get your entertainment somewhere.
Our favourite character on this site is the gardener/handyman who comes round on his bike to help you settle onto your pitch. He only speaks a few words of English but his facial expressions and waggly eyebrows are a delight. Now and again, when he cycles by, he stops and gives the dogs a biscuit, so they look out for him now and bark if he doesn’t feed them. Every time they do that he stops, waggles his eyebrows at us, fishes in his pocket and gives them a treat. His work wear consists of a baggy pair of shorts, a jaunty little hat and a chestful of tattoos. The shorts are over sized and low slung so we have christened him Mr Bum Crack and Bunnet. Who would have thought that such an odd little bloke could brighten up your day?
Today we did the tourist thing and went on a round tour that consisted of a ride on a cable car high up into the hills behind the town; a coffee looking over the Rhine and the town; a visit to a massive monument built to recognise the beginning of the German empire in the 19th century. It is quite magnificent standing there high above the Rhine. After that we had a walk through beautiful woods to another cable car to take us back to the banks of the Rhine where we were picked up by a boat and floated gently back to where we started. There were three things that gave us a bit of anxiety. When we arrived at the cable car at the beginning of the trip it was broken down. Men in overalls were trying to fix it but not in that I know what’s wrong and I know how to fix it kind of way but rather a I’ve no idea what to do here -scratching head kind of way. Several would-be passengers returned to the pay station and asked for a refund. Standing watching the stuck cable cars rocking in the breeze did nothing to inspire confidence. The second bum squeaky moment was when we realised we had to get in the little carriage while it was still moving. Two dogs and a rucksack to contend with and Boo refused to budge right at the last moment. Eventually Shirley chucked him into the carriage and leapt in just in time. Finally, when we got to the second cable car we realised it was the kind they use for skiing where you just sit on an open swing thing, a bar comes down and you’re off … and it’s moving all the time. This time we had to have the dogs on our knees, as well as the bag and we were really worried that one of them would decide to hop off to escape the inevitable. We gripped the poor little blighters so hard they could barely breathe. Despite the challenges we had a fabulous time and returned to the van exhausted. Poppy and Boo slumped down the minute we got back and fell fast asleep, occasionally opening one eye and pleading to be left alone.
Tonight is our last night here before we wander further south. Before we leave the town we’ll visit the Abbey of Hildegard of Bingen. Hildegard was a mystic and all round feisty woman in the 12th century who wrote books, composed music, practiced medicine, had visions and refused to do as she was told by the local Bishop. An early feminist and fabulous woman – it would be a shame to be this close and not go to see her Abbey. Apparently you can taste wine there, served by nuns in full habits. There’s another new experience to look forward to.
Everything works in Germany (except sometimes the chairlift doesn’t!)
Now that we are a bit further south there are less reminders of the World Wars. Having moved on geographically I feel ready to move on from memories of Dad’s struggles from his involvement in the second World War.
Here there are the joyful noises of children shrieking with delight in the huge public outdoor pool, the sounds of the circus music, people laughing at the clowns, holidaymakers from all over Europe talking excitedly in their native tongues.
This is, without a doubt the cleanest country I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. There is so little litter the street cleaners wander along each morning scouring the pavements for any offending items, their garbage bags hanging limp and empty at their sides. I’ve caught the clean bug. On my morning walk with the dogs I found the wrapper from a packet of biscuits in the park. I picked it up and deposited it in the nearest bin!
Trains run on time, ferries run on time, the woman in Tourist Information was so helpful and friendly she now occupies the top spot in our Tourist Information league table. And almost everyone speaks English!
And Aldi and Lidl are right next to each other just behind our campsite. Am I in Heaven? Ja! Oui! Aye!