Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France…

Monday 31st August– We woke up eager to get on the road again and to get into Germany. Bergheim was to be our first European wild camping experience- a lovely little town in the North-West region of Germany. We have trialled the van in the UK for many a night wild camping in pub car parks and mountain passes, but Europe has a very welcoming motorhome community and has the most amount of camper van parking spots, where even water and toilets can sometimes be available. No need to be subtle here about the fact you are planning to spend the night. To find these we turned to Mr google or an app called “Park4night”, which was a great help and a must download for anyone looking to find decent spots to park up. We also found that chatting with other motorhome owners at these spots was a great way to get suggestions of epic towns and the more hidden gems. We found our first helpful local motorhomers at Bergheim after having a great tipsy night playing mini golf at the very small café that joined onto the parking spot. There were around 5 motorhomes, all German or Austrian, already parked when we arrived. All being massive in size, our van was the odd one out nestled in between, looking pretty tiny in comparison! We cooked in the van that evening made very easy by the fact that there are loads of Aldi’s and Lidl’s in Germany. We found this can really cut a lot of costs rather than eating out all of the time, and so we tended to try and do lunch dinner in the van and the other eating out. After all, if you can’t enjoy some nice treats on holiday when can you?

Tuesday 1st August – Waking up the following morning we got our map out to scan for the next destination as we’d kept planning of the route minimal. To be honest the freedom, flexibility and ability to wing it was one of the things that we were looking forward to the most on this trip. We would highly recommend doing this if you are happy to park anywhere, just leave plenty of time to have a drive around so you can find a spot that has spaces and you are happy with. Not 5 minutes went by of having the map out and we had a knock on the window from the motorhome couple next to us….. rolling down the window the lady asked if she could help. We happily took her up on the offer, and with a massive smile, the couple dived straight into the map, reminiscing over the names of places they had visited together wanting us to experience them too. Mostly pointing out the best small villages, they gave us some great advice, to which all were mostly parts of Germany that had vineyards- absolutely perfect in our eyes! With some great ideas for our trip ahead, we got ourselves packed up and ready to go, before being stopped by the couple to give us a jar of their homemade jam. It’s the little things like that that add to your trip and you can look back on with a smile.

From Bergheim, we headed South-East to the most gorgeous, very small traditional town called Escherndorf, near Wurzburg. It appealed to us the most we think because the couple had mentioned something about free wine tasting at shops in the village- unheard of to English ears “free alcohol” we obviously had to see what this town had to offer. We arrived around 14:30 and found that the campsite was still in siesta time (tends to be 12:00-15:00) so we had a little wait before checking in. There was a big difference in heat from the previous place we had stayed, and so a good range of clothes is definitely needed when doing longer term trips like this where it can change dramatically from day to day. After getting checked in we took a walk into the town and began our wine sampling- the two winery’s that we visited had the loveliest of people to welcome us and allow us to sample their wines. We learnt a lot about the vines and the wines and really enjoyed getting to try before you buy! Needless to say, we came away with a couple of boxes of wine- serving as some lovely gifts for our family but also a few cheeky bottles in there for ourselves…you know, to help with the holiday blues back home and all. We topped our night off with a meal and a bottle of local wine out at pretty much the only restaurant in the town. There’s just something about eating outdoors isn’t there? You really can’t beat it.

Wednesday 2nd August- After a lovely night stay we woke to bright blue skies and amazing views of the surrounding vines of the valley that we were in. Off we tootled back up the hill in our own little world, and we were honked at by another car- we were only driving on the wrong side of the road weren’t we!! Luckily with it being a steep hill we were going slow and so was the ongoing car, who kindly alerted us to this fact. It just goes to show though, that it’s a bit of a conscious effort to adjust to the roads over in Europe so make sure you are on the ball.

From Escherndorf we continued to head South-East, driving past Cologne on the way- we were tempted to call in but to be honest we were hoping to avoid cities wherever we could on this trip. Partly because you can do a city trip anytime, but also for slight fears of ridiculous parking charges and of people breaking into the van. We did have everything in place to try and prevent break-ins and we never slacked in making sure we stuck to this- whenever we were leaving the van or asleep it was a case of using our thermal blinds for the front windows (VW T5 Campervan Thermal Mat Cab Window Blind Set – 3 Piece Set (1295)) which were super easy to put up and take down, as well as our fitted blinds in the back of the van for the side windows. We also carried our valuables with us and made good use of our waist wallet (Hopsooken Travel Money Belt: Waist Pack for Running and Cycling, Rfid, Comfortable, Durable and Lightweight Hidden Travel Passport Wallets (Black)), again trying to reduce the risk of theft.

We did a few hours driving and stopped at Lake Chiemsee, an absolute stunner of a place and very hot again. We tried to find a wild camp spot but ended up giving in and using a campsite right on the lake. Straight away we were able to dangle our feet in the water off their pier, and we also had a lovely evening walk on the country paths that passed the campsite. Whilst out walking we did see that other camper vans had parked up for the night in a car park we had spotted with a sign saying that overnight parking was forbidden- we kind of wished we had taken the risk in hindsight, but this was early on in our trip and I guess we were still finding our feet.

Back to the van and alarms set nice and early for the exciting day that we had planned tomorrow…

Thursday 3rd August- We were up and ready to go at 06:00 to make the one hour drive to the Eagles Nest at Berchtesgaden, but unfortunately found out the hard way that the campsite gates didn’t open until 08:00! Tip- remember to ask the campsite owner what time the gates open in the mornings. To waste some time we made our breakfast and a brew, and also met a lovely Beagle. When we were on the road we drove via Austria to get to the Eagles Nest. There is a car park to catch the bus as you can’t drive all the way to the top yourself due to the steepness of the roads. Apparently you can park here and hike up, but funnily enough, we decided against this. The car park was surprisingly reasonable at just 3 euro’s and then we got our tickets and hopped on the bus- this is very regular and allows you to sit back and relax to take in the views. We were lucky to have a clear day and enjoyed some lovely food and drinks at the top and fantastic areas to walk to really take in the views and get those perfect pictures. You have to decide how long you want at the top as soon as you get there so that you are booked on to a return bus down- we went for 2 hours which was a good amount of time for a walk around and a leisurely lunch, but we did notice others going for the 1 hour option too. This is well worth a visit and is up there as one of our holiday highlights.

When we got back down to the van we drove to the Saltmine’s that were recommended by the couple earlier on, and which were very close by. Again this was a very easy system, costing about 3.50 euro’s to park. We bought our tickets from the main desk and after a short wait, we were off. The tour lasted about an hour and a half and was a lovely break from the heat of the sun- you do get overalls to wear but it’s not too cold…well, that’s if you’re used to the North of England like us! We bought some salt from the gift shop (standard) for what we had begun to call our campervan pantry- a freshly picked vintage wine crate that was holding some of our essential items e.g. olive oil, tea bags, rice etc.

Having stayed at a campsite the night before we wanted to wild camp and so headed to a nearby lake in hope of a decent spot. Pulled up at Schoneu em konigsee lake- what a beaut of a place! We were totally blown away- we pulled up in the carpark, found courtesy of park4night. The lake is surrounded by beautiful mountains and is picture perfect. It was busy with families and couples sitting by the side and swimming in the lakes. At first, we sat with our toes in the water, but then the realization that it’s not every day that you are in such a beautiful place with the opportunity to swim surrounded by mountains and trees, and so we got our swimwear on and went in for a proper dip! It was freezing! After a (short) while we dried off and walked into the local town where there were lots of little shops, before heading back to cook our tea in the van- steak and garlic potatoes with a view, not too shabby! We then enjoyed a lovely evening chilling by the lake, with some live musicians playing on the lake at one point, which was pretty surreal. Top tip- remember midge/mosquito repellent as when it is hot you need the windows open at night and that can mean a few bites! Also, a must for when campervanning is sensible choices of towels! We took our usual ones with us but quickly realized it wasn’t always the easiest to get them dried off- since returning we’ve picked up some microfiber towels (Microfibre Towel – Beach & Travel (Orange – Large 160x80cm) – for sports, pool, bath, shower, camping) which will be a much better option for future trips.

Friday 4th August- We woke up nice and early and captured some footage of the lake, had our breakfast and got back on the road again! It’s worth mentioning, as well as being a stickler for leaving the van completely covered up to reduce risk of break ins, we also did some basic checks each morning before our engine was turned on- such as checking the oil, checking engine coolant and water and remembering to switch off electrics to avoid unnecessary drainage on batteries.

We drove through a town called Mitterbach that was very pretty- the houses and buildings in Germany are truly gorgeous, decorated with their colourful hanging baskets, it really is a pleasure just driving by and seeing them. We were headed West today with an aim to reach the Black Forest or near enough. Never wanting to miss anything fun, we came across the Blomberg centre whilst on the road- this is an activity centre, including slides and coasters down the mountain for both children and adults. Go-pro at the ready we got out tickets- 6 euro’s per person plus 2 euro’s to park. This was a good laugh and was a nice excuse to stop off other than for toilet or cuppa breaks.

We headed further West, coming across the beautiful Neuschwanstein (chittychittybangbang) castle along the way, and calling into another lovely town called Fussen. Back in the van, we were on a mission to push on and reach the Black Forest for the night. On route we dipped into Switzerland as the road naturally crosses the border- wahey, another country added to the list for this trip! We used the trusty app again and found a parking spot near Dorf within the black forest. Unfortunately the toilets were locked and so we drove to another nearby one to check it out, but in the end came back here as there was more space here for us. Again, it felt like we were surrounded by huge motorhomes but it was getting late and we were ready to chill out for the night. The building in the car park must have been some sort of community activity hall, as we were witness to a brass band practice that night, which was pretty amusing! We noticed a definite drop in temperature here and it was the first night since the UK where we needed our duvet on rather than just a sheet…brrrrr!

Saturday 5th August– We enjoyed a little drive around the black forest before leaving it, including a stop off at a waterfall for a short walk. We headed towards Freiburg but decided to carry on rather than stopping off here. Instead, we made a few shorter and unplanned stops on the way- at a small car boot sale, at a fruit and veg roadside stall and at a garage to give our beloved van a wash! We drove into France and headed to Nancy- the plan at that point was to go to Nancy and stop nearby and then head to Luxembourg City the following day. We stopped at Nancy for a quick bite to eat for lunch, and then the old romantics that we are we decided last minute to head to Paris as it was our first wedding anniversary the following day! Not to put a dampener on the tone of the blog, but we’d had better days driving than our time in France…the diesel was a lot more expensive, we were gutted at how much the toll roads were costing us, and to top it off we got ourselves a speeding fine. Not so happy days. But we drove on and got ourselves checked in to a campsite where we knew it had a set up for transport into Paris- again, wanting to avoid taking our van into the city centre, the plan for the Sunday was to use public transport. The campsite was the most expensive one that we used, at 31 euro’s per night, but the reception were very helpful in planning our trip to Paris the following day. If we’re honest we’ll not be in any hurry to go back to France in our campervan for those reasons above, but each to their own!

Sunday 6th August- Happy 1st Wedding Anniversary to us! Using the bus to get to the train station we headed into the city centre of Paris on the morning and ended up getting back to the campsite at about half past midnight that night. Partially due to us getting wrapped up in Paris and walking around for hours, as well as the reduced bus times with it being a Sunday. That was something that we hadn’t thought of if we’re honest, and in hindsight, it probably would have been easier to have done Paris on a weekday.

We did some of the touristy stuff and enjoyed a lovely day together- we won’t go into detail here as there are so many different options for what to get up to in Paris it’ll be a case of each to their own.


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