Vilsberg to Heidelberg – Tales of the Unexpected in Germany

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A Monumental Arch would have made a nice souvenir of Vilsberg!

We thought we were going to take a souvenir of Vilsberg with us – we had to drive through a Monument Historique – an arch quoted as 2.8m high. We are 2.6m high… It was a close one. Lucky we trust the Sat Nav.

And driving through the Vosges National Park was a nice start to a Friday!

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The Vosges. A nice start to Friday!

The terrain has changed. We were certainly in Gerani-land, passing pretty Hansel and Gretel houses and all the towns had become Heims, Dorfs and Willers, even though we had not yet crossed the border. I always hated geraniums and hydrangeas, but I have come to terms with them. I don’t know if it is an age thing – that you suddenly develop a liking for gaudy flowers, but somehow, they just look right in France.

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We have entered Gerani-land!

We had a bit of a pfaff in Pfaffenheim. The Sat Nav had a bit of a moment and we turned into a housing estate. A man was shaking his head, expressing certainty that we had gone the wrong way. He asked where we were going. “Germany!” “This is not the way to Germany!” He didn’t look too convinced that the main road we were on was the way to Germany either, but we are taking the scenic route (and avoiding tolls!)

Then we crossed the Rhine. It immediately started raining. Within 15 minutes, we hit a traffic jam and got cut up by a Porsche. Welcome to Germany! We felt miserable and stressed. I had told Mark that there was a town in Germany called Wank. “It should all be called that!” he replied.

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Stuck in a traffic jam in the rain the moment we crossed the Rhine. “There’s a town in Germany called Wank.” I told Mark. “It should all be called that!” he replied….

Today was the shortest journey (just over 100 miles) and it took the longest! “If we overtake someone from Holland, does that mean we Pass the Dutchy on the Left Hand Side?” He gave me one of those looks. “No.” He said. “Holland is not a Duchy, so it would need to be a Luxembourger.” It’s still raining. And we’re in a traffic jam but as you can see, we’re keeping our spirits up!

We were surprised to see a lorry carrying Category 8 Corrosives without the correct safety plates. It turned out that this was by no means the last thing that would be unexpected in Germany!

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A lorry carrying Cat 8 Corrosives WITHOUT THE CORRECT SAFETY PLATES!

Well, something had to go our way. We got to the first campsite with a 1 dog policy. “How many persons?” “2”. “Any Dogs?” “We have 4 dogs. They are very small and well behaved.” “A hot shower costs 1 Euro for 4 minutes. We can order bread in the morning. Choose any spot.” I don’t think I even needed to justify Die Hunde by saying that they were well behaved!

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The 1 dog policy is nothing to be feared. “2 persons. 4 dogs. Choose any spot!”

We chose our spot overlooking the river Neckar. It would be tranquil were it not for the road and railway on the opposite bank, with a hillside behind acting like a sound baffle to direct the sound straight at us – and we were entertained into the night by party riverboats coming past adding drunken renditions of YMCA. I hope they were doing all the actions! Still, after 692 miles in the last 3 days, we intend to do Frankie Goes to Hollywood – and RELAX!

I feel like a tourist, unable to speak a word of German. ‘German in 3 Months’ has remained stubbornly closed since we bought it in Salisbury, probably about 3 months ago. I was embarrassed enough having to ask the chap on reception “Do you speak English?” when I checked in. I did tell him “Je parle Francais, e parlo Italiano” by which I meant, “I am not just one of those British tourists who goes around Europe talking loudly and expecting everyone to speak my language.”

Our neighbours also asked if I spoke German when I kept having to retrieve Lani from their camper van. I felt more embarrassed, so ‘German in 3 Months’ came out. I did a chapter on ‘The’ and while it is not as complex as the 12 words that the Italian language boasts for the definite article, I still had to have a lie down.

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The site was quiet apart from the road, a train & a succession of party boats blasting YMCA across the River Neckar. I didn’t mind – as long as they were doing the actions!

So I tried the Winston Churchill method; 5 words a day. This proved difficult, as I can’t remember five German words in one go, so I opted for a SMART target (Simple, Memorable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) – which meant just one word. I started with “entschuldigen” or “excuse me.” I couldn’t remember that either. I tried the method I used to cram for exams; read what you need to remember last thing at night and sleep on it. It worked a treat – as a brain washing tactic. The next morning, I couldn’t even remember which word I had learnt, never mind what the German for it was!

It took 3 days to master ‘entschuldigen’. Not quite as timely as I had in mind, but it has already come in useful. “Entschuldigen, Deutsche nicht sprecken.” Well, apologising in German for not speaking German shows a little more effort and forethought than launching straight in with an introductory “Do you speak English?”

We have some interesting neighbours – some very run-down caravans that look like they are permanently occupied. They look like the beach house in Local Hero. Again, a little unexpected in Europe’s largest economy!

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Heidelberg; as beautiful as we had been told. However, not everything was as one might expect in the land of rules, efficiency & the richest economy in Europe.

Join us next time as we learn why you should not try to park a van in Heidelberg!

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