Germany was turning out to be the most sociable country of our trip so far and it was to continue as we headed to Schwabach just south of Nuremburg. We’d been invited to stay with Bernd and Karin – our sister-in-law Kerstin’s parents. They are from Germany but lived and worked in the UK for many years. We just about managed to tuck ourselves on their drive – another small miracle of the Elf.
They were very welcoming hosts and the weather was lovely and sunny. They took us to a pet store and along with some treats for the dogs, we got some homeopathic anxiety treatment for Bodger – anything was worth a try by this stage as he’d become very sensitive to sudden loud noises. Then we went to see the sights of Nuremberg. I hadn’t expected such a beautiful old town with a big castle in the middle. The Frauenkirche overlooking the main square is very pretty. I would love to come back here at Christmas time and go to the traditional christmas markets they hold here.
There were interesting sculptures too. One of them is called The Marriage Carousel ‘The Ehekarussel’. It is a huge bronze affair showing the so-called stages of marriage from courtship to death. It was made in 1981 and has been controversial with locals from the start. It starts with a mild enough courtship scene, but ends with a surprising scene of a skeletal husband and wife locked in conflict as she tries to strangle him to death. It is by turn comic and macabre. It’s certainly not boring and I doubt I will forget it… indeed, there have been times on our trip where I can fully identify with that scene !
One of the specialities of the town are Lebkuchen. The most delicious things, they are across between a biscuit and a cake and you buy them in packets. They are made from spices, ginger, nuts and dates. We bought some for good measure.
We also went to the Bratwursthaus where we had the famous Nürnburger sausages with sauerkraut, washed down with some good German beer. And I must say it is one of those food pairings that just works.
Bernd later took us to the remains of the Nazi rally grounds, which were not as large as I was expecting and were fittingly turned into a car park. The dais still stands, you can walk up it and look out over the grounds, it is a surreal experience to walk in the footsteps of infamous Nazi figures. At one point I unwittingly raised my arm to point to the boundary and Bernd mischeviously said with a glint in his eye – “put your arm down people will think you’re saluting !!”
The next day we drove to Brombachsee, a big lake that has cycle tracks going around it and we all cycled along, with the dogs in the buggy. It was a glorious day and we stopped for regular swim stops for Bodger and Charlie even had a few swims too. I tried my first Currywurst at lunch but I suspect it might be an acquired taste.
Later on we said our farewells to Bernd and Karin and promised to visit for longer next time if they would still have us. They had been very generous hosts and we had really enjoyed their company.
For our next overnight stop we tried a couple of places from our Park4night app but they didn’t impress, one was a huge car park in a town with a band of British travellers installed and one was on a hill but sat next to a load of mechanical engineering gear and rubble, it was also very sloping. After our descent through some impossibly narrow lanes with hairpins (thank you Google), we drove some more and found a lovely place to stay in a village called Konstein, in the Altmühltal Nature Park in Upper Bavaria. It is a very pretty area with lots of walking trails and cycle tracks. That’s what I like about the randomness of some of the places we stay, they introduce us to areas we wouldn’t have known about.
In the meantime Chris and Tamsin had texted us and said they were near Salzburg so we said did they want to meet up as that was the direction we were headed in. In between we stayed at Bad Tolz, a pretty Bavarian town with a turquoise blue glacial river running through it.
To meet Chris and Tamsin, Tim chose what he thought would be a nice location from Park4night. However in stark contrast to the 10 days of warm sunny weather we’d had, the weather turned. Not only that, Tim in his wisdom had chosen a mountain-top location called Gaisberg which is 1300m high. To put this in context, that’s about the same height as Ben Nevis. In clear weather we would have been treated to panoramic views of the mountains and of the city of Salzburg far below. But in fact we arrived to find ourselves in sub-zero temperatures, thick cloud and near gale force winds. We could only see a few feet in front of us and I began to feel guilty we had chosen this spot to meet Tamsin and Chris. I doubted their VW van setup had central heating like the Elf. We warned them in advance but to their credit, they did not cancel on us.
We had an enjoyable evening in the Alpine restaurant which accepted us all and our 3 dogs, where there was just one thing on the menu – roast pork with dumplings stew – and it was very good. In the next room, a party seemed to be going on with accordion-playing and a lot of raucous laughter so it was a festive atmosphere. With all the beer being consumed I wondered how they would drive down the hill with its steep and twisty hairpin roads.
The next morning it began to snow and Chris and Tamsin left as soon as they could. I just hoped they would still speak to us again after the glacial weather conditions we had foisted on them! (Luckily they are still speaking to us.)
That morning we also found a printed note on our windscreen saying that camping other than in designated campsites was illegal in the area of Salzburg. We hadn’t seen any signs to say ‘No overnight camping’ as if there had been, we wouldn’t have stayed. This note puzzled me because although courteous, the language was not very typically official and it did not say who it was from. If it was illegal then surely wouldn’t there be a sign and we would be fined ? Or was this a peeved local resident ? But there were no houses there, and who would come up the mountain just to leave a note for us, especially in this weather? Could it be one of the restaurant owners despite our patronage the previous evening ? It was a puzzle and we’ll never know.
Since then I did some research and couldn’t find anything definitive but from a few sources it seems that while free camping is not illegal in Austria – it is frowned upon. I’ll say it is. For the first time in our 7 months of motorhome travelling around Europe we felt just a tad unwelcome. However the main thing was it was polite and there was no fine. We waited a bit for temperatures to rise above zero to reduce the likelihood of ice and negotiated our way down the mountain and out of the clouds.