Tale of two cities along the Rhine.

So I was leaving the lush green and canal adorned horizons of Holland for the autobahns of Germany. I have never been to Germany and have never really strived to go there, maybe the deep routed dislike for Germans for no other reason than I’m British, they invaded our country, oh yes and steal our sunbeds on holidays! Anyway so I have no idea what to expect, my images are mainly the Berlin wall and autobahns. I expected to see a sign saying willkommen in Deutschland or at least a sign of some description. Nothing at all. I only realised I must be in Germany when the road system changed and instead of lovely 3 or 4 lane roads with nice entry and exit slip roads I had two lane roads, no speed limit, more aggressive drivers whizzing past my little rusty and blue motorway signs. What a disappointment, I mean in England you get welcome to Essex or welcome to Southend twinned with some polish town. Fortunately after my week in the chilled out road of Holland I feel very at home driving now, no more crapping myself for most of the journey and I can enjoy the journeys. I hadn’t planned where to go in Germany before I left the UK, had researched Holland lots but kind of forgot Germany. Not really something I would recommend as I then spent many an evening on Wi-Fi trying to plan a route. Luckily though some friends had given me some nice places to visit so I was heading south but stopping at the Rhine first.

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Ah well, a couple of hundred kilometres on the autobahn, and may I add they are as boring and dull as I had imagined, although the very weird slip road system of traffic leaving and joining the autobahn being on the same slip road so everyone is interchanging lanes at the last minute does keep you awake! I managed to make my way to Koln. The camp site had some bad reviews on trip advisor, rude staff, very unorthodox pitch bookings as you find yourself a space anywhere, so I wasn’t sure what it was going to be like. Well I loved it, the staff were very friendly, well I mean some Germans can come across as rude but I think that’s the accent and demeanour. I found a pitch with a view of the Rhine, electricity no problem, and facilities well the showers were better than I have at home, power chrome showers in a camp site! And for a deposit a key to There’s even a gate straight onto the footpath beside the Rhine from camp. The only downside was Wi-Fi was £3 for 2 hours and you can’t get reception anywhere except near the reception, you can use the computer in the reception for internet at £2 an hour. I kind of like not having Wi-Fi all the time as I find myself surfing Facebook etc. for no reason other than I can, so the fact I could research my next campsites at some point was good enough for me.

As per usual Zac and I went off for a stroll to see the campsite in its glory, check out the river walk and generally just chill. There is a warning sign which must be to do with the canoe club but its looks like a Hawaiian dressed woman being carried away on a boat, upside down by a tribe of men, very funny. There is another camper just like mine, yay. Better condition, but cool to see. It has two awnings, one a tent, and one like a blind that pulls out to give shade. Christmas list for me I think! It’s so nice here I decide we shall stay here for two nights, nice to not drive for a day after 10 days in a row. No English near me, and still not met anyone else travelling solo. The man next to me in camp is with his two sons, family trip, great. We say morning, and nod every so often but don’t chat.

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Without boring you of the hour by hour proceedings of the next two days I’ll give you my recommendations. Swim in the Rhine if you like swimming, not too far out as the currents are tricky, its been such lovely weather I was swimming at 8pm. Go on the boat cruise down the Rhine only £8 and get off and see the Lindor chocolate museum or the Olympic museum. I couldn’t as I have Zac, but it’s a hop on and op off tour.  Thee tour gives you a great view of the city and English speaking tour as well so I learn about the old docks that are now plush apartments, just like docklands in London, and the ‘blind’ side of the Rhine where horses used to pull the boats but were blinded by the suns reflection on the water. Nothing is built on that side incidentally. Amazing couple of days, very quaint, old fashioned in most parts except the newly built plush apartments.

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So next stop Frankfurt. I have a friend I met volunteering in Nepal who lives there and I hope we can meet up. Only issue it in most German cities you need a green eco sticker and I haven’t got one and seemingly can’t get one easily in Germany on a Wednesday afternoon! So I quickly research another camp site not in the green zone and head off. 200km of autobahn today, lucky I have my iPod connected and just sing along to the music. Where else would you get Simon and Garfunkel followed by Pink!! I try to amuse myself on the long journeys by looking out for different countries number plates, trying to tick off as many as possible. As I am nearing Frankfurt I was amused at the number plate F CK 502, easily pleased clearly but after driving for a few hours on those autobahns anything to tickle me. After four hours I arrive at this new site, bollocks, it’s not a site, it’s a car park with eight spaces and full up. That will teach me to quickly change plans, I don’t normally miss the basic info such as how many spaces. I have three others written down its bloody 7pm already so want the closest to where I am, tap in to sat nav and off we go. 20 mins and I turn in, oh shit, it’s the city camp, which means I am in the eco zone, this is the one I couldn’t come to, no signs that I saw made it obvious we were in an eco-zone?. Tough luck now, it’s nearly 8pm, I just go in.

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Now this site had also had some awful reviews, rude staff, no Wi-Fi at all, someone spent an hour there and left. Again I do not know where these people stayed.  I found it great.  Spoke my pigeon German to say hello and can you speak English, and she could. One night, electricity, showers for a £1, toilets nice, 5 min walk to U-Bahn and 15 mins tube to the city, an Aldi 5 mins away. I mean theres no grass, and its not a campsite as you’d picture. It’s a car park with facilities really but its only for a night and has everything I need. Great! We set up camp, waited for my friend to give me instructions on where to meet her and on the U-Bahn we went. Another first for Zac. Easy enough, seven stops to a main station then one stop and we were there. We weren’t in the very centre of the city but not far. Just like any town centre really, built up, modern, huge Primark, C and A (retro!), people milling about, restaurants buzzing. My friend is working tonight but I haven’t eaten so said we would come to her restaurant and she can chat when free. So good to see her. She had been in Nepal for seven months when I met her for her last week. We chatted about the orphanage, hers and my experience, what happened after. The poor girl with meningitis when we were there did sadly die after all their trips to doctors, witch and normal and various medicines, sad story. Had an awesome chat though, nice to meet again. Headed back at about 11.30pm, thought about going the extra three stops to the centre but decided it’s too late and hot for Zac.

So after a lovely long walk around the local village in the morning we were leaving the Rhine and heading to Wurzburg for the romantic road. Again I haven’t spoken to anyone at this site, no English at all, everyone seems to think im German now. Is that a good thing? I liked being Dutch, but German? After 30 mins driving, I lost all power on the autobahn, shit!! Fortunately there was a hard shoulder and I rolled into it. The drive shaft had broken off, but didn’t seem badly damaged. Called my RAC European breakdown not that impressed to be honest. Two hours later, and no phone call back from them, a German tow truck picked me up, no roadside fixing, and no speaking of English. I showed him the problem (feeling very mechanically minded although it’s only because I called my brother after spotting it), he said that needs a garage. Nice. He then dropped me in a VW garage in Frankfurt, no help, just dropped me. Luckily a very friendly lady at reception helped and after a few tears and tantrums from me on the phone to RAC, because the useless recovery truck driver had told them the drive shaft was kaput, they were telling me its £500, then no they can’t get the part its discontinued, then they actually looked at it, fixed it and six hours later I was on the road again. Headed back to city camp, as the VW garage was in the middle of the eco zone anyway so already illegally driving. Slightly scary as I did actually have to drive right through the CBD, pretty awesome, modern buildings across the skyline, but was filling my pants every time I saw a police car!

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Glad I stayed the extra day as I found the route to the Rhine walk and watched the sunset over the hills, and in the morning noticed there’s a huge outdoor swimming complex along that walk, 10 mins from camp. More positives!! I had to do some shopping and Aldi in the UK annoys me and I do my upmost not to shop there but needs must, a shops a shop at the end of the day. Walked back to camp through the local town, banks, pharmacy’s, restaurants, book shops, everything you could want and very quaint. As I leave the City Camp Frankfurt two women who have been there for the two days wave me goodbye, how nice, I’ve not spoken to them at all. It’s an odd thing camping, everyone is polite but few speak to each other properly.

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So Koln and Frankfurt done, chilled out Koln, break downs in Frankfurt, all making a great trip so far, think I prefer Koln, prettier, but had a great time in both cities. I love the Rhine! A recommendation to visit to you all.

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