Week 2. Will the rain ever stop…!!!
Have a look at our Instagram feeds (above) for more photos of our trip. “Jess” now has a feed, just started so not much there but it will grow.
Saturday 28th September (Forbach day 2)
It’s week 2 and we wake up to a cool morning this morning, not cold, just cool. Autumn is in the air. It’s a lovely day and the trees in the valley below are changing colour. It’s a great view to wake up to.
We will use our free travel pass today and take the local train to Baden Baden, a spa town in the heart of the Black Forest. Very expensive.
The train journey is short with a change at Rastatt which is twinned with Woking. Nice. We are confused a bit on arrival to Baden Baden as we discover that the train station is 5km out from the centre of Baden Baden so we hop on a local bus and it’s just a short drive to the centre and all the hustle and bustle.
Germany is in Oktoberfest beer festival time so we stumble on a place doing Lowenbrau beer from Munich. Lowenbrau is one of only six breweries that can serve officially at the Oktoberfest. The waiting staff are all dressed in traditional garb so we order some beer and discuss the rest of the day. As usual we end up looking a the menu and decide to order some lunch. This always happens. We go for a drink in a bar or restaurant and before you can say “Vorsprung durch teknik” we are ordering food and more beer.
It was worth it though, the food was great all served in a nice courtyard where the outside temperature was bearable. Time for a walk and to work off this lunch. Baden Baden is a nice place but we feel that we have not done it justice and should spend more time here. Maybe next time. We get the bus back to the station and take the train back to the van where the sun is out, the sky is blue so we get our chairs out with a beer as the sun sets casting long orange shadows over the trees of the Black Forest while we have a chin wag with our traveling neighbours. The sun has set and the chill of an autumn evening closes in. It’s time we were in now.
All in all a great day and in a lovely part of Germany. Top marks.
Sunday 29th September (Forbach to Freudenstadt)
We wake up to another clean, clear sunny morning. Today we are going to drive further into the black forest to campsite called Camping Langenwald near the town of Freudenstadt. Before that though we thought that we would have a look at the local church here in Forbach which by church standards is quite young built in 1956. We read in a review of the area that it had some OK stained glass windows. Well OK is an understatement, they are amazing. Very colourful and they stretch in a panorama the full width of the building. Very blue!
We take advantage of the good weather and slowly stroll back through the town and back to Jess. Our neighbors have left, we said our goodbyes before our walk. Their spaces have already started to fill up with some Dutch campers who will no doubt enjoy this lovely place.
Time to move on. It’s a short 40 minute drive to Camping Langenwald so no rush. On the way we fill up with diesel and LPG for the heating and cooking. Oh and Jess gets a scrub…
We arrive at the site just after 2. What a beautiful place. Set in a valley just off the main road and surrounded by the tallest pine trees ever. We choose a pitch and decide to have two nights here. All the facilities are here and they are all immaculate (the best showers ever!) The staff are friendly and welcoming. Does it get any better. We set off on a walk, something we have not been able to do in a week because of the bad weather. We get the walking boots on and do a gentle 4km walk, doesn’t sound much but it’s the first proper walk we have done in the open.
Another great day and quiet dinner at the site restaurant which is very basic but nice enough. We meet another English couple who have just come up from Italy and on their way home in their 1999 motorhome who they called Gino de Camper. Well why not. Apparently the weather in Italy was fabulous…
We get back to the van and settle in for the night when the rain comes down. But really comes down and all night. Heavy, heavy rain and strong winds as well batter us for an hour on at a time through the night with a 10 minute reprieve in between. Did we sleep?
Monday 30th September (Freudenstadt day 2)
The night was bad. Very bad. Strong winds and rain led to a poor night’s sleep. We wake up to a still day. No rain , no wind. Whew, what a relief. Breakfast was a solemn quiet affair while we discuss what we should do. Should we carry on or drop south into France and along to Spain. We had the same conversation the night before and arrived at no decision. The same this morning. We don’t really know.
To make up for our indecision we get a local bus and take the half hour journey to a Bear Park. Yes they have a fantastic park here where they have taken in 10 to 12 bears that have been badly treated and allow them to roam free, secure of course from the public with sophisticated fencing. There are also some wolves and lynxs to see. We pay the 8 euro entrance fee and off we go. It’s not long before we spot some bears. They are quite something to see in their semi wild surroundings. Each bear has a sad story of mistreatment in the past so it is a pleasure to see them happy now. Wolves?
Didn’t see any. Probably asleep somewhere and will pop out for a walk after dark. We did see a lynx cat sunning herself in the cool afternoon sunlight which was also a pleasure to see. We liked it so much we just carried on and went around for one more look.
The bus trip back took us to the town of Freudenstadt, nice town, very clean and tidy so we thought that it was a good place to partake in the German tradition of Kaffe und kucken again. Very nice. It’s getting cooler so we head back on the bus to the van for a nice warming dinner.
Tomorrow we are moving on. The weather is holding so we will probably stick to the plan and head for Switzerland although Hayley’s research shows that they have snow on the forecast there and sub zero temperatures already at night. We don’t have the right clothes for that!
Tuesday 1st October (ERNIE Day!) (Freudenstadt to Todtnau)
It’s a beautiful cool fresh morning. The sun is rising and the light and the shadows on the tall pine trees is quite something to see. Amazing. Here at the Langenwald Campsite we are preparing a traditional German breakfast of fresh rolls, cheese, ham and some salmon. It’s a lovely start to the day. Once breakfast is over we take our time to pack up and we are off to Titisee, further south to a site right on the lake Camping Bankenhof. The weather is glorious, for a change.
The weather is lovely all the way, it’s short drive and as usual in these parts the scenery is amazing. We have fallen in love with the Black Forest, it’s a truly beautiful place for a visit.
We arrive at Camping Bankenhof but decided to go into the aire which is next door, it costs less and you can still use the facilities of the main camp. The plan today is to get the bikes off the back, at last, and cycle the few kilometers in to the local town of Titisee which looked worth a visit on the way in. Del get the bikes off the back and is just about to give them a wipe down when suddenly… Yep, the heavens opened up and down comes the rain. Heavy, heavy rain…It’s almost like the rain is following us, we have not had a clear 24 hours without rain. Slightly angry and annoyed Del humps the bikes back on the van and feeling slightly miffed and fed up the decision is made to move south and get a move on and maybe, just maybe find some sun. Just a dry few days would be enough.
We set off and make for the town of Todtnau. We have been there before, it’s a lovely little traditional German town but it has the “Hasenhorn-Rodelbahn For 10 euros you go up on a very long, very high ski lift and come down on one of the world’s longest toboggan runs. The view from the top is quite something of the town below. In the winter snow it must be very picturesque.
Once down we have a short walk. Oh it’s that time of day again… kaffee und kucken, coffee and cake. Sure enough as is usual in any decent German town a coffee and cake shop is not far. Del goes goes for the traditional Black Forest Gateau, not something he would normally choose and Hayley settles for a raspberry, jelly, chocolate thing. Both very nice and by far the best Black Forest Gateau EVER!!
Satisfied with our lot we head back to the van, it’s only a 15 minute walk away. Sure enough it’s not long before the rain is falling again and again it is heavy and again it is relentless. Hayley knocks up a very pleasant pasta dish which makes us feel better but the rain is still heavy. She even managed to fix the oven at the same time…
Time for bed. But will we sleep in the rain…? Ahhh! And now a six lorry team of road layers has turned up to resurface the road next to the Aire!
Wednesday 2nd October (Todtnau to Tasch, Switzerland)
THAT’S IT WE’VE HAD IT… The rain fell all night, heavy, bouncing off the roof like golf balls. We have had enough. We love Germany but this rain, which is all over Europe has beaten us. Today we will do a four and half hour drive and make our way further south to Switzerland, cut through Italy and into the south of France. Enough is a enough. We take two hour blocks of driving through fantastic countryside, sun then rain , then sun…
We are heading for Tasch a small town in Switzerland, near Zermatt, close to the Italian border. The scenery has changed dramatically. We thought that the German Black Forest was stunning but this is something else. The mountains, not hills, the mountains are high and imposing. They get stuff done here though, tunnels are just cut through the mountains all with mobile phone reception, power cables and pylons cut through the trees on the mountain side delivering power to someone somewhere high up. Stuff just works…
We suddenly appear at a toll booth and get 27 Swiss francs taken form us, why? We are ushered onto an roofed and open sided train, Hayley just about squeezes Jess onto the train with inches to spare all around and before we know anything else we are off. The train is speeding through a 14km tunnel. What an experience, in your van, on a train, in a tunnel in Switzerland and still we have mobile phone reception. Amazing.
Once we embark it’s another 30 minutes of winding, twisting steep roads to Tasch where the campsite is based. We are welcomed by a very pleasant French lady who tells us that we can pitch wherever we like. Once settled we go for a walk around the town. There is not much here really, a hotel, couple of restaurants and a supermarket. The main thing here is the train station to Zermatt (a car free town) where we intend to go tomorrow.
It’s dry and pleasant as we take a 1 hour walk with the most stunning views before making our way back to the site for a shower and dinner in a local restaurant.
It’s cold, we are expecting 0 degrees tonight but it’s dry and we feel quite warmed after dinner and the short walk back to a heated van. Mega.
That was our mid week… Not bad.
Thursday 3rd October (Tasch day 2)
It’s going to be a long day today. Lots to see and do.
We are up quite early and as usual the long breakfast is long, but by 11 we are off and making our way to the station here in Tasch to get the train for the 20 minute trip to Zermatt. The weather is lovely. Clear blue sky, not a cloud in sight and just on the verge of being cold but pleasant. The trains here are immaculate. Not a spot of dirt or graffiti to be seen, nobody sits with their feet up on the seats, it leaves bang on time and is very smooth even the bit where it has to climb the hill and change to a cog system, you’d never know it had happened until you look out the window and the horizon is at 12 degrees.
We get to Zermatt and decide that yes we will spend the 80 quid each on the three cable cars that haul you up to Little Matterhorn. It’s a short walk so we have a look at the shops in Zermatt. The prices are eye watering, 20 quid for a pizza, 40 quid for a Schnitzel and on it goes. Despite the extortion the place is full of tourists. We feel quite poor on our relatively small daily budget. It’s crazy how many people are spending so much money on simple things like food and drink and even more or what some might think is just tat. Takes all sorts.
We finally get in the first cable car. The views are just fantastic. We get a cabin to ourselves. Hayley is a little nervous but maybe by the time we are finished she will conquer her apprehension.
After 10 or 15 minutes we have to change to another car. This one is full, about 40 to 50 people are in the car as it slowly moves off and starts its slow ascent to the next level and to the last car. The final car is loaded up with people and off we go to the top, the highest cable car station in Europe, but with it comes the most spectacular views, breathtaking. The Matterhorn is looming high on our right as we go up and the slopes are slowly getting covered with more ice. It just looks amazing and difficult to describe the beauty of the place.
We disembark and we are allowed to wander freely. It’s cold, -6 but we are just about making it in the clothing we have – we set out two weeks ago not expecting to come here, we are supposed to be in France and Germany but the wet weather brought us here instead. Odd. The air and light here cannot be described except to say that it’s clean, clear and fresh like you have never experienced. We take short lift to a panoramic view point which is totally exposed and out in the open with a 360 degree unrestricted view of the Alps. A truly unforgettable place.
At the top is an exhibition called the Glacier Paradise which is basically a glacier that has been tunneled into and turned into an exhibition of ice carvings. Interesting and unusual. The high altitude is now affecting us as we are having to stop more frequently to catch our breath. After a quick drink outside on our way down sitting in the sun staring in awe at the Matterhorn we get back on the cable cars back down to Zermatt via a hanging bridge which is a short walk away before the last cable car to the bottom.
A short walk around the car less town of Zermatt, that’s right no cars allowed in Zermatt, only electric cars, that includes the “old Bill”. We find a local restaurant and have a go at a cheese fondue and some rosti and a couple of local beers. Brilliant.
Time to get the train back after a long and enjoyable day in the sun, it’s stating to cool off a bit now. Tomorrow we are off to Italy…!
Friday 4th October (Tasch to Varazze, Italy)
It’s a cold morning, not as bright as yesterday but pleasant all the same. Today we are setting off for Italy and hopefully some sun and warm weather. The route will take us over the Simplon Pass which includes the Swiss Alps and the Italian Alps then south down to the coast.
We stop for some diesel and set off on the drive. It’s steep and very windy. A challenging drive for Hayley but she gets through it no problem. It’s a long drive so we swap over after two and a bit hours. What we noticed straight away is the condition of the roads in Italy. Shocking. In Switzerland they are smooth and well laid, the tunnels are bright and well maintained. As soon as we crossed the border the change was incredible. Full of potholes, rough, bouncy. The tunnels are dark and look like they need some TLC. What have they been doing with all that EU money…. Hmmm!
Anyway, the motorways are a little better, should be as the have a heavy toll. After 5 and a bit hours we arrive at Varazze. The last time we were here was 16 years ago in a boat. We take a walk into town trying to remember what was what and where but of course over the years much has changed. It’s a nice town, the weather is warmish and most of all dry. No heating tonight….
A good walk back to the van, dinner and shower ends a long driving day but with a smile on hour faces at what we have achieved. One day you are at the Matterhorn the next you right next to the Med, which is the view from our window at breakfast tomorrow.
Week 2. In conclusion.
A wet week indeed. Never stopped raining. We loved Germany and the black forest. The people there were very friendly and kind to us. We like the mix of the old traditional dark wood, net curtains mixed with the high tech efficiency which the Germans are famous for. The Black Forest is truly wonderful place and somewhere we intend to visit again. Weather permitting.
We couldn’t stand the rain any longer however so we had to get out of Germany and go south to find some dry and hopefully warm weather. We thought that we would try out Switzerland on the way a decision we did not regret. It was brilliant. Very very expensive but very clean and tidy and incredibly efficient. Of course it was much colder but dry and sunny. We dropped to -3 overnight on the first night which ended up damaging our hose reel which is stored in the back of the van. It had residue water in the pipe which froze and cracked the skin of the hose! There you go!