Germany '04 including Wolfsburg

Its done! 2200 miles through France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Luxembourg.

A select brave few of the No Ideas massive made the epic venture to Wolfsburg, the home of VW, and on into deepest darkest Germany for the trip of a life-time with their vans. The diary of our epic adventure follows with comments from all those who participated. We hope you enjoy the read.

Sat 24/7
We've made it! to Dover.

With the ferry due to set sail around 1230 today some of the group began their trip around 5.00 am from Bristol with a planned rendevouz at Swindon to meet up with Phil and Charlotte, and Chris and Catherine.

An uneventful journey to Dover with a stop at Clacketts Lane Services did nothing to quash the holiday excitement as we waited in Dover before being loaded onto the ferry for our trip to Dunkerque aboard Norfolkline's 'Midnight Merchant'.

After a last few final checks to the vans we headed out of the port and made way up the coast to Belgium, stopping for fuel at the first opportunity. After filling up, we headed for our first border crossing. When we got there, the only thing that gave us any indication of changing countries was a sign on the side of the road "Belgique". Nevermind, it was non-stop through Belgium on the E40 past Bruges, Gent, and Antwerp edging closer to Germany with each kilometer.

The fantastic services near Eindhoven, Netherlands

Our destination for this evening was Eindhoven in the Netherlands, where we hoped for a campsite we spotted in the Camp Site book called Mierlo. Unfortunately we arrived around 9pm only to find the offices closed and no one around to help. So it was back onto the motorway and head for then next services so we could finally get our heads down after an exhausting 1st day. Although basic, the services worked out perfect and added to the whole 'sense of adventure' holiday feeling that everybody was talking about!

Sun 25/7

Having spent a restful night in the services we embarked on day 2 with our first real destination in mind - Wolfsburg! The first services we passed after getting on the motorway looked much better than where we had stayed, but what the heck WE'RE ON HOLIDAY!!!!. So no major disaster. We took a 'little' detour down the A33 towards Paderborn, with the intention of going cross country via Hameln to Hannover but after Nigel had a very near miss with a large van, we abandoned that idea and headed back up to join the E34 to Hannover!

When we talk about near misses we're talking about not being able to pass the hair from Phil's chin between the front of Nigels van and the German vehicle! A change of underwear all round was called for before anything else was done! After stopping at Herford services for lunch, and to check that Nigel, Lisa and Jazz had recovered from their ordeal, we set off to Wolfsburg.

The famous Wolfsburg skyline!

One of our little games to keep us amused as the kilometers clicked by was to blow our horns whilst travelling through the tunnels! We were amazed to be joined by so many others in this 'new craze'.

A few hours on and we entered the city limits of Wolfsburg! WOW was all I could say as we were overcome with excitement. Being called 'VW City' is an understatement! 90%+ cars are VW group, the towers and flags dominate the skyline everywhere you look!

Campingplatz Allersee - superb location being only 1 kilometer from autostadt and the museum. Having done some investigation prior to leaving England we knew where we were staying we just didn't know where it was. So after 'tripping' round Wolfsburg for 20 minutes we decided to stop near Badeland sport centre and contact Matthias from the Kaefer Club in Wolfsburg who we had emailed before our trip.

After a few minutes deliberation on the phone Matthias kindly offered to show us where the campsite was and after 20 minutes he arrived at Badeland in his beetle! Matthias lead the way to our campsite where we were joined by Axel and Sabrina, another two members from the Wolfsburg club, who came down to welcome us to Wolfsburg.

The 'Lika Grill' Yugoslavian Restaurant in Wolfsburg! Just Superb!

We had already discussed previously with Matthias that it would be great to get together one evening during our stay at Wolfsburg for dinner and drinks so once we had organised the final details our new friends went home and we set off in taxis heading toward the "best Yugoslavian restaurant in town" according to the taxi driver.

We would, without a doubt, recommend this restaurant! When you arrive just ask the owner to feed you with a mix of items from the menu! Superb!

Mon 26/7
The Vans outside the Museum in Wolfsburg

The excitement of today had us all up early and setting off on foot for THE museum! When I say that campingplatz allersee was close to everything I mean it was close! Out of the campsite, across the footbridge spanning both the river and railway, and 750 meters and we were there. THE museum, the one everyone had talked about, the one we'd all seen the pictures off, the one we had made the effort to cross 3 countries and endeavour near misses with large vans was right in front of us. We took 2 1/2 hours to walk around the museum and read all the blurb on Wolfsburg and its history. All I can say is that it was superb!

The Swiss Team just about ready to depart for Sweden!

After the museum we took an early lunch and then on to AutoStadt for the afternoon via the campsite. The only reason for our visit to autostadt was to have a glimpse at the prototype in the Zeithaus (Time House). We could have easily spent an entire day here as there is so much to see within the complex itself. The Zeithaus is a fantastic display of cars through the ages and not only limited to VWs. After such an exhausting day we headed back to camp before we met up with Matthias, Axel and Sabrina for dinner.

The brauhaus in fallersleben!

Phil, Charlotte, Nigel and Jasmin went to Badeland for a swim whilst the rest of the group stayed at the camp and admired the swiss campers that were parked opposite. 7 pm on the dot saw the arrival of Matthias, Sabrina and Axel arrive with a fleet of cars to ferry us all to dinner. They had promised us some traditional food and beer in a little village just outside of Wolfsburg called Fallersleben but nothing could have prepared us for the evening.

Inside the brauhaus and the 'rowdy' table!

The brauhaus was just how you would picture a traditional german building housing a working brewery. With wonderful food and superb beer consumed with our new friends the evening could not have gotten any better, or at least we thought.

The tour!

Around 1030pm the braumeister appeared to give us a tour around the brewery and a history lesson about the building itself! Superb.

After bidding good night and farewell to the Wolfsburg club members who made our stay so memorable it was back to camp for coffee and bed and to reflect on a superb start to the holiday. How the holiday can improve from here, we don't know?

Tues 27/7
The vans at the campsite nr Joditz!

Leaving Wolfsburg after such a fantastic couple of evenings was hard but our holiday lay ahead and we had a long drive south to Munchen. After some advice by some of the Wolfsburg club we diverted via the former Soviet Bloc and Magdeburg then south towards Nuremberg and Munchen. As we were not going to make Munchen in a day we found a campsite near a little village called Joditz near the inter-section of the E51 and E48.

The trip down was fantastic as it started to get hilly and the views became stunning! We got to site mid afternoon only to find the offices closed until 1700, so everyone apart from John, Chris and Catherine piled into Phil's van to find a supermarket for some food for tea! An early night was on the cards after a long days driving in ever increasing heat.

Wed 28/7
The campsite in Munchen!

We left Joditz mid morning for the drive south, having already decided on a camp for tonight. On our way out we drove through the village of 'Bug' back to autobahn. The journey south was pretty un-eventful although the scenery, views, castles, and villages on route were just what we expected as we left behind the industrial north of Germany.

We stopped at services just outside of Nuremberg for lunch, and then continued towards Munchen and camp. The site was reasonable for being within Munchen itself so after doing a little laundry and showering we ventured out in search of food which we had been informed was only a few hundred meters away from the campsite.

Almost a kilometer away we found a superb restaurant for some alfresco dining! Unfortunately we managed to leave the the phrasebook at camp which meant that the little German we knew would be tested. With this in mind we managed to order some superb grub and a few steins before heading back to camp for bed.

Thurs 29/7
One of the towers at Dachau

Public Transport Adventure Day! Having made some enquiries with our helpful campsite manager we set off for the bus stop near the restaurant we had gone to last night for the bus to Pasing. From there we got a bus to Aller and a train to Dachau.

Landeshauptstadt Tower

Now, some might think a trip to Dachau might be a little strange for a trip round Germany and you would be right. All of us wanted to see Dachau and didn't know what to expect. We arrived at the concentration camp memorial by bus and found a rather somber museum with all visitors seemingly strolling through the museum without saying much at all. Some of us felt we were imposing whilst others just saw it as a way of remembering those who had suffered and not forgetting exactly what happened here.

The girls in Munchen enjoying a cooling splash in the fountain

Next stop was Munchen, we caught a fast train direct to the main train station in Munchen and headed for the beautiful old town. As we only had a few hours we decided a trip up the Landeshauptstadt Tower for a spectacular view of the entire city. Being a hot, clear day, you could see for miles.

After walking around and enjoying the sites and sounds it was time to get back to camp. Easier said than done! After much deliberation we decided on the tram to Pasing! We then caught a bus heading for the campsite and accidently got off the bus miles before we needed to, however, the house by the bus stop had a VW powered trike that left just after we arrived! It could only happen to us! We waited and caught another bus to the restaurant for a meal then back to the campsite. Phew!

Fri 30/7
The campsite at Banwaldsee, Schwangau

Our plan for today was a short drive down to the foothills of the Bavarian Alps at Fussen and a visit to King Ludwigs Castle. The drive down was spectacular as we joined the romantischestrasse and headed down to Schwangau.

NeuSchwanStein, King Ludwig's castle

We pulled into the first campsite we saw which just happened to be set on one of the beautiful fresh water lakes fead by mountain rivers and springs. We set up camp and piled into one van for a trip to the Castle, which turned out to be only a couple of miles down the road. As we approached our destination we couldnt believe the views of the castle dwarfed by the huge mountains behind it!

The girls (plus a strange man behind them) ready to ascend the mountain

After doing the tourist thing and having a quick look at some of the shops, we took a horse and trap up the hill to the castle and an organised tour of the building. Ludwig only lived there for 172 days before his death, and it was never finished; but what was completed was indeed stunning. We took the opportunity of some excercise and walked back down the hill building up the thirst for a beer whilst the girls enjoyed pizza.

Back at the campsite most of us decided we'd had enough of restaurants and decided to cook in the vans whilst John and Craig went to sample the campsite restaurant only to find it was closed so they enjoyed a bratwurst and chips from the pizzeria instead!

Sat 1/8
A view of the cable car station on the way up!

After getting up quite early, Chris and Catherine set off for Koblenz, we didn't know at the time, but this was the last we would see of them on the trip. We had a lazy morning and breakfast before setting off for the cable car up the mountain behind the castle.

Much deserved drink at 1782m above sea level

We had seen the cable car the day before and decided a trip to the top for some fantastic views was definitely something we could not miss. At the cable car the nutters, I mean more intrepid people, loaded hang gliders on top of the cars for a gentle descent back to the valley floor; not us however!

Jaz and Charlotte ripping it up!

At the top we tasted the local beer again whilst resting to watch the paragliders and handgliders dive off the ramp into oblivion. Mad!! The view over the mountains and lakes was absolutely stunning.

View! What more can you say?

Back at the bottom the whole group decided to have a go on the summer toboggan run, Jas and Charlie loved it so much they had to have a second go.

After spending the morning up the mountain it was back on the road up the romantische strasse past Landberg, and a photo on the bridge over the river, to Augsberg. The town was quite industrial, but we found a campsite eventually. Possibly the least interesting site of our travels so far but we needed somewhere to stay and it seemed reasonable enough. That evening we all got into one van again and set off to look for a restaurant not realising it was sunday so nothing was open. So it was back to the site to brave the restaurant; the meal turned out to be quite reasonable even though it was served by a Rab C Nesbitt lookalike.

Sun 1/8
Harsburg BruckenFest Horse Drawn Beer Delivery anyone!?

We set reasonably early with Rothernburg om der Tauber as our destination for today as we liked the picture in the tour guide. It seemed a good enough reason to us. After taking a small detour round some picturesque villages we returned to our route and came across a stunning castle on a hill over looking the valley.

It was that time of day and stomaches were rumbling so we decided to stop and look around the village of Harsburg, only to discover that they were celebrating their BruckenFest so, sitting on the bridge that crossed the river, we had lunch with the locals.

Rothenburg Camp

It wasn't long before we were back on the road again in search of Rothenburg for a campsite by the river. By now we were starting to enjoy getting out of the sun every now and then so we situated ourselves in a shady part of the site! Just as we had set up camp and put the kettle on, we were greeted by the sight of another english bus pulling in and setting up camp opposite.

Andy & Michelle and their Brazillian Type 2

We couldn't just sit there without saying hello so Phil, Nigel and John went investigating and introduced themselves to Andy and Michelle. The intrepid couple had only just got married and decided to purchase their brand new Brazilian Bus and do seven weeks around Europe as their honeymoon. Lucky buggers!

After a good tea cooked in the vans and a quick dip in the river Tauber we called it a day and settled down for an early night in expectation of the sights that Rothenburg would provide us tomorrow.

Mon 2/8
The Main Gate to Rothernburg

We didn't know much about Rothernburg, only that it was a walled medieval town that suffered heavy damages during WW2 and had been rebuilt to its former glory in the years after, so we were looking forward to something special.

The ramparts of Rothernburg

The steep path to the old town from the valley floor nearly killed a few of the group but we managed it. We entered the town through the gate at St. Wolfgang's Church and climbed up onto the old ramparts of the city. We walked around looking down over the old town as far as Gallows Gate where we descended and meandered along the narrow streets, heading in the general direction of the Marketplace.

The narrow streets and old buildings of Rothernburg

Amongst other things Rothenburg is famous for the Christmas shop thats open all year round and we couldn't believe how huge this place was when we first walked in. Every conceivable decoration was on sale in a shop that could only be described as fairytale disney in decoration and appearance, a real alladins cave type experience and well worth the visit.

Rothernburg Market Place and town hall

Searching for a bite to eat we walked down Herrngasse onto the castle grounds for some photos of the valley and town and then wandered up some more back lanes in the direction of the supermarket.

Charlotte in Rothernburg and traditional transport

After buying this evenings tea we made our way back through Rothernburg stopping at an antiques shop that had quite alot of WW1 memorabilia in the window. Nigel went in and struck up a conversation with the owner about WW2 medals etc. Within minutes we were invited into a back room and shown some of the most fascinating WW2 artifacts any of us had ever seen. Everything from SS steins and medals to Wiking Panzer Officer Uniforms. An unbelievable collection!

After a long and weiry day we headed back to the campsite, downhill this time, and a BBQ in the cool evening breeze before showers and bed. The girls couldn't resist a final play in the campsite playground and building a fantastic sand castle complete with moat! Where they get their energy from I don't know.

Tues 3/8

We set off this morning for Heidelberg, having decided to miss out the top end of the romantische strasse. So, up to Bad Mergentheim and then onto Mosbach through very nice scenery after picking up the fairytale castle route. Then on down the Neckar valley towards our destination, stopping at Zwingenberg for lunch on the river.

Heidelberg Camp

The first campsite we arrived at was not up to scratch so we moved on back upstream to Neckargemünd, where we found a superb campsite under the bridge next to the river. After setting up camp and settling in the Dutch family, who had been camped next to us at Rothenberg, walked past and said hello! They were staying on the same site as us again and it was nice to be in such a friendly country.

Dutch couple and their beloved!

So many people, during our trip around Germany, have come up and introduced themselves as either owners of volkswagens or having owned volkswagens in the past. We were lucky to get to see a fantastic example of a 1971 Dutch Import Bay Bus on the campsite which belonged to a retired couple who took the bus around Europe every summer. They were fantastic explaining to us the history of the bus and showing us all the period extras that were fitted. What a van!

It had been another fantastic day and we were already looking forward to heidelberg in the morning so we turned in for the night.

Wed 4/8
Heidelberg Castle from the river

An early start today meant we could explore Heidelberg and the castle. A short bus trip to the centre and one guide map later we headed up to the castle for a couple of hours exploration. Although undergoing restoration, the castle was very impressive. One tower had collapsed, showing the walls to be about 3.5 to 4 meters thick.

After spending a couple of hours exploring the castle it was time to head back down to the town for shopping, everyone decided to head their own directions for an hour of un-adulterated shopping! Up until now we hadn't really been shopping and I think the girls were getting desperate!

Heidelberg Gardens and fountains

In the afternoon we headed for the river and a cruise up the Neckar Valley. Everyone except Nigel joined the cruise. He had decided that it was time to practise his German on some bar staff and waited for us at the riverside.

Heidelberg Gate

The trip took us up the river, through the huge locks, and past the campsite as far as Hirschhorn before turning round and coming back downstream. The boat stopped at Neckargemünd twice during this trip and if it hadnt been for Nigel we could have got off, but back down to Heidelberg we went to catch the bus back to the campsite. Although the trip was very enjoyable, the heat was oppressive and even Lisa found it hot!

With the prospect of a very long journey ahead of us tomorrow, it was nice to spend another day just relaxing.

Thurs 5/8
Who's taking a picture of who?!

Another early start was called for if we were going to manage the miles we need to cover today to make the port on Friday as planned. Passing through Western Germany, we stopped at a service area for a light lunch and drinks. Whilst there, a German Customs van pulled up and asked us where we had been and where we were headed to. After running the passports through the system, we continued on our way up through Luxembourg (to add another country to our list) where we found the cheapest petrol so far at 70 cents (40p) per liter!

Dutch Crew Cab on its way home

When we got back on the motorway, we were joined by a Dutch crew cab bus with a family who had obviously been on holiday and were returning home as well. They stayed with the convoy as far as Numar before they continued up the E411 towards Bruxelles and we headed west towards Charleroi on the E42.

We headed to a campsite that a local showed us to; but the office was closed, so back onto the motorway and head north towards the French border. Stopped at a service station just inside Belgium for a nice meal and hot shower. Then to bed.

Fri 6/8

After sleeping through a heavy thunderstorm in the night, we headed into France destination Dunkirk. This was the only border we had crossed so far where there was any sign of a border still in existence.

Almost all of the gang (someone had to stand behind the camera)

Once there the first job was to find a campsite to spend our last evening in. After visiting several sites, all of which were full we headed back into the town to visit the Tourist Office in order to try and find a site; but to no avail.

So, onto Buffalo Grill for a late lunch and then Carrefours to stock up with beer and wine and some reasonably priced fuel. All stocked up we headed to the port and checked in expecting to spend the evening with our ferry leaving 1230pm tomorrow. As we checked in to the port we were told that there was room enough for us all on the earlier ferry so at 1930 we were on our way back to Dover.

After passing through customs, we headed onto the M20 with a stop at Maidstone services for tea. From there, it was non-stop back home and bed.

Distance Travelled
Home to Home:    2230 miles
Mainland Europe: 1782 miles

Fuel Consumption
28.62 miles per gallon
9.87 litres per 100 kilometers

Final Word

Phil, Charlotte, Nigel, Lisa, Jaz, Chris, Catherine, John and Craig would like to say a big thank you to the Kaeferclub Wolfsburg, especially Matthias, Axel, Sabrina and Volke, for everything they did for us during our stay at Wolfsburg. We hope to see you all soon!

Charlotte and Phil, missing Mum!

Also, we hope that Andy and Michelle got back safely after their fantastic "honey moon". Perhaps will see you at the shows!

And personally, Charlotte and I would like to say thanks to Nigel, Lisa, Jaz, Chris, Catherine, John and Craig for making our trip round Germany as good as it could ever have been!

Happy Motoring, Phil & Charlotte