31 July – 6 August
Because motorhome travel wouldn’t be the same without it, our van had developed a range of problems – the habitation-door fly screen was irreparable, the freezer door hinges had broken, our fridge door still wasn’t right, and a warning for low brake fluid had been flashing regularly and we couldn’t check the levels because the bonnet was jammed. Driving nearly 5 tonnes on steep roads, brake failure is not an option to contemplate lightly. So now we were in Germany, where our van was built and almost all its parts originate from, it was a good time to get things sorted.
An appointment was made for 7th August for a new fly-screen to be fitted, at Stockach on the north-west tip of Bodensee (Lake Constance to the Swiss who own the southern part), just because it was close to the Black Forest which we wanted to see. So we were heading back west, this time across Germany.
We identified somewhere on-route that may be able to help with the brake-fluid & bonnet issue – a bit of a priority – and headed that way. It was still grey and inclined to rain and the rivers were all full,
but we took the country roads and enjoyed pine-clad hills, picturesque Barvarian chalets, fertile farms with brown-and-white dairy cows, and large fields of maize all interspersed with small villages with carved and painted maypoles, and the huge farmhouse-barns characteristic of the area.
A quiet overnight stop next to the river at a large Stellplatz at Schongau – it rained of course – and we were off again. Our cross-country danderings re-acquainted us with the yellow “Umleitung” signs – German for diversion – that are not always where you need them and we were grateful for the map.me app we have downloaded for off-line use. It really comes into its own for finding ways round the arbitrary road closures – sat nav just keeps trying to take you back to the closed road which can be frustrating to say the least.
Travelling from Barvaria into Baden-Württemberg the landscape opened up more and crops such as rape, oats and wheat appeared amongst the maize. The sun came out for a while and brightened the blue of the wild chicory and the gold of the buttercups in the verges and some red kites wheeled up above. Nice.
The Erwin Hymer Centre at Bad Waldsee is huge and truly excellent – Travelworld eat your heart out. Next to the Hymer factory itself and the Erwin Hymer museum, the range of motorhomes on display was really impressive. There were 3 staff on reception and the guy who dealt with us spoke good English and was technically knowledgeable and extremely helpful. He whisked the van away to the workshop sending us inside for a coffee, but we got distracted by the excellent shop. Before we had gathered up too many goodies he was back with the bonnet fixed – no charge – and directed us to a Fiat Servicer round the corner. They were great as well and within half-an-hour our brake fluid was overflowing and we were on our way with confidence. The sun was shining and things were looking up.
At Bad Waldsee we parked up at the Stellplatz near the centre and walked into the town.
Bad Waldsee is a spa town with thermal springs and as a result there are an abnormally high number of people on crutches who come for spa therapy – a big thing in Germany. It is pretty in a traditional sort of a way with pavement coffee-shops and bars busy with locals. Just behind the centre is a lovely lake that you can walk round and people were busy enjoying the warm sun in their own watery ways – pedalos, small boats, sculls, paddle-boards. And a fair number having a swim. It was really nice and relaxed.
Like everywhere else we have been in Germany it had kebab shops and Danny decided a donner was just what he needed for dinner.
By the time we headed off next day we had obtained a SIM card for our old phone so we could now make calls and had established that in Germany are-paid data SIM for our wi-fi hotspot is just too expensive.
As we approached Bodensee we started to see huge apple orchards with densely planted columns instead of branching trees, row upon row upon row. Bodensee’s microclimate makes it a very important apple-growing area for both Swiss and the Germans – including a lot of summer rain – and they manage to grow an astonishing 3000 trees per hectare.
As we approached Friedrichshafen we were surprised to see a huge zeppelin in the sky – a proper one, not just a tethered balloon. We had to rub our eyes and double-check. Then we discovered that this was where they were first built, and the first Zeppelin flight was over the lake in 1900. It would be awesome to have a trip on one.
At Stockach, we arrived a few days early and they agreed to order us some parts which will hopefully arrive for 7th and we got new hinges for the freezer door which Danny fitted. Opposite the workshops is a small, green campsite with a nice feel so we decided to sit still until our appointment.
Stockach is a completely different kettle of fish to Bad Waldsee, being functional rather than attractive but we explored anyway and found an interesting statue commemorating the town’s sponsorship of a couple of U boats over the last 50 years.
The rain set in again but we were glad we had finally arrived somewhere we could get British TV – Gardener’s World and the NW News full of tales of flooding and damaged dams. At least someone is having more rain than us! Time to chill out and use our local SIM card to catch up with friends and family.