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North Netherlands & North Germany Oct 2015
Posted on: 04-07-2016 @ 03:55 am
THE NETHERLANDS & GERMANY 2015
Wed: 14th Oct
The A14/A12 were quite busy but we arrived at Harwich by 7.30am, allowing a quick visit to Morrisons to buy lunch materials plus a cake and sweets. The check-in at Stena Line was very slow, but we ended up on the quayside with time to spare. Entry to the ferry was via the railway line and we ascended to Deck9, where we obtained good views from the window (so it was a quick trip back to the van to get the camera).
We were surprised to hug the Suffolk coast as far as Sizewell, before heading across the North Sea and arriving in Hook of Holland at 4.15pm (BST). En route we bought a medium coffee (not the best!), a small tea and a pot of tea: expensive but necessary. Lunch was a quiche with celery followed by fruit.
Disembarking, the satnav thought we were in Harwich and couldn’t pick up satellites, despite a restart. Barbara stood up to get our 1972 Atlas of Europe (small scale but the only paper map we had) but the passport control officer waved us through, so she stumbled a little. She determined that we needed to pass Rotterdam and head towards Utrecht: fortunately TomTom woke up before the going got too difficult.
The Rotterdam Ring Road in the rush hour was “interesting”, especially when it rained! Drivers often stuck in the middle lane before forcing their way into the RH turn off road: one driver even wove in and out of all three lanes, at speed, before cutting into the turn off road at the last moment. Other drivers, without his bravado, simply blocked lane2 until they could get into lane1: not conducive to a good flow of traffic.
As dusk settled we arrived in Gouda, almost turning too early so I hope there isn’t a “crossing double white lines” fine awaiting my return to England. Little America is a modern carpark near the city centre, with dedicated MH parking, free facilities (including electricity), for €8 per 24h. I anticipate an early night and a sound sleep.
Thu: 15th Oct
We had a quiet night on Little America and rose to a grey morning. After breakfast we walked round Gouda, which was a lovely city with cobbled streets and free of cars (but the cyclists could be a hazard). Shops were quirky and interesting. The Tourist Information Centre (VVV) was difficult to find until we worked out that the signs were pointing directly at it! Staff were friendly and helpful, even taking our photos in front of a cheese display. The market was small and we both felt we had visited Gouda previously, as we recognised the Town Hall with its shutters.
€9 got us into the church dedicated to St John the Baptist, the largest church in Holland and carrying 50% of all Dutch stained glass in its magnificent windows. We learned a little bit of iconography: beware women (other than Mary) who are associated with cats!
We returned to VVV to enquire about an apotheek, as Barbara had left some tablets at home. This was the first time we discovered that my credit cards wouldn’t work. When I had to pay for the carpark I put my card into the cash receptacle and almost lost it: another problem. Cash is going to be needed here, so better find a bank!
The route to Leiden) passed close to a CamperContact site but we didn’t want to stay in a residential area at a swimming pool. The site we had chosen was “with a family” and after driving down a narrow dead-end road we decided not to stay there neither. We toured round the city looking for the next site, but unsuccessfully (was it a carpark by the station?). Eventually we took off to the coast at Katwijk and had lunch overlooking the sea. It sounds nice but there was a pile driver working nearby and parking was €2 per hour.
Another “family” site didn’t look too appealing and we ended up at “GroeneHart”, a quiet farm-based campsite which cost €12 including electricity. This proved very acceptable, as it was wet and cold, so the heater was running almost constantly. Unfortunately, it also consumed our last note and coin, so a bank is definitely a must for tomorrow.
Fri 16th Oct
A dry morning saw us making a slow start: breakfast, tidy up, dump water, empty toilet, fill fresh bottles. Then off to Oude Wettering in search of a bank. We had a lovely drive down a narrow boulevard by the river/meer, made even narrower by roadworks: at one point we had to wait while a mobile crane lifted its boom and drove out of the way (other vehicles fitted underneath it!). The bank proved elusive but we eventually found the ATM and withdrew €250, so that should see us for a few days.
Then off in bright sunshine to look at a couple of CamperContact spots near Midrecht. Unfortunately, TomTom tried to take us down a road with a 2.2m width restriction, so we cancelled that plan and just headed off for Amsterdam and Camping Gaasperplas. The motorway was wide and busy, with some odd lane markings which made me doubt the satnav guidance, but we eventually arrived safely at our destination.
We had a long wait to be admitted, as there was only 1 receptionist doing everything. Finally we parked up (quite close to other vans) and settled down for lunch and an afternoon of doing nothing. With reasonable WiFi, we searched various topics and contacted members of the family, although the connection was not always very good.
Sat 17th Oct
Rain again! We walked to Gaasperplas Metro station, only to find a shuttle bus waiting to take us 2 stops into town. There we had problems understanding the ticket machine but a helpful Dutch person, speaking impeccable English, sorted us out. A quick change of line got us to Amstelveenseweg and onto Sportshall Zuid, where we sorted Chris’ bib and teeshirt. We found a shortcut back to the metro and got to Weesperplein, close to their hotel. A short walk was made a little longer by roadworks (or is it pathworks?) and a detour to a Lidl for milk.
The hotel receptionist was friendly and agreed to look after Chris’ belongings, as we couldn’t sit in the small lobby drinking horrible (but free) coffee and listening to typical Dutch Techno music for 2 hours. Tram4 (which would take us to RAI, for 2 different Metro trains) was only a few yards away but after standing for 20minutes we decided to walk back to Weesperplein which is a direct trip home (apart from the shuttlebus!)
Mon 19th Oct
I went to the shop for milk, but all they had was UHT, so I bought a couple of fresh croissants as a substitute for cereal. Eventually we packed up and moved off our pitch at approx. 11am. A very short hop down the motorway took us to Lidl, where I got some provisions. The fuel station, although cheap, only took cards but not either of the ones I could offer it. Thank goodness we have half a tank of diesel still.
Another short hop took us to Almere Haven, where the WSV Jachthaven Kantoor was out to lunch. We occupied pitch 2 with views between rows of boats and close to the facilities, had lunch, then sorted out our booking. The facilities are operated with a pass-card (€10 deposit) and were clean and warm. There is even a double size shower room in the same section as the washing machines.
Tue 20th Oct
Before leaving Almere I stuck €20 of diesel in, on the basis that German fuel is cheaper than Dutch stuff. The A6 was long, flat, wide and moderately interesting, taking us past Lelystat to Schockland, which is an interesting spot. We didn’t stop until we got to Vollerhove, which used to be on the coast but is now decidedly inland.
Blokzijl was hard to get into and TomTom wanted to take us down little roads to Geithoorn. When we got there it was quite disappointing: not really “chocolate box” houses but OK. The road to Meppel was nice, running between large bodies of water and alongside canals. Then it was onto another motorway and into Germany, where we paused at Emlichheim, but didn’t stop.
Lingen was the next target and the route was quite attractive, although again TomTom chose an interesting “short cut” down a concrete road past lovely houses when the smooth tarmac bypass would have been preferable. “Am Wasserfall” is a lovely hotel by a large weir on the river: CamparContact says there is a stop here, but we couldn’t find anything like the photo, so we set off for another close-by place. This turned out to be a pub in an isolated spot and no-one was around, so we headed 5 miles to the “sportsground”. I imagined it would not be to Barbara’s liking, but it is actually very good, only €5 per night AND someone hadn’t used all of the electricity which they paid for so we had a “free” night! There was sufficient for cups of tea, heating up the left-over risotto and charging up the computers.
Wed 23rd Oct
The electricity was still flowing freely, sufficient to make a cup of tea, although the milk supply was limited. I walked along the canal to Lidl. It was a lovely morning and a very pleasant walk.
Driving through Lingen we found a bank, but I tried to use the wrong sort of ATM: fortunately the assistant sorted me out. Then we filled up with diesel, and my credit card was accepted. And lastly we tried to acquire an “umwelt plackette”. The man at the Audi garage quickly said no, but with directions to the TUV centre, I was quite hopeful. The man there also said no, after long looks at the documents, under the bonnet, making phone calls etc. Although the van qualifies for a yellow sticker, all the cities now require green ones, so it’s not worth paying €7.50.
We hit the road down some lovely routes until we stopped at Aldi at Furstenau (I think), where there was also a pretty church. At Ankum there were lots of roadworks and we needed to detour via Alfhausen, although it wasn’t marked. Finally we arrived at DummerSee, where a free stellplatz had only one other van (and it soon left). We both walked to the lakeside before the sun got too low in the sky. Three of the electric points had value left in them, but eventually I had to buy some. This was not as easy as I expected, as the column would not accept any coins. I went to the local shops, where no-one spoke English, and discovered that I need special tokens at 50c each. Refunds can be obtained so I got €4 worth.
Thur 22nd Oct
The electric was off in the morning so I stuck another token in: €2.50 for a night hardstanding and electricity can’t be bad. I couldn’t change the remaining tokens back into cash, but they may come in handy in the future.
Off to Osnabruck, to try to sort out the water pump, which was not working properly. We went the “pretty way” but couldn’t see a lot as the rain/mist kept coming down. Osnabruck has an umwelt zone so it was important to avoid it, by taking the motorway round the outskirts.
Getting into the camp shop parking lot was mildly hazardous, with a left turn across the carriageway, just as a car was reversing out of the site. However, we got parked by the services, checked that all was OK and started to dismantle the water system. After several attempts to get the correct fittings, we ended up with a tap on the low pressure side and an ability to drain the boiler/taps by emptying the Truma. I’m not 100% happy but the pump is working more or less OK. The dealership gave me a catalogue and a log book (both in German) which are quite interesting.
A longish trip on the motorway took us through Bad Oyenhausen and on to Vlotho, but we weren’t keen on this site by the river (and rail line, main road and factories). A pretty road through the hills (including TomTom directing us down a narrow cycle route) and we were at another free stellplatz at Rinteln: busy, by the river, but muddy.
Another route through the hills and we were at Buckeburg, which was much more to our liking, even if it was €7 for the night. A large, spacious, enclosed stellplatz with groups of dividing hedges, electricity at €1 per 12h (but limited to 1500W, so no kettle or hob) and the prospect of a walk into the town tomorrow.
Fri 23rd Oct
The sun was shining when we awoke and all was well with the world. We walked to the Schloss, a lovely castle/palace surrounded by a moat, then into town. We toured the market, found the Tourist Information Centre (eventually) and bought postcards & stamps on a walk through the town. Back for coffee, made using our 2200W kettle without any problems.
We had a sunny drive along the north side of the hills, stopping at a Lidl to buy some wine. Some of the roads through the hills were in a poor state of repair and were also narrow in places. We had lunch in an abandoned roadway then onto Huldsede, where we would stay with relatives.
Deb took us and the boys for a walk round the village, which was amazingly quiet. The church was lovely, with paintings on the ceiling. The Wasserschloss was another moated house but in private hands, so we could only go round a bit of the forecourt.
Mon 26th Oct
We kept to non-motorway roads to Minden, where we failed to spot the stellplatz. Then we motored along the west bank of the Weser, stopping for coffee at Petershagen. This was pleasant but non-descript, adjacent to a sportsfield. Stolzenau was on the river and we had lunch, but it didn’t particularly appeal, so we continued to Nienburg: much nicer views and quieter, so we paid our €5 parking fee and settled down for a cup of tea,
We crossed the pedestrian bridge into the city and were impressed with what we found. Most roads were pedestrianised, many of the buildings were old and wooden framed. The TIC provided helpful guides and maps
€2 should buy enough electricity to see us through past breakfast. I helped another camper connect to his supply and it turned out that he was British but had lived in Germany for 38y.
Tue 27th Oct
“Home is where we park it” says our mugs and tonight we are still in the same spot at Nienburg. The “laubbaum” (deciduous trees) reflect their gold and red colours in the river Weser, disturbed only by the ripples of jumping fish and passing barges. This is a lovely place to relax and that is what we have done.
This morning was misty when we opened the blinds after a shower. After a breakfast of cereal, we walked the short distance to “Obi”, a kind of B&Q with large garden centre and a huge range of goods for sale. Then we crossed to “Famila”, a shopping mall with several small outlets as well as an all-singing store.
Apart from that, we have sat and watched the world go by, reading books and playing on the computers.
Wed 28th Oct
We arose early and sorted things out for a swift departure. The tank was emptied, as was the toilet and we made a short hop to Edeka. However, we spent quite a while there, buying food, wine and self-ground coffee. Then we crossed the road to Lidl and spent more money! So it was after 10am before we got on the road north, picking up the motorway near Bremen.
Our first target was Oldenburg. The stellplatz was full (3 vans) so on we went, passing through the attractive centre of the city and back onto the motorway.
Leer was the next stop: a cobbled town square with lots of vans and quite a few cars. So we kept moving and tried two different yacht havens at Weener but neither really appealed. A little stadtplatz at Bunde provided us with free electricity at lunchtime and a local garage provided fuel at German prices, before we crossed the border into the Netherlands.
There are three camperstops at Midwolda, but none interested us. Eventually we stopped at Delfzijl: a free park but no water, which we desperately needed. Fortunately Lidl was only 400m away, so I bought 2 bottles for €1.10, a price which would have got me 100litre at most stellplatz.
Thur 29th Oct
We called in at several camperstops and finally came to rest at Lauwersoog, overlooking Lauwersmeer. Birds were everywhere (we even had a kingfisher zoom out in front of us as we approached the village). After lunch the sun came out, a couple of boats went past and all seemed calm.
Unfortunately I’d failed to drive onto the concrete pathways so needed to move closer to another van when space became short. I also took a walk to the port and returned to pay my dues (€15) and have a shower, just as the sun set over the lake.
Fri 30th Oct
After breakfast we tidied away, filled every bottle with drinking water, emptied toilet and tank then ….TomTom stopped working. It turned out to be a fault in the extension lead from the lighter socket, but I couldn’t find a way to repair it easily, so we agreed to buy a new one. Following advice, we found a fishing supplies place but they didn’t have anything, so it was off to Dokkum, using the Hudl as satnav. It took us directly to a garage (POI) who directed us to an accessory shop, where a suitable device was purchased.
Then it was pell-mell to Harlingen, as the CamperContact app said it filled up so" get there early". When we arrived there were more spaces than campers, and some of them soon departed. We got a front row place and helped ourselves to free electricity from 2 different supplies (2 others were available but they had reverse polarity: we may use them later!). The bird of the day is the turnstone, which gathers in numbers on the side of the water.
The port is very busy, with sailing boats, barges and even a river cruiser travelling through the double lock and lifting bridges.
The city of Harlingen was quite attractive, with several havens and canals in the midst of the houses, As usual, the VVV had maps and information to help us find some things of interest.
Sat 31st Oct
We stopped at the “two-faced man”, climbing to the monument and seeing the beach. Then it was a long run across the top of the Ijsselmeer to Den Oever, but we didn’t stop for long. We went on to Den Helder, where we had coffee and the last of the gingerbread. TomTom identified the nearest Lidl but took some very odd roads to get there, requiring us to turn round, take “other routes” etc, and when we got there it was in a run-down area so we didn’t stop.
We took the coast road past Julianadorp then turned inland to T’Zand and Schagen, but we didn’t take the correct road so crossing the North Holland Canal was to be on a floating bridge, which was narrower than we fancied. Eventually we crossed it easily at Alkmaar, but TT then took us along very narrow roads and over little bridges to a Camper Platz for lunch.
Purmerend didn’t appeal so we chose to return to Almere Haven, stopping at Lidl in Muiden to buy the last items needed. Unfortunately TT was behind the times with his maps, so we travelled the same bit of road 3 times before getting there. Fortunately we got to Almere Haven before it closed and settled onto pitch3: a tiring day!
Sun 1 Nov
We stopped at Vianen for coffee. This was quite a nice camperplaats, free with a maximum stay of 3 days. We walked along the canal a little way and looked at a map.
Then it was short hop down the motorway before taking N roads to Leerdam, where we weren’t keen on the Jachthaven, although it was free to stay. Once again TT used narrow, cobbled streets to get us out of town then major roads took us to the motorway and off for Gorinchem. And once again, it was cobbled lanes alongside a canal, followed by an even narrower track to the Jachthaven, where we got the last available spot. This has the boats on one side and a high bank to the Rhine on the other. With the sun shining, the temperature high and everything quiet apart from the passing boats, it seems a good place to spend the final night of our trip.
We walked to the end of the Jachthaven and had a lovely view of the river. Returning along a parallel path on top of the bank, we could see a beach with volleyball net. The Belgian contingent were all sitting on the bank in almost identical chairs, whilst the Dutch were partying in their own little enclave. We turned the van round to get a view of the harbour and later took pictures at sunset.
Mon 2 Nov
Up early to a sunny morning, breakfast and a quick departure for Hook of Holland. Gorinchem is a nice town with narrow cobbled streets, so our speed was limited. Once we were on the main road we filled up with fuel (credit card accepted).
We pulled into Dordrecht to check out a camperplaats and were surprised to discover a Noahs Ark, floating on the dock. We wouldn’t have fancied stopping there, so we were pleased with our overnight at Gorinchem. The next camperplaats was at Alblasserdam and we liked it as a potential future stop.
Travelling round the Rotterdam Ring Road proved to be a busy journey, getting into the wrong lane at the Benelux tunnel (but without any problems). Then we stopped at Maassluis, another excellent place by the river, but it was full.
Finally we got to HofH. Getting to the ferry should have been easy but Lane2 was full of cars so I went into Lane4. Getting to the front, I checked that we were in the correct place (Stena Line) then realised that there was a height restriction and I needed to be in Lane1. Getting there was “interesting”, but after passing through customs (with a check by the armed forces that we weren’t carrying any illegal travellers) we were quickly onto the boat.
TOTAL MILEAGE 1092
TOTAL COST (est) £800 exc food (but inc £147.50 for ferry crossing and approx. £100 worth of alcohol to bring home)
(Approx £1 = €1.38)
Last updated on 04-07-2016 @ 03:55 am