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Europe 2012 - Across Northwest Germany

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Across Northwest Germany

Crossing the border into Germany, we headed for Papenburg, a pleasant town with a canal and old ships in the town centre, situated on the river Ems about 35 kilometres inland, but amazingly the location of one of the largest shipbuilding yards in the world, Meyer Werft, where many of the modern cruise liners, including the Oriana, Disney Fantasy, and Celebrity Reflection were built, in the world's largest indoor dry docks, measuring 504m long by125m wide by 75m high, with a capacity to build three ships a year. Many thousands turn up to watch when a new ship is launched as the tugs guide it through the extremely narrow canal entrance and along the river to the sea. Unfortunately guided tours (in German) had to be booked in advance, but we were able to look around the visitor centre and small exhibition area.  After a night at a nearby stellplatz in a small village, we drove to Cloppenburg to visit the outdoor museum of restored buildings, similar to St Fagans near Cardiff.  The large site has many interesting styles of buildings, with farmhouses, windmills, churches and an exhibition of old bicycles. We noticed in several farmhouses the raised beds were boxed in - not dissimilar to our van's fixed bed arrangement!

Cloppenburg Museum Dorf
Cloppenburg Museum Dorf
Cloppenburg museum enclosed bedroom
enclosed bedrooms
Cloppenburg Museum Dorf church
and church

Continuing east, and after a night on a busy stellplatz at Wildeshausen, we skirted to the west of Bremen and crossed the Weser on a ferry at Ganspe (€7.10 for a 3 minute trip), then through industrial towns and flat marshland to Worpeswede, an artists' village with several galleries (entrance fees, also paying parking and €5 overnight for motorhomes). It seemed a rather touristy place so after a stroll around we continued east to Lüneburg Heath, where we found a listed night stop at a hotel carpark in Nindorf. The next morning we drove to the main centre of Undelohe, where access to the low lying heathland was mainly by horsedrawn wagon tours. As it was early in the morning there wasn't much happening so we drove north to the town of Buxtehude, and on to the interesting town of Jork, in the centre of the Altes Land, a fertile area of orchards, south of the Elbe. It was very busy with the carparks full and motorhomers looking for parking places. (We realised it was a bank holiday for the Hamburg region). Eventually we drove along the riverside to Grünendeich, where there was a stellplatz next to a large car and bike park. We found it was a popular weekend meeting place for bikers, with several food  kiosks. Luckily we took the last available motorhome place and paid €10 for a 24 hour stay, with no services but close-up views of the massive container ships heading for Hamburg. By lunchtime on the Sunday the place was overrun with cars and bikers trying to park all around us, despite the signs stating only for motorhomes, and as tempers were getting frayed and voices raised, we decided to leave and drove to the nearby town of Stade where the excellent stellplatz was full, but overnight parking was allowed in the nearby concert hall carpark. The pleasant town centre was within walking distance, so we finished the day with a relaxing stroll around the old wharfs and merchants' houses.
Bikers at Grunendeich, Altes Land
wöhnmobiles and bikers don't mix!

A sunny morning followed as we drove along the west bank of the Elbe, and crossed on the  ferry, €17.50 for a thirty minute trip, to the town of Glückstadt (literally "happy town"). A short distance north was the small village of Brokdorf, and another stellplatz beside the dike, with good cycle and footpaths, for views across the river. Here we came across our first sani-station with a timed roller shutter door giving a just few minutes access to the grey and black waste drain. As we have a 100 litre grey water tank, we got wise to this at the second attempt, and partially drained the contents into our portable waste container before putting in the next Euro coin.

The following morning after using another Euro to fill our fresh water tank, we crossed the new high bridge over the Nord-Ostsee canal, and took quiet country roads to the coast at Büsum, a popular seaside resort where, in every direction, there were stalls selling the local delicacy of krebben (small shrimps). The private 100 place stellplatz was near the harbour and cost €13/24 hours including hookup and waste, fresh water €1. There were marked grass and gravel pitches with signs indicating which way to park - typical German efficiency which we ignored as our door was on the "UK" side. The parking ticket gave us access to the promenade, lawns and beach,  otherwise €3 each, although use of the Strandkörbe wicker beach chairs (essential on this windy coast) was another €7. As it was the Mayday holiday the town centre was lively, with a band and a duo of young but very skilled xylophone players to entertain us.

Pressing north we crossed the Eider-Sperrwerk barrage, with large moving gates that prevents flooding of the low-lying land, and drove to St Peter-Ording, a smart small seaside resort, where we stopped at the very tidy private Reisemobilhafen, with a complicated SEP card system for barrier access and payment for the services, and internet at €1/hour. We set off on foot across the massive sandy beach (€2 payment depending on where you access it) to the buildings, including a restaurant built on stilts. Walking back through a nature reserve we reached the town centre, where we came across a few more restaurants, shops and pretty thatched houses.

The next day we drove around the flat sparsely populated Eiderstedt peninsula then inland to Friedrichstadt, a pleasant town laid out in a grid of streets, with Dutch style facaded buildings. We decided we would come back the next day and after getting our passports checked by an enthusiastic German border police fräulein as we were leaving the car park, we drove a few miles to Husum, and Schobüll where there was an ACSI campsite, a bit basic with a grass field overlooking the sea, but it had free wifi that worked fine with our notebook and tablets. We returned to Friedrichstadt, known for its decorative doors, the next morning, and also visited the  impressive large detailed model railway layout  which is well worth a visit (having decided to miss a similar one in Hamburg). After a short stop in the centre of Husum, a workaday harbour town with many Euro shops, we returned to the campsite for a second night.

Papenburg town centre
Papenburg town centre

Altes Land traditional house
Traditional Altes Land house among the orchards

Container ship on river Elbe
Container ship on the Elbe

Stade - old wharves
Stade - old wharves

Strandkorbe at Busum
Strandkörbe at Büsum

St Peter-Ording Restaurant on stilts
St Peter-Ording restaurant on stilts

Friedrichstadt main street
Friedrichstadt main square

    model railway 1     model railway 2
Friedrichstadt model railway layout


Friedrichstadt decorative door 1        Friedrichstadt decorative door 2         Friedrichstadt decorative door 1         Friedrichstadt decorative door 3    
Friedrichstadt decorative doors
We left  the site early the next morning and continued north, calling in to Dagebüll where the ferry runs to the island of Föhr, then on to Niebüll to discover they were holding their town festival with street entertainment and activities. We didn't find the place where the intriguing "box stacking" competition was being held but realised that an evening disco was advertised for the marquee set up next to the stellplatz so we drove 10 kilometres to Leck where we stayed overnight with one other van at the free motorhome parking area next to a deserted leisure centre. The whole town was quiet for a Saturday afternoon with most shops closed. There had been a large US Airforce base here until a few years ago and the place appeared rather past its best. The evening was spent planning our route in Denmark for the next few days.