Our Summer Vacation
When people asked where we were going on vacation, we pointed vaguely east and said “that way.” But even though we didn’t know exactly where we were going, we were determined to leave Wednesday night, 20 August. Of course, because it was us, that turned into very, very late on Wednesday. It didn’t matter so much since our first step was Dutch Boy’s parents, from whom we were borrowing a bigger tent. We got there late and only didn’t wake them up because they sleep especially soundly.
We spent most of Thursday with Dutch Boy’s mum and had a nice wander and a yummy coffee with her. We left in the late afternoon and made it through Belgium to Luxembourg, where we camped at Troisvierges (three virgins). Troisvierges was where the hostilities on the Western Front began on Aug 1, 1914 when the Germans violated Luxembourg’s neutrality. It’s also where the Battle of the Bulge was fought. It’s interesting seeing what that area looks like after having heard so much about it in history class – I hadn’t known it was so hilly.
As darkness fell, we put up the tent, which took a bit of figuring out – the English translation kept saying “zipper” when it meant the straps under the tent. Then, after a quick pasta dinner, to bed. The half-hourly trains 100 feet from our tent were a little annoying, as were the teens breaking into the pool and loudly chasing each other about. But probably most annoying, for Dutch Boy anyway, was that his ThermaRest was flat and wouldn’t hold air. He wasn’t so comfortable. Then Sprocket woke up a few times and was awake early. The positive side of being up early was that it let me experience the best thing about this campground: a bakery truck that made it’s rounds of the campground between 8 and 9 with all sorts of yummy baked goods – nothing like having the best baked goods we had all trip delivered right to the tent. I went back to sleep and Dutch Boy then tried to patch the ThermaRest, but it seemed to have spontaneously developed a myriad of small holes over an area – we’re not sure why as it was just fine when we had our camping trial. After this, we started to pack up – of course just as the rain began pouring down.
The mattress failure meant a trip to the border mall (mostly Belgians and Dutch shopping there – lower taxes in Luxembourg) to find a camping mattress. We went all car camping like and bought a big thick comfy double air mattress. After stocking up the food supplies we were on the road, again in the late afternoon and with the rain still heavily falling. We headed for camping in Saarburg, Germany, which I’ve just found out was occupied by Luxembourg after WWII. Dutch Boy was determined to camp, despite the continuing rain. Thus we found ourselves putting up a wet tent in the rain while Sprocket was confined and unhappy. It took over an hour and there was much swearing and insults to the designers of the tent on my part. It’s a great tent once it’s up, but is not designed for quick and easy ups and downs. Finally it was up and the rain stopped and we went to sleep – a sleep marred for me by being cold because of the cold air trapped in the air mattress.
The next morning I had absolutely no desire to take the tent down again, so we ended up spending the afternoon taking the cable car down the hill to Saarburg, which turned out to be a charming little town, although being Saturday everything except cafes had already closed at 1 pm. We did find an open supermarket and bought dinner. We also stocked up on baby food – surprisingly, the German’s have far more variety in jars of vegetarian baby food than the Dutch, although there is much less specifically vegetarian food available for adults both in the supermarket and in restaurants.
I had pushed for the campground we were in because it had a pool and I wanted to take Sprocket swimming; however, the experience was ruined a bit by an officious old life guard. The rules said that kids without a swimming certificate needed a floatation device, so even though Sprocket was not going to leave the hands of his parents he was forced into a floating seat which kept most of him out of the water – not really the point of the whole swimming thing, so we didn’t stay very long. It was the particularly joyless and condemning way that the man enforced the rules that really put, and pissed, me off. I’m not so good with mindless rule-following.
Sunday, we packed up and got on the road again, heading for the lovely old city of Heidelburg. We had a lovely wander through the town wherein Sprocket discovered that going aaaaaaaah is really fun while going over cobblestones. His normal stroller has big soft wheels and shocks so he doesn’t get to do that. We then took the funicular up to the castle ruins and had a nice dinner before heading to the Formula 1 to sleep. I had given Dutch Boy an ultimatum – the tent would go up only one more time on this trip. And Formula 1s are cheap and easy.
Monday we headed for the Romantische Straße, joining it in Feuchtwangen, a charming little town to stretch our legs in. Then down the Straße to Nördlingen, a quaint old town built inside a meteor impact crater. We walked through much of the city and along part of the wholly intact city wall. Then off to Augsburg to find a pension to sleep in. We were eventually successful and had a yummy dinner from a snack bar – thank goodness for immigrants.
Thanks to Sprocket, we were up for breakfast (pre-Sprocket, Dutch Boy and I tended to sleep through most hotel breakfasts) and on the road at a record-breaking pre-11. We headed straight for Füssen, where we stopped for lunch, before looking for the campground that would be our home for the next four nights. We settled on the camping on the lake near Wertach.
Wednesday we were up early and reasonably well-rested so we decided to do our long driving day to Liechtenstein. We headed off to the alps and had a most scenic drive through Austria – I failed to hold myself back from singing “The hills are alive….”. Of course one road turned out to be much slower than we’d thought – we barely left second gear – so we reached Liechtenstein in the late afternoon. Now, that is a small country. It’s also much less cute than we’d imagined – I had in my mind a quaint cobblestoned windystreeted sort of place, so wasn’t quite prepared for the modernity we found. There were some nice older houses, but not the scenicness we’d thought there’d be. No matter, we did accomplish the primary goal, which was to get a stamp in Sprocket’s passport. Many, many years ago my parents took 3-year-old me and my less than one-year-old sister hitch-hiking through Europe. At that point the two of us shared a passport, so my father made sure it got stamped in Liechtenstein and Luxembourg, two little countries for two little girls. We just needed one and Liechtenstein makes it easy – they do it for €2 at the tourist office – so Sprocket’s Dutch passport now has one stamp. His Canadian one doesn’t have any.
After Liechtenstein, we took the faster way back to Wertach, going through Switzerland. The day’s trip had me edging out Dutch Boy from the lead in the countries visited game, giving me 32 to his 31, and put Sprocket at 11, meaning we have a break if we want to keep months of life and countries visited on par. Of course Dutch Boy is now talking about going to Denmark and Sweden so he can take the lead again. 🙂 We got back to Wertach fairly late, but our worries about the gate being closed were unfounded – oh, it said it would be, but I think it relies on the rule-following Germans to just believe that it is so because it opened for us.
Thursday we did nothing but sit around and read. Oh, we walked into town to buy dinner at the grocery store, but nothing else. It hit me how hard it must be to be vegetarian in non-urban Germany – the grocery store didn’t even have tofu! Now, I don’t eat a lot of tofu, but it is reflective of a vegetarian presence, so that was a bit surprising. Lovely day in the sun. Sprocket really enjoys playing outside.
Friday, our last day, we again got a late start but headed out to visit Neuschwanstein, the fairy tale castle of “mad” King Ludwig. But tales of his madness were greatly exaggerated in order to depose him and stop him spending money. The interior of the castle is fabulous and worth the hike to the top. Sprocket loved being able to see everything from his back carrier and spontaneously serenaded our tour group in many rooms, testing the acoustics. After the castle (and a nice fresh pretzel on the way down), we went for dinner in a nearby town on the lake. Quite a nice dinner – I have to say that German food is better than Dutch, much more flavourful (if, of course, you can find something without meat in it). Then back to the campground (late again) for our last night.
Saturday dawned hot and clear again – we’d had wonderful weather the whole week since we’d left Saarburg – and we packed up and got ready to go. We were in no hurry since we planned a leisurely two-day return, so we got on the road at 1. However, en route it became apparent that we could get home that night if we pushed a bit, so we did, stopping only to stock up on veggie baby food and German beer. We were home by midnight, which gave us Sunday to unpack and unwind. All in all a lovely vacation, despite the camping bumps in the beginning.
For a whole gallery of pictures, click on the photo below or here.
And this was the trip down:
And the return trip: