Bad Segeberg, Germany Saturday, August 16, 2008
Actually the title for this blog should be 'it's getting better all the time', but the pun came as we sat in the shadow of the Marienkirche in Lubeck, eating a delicious German sausage and supping a pilsner.
We had taken the overnight Hull-Rotterdam ferry on August 3rd, and found the ferry comfortable and convenient, with plenty of entertainment for those who wanted it, and a choice of eating options. The buffet breakfast in particular was very good value. Then we had a 240-mile, mainly flat, journey to a little town called Bielefeld, about half way between Dortmund and Hanover, for an overnight stop. The town's main claim to fame is that it is the seat of Dr Oetker, of frozen pizza fame. On a slightly more intellectual note, it's close to the Teutoberger Forest, site of the infamous battle in 9 AD when three legions of the Roman army, led by Varus, were annihilated by the Germans.The campsite, Meyer zu Bentrup, was clean and pleasant, although it consisted mainly of statics with only a small area for tourers. However the toilet block was brand new and even had piped music! It was more than adequate for an overnight stop.
Then a 200-mile trip northeast to Bad Segeberg, a lakeside resort some 40 miles north of Hamburg and 15 miles from the Baltic coast. This is an attractive resort town with a good range of shops and a library with Internet access. It is impossible to get to the lakeside by car, but for those prepared to walk, or better still cycle, it is a delightful spot and so convenient for visits to Lubeck, Hamburg and the Baltic coast. The campsite, Kluthseecamp Seeblick, was very pleasant with a swimming pool, restaurant and excellent shower facilities.
On Thursday we went to Lubeck for the day. Like many towns around the Baltic it was a member of the Hanseatic League, and very prosperous and powerful in the Middle Ages. There are many houses and churches dating from this period, built not of stone but of red brick, which reminded us incongruously of Victorian municipal Manchester. Lubeck is famous for its marzipan, so we went to a café-cum-marzipan shop near the Rathaus called Niederegger's, where John had a marzipan cappuccino! We visited several amazing churches, very lofty and light inside, and with very tall, thin spires. We also saw the Buddenbrookhaus, home of Thomas Mann's grandfather, and the setting for his famous novel. (You can take the girl out of the library, but you can't take the library out of the girl!)
As it was a warm sunny day we then drove to the resort of Travemunde, on the Baltic, or as the Germans call it the Ostsee (East Sea.) It was crowded with families sunbathing and swimming, just like an English seaside resort, except for the strange wicker beach chairs called strandkorb, which they use instead of deckchairs. It was nothing like the bleak image the words "Baltic Sea" had conjured up in our minds!
That evening we were sitting
outside enjoying the warmth. The air was perfectly still and we watched electric storms flickering around the horizon. Suddenly there was an enormous clap of thunder and gale force winds swept the campsite followed quickly by the heaviest rain
I have ever encountered. Caravans and cars were rocking, one Dutch family lost their awning, and everything was soaked. Fortunately we remained dry and cosy inside and no damage was done.
Next day was rainy so we put off our trip to Hamburg until Saturday, which was fine and not too hot for sightseeing. We took the train from Bad Segeberg, changing at Bad Oldesloe. It took the whole of the first part of the journey to work out how to use the on board ticket machine. Even the Germans seemed to have trouble. Actually we need not have bothered as no one ever asked to see tickets. The Bad Oldesloe to Hamburg stretch was by a fast modern double-decked train. These are very comfortable if you can get a seat, but not much space for standing if not - so it's not just UK trains that are overcrowded! On reaching Hamburg we decided that the best way to get our bearings was to be real tourists and take an open-topped bus tour round the city. A good plan as it happened as we were able to see many parts we would not have otherwise seen, and also cross some parts off our list of "to do's" which turned out to be not so attractive, for example the Reeperbahn, which may be the in place by night but by day was drab and decidedly seedy. It was however interesting to see where the Beatles had started out their careers. We then walked to the St Michaelis Kirche and climbed the tower for some amazing views.
Our initial impression of Hamburg was not great, but the longer we wandered the more we felt for the city. The Rathaus and Rathausmarkt were particularly fine, as was lake Alster, split into two, the Aussenalster and Binnenalster
by two bridges. The Binnenalster has a huge fountain in the middle, a little reminiscent of Geneva. I sat and watched the comings and goings round the fountain while Lesley 'did' the art gallery, which houses one of
the largest collections in Europe. I suspect she could have stayed there for several days.
There was a wine and food festival in the Rathausmarkt, sponsored by the Stuttgart wine federation. Stall after stall was offering food, beer and wine, with communal singing to the guitar and accordion in true German fashion. We had a delicious dinner of maultaschen, literally 'mouth pockets', two ravioli about 9 inches across, washed down with two huge tumblers of wine each.
Sunday was a rest day, which actually meant the usual chores of washing and drying, then Monday dawned fine and sunny, so we decided to head for the coast. We drove past Lubeck then along the coast towards Rostock. It was impossible to tell where West Germany ended and the East began, but soon the suburbs had long boring apartment blocks instead of pretty estates, and what at first appeared to be allotments turned out to be living quarters too. The countryside was no different of course, neither were the people. Many of the older buildings were undergoing renovation, but there were still many in disrepair, left as rotting shells.
Within the towns and cities though much work has been done to restore them to their former glory. Wismar was a fine example. The central square was similar in many ways to Ripon, although the architecture was very different. All was immaculately cleaned and painted, a picture postcard town.
The coast here is very pleasant, rolling downland dropping to flat sandy beaches backed by dunes. Out of town the beaches are accessible and often have large car parks with the inevitable wurst seller. We stopped at one where the stall specialised in home smoked fish. How Lesley would have loved to take some home for dinner, but we agreed that the smell in the caravan would be a bit much. We did however sample fish- and meat- rissoles with the best homemade kartoffelsalat I have ever tasted.
We drove on through Kuhlungsborn and Warnemunde to Rostock, East Germany's largest port
and main door to the outside world. Again the town centre has been beautifully restored and maintained, but the huge apartment blocks in the suburbs were a bit depressing.
Back to the caravan, for next we take Berlin.