RETROSPECTIVE - GENERAL COMMENTS ON GERMANY

With the exception of very scenic areas like Bavaria and the Black Forest, we got the impression that the scenery doesn't vary a lot and is, to be honest, quite boring.  Throughout our travels the countryside was flat or gently rolling, with an awful lot of pine forests.  The main feature of the landscape was often wind turbines - presumably the Germans don't object to them on aesthetic or health grounds, like the NIMBYs in the UK!  In fact they are very ecologically aware generally, and it must be one of the most cycle-friendly countries in Europe.  Even in the centre of Berlin it would be easy to get around by bike, and there was no sign of the kind of car -versus- bike animosity so often seen in, for example, York.

However, despite all their cycling and fondness for open-air activities there are still a lot of overweight people.  This could be because the food is still pretty stodgy, with lots of meat, lots of sausages and not many vegetables.  We saw far more bakers shops than greengrocers!

Eighteen years after reunification it's not easy to see where the West used to end and the East used to begin.  There has been a lot of rebuilding and updating of facilities, and also rebuilding of historic places like Dresden.  However the suburbs of ex-GDR towns often consist of tell-tale drab concrete blocks of flats.

Contrary to expectations, by no means all Germans speak English, but you can usually get by with a few words, a dictionary and gestures!  Most of the people we met were friendly but there were quite a few grumpy or even rude ones.  I wouldn't say it was one of my favourite countries, but there are some picturesque and historic towns and cities and the Baltic coast was a pleasant surprise.  And the bread and cakes are delicious!

INFORMATION FOR CARAVANNERS AND CAMPERS

 We found that the campsites were generally very well-maintained and well-run, with excellent toilet blocks.  We didn't come across any unisex ones, unlike in France, and they are more likely to be fully enclosed and therefore less draughty.  It's quite common for campsites to have a rest-time between 1 and 3pm, when the gates are shut - so you have to plan your day so as not to get shut in, or out!  Many German campsites are on a lakeside.  It may only be a very small lake but will be clean and may have a small bathing beach.  Germans love lakeside activities so if you enjoy sailing, canoeing, fishing etc this is the country for you!

There are not as many large supermarkets as there are in France, but numerous smaller ones such as Lidl, Aldi and Netto.  We particularly liked Familia, Plus and Rewe.  Alcohol is generally sold in a separate but adjacent shop run by the supermarket.  There didn't seem to be quite the same wide range of food that we found in France - all the cheeses seemed to be exclusively German and there are shelves and shelves of unappealing bottled vegetables and pickled gherkins!  But it is easier to find fresh milk.

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