Traveled on: 24.12.18 – 06.01.19
We went to Christmas Eve party at Ernie’s aunts house, many of his family were there and we played party games and ate lots of delicious food, we even had a visit from Santa so that was pretty awesome. We managed to get 4 hours kip after the party before leaving London at 3am on Christmas day.
We arrived at Folkestone for a 6:20 am crossover to Calais. The Euro Tunnel was pretty quiet, I think most people were warmly tucked away in their beds waiting for Christmas morning present opening! The Euro Tunnel (Le Shuttle) was decorated very festively and it was nice to arrive early to take in some of these festivities.
Arriving early also gave us plenty of time to fix down the seats in the Bongo (camper van) and create our bed for the next two weeks. We had never slept in the camper in the winter so we over packed in sleeping bags, duck feathered duvets and extra blankets. I can now say that with all of these layers I did not get cold on any of the nights sleeping in the camper, despite the ice that was scraped from the inside of the windows on some mornings.33
After Arriving in Calais we made our way towards Luxembourg, which we had planned to be our first stop. However we realised we needed food and toilets before this and instead of stopping at a service station we made a quick pit stop in France Lille where we were also able to snap some photos.
We stayed in Lille for around 2 hours, there wasn’t much open here on Christmas day, this made me worry about other places not being open around Europe as we continued to travel. We drove from France through Belgium and into Luxembourg.
As we arrived in Luxembourg City it was buzzing with people walking off their Christmas day food and exploring the city. The first thing we noticed was the Christmas market serving mulled wine, hot meat sandwiches, crepes and waffles. Much like a smaller, quieter version of London’s winter wonderland. We saw many of these Christmas markets whilst travelling through Germany and they were warming to be around throughout this festive period. It was one of the reasons I was eager to travel Germany during the Christmas holidays. We bought some churros and continued to walk on and explore.
My most favourite part of Luxembourg was the Panoramic Elevator which is an outdoor lift that takes you from the top of the Alzette valley from Pescatore Park, to the bottom of the valley in the Pfaffenthal area. It’s completely free and you get some pretty awesome views overlooking the bridges of the valley. We took a walk, zig-zagging over a few bridges, there was a bit of fog which made the valley appear eerie.
Ernie liked that we had parked the Bongo right outside the European Parliament, as it was Christmas day not a single person was around this area of Luxembourg. We were even able to get out the camping stove and cook up some food on the road right outside one if the main parliament buildings, which we found quite funny, I’m sure on any usual day security would be onto us for producing a fire by the roadside. After food we continued to travel through Luxembourg and into Germany.
We headed towards Frankfurt but as we got sleeping approaching the city we decided to pull into a service station to sleep. We stayed in Serways services, these were all over Germany. Serways are good because many of them have shower rooms and very clean toilets, which is always handy to know when travelling using your own vehicle as accommodation.
Wednesday (26th) Frankfurt, Heidelberg and Stuttgart
On Wednesday we woke up in Serways services and continued to drive for 40 mins into Frankfurt. In Frankfurt we were greeted with an enormous Christmas tree in the central square. A walk along the river was pretty, there was low fog and this made for some interessting pictures.
Ernie wanted to visit the Main Tower, which offers views of Frankfurt from one of the tallest points in the city. Unfortunately when we got there the tower had been closed due to the foggy weather. It was very cold on this day and they had found icicles at the top of the tower, deeming it unsafe for tourists. This was disappointing however we were dubious about the amount we would see from the top anyway due to the fog on this day. The tower is usually 7 euros to go to the top. Which is much more cheaper than the Shard in London! Below is a view from the bottom of the tower.
There is a huge Euro sign that stands in front of the European Central Bank building. It is located across from the Opera House which is a very grand building.
After exploring Frankfurt we headed towards Heidelberg. I really felt like I was in Germany when I was in Heidelberg. It has stunning views over the River Neckar with a great castle like palace at the top of the valley. The city istself is full of grand period houses and some quaint little shops and cafes to explore. We parked at the top of the valley near the castle and took a wonder down the cobbled steps towards the bottom, it felt like a scene from Narnia, especially when we spotted a Christmas market and ice rink at the bottom.
We saw Heidelberg as the sun was quickly setting so most of our time spent here was during the evening.
Heidelberg Castle or Palace was one of my highlights of the whole trip. Much of the building is in ruins and it can be explored for free, although you can also purchase tickets during the day to go inside the parts that are still standing. It is lit up beautifully at night and during these winter periods they had a light exhibition in the gardens.
After walking the steep steps of Heidelberg we jumped in the Bongo and headed off towards Stuttgart, by the time we reached Stuttgart it was late into the evening. One of the good things about driving to a new place late is that there are always parking spaces during these late hrs, and you usually don’t pay after 8pm in Germany. Another great saving we made when travelling during the Christmas holidays was not having to pay for parking tickets on the 25th, 26th, 31st, 1st or 2nd in the cities we were in on these dates, due to them being national holidays.
After parking up in Stuttgart we had a wonder around the main square where there was a light display up, for Christmas. As we walked through the square, music played and light figures lit up one by one. Each figure represented parts of Stuttgart, like the Porsche figure above.
We decided to book a hotel for the following day/night, so we drank coffee in a cafe whilst finding a cheap hotel. We tried to spend as little as possible on the holiday by sleeping in the Bongo but its still nice to to stay in a hotel every 2-3 nights to freshen up, get some proper recharge for our devices and use some hours to have a good chill. After our light walk around Stuttgart we parked the Bongo near the hotel we had booked online, ready for the morning.
Thursday (27th) – Stuttgart
This morning we were able to check into the Attimo Hotel early, even though check in was from 12, we often find that hotels will allow you to check in early if they have a room cleaned already.
We freshened up and mapped out where we wanted to go for the day. We chose to see the city from the sky by going to the 217-metre-high Fernsehturm, which was the worlds first TV tower of its kind, being built in 1956. This TV tower model then went on to be used all over the world.
The views from the top of the tower were beautiful. Despite being bitterly cold and windy the sky looked amazing and we were able to take some lovely photos at the top. Once you have paid the €9 to go up the very long lift to the top there is no time limit on being up there.
As it was such a clear day we could see much of the city and many of the towns surrounding Stuttgart, there are maps at the top of the tower to guide you on what you can see ahead.
People always ask me how I can afford to travel so often, especially being on teachers wages, it’s not like we are bankers or work high paid jobs in the city. There are many ways that help keep the cost of traveling down and it’s about prioritising what you want the most out of your travels. For example, for this trip we took lots of our own food rather than using restaurants or buying more expensive foods from stores abroad. We were lucky enough to be given boxes of foods from a friend and from my parents (kind of like Christmas presents) such as cous cous, noodles, rice and lentil packets which could be cooked in a pot with our travel cooker, as well as breakfast bars, biscuits, crisps. This meant we were able to use this food over the two weeks, we often carry the food with us in the bag as we explore during the day. Below is a photo of Ernie chomping into some chocolate biscuits at the top of the tower. I consider many sight-seeing places a necessity, especially those that give you an unforgettable view and/or information that is interesting and important to learn about whilst traveling. So, although we save in some ways, i.e. sleeping in the camper and taking our own food, we wouldn’t skimp on seeing key landmarks, museums or heritage sites as we see these as being important.
After spending time at the Fernsehturm we headed towards Le Corbusier’s Weissenhof Estate. Le Corbusier ( or Charles-Édouard Jeanneret) is a swiss-french architect and is considered the pioneer of modern architecture. Stuttgart holds an estate which houses some of his builds alongside buildings by other architects. The site is a UNESCO world heritage site and was one that Ernie was interested in after studying about this architecture when he was younger.
The Weissenhof Estate is just behind the Hohenpark Killesberg which hosts the Killesbergturm observation deck. This is a detailed spiral tower that was erected in 2001. The tower is basicaly free to walk up, they ask for a Euro donation. It’s a fine piece of architecture and from the top we could spot the Fernsehturm which we had been up during the morning.
We headed back to the hotel as it was getting dark after exploring the park. We thought about heading towards the Porsche museum, as Stuttgart is well known for this, but neither of us are very much into cars so we decided against this. However the museum is supposed to be another great place to visit in Stuttgart and I guess if you are a car lover then this would be the place for you.
Friday (28th)- Neuschwanstein Castle and onto Munich
We managed to get a lovely lie-in bed this morning as we didn’t need to check out of Attimo Hotel in Stuttgart until midday. We then made the journey towards the most southern part of our trip into the village of Hohenschwangau which holds the Neuschwanstein castle –so southern infact we had to be careful to not end up driving over the border into Austria!
Neuschwanstein Castle was one of my highlights of our whole journey and I had been so excited about going leading up to this day.
I would highly recommend trying to pull over in the car as you approach or leave the area as you can then really see the beauty of where the castle is built. With the snowy mountained backdrop and the white castle towering on the hill in the middle, it was like approaching a fairy tale scene.
We took a walk up to the castle, you can also take a horse and cart up if you arn’t keen on the walk or would like the cart experience. I quite enjoyed the walk in the snow.
After the castle day we drove on to the city of Munich. We parked up for free (after 8pm) outside a church just south of the city. We had a wonder into the city before going to sleep. We managed to see the main square which included the Rathaus, we decided we would go up to the top of this tower on the previous day. The Rathaus was particularly special as on each 12 hour it chimed music and showed an aray of moving figures near the top of the clock. It told a story of jesters dancing and soldiers jousting on horses.
Saturday (29th) – Munich and onto Nuremberg
We woke in Munich, or Munchen as it is known in Germany. Below is a day time picture of the Rathaus building. On this day we went up to the top of this. It only costs €3 each and tickets can be purchased from the tourist information center.
Below is the view of the cathedral from the top of the Rathaus.
The walls around the top of the Rathaus are graffitied in names and messages from all over the world. There is a visitors book that has been provided, we wrote a small message into the book, but the walled messages make for a kind of 80’s style piece of art.
After seeing the views of the Rathaus we made our way via the metro towards the Munichs Olympic Park which hosted the games in 1972.
We had a wonder around the garden parts of the park and then headed towards the Olympic tower which we went up. From the top you can see all of the Olympic park including the Olympic village and the memorial that stands for the 11 Israeli contestants that were unfortunately shot during the games back in 1972.
Right next door to the Olympic park is the BMW museum, again if we were into cars this would have been another place we could have attended. Even though we opted out of this museum, seeing the building itself is quite interesting. I didn’t manage to get a photo but the building is a very different kind of shape and can been seen on the way from the metro station to the Olympic park.
After exploring the olympic park we headed back into the city and decided to visit a hofthaus, we visited the Hofbraeuhaus Staatliches which was one of the first set up in Munich. It was a real cultural experience and we listened to old German music being played by a live band whilst eating a giant pretzel, dipped in vegetable soup and sipping on a non-alcohol HB.
In the evening we headed into Nuremberg where we found a parking space just outside the main city area. We had a wonder around and found an Irish bar for a quick drink before heading back for some rest.
Sunday (30th) – Nuremburg and onto Dressden
This morning waking up in Nuremberg was peaceful, there didn’t seem to be many tourists as we had seen in other big cities before now. Nuremburg is full of history, from medieval history starting within the old city walls to World War history. The city held many Nazi Party conventions which went on to becoming huge Nazi propaganda events and a centre of Nazi ideals.
We started by exploring the old part of the city, this part is pretty awesome with it’s medieval architecture. It is as old city that was surrounded by walls and many of the walls and the towers are still standing. There is a castle within the walls and the houses reminded me very much of the houses in Heidelberg just a little more colourful.
In the above and below pictures you can see the rounded towers that can be found at various points along the wall around the old city. The week that we went, there was another Christmas market that we could venture around.
From the castle there is a view of the city, including another TV tower. There were TV towers in most of the German cities we went to. We had to pick and choose which ones were worth going up and decided against this one as there was so much more to see in Nuremburg.
After seeing the old city we took a long walk out and onto the Justizpalast Nurnberg or the Justice Palace Nuremburg which was the building that held the Nuremberg trials back in 1945-1946. Leaders of the Nazi regime answered to their crimes infront of the International Military Tribunal. These trials influenced, and still do influence, international criminal law.
We walked back to the Bongo and drove out towards the Documentation center Nazi Party Rally Grounds. The National Socialists held their Party Rallies in Nuremburg and this center educates about dictatorship and Nazi propaganda. Here you can also see the congress hall that was built for NSDAP party congresses and was planned to be a platform for the “Führer”, Adolf Hitler, to speak and hold rallies. However, construction of this building was abandoned during World War II.
After visiting this museum we jumped in the Bongo and headed up towards Dresden.
Monday (31st)- Dresden onto Berlin for New Year
I’ve been gutted as we seem to have lost all of our Dresden photos, from the GoPro somehow. We do have the one below from my phone. One of the best sites to see in Dresden was the Procession of Princes which is a 102 meter memorial showing rulers from the house of Wettin since 1127. It is stretched along a wall in the old city, it’s quite spectacular to see.
After exploring Dresden we headed towards Berlin ready to celebrate in the 2019 New Year. We stayed in a hotel in Potsdam, which is just outside of Berlin itself. We still took the Bongo closer to the city for the evening celebrations parking up near the south of the city and walking towards the Brandenburg Gate which is where the main event takes place. Fun Fact: Berlin is the number 1 place to celebrate in the New Year in Europe! We didn’t know this before we were here but we could see why it is number one. The event was so well managed from stalls, ride attractions, live music and a DJ set as well as having what felt like good security teams and a well marshaled area. It was catered for the young, old and even families with small children. People were dancing and singing along with the live music, the whole night had a friendly atmosphere. We were not aware of this prior to coming here for the New Year but the main acts were actually Bonnie Tyler, Spandau Ballet and the Village People and as corny as all of these are, I actually loved celebrating in the New Year to
‘You are gold, always believe in your sole,
you got the power to know you’re indestructible,
always believe in!’
The main stage for the event is set up around the Brandenburg gate pictured above. After the countdown there were some fireworks and people started to make their way back home or to their hotels.
Tuesday (1st) – Berlin
We woke up in the hotel in Potsdam, taking our lie-in on a hotel day, and made our way into the city for the first time by day. We came across the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Which can be found right in the centre of Berlin not far from the Brandenburg Gate. The memorial is a monument to the Holocaust and is made up of 2711 cuboids of concrete which took 17 years to be completed.
Not far from the monument is the Reichstag which is home to the current German parliament but has an interesting political history as a building itself. It served as a parliament building from 1916-1933 but was then neglected and damaged under Nazi dictatorship, being targeted by the Red Army because of its use in propaganda. When west Germany’s parliament was moved to Bonn, after the war, the Reichstag became redundant until the 1960’s when it became an exhibition throughout the cold war period. During German reunification in 1989-1990 there was discussion over the Reichstag becoming the home of the German national parliament and this was made so in April 1999. Right now the building is a symbol of democracy and is open to the public with tickets purchased online.
The glass dome on top of the Reichstag was designed by Norman Foster and it sits above the debating chamber inside the main building. When you visit you are allowed to go onto the roof terrace to get some views of the city and a close up of the dome. When inside the dome there is a spiral footway that twirls around, you can see people walking up this in the photo below.
At the time we went to Germany my own British parliament was debating Brexit negotiations for plans to leave the EU. If you hadn’t guessed from the photo above, of me desperately reaching out to the European flag at the top of the Reichstag, Brexit is not what I voted for #IloveEU .
Wednesday (2nd)- Berlin
Thursday (3rd) – Hannover onto Dusseldorf onto Bonn
Friday- woke up Bonn- cologne
need cologne and bon pics