A report on our Journey to and participation in the event by Betty Baulch
Having enjoyed the French event in 2006 We decided to attend the German event this year. So on Sunday the 20th May we set off to Harwich with the usual group of friends, meeting up with Brian and Rosie Rainbow (TA), Barbara Ford (TC), and Pete and Val Moore (TD) plus ourselves Terry and Betty Baulch (TD) at Weedon Northants, we moved on to Brafield On The Green where we were joined by Brian and Norma Cousins (TD)., John and Jill Philps (TA) meeting up at Harwich, where we took dinner in The Mayflower Hotel before boarding the night ferry to Hoek Van Holland
Brian (R) had organised the trip, booking ferries, Hotel stops, plus planning the journey routes to and from Speyer , where we spent 5 nights at the Technik-Museum hotel complex.
Harwich to the Hook of Holland on the over- night Stena Line ferry was a very restful and smooth crossing. Free breakfast was included at 6.30am – coffee and croixants sufficed at that time of day for most of us but Brian( R ) did enjoy his scrambled eggs and bacon.
Setting off for Venlo, where we were staying at a Campanile Hotel, (120 miles), we found the A15 and E25 motorways very busy but negotiated them well with the aid of Brian (R’s) intercom in the first and last cars. I wanted to give myself a “handle” like “Rubber Duck “ but Terry said we hadn’t time to mess about.
Brian (R) had a float chamber problem but quickly sorted it out by the side of the “race track” the rest of us waited at a motorway petrol / café stop for him and Rosie to catch up. After stopping later for lunch we arrived at Venlo where upon Brian found he had just managed to get to the hotel when a tyre went down (not his lucky day ) but he soon fixed it. Anyway the accommodation and food were first class so we had a very enjoyable evening .
Next day Tuesday 22nd May we had 120 miles to cover to Hotel Rheinlust in Boppard on the Rhein., with coffee and comfort stops mostly on motorways we arrived just in time to throw our luggage into the rooms then run across the road to catch the “Lorreli“ for a boat trip up the Rhein. A group of Chinese tourists tried to push in but our M.G.s (muscle guys ) gently persuaded them to wait and we sat down at the front of the boat, it did not deter them from coming up and posing for photographs and doing their “Titanic“ bit. We patronised the bar on board and were so relaxed after our days drive that we ignored the fine rain and enjoyed the castles and views of the Loreley rock through bleary eyes.
Back for dinner our waiter was named Daniel he said “I come from Croatia I no speak English good and I no speak German good.” During the evening he managed to knock Jill’s wine glass over and he replaced it with an inferior wine, (not for long though), demonstrating how he played football he accidentally headed a small bulb and shade in the chandelier which he hurriedly replaced. Saying “hello darlink“ a couple of times into something resembling a mobile phone – with a beautiful smile he addressed Rosie by saying “ahhhh Maria “ and when we ordered coffee he repeated “ahhhh yes 10 ordinary coffee and one defecated“ We wished him goodnight with tears running down our faces thinking his name should have been “Manuel“ and checking that the hotel was not called Fawlty Towers.
Next morning 85 miles to Speyer where there was plenty of parking space for the 400 plus MGs, 97 of which were British. We registered for the event and collected our polo shirts and other gifts plus programmes. The weather was very hot as we settled into our rooms.
The Technik Museum has a large collection of aeroplanes, classic cars, trains and fire engines. Outside in the complex were displayed a full size Boeing 747 on a plinth some 50/60 foot in the air and visitors could walk inside right up to the 1st class section , a full size U boat and a Russian AN22 transport plane plus many other aircraft . Opposite was another museum containing automatic musical instruments, historic fashions and toys. The large screen Imax Dome movie theatre was amazing, so plenty to see. In the evenings we all met and dined in the Festival hall ( more like a huge aircraft hanger but nicely decorated ).
On Thursday 24th May our first tour took us to Neckarsteinach where four fortified castles from the 12th and 13th centuries are distinctive landmarks.The Hirschorn castle rises above the city , built in 1200 it was occupied by knights for about 400 years. Its gothic architecture has changed little to accommodate an hotel. The town is known as the pearl of the Neckar Valley, historic half timbered houses can be seen in the main street of the old town. Towards the end of the days tour we passed through parts of Heidelberg. In its glorious setting the city is regarded as one of the most beautiful in Germany. The 2nd world war left it almost undamaged and that’s why the baroque old town buildings still exist resembling the middle ages. The world’s largest barrel holding 220,000 litres of wine can be seen in the old baronial wine cellar. Before returning to Speyer there was the opportunity, for those who wished, to go to the Hockenheimring and have a blast round the circuit.
Friday the 25th May tour took us to Maulbronn Abbey, 12 monks from the Alsace started the building in 1147 and it is now the best preserved mediaeval Cistercian monastery in Europe. In the time it was a working monastery the monks were allowed to dip their fingers into the wine, that was made, once a day after dinner as it flowed in a narrow furrow around one of the huge pillars supporting the very high ceiling and licking each finger one monk reputedly exclaimed “I wish I had 11 fingers “ and today you can buy a bottle of wine from that region called 11 Fingers. The Stromberg area, in which we were, is a nature reserve and is situated between Heidelberg and Karlsrule both good wine growing areas.
After a good lunch laid on near the monastery, the route took us to Eppingham to see the very beautiful timbered houses located there. We were met at a control in the town where we were given a couple of nice bottles of beer. A festival of “blondes“ was in progress (don’t ask) which consisted of large photos of teenage blondes festooned around the town, we never really found out exactly what it was all about.
On Saturday there were several options, a guided tour on foot of Speyer, take part in a gymkana and concurs de elegance or make your own way to Heidleberg by train, bus or car. Our choice was to take the tour of Speyer, so leaving the cars at the hotel we met up with the English speaking guide at the Dom, this is the huge cathedral that dominates the town. Speyer is a very interesting place, a large community of Jewish refugees arrived in the year 1084 and were allowed to settle, they built a synagogue in 1104, now in ruins, but the ritual cold water bath can still be reached down a flight of stone steps. Our guide was very informative explaining the usage of buildings and houses that had exquisite architecture with ornate facades. We ambled past the shops and pavement café s full of people beneath brightly coloured awnings who were leisurely enjoying the warm summer day. The guide warned us to be aware of the traffic in this pedestrian zone!
After another very nice lunch booked for us in one of the towns restaurants we walked back to the hotel complex well in time for the gala evening to be held in The festival hall. During the proceedings there was a humdinger of a storm but it did not interfere with our enjoyment of the evening although it was difficult to hear the music at times. We managed to totter back to the hotel afterwards through the rain and puddles under a very small umbrella.
The last days tour on Sunday took us to another excellent wine growing area the “Wine road / Palatine Wood“ with a reported near Mediterranean climate which boasts over 1800 hours of sunshine annually, but not on the day we arrived. We were told to expect BEAUTIFUL PICTURESQUE SCENERY if only we could have seen it through the low cloud and torrential rain. I half expected Brigadoon to suddenly emerge through the thick mist. Terry would have been glad if he could have just seen the path ahead through the eerie looking trees. Such a shame as the organisers were cooking very large tasty pizzas on huge stone ovens in the open air, the chefs were soaked. Hastily erected marquees helped but as Terry carried our pizzas into the marquee he thought perhaps the egg wasn’t cooked until I explained it was rain ( nice flavoured rain though ). Gerry Birkbeck and his wife Jo tied blankets round themselves, took off their shorts and dried them on a large Patio heater, well any port in a storm.
Later in the day the weather improved and we had a lovely stop at a vintners at Marienhof ,where we were supplied with super German cakes and coffee, there was also the opportunity to buy some wine at a good price, ( if only there was more space in a “T type“). On route in Annweiler there is an eight metre high sculpture of a dragonfly which could be mistaken for our bonnet mascot “magic midge“ but I was so busy navigating I missed it. So back on to Speyer via Hauenstein, which is known as Germanys largest shoe village, for another special evening in the festival hall.
This evening after dinner was for the prize giving and the many tributes made by most of the participating countries to our excellent German hosts of the event.
Monday saw us saying goodbye to Pete and Val who were going home by a different route, (so whose got SatNav then?), and to many other friends. Apparently Pete got a puncture just after leaving us and his jack would not work –some kind of law I believe. Hoods up we started our 75 miles towards the Rudesheimer Schloss Hotel, via Worms, where we visited the famous cathederal, and on along the scenic route beside the Rhein. Norma and Brian were leading and turned into the Rhine Hotel in Nierstein as we were all ready for a light lunch. Parking was a bit tight but suddenly an immaculately dressed waiter appeared and ushered us into a large garage (the owners with his Jag in it ) then a little damp and dishevelled we followed him into a very smart restaurant , with the flare of a toreador he whisked off our soggy anoraks and seated us at a beautifully set table and after handing out large embossed menus arrived with a large tray of complimentary glasses of champagne . The owner then appeared (who turned out to be a classic car buff) and explained that it was to “welcome us and our beautiful cars to his hotel and country“ how kind! Picking up the menu I mentioned to Terry that my glasses were in my anorak, secreted somewhere, when with a little bow this handsome paragon handed me a very elegant box containing six pairs of sparkling spectacles. We all chose a fairly light lunch – remembering dinner was booked for 7.30.At our hotel in Rudesheim.. The service was excellent, and so was the food, after passing pleasantries with the owner our waiter escorted us to our cars then stepped into the road and with great aplomb proceeded to stop the traffic in both directions so that our five cars could sweep out in line waving our goodbyes (a lovely interlude).
That evening our hotel was situated in the lane next to the famous “Drosselgasser“ in Rudesheim, so we did the tourist bit and paid a fortune for several beers and a few glasses of wine ,so much for the famous “Drosselgasser”!!. The hotel was another excellent choice thanks to Brian and we sang and danced to a small band, great fun.
Tuesday morning we left for Cochem on the Mosel travelling alongside the majestic Rhein (in the rain), with its botels barges and its tripper boats, to Koblenz where unfortunately Terry took a wrong turn on the motor way and we did an undesired detour of 20 odd miles before we could turn round (ce la vie). Having found a different route back we passed through Koblenz and on to the Mosel quite different to the Rhein being less commercial .
On the way to Cochem we decided to visit Eltz castle, which was well worth it,quite remote situated in a commanding position but with a long walk down to it and even longer coming back up. It is very fairy tale like with its towers and pointed spire like roofs.
The hotel in Cochem, Karl Mueller, was very comfortable and with balconies to the rooms facing out to the river Mosel very picturesque particularly at night withthe boats etc all lit up.
Wednesday saw us travelling to Bernkastel again all along the Scenic Mosel Valley. When we did arrive in the town we had a little problem getting to our hotel and after driving through narrow one way streets we found it was in a pedestrianised area but after a while we found we were allowed to drive into it to unload our cases etc, the proprietor then led us to our overnight secure parking. Val had recommended that the girls should visit the handbag shop which we duly did and most of us bought one – haversack type, leaves your hands free for SHOPPING.
Thursday we left Bernkastel travelling through some lovely scenic country on quiet rural roads via Vianden where Brian and Norma knew of a good cake and coffee shop and on to Clervaux in Luxemburg our stop over for the night. It was very pleasant sitting outside on the hotel Koener s forecourt drinking a cool glass of wine watching the world go by before enjoying another fine meal in the hotels restaurant.
On Friday we left for Battice in Belgium our last stop before heading for our departure port on Saturday night. On route a visit was made to Monschau in Germany another super old town where we had lunch in the open air by a little stream in the middle of town. Then it was on to Battice to Hotel “Domaine du Haut Vent“with delightful people to welcome us. The rooms were charming each named after flowers. We had to smile when big bearded Brian (C) giving his room for the bill said “I’m Tulip”. .Such a relaxing atmosphere beautiful gardens and the delicious food was presented like works of art on a plate, while the wine flowed, a truly wonderful evening, well worth a return visit.
Leaving Battice for the Hook of Holland (150 miles ) on the way John and Jills T A developed an ominous rattle from the engine and we all hoped they were going to make it to the ferry which they did thank goodness, but decided to have it trailered from Harwich. Norma and Brian led us through to the port at Hoek van Holland. The roads were very busy but they did a grand job. Barbara, without a navigator, was a real stalwart in our group she was always protected between a couple of us, declared with a wry smile that she had better buy a map when she got home to see where she had been !!
The ferry once again had a perfect crossing and we arrived home at noon Sunday
Having traveled some 1500 odd miles.