Monday, 13 September 2010

GERMANY PHASE 2......Berlin,Birthdays& Batteries

1st. September 2010 PRETTY GERMAN VILLAGE.....and first signs of problems ahead...

The strange pricing structure meant that we had to be away by 8am as nights are free but days are charged for between 8am-6pm which involved finding a jobsworth to unlock a chain barrier....there were plenty around at night checking on parking tickets but they all disappeared at 8am when half the park was trying to get away before incurring another days charge.....and all of them, including us wanted to pass through the service area to empty tanks etc. This now took an hour so were not away till 9.30.
We had all decided to miss Hanover which had been on the itinerary for some reason and now headed for Hannoversch Munden, Nowhere near Hannover but in the vague direction of Berin and recommended in several guide books but without much detail
We stopped first at WUPPERTAL to gaze in awe at the overhead hanging monorail as proposed by D. but did not linger too long as parking proved problematic. Arrived HANN>MUNDEN to find lovely little town full of half timbered houses and a nice little Aire on the edge of town 5mins from centre with all facilities. D. opted to hook up to the electric for a euro/8 hrs whilst I did not, having 2 large batteries and a solar I was somewhat miffed when the tv stopped working for lack of power-as it turned out-when I should be able to go for weeks without electric hookups, esp if we keep moving as the engine also recharges the batteries. So the faint stirrings that all may not be well........

2nd September 2010 THE PEARL OF EUROPE.......and problems confirmed

To MAGDEBURG which may have been the Pearl circa 19th.C but merely pleasant today. Some old buildings but evidence of where many were destroyed and replaced with the socialist workers vision. Nice Cathedral. Our overnight stop was on the quayside of the R.Elbe, entrance disguised successfully as no entry with bollards which sunk into the ground when 5 euros were put in a machine at the side but if you didn't know it was there you'd have missed it. We all had a nice stroll around. Batteries again ran down after a few hours so I have a problem.


To BERLIN, a campsite near suburb called GATOW and across the road from the old British Army Barracks at SPANDAU. Bus from ouside the gate into City centre in 35/40 mins for 2.10€ pp each way although on Staurday we did buy a 3 day Berlin pass each for 22.50€.Into city on Friday afternoon for orientation as were meeting up with Katharine,Julian & Charlie who were flying in for the weekend as a 'surprise' 40th Birthday present for Julian who had already guessed anyway. On Staurday we all met up at 10.30 and organised bus passes and a city bus tour. BERLIN totally crowded and fairly manic. Hopped off the bus at the Brandenberg Gate for photo-op, had lunch at wierd asian fastfood joint, did the Holocaust Memorial which is v. good and the Reichstag. Back on bus to continue tour back to beginning. Quite interesting/amusing tour guides. Weather cool,hot,cool,wet. Drinks on the Kurfurstendam and look round the bombed-out church and replacement new one over which opinions were divided. On Sunday F and I walked from the cathedrals on the Gendarmenmarkt up to the Unter den Linden, past the Altes Museum to Alexander Platz for coffee, then caught the metro through the 'ghost stations' to meet up with family for lunch at Checkpoint Charlie and then the Wall Memorial, very informative,interesting and thought provoking, esp. the display in the old Gestapo headquarter ruins.. We then all walked down to Potsdammer Platz for the regulation beers and gaze in awe at the Sony Centre temple of technology.........
Arranged to meet for lunch on Monday at the Sony Centre but I changed the venue to ALBERTS on Karl Marx ALLEE as a fitting venue for a 40th Birthday lunch which as it turned out was not nearly so exciting as described, and its International Cuisine seemd to stop at Double Cheese Burgers; hardly a monument to a socialist workers paradise.
All in all, the whole group seemed to agree that BERLIN was worth a visit but had been over-hyped. I thought it was 'vibrant' and the tourists were like those in London. There are good things to see but take away the Wall and the War and there are plenty of nicer cities.........and you can only take in so much Holocaust info.......D&M did the new synagogue & museum, and had had there fill. We found the Nikolai quarter with old church and interesting old streets. Love the buses and metro......nobody checks tickets esp on metro, in fact saw nobody in uniform or authority at all in underground ( see Dresden Later).And BERLIN has more modes of transport than any other city...Bus,tram,metro,urban train, taxi,tour bus, bike rent,bike tours, rickshaws,tuktuks,segways,group bikes that you sit round in a circle and all pedal,the Beer BIke that is a mobile bar with draught beer on tap that you sit round and pedal, trabant safari tour in trabant convoy, hot air ballon, electriv scooters,river boat cruises and walking tours and some I may have missed.

6th-9th September 2010 RUDE SHOCK IN DRESDEN

We all wanted to visit DRESDEN and we found an Aire that appeared to be next to a Motorhome Dealership and as I have a serious battery problem this seemed an ideal location. Found The dealer with ease, and the Aire was actually a small campsite at the rear of the workshops with about 40 pitches at 11€ a night. I found the service department with a nice man called Marcus Laessing who spoke excellent english and explained that I thought I needed 2 new batteries. We found a pitch on the very crowded site and he took all the details. Couldn't do anything that day (Tues) but would have the electrics checked out next day. D&M turned up an hour or so later and with a bit of pleading we managed to squeeze them on the same pitch as us, causing a slight bottleneck in the confined space. Facilities were excellent standard but everything had to be paid for extra (water, electric,showers,waste) so no bargain. Very busy dealership and very pricey. 15min ride into DRESDEN on tram -7€ for a 2person day ticket-an Dresden is delightful and more than happy to pass that way again. Obviously rebuilt after 1945 fire-bombing but wonderful place and hardly a mention of the bombing and then only in a chronological context. Excellent place for just meandering and very photogenic. Lovely market place with food stalls and beer where we had a v.pleasant dinner to save cooking so we could play cards or something. On way back on tram we appeared to be accosted by a young girl who had been been sitting with 2 men who all looked like and were dressed like students. Far from trying to sell us the Big Issue I realised that the card she was holding covertly so that only we could see it had the transport company logo on it and she was asking to check our tickets-which were perfectly in order. She then sat down again with the men and they got off a few stops later without-and this is my point - checking any other passengers. We were targeted without doubt.....Stasi or what ? Because when D&M went in ahead of us next day, the men from the Same group of 3 demanded their tickets for inspection and no-one elses. Paranoia.
So they checked out all the charging systems on the van incl solar panel, declared everything working normally and batteries on the knackered side of good. My man is now Herr Koch, the young electrical expert. Unfortunately, german batteries are different dimensions to UK ones so we are limited to start with. They show me the catalogue and prices leap from the page in the 300-500€ range. I am expecting to pay £100 for a battery ! These are gel batteries. I ring the dealer in the UK. £120 is the price i would pay for lead acid which they fit. Herr Kock finds a lead acid battery of the right dimensions but it is 90AH instead of 100AH and the price is 199€ or £166. The choice is go home and abort trip to save 2x£46 or pay the extra £92 and continue. No choice really so we go ahead. In the end I pay 494€ which is for the testing and fitting. The batteries arrive next morning at 10am but due to local difficulties they don't get round to fitting them (10mins) until friday morning.........and when I go to pay, they won't take our debit/credit cards (only EC Maestro cards) and I have to go the local (excellent) shopping mall and get the cash....have to use 2 cards as can only get 300€ out in any one go....hey ho. D&M are heading for home, only being away for September, by way of Bayreuth and the Rhine. Jolly good last supper chez Parker after which D & I win convincingly at WitsEnd against the girls and F&I stuff the Parkers at bridge after not having played for over 3 years !!
Fond farewells and we have had a lovely time with them over the last 2 weeks and many laughs and lots of wine,beer and brandy....knocking on th e door at 8am to say goodbye was a bridge too far though..............................................

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