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European Sojourn – one year on…………

May 18th 2013, I was at the airport with my son Tim – I did the same in 2012, except it was a different airport and the starting point of different journeys to the same city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

May 18th  2012, Tim met us at Vancouver Airport as Martin, Kerry and I set off on our European sojourn flying into Amsterdam (arriving May 19). May 18th 2013, I took my son Tim to Humberside Airport for his return journey to Canada, via a night in Amsterdam. Full circle and then some

Tim was quite looking forward to his adventure alone in Europe after a couple of weeks in with his mum (me) and his ‘evil’ stepdad Martin( LOL- family joke).  Tim arrived in Amsterdam on May 5 and caught the train down Karlsruhe where we met him. After a 24 hour journey, he was quite tired but still lucid and able to navigate the train and tram system. Tim is 29 and works for a bank in Canada, my lad is a big guy – 6ft 4in and 280lbs, but quite agile, so found himself at home on the boat. The only thing he could not manage was the shower – as the bathroom ceiling is low even I have bend my head.

Karsruhe

We spent a couple of days in Karlsruhe so Tim could get over the jetlag. For Tim everything was very novel, a bit strange language-wise – even going to the supermarket and the hardware store was a cultural experience. Although he was a little culture shocked, he was very impressed with Germany as it was really friendly, organized and seemed quite busy. Needless to say being a big guy did not make him unusual in Germany – in fact he fitted right in. He enjoyed chemical-free German beer and sausages, (special request) and got to like a new drink – pear schnapps, which was introduced to us by some boaters on the dock of the Karlsruhe marina.

Tim at Karlsruhe

We spent a day in Karlsruhe, which is relatively new medium sized (300,000)city in Germany, and navigated the Strassenbahn system. This is a radial city; with 32 roads radiating out a beautiful Schloss (palace) which was built around 1715 (newish around here). The Schloss is now a museum showing the history of the occupants of this palace, and the Roman, Visigoth, Church and later history of the area.

Karlsruhe was a great introduction to Germany, which gave Tim time to get his river legs. He had decided to ‘Canada’ me ………… a T-shirt and a tin of Tim Hortons coffee (LOL) as a gift from home.

Canadaded

We left Karlsruhe and sailed down river to the picturesque city of Speyer. This is one of the oldest cities in Germany, founded by monks in 383, it now has a population of 30,000 and boasts a UNECO World Heritage site. The Speyer Cathedral, started around 1030 and remodelled in the 11th Century and renovated after a great fire in 1689 – it has four towers and two domes. The cathedral is surrounded by a lovely park, a well-preserved town centre, market area, with lots of old houses and hotels that could be a set for a fairy-tale.

Speyer 2

We moored out boat in the local club marina, which was close to the town centre., the cathedral, the old walls and city gates. We also visited an aircraft museum located near the airport, this contrasted sharply with medieval  houses and streets of the town centre. It was difficult to miss this museum as there were several large aircraft on display in the exhibition grounds. We didn’t really have time to go through the museum (it was at least 5 hours) but we could see the interactive displays,  that allowed visitors could actually walk through and between the planes on specialized walkways.

Speyer4

We left Speyer (sadly) and set off down the Rhine to our next stop – the Mannheim  Motorbootklub. The river was still running fast but our  previous experience kept us safe as we had three pairs of eyes on watch and the weather was quite pleasant so we could steer from outside.

Speyer 3

The Mannheim MBK was just south of the huge industrial areas of Ludwigshafen and Mannheim, although it felt like we were in the country. There was a nice restaurant and good facilities at the marina, but a long walk to the nearest town or shop. Martin took Kerry out to recon the area, and came back after a 6km walk.

Luckily the harbour master and his wife at the boat club also had a Dutch steel cruiser (similar to Skookum) and had taken it to Berlin a couple of years ago. So the bond was established with us. He was very helpful; took us grocery shopping (in his car) and helped us buy a new propane tank.

Again the EU proved not to be so united, as we had to buy new fittings and a new tank as they would not fill the Dutch propane tank we were using. Getting rid of the old tank is also a problem as there are very few disposal facilities. In France we need different fittings again – and they mainly use butane. So much for standardization.

ludwigshafen

We left for Heidelberg where the boat is currently located,  in the late morning. We sailed passed this enormous coal fired electricity station through the industrial heartland and made a right turn down the Neckar River to a couple of large locks. Tim was suitably impressed as we rose about 9 meters in each lock and sailed down the Neckar river with Tim at the wheel through some pretty countryside towards the Odenwald. We moored in the Heidelberg Motorbootklub marina (it costs about €1 per meter plus €3 for utilities (power water and garbage).

Tim on Neckar

Heidelberg is familiar city to me – I hitchhiked down from the UK in 1973 with two friends. We had heard there was lots of work in Germany and as students we wanted summer jobs and could stay in the local youth hostel. We went to the local employment office as the UK had just joined the EU in January 1973 only to be told we needed a special stamp in our passports in order to prove we were British. So then we had to hitchhike to Stuttgart to the UK consulate to get the stamp in order to get a job. Although it took some time and a little financial help from our parents, we were successful in becoming ‘Europeans’.

heidelbergview

I got a job in a hotel in a place just outside of Heidelberg called Neckargemund. Luckily, the hotel also provided food and accommodation, as well as a wage. Adrian was a biochemist and quickly got a job in a Mannheim chemical company as researcher. Anna did not fare so well – she had a breakdown and checked herself into the local psyche hospital and stayed there for a couple of months, then her parents sent the fare home. These memories all came flooding back Martin and I walked from the boat to the downtown area through the hospital district and I had this amazing sense of déjà vu.  I had visited Anna at this hospital forty years previously.

Heidelberg is one of the romantic cities in Europe, it is nestling in the Odenwald and  straddling the Neckar River. It has a famous Schloss on the hillside overlooking the city. This Schloss (castle) began in Medieval times became on the seven wonders of the world by the seventeenth century. The gardens are beautiful and the castle and ruins are still used as a museum (the history of apothecary), art gallery, a restaurant and rental rooms for large events.

H schloss 1

Heidelberg has always been a major university town ( founded in 1386) and the site of lots of conflicts both military, theological and intellectual. There is an atmosphere of learning and culture in the student/tourist bars and restaurants. Tim enjoyed this culture one night when he went out on the town returning after the bars closed at 5:00am After that night out Tim was ready to emigrate to Germany.

Heidelberg3

Tourists arrive at the Schloss via a small railway system from the Kornmarkt to Konigstuhl (1800ft) , the lower part of the railway was rebuilt and opened in 2004. The upper part of this funicular train (the Bergbahn) was opened in 1907 and takes passengers up to this peak in the Odenwald. We went to the top but it was pretty chilly. The whole weekend was quite cold and wet.  We could see the stout hearted rowers who were racing up and down the river for three days of mixed weather.

Heidelberg4

There was also an American festival going on at the weekend – America soldiers set up barracks here in 1945 after WWII and stayed for the next 50 years. Even today there are still many Americans working here. The American festival (lots of American food, cars, music, flags etc) ended with a great firework display – our first for the summer. It was also Mothers Day (even in Germany) so I had a ‘do nothing’ day spent with my son, and my hubby – so it was flowers and champers all round.

Every summer the Schloss has a weekly firework display and is lit up to look as if it is on  fire

Heidelberg2

When I was in Heidelberg in 1973, and met a bunch of American GIs who were thrilled to be in Germany as the alternative deployment was Vietnam. They were great guys, one of whom was the camp entertainment director. We were all around the same age with similar interests in rock music etc, and they generously gave my buddy Adrian and I tickets to the Rolling Stones concert in Mannheim in Sept 1973 – we even went on the GI bus with them.  It was a memorable concert and for me the first of a number of Stones concerts I have attended since then (it is great when the rock stars of our youth keep going and grow old with us!).

The next day Tim and I got up quite early and left Heidelberg by train to Brugge in Belgium to catch the ferry from Zeebrugge to Hull. It was a long awkward day ( as we were also carrying a hardboard template for our new windshield back to England). Add to that, very full trains and Tim not feeling too well all made for a tiresome journey. Poor Tim was actually quite sick – it takes a lot to fell him. He hardly ate or drank anything, even though we had paid for the buffet supper on the ferry,  and ‘Stella’ (beer) was on offer. We arrived in Hull the next day but Tim was still not well and spent most of the day in bed nursing a sore throat, and a miserable head cold. I knew he was sick because he hardly eat or spoke for about two days.

We decided to hang around in Hull for his time in the UK so Tim could spend time with his grandmother, and we could shop, and visit with other members of the family. Which brings us to May 18 when we went to Humberside Airport and Tim went off on his own adventure in Amsterdam.

May 18:13

So we have been in Europe for a year with the exception of three weeks in October/November when we went back to Canada. In that time we have done the following:

Travelled to:  Holland, Belgium, England, Wales, France, Germany, Spain, Gibraltar, Morocco, and I also went to Austria, Bosnia Herzegovina and Croatia.

Travelled by car: 16,000 kms

Travelled by Skookum: 1000kms

Used about 1200 litres of diesel (boat and car)

Travelled on 14 ferries (back and forth to the UK and North Africa) 3460 kms

Total travel  – not including the travel to and from Canada = 20,460kms

Total visitors to Skookum; 20 people plus our fellow travellers on the canals.

Days of rain:  250

Warm days (+22C) 40

2012 -13 the coldest winter for 50 years and 2012 was the wettest summer on record (Tell me about it!).

41 blog entries and 6000 hits on the blog

Worse day: the choices are between Martin chopping off the top of this finger July 12 2012 or November 22nd 2012 when I lost my gold sovereign bracelet in Hull – given to me by my dad and worth a lot and not insured, or family members and friends passing away.

Best Day:  too many to talk about but include: canal cruising in England, welcoming visitors to our boat, sailing in the Dutch canals near Leiden in the sunny weather, the Floriade, visiting Sarajevo with my friend Deborough, the tunnels and Plane Incline of Alsace, visiting Nancy, Lorraine, seeing Barcelona, going to the El Alhambra in Granada, Christmas in Germany, skiing, etc ….. (read the rest of the blog)…………

Best thing of all: that I am doing this grand tour and having this grand adventure with my beloved Martin and Kerry dog, both of who have been so appreciative of my contributions as I am of theirs (the Owl and the Pussy Cat plus pet come to mind). We are closer than ever, having shared the most incredible year and we are looking forward to another summer of our European Sojourn – talk to you later!

 

 

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