ManVanNoPlan at Kassel Commonwealth Cemetery
| | | |

ManVanNoPlan Visits The Harz Mountains, Kassel, Cologne, Maastricht & Den Bosch

ManVanNoPlan Visits The Harz Mountains, Kassel, Cologne, Maastricht, Den Bosch & Kinderdijk
Some of the following links are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, we will earn an affiliate commission from Amazon if you click through the link and finalise a sale.

This is the final blog post in our 2023 road trip to the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. We hope you have enjoyed reading about our adventures and seeing the pictures of all the places we visited. We have one mini trip planned for November and although it involves a ferry, it is not to Europe…

You should read this blog to the very end as there is a relevation that you may not be expecting…

But first, the blog…

Day 67 – Saturday 9th of September
Beelitz to Quedlinburg (51.791178,11.139831) (106 Miles)

Back on the road today to the picturesque town of Quedlinburg on the northern edge of the Harz (low) mountain range in northern Germany. Quedlinburg is said to have the largest number of timber-frame houses in Germany, more than 1,200 of them. The number and high quality of the buildings dating from the medieval period, and the town’s history, have earned it a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area, which lies between the Elbe and Weser rivers, is famous for its historic silver mines which brought prosperity to the region and to the nearby city of Hanover.

The journey of just under two hours started on the same motorway we took to Beelitz, only in the reverse direction this time. Well before Leipzig we turned off and headed west through some very flat agricultural land and Google Maps being Google Maps it took us through a section of narrow road through some deserted looking villages.

Of all the crops being grown along our route the one that stood out was hops, which were strung up on tall poles and there were lots of fields of them. Hops are the flowers, or cones, of a plant called Humulus lupulus and they help to keep beer fresher, longer and retain its head of foam—a key component of a beer’s aroma and flavour; and, of course, add “hoppy” aroma, flavour, and bitterness. The Germans drink a lot of beer and by far the most popular type of beer in Germany is pilsner, generally known as ‘Pils’ which is a light-golden beer with a dry hoppy aroma.

There is a six van stellplatz within two hundred yards of the main square in Quedlinburg and we were lucky to get one of the places. Busses and cars park in this area as well, however the motorhome section is clearly marked. One of the busses parked near us was a vintage tour bus which looked in immaculate condition.

ManVanNoPlan visits Quidlinburg

It is yet another scorcher today, so after opening all the roof hatches we set off for the short walk into town. It was really busy and there was a stage in the square with sporadic entertainment on and the outside seating areas of all the restaurants were packed as well.

After a walk about we settled for a bratwurst sausage on a crispy roll, which, for only € 3.50 each, is one of the staples of German street food. We kept on walking about marvelling at the dates above the doorways of the buildings, with most being from the 1500s and 1600s and in remarkably good condition.

At three o’clock it was time for a reviving cuppa and although Quedlinburg is a relatively small town, it still had a Tchibo, but this one was the smallest we’ve been in and the consequence of that was it did not have any of their delicious cakes for sale.

By almost four o’clock the crowds had diminished greatly although we did hear quite a few English voices and it got us wondering where they flew into and what sort of tour were they on. Back at the van / sauna I watched a bit of the unevenly matched rugby game between Ireland and Romania while The Navigator read.

Choose A Fyne Editions Journal For Touring Germany…

Check Out The Fyne Editions Website HERE

Day 68 – Sunday 10th of September
Quedlinburg to Ilsenburg via Wernigerode (51.854756, 10.669550) (24 Miles)

When we planned this trip it would be fair to say that consistent temperatures in the eighties and nineties were not what we were expecting. Yesterday, because we were parked so close to the market square in Quedlinburg, we only walked half of the steps we normally do on a town or city visit, but, because of the intense heat it felt far more, especially for The Navigator as it knocked her for six yesterday.

With another scorcher forecast for today, The Navigator wanted to get the driving out of the way as early as possible before the heat became too uncomfortable. The nearby church aided in this plan as at seven o’clock it started chiming loudly and consistently for ages so we were wide awake then. By the time we had breakfast and had the van ready for moving on it was nine o’clock so we were in the car park in Wernigerode with a section for motorhome parking by half past nine!

Wernigerode, with its historic town centre and lavishly restored and colourful half-timbered houses is a popular town lying on the northern edge of the Harz Mountains. The epithet “colourful town of the Harz Mountains” was coined by the German writer Hermann Löns at the end of the 19th century. The town hall on the market square, the crooked house, the smallest house and the oldest house are just some of these features that make up Wernigerode’s rich half-timbered idyll.

From the car park we followed what seemed to be the main street into the centre but all the shops were shut and it was only a few cafes that had any customers. The central market square is fairly compact compared with others we have seen, but was pretty none-the-less even though its centrepiece, the town hall is still being renovated. The Wernigerode town hall was first mentioned in a document in 1277. The half-timbered building of late Gothic origin, which has been preserved to this day is from the middle of the 16th century.

As we walked around the town we saw many refurbished half-timbered houses but one in particular had a plaque beside the door claiming it was bombed in 1944 which I found surprising for such a small town, but it turned out that this area was developed into an important location for the Nazi armaments industry due to its natural conditions by the National Socialist leadership in World War II. More than 7,000 forced labourers, prisoners of war and concentration camp inmates worked and lived under often inhumane conditions in the city of Wernigerode and its surrounding villages. Hard to believe when you see all these beautiful ancient colourful buildings today.

The original plan was to stay here overnight, but as we parked it struck us that we could see all there is to see in Wernigerode, have lunch, then move on to our next planned destination of Goslar. As The Navigator made lunch I had a look to see if there were any other towns or villages in this immediate area which were worth seeing with the added bonus of a stellplatz and that’s how we ended up on a stellplatz at Ilsenburg.

The stellplatz is in a wooded valley on the outskirts of the town and has a very Scottish feel to it with walking and mountain biking trails leading off from it. You drive onto the site through an automatic barrier then choose a pitch. The office is at an outdoors equipment store on the other side of the road and it was € 17 a night with power and water metered.

We had chosen a pitch in the shade of some tall trees next to a woman on her own in a new Malibu campervan. We got talking to her later on and she even gave us a tour of her van which was compact but beautifully fitted out.

It was lovely sitting out in the shade of Bessie looking out at the tree covered hills surrounding us but the downside to this hilly beauty is a poor internet signal. I have unlimited data on by phone so can use this data to tether to our TV so have no problem watching British TV via Apps. In this situation however where the signal is not strong enough I can switch onto the site’s wi-fi but then our TV Apps pick up that we are using German wi-fi and therefore not in the UK so we could not watch live TV which meant I had to miss Scotland’s first game in the Rugby World Cup.

I later saw the highlights of the game on YouTube and the kindest thing that can be said is, Scotland weren’t at their best! The Navigator fell asleep first and slept through the calling of an owl, which was so close it could have been perched on the roof of the van!

Day 69 – Monday 11th of September
Ilsenburg (0 Miles)

It was noticeably cooler last night which aided a good night’s sleep and in the morning there was a heavy dew. After a hectic couple of months we treated ourselves to a relaxing day and did nothing so foregoing any pleasures that Ilsenburg had to offer!

Day 70 – Tuesday 12th of September
Ilsenburg to Goslar (51.888358, 10.397757) (22 Miles)

It took less than half an hour to drive to Goslar and find our next campsite, Harz Camping. Unlike the last campsite where the woman on reception was hard work, this one spoke good English and had a cheery disposition. Today we are going to catch up with some admin, The Navigator is making use of the site’s washing machine and I am hoping to finish off the last blog which will bring it more or less up to date.

The site is on the side of a valley heading up into the Harz mountains out of Goslar and the facilities are state of the art and could well be the best of this whole trip.

I suppose that if you are in a mountainous region you should be prepared for some fluctuations in the weather conditions and that is what we’ve had. After all our admin tasks we sat out after dinner and enjoyed the scenery around us and the mild climate. Then, at about 1am, all hell broke loose and it felt as though we were in the epicentre of World War III. The thunder and lightning was incredible and the noise of the thunder and the heavy downpour of rain carried on for another couple of hours before the thunder stopped leaving just the rain to keep us awake.

Day 71 – Wednesday 13th of September
Goslar (0 Miles)

When you book into this site you are charged extra for a local tourist tax but one of the advantages of this is that you are given a ticket for free bus travel in this area so we made use of this benefit to take the bus into Goslar for a walk about.

I’ll be honest and say we had never heard of Goslar, or the Harz mountains for that matter, but we’re glad we found both on this journey.

Goslar is one of the best preserved towns in the world and the former Imperial city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Once an administrative outpost of the Holy Roman Empire with a thriving silver mining economy, the town now houses some of the most beautiful public buildings in Germany and its 1,500 half-timbered houses making this well-preserved medieval townscape a tourist mecca.

Get Ready for 2024 Touring In The UK & Europe…

We had no real idea what to expect getting off the bus but quickly realised Goslar was bigger than we imagined it would be with a combination of good shops and tourist attractions. As we continued to walk through the prosperous looking streets we ended up in the market square.

In addition to the town hall with the magnificent homage hall and the Kaiserworth, the former cloth merchants’ guild house, there is a glockenspiel with a circulation of figures which chimes four times a day to the tune of the Steigerlied, the colourful characters representing the history of the mining industry and the city.

We met a couple who were on the bus from the campsite and the woman told us we should not miss the noon glockenspiel performance, but we were a bit underwhelmed by it as we’ve seen better on our travels. The nearby church tower can be climbed for a fantastic view of the entire city but we passed on that opportunity in favour of just wandering about to discover the ancient buildings, the medieval hospitals and the city fortifications.

The historic prosperity of the town and region was based on silver mining and there is a UNESCO World Heritage Site nearby at Rammelsberg, which explains 1,000 years of mining history in four museum houses and offers guided tours underground. We will be on the ferry home in two weeks today and are running out of time to see places on our list and this silver mine was sacrificed to concentrate more of the sights of Goslar itself.

If you are new to these blogs and for the avoidance of any doubt, that is my lovely wife on the left of the above picture!

Another place we would have liked to visit was the Imperial Palace which was built between 1040 and 1050 under Henry III, but again time did not permit a visit inside.

We had lunch a few streets away from the market square with The Navigator having rotisserie chicken and I had a schnitzel in a paprika sauce and both were delicious. The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering about before getting one of the hourly busses back to the campsite.

It had been a lovely sunny day, without being too hot and we sat out on our chairs on our return to enjoy a cuppa before a few spots of rain forced us inside. The weather then flipped from being bright and sunny to drizzly, misty dampness for the rest of the evening.

Day 72 – Thursday 14th of September
Goslar to Niederweidbach via Kassel (50.702024,8.468269) (162 Miles)

We thoroughly enjoyed Goslar and this superb campsite in the hills. Granted its one of the most expensive we’ve been on, but you need a bit of luxury once in a while! This was to be an expensive day for us as after paying the site for the last two nights it was then on to Lidl in Goslar for a ‘big shop’ and once on the motorway we stopped to top up both the diesel and LPG tanks. There is hardly any difference between the prices at a motorway services and in a town but it is expensive at the moment at € 1.84 a litre (£ 1.58) where we paid £ 1.19 in Poland.

Today’s journey is split in two with the first leg a lovely drive down the 7 motorway. Usually driving on a motorway is a tedious affair with a limited view of the countryside but this journey took us through some beautiful countryside with rolling wooded hills and pristine farmland on view.

Our first stop today was Kassel and we first visited here in September 2007, just a few months after buying our first motorhome, Louis the McLouis, and our visit was for a specific reason. Kassel is no one’s favourite tourist destination as it is a sprawling industrial city, although it is ringed with attractive wooded hills. Kassel was heavily bombed from February 1942 to March 1945 with the single deadliest raid taking place on 22–23 October 1943 where at least 6,000 people died when the city centre was destroyed. At that time Kassel was home to a lot of Germany’s factories producing military hardware, including the Fieseler aircraft plant, Henschel & Sohn facilities, the maker of the Tiger I and King Tiger heavy tanks and their locomotive plant as well.

To cap it all the Battle of Kassel was a four-day struggle between the U.S. Army and the German Army in April 1945 and so all of this wartime activity means that the buildings you see today are all build post war in a functional way, although we were not going into the city on this trip.

We had made good time to get to Kassel which gave us more time to visit and pay respects to my grandfather who is buried here. Angus Alexander Campbell was a piper with the Royal Scots and we believe he was injured and captured at the Battle of Loos near Lille in northern France. I know he died in captivity and was first buried near the banks of the Rhine before being moved to this Commonwealth War Grave when it was begun by the Germans in 1915 for the burial of prisoners of war who died at the local camp. During the war almost 3,000 Allied soldiers and civilians, including French, Russian and Commonwealth, were buried there.

In 1922-23 it was decided that the graves of Commonwealth servicemen who had died all over Germany should be brought together into four permanent cemeteries. Niederzwehren was one of those chosen and in the following four years, more than 1,500 graves were brought into the cemetery from 190 burial grounds in Baden, Bavaria, Hanover, Hesse and Saxony. There are now 1,796 First World War servicemen buried or commemorated here in the Commonwealth plot at Niederzwehren.

What struck us back in 2007, and again today, is just how well the graveyard is maintained, although the one disappointment is that in 2007 we bought a heather plant and put it in front of the headstone but it wasn’t there today so we planted a ‘Hebe Pimeleoides’ which originates from the South Island of New Zealand. Hopefully it will thrive and we can return to see its pale lilac flowers one day.

Back in Bessie I looked for a suitable place to spend the night and chose the town of Marburg which is kind of on the way to our next major destination of Cologne. Marburg looked an interesting place when we arrived after a drive of just over an hour but there was no room at the inn, or stellplatz, as all twelve bays were taken. After consulting the Stellplatz App I found somewhere that looked promising and half an hour later, and a drive with quite a few hair-pin bends, we arrived at a lakeside location near the small town of Niederweidbach.

This area is quite high without being mountainous and it was still fairly mild when we arrived at the stellplatz and had an hour or so sitting out. The nights are fair drawing in as we Scots say, with the temperature dropping as well, and there are signs that autumn is close with the trees beginning to show their autumnal hues.

Day 73 – Friday 15th of September
Niederweidbach to Cologne (50.891042, 7.022839) (92 Miles)

It would turn out to be a day of two halves, in the morning it was chilly and autumnal with steam rising from the surface of the lake and in the afternoon in the centre of Cologne it would be as sunny and hot as ever.

Before that however, we had to get to Cologne. The first part of the drive was through wooded hills and little villages before joining a motorway that would take us all the way into Cologne. The campsite we were aiming for is on the banks of the Rhine to the south of the city centre. It is a huge site and they claim to be the oldest campsite in Germany and its still in the ownership of the original family.

On arrival the friendly staff informed us, that because the forecast for the weekend was good, they were fully booked. We must have looked disappointed as after consulting a colleague in German we were informed they had one pitch that might be suitable if we wanted to go and see it. It was about as far back from the Rhine as you could get, but at least we would be in. We took it and although it wasn’t in the most scenic part of the campsite, it would do perfectly well.

The reason i was so keen to stay on this site was that it had access to a cycle path which goes all the way along the side of the river right into the city centre, so after lunch we got on our bikes and made our way into Cologne. This was perfect for The Navigator as she hates cycling on roads with vehicles passing close to her. It was about five kilometres and took just under half an hour with stops to take in the view and take some pictures.

Now at this point I will note for the record that the Navigator although remembering she has been to Cologne, remembers nothing of it whatsoever, so to jog her memory the following pictures show The Navigator with ‘les petits enfants’ at Cologne Cathedral in 1991 when we were on a fly drive holiday to this part of Germany…

I knew we had been here before but even my memory of the Cathedral and its surroundings were very different to what we saw today. I seemed to remember it in a square surrounded by cafes and bars but the open space I remembered was a figment of my imagination as it seemed crowded by a football tournament on one side and massive crowds of people in the space in front of the entrance.

Another change was the appearance of ‘street artists’ of non-German origin all drawing the same things which was flags of different nations. The whole city centre was heaving with people and nowhere more so than the pretty square in front of the town hall where a number of wedding receptions were taking place with impromptu bars set up on the top of wooden barrels.

There have been lots of articles published recently about the negative impact of working from home and the fact that no-one seems to work on a Friday anymore. OK, Cologne is a massive tourist destination, but the amount of people milling about and sitting outside at the restaurants and bars was incredible and maybe Germany has the same four day week problems as elsewhere!

Another noticeable thing, which I’ve mentioned before is the number of, mostly men, rummaging through waste bins for plastic bottles to return for a credit in supermarkets. I’m not sure how they manage to get a refund as most of the bottles here were bought from various takeaway outlets. We were refused a credit yesterday at a Lidl as we had deposited the returns at another Lidl and this one refused to accept it.

We have tried many new, to us, foods and drinks on this trip and we ticked off another one today as, instead of our mid-afternoon cuppa, we had two tubs of frozen yoghurt, which for some reason we had never tried before, and they were enjoyed sitting looking out at the river traffic on the Rhine.

When we eventually returned to the bikes and started the return journey The Navigator said she fancied a coffee at one of the many little kiosks along the route so we stopped at one, whereupon the coffee machine broke as the person in front of us was being served. It couldn’t even boil water to make my English Breakfast Tea so we had a soft drink by the riverside.

Day 74 – Saturday 16th of September
Cologne (0 Miles)

Normally we would spend two full days in a city the size of Cologne but we are having to make do with a day and a half as time is pressing for us now. As we set off to cycle into Cologne again it was soon obvious that there had been a lot of people very busy in the early hours of the morning as the cycle path along side the Rhine had been divided in half by miles of metal barriers for what we later found out was a very well organised half marathon. There was a police presence but nothing like we would see as the day progressed.

We chained the bikes up at the same place as yesterday afternoon and continued on foot towards the city centre. The first square we found had a stage set up and there were gazebos and tables for the assembling crowd to register for what turned out to be a march later in the day for ‘pro life.’ The crowd seemed benign enough, consisting of mostly young student types and women but there were dozens of police vans with their occupants wearing what seemed to be riot gear.

This square led into the one we found yesterday in front of the town hall and it was still churning out married couples who were celebrating their nuptuals in the sunshine with a few beverages.

We continued walking towards the Cathedral and the football themed activities were still going strong with two five-a-side teams playing blindfolded and trying to find and kick a ball with a bell inside. The 1991 pictures featured a fountain which we found to the side of the cathedral and we had a seat on the rim of it to marvel at the incredible skill of the original craftsmen and to wonder why we can’t build such beautiful buildings like this nowadays.

Another difference from our time here thirty two years ago was the incredible amout of people milling about today compared with back then. Even when we went inside the crowds were there en masse to marvel at the sheer scale of the building and its stained glass windows.

During WW II, the cathedral played a role in the bombardments, in that its twin spires were an easy navigational touchstone for Allied bombers. The cathedral endured 14 bomb hits and was heavily damaged, but the structure remained intact, looming above the rest of the ruined city.

When you see the above picture it is hard to imagine this prosperous bustling modern city was once so devastated in the aftermath of WW II.

From the Cathedral we entered the main shopping streets and they were mobbed with a combination of locals, tourists, arriving demonstrators and football supporters as FC Cologne were entertaining Hoffenheim in their fourth game of the season in the Bundesleiga. The fans were all in good humour, although what mood they would be in later after losing 1-3 with a man set off in the process!

The heavy police presence made sense now as they had to contend with a half marathon, a huge demonstration and a lot of half-cut football supporters. The police looked the sort you don’t mess with but we saw no trouble from any of the factions.

The Navigator started looking at restaurant menus and she was looking for a German dish that she had never had before but nearly all the restaurants had the same offering of sausages, schnitzels, pork knuckles etc, and although everywhere was packed, always a good sign, nothing grabbed her fancy. Being a carnivore, I am not hard to please in Germany but The Navigator needed to be tempted with something different.

We walked back down to the line of restaurants overlooking the Rhine and she got excited when she saw an Argentinian steak on offer and my favourite of spare ribs, so at last we found something we both wanted. The meal was delicious and as it was another scorching hot day, a few cool lagers washed it all down.

Last year we visited Madrid and as a souvenir I bought a cheap t shirt from Primark and I did the same in Berlin a couple of weeks ago. Our mission after lunch was to find the Primark in Cologne and see if they had a Cologne branded t shirt but sadly they did not.

After this we decided to call it a day as it was far too hot and crowded to be walking about in the shopping district so we headed back to the bikes in the hope that the half marathon was over and we could cycle back the route we knew alongside the Rhine.

Thankfully it was and we stopped at the little kiosk to see if the guy had managed to get his machine fixed and as he had, we had an English Breakfast Tea and a Coffee to round off our day in Cologne.

Day 75 – Sunday 17th of September
Cologne to Maastricht (50.874563,5.681314) (166 Miles)

The plan today was to visit Aachen, the last German city on this road trip. I say was, as it never happened, due to finding out at the last minute that the stellplatz we were heading to was 500 metres inside the Aachen LEZ Zone for which you had to have a specific Aachen issued sticker on our windscreen, which of course we didn’t have. Instead we headed to the Maastricht marina site we were on on last year which would have been our next stop anyway.

Before we left the site, we made use of the electricity going into Bessie to top up the bike’s batteries and for the first time used a machine that washes out your toilet cassette for the princely sum of a euro. The journey was just over an hour and the noticeable thing crossing the border into the Netherlands was that no one passed us at 150 miles an hour.

Driving through a Dutch city is a combination of a pleasure and bit of a nightmare with cyclists everywhere who take it for granted that they have right of way at every crossing and junction so it was a relief to make it to the campsite without knocking anyone off their bikes. The procedure at this site is that you phone the office who open the electric gates, but not on this occasion as they were fully booked tonight.

I knew of a motorhome site on the other side of Maastricht so we headed there, and thats where the fun started. Over the years we have checked into loads of unmanned campsites using a machine, that, if you’re lucky, has instructions in English, as this one did. So far so good. I entered our details and it took our payment but it didn’t issue a ticket with the code to lift the entry barrier.

No amout of button pressing would produce a ticket so I checked our Santander account and they had taken payment so with no employees on site I phoned the telephone number on their website (in Belgium) and the woman I spoke to lifted the barrier remotely. When we were parked and sitting outside we watched as a mix of Dutch, German and Belgian motorhomes and campervans being baffled by the machine as well. A man turned up in a car and taped a notice to the machine saying it was broken and to book in via their website which some managed and others turned and left.

We were in, but would need a code for the exit barrier, but that was Tuesday’s problem! We sat out and chatted to our Danish neighbours and one of the nuggets of information they told us about that a caravan dealer has started selling LPG in Denmark, which, if we had known about it would have extended our Danish road trip last year. Later on a fellow Brit, Mick, passed and had a chat and told us of his mechanical problems which was impacting his holiday with his van randomly going into ‘limp mode.’

Day 76 – Monday 18th of September
Maastricht (0 Miles)

We are no strangers to Maastricht as this is our third visit in as many years. There was rain overnight and it’s a grey morning but we are going to cycle into the city for the Dutch delight of frites with sate sauce, if nothing else.

Spoiler alert – it was nothing else!

On our two previous visits to Maastricht we stayed to the south of the city but we are parked up to the north this time which means The Navigator has to navigate (see what I did there?) a new cycle path with no prior knowledge of whether the route is actually a cycle path or on a road. It turned out that it was a proper cycle path apart from the last hundred yards or so which was a cobbled street only used by busses.

Being a Monday morning the city was still coming to life and the streets and pavements were not busy. The bikes were chained up on the edge of the market square where last year a Saturday market was in progress, but it was deserted this morning.

As we walked towards the centre of town one of the first shops you pass is a fairly big Hema department store, which you should know by now is The Navigator’s favourite Dutch shop, so she was straight in. Granted this is one of the bigger Hema stores, but she was in one on Saturday afternoon in Cologne, but I dutifully followed anyway!

We wandered about the pretty lanes and squares until it was time for our much anticipated lunch. I knew exactly where the café was, so confident was I that I’m sure I could have walked there blindfolded, but we couldn’t find it. Once we established the café wasn’t where we thought it was we widened the search to the whole city centre but to no avail. It wasn’t that we couldn’t find the café we were looking for, we couldn’t find anywhere that sold frites with sate sauce so we gave up and headed back to Hema and had a snack there.

As the day wore on the city centre became busier and we headed to the river Meuse to sit and watch the activity on the river before heading back to the bikes and the easy cycle back to the site. The machine at the entrance was still not working but vans were managing to gain entry by going online to pay and get an entry code. We sat out for the rest of the afternoon watching the coming and goings until we had our evening meal.

Just after seven oclock it started to rain and we had to scramble to put the chairs and bikes away before the rain became torrential, which it did pretty quickly. A German man kept us entertained by walking up and down past Bessie in t shirt and shorts and holding a glass of red wine which must have been severely watered down in what was now a monsoon.

Day 77 – Tuesday 19th of September
Maastricht to Den Bosch (51.693931, 5.280301) (78 Miles)

As expected, I had to phone the number on the website to get them to open the barrier to let us out but it wasn’t an issue and we were soon on our way. The route from Maastricht north is one we know quite well and, apart from a few miles around Eindhoven, is an easy drive and there are far fewer speed junkies on the Dutch motorways than in Germany so overtaking lorries is less of a hazard.

We arrived at the next campingplatz in Den Bosch just before noon and found that entry to this site was by way of the same type of ticket machine as at Maastricht, only this one issued a ticket with the code to lift the barrier.

After servicing the van, we took the bikes out from the garage and headed the few hundred yards to a shiny new Lidl that we passed on the way in. It has to be said from the outset that The Navigator loves a Dutch supermarket and as well as buying for our immediate needs, we are stocking up on goodies to have at Christmas when our family join us in Argyll.

One of our favourite things in Lidl is shown on the next picture and we had this for our lunch when we arrived back at the van. We are here for two nights so have set aside all day tomorrow to explore Den Bosch which means I made use of the free electricity to work on Fyne Editions and type up this blog to date.

As the afternoon progressed it became blustery and rain was threatening, although it didn’t come to very much. With the leaves being blown from the trees and the temperature dipping, it’s certainly becoming more autumnal by the day.

Day 78 – Wednesday 20th of September
Den Bosch (0 Miles)

A day in Den Bosch beckons today, or to give it its proper name, s-Hertogenbosch, and this is yet another new (to us) city for us to explore. Thankfully the weather is still dry although not as hot as we experienced earlier in this trip, but we are happy enough with it being dry.

“Den Bosch, the colloquial name for s-Hertogenbosch, is one of the oldest medieval cities in the Netherlands. The maze of narrow medieval streets and alleyways can be explored on foot. Another option is to marvel at the picturesque bridges and perfectly preserved historical buildings from a small boat: admire Den Bosch from its waterways, the Binnendieze. You will gain an entirely different perspective floating beneath the walls of the fortified city. When you visit the capital city of Brabant, make sure that the Den Bosch delicacy is on your menu. Find a table at one of the many outdoor cafes and order a ‘Bossche Bol’ (chocolate ball) with your coffee. The Korte Putstraat in the historical city centre is a street known across the country for offering culinary treats in a variety of cuisines. Throughout the year, all the eateries have extensive outdoor seating areas.”

From the campingplatz it only takes eight minutes to cycle into the rather lovely city centre by cycle lanes which The Navigator was delighted with. The bikes were chained up outside Hema, although The Navigator was forbidden to enter until we were ready to begin our return journey!

It was market day and all the stalls and trucks that you expect to see at a Dutch market were in attendance with the cheese stalls being the most numerous, as you’d also expect. We haven’t eaten much cheese on this trip so when one of the stalls had samples out to try, one of which was particularly good, we succumbed and bought a portion.

Den Bosch ticked about every Dutch box that you could think of with lovely architecture, historic buildings, a stunning cathedral, a huge range of shops both local and national and lots of places to eat.

After completing a few laps of the market and the buildings surrounding it we went in search of the nearby Sint-Janskathedraal cathedral, the largest cathedral in the Netherlands, which impresses through its sheer size and enormous wealth of sculptures. In addition to being a National Monument, Saint John’s Cathedral, officially christened the Cathedral Basilica of Saint John the Evangelist, is also a Marian pilgrimage site.

Once I had marvelled at the incredible architecture and The Navigator had completed her contemplations it was time to explore a bit more of Den Bosch. As we passed through the market again we saw one of the vans advertising Kibbeling so we shared a portion which The Navigator thought was every bit as good as her Kibbeling supplier of choice in Gouda.

A little later we found a café selling another great Duch snack, the one we couldnt find in Maastricht, frites smothered in sate sauce so we bought a portion to share and they were delicious too.

We were told that you can’t leave Den Bosch without tasting a Bosschebol at the Jan de Groot bakery. Bosschebollen are large profiterole like pastries, filled with whipped cream and covered in chocolate. A bit messy to eat, but it’s well worth the effort. The bakery is also well known for ‘appeltaart’ so we halved one of each with our customary afternoon tea and coffee. Three very Dutch snacks at three different locations and we would definitely have the same experience again.

Finally, The Navigator was let loose in Hema and she always finds something different to buy as everything is good quality at very good prices. The bikes were unchained and we set off for the return journey back to Bessie. The forecast is for rain later in the evening and overnight so we were thankful that we managed to see Den Bosch at its best and being there on a market day was a bonus.

On this trip we have for the most part tried to visit new and different towns and cities in the countries we have visited but we thought we had seen the best of The Netherlands on all our previous visits but Den Bosch was new to us and I’m sure we will return as it seemed to have everything to see and do in a compact area, and there is a lot still to discover.

Day 79 – Thursday 21st of September
Den Bosch to Vijfhuizen (52.344314, 4.683121) (66 Miles)

It rained solidly all night and was set to pour down all day so we decided to move on as it would be pretty miserable walking around Den Bosch again today. Bessie was serviced and we set off for the small town of Vijfhuizen, close to the city of Haarlem. I mentioned earlier that we are no strangers to Maastricht and the same can be said of Vijfhuizen, the site of the memorial garden to all who perished in the MH17 flight shot down over Ukraine that had originated at nearby Schipol.

On our way to Denmark last year we stayed here to collect daughter Emma from nearby Schipol when she flew in to spend a week with us. We stayed at this campingplatz when we dropped her off and again on our way back from Denmark. The owner is such a friendly man and it was an easy choice to return as we want to re-visit Haarlem on Saturday as it is such a beautiful city and its great to be there on market day.

The journey from Den Bosch took about an hour and a half as the rain was relentless and the traffic was moving slower than usual. With the van already serviced we could drive on to a pitch, plug in the electric cable and settle down for an afternoon indoors. I worked to update the Fyne Editions website as the final quarter is fast approaching when sales spike considerably so it needs to be up to date and new titles added.

Day 80 – Friday 22nd of September
Vijfhuizen (0 Miles)

There is only one thing of note to report today and that is the fact that I slipped and fell coming out of the shower in Bessie today and ended up in a painful, crumpled heap on the floor hitting my thigh, arm and head on the way down!

One minute there was blue skies as far as the eye could see and the next there was torrential rain battering down so we just hunkered down for the day. The Navigator did managed to walk to the supermarket in the afternoon in a lull between downpours while I worked, making use of the inclusive electricity and the site’s strong wi-fi signal.

Day 81 – Saturday 23rd of September
Vijfhuizen (0 Miles)

The rain battered down all night and all day and we never set foot outside the van. Our entertainment for a while was watching a young rabbit nibbling grass at the pitch opposite us.

Day 82 – Sunday 24th of September
Vijfhuizen to Gouda (52.011043, 4.717097) (48 Miles)

The rain had relented and it was a pleasant, mild morning. We serviced Bessie and had a chat with the owner who makes you feel welcome. This was our fifth time on this site and it won’t be the last.

The journey to Gouda took less than half an hour and not only did we get a space at Klein America but we managed to plug into the electricity bollard so for an € 8 day parking ticket we are parked within a five minute walk to one of the prettiest little cities in the Netherlands for a fraction of what we’ve paid on some sites on this trip.

In the above picture you can see we are parked facing the opposite direction from the other vans in this row. This is something I do as often as possible as it gives anyone walking or driving past us the opportunity to read the decal on the back of Bessie advertising Fyne Editions!

Fully expecting everything to be closed, this being a Sunday, we had a walk over to the market square which was packed with funfair vehicles, and some fairly intimidating ones at that. We had a walk about for a while before heading back to Bessie for a relaxing afternoon.

The car park was now chock a block and the empty motorhome places of an hour ago were now taken up by cars, even though there are signs to say this section was for motorhomes only.

Day 83 – Monday 25th of September
Gouda (0 Miles)

Today’s mission was to cycle to a Lidl and stock up on the Dutch goodies we like, not just for immediate consumption, but for Christmas when the family are with us. The Dutch cycle paths are a work of genius and vehicle drivers are very considerate when the paths are actually on the road. At junctions cycles even have their own traffic signals and all of this means that old and young alike all seem to have a bike. Obviously the terrain being pancake flat is a further aid to cycling!

When we returned and stowed our purchases in Bessy’s nooks and crannies, we headed over into the city again as this would be The Navigator’s last chance to enjoy her favourite Dutch lunch of Kibbeling in her very favourite fish emporium, Monkfish. We had Kibbeling in Den Bosch and The Navigator rated it as potentially the best she’s had, but the first mouthful of Kibbeling at Monkfish confirmed her long held belief that here has the best Kibbeling in the Netherlands, a deserved accolade by a connoisseur of all things fishy.

Monkfish is conveniently situated on the opposite corner from Hema so a final visit had to be made there as well as her other favourite nearby shops. One of the shops that was added to The Navigators list of favourites in Gouda was a Polish supermarket, which up to now we would have passed by, but we went in to buy some of our now favourite Polish goodies.

Day 84 – Tuesday 26th of September
Gouda to Kinderdijk (51.858511, 4.676465) (27 Miles)

We seem to be ending this trip at some of our favourite Dutch sites and the final one is the campingplatz at Kinderdijk. The journey is less than half an hour so before setting off we headed back to the Lidl we were at yesterday to buy the heavier items we couldn’t carry on the bikes, ie wine and lager!

Another British van was there when we arrived but soon departed leaving us as the only Brits on this popular site and this has been a recurring theme of the last three months, the lack of fellow Brits. I suppose with the Rugby World Cup being played in France just now and the eternal lure of the Costas, its maybe to be expected!

We sat outside for a while in the warm sunshine before I went inside to work when I had a good signal and the electricity connection. It is metered here but a € 1 coin lasted almost twenty four hours.

Day 85 – Wednesday 27th of September
Kinderdijk to Harwich (51.941409, 1.290512) (36 Miles)

Our last day on foreign soil for this year dawned warm but very autumnal with a heavy dew. We had a relaxing start to the morning then serviced the van which should do until we get home, although we will be making a few stops on the way back to Scotland. As yet another example of galloping inflation we paid € 18 as opposed to € 17 in March but it is still good value for this pristine site which is only a short cycle from the world famous Kinderdijk windmills, built in 1740 and a UNESCO world heritage site since 1997. We didn’t visit them this time as the bikes are packed in the garage ready for the journey home.

The journey to the Hook of Holland took forty minutes and we parked up just past the Stena terminal along with quite a few other vans, some of whom looked as though they had been there overnight. I’m not sure if they are on this afternoon’s ferry or whether they are ship spotters. As we found out in Cuxhaven last year, ship spotting is quite a popular hobby beside the major ports and the online websites give you all the details of the passing ships including the port of origin and destinations etc.

We sat for a couple of hours watching the ships of all shapes and sizes pass and were glad to see that conditions were flat calm out to sea as the news from back home this morning is all about Storm Agnes and the cancellation of ferries and flights to Ireland.

We shouldn’t have had any concerns about the crossing as it turned out to be flat calm, as on all of our previous Stena journeys. The ship on this route always seems to be nowhere near capacity so it is quiet and relaxing. You may remember that we met a fellow Brit at the Maastricht site who never made it to his planned destination of Colditz because his van kept going into ‘limp mode.’ We had just settled into our seats for the crossing and Mick and his wife Kate appeared, which was a surprise as he was due to sail yesterday but contacted Stena to extend his holiday by a day and in doing so didn’t have to pay a supplement, in fact he obtained a £ 12 rebate!

To pass the time I had downloaded the Mark Cavendish documentary from Netflix which was fascinating then we had a meal just after six o’clock and had another enjoyable chat to Mick and Kate. This was the first Netflix programme we had watched in the last three months but no doubt as the Scottish winter draws in we will be entertaining ourselves with it with the log fire on!

The ship docked at 7.45pm UK time so the crossing was six and a half hours in total. Usually when we land in Harwich we drive all the way to Castle Donington in the East Midlands but tonight we returned to the beach parkup via Asda to fill up with diesel and leave the first part of the drive home in daylight until tomorrow. I can’t remember the last time I had driven Bessie in darkness, certainly not in the last three months.

As I write this we are back in Argyll after what can fairly be described as an epic road trip, which, door to door, was 5,461 miles at an average speed of 39mph and 27.6 miles per gallon. We loved every minute of it and enjoyed every place we visited, even Berlin, although we wouldn’t rush back there.

Just some of the highlights were Gdansk, Riga, Warsaw, Krakow, Wroclaw, Potsdam and Cologne. Our favourite country, by a country mile, was Poland, with Germany and the Netherlands worthy runners up.

We enjoyed our time in the Baltic States and the three capital cities would all be contenders for a long weekend break, but having said that, all three countries are incredibly boring to drive through, as, in the main, they are all flat and featureless.

So what’s next for Man Van No Plan I hear you all ask as in unison…

Well, and this may be a surprise to some, WE HAVE SOLD BESSIE, the undoubted star of all of our journeys over the past five and a half years. The reasons are many and varied, but in a nutshell, we have been thinking of downsizing for quite a while and the new van is much smaller at 6.8m long as opposed to Bessie’s 8.1m.

The new van is also under 3,500kg which means I won’t have to take a medical to retain my C1 license next year when I’m seventy (not that will be a problem) and we will now have three years without an MOT. The new van (no name for it yet) has a radically different internal layout and its based on a Ford chassis as opposed to the Fiat and Renault of our last two vans.

Some of you may remember we bought Bessie on our way back from a pre Brexit six month tour and we have bought this van our way back from another epic adventure.

Although winter is already with us here in Argyll as we have experienced the most incredible rain since we came home, culminating in many landslips blocking many roads in this area, we hope to get away in the new van for a few weeks in November to put it though its paces. We pick up the van on the 19th of this month, so, If we do get away (weather permitting), I will do a mini blog with pictures to let you see our new van and if anyone had an idea for a name for it, please let us know…

Exciting eh!

Great Christmas Gifts – Order Now!

To See The Full Range Of 2024 Week-To-View Diaries


This map shows the approximate route we have taken on this blog as part of our 2023 Road Trip…

Some of the links above are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn a small affiliate commission from Amazon if you click through the link and finalise a purchase.


As I mentioned above, we hope to set off in our new van for a few weeks away and that will be the last blog for this year…

Stay tuned, and if you are not already SUBSCRIBED sign up to be notified of the new blogs when they go online.


Similar Posts

One Comment

  1. Glad you’re home safe, we downsized our van last year for similar reasons. And so far we have not regretted it at all. Really enjoyed this trip with you as we are looking to do something similar next year.

    Thanks for sharing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *