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ManVanNoPlan Visits Lubeck, Bremen, Hoorn, Edam & Volendam

ManVanNoPlan Visits Lubeck, Bremen, Hoorn, Edam & Volendam in the ninth blog of our 2022 Spring tour of Europe.

Day 73 – Wednesday the 11th of May 2022
We are back on the road today heading for Lübeck which is about an hour and a half’s drive to the south west of our stopover on the Kiel Canal.

If I have to be honest Bessie is filthy and fortunately there was a jet wash a few hundred yards away from the Aire we were on for the last two nights so that was the first port of call this morning. Next on the list was a huge new bank next door to the car wash to change our remaining Danish currency into euros – with no luck. It seems banks in Germany don’t change currency but the teller was kind enough to look up the address of a place in Lübeck that would change the notes for us – at a price! I asked the teller what she does for currency if she pops over the border into Denmark and she said she would use her credit or bank card which is something the conspiracy theorists are warning about with the ‘system’ knowing where you are and what you are doing and spending your money on! Our final stop before getting going was Aldi to get a few necessities.

It was a cloudy start to the day but it was very warm and thankfully yesterday’s rain was not going to be repeated today. The drive to Lübeck was straight forward with the only thing of note was field after field of solar panels. We arrived at the Aire at the same time as a German couple and the man spoke perfect English and he explained some of the information on the notice board. The Aire is in the grounds of a ten pin bowling alley and restaurant that didn’t open until after three o’clock so we both hooked up and had lunch. One of the other things the notice board indicated was that you could only stay one night by law which was a disappointment as we wanted to spend tomorrow exploring this interesting city, so instead of a lazy afternoon, we hopped on a bus into the city centre for a wander about. Lübeck is by far the biggest city we have visited on this trip since Amsterdam and is a major regional shopping hub for local, national and international stores like C & A and TK Maxx etc.

When we were approaching the city from about nine kilometres out you could see the twin spires of the imposing Marienkirche which amazingly was built in the 13th century and is one of the symbols of the city. I say 13th century, but it was almost flattened by 234 Wellington and Stirling RAF bombers in 1942, so has been reconstructed, taking until 1982 to complete.

We wandered about all afternoon but did not see all of the sights we wanted to but we found out on returning to the Aire that we could spent tomorrow night here as well but we could only pay for one night at a time to get round the local planning laws. This bowling alley does not look appealing from the outside but as we paid for our first night loads of people were arriving and looked the part in team t-shirts and carrying their own bowling balls.

Another barbecue, well why not, finished off our day and we are looking forward to a full day in Lübeck tomorrow.

Day 74 – Thursday the 12th of May 2022
It rained heavily from midnight onwards but by the time we were ready to get the bus into the city it was cloudy but still warm. As we left the van to head off a guy over the fence at a semi-conductor plant asked if we were from Alba which confused me briefly to hear that question in a German accent. It turns out he has family ties to Pitlochry and Midlothian and had travelled there frequently in the past. We had a long and interesting chat with him and missed the bus we were aiming for in the process but to cement our post Brexit Anglo German relations we gave him a tin of baked beans (he loved a full English breakfast) and my last can of Irn Bru.

Having acquired our bearings in yesterday afternoon’s brief walkabout we decided to get off the bus at the Puerta del Castillo which sounds as though it should be in Spain but is one of the main gates in Lubeck’s medieval walls and it dates back to the 13th century.

From there it was a short walk to St Catherine’s Church which was worth every cent of the €2 entrance fee. It is the only monastery church in Lübeck and was built around 1300 as the church to the Franciscan Monastery. This incredible structure must have been awe inspiring to the citizens of 13th century Lübeck and that’s probably the effect the church was after.

No picture can do this massive structure justice. It is one of the tallest ceilings of a church we have been in and is a testament to the building skills of those craftsman 700 years ago. Can you spot The Navigator in one of the following pictures?

We deviated from our planned route as it was now lunchtime and we headed back to a place we had seen yesterday and The Navigator had Currywurst mit frites and I had Bratwurst mit frites which German sausage novices like us could hardly tell the difference between them but they were both delicious. It was also a bit of meaty payback for the many times on this trip that I’ve had fish to humour The Navigator! You can also see that as well as the curry sauce mayonnaise and tomato ketchup are nearly always served with chips. 

After lunch we had a wander in and out of some shops we missed yesterday but, although there were lovely things on display, nothing tempted us to splash out our remaining euros. From the city centre we walked the short distance down to the river to take in the views there and as you can see in the picture on the right there is no escaping the spires of the nearby churches..

A fairly good guide to the top attractions in any town or city is to look at a rack of postcards and the next attraction we headed for is featured on lots of postcards. And no wonder, the Holsten Gate, along with the twin spires of the cathedral are outstanding landmarks. It’s website describes it as follows…

In addition to the Brandenburg Gate, the Cologne Cathedral and the Munich Church of Our Lady, there is hardly any other German building that enjoys such popularity worldwide as the Lübeck Holsten Gate. It is the proud symbol of Lübeck’s history as a free city and its supremacy in the Baltic Sea region – and an epitome of all ideas of the Hanseatic League, trade, power and wealth, and therefore of everything that makes up Lübeck’s historical importance.

We lingered here near the Gate and on the riverside taking in the views around us which were lovely, as most places are when the sun is shining.

From there we walked back into the centre and the incredible St Mary’s Church. The original church on this spot was transformed from 1251 onwards to resemble a Gothic cathedral, taking eighty years to complete. We thought the church we saw this morning was huge but this one beats it hands down for the height and scale of the interior. It is 126ft high at the nave and the twin spires are an impressive 410ft high. It became the model for more than seventy churches throughout the Baltic region.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog it was severely damaged by the RAF during the war but it has been skilfully restored and you would not know it had been rebuilt. By this time we were flagging and found Tchibo again and had coffee / tea and cake for under € 6 which was great value compare with other places in the city centre. It was threatening to rain, although it never came to it, but we were flagging so headed for the bus stop and back to the van.

Day 75 – Friday the 13th of May 2022
The original plan was to visit the three main cities in this part of northern Germany, Lübeck, Hamburg and Bremen but there does not seem to be an Aire with easy transport links into Hamburg so we are bypassing it today and heading straight for Bremen.

Lubeck Aire GPS = 53.895518, 10.710948 & What3Words = ///marshes.pausing.stands

The drive was easy enough and unremarkable in equal measure with no memorable features to report. Unlike Hamburg, Bremen has a huge (100 van) Aire within walking distance of the city centre and with the excellent assistance of Google Maps it was found easily enough. With the forecast of a sunny weekend in prospect we headed for the Aire to arrive before lunchtime just in case others had decided to come here for the weekend as well – and it’s a good job we did as there were very few pitches available as unbeknown to us Werder Bremen were playing a crucial game at home this weekend.

I worked in the afternoon for a few hours and after dinner we went to check out the little ferry that crossed the river Weser as this would be the quickest and most scenic walk into the city tomorrow. There was another British registered van near the entrance and we chatted to them for a while and they imparted some tips for us which we appreciated as they used to live in Bremen.

They said the city would be ‘buzzing’ tomorrow as there was a beer festival on (there wasn’t), that the place would be mobbed by Werder Bremen supporters as they were almost guaranteed promotion to the Bundesliga if they won Saturday’s game (the game was on Sunday), and finally we must visit the Rathaus, or town hall, as it miraculously was one of the few buildings that survived intact the Allied bombing of WWII (it was closed). Duff information apart they were a lovely couple to speak to and the first Brits we had seen in weeks.

At the riverside the tiny ferry was still plying its trade after nine o’clock and surprisingly there was a beach with a restaurant (which would be mobbed tomorrow) and views to the twin spires of the cathedral to the left and views of the four lighting columns of the riverside Werder Bremen stadium to the right.

Day 76 Saturday the 14th of May 2022
It was a lovely t-shirt and shorts day although The Navigator being a more cautious person, could not quite dispense with her body warmer as “you never know what it’ll do later.”

We crossed by the little ferry where masks still had to be worn and had a leisurely walk into the city centre. As Bremen was heavily bombed during the war there are few medieval buildings to see, apart from the Rathaus and the magnificent churches which have been beautifully restored. As it was Saturday there was a market on with the usual mix of stalls and the flower sellers were doing a brisk trade.

One of the first impressive buildings we came across was the Church of Our Lady which dates from the 13th century. The brightly coloured stained-glass windows are the work of the French artist Alfred Manessier and when the sun shines though them they cast a very colourful shadow. The interior was damaged by fire in 1944, but much less than the other medieval churches of the city.

There are many statues to be seen as you walk about Bremen but the most famous by far is the “Town Musicians of Bremen” which is inspired by a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm and published in Grimms’ Fairy Tales in 1819.

It tells the story of four aging domestic animals, a donkey, dog, cat and rooster, who, after a lifetime of hard work, are neglected and mistreated by their former masters. Eventually, they decide to run away and become town musicians in the city of Bremen. Contrary to the story’s title the characters never arrive in Bremen, as they succeed in tricking and scaring off a band of robbers, capturing their spoils, and moving into their house.

I mentioned earlier that we had been advised to visit the 15th century medieval Rathaus and although it was closed to visitors at the weekend it is still a very impressive building to see and it’s no wonder that it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site..

The Rathaus dominates the pretty city square which has interesting narrow cobbled streets leading off.

By now it was lunchtime so we walked away from the busy tourist attractions and just off the main shopping street we found a number of affoardable cafes and restaurants and plumped for a delicious Turkish meal.

After lunch there was only one building we had left to see and that was Bremen’s cathedral, St. Petri Dom. It is set between the town hall and the State Parliament and completes the ensemble of historical buildings on Bremen’s market square. Its two towers, one of which is open to visitors, are visible from afar and dominate the city skyline. The Protestant/Lutheran church has a history spanning more than 1,200 years and is yet another impressive building.

It was warm and we had seen the highlights of Bremen so we bought some ice cream and headed for the river in search of a seat and hopefully a cooling breeze. The remnants of a car boot sale was packing up along the riverside but we also saw something we weren’t expecting and that was two old ships being used as floating bar / restaurants and enjoying good business too.

Back at the van I sat out for a while until it was time to come in and watch the cup final between Liverpool and Chelsea which turned out to be a really good game, something that not all cup finals are. As we had a filling lunch we had a snack and then seamlessly merged into watching Eurovision and it was pleasing to see the British entry doing so well after what seems like an eternity of failures.

As we are an hour ahead of UK time the program was still going at 1am which is an unheard of time for us to be awake, especially as we have a long drive tomorrow.

Day 77 – Sunday the 15th of May 2022
We are usually awake between seven and eight o’clock but it was nearly nine before we woke after our late night!

By the time we had breakfast it had turned into another beautiful, warm sunny day which would be perfect conditions for the three hour drive ahead to the Netherlands. We had a brief chat with the British couple on our way to the payment machine and then set off about 10.30am. The drive was a series of dual carriageways and motorways all the way and three quarters of it was the same road that we had used to come into Germany when heading for Wilhelmshaven on the 8th of April and what seems like a lifetime ago.

Bremen Aire GPS = 53.065142, 8.819105 & What3Words = ///sensual.welcome.podcast

We were heading for Den Oever, which if you had read the previous blog, was a place we had wanted to stay at but we had to hunker down from the gales at Den Helder and so didn’t have time to stay there. The one noticeable thing on the journey was the price of diesel had come down from 2.08 / 2.28 to € 1.91 / € 2.09. Still far too expensive but at least it seems to be on a downward trend. Once in the Netherlands we pulled into a rest area and had lunch then deviated off into a lovely little town to top up on diesel as it was cheaper than the motorway service stations.

At Den Oever we were the only van on the allotted motorhome parking places although a few arrived, had fish and chips at the restaurant then departed again. I worked away finishing off the last blog and in the evening took this great picture of Bessie on the pitch as the sun went down.

Just to finish off on Werder Bremer, they did secure automatic promotion back to the Bundesliga as runners up to Schalke. They are a massive club in Germany and it was a bit like a club of the stature of Manchester United being relegated from the Premier League last season.

On paper this is a great location. It has a view out to sea, has yachts and ships passing through the swing bridge right in front of us and what looks like a popular fish restaurant right beside us. It is strategically placed beside the A7 main road joining North Holland to Friesland and on to Germany. What could possibly go wrong? Well, you have to check in on a website which is fiendishly difficult, the only facility is electricity and did I mention it was beside the A7?

It was busy all night with traffic and because they are crossing the swing bridge that adds to the noise as well. Not the best night’s sleep ever but it was only for one night thankfully! You can see how close we are to the two lorries crossing the bridge in this next picture.

Den Oever Aire GPS = 52.934298, 5.040250 & What3Words = ///stopwatch.elephants.searchable

Day 78 – Monday the 16th of May 2022
Hoorn is our destination this morning all of half an hour away and we’ve never been before but hopefully it lives up to its billing (it did). The drive south was on the smoothest motorway you will ever find and the Aire at the marina was far bigger than expected. We serviced the van on arrival and with the map and information supplied by the lady in the harbour office we set off for a reconnoitre as we have a whole day to explore Hoorn tomorrow.

Within ten minutes of setting off we were in the main square and its medieval buildings. We wandered about but found that most of the shops didn’t open until 1pm on a Monday but the one noticeable store that was open was Hema and The Navigator was straight in there as she’s had withdrawal symptoms in Germany and Denmark but at least she didn’t buy anything this time, but I don’t think I’ll be as lucky tomorrow (I wasn’t). What she did buy however was three bottles of the elusive Dove shampoo as it was on offer in another shop.

We had swithered about having lunch in Hema but was glad we didn’t as there was a fish shop selling kibbeling and so on her first full day back in the Netherlands The Navigator indulged herself yet again, but to be fair so did I and it was worth the wait as it was delicious. I wonder if she will want the same again tomorrow? Watch this space!

There was a small Albert Heijn and a Kruidvat, another two favourite stores and a few necessities were bought there. When we began our walk this morning it was very warm with blue skies but by the time we were heading back around two o’clock it had clouded over and the wind was blowing as strong as ever. We had enjoyed our first impression of Hoorn and spent the rest of the day relaxing in Bessie at what is an interesting marina..

Day 79 – Tuesday the 17th of May 2022
Our first port of call this morning was just across the other side of the marina to the former jail building that the lady in the marina office told me we should check out as it had been converted into flats and a hotel as well as a museum. Beside it was a small jetty where small boats would take you around Hoorn for € 3 a stop or € 15 for a one hour tour. A guy came off one off the boats to try and convince us to part with € 30 and said that not only was the tour interesting but there were free drinks as well. Unfortunately in the morning the offer was confined to tea and coffee and the free alcohol was not served until the afternoon. I think he quickly realised that the prospect of free caffeine was not as appealing as free alcohol to Scottish people and duly gave up!

From this side of the marina you enter Hoorn by a far more scenic way than we did yesterday and the first thing you see is the impressive Hoofdtoren, a former city gate that now serves as a restaurant. It’s over five hundred years old and a striking building to see if you are entering the inner harbour on foot as we are or arriving on a yacht. As with most Dutch harbours and marinas there were a few old barges moored which always gives a sense of history to a place but there were some expensive modern yachts moored in Hoorn as well.

We had a leisurely day wandering around Hoorn and thoroughly enjoyed it. When we came to the Netherland in the early nineties for family holidays we towed our caravan so had a car to tour around for some reason we never made it to Hoorn so it was a new and welcome experience.

What was also welcome was a chat with the one other British couple who had arrived when we were out. As we are coming to the end of our adventure they are just beginning theirs and are heading to Denmark as well so we gave them a link to the blog posts and passed on a few tips as well and hopefully they will enjoy Denmark as much as we did.

Hoorn Marina Aire GPS = 52.6338137, 5.0576501 & What3Words = trousers.amoung.listed

Day 79 – Wednesday the 18th of May 2022
Much as we have enjoyed Hoorn it is time to move on today but only half an hour down the coast to our first proper campsite of this tour near the world famous cheese town of Edam. The drive, as ever was easy enough apart from the last mile where the road narrowed. We had purchased an ACSI book before we set off and this is the first time we have used it. As ever we arrived before lunchtime and were booked in without a problem although we later read you were not meant to check in until after 1pm.

It was really hot today and most people on the site were sitting out enjoying the sunshine but we decided to get the bikes out and head a few miles down the coast to Volendam which must be one of the busiest tourist destinations north of Amsterdam.

On arrival we chained the bikes up and walked towards the harbour along the pedestrian street of tat. As well as loads of souvenir shops there were the usual other tourist outlets like ice cream shops, bars, restaurants as well as fish and chip shops. Don’t get me wrong, there are some lovely bits of Volendam, especially around the harbour area but it is very touristy.

The Navigator has become a fan of the Dutch barges and you can see her in the above picture examining these four identical boats and their daggerboards – her new specialist subject!

We visited Volendam in the early nineties when we were on a caravanning holiday near Leiden and my abiding memory is getting very close to herons which were perched on the fishing boats waiting for scraps and nothing much had changed in all this time as they were still there and you can see two of them edging closer to the two fishermen gutting part of their catch.

We had a soft ice cream from a van on the main street for one euro, at least a third of the price in Denmark and sat and enjoyed them in the sunshine.

After cycling back to the site we had a barbecue and sat outside to eat it, another first as usually its been too airy to sit out in the evenings. We were joined by two very tame ducks looking for some bread which they are not supposed to have apparently. You can see our wine of choice on this trip in the middle picture, both from Aldi in Germany and both € 1.99 ( £1.68).

Day 80 – Thursday the 19th of May 2022
After the glorious day yesterday it was grey and overcast with heavy rain showers from early morning, so heavy that it sounded like large hailstones on the roof.

The plan had been to cycle into Edam but it took until 11am for the rain to go off and the forecast indicated it would be back on this afternoon so the bike seats were dried and off we went. We were in the centre of Edam in less than fifteen minutes but it didn’t look familiar at all, which was a surprise given that we remembered Volendam which is only a few miles away.

After walking about for a couple of hours or so we came to the conclusion we had never been here before. Before heading back we shared a sausage for lunch. I say sausage but it was like shredded ham with melted cheese through it and The Navigator who doesn’t like sausages very much and myself who doesn’t like cheese very much both thought it was delicious!
CENSORED – Unfortunately I am not allowed to show you the picture of The Navigator holding the sausage!

Edam was very pretty and we enjoyed our walk about but very dark clouds were approaching as we made it back to the campsite so we packed the bikes and chairs away just in time as the heavens opened up for the rest of the afternoon.

It poured most of the afternoon and it gave me time to look back over some old pictures of previous Dutch holidays and found two pictures of us in Volendam posing with the herons and one of the girls outside the cheese shop in Edam – so we had been there after all in 1990…

Edam Camping GPS = 52.518455, 5.073997 & What3Words = ///hooves.calendars.shrimp



We enter the final week of our three month, five country, European odyssey before catching the ferry home, but stat tuned as we have a few more Dutch delights to visit first…  


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