With the Burkemobile packed and up and ready, we headed for Strasbourg. Crossing the border with Germany it wasn’t long before we were driving through the breath-taking scenery of the Moselle valley. The massive vineyards stretching way into the hills, and the huge, passenger liners cruising on the river alongside us, suddenly making us feel very small.
Arriving in Senhiem after a long journey, we pulled into Camp Holandischer Hof, which, sits in an estuary on the banks of the Moselle river, where, we were greeted by a rather robotic, receptionist.
‘You must choose a pitch from zis plan’ she said, without making eye contact. ‘Not ze highlighted areas,’ her staccato voice rose slightly as she stabbed the map with a perfectly manicured nail.
‘Zees’ she rolled her eyes, ‘are ze reserved pitches. Vater is fifty cents. Red rubbish bags are vun euro. You must pay for ze electricity ven you check out. You must also, if required, buy ze token for ze shower’ she added, when we’d thought she’d run out of battery. Wondering what we’d let ourselves in for, and armed with the campsite map we went in search of a suitable pitch. We found it a long way passed the reserved pitches, and miles from any facilities. Mindful however, of the scary lady waiting to be informed we staked a claim for the night. ‘Good, there vill be somevun waiting to attach ze camping car to ze electricity’ she informed us, stamping her approval.
Conscious of the long drive back, Richard parked the Burkemobile at the waste disposal point and emptied the waste. Unfortunately, he forgot to re-attach the grey pipe in his haste to get settled, resulting in a terrible ripping sound as we drove off.
At the pitch, a uniformed girl was impatiently, dangling a bunch of keys while waiting for our arrival. Looking disapprovingly at Richard as he patched up the Burkemobile with black tape, she dangled them louder still. Finally, temporary job completed, and motorhome attached to the electricity supply, she sighed and left us to it.
We waited for the rain to stop the following morning, before taking the long walk to the shower blocks. Exactly five mins later, thanks to the ticking clock, that counted down a Euro’s worth of water we were back outside in a jiffy, scrubbed, shiny, and very confused.
Purchasing a new length of waste pipe didn’t go well either. Explaining our dilemma to the glamourous lady in the camping shop, Richard, accidentally, flicked thick, black residue from the old pipe all over her gorgeous, cream blouse. The lady was extremely gracious but feeling mortified, we left in a bit of a hurry.
Burkemobile fixed, we headed through pretty countryside, and pine forest, on the lookout for the next campsite in our trusty camping guide. ‘You’ve arrived at your destination,’ bleated Irish Sally, as we drove through a very grand entrance. Staring at the gothic turrets of a formidable, grey mansion, and the stunning landscaped gardens we assumed we were lost again. Swans’ ducks and geese were splashing on the picturesque lake, and dozens of finely dressed people were milling around the grounds. The battered Burkemobile’s arrival was duly noted, and it wasn’t long before the hotel manager approached us. Far from being fazed by the intrusion, he gently explained that the Hotel now owned the land on which the campsite had once stood. Eager not to disappoint us however, he offered to hook us to the Hotel’s electricity. Touched by his generosity but preferring to remain inconspicuous, we graciously declined, and went on our way. Besides having recently discovered we were low on gas; we now had another problem.
Irish Sally (Sat Nav) who’d behaved impeccably since getting us hopelessly lost in Paris, suddenly went berserk again. This time instead of soaking up more of the wonderful, scenery, we found ourselves cruising around a rough looking housing estate. Thankfully, a Police van arrived just as an irate Richard was untangling himself from a map. The grim police officer, tapped on the window while giving a suspicious looking vehicle the once over. After listening to our predicament, however, he returned to his van and beckoned for us to follow them. Kindly guiding us the correct route, the police officers then led us to a camping store to replenish our dwindling gas.
Cruising from Baden-Baden to Freudenstadt under the dark canopy of the forest, we once again marvelled at the majestic pines that disappeared into the clouds. Known as the Romantische Strasse (Romantic road), it doesn’t disappoint. The Bavarian countryside is dotted with half-timbered houses, hidden monasteries and romantic hotels. Interspersed with farmland, lakes, and lavender covered meadows we stopped for a few days in a small, campsite nestled in the Black Forest. A much cosier campsite, we enjoyed exploring the picturesque town Alpirsbach, and the surrounding area on our bikes, before sadly, endless rain confined us to the Burkemobile.
Still raining on the night of our anniversary, we dined in the convenient campsite restaurant. Writing down our choices of Trout and Venison (the only choices on the menu) Raif, the Manager, disappeared into his Gordon Ramsey style, kitchen. We’d barely taken a sip of our drinks however, when after a few minutes of suspicious, microwave dinging, he was back with our meals, each accompanied by pasta, cranberry sauce, and a quarter of a pear?
‘I vill see what I can vustle up’ he answered our enquiry about a dessert, then downing a Schnapps he disappeared again. A true microwave wizard Raif returned a few dings later with pancakes, apricots, cherries and vanilla ice-cream. The Restaurant had emptied, but obviously not wanting the end the night, Raif, then put on a Johann Sebastian Bach, CD, or (JSB) as he called him, and pulled up a chair. Then pouring a honey schnapps for me, and a generous Ballentine’s each, for himself and Richard, he kept us entertained with stories about his life. Including a fascinating tale of his Mother’s daring escape from Dresden with him as babe in arms, during the 2nd World War. I believe we’ll toast Raif, and his mother’s amazing feat every 26th June, from now on. What a wonderful character, shame about the cooking though.
Helen Burke in
The Black Forest.