Posts Tagged eifel

Eifel National Forest roadtrip – Part 6, the end of the trip

Hello All,

Many thanks for bearing with me on this and the fact I had to take a break due to being busy and also the Tour of Pembrokeshire. Well, some, if not all of you will be glad to know that once this post is done and dusted, no longer will I be harking on about Germany or the fascinating places it holds and the volcanic history of the places I went. In fact, I shall be moving back to the UK and onto things you may more readily recognise…

Due to some feedback, I shall be condensing the last few visits I made around and Cologne and Koblenz and my trip to the Nurburgring to frighten myself silly. In fact, it’s no bother, I took way too may pictures anyway and, technically you aren’t allowed to film or take images near the circuit, so I didn’t, bar a few favourite cars I saw. Not that anyone takes any notice of that, as you can see from all the videos posted on YouTube. Anyhoo, more on that in turn with the other pictures (a few more this time).

Firstly, there was a trip to Cologne (Koln) Cathedral. Now, this is an impressive building. I live near a cathedral in Wales and that, sorry, doesn’t hold a candle to this building. When you walk into a building that is adorned with items such as the ones below, you know there is some real history there….

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It is a renowned monument of Catholicism and Gothic architecture and was added to World Heritage site list in 1996. Sadly, it was also in 2004  placed on the “World Heritage in Danger” list, as the only Western site in danger, due to plans to construct a high-rise building nearby, which would have visually impacted the site. The cathedral was removed from the List of In Danger Sites in 2006, following the authorities’ decision to limit the heights of buildings constructed near and around the cathedral. As an aside, it is the most visited landmark in Germany, attracting an average of 20,000 people a day! It also holds a record of being the tallest twin-spired church at 157 m (515 ft) tall and its two huge spires give the cathedral the largest façade of any church in the world.

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Some of you may also know that the recent history of this building is quite violent, the cathedral suffered fourteen hits by bombs during World War 2. Badly damaged, it nevertheless remained standing in an otherwise completely flattened city, but in an unfortunate twist of fate, the twin spires were then an easily recognisable navigational landmark for Allied aircraft bombing.

Repairs were completed in 1956 but maintenance work is constantly being carried out in one or another section of the building, which is rarely completely free of scaffolding, as wind, rain, and pollution slowly eat away at the stones. The Dombauhütte, established to build the cathedral and keep it in repair, is said to employ the best stonemasons of the Rhineland.

Whilst I was visiting, I couldn’t help notice that visitors can climb 533 stone steps of the spiral staircase to a viewing platform about 100 m (330 ft) above the ground. I love a good view, me…..

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I felt a bit short changed though, as there was still a good few feet above me!!

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Onward, well, downwards back to my usual haunts over in the Eifel. This time, I had some proper driving in mind, but the route I took took me through some of the richest vineyards in the region so I had to stop and look around for a while. If any of you are wondering, yes, I did have a grape or two. They were disgustingly sour. I’m no wine aficionado, so I don’t know if the process of wine-making sweetens things up and the grapes are always that sour, but I’d only use them as vinegar if it was given to me in that form!

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I was in a rush to get to the circuit for a certain time (the tourists are only allowed on the track certain days and times) so I thought to myself that I’d return at a point in the future for a few more relaxed shots, plus this was obviously a popular route on coach trips judging by the traffic (not seen here, thank god)…

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Anyway, I arrived for my slot at the track. I was very nervous. So nervous that I decided a while earlier that my little turbo hot hatch was going to be staying well and truly parked. I had toyed with the idea of taking my own car onto the track as I had figured that I had safety in power, but reason won the argument. That and the horror stories from fellow guest at hotels that I regularly shared beers with. Most will know that I am VERY protective of my cars, even going so far as to park significant distances away (to be measured in hundreds of yards or large fractions of miles) from destinations, mainly due to the fact that all the other people arriving won’t, so thereby reducing the risk of door dents and such. In this instance, not only was the risk of damage high and the insurance I held would be invalid, there was a very real risk that my inexperience could hurt me or someone else. Yes, I driven on tracks, but short tracks where people have similar cars. This was The Green Hell where cars vary from Ford Transits to hyper-cars capable of 200 mph and 2 people die or are seriously injured per week.

So, what did I opt to drive on this horror of tracks? That’s right, a Suzuki Swift Sport. In hindsight, not the best choice. However, it was all I could afford to pay the insurance excess on should I crash or be involved in an incident.  I think it wasn’t cheap even then, something like 6000 Euros. So, my dreams of flooring it in a fast beauty like these faded away…

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However, it was a blast. I felt like I was standing still when I was near 100 mph on the straights but it was still a great laugh. In all I did 4 laps in my little hatch but the effort was immense. I literally had to peel myself out of the seat afterwards. Strangely, I was not satisfied with my extended near death experience, so I decided to spend a little more money on the Ring Taxi, which was in my case a BMW M3 driven by a slightly unhinged man with no idea of what the word slow meant. Whilst I held on for dear life (to the point my hands sweated so much they went wrinkly) and we hurtled along at near 300 kmh, he calmly noted that it was beginning to rain!

As we arrived back at the gate with (and I’m not joking here) smoke pouring from the brakes, I considered that my time as a racing driver should be restricted to the odd track day in a small car or a kart….

On to more sensible pursuits, my last trips out before my holiday came to an end. I decided that it would be interesting to go a little further afield and ended up at a large fort and the confluence of two rivers in Koblenz. It started rainy, but cleared to a beautiful day in the end, which assisted me in find the place finally as it was truly hidden away, strangely enough for a fort. Set in wonderfully landscaped parkland, my first issue arose as I rounded the corner to park the car only to be met by a ticket operated barrier. Think about it. That’s right, I was the wrong side. However, the German people are helpful and a young lad saw my issue and ran over, took my ticket, popped it in the machine and I was through. Bless him, I stopped and shook his hand and he told me in pretty good English that he had raised this issue before with the staff and he was sorry. What a nice bloke!

Here we were, Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, backbone of the Prussian defences in the 1800s located on the eastern bank of the Rhine,  overlooking the confluence of the Mosel and the Rhine. It is the northernmost point of the World Heritage Site I have mentioned before.

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It seems that I had arrived on a day of festivities, as there were ladies and gents in all sort of uniform as through there was a general re-enactment theme going on. Pretty cool. However, I wanted to get as many images of them as possible but there was always something modern in the background, so I got precious few pictures like that….

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During its years of active service, the fortress had never been attacked. It escaped being dismantled after the end of World War 1 as a result of its perceived historical and artistic value. The American General Henry Allen, convinced of its historical value as a premier 19th century fortress, prevented its intended destruction in 1922. It was occupied after 1919 by the US Army as their headquarters during the occupation of this area and then  after January 1923 it was occupied by the French. During World War 2 the fortress served as a place of safekeeping for archives and cultural objects. After this, it was used first by the French Army before it was handed over to the State when it served as a refugee camp and then, in the period of insufficient housing in the early 1950s, as residential housing into the 1960s. I bet it was blooming cold surrounded by all that concrete! Today, the fortress is fully open to visitors. It is connected to the town of Koblenz across the Rhine by a cable car which I had to take…..

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At the bottom of the cable car is Deutsches Eck (“German Corner”) where the Mosel river joins the Rhine, plus it is also home to a monumental statue of William I, the first German Emperor. In typical British understatement, it’s a pretty big statue.

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I can’t really post a picture of scale, but the pictures above show the size of the statue in comparison to the headland, as well as showing the confluence of the two rivers quite clearly. You are looking for the point of the headland where the darker water meets the lighter water, that is the merging of two great rivers. Quite subtle, unless you were looking for it! Believe me, once you went up to the water, apart from a little disturbance on the surface, it isn’t all that obvious. As well as that, most people come for the monument, so weren’t even looking at the water.

I had a quick wander around, picked up something to eat before they day was getting a little old, so it was time to pop back on the cable car back up to the fort and head off home. As I left, I was looking for my saviour yet again but, bless his cottons, he must have said something to the staff as there was a guy from the cafe actually waiting at the barrier on my side so I could hand him my ticket and get out! See, there are nice people in the world.

On the way home, I decided to take a detour via the vineyards again where I remembered that there was a picturesque ford in a lovely green valley, so, here endeth the German road trip…I thought this would be a nice picture to send you all off with.

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As of the next time I post, there will be more home grown posts, I promise. Maybe I shouldn’t take so many pictures on holiday? Not sure. But, if you are still reading, thanks a lot. I appreciate you sticking with it and hope to see you here in July. Good Lord. Where has the year gone?

Ta-ta for now!

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Eifel National Forest roadtrip – Part 5

Evening All,

I hope this latest post of the blog finds you well. I am keeping up with my monthly muse and hope that you are enjoying the pictures (although one of my subscribers said it was not the best for pictures, it was ironically the best blog ever for likes…my email was pinging like crazy). The weather here in south west wales has finally bottomed out, the sun is getting a bit warmer and the hedges and skies are becoming more interesting (for further info on the local loveliness and general pretty things, investigate my Instagram @lukegeoffreyjohnson, I’ll be happy to see you). I’m out on the bike more for the May Tour of Pembs and ventured far far away to Kilgetty on a training run lately. It was interesting. All I will say to those who overtake near cyclists is please, think. We are very light and cars hurt, so next time you overtake a cycling colleague, give them a bit more room 🙂

Anyway, the blog. For those who are concerned that there will be pictures of motor vehicles this month, fear not! No cars. This week, I am posting of the wonder of nature yet again. In fact, a Guinness World Record holding wonder of nature. Beat that. This visit is based in and around Andernach which is a lovely, although on the day I visited it was a bit dull.

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Andernach is situated on the River Rhine, 13 miles (21 km) north of Koblenz, a more industrial town I didn’t visit as the roads frightened me to death. A little way downstream of Andernach, the Rhine valley narrows from both sides forming the northern part of the romantic “middle Rhine”. In Roman times the place the narrow passage begins was named “Porta Antunnacensis” or Andernachian Gate, formed by two hills. Founded by the Romans in about 12 BC on the site of an old settlement, Andernach is one of the oldest towns in Germany. In addition to themedieval remnants of the old town fortifications as seen above, the city of is the location of several old industrial plants such as a huge malt mill, but now also to a large steel-mill to produce cold formed tin plate and companies manufacturing medicinal products, raw food materials, cast iron products, engines and engine parts. See, we are straying back to cars again! As I wandered the banks of the river, barges were frequently plying their way up and down…..

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However, the main reason for my visit was the geyser. No, not like out of Eastenders! A water based geyser which is a remnant of the volcanic region and quite unusual in as much that it is cold water and acts with force generated in a fashion similar to that in a shaken bottle of fizzy water..it is quite powerful, reaching up to 200 ft (60 m) but I suspect less height in the video I took and posted on YouTube. As you approach the geyser along the Rhine on a special boat (you cannot access the area directly by foot, so that’s a nice little earner), things actually look quite tame…

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However, every so often, usually every couple of hours, the geyser erupts, quite quietly at first, then up it goes! On 9 November 2008, the Andernach Geyser was officially recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as the highest cold-water geyser in the world. See, these fantastic things you have on your doorstep. I had never heard of this place before I saw the leaflet….

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I was amused to read that this geyser was actually found, in a way, by mistake. Although a borehole was sunk to look for carbon dioxide, they just kind of did this one randomly due to someone thinking they saw bubbles rising in the waters of an old Rhine ox-bow lake. Boom. Geyser. Result. It was used for commercial reasons to begin with but then the was replaced by a more mechanised manner and the geyser has reverted to being a tourist attraction. Although, having seen the state of the drains and the iron showing in the water  and on the rocks, I’m none too sure I would have drunk the water fizzed by this geyser…

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On to the town itself. Lovely place. It is full of remnants of days gone by and tourists who also come to the region for the geyser and volcanology usually visit these, such as the 183 feet (56 m) tall “Round Tower” (“Der Runde Turm”) finished in 1453….

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One thing I liked was the fantastically preserved castle keep and wall that had been seemingly hijacked by the local allotment society. I walked past it a few times on my way around the museums and though that the flowers and plants looked a bit strange until, on closer inspection, I found that they consisted of a wide range of vegetables! Weird, but what a fantastic use of land that would normally be waste ground or just plain grass…

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In the distance behind this, was a very well looked after massive gate and gardens that you could tour at your leisure, in some areas you could even walk around on the parapet, although the view from here was not all that brilliant, just rooftops…

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Another item from its ancient industrial past is the “Old Crane” of Andernach situated outside the town downstream close to the river bank of the old harbour where it replaced an even older 14th century wooden floating tread-wheel crane. For 350 years it was in operation from 1561 to 1911. Two to four men were required to rotate the crane top which lifted and lowered the load—mainly millstones and tuff, some results of which were on show in the local museums in the form of these intricately carved columns…

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Well, there you have it. Who would have thought that there was record breaking cold water geyser a few hours away from you in Germany? I tell you, most people think of hot places and beaches for holidays, but the more I visit places closer to home, the more I realise there is much to be seen there…and Germany is a place I would love to return to. Perhaps not this exact area but Germany is a big place with a rich history.

Next time, we are off to Cologne where I test my lungs and legs to the extreme by stupidly ascending to the highest part of the cathedral…by foot! Was it worth it? Find out when you see the views!

Thanks for stopping by, see you all soon

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Eifel National Forest roadtrip – Part 3

Hello everyone…

Well, here we are, another post and it is nearly the month of March! Crazy stuff. Life is busy as ever and with the impending onset of the (admittedly, self-inflicted) training regime for the Tour of Pembrokeshire, it is set to get busier, I dare say. Apparently, it’s a 12 week improvement plan, or something. I shall let you know how it is going.

Anyway, for one thing, I hope the weather picks up some time soon. A little while ago, I may have mentioned the onset of the back end of Storm Doris (thanks to the US for sending that across) but it seems that was a false alarm and this is now the time for Doris to hit. According to one of my my little weather gadgets, it is set to rain…..

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For ease of reference, this little bulb, known in the lingo as a “Goethe Globe” is a weather  predictor in that, once filled with liquid, a pocket of sealed air with a constant pressure is created inside the device. As the atmospheric pressure changes outside the glass, it will affect this sealed air. A high atmospheric pressure system will push the liquid down the spout, as the outside air is heavier than the trapped air inside. Low pressure will cause the trapped air to be heavier than the outside air and will push the water up the spout. High atmospheric pressure or a “low reading” in the spout usually indicates fair weather, while a “high reading” in the spout usually forecasts poor weather or a low pressure system. In this instance, it seems that it should have been raining buckets indoors!

However, I digress. I seem to recall that I promised you all a castle, or in German “ein schloss”, so here we are. On the day in question, following the roads and my few euros worth of map, I happened upon Burresheim Castle. In so doing, I chose a unique place, as this castle, together with Eltz and Lissingen, is one of the few sites in the Eifel that have never been conquered or destroyed and have been able to withstand the wars of the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as numerous European upheavals since.

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That being the case is all well and good, I was just struck by the fact it was a pretty good looking building all in all. From the moment you entered the grounds, you could tell this was a mature and well established property (click the link for an old painting of the castle) and was especially taken by the lovely gardens to the side. The effort that goes into the maintenance of the pyramid bushes is pretty awesome in itself.

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Moving further in, a glance at the floor lets you know that this place has been around for a few years. In fact, the castle was built in the 12th century and Bürresheim was mentioned in documents for the first time in 1157 along with the owners at the time. You can see the age of the property by the visible ruts in the stone entrance way worn down by umpteen horses and carts transporting their wares ….

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How is this for an olde worlde kitchen too eh? OK, so I know that all of the equipment here is most likely not original, but I am sure there is an attempt to make the fixtures and fittings as close to authentic as possible. Imagine rustling up dinner using the rickety cupboard and stone fireplace…..by candlelight. Respect to the cooks!

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Talking of trying to be authentic, it is worth mentioning that what you see in the photos is not what you saw if you clicked on the link above to the original painting of the castle. The complex, which currently appears as a closed unit, has only been like this since the 15th century. Previously, they were two completely independent, non-connected and differently sized buildings. Once upon a time, the fortress of Bürresheim was secured by a few walls and drawbridges.  The latter are nowadays buried and only a few remains are left of the walls. On other matters though, get a load of this door….that there is a piece if fine architecture. Beats IKEA hands down…..

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It seems that this castle was so good, it even had a brief flutter with the movies. That’s right, Burresheim is famous, albeit under different names. A brief exterior shot of the castle can be seen in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade where it features as the fictitious Brunwald Castle on the German-Austrian border, where Professor Henry Jones Sr is held. Additionally, it has featured in German domestic films for children as a kings castle, an advert showed the baroque garden as well as the castle in the background and in May 2009 filming took place for a German language version of Rumpelstiltskin. So, in honour of a static building being more famous than I, a further picture of the lovely exterior inclusive of gardens is due!

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Onward now to a couple of water based images. On the way back from here, I stopped at what I thought was a pleasant lake for a leg stretch/walk. Judging by the large car park and numerous cafes, I thought it would be nice but it turned out to be very interesting too. What I had actually found was the Laacher See, an oval volcanic caldera lake around 1.5 miles in diameter up in the hills. It is part of the larger Eifel volcanic range and caldera features in the area, after an eruption formed the lake around 13,000 years ago. Since then it slowly filled with water but was expanded a bit in Roman times as the lava was quarried for millstones until the introduction of iron rollers for grinding corn. On the western side lies the Benedictine monastery of Maria Laach. The lake has no natural outlet, but is drained by a tunnel dug before 1200 and rebuilt several times since. As you can see, the nature of the rock makes the water as clear as a bell, which probably accounts for the popularity with tourists.

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Having a Google, there are guesses of what this eruption might have appeared like at the time. SCIENCE ALERT! Much text about volcanoes now; please scroll down if you are likely to be bored easily or frightened by scales of the eruption in numbers! It is very interesting though, so please, hang on in there…..

So, for what seems a fairly small hole in the ground, the effects that it would have had were pretty far reaching and quite humbling. According to the scientific guff and in summary, volcanism in Germany can be traced back for millions of years, due to the collision between the African and Eurasian plates, but it has been concentrated in bursts associated with glacial advances and retreats. The initial blasts forming the Laacher See, which took place in late spring or early summer, flattened trees up to 3 miles away. The magma opened a route to the surface which erupted for about ten hours, with the plume probably reaching a height of 20 miles. Activity continued for weeks or maybe even months, with pyroclastic flows travelling 6 or 7 miles away covering the area with hot sticky mud. According the surveys, near the crater deposits are over 150 feet thick and even many miles distant, they are still 30 feet thick. In this eruption, all plants and animals for a distance of about 40 miles would most likely have been exterminated.

Unbelievably, the sticky mud actually seems to have dammed the Rhine River and created a lake! When this burst, the water flooded downstream and traces of this mud have found in Bonn, 50 miles away. Fallout effects have been recorded in an area of more than 120,000 square miles, covering from central France to northern Italy and from southern Sweden to Poland.

The wider effects of the eruption on weather were pretty harsh too, amounting to several years of cold summers and up to two decades of environmental disruption in Germany. However, the lives of the local population, known as the Federmesser, were massively disrupted. Before the eruption, they were a sparsely distributed people who existed by foraging and hunting, using both spears and bows and arrows. According to archaeologist Felix Riede, after the eruption the area most affected by the fallout (the area nearby occupied by the Federmesser) appears to have been largely depopulated and population shifted to southwest Germany and France. However, he states that these people seem had a lower level of toolmaking skills than the Federmesser and appear to have lost the bow and arrow technology. In Riede’s view the decline was a direct result from the disruption caused by the Laacher See volcano eruption. In essence, the eruption set the evolution of northern Europe back a little, which is pretty blooming scary when you consider the existing volcanoes and the population nearby in parts of Europe such as Naples.

Anyway, not that anything is likely to happen in our lifetimes, let us bask in the prettiness of the clear water and try and forget the geological time-bombs around the world!

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That was a little bit of a sobering note to end up on wasn’t it? Sorry about that. You have to admit that it is fascinating though isn’t it? The fact that surveys can find things like this out and a picture can be built up of what might have happened, is very interesting to me and I hope that it was for you too. Don’t worry, I don’t go all science all the time, there was a few easily accessible articles that had clear illustrations in, so I couldn’t help myself. Calm your fevered brows with a nice green landscape….

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You’re welcome. Next time, I shall avoid science, honest. Thanks for reading as ever, see you soon with a more light hearted blog, promise!

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Eifel National Forest roadtrip – Part 2

Hello,

Welcome back to the continuing saga that is my blog. It’s been a bit busy of late, many many things have been going doooown. I shan’t go into details, but bear with me if there are delays in my unofficial resolution of posting monthly!

Anyway, here I am. Ready to embark on the Eifel roadtrip, part deux. As I said last time, I will try to limit the posts to a couple of days at a time unless there’s something pretty awesome to share and, bear in mind, for the one picture you see, I’ve been through tens! Ah, the memories.

So, moving on from settling in Adenau, I decided that day trips were in order and I was spoilt for choice as to where to go, so I opted for the “buy a five euro map and see where it takes me” option. In essence, this next few images takes us through some lovely forest and architecture around the towns of Bad Münstereifel, a historical spa town (“bad” translates to “baths” in German), situated in the far south of the North Rhine-Westphalia. It was lovely and quiet when I went. Also featured is Mayen, often called ‘The Gateway to the Eifel’.

However, in the interests of my ridiculously nerdy car interests, I must post an arty shot of my ride for the holiday, my (since traded in, sadly) Ford Fiesta ST-2….

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Look at her. What a beauty. I know some will roll their eyes when I say this, but I still pine after that car. It was quick, fun, sounded awesome on turbo whistle and pop when you got things right and was surprisingly economical. In the drive over, cruising with cars double or treble the power at near 90/100 mph (legally) I returned over 40 mpg. Really impressive. However, reality then comes back to haunt me. Although the seats were super comfortable, if you were on a road of low quality or a traffic calmed area, you could wave goodbye to your fillings and lumbar health as the suspension was harder than Chuck Norris. It also hated being driven slowly. In fact, to maintain the engine, it had to be driven quite vigorously to stop carbon build up. This is a fact, check Google. So, I’m afraid it had to go, as I have a very short commute. But let us not go on, back to the pictures.

I arrived at Bad Münstereifel on an off day. The weather up until this point had been pretty good, but this day was an exception. I sat in the car for a while to wait for the rain to stop! When it did, or at least it stopped for a period of time, I found it was quite a quirky place…

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I’m sorry? A telephone box in Germany? Strange. I never did get to the bottom of this. All I know is that I saw a news item recently that said the going rate for one of these is £12,000 so if they paid that, I’d show it off too! The other buildings around the markt (market) were gorgeous old churches such as this one near the walls of the town (seen off to the left)…

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Also you could see original buildings made of wood, as you could in many other towns I visited, vividly and lovingly painted by the owners. Shame that a good portion of them were now lawyers or some business. Apparently, this town has a speciality in training the legal profession. Well, we all have our bad points, don’t we?!

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After copious use of my terrible German resulting in a double order of a pastry I didn’t actually want, I thought it best to stop sheltering from the showers and get a move on to somewhere else…after all, the cafe staff were look at me funny. Again, another fortuitous turn on to a fabulous road. I think I actually turned around and drove this a few times, it was so good, plus I had it all to myself.

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Not only did I find a nice road, but I stumbled upon, of all things a hydroelectric plant. What else? As I rumbled along, I suddenly realised I was on a dam and had to double take, as it wasn’t marked on the map…but then again, why would you? Not all tourists are nerds. Oh. Just me then. No stopping or turning on the dam, so a few quick maneuvers later I found a car park for a local holiday park and went to investigate. Unfortunately, I find that, on this occasion, I have omitted to make any note of the name of this dam like I usually do when I visit places, or it may not have even had one so apologies for that….

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Quite picturesque, don’t you think? I thought so. Now, I’m no engineer, but I am impressed by engineering. Think of me as Jeremy Clarkson without the pot belly and terrible fashion sense, he also loves cars and engineering but couldn’t build a dam, I’m sure. Wandering around, I stumbled upon a pretty big hole in the dam and took a peek inside…

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Good Lord. Now that is a hole and a half. I wonder what the heck you would put in there. Oh yes, I think I see what goes in there now….

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A turbine and a valve for the water the size of a truck, that’s what goes in there. I know that some people are left pretty cold by stuff like this, but think about the materials and thought that goes into stuff like this. Even just the valve at the front being made of the right metal to withstand so much pressure, not break and to regulate the flow reliably so we get the right amount of power. Pretty awe inspiring. I shan’t dwell though, so onward to Mayen, ‘The Gateway to the Eifel’.

In Roman times, Mayen, was an important economic centre. From the 3rd century  until the Middle Ages, potteries operated here and their products were traded and sold across Central Europe. In much earlier times (I refer to these as “the grunting years”), nearby quarries were the sources of basalt to make millstones and tuff used to make grave goods. Sadly, during the Second World War, in late 1944 and early 1945, approximately 90% of the town was destroyed. After the war and following a special referendum which addressed costs of rebuilding, the people voted to rebuild the town. This is why there are so few buildings of note standing and they look so new…

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However, I thought that those were standing were lovely examples of the local tall and towering architecture, especially this gate to the town that had been rebuilt from a few feet that was left standing after the bombing…

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So concludes this round of the Eifel tour for now. If you want to see more impressive buildings, keep this frequency clear, as I managed to find a nice picture perfect “schloss” or castle with some fantastic gardens for you. Think of the type you see on brochures and postcards hanging over the Rhine Valley and you aren’t far wrong!

See you soon and again, thanks for dropping by

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Eifel National Forest roadtrip – Part 1

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2017. Seems pretty much like 2016 to me so far but, there we are. I went for the first bike ride of the year today and whilst getting some exercise managed to freeze my feet so solid I had to stand on the central heating hot air vents at home! Mind you, it was a gorgeous day and if you weren’t outside, more fool you. Anyway, let me step back in time with you for my next few posts…

A while back, I verbalised a wish I had harboured for a while of visiting the Nurburgring in Germany. If you know nothing of this place, you can read of it here. Essentially, it is a 20 or so kilometre endurance race circuit in the Eifel National Forest that petrolheads from around the world (although mainly Europe) flock to to test their mettle as a driver. However, more of this later in other posts because I found, through research, that the track was located in the historically interesting and visually impressive Eifel National Park. Before you all say Eifel has too few “L”s in it, this is correct. The tower in Paris is not related in any way :).

Anyway, I set my mind to going and off I popped on the t’interweb making bookings in my bestest pigeon German (which I have a GCSE in, thank you very much for asking) and before I knew it, I had a hotel and the Eurotunnel booked. I don’t do flying. Anyway, what kind of car lover turns up at a race track in a taxi from the airport? But, never fear, these posts won’t be full of cars and discussions over torque figures as I found plenty besides in the local area to keep me amused, but I can’t promise 100% freedom from cars…

But, let’s start at the beginning. How was I going to get there? Where would I stop? I had planned this very well, even for me so there were only two legs to the entire journey where I was driving but they were pretty long. Essentially, I would drive along the M4 to Folkestone from Pembrokeshire, stay overnight, then get up ridiculously early to load my beloved Fiesta ST180 on the train, then scoot through northern france (avoiding the gendarmerie) to Germany. Easy. First hurdle to be greeted was the weather. Now, we shouldn’t complain about decent weather but it was HOT. It doesn’t get too hot in South Wales so, the closer I drove to the south-east to get to the hotel, the warmer it got, until we were pushing high 20’s in celsius on the display. As I say, not warm in most respects but warm enough when you have leather seats and minimal supermini air conditioning. Having fought my way around the madness that was the great London Orbital Car Park (otherwise known as the M25, renowned for awful drivers and delays) I arrived at my first stop, Folkestone, or more specifically, the Portland Hotel, Folkestone. Not having visited the area before, I was pleasantly surprised and the views evoked a Summery feel….

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The seafront was buzzing in the afternoon and it was very nice to stroll in the warm of the evening as the weather cooled off a little. I even had my dinner “al fresco”! Once it got dark, things got interesting. Due to the heat, some storms had formed in the English Channel and that night was the flashiest, bangiest, rainiest evening I recall in a long while. Unfortunately, I couldn’t catch the drama on my camera as I don’t have the proper bits and bobs, but, take my word for it, people instinctively retreated to cover to watch rather than be soaked!

Next morning, freshly rinsed car, it was sunny again so off I zipped to the train, making sure not to damage my expensive alloy wheels on the low sills in the carriages…nerve wracking stuff. However, the continent awaits! I cannot recommend Eurotunnel enough if you are up for a driving holiday to France or even that you wish to be a foot passenger in one of the cities they service. I have used it twice for big holidays I have taken and had no issues. Bear in mind too that I do not get commission, it really is good. Less than an hour later I was in northern France and the motorway speed limit was 80mph so, understandably being a Brit, I did at least 90mph on most occasions. Well, after all, you are bound to get away with a few mph if they try to clock you and you may as well get a decent fine for speeding….

A few hours further on from this and after a very scary circuit of the Brussels ring-road later (less said the better, blooming truck drivers), I was entering Germany and heading towards Cologne where I would then head south from the more industrial part and into the Eifel region. The warm weather continued and the roads were kind, well made, smooth and relatively empty so progress was easy, bar the odd coffee stop. I wasn’t too far from the end of my journey when I took this picture illustrating the lovely open tree-lined routes I was plying…

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As the train was very early morning, I arrived in good time to be able to explore a teeny bit before dinner and then have a rest in my final stop of Adenau. What a find. Shows you what a bit of research can do. Such a charming and historic place near an extinct volcano of all things! My hotel was quiet, I had my own parking spot (as things were not all that busy) and a supermarket spitting distance way for snacks and lunch supplies. Result.

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The following day, I decided just to peruse the local roads, to get my bearings in a way. The roads…awesome. It’s no wonder people came here, there were hairpins and smooth curved 100 kmh limit roads that were great fun to drive and that you ended up with views like this from….

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However, enough driving talk. I came here for the whole region, not just the track. On my early explore, I came across a car park in the middle of nowhere that seemed quite popular, so I decided to go in and see what the fuss was about. I didn’t see any signs that I could easily translate but saw that there was a path heading off so I just followed it…..

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Eventually saw signage relating to “Hohe Acht”. This meant not a great deal to me, other than my very literal GCSE translation of “high eight”. Judging by the constant upward incline of the path I was following, the former part of this translation seemed correct. But eight? Eight what? This muse kept me thinking as I trudged up the path further and further. Bear in mind that the weather was only just cooling down, so I’m not sure this was a wise decision at points, but I was committed now. Eventually I did get to the top to be greeted by….

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This I did not expect. The roads that you travel underneath the tower, so to speak, mean that you can’t see it apart from when you are a fair distance away. But, this was Hohe Acht, the summit of the eight highest tertiary volcano (at 747 metres) in the Eifel region, topped by the Emperor William Tower (Kaiser-Wilhelm-Turm), built in 1908…this will be where all the eights came from then! The tower was constructed for the silver wedding of Emperor William 2. The nationally protected tower is over 50 feet high and the walls are one metre thick at ground level (although if you go there you will be impressed by just the thickness of the doors alone which must have used a ridiculous amount of wood). The views from the top are pretty sweet….

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When you are atop the tower, you realise why the racing drivers call the track “The Green Hell”, due to all of the trees surrounding it. Even though this is high up on a volcano over a race track, I challenge any of you to see the tarmac. No? That’s possibly some of the most supreme camouflage on the planet, I think you will agree.

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To finish the day, I wandered back down the path and decided to zip off-piste with my trusty camera to take a few pictures. It seems that, even though the day was bright and warm, the Eifel is quite a damp place overall (as I would discover later) as the forest walks were bristling with some of the most spectacular examples of fungi I have ever seen..

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I have spared you many of the other pictures I took for these two, as I think you would have got very bored with all the permeations. I couldn’t let this one go past though, look at that chesnut colour! Spectacular.

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Moving on, it wasn’t long until I managed to get out of the forest path that I had entered….at completely the wrong end. I spent the next few minutes using my best cub scout tricks to try to guess which way I should be going and managed to find a path that looked familiar at last. Close run thing though, someone nearly had a free car! However, as you know me, I just took the opportunity to take some more pictures of different scenes….

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Eventually, I was reunited with my steed and headed off in a loop of the forest path I’d just taken past the viewpoint I posted earlier and down to a small shopping centre outside Adenau. Not very exciting I hear you say, but I noticed on my way in that there was a gorgeous little church perched halfway up a cliff on the river the opposite side, so I decided to stop and take a stroll over after a coffee at the bakery. You must try hard to imagine the struggles I had in ordering simple things like drinks and cake, having not used my GCSE for a good 20 years! It got a good giggle now and again, but I think they appreciated me trying and it was worth it for images like this…

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Unbelievably, this is only the end of the first day or two of my trip. I think in all it was ten days but I shall be condensing it as much as possible and I have a few videos to pass the time for you that I posted on my YouTube channel a while back. However, as ever, I shall be injecting a bit of history and now some petrolhead thoughts along the way, but I will try to keep this to a minimum. Maybe.

It’s been a hefty one for the first of the New Year but, thanks for reading it. I am going to try my best to post monthly, if not more often. Not exactly a New Years resolution, but more of a promise to myself to get off my bum and do more on here and with saved pictures, as well as getting more new ones! So, keep this frequency clear, I shall return for part two where we venture off to surrounding towns and villages and more gorgeous scenery.

Bye for now!

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