Posts Tagged nurburgring

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….

DSC_0691

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.

DSC_0706

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…..

DSC_0721

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

DSC_0715

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!

DSC_0763

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)…

DSC_0783

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…

DSC_0898

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.

DSC_1106

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….

DSC_0998

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…..

DSC_0997

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.

DSC_1154

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.

DSC_1195

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!

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Eifel National Forest roadtrip – Part 4

Hello All,

How are we all? Well, I hope.

A few things of interest of late, it is now Spring (astronomically speaking, but not really reflected in the weather, unfortunately) and today is World Meteorological Day which may interest some of you with a love for clouds and an interest in the weather, such as myself. For those of you who may not be able to access the link  to the Cloud Appreciation Society for any reason, the text introducing this is “World Meteorological Day on Thursday 23 March is themed, this year, on ‘Understanding Clouds’. It marks the publication of the latest edition of the World Meteorological Organisation’s definitive reference work on cloud classification: the International Cloud Atlas. This official resource for cloudspotters includes, for the first time, the ‘Asperitas’ cloud. It is a new classification of cloud, with a chaotic, turbulent appearance, that was proposed by the Cloud Appreciation Society back in 2008, based on photographs sent to us from members all around the world. It is a classic example of citizen science, in which observations by the general public, enabled by the technology of smartphones and the Internet, have influenced the development this most official of classification systems“. Even if you have a passing interest in sunsets or the like, the pictures are pretty awesome. Have a look.

Lastly, a more pertinent matter regards blogging and stuff. I am on Instagram! Yes, I have broadened my electronic horizon. If you are a ‘grammer, look me up @lukegeoffreyjohnson and I will give you a “follow”…or something, whatever this is referred to.

Anyhow, continuing to the blog, we are now on part 4 where things get slightly less history and more petrol-ly. I’m not sure that’s a word, but bear with me here. Essentially, this part of the journey covers some hiking up a hill to another castle and the views, but this view includes a racetrack, the main reason I travelled to the area in the first place. Anyway, stick with me here. The day was loosely based around me undertaking a trip to the Nurburgring racing circuit. However, on finding the village of Nurburg, I didn’t realise you could hike up to a castle…..

DSC_0391

From here there was a commanding view. The castle stands within the famous North Loop, or Nordschleife, of the circuit on a volcanic basalt cone. The castle has had quite a chequered past and has not been well treated but was of significance to pretty much every group who lived here since the site was first mentioned in the records in 1166 as Noureberg or Mons Nore. Local historians say it is probable that it was already used as a signal station in Roman times to protect the important Roman road that ran through the Eifel.

In 1290, ownership of the castle was transferred to the local government, because there were no more descendants of the lords of Nürburg. As early as the 16th century the castle fell into a very poor condition, a situation which the officials complained about. As a result, restoration work was carried out several times. In 1633, during the Thirty Years War, the castle was captured by the Swedes, who plundered and damaged it. In 1674, imperial troops re-occupied the castle. In 1689, French soldiers finally destroyed the place. Some surviving parts were also used  as a prison, but was no longer fit for that purpose after 1752. The castle was abandoned and used as a stone quarry. In 1818, local royalty had the castle restored because, with its height of 678 m above sea level, it would be able to act as a trigonometric point for creating maps. In 1949, ownership of the ruins was transferred to the German State Department for Conservation, who had work carried out several times in order to expose elements of the building that had been filled in, as well as to carry out safety and restoration work, which was still ongoing when I was there. What a view though…..

DSC_0406

Oh, and talking of views, what’s this? A racetrack? Actually, this is the view from just outside over the small village or Nurburg (which expands massively during racing season) towards the track. Those of you with an eagle eye, might be able to spot a small red car off to the left on the parking area. Yeah, I walked quite a way, not realising I could park at the bottom of the cone…

DSC_0408

However, the view from the top wasn’t just of the track, the beauty of the National Forest was obvious all around, as well as the fantastic field of vision. No wonder this place was fought over.

DSC_0415

Right, I will be talking cars now I’m afraid or more of the track and the surrounds, at least. There are quite a few garages owned by large organisations around the village that I noticed as I wandered around, including Bugatti, Audi, BMW M who all base a team here on occasion to test vehicles, which was the original purpose of the track. Nowadays, this is referred to as Industriefahrten. However, there are many new ventures for this area with the popularity of the area spreading, there are fairs, music festivals and all sorts of family activities hosted by the track but, the hardcore undercurrent is cars. On occasion, you see the odd private garage where people keep cars in the village just to go out and have a blast…..

DSC_0381

There is also a large visitors centre offering tours of the “ring°werk” museum and Grand Prix track behind the scenes, which was about all I could do as this was the German “off-season” and it seems that no-one visits Germany then. In a way it was nice, as there were plenty of parking spots, but not as you couldn’t experience a certain buzz that you get from places like this. There were many interesting exhibits and it was quite a place, but quiet wasn’t the word….

DSC_0460

I quite like a quiet spot, as I am quite happy with my own company, but as I left the museum after buying themed boxer shorts and the like from the fan-shop (no, I’m not joking and they are the most comfy things ever) I couldn’t help but be attracted by an advertising hoarding for drives on the track with this gorgeous Audi RS4 Super-Estate sat there doing nothing. Now, this won me over and got me thinking. Whilst, I couldn’t afford this kind of thing at 649 Euros, there must be a cheaper option…and should I use my own car. Hmmmm….

DSC_0465

On the way back, to aid my pondering, a lovely sunset over the forest. It seemed strange to have the two things in one place…a forest and a racetrack. They almost seem at odds with the current thinking but it is working and has worked for many years, nearly 100 years in fact. However, mine is not to reason why, just to enjoy the view once more as I left the circuit behind for the day..

DSC_0472

Hopefully the non-car people have not dropped off. I will try to minimise my car based musings in future posts but I can’t guarantee it! Thanks for dropping in and reading my blog as ever, it is much appreciated. Spread the word, Instagram me, ask for copies of pictures if you like them. I shall happily provide them.

Until next time though, take it easy and enjoy Spring!

, , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

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….

dsc_0008

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…

dsc_0018

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.

dsc_0020

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….

dsc_0026

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…..

dsc_0036

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….

dsc_0051

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….

dsc_0043

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.

dsc_0044

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..

dsc_0081

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.

dsc_0085

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….

dsc_0121

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…

dsc_0125

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!

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment