Saturday 6th June
“John. Bathrooms fee.” I awoke with a start then looked at my watch 5.49am. The alarm was set for 5.50 so I’d had a minute of sleep taken away all because dad had also woken up one minute early. He runs a tight ship when going away and I suppose it isn’t a surprise I ended up being similar in my planning and ensuring I always allow plenty (not just a bit) of time to spare.
We left shortly after the official departure time but I sensed that we were still well ahead of the schedule. The journey to Dover was uneventful and thankfully there were no delays on the motorway. Arriving at Dover there was a queue of cars and if we’d been running late it may have been a bit nervy but as it was we were at least 30 minutes earlier than the recommended time. I saw a Contiki and a Topdeck coach and thought about how they’d be feeling. First day nerves mixed with excitement, tiredness and probably a slight hangover.
Once on the ferry I made my way to the stern (back) of the top deck so I could get a final look of the white cliffs and some photographs as it was a beautiful sunny day. One truck had difficulty parking but eventually the road lifted in to the air and the gate at the back of the ferry was closed. I hoped for a dramatic blast of the horn to announce our departure in a scene reminiscent of Titanic and for at least one person to be waving us off but there was nothing.
Once we were underway it became quickly colder so once we were beyond the surprisingly narrow harbour walls I headed back in side. Dad Jenny and I ordered a early lunch before seeing if there was a view from the front. Whilst I would never try and recreate that “I’m the king of the world” scene (don’t pretend you don’t know) I had at least hoped the top deck of the bow (front) would be open to the elements. It wasn’t, It was a fully enclosed fancy looking restaurant (as far as the ferry goes anyway) with a beautiful panoramic view of France that only those dinning were allowed to appreciate.
Once off the boat I as chief navigation officer did what any modern navigator does and set up the SatNav. That duty fulfilled I then looked at the paper maps supplied but already I had put blind faith in to “Tina”. I had every faith the system had improved from the days when it took people in to abandoned tunnels and besides one of the maps in front of me had been published when I was still at university, before Watford were last in the premiership.
I think Dad suffered a bit of mistrust especially when I realised shortly after Brussels that it was taking us through the Netherlands. By now I had an in depth know knowledge of Belgium’s road network because I had been intensely studying the map. This was purely to try and stay awake because I’m hopeless at doing so in a car (or train) as dad knows from last weekend when I just fell asleep without warning after he’d helped move my stuff by driving me to Balham from Ealing. As it was the SatNav was of course correct.
At one stage we were on the E14 Motorway through all 3 countries but the style and infrastructure changed in each which seemed quite amusing at the time (it had been a long drive). The Belgium section was slightly uneven and in need of some tlc, the Dutch section was well maintained and had trees along the side with a nice hedgerow up the centre, whilst the German section had road works every few kilometres however somehow it didn’t cause huge traffic jams. The German section also had an unlimited speed restriction and it was quite an experience to hear the roar of a super car (it was so quick I didn’t see which) shoot by as we trundled along at a modest 77mph.
Ultimately the journey had been uneventful and we arrived in Ramsceid only slightly later than initially estimated despite two quick stops. Once checked in to the hotel we agreed to meet up about an hour later for dinner. My plan was to nap and shower but I got distracted by the free WiFi and feeling no fresher I went to our meeting place. Jenny had decided to have an early night so just dad and I headed out alone in the search of food.
We walled through the outskirts of Lennep from the hotel and eventually came to a bar. It didn’t serve food and looked a bit seedy from the outside so we carried on. Unfortunately being a Sunday and in a small town in a slightly less touristy area it meant the signs were ominous unless we just wanted a kebab or pizza. Instead after a failed attempt to buy train tickets to Wuppertal due to a rarity German inefficiency. One ticket machine wasn’t working and then the second would only accept exact change. We were 50c short so we knew we’d have to come back.
We followed the street round and came back to the pub we’d started at. By now I just wanted to sit down anywhere so we went in and as they were showing the build up to the champions league realised we’d actually struck gold. We tried a number of beers including Bitburger, Frankenheim “alt” old from Dosseldorf, Fruh – kolsch and Warsteiner. The bar man was Italian and very friendly though I most of the conversation was with my “papa”. We stayed for the first half of the champions league before returning to the hotel.
Sunday 7th June
When I was younger my grandad had a cinefilm of the Wuppertal Schwebebahn and even though it wasn’t a steam engine I was still captivated by it. I admit I therefore had a child like excitement when I realised we would have a day to explore the town and to ride the Schwebebahn. We caught the main line train to Wuppertal from Lennep having finally obtained “the exact amount”.
I think I had (unreasonably) expected Wuppertal to be frozen in time as I imagined it from the family home videos. I was therefore slightly disappointed to see a lot of modern construction work was taking place and realised it was actually quite industrial. I had hoped to ride the Schwebebahn Kaiserwagen, the historic carriages from those home movies but it was quite expensive (even though it included brunch) however ultimately it wasn’t possible because the tourist information centre was closed and we couldn’t buy tickets online.
Instead we decided to watch the Kaiserwagen however after a few stops we realised we were heading in the wrong direction. The Schwebebahn is a way locals travel around the city however I was still surprised at how busy it was especially as it was only a Sunday. We crossed over to the opposite platform and travelled to the station near the zoo where we saw the Kaiserwagen.
We then continued to Vohwinkel where we could see the workshops. This part of the town seemed nicer than the area around the main train station and we were able to find a coffee house. Some food revived me and by the time we saw the Kaiserwagen return I was over any initial disappointment at not riding it or at the town not appearing like it was straight out of a early 20th century history book.
Next we travelled the full length of the line and as we were first on had a seat right behind the driver. The first part of the route travelled above the main street before travelling above the river Wupper. It seemed quite a bulky construction but ultimately probably caused less chaos than the construction of the underground in London and is no less an achievement. Whilst monorails normally travel on a track the Schwebebhan hangs down and therefore sways quite a bit. I was beginning to feel the effects of this when we reached Oberbarmen (the other end of the line) 30 minutes later.
We walked through a park which ran parallel to the Schwebebhan and contemplated carrying on to the next station before we realised it would be better to get back on at the terminus. It was still only early afternoon and we weren’t entirely sure how to spend the rest of the day. In the end as it was a sunny afternoon we decided to visit the zoo however realising there was a football match on we jokingly considered seeing Wuppertal SV (ultimately they lost 1.0 and threw away the chance of promotion to the league above).
The zoo was actually very impressive and had a wide variety of animals including some I hadn’t even heard of such as the Drill where Wuppertal is the main breeding programme of the 4 zoos in Germany where they can be seen. Other highlights included numerous penguin species, lions, tigers, orangotangs and gorillas which all seemed to be in good condition and in decent sized spaces for their size and number. Unfortunately it was probably to hot for the polar bear so he remained hidden as did the wolves and the other bears. In all we spent a few hours and managed to cover most of the vast area.
There was a restaurant opposite where we all opted to have a snitzel and I had a Benediktiner weissbier wheat bear. The portion was absolutely enormous as dad had predicted but we all found the required space. I had partly hoped I’d lose weight on this trip but the portion size and the amount of beers I wanted to try were suggesting this would be wishful thinking.
We caught the Schwebebhan back to the main station in Wuppertal before boarding the main line train back to Lennep. On our way to the hotel we stopped off at the pub from the previous night to have a quick drink and to console the bar man on Juventus losing to Barcelona. That evening I watched a bit of the women’s world cup and saw Germany beat Ivory Coast 10:0 though the gulf in class meant it wasn’t an exciting game despite the score.
Monday 8th June
I woke up earlier than planned but rather than getting up and being productive wasted time on the free internet. However once my alarm actually went off I felt incredibly time efficient as I let a coffee brew whilst I showered. The coffee tasted disgusting so that ultimately saved time in drinking it and I was just about ready when dad knocked on my door a few minutes before the designated 9am departure time.
Once we were ready to go I set up the SatNav for our first destination Goslar a UNESCO world heritage listed town. The route was direct via the motorway however dad suggested going a scenic route and cutting out a corner of the motorway. I plotted a path and when we did ultimately disobey the SatNav it tried everything to get us to turn around. Eventually it gave up and fell silent and appeared to have begrudgingly accepted our new route.
Once we eventually arrived in Goslar We started off by walking to the market square to get some lunch at the Butterhanne. I ordered my favourite German meal; curry wurst mit ein beer. I started with Radeberger before I realised they had a micro brewery. I therefore felt I had to have a second and at least try their self produced Gose Gold.
The old town of Goslar is UNESCO world heritage listed and whilst I admit I hadn’t heard of it before the holiday my expectations were quite high. Dad loves reading a map so he plotted our walking route through the town. We started off following the ruins and path of the old fortification however in most areas there was no evidence of there existence.
Unfortunately in a town which is apparently so picturesque our walk initially took us past a shopping centre and an area where in truth there wasn’t as much to see. Eventually we did rejoin a path that took us along the famous cobbled streets, past an old watermill and towards the mediaeval Kaiserpfaiz. I later read it was only listed due to a nearby mine and its ancient water management system which perhaps explained why my expectations weren’t met
I set up the SatNav for our final destination Wernigerode which it turned out was under 45 minutes away and we departed Goslar. It was certainly a pleasant place to break up a long car journey and to spend a couple of hours but I won’t be back to explore.