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Saturday, 29 September 2012

Dusseldorf trip 2012 - The Caravan Salon

The Düsseldorf Caravan Salon is Europe's largest motorhome and caravan show, held in the Messe Düsseldorf, a huge complex of 19 exhibition halls and a Congress Centre built alongside the brown waters of the Rhine and a short train journey from the city's heart.

This year the show ran from 25th August to the 2nd September. It is primarily an event for the movers and makers of the motorhome industry - indeed when you buy your ticket it will say “Trade Visitor” on it, and in fact there is only one hall, for accessories, in which you can actually buy anything!

However, that doesn't stop thousands of members of the motorhoming owning fraternity coming to see this vast display (stretching over 9 halls) of every major continental make of motorhome and many component manufacturers - from all the popular base vehicle manufacturers to suppliers of cabinet fittings and plastic mouldings. Some of the more extreme motorhomes will boggle your mind in size and scale, as will the sheer quantity of motorhomes, caravans and campers to inspect.

Imagine arriving at your local campsite in this!

28th August 
There is nothing to stop you using the huge Messe site as a base for visits to the city, once you have had your fill of the show you can easily purchase another day’s camping by seeing one of the many stewards milling around.

There are excellent toilets and shower blocks near the service area and an entertainment marquee, so it’s quite possible to behave as in a normal campsite, albeit “getting on your bike” for certain functions if you are parked a long way away. A trip in the van to the motorhome service area can be a bit long winded however, depending on the circulating traffic, and you would need to leave someone to stop your space being taken by an arriving camper.

Open hard standing near the service area 

On the Messe company website (www.messe-dusseldorf.com ) there is a 360 degree panorama over the complex and you can even take a virtual helicopter tour - if you have the bandwidth to spare! There is a supermarket, a doctor’s surgery and a host of other services, together with an underground station with connections to the airport and central train station. The website is also a very useful guide to Dusseldorf city itself – there is a lot to see!

There is more about the exhibition on the organisers website (www.caravan-salon.de), all of the facilities and an interactive hall plan where you can track down the stand of any particular exhibitor, if you want to pre-plan your visit.

The numerous food halls serve food of excellent quality and in large portions, and there are open air beer stalls where you can relax in the central square.

As you enter the Messe off the A44 there are four lanes of traffic, the two right hand ones have a picture of motorhomes on the digital display on the overhead gantry. If you want to drive straight onto a pitch its best to take the right hand one as the left one feeds into the right - as we found out as we queued in the after 1600 rush, some drivers can be reluctant to give way in turn.

I guess he's ready for anything!

If you need to "pump and dump" there is a signposted service area to the left. Here you will be whistled through with the aid of blue gloved assistants who will find and operate your waste tank dump valve and fill your water tank. I think they may draw the line though at toilet cassette emptying!

A very efficient service!

In the same area there is a ticket and information office where you can buy show tickets in advance. Pitch tickets with electric hookup can be requested in this office, but other pitch tickets can only be bought on arrival from attendant stewards - who will allocate you to spot of their choosing!

As we arrived, we pumped and dumped and waited for Liz and Roger, who toed their van in behind us. There was then a bit of a Germanic fight in the queue as the three lanes merge into one and we thus got split up - they were eventually shown a pitch on a different field. We all ended up nose to tail and under the trees – so much for using the solar panel!

Nose to tail under  the trees!

The pitches with electric hookup are only available on fields 13 and 14 (800 vans) and are closer to the Caravan centre with the entertainment marquee, information kiosk and van service, but none are more than a reasonable walking distance away. According to the official website there are 1200 spaces without hookup, but on our visit I reckon there were many more campers than that - and still fields to spare.

At the time of writing the price for an electric pitch was 22 euros and 15 without, differing from the 30 euros/15 euros shown on the website. Differently to campsites, you pay for the day, nights are free between 1600 and 0800, which gives a bit more flexibility to your arrangements. It is not possible to pre-book for pitches and no motorhomes will be allowed in after 2200.

The free shuttle bus service to the main show complex runs every 5 minutes to and from the parking areas until 1930. There are stops at the end of every field, so your position doesn't really make much difference.

Get used to low flying aircraft....every five minutes!

The only real downside to the site is that it is directly under the flight path from Dusseldorf  - which probably explains why it's been put there in the first place! The noise from the planes taking off and landing is thunderous and continuous, making conversation outside virtually impossible for a few seconds every five minutes or so. Thankfully it stops late evening, but only until 0500, when all but the heaviest sleepers will be jettisoned out of their slumbers by a large aircraft just overhead! Those of a nervous disposition might want to consider two other campsites that are listed on www.caravan-salon.de

We eventually spent three days in the actual exhibition halls, and still felt we could have seen more. There are opportunities to try stuff out like electric bikes and “Segways” (those sci-fi looking two wheeled people transporters) which could easily soak up another day.

Finding an exhibitor on a stand who spoke English was sometimes a problem, and only the larger makers had brochures in English, but we had some very useful discussions with component suppliers, who knew their stuff inside out.

The next show runs from 31st August to 8th September 2013

29th August
Our first day at the show.  On the huge Hymer stand there was a cutaway van, in which you could see all the intricacies of construction. All the major van/truck manufacturers were there in force – Fiat, Mercedes, Iveco, Renault, Ford and it was interesting to see the various construction methods of the base vehicle chassis.

Every motorhome manufacturer had a huge range of vans on display, and if you’ve ever wanted a look in some of these fabulous truck based homes like Concorde, here’s your chance. The range of panel van conversions was also exceptional, both in their quality and variation, something for every taste and some brilliantly innovative ideas, though at the top end costing as much as a luxury coachbuilt.

Now, that's what I call a garage!

We have always loved our Rapido, but have often felt that they have lost the plot a bit in the years since we bought ours - too many design changes, often not thought through or tested properly, though that criticism could be levelled at almost all the major manufacturers. Many say Hymer are not what they were. Our verdict was that Frankia currently holds the crown for quality design and construction and solid practicality and value.

Thinking seriously about electric bikes (lighter and more flexible in usage than a motorbike or scooter, environmentally sound – charge up with your solar panel!) we came across Flyer bikes, a Swiss firm making very expensive but very desirable electric bikes. You can order virtually any permutation of their seemingly endless specifications and indeed try them out on site.

http://www.flyer.ch/ (Unfortunately most of the website is in German – google translate to the rescue!)

We had a large and excellent lunch in one of the many food halls, and in the evening some wonderful roast pork butties for dinner from one of the market type stalls outside the entertainment marquee. I think the Germans can vie with the Americans for the size of their portions!

Beer, chat and chips in the Marquee

Inside the large marquee, there was another food outlet set up with a fairly varied menu of fast food (which changes daily). The band was loud and not particularly memorable, but the whole atmosphere was one of happy, family fun, seated at the long benches under the colourful roof. Drinks are ordered from your table.

30th August
The second day. We were intrigued with the concept of Notin motorhomes, this company builds its own A Class and coachbuilt bodies, but will fit out the interior with a design of your specification. They offer basic designs, but basically anything is possible (for a price obviously) and you can go to them with anything from a sketch on the back of an envelope to a finished CAD drawing and they will adapt and incorporate your ideas. Some unusual “standard” features they offer include exclusive electric opening windows complete with electric blank shutters that make a great security option, and also some good domestic size shower trays, of which we are definitely in favour.

This time we only managed a sandwich and salad for lunch as we were still digesting the previous day’s!

Let the outside in with the Challenger Prium XL

One of the most innovative vans we saw was the Challenger Prium XL, also marketed by the parent Trigano Group as the Chausson Sweet Maxi. From the electrically raising and lowering central bed, to the massive “wing” opening side door, the vertical storing bike rack and locker, to the fitted exterior gas griddle cooker that folded out of the side – it was certainly the most “out of the box” design we came across and one that actually worked. Sue was very taken, but I thought it more of the perfect weekend activity van rather than a long term travelling vehicle – though it had a commendable amount of storage space.

Get your burgers here!


We finished off the day with more beer in the tent and some weird Greek dish of fried Chicken bits (I think) with Tzatziki and chips. Because of the racket from the band we moved outside but struggled to find a seat, eventually grabbing one under a canopy out of the drizzle. Shortly the heavens opened and a bunch of burly Germans started snuggling up, in fact shoving us so vigorously up the bench to get some shelter, we nearly felt too cosy!
It soon appeared that their English was far better than our German and we started chatting about touring in Germany. The guy next to me turned out to be in charge of the Concorde stand (mega motorhomes) and invited us for coffee next day – an offer that unfortunately we ran out of time to take up.

31st August
Third day. This was the day for the accessories halls and trying to track down some elusive spare parts. I managed to identify and even purchase (unofficially) some plumbing components and we spent a long time gazing at satellite equipment and LED lighting. Some stands were strictly trade only and were roped off to the public but many others had English speakers and were only too happy to chat and inform about their products. If you want to learn about the Styrofoam that goes into the walls of your van, or how the latest heating systems and fuel cells work, you can get an answer here, even if they offer to send you an answer by email. Getting an English brochure was also tricky but a few of the major firms produced something.
Lunch was a superb piece of poached salmon with white wine sauce - the standard of food in the halls was very high, though the Jaeger Schnitzel we had for dinner in the tent tasted like the chicken and chips we had the night before (or perhaps it was the beer!).

All in all we thoroughly enjoyed the show experience and would definitely come again. if you have a particular focus, you will see what you need to see and find out what you need to know - if you are just looking, you could be there for the whole duration!

All is organised with Germanic  efficiency, as you might expect - ticketing, food, shuttle buses, only the pitch allocation became a bit haphazard at the peak afternoon arrival time.

If you can't stand the sound of low flying planes overhead, then you might want of travel in from elsewhere, but to be honest the only bother it was to us was to wake us up early and slightly disrupt our happy hours! 

The next show runs from 31st August to 8th September 2013

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes been two years on the trot very good show
overnight Hull to Rotterdam then Hotel in business district 40 euro night inc breakfast.
Tram to the show cost 2 euros. eat at night next
to rhine old town very very nice good food.
Going this year again after bank hols maybe sep