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Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Europe Trip 2012/13 - Bad Harzburg to Wurzburg

28th January. 
Bad Harzburg to Goslar is an easy 30km drive; parking was more of a problem and eventually we parked our motorhome in the car park below the Kaiserpfalz or Imperial Palace – which is also handy for a walk into town: €1/hour.

GPS: 51.9029 N, 10.4282 E

Goslar was founded in 922 AD and became one of the most important seats of power in the Roman Empire. Mining played a significant part in the development of the town and the nearby vast Rammelsberg ore mine has been turned into a complex of museums and underground tours. The mine and the Old Town were placed on the UNESCO heritage list in 1992. 


The Goslar Kaiserpfalz 

The Kaiserpfalz has an impressive façade and setting and is well worth a look. It was built for King Heinrich III in 1050, but when the emperors had had their day it gradually fell into disrepair. By the mid 19th Century it was being used as a store for grain and ore from the mines, even the chapel had been used as a prison, and it was on the verge of collapse. Restoration by the government of Hannover began in the late 19th Century and the huge grand hall was eventually decorated with historical paintings that took Hermann Wisilcenus 18 years (yes, eighteen) to complete. 


Lunch was now in order and a short walk away we found the Paulaner Wirsthaus, looking every inch a traditional eating house and away from the tourist restaurants on the main square. The menu covered the full range of popular Barvarian cuisine: Gulasch soup, salads, fish, and the usual sausage, pork and veal dishes. Two main courses, with a well-dressed salad and two 1/2 litre mugs of beer came to €33.20. Good, well presented food in a “traditional” atmosphere.

The Paulaner Wirsthaus is in a great setting 


The early sun had now disappeared and a walk around the rest of the town was a chilly affair. We saw and heard the bell chimes on the Kaiserringhaus building in the market square, but unfortunately the Rathaus was closed for repairs, so its spectacular wall and ceiling paintings went unseen. There is a lot to see in Goslar and you would need more than a day to do it justice; the market square is a classic example of medieval German architecture and obviously the perfect setting for a Christmas Market.

Look down to the Kaiserringhaus in the market square 

The skies were looking broody as we headed for Hahnenklee; we had left it a bit late and as the dim evening light disappeared the rain turned to snow, increasingly heavy. Visibility started to become a problem – let alone the potential for mishaps in the snow, thus we thought better of running up a minor mountain road in a snowstorm and headed down to Clausthal-Zellerfield, for a free night by the bus station instead.

GPS: 51.813 N, 10.3360 E 

29th January 
Hahnenklee is another health resort and hiking centre, and feeling sorry to have missed it we headed back, to find a relatively easy drive up to the village and the car park already cleared of snow. There is Sani-station and several bays set aside for motorhomes.

GPS: 51.8572 N, 10.3429 E

There is an impressive wooden church, the Gustav Adolf Stabkirche, but Hahnenklee’s latest claim to fame is the Liebesbankweg or Lovers walk: a level 7km circular trail set up in 2007 and featuring 25 wooden benches representing different phases of love and marriage – from first meeting to 75th anniversary; it was bit too damp and cold for us!

The Gustav Adolf Stabkirche

The start of the Lover's Walk!

We moved on down to Göttingen and headed for the Badeparadies Eiswiese or “Penguin’s Paradise” spa and wellness centre – about a 20 minute walk from the city centre – which has a large stellplatz as part of its extensive parking area.
€9 per day, €0.5/kWh electricity, €1 water. Wi-fi is €1 for 15 hours, but we found it dropped out repeatedly, even though we were close to a transmitter.

GPS: 51.5213 N, 09.9307 E  

30th January – 1st February 
We awoke to an air temperature of 8.5° – quite a welcome revelation after so many days in freezing conditions. After a lazy morning we packed up our kit and went for a swim. As in Nordhausen and Bad Harzburg the set up is very high-tech but this was the slickest yet: you pay by the hour, either from the desk or from a vending machine; slip your plastic card into an entry barrier and your time starts now – however if you forget your towel and miss the deadline you won’t get out! Helpfully, there is another vending machine within the enclosure, into which you can pump a few more coins to secure your escape. 

Göttingen has its origins as a medieval market town; became a university town in 1734 and is now a university city with high-tech centres of research, including the Max-Planck institutes. Carl Friedrich Gauss – whose name was given to the unit of magnetic flux – was one of Göttingen’s sons, along with, apparently, forty other Nobel Prize winning scientists. 


In the front of the Rathaus is the charming Gänseliesel bronze of a young girl taking her geese and ducks to market; apparently, the local university students have a tradition of kissing her on the cheek when they graduate!

The Gänseliesel taking her geese to market 

The interior of the Rathaus is also worth a look for its ceiling and wall paintings. Entry is free: up the steps and through some imposing iron gates. St Jacob’s church was another interesting viewing: the geometric designs painted on the columns; a mix of traditional and modern avant-garde stained glass; and the very unusual altar set it apart.

The grand interior of the Town Hall 

Leaving Göttingen, we headed for Hann. Munden – a pleasant rural drive through National Park land. Here we found an overnight stop in a large multi-use car park; actually on an island in the river, a short walk over a bridge takes you into the town centre.
€6 per night. Electricity: 1€ per kWhr, Sani-station: €1.

GPS: 51.4201 N, 09.6487 E 

2nd February 
Hann. Munden is a delightful small town sited at the confluence of 2 rivers, the ridges of their valleys surrounding it on 3 sides. Full of beautifully preserved half-timbered houses, it has a small central square of which the intricately painted Rathaus is its centrepiece. It must be one of the most homogenous half-timbered towns we have seen, almost every building was, or appeared to be, an original; none of the usual gaps for a modern pastiche or sixties eyesore.

The original half-timbered splendour of Hann. Munden 

We didn’t stay long, just picking up a few vegetables at the Saturday morning market, but it had a lovely feel; small, intimate and unspoilt - a real gem.

Heading southwards, we passed through or by Witzhausen, Bad Sooden, Eschwege, Bad Hersfeld and Fulda. It was a very pleasant drive on sweeping, almost empty, well-metaled roads, though rich green countryside. The sun even made an appearance for the first time for as long as we could remember – the joy of the open road… almost.

The sting in the tail came in Rotherman, when the driving suddenly became urban and I found myself staring at a strange, grey round column by the roadside, several dark red curved windows set flush into its surface. Just as we passed it blinked at me – a red blink – and I realised I’d been had by a speed camera! Despite doing my best to follow the endless variations in limits I’d obviously gone over the top on this occasion. Now we’ll have to wait and see what follow up there is. Grrr…

We eventually settled at the spa town of Bad Brückeneau There are two stellplatz here; we chose the one just over the road from the swimming pool and by a disused railway line, with room for about six vans.
€3, including pump and dump. Electricity €1 for 8hrs.

GPS: 50.3118 N, 09.7973 E

The newly cobbled streets of Bad  Brückeneau 

The town itself has fairly recently had a comprehensive makeover in the cobbled street department – and a very fine job they made of it too. There is a fair sprinkling of restaurants, including Greek, Italian, Thai and of course Doner Kebab and pizza. Considering it was Saturday night it seemed very quiet and we weren’t tempted to eat out – got to save for my speeding ticket! Grrr… 

3rd February 
We allowed ourselves a Sunday lie-in and then eased our way back onto the B27: more comfortable driving through sweeping green countryside down to Würzburg – home to what is claimed to be the largest and finest baroque palace in Germany, and also the head of the Romantische Strasse, or “Romantic Road” down to the Southern German border at Fussen.

Würzburg is not blessed with a surfeit of stellplatz and we couldn’t find either of the ones listed in our 2013 Bordatlas; the one by the ARAL filling station seemed to have disappeared under a building site, and the GPS co-ordinates for the one by the Canoe Club took us to a general car park without any designated motorhome spaces or a canoe in sight!

We settled on the Winzerhof restaurant and guest house in Randersacker, a 15 minute bus ride out of the city centre. In a yard backing onto the main road, but screened by a high fence, the stellplatz was quiet enough – though I had to ring the intercom on the restaurant door to get the proprietor to come out and switch the power on. Although only €6 a night, the electricity is on a meter and charged separately. Also, irritatingly the toilet dump was shut off for the winter and there was nowhere to leave any garbage unless you rang the intercom.

GPS: 49.7600 N, 09.9782 E 

4th February 
It rained heavily again during the night and waiting for the bus down by the river we noticed that the flood waters had already claimed the bench seats on the bankside and that drivers were arriving to remove their vehicles from a nearby car park; how high was it going to rise?

Time for a “grand day out” in Wurzburg: day tickets from the “Frankenbus” driver cost €5.45 each and allowed us to use the city centre trams as well. We alighted directly in front of the Palace and found that the large car park in front is barrier-ed and off limits to motorhomes…grr!

The Wurzburg Royal Palace 

The Wurzburg Residence and Court Gardens – unlike most royal residences that have evolved over centuries and incorporate styles from different periods – was conceived, designed and built almost within a single generation. Architects, artists and artisans from the principal artistic regions of Europe collaborated and the principal court architect, 32 year old Balthasar Neuman had his work cut out to draw together and reconcile all the differing ideas, styles and egos. Construction of the basic shell actually took only 24 years, the poor Neuman being dismissed and then reinstated by different princes before its completion.

On 16th March 1945, incendiary bombs destroyed most of the city – and the palace, leaving only the shell of the building intact, except for the vestibule, staircase and imperial hall; which by the genius of Balthasar had been constructed with stone ceilings. The staircase, with its stupendous frescos by Giovanni Battista, and the great hall are indeed fantastic, and unique in our experience.

The view from the vestibule windows 

We have seen a few mirrored chambers in our travels, but the “Mirrored Cabinet” is stunning, almost overwhelming in its intricacy and artistry – all the more so because after the bombing it ceased to exist, but was, incredibly, reconstructed between 1979 and 1987 from no more that a salvaged fragment of mirror, a few photos and a watercolour painting of the original.

The Court Chapel was also amazing, not only for its original design of oval walls within the exterior rectangular building, the fabulously ornate stucco and gilding, incredible marbling and ceiling painting, but again for the magnificent restoration after fire and water had done their worst.

Amazing over-the-top decoration of the Court Chapel 


Looking for a quick lunch we paid our first visit to Nordsee: a fish and seafood fast-food restaurant chain that appears all over Germany (and other countries). The twist on the standard fish and chip model is that it sells raw and smoked seafood as well as hot meals. We couldn’t fault the quality, price or speed of service, just the fact that we had to go upstairs to find a seat! 


After lunch we visited a few heavily restored churches and took a walk on the medieval bridge over the river – now surging in great waves through the arches. Happily, the waters were still well below our wheels when we returned!

Next: the Romantische Strasse

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