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Chapter Two

Preparing the van to leave for our next destination, which after many discussions, we had agree upon Aachen, I feel a little saddened. I`ve become quite attached to this little Belgiun city. The sights are wonderful, the architecture spectacular and the people are so friendly and welcoming, but leave we must, and our trip will continue.

Finding our way back to the motorway (E40 Brussels) was pretty simple. The roads are well signposted, even though our two most senior members still found time to have a heated debate about if the signs knew better than they did. Once back on the motorway the calmness resumed and our drive to Aachen commenced.

We continue along the E40, upon reaching Brussels, the road widens and we start to look for the signs to Luik (Liege). The buildings of Brussels can be seen in the distance, but parking the motorhome in Brussels is something we decide against. After passing the turnoff for Vilvoorde the motorway passes over a huge bridge which gives you the idea of the size of the city. The last time we came across the bridge, on our way home was at sunset in a four hour traffic jam! We had a laugh remembering being overtaken by a car which was overheating, and was driving with its bonnet up, not allowing him to see where he was going, thankfully the traffic is running freely today. Coming off the bridge we now pass the airport and have a good view of the runway, no planes at the moment, but it is an amazing feeling when the plane is driving right towards you but lifts off at the last moment!

Leaving Brussels behind the scenery becomes again more rural. There are very few service station but it looks like this is to be corrected, as approximetly 80km before Luik we pass construction of what looks like it will be a very large and modern service station. A little further along we start to run along side the railway, which appeared only a few years ago, but has been built, one would think, to run high speed trains. It has been disguised and landscaped, so it is only noticable by its over head wires. Nearing Luik (Liege) the language on the motorway signs changes from flemish to french, and now following the signs for Aachen, our next destination, the motorway has become a lot busier. We pass some well known stores, Ikea, Makro and then a large shopping centre on the right. A good place to stop if you need to stock up on bread, milk or anything else you need or have forgotten. We can not stop, as if we add anymore to the van, we will not be able to move ourselves.
The roads have now become a little more hilly, and the rain is starting to hinder the view as the light starts to set over the motorway horizon. We finally reach Aachen and pull off the motorway at a big shop to have a cup of tea, some rest and pick up a few of the local beers, well it would be rude not to!

Once in the shop, the smell of the freshly cooked food is too much to resist and we decide to have our dinner and talk about the night ahead. The rain crashes down outside and the wind picks up so much we decide to leave Aachen and carry on to our next destination, the Nurburgring, as it is not that far away. We finish up our dinner, buy a selection of local beers and head back to the van thinking of what time we can do a lap of the ring in our motorhome in. The light has finally said its goodbye for the day, and deciding that the service station on the motorway would be the best place to stop, we pull in, knowing we are only roughly 30 mile away, and settle in for the night. There are showers (€2 each) available as well as wifi, for a price. It is well lit and it feels safe. All left to do tonight is to sample our beers and get plenty of rest for tomorrow and our flying lap!

Day 4

Daybreak at the Peppenhoven Service Station, and for the moment at least, the wind and the rain have abated. Breakfast and a tidy-up and we are back on the road heading towards Koblenz and looking for the sign ‘Nurburg’, Top Gear, eat your heart out!

The Fertile fields of summer now look empty and the trees are mere sticks, but everything is spick and span. Church spires rise up occaisionally to indicate the prescence of small villages along the way. There is, however, one blot on Germany’s copybook, it has to be said, and that is the awful graffiti on so many of the motorway bridges and even walls in general, just who comes out here to do this? and why? beats me! Turning off at junction 29, we head towards Altenahr, we pass fields of christmas trees of various sizes, some are only a few inches tall. The fields contain many hides, but although we keep looking we have not spotted any deers or wildlife yet, I suppose they are all in hibernation. We pass a summer roddelbahn (toboggan run) and a large hotel complex, Am Rossburg, in front of which is a lake, it all sits empty but promises hours of fun in the summer sunshine. It is a pleasant run through wooded landscape and one of the good things about travelling at this time of year is that the roads are quite quiet. Passing through three tunnels we go by a couple of pretty villages dominated by their own castles high on a hill above them. A fast flowing stream swells and starts to creep into the fields as it goes on its way. There is a huge campsite, Europa Camping on both sides of the road and a little further on the slightly smaller Camping Putzfield is watched over by a white chapel on the mountainside behind the village, one can only imagine how busy this area must be in summer with so much to do and see. The houses in the area now contain more and more solar panels, this has been a growing trend in Germany over the last few years and makes complete sense to me. We pass by the sleepy village of Honningen and notice lots of motorhomes parked up for the winter, a petrol station and a few shops. Only 20km to go till Nurburg. There are plenty of lay-bys along the way all with the command “Sauber Halten” (keep clean). Piles of wood are neatly stacked in readiness for the winter, and the white spirals of smoke coming from some of the chimneys show that winter is NOW! We pass through the town of Adenau and stop off at the bakery for some fresh bread rolls (open Sundays till 11am). It looks like a lovely town with plenty of shops and restaurants. You cann’t help but notice how pretty the entrances to the houses are with plant pots and small statues and such like. We turn off the main road just outside the town and start to climb quite steeply, we spot a castle on a nearby hilltop. Another layby appears and again “Bitte den Rastplatz sauber halten”, of course we will. The steep road twists and turns a little bit like a racetrack, through the woods with pines laden with cones. We make for the town of Nurburg and seven suped-up cars with eager young men turn off towards the start of the race track. Nearing the town we realise that the nearby castle had in fact been the Nurburg Castle. Being high up the pretty little town has lovely views over the surrounding countryside. There is plenty of room today in the parking lot opposite the huge building which houses the information centre, cafes, shops, casino, cinema, games rooms and even a large roller coaster which darts in and out of the building and shoots right through the main passageway. The Ring o Werk, entrance €19.50 takes you into a huge hall with 4-D Cinema of the track, historical exhibitions, Test centres, Motor Mania, Truck Grand Prix, Shop, Panorama bus (Simulator), junior formula 1, pit-stop challenge and the fastest roller coaster in Europe. Today there are only a handful of people wandering about, we certainly don’t have to worry about queues. We decide to go and inquire about prices and information on taking a drive around the track for future reference, we will come back with our youngest son and hopefully in better weather to take our turn on the track. We watch some budding ‘racing drivers’ start their drives and then move further along the road to a large parking area which gives a great vantage point from which to watch them pass by. In front of us they come down the hill and have to take two sharp corners and then climb the hill out of sight. In these rainy conditions two of the drivers skid making watching a little bit more exciting! It is hard to believe that this track first opened in 1927 and that the 20.8km track is still thrilling people today from all over the globe. Here you can race your own car, co-pilot, take a seat beside a proffessional racing driver, have a track day or improve your driving skills. The Nordschleife boasts to be the most beautiful tarmac anywhere from the north to the south poles, but it also bears the name “Green Hell” with treacherous cambers and blind corners it can be quite a challenge, but certainly an exciting one!

Before leaving Nurburg we have to make a visit to the Castle, we park as close to the steps as we can and begin the climb up to the castle gates in icy wind and fluttering snowflakes. There is an entrance fee of €3 each and only then do I realise I have left the money in the Motorhome! someone has to go back down and that will have to be the youngest and the fittest legs, certainly not mine. I sit and wait and catch my breath from the steep climb. As we walk around the ruins of the castle the wind whistles eerily through what is left standing and makes me glad that I don’t have to live in a castle. Climbing up inside the main tower was particularly scary, especially in the dark interior and on wet winding stairs ( I’m not good with heights at the best of times), but what a view at the top 360o of the surrounding landscape, and we could see all of Nurburg at our feet. Getting a bit too cold now and not much more to see at the castle so we head off back to the warmth of the motorhome for a cuppa!

We leave the E61 and drop down towards Koblenz. Fill our water at a service station and try the WiFi at the neighbouring McDonalds, No Luck! not like in England, you have to register and get a password and number and then you get 1 hr free the rest you pay. Will have to work out best way to log on to the internet. Travelling along the Rhine the water is dangerously high which is in stark contrast to two months ago when we were here and the levels were the lowest ever! Beware where you park when it is like this. The heavily laden barges still make their way along the Rhine but the pleasure cruise boats are tied up along the sides waiting for the warmer months and the visitors to arrive. Long freight trains run along the train tracks which run both side of the river. The towns are quiet and most of the shops are closed for the winter. Castles sit at each bend of the Rhine, their positions were for signalling in days gone by, today many are restaurants and hotels boasting beautiful views of the river down below. The colourfully painted houses along the Rhine look somewhat bleak in the grey winter light, but it is a magical area that never seems to lose its appeal, even in the midst of the winter. A little further on we notice a motorhome stop in the town of Bingen, where we pull in for the night. We had tried to stop previously in the town of “Trechtingshausen” however with the tight angles and low bridges, we would not recommend it in a vehicle of any real size. (Bigger than a transit van). Time for dinner and a relax.

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