December Reflections 15: Difficult day in 2020

Oh, wow, we have to pick just one from all of those difficult days?

Sticking a pin into my diary, I come up with The Day That We Didn’t Stay In Germany.

Back at the beginning of September we set off from home in the hope of travelling to Germany, through Austria and beyond, to Northern Italy. We had a notion that we might simply keep on going and spend our winter in Sicily if all turned out well. A Fool’s Errand of course, but we were trying to be optimistic at that time.

(A note here: German offers particular challenges to motorhome travellers. We had discovered this earlier in the year on our first abortive assault on that country. We normally plan our travels as we go, often the night before, using the Internet resources at hand. Directory sites find us a suitable location, we check the aerial views for suitable dog walking, and use Street View to check out the immediate surroundings and to see what sites actually look like. Not in Germany, we don’t! Germany has privacy rules that disallow Google Street View and this make it far more difficult to do pre-visit checks. Also, Germany has mountains and mountains get in the way of Internet and phone signals – as we had found out previously at Oberprechtal, where it was impossible to do any planning at all. It was a complete blind spot.)

We were fully aware that reports were coming out of Germany that the place was full. The German Government had urged people to holiday in Germany this year and not to go abroad. The Brits were crossing over into Germany to avoid going into France…

We did reach Germany and we stayed for two nights at the campsite near Bad Bellingen, where we have stayed previously. It was very busy, completely full in fact and we enjoyed it far less than our previous stay there. We were happy to leave early – we had planned for three nights.

Our following planned stop was at a Stellplatz at Oberprechtal, where we have also stayed on a previous visit. We had plans to try out the charming traditional restaurant and to go hiking in the hills. We had a backup campsite nearby in case of the Stellplatz being full but we set off in plenty of time in order to bag a good pitch before other vans arrived later in the day.

We arrived in the late morning but still well shy of lunchtime. The Stellplatz wasn’t full but it was surprisingly well-filled and the existing parked vans were not sensibly distributed. Finding a quiet corner for Dusty wasn’t going to be easy. We debated moving on but decided to make the best of it, pitch up with the ramps to mitigate the slope and go walkies (it’s stunning there). First things first, Mr L wanted to service the toilet cassette. He hadn’t serviced the van at Bad Bellingen as the service point there isn’t as accessible as the Oberprechtal one and there were people, vehicles and children all over the place. It would be easier at our destination. And so it would have been, if only there had been a Black Waste point provided. There isn’t one! Clearly we had no need of it last time and so hadn’t registered its absence.

Our need was pressing and so we packed up and went off to our backup campsite, only 34 Km distant. We expected to take half an hour and arrive before reception closed for lunch.

Well, it turned out that most of that 34 Km distance was via a twisty, turny mountain round with no overtaking. We did battle with the inclines and the bends and also with the locals who didn’t give a hoot about the solid white central line or the stern warnings about overtaking. It was an arduous and stressful journey and it took far longer than the half an hour that we had expected.

I was so delighted when we came to the T-junction and transferred to a proper road. I won’t call it a Main road because it was nothing like a Major Road.

Pleasure was short lived. Traffic was heavy. Think “Lake District on a Bank Holiday Monday”. We soon happened upon oncoming vehicles flashing their headlights and thence to a (short) tailback. Emergency vehicles were coming up fast behind us.

An RTA at a road junction at the edge of the local town had clearly just happened.

Fortunately, it was possible to drive around the chaos as civilians were directing traffic until the Services arrived,

We reached our destination with no expectation of finding Reception open. it was 1:30 and we settled in to wait until 14:00. Then we noticed a woman looking at us. She was shaking her head and making throat-cutting signals. WTF? Mr L got out to check opening time and engaged one of the many passing people coming from the site in conversation. The site is full, he was told, and so is everywhere else – don’t waste your time in looking.

By now we were feeling hot, very hungry, very tired, extremely stressed and not a little anxious. Both cat and dog were complaining and making demands with regard to toilet, food, and water and not necessarily in that order.

There was a smell. An awful smell… Mr L took Nell out for a wee while I cleaned out the cat’s travel cage and then we looked at each other and wondered what to do: “France isn’t far away…” And we agreed to leg it back across the border, park overnight at Soufflenheim and then take stock. We could always return to Germany in the morning.

Legging it was a bit more challenging than expected. That accident had caused a very long tailback by now and a diversion was in place that meant that we had to take the van through the centre of the Medieval town, over it’s cobbles, and through its narrow, twisting streets. It was slow progress.

It was tea-time by the time that we reached Soufflenheim but a great relief to find only two vans in the Aire and plenty of room for us. It’s a pretty awful Aire as such places go but it’s fine for a simple overnight stop when all one needs to do is to lay one’s head down and forget about a dreadful day.

Overall, I feel that my Difficult Day pales into insignificance against some of the days that others have experienced in 2020 but this is my life and it has been charmed so far this year. I am one of the very lucky ones and I am grateful for that. But I can say that it was a pretty dreadful day on my personal scale – as it stands at this point.

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