Claudia DowellSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Travel and touring’ written by Claudia Dowell
On 10 January it was time for my first Practical Motorhome tour of 2016 – and Germany was the destination. Collecting a motorhome from Hymer's HQ in Bad Waldsee for a short tour of two great border cities and Germany’s Black Forest seemed an easier option than driving a motorhome across France and then, as it turned out, across quite a bit of Germany. But I hadn’t reckoned on mainland Europe’s version of winter.
I'd been in central France just a week before our trip to Germany and it was sunny and warm, but what a difference a week makes! The drive from Calais to Strasbourg was through intense rainfall – it was a little like driving through a monsoon – and there was no let up the following day, when the heavy rain turned to sleet, making the roads treacherous and it still harder to see all the way to Bad Waldsee in Baden-Württemberg (southern Germany). That’s 892km (555 miles) of intense, exhausting concentration. But we weren't going to let a bit of weather spoil our trip!
I was sharing the driving with Practical Motorhome colleague Bryony Symes, driving over in a car before swapping to the 'van. I was picking up Hymer’s M-LT 580 4x4, a twin two-berth that we'd then pitch at Campingplatz Adam, an open-all-year site that was just 15 minutes from Baden-Baden and with easy access to the Black Forest.
Being a 4x4, the Hymer was quite high off the ground, which, usefully, put me above much of the spray from other vehicles for the four-hour journey back to the site. Its high centre of gravity, however, made it prone to being rocked by the gusty conditions and turbulence from passing traffic. Come the end of that drive, my arms were tired after working so hard just keeping the 'van straight – I was more than ready to test its comfy bed and get an early night.
The M-LT 580 4x4 comes in at just under 7m long and weighs in at 4050kg, but I was more interested in the height (2.9m), in case we had low bridges to negotiate in the old towns we hoped to visit. However, I'm delighted to report that the 'van actually felt quite compact and I parked it with ease in the car park behind the Landgasthof Engel hotel and restaurant where we stopped for our first experience of German cuisine.
The hotel turned out to be just a 10-minute walk from the site, which was handy for our second visit there – it meant we could have a glass of Riesling with our dinner! We got to the site late and parked close to the lake on a stretch of Tarmac I imagined was reserved for overnighters, but being away from any saturated ground suited us fine and, with hook-up and the lovely warm washblock close by, we stayed there for the duration. And we were most impressed with the motorhome's Truma Combi 6 heating – the 'van warmed up quickly when we came to settling down for the night and remained snug until morning.
Soon we were on the move once more and a test of the Hymer's manoeuvrability came again, when we drove to the very beautiful town of Gengenbach. Initially, we parked in a car park on the other side of the railway track from one of the town’s watchtowers, managing to slot the 'van properly into a parking space, before making a recce on foot.
We soon discovered that this was going to be a great place for photography. So we decided to take the 'van through the watchtower gate (height 3.2m – I was pleased I’d checked the Hymer’s height!) at the top end of town, loiter on the wrong side of the road (I’m glad we had German numberplates – the police did make an appearance, but I gave them a friendly wave), and puzzle a lot of people in order to get the perfect shot! We had to make a few circuits through the narrow streets, but actually German roads are pretty good on the whole and the parking is quite disciplined, so it was all managed without incident.
We then meandered slowly back to the site through gently sloping vineyard country, drinking in the scenery. Was that a wild boar I saw in the roadside scrubland?
This really is a beautiful part of Europe and one I'd not explored before. The four-wheel drive of our Hymer was a big reassurance, because while I've enjoyed many a low season tour before, it's never been in conditions quite like we experienced in the Black Forest. It was a timely reminder that whatever time of year, it's great to jump in your 'van and get away for a few days.