Going Deutsch
Practical Motorhome|November 2017

Keen to make a proper trip to Germany, keen walkers Geoff Crowther and wife Chrissie headed for Bavaria, taking in war memorials, tasting city life and following stunning alpine trails.

Geoff Crowther

Where to go for our summer trip? Fancying a change from France, after much discussion we came up with Bavaria. We’d flashed through Germany on our way to Scandinavia a couple of summers back, and I’d been through it on a motorbike trip to Poland, but we hadn’t yet spent any time there.

We’re avid walkers, along with our two dogs, so the high country of Bavaria looked appealing. We had several weeks, so we’d be in no hurry, and the idea of a slow, rambling road trip began to take shape.

Planning? Well, we booked a ferry from Dover to Dunkirk, bought some guides and that was about it. Hoping to use aires and stellplätze as much as possible, there’d be no need to book any campsites.

Catching the Last Post

Our preferred Channel crossing allowed us to again use a favourite aire in Hondschoote, near Dunkirk, and from there, we hopped across the border into Belgium.

Chrissie and I particularly wanted to experience the Last Post at the Menin Gate in Ypres. Parking on the outskirts of the former garrison town, we walked with the dogs through parkland outside the old city walls.

We were surprised to see half a dozen motorhomes in a large car park by the sports centre, so we joined them. From there, it was an easy amble to the Menin Gate. Last time I was here, my labrador Tilly and I watched the ceremony with no fuss, but today the crowds were seven or eight deep. Nevertheless, despite a limited view of proceedings, it was still a very moving experience to hear the buglers perform their daily tribute.The sombre spectacle couldn’t fail to bring a tear to the eye.

Waving goodbye to Ypres, we drove eastwards to take in some of Belgium’s finest industrial architecture. First up, the Strépy-Thieu funicular lift on the Canal du Centre.

Completed in 2002, this spectacular structure is quite breathtaking in its immensity. The biggest boat lift in the world, it can carry the very largest of those barges you’ll have seen if you’ve been anywhere near a European-style canal or river. We watched in awe as one of these vessels – complete with Mercedes on the rear deck for the skipper’s personal use – crept into one of two massive water tanks before being lifted over 73 metres to continue its journey along the canal high above.

Next on our itinerary, and closely associated with the previous site, was the Plan Incliné de Ronquières, an inclined plane lift on the Brussels to Charleroi canal.

Another amazing structure, this comprises two vast water-filled containers that lift or lower boats, on rails, along a mile-long slope.The tanks run on dozens of wheels and we watched, standing on the canal side, as one made its slow progress down the incline. Watching the tank dock and another huge barge disembark to make its way out into the canal again was simply amazing.

Some poignant memorials

Some years back I was an avid watcher of the TV series Band of Brothers, the story of the US 101st Airborne Division Easy Company’s journey through Europe during the World War II; so I was keen to visit Bastogne, a key location in the Battle of the Bulge.

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