Campsite: Camping Sonnenwiese. Wifi: Charge of approx. €5. Given a dongle, but this didn’t work. We had our money returned! Armed with the Alan Rogers book for camping in Europe, we chose a site in Vlotho and booked ahead, for two nights. The campsite had extensive grounds and we parked Harvey on a level, grassy pitch next to a large pond. This was our first experience of German camping and we were excited to experience it. As it wasn’t yet high season, the campsite was quite peaceful with only a few other campers around. However the grounds were quite full of static caravans, so this was obviously a popular place for German families to re-visit.
The site is at the foot of a hill bordering the Weser river. At one end it has its own inland harbour for speed boats, and at the other end a huge wheat field.
The facilities were good – clean and orderly, with recycling as a priority point. More importantly they had a great adventure play area for grown up kids, and I had fun whizzing around on their miniature zip wire and climbing on their assault course. They also had a large lake in the middle of the grounds, which apparently was for swimming in, but didn’t look overly appealing at that time. A family of moorhens were making the most of it. We sampled the onsite restaurant for dinner, which seemed (with my limited German) to offer no vegetarian options. My usual staple in moments like this is to request fried eggs and chips – it’s never yet been refused, although a waitress in Spain once teared up over it, as she thought that I had some mysterious illness because I wouldn’t eat meat. I drew a Picasso-esque picture to show to the waitress and received back a massive plate of fries, with two eggs sunny side up and a side of curry sauce (mental note: must learn the German for Tomato Ketchup). Xav fared better than I, as he is an adventurous diner and happy to try anything available. He ordered the traditional pork schnitzel: a tenderized thin slice of meat that is coated with flour, eggs and bread crumbs, before being fried. This was accompanied by a local pilsner beer, full of earthy flavours and the aroma of hops.
The rest of the occupants in the restaurant were watching Germany play against Portugal in the World Cup. Not wanting to show ourselves up as outsiders we heartily cheered along, a few seconds too late, each time the Germans scored, or ran across the pitch. There was a very excitable atmosphere in the room and we didn’t want to antagonize anyone. A lady at the table next to ours had a cute little dog (hund), which I tried to befriend. However it growled at me every time I looked at it – obviously it had spotted that we were interlopers. It was time to retire for the evening. By the way Germany won 4-0 that evening. That night our sleep was regularly disturbed by an over amorous frog, whose loud, desperate croaking went on into the small hours of the morning. I had to call forth my vegetarian sensibilities in order to suppress my murderous instincts.
The amazing sun, that had welcomed us the day before, unfortunately turned to rain the next day. We used the opportunity to do some laundry on-site. Having been lulled into thinking that all Germans speak perfect English, we had been surprised to discover that this wasn’t actually the case at this site. Nor were any of the campsite signs provided in English. This was tricky when trying to use the washing machine, as none of the instructions made sense, and we were unable to access Google Translate. Nevertheless, we had a stab at it and managed to wash and dry our clothes to an acceptable standard. Also, we found for the first time in our travels, that the showers came at a price and were strictly time regulated. A common theme we discovered at this campsite, and future ones we stayed at, was that you either needed tokens or swipe cards to operate the shower and you usually got between 4 – 6 minutes out of them. It became a case of getting wet, turning off the tap, lathering up and then rinsing off. At first you feel paranoid that your water will run out before you are ready, but in reality this never happens and 4 minutes is perfectly adequate for most showering.