Aaargh! I had made written notes and forgot to bring them with me to the net cafe, so this will need to be done from memory!
From Hamburg, I made the journey to Osnabrück as a stopping off point on the way. It was late-ish before I got going or I could have probably made it all the way in one go, but I don´t like doing silly mileages in the same day. Osnabrück wasn´t anything exciting, but the Stellplatz, next to the municipal swimming pool, was safe and the rain it did come down, so I retreated into Hermione´s comfort and got an early nite, post of some shopping at the local Lidl grocery store, where I bought, amongst other things, a punnet pf fresh strawberries for all of 39 cent! Unfortunately, i got suckered by paying the Pfand, or deposit, on all the plastic and glass bottles I had bought, so those will need to be returned before I leave Germany!
Anyway, next day, Friday, on to Cologne, or Köln as the locals say. I found the Stellplatz, which is fairly new and not in the book, luckily enough it´s well signed from the main road into the city. It´s by the river and handily placed for the city centre. I cycled in along the banks of the Rhine and was soon at the quaint old Altstadt, with it´s many traditional ´Brauhauses` and restaurants. Beer, obviously, is a favourite drink here, although it´s not as cheap as one may think, as the glass sizes are small. But the beer is good anyway!
I found my way up to the Cathedral, which is really massive and Gothic.
Sadly, it wasn´t to be a good day for the weather and the rain came down again and I needed to duck into a shop and buy a brolly. The centre is all pretty modern architecture, since the Allies basically bombed the city to bits in the last war. It´s nice enough though and has a good buzz about it. There are many tour boats plying their trade along the river and quite a few ships doing full cruises of the Rhine from France to switzerland, which would probably be lazy fun.....
I had a few drinks Friday eveing after returning to the van to get dry, and frequented various bars, the first one had a Jägermeister promo on and had the ´Jägerettes´ in dancing on the tables, along with their hilarious dancing stag (a guy in a furry suit) who must have been sweltering. They were handing out little test tubes of Jägermeister free (tastes like cough syrup!) and also silly garlands and necklaces that light up. It was all good fun though and lively pre- late night drinking before hitting yet another bar which was jammed and then a club that played the strangest mix of bad cheezy music. The Germans all loved it though. It was about 4am that I tumbled into bed, so next day was a late start.....
The weather had dried up and was looking nice. Again, I cycled in and locked up the bike and had a proper look around the city. I decided that I´d do a river boat tour on Sunday. During my meal on Saturday evening, there were no free tables, and 2 guys asked could they sit at my table. We got chatting, 1 German guy, Lothar, and his friend from New York, Meade who was on holiday. Anyway, the conversation was buzzing along and it turned out that they were going on a Rhine tour on Monday, but from further down the river, and asked would I like to join them on that, so I agreed. We all went to a club later, which was quite good, but by just short of 3am, I felt wrecked and headed home. Sunday was spent as a lazy day, swimming and lounging around.
Monday, we all met up and took the train to koblenz, then to Boppard where we joined the boat. The cruise was very nice. castle after castle!
Pretty town and the river at that point is very picturesque. We got off at Bingen and had dinner and beer! More beer!! On Tuesday, I moved on to Dusseldorf and initially had to park up on the street and go and check out info on the net for a proper parking place. I found that there was one down by the river, so moved Hermione there, then met up with the 2 lads again and we had some lunch, then Lothar drove us out to Essen in his car to a place called Sollverein; an old coal mine that's been adapted into galleries and workshops, as well as a museum of the mine that you can wander around. The complex is vast and you would probably need a full day to explore it completely. We visted the 'red dot' museum; an exhibition of items as diverse as pens to cars that have won the red dot design award. It was quite interesting in it's own way. We also stopped in to a resaturant that has been built in the old boiler room, and they've managed to keep some of the old machinery and incorporate it into the building. We sat and had a drink there. I found it slightly pretentious to be honest. Lothar and Meade were going to vivit Lothar's mother in Essen, so they dropped me at the Hauptbahnhof (Central Station) in Essen and I took the train back to Dusseldorf, although for the life of me I couldn't get a ticket out of the machine!
Next day I walked a good bit around the old and new parts of the city, ate lunch and headed back to the van. I twiddled around for a bit down at the river. There are a number of bars just in front of the Altstadt that were fairly buzzing with life. One is a cocktail bar with an old fire engine set up as part of the bar area and in and around the decking area where the seats are, they've poured in sand, so that it's a bit like sitting at the beach! I headed into the Altstadt later on around ten and had a few drinks in a bar called Engel that was playing (to me!) good music and called it a night around 2am, heading back on foot to the van where it was nice and cool in the night breeze.
The 2 lads flew out to Barcelona Tuesday evening and it was a bit strange doing my sightseeeing alone again..... Tomorrow I'll do the short hop south to Bonn, then from there on Friday to Amsterdam. My journey is coming towards it's end and this will be my last weekend, so I'm hoping for good things from Amsterdam!