I thought that with a few beers in me and a long walk and a good feed I would have slept like a log. I hadn’t taken into account the two caravans either side of my tent filled with two families of travellers from Birmingham. Their kids had been winding me up all evening; walking between my tent and my car and pretending to shoot me with their toy guns. That wasn’t too bad but their inability to walk past my car, instead of favouring to walk INTO it was testing my nerves a little.
The fact that they decided to stay up chatting, drinking and swearing until three in the morning was harder to take, especially with the number of miles I had planned to do today. When I woke up and started to pack my tent away I got chatting to two Dutch couples that were camping next to me. They were cycling from Holland, through Belgium and then on through the Alps and must have been in their early seventies.
It turned out that the lady who was chatting with me had a sister that lived in Mierlo. It really is a small world. We swapped presents. I gave them my pots of porridge that I hated and they gave me their spare coins for the shower which meant that I could have a double shower, and then said our goodbyes.
Just outside of the campsite was a petrol station and I filled up for the journey ahead. I had been averaging 60mpg since I left home and it felt like such an easy drive. I love that Mercedes so much and I was pleased to be taking it back home to the Autobahns.
I headed out onto the N15 towards Luxembourg, the forests and greenery of east Belgium flowing past me in one big beautiful blur. I passed through Luxembourg in no time, the sleepy town of Landau being the largest town I passed through and Ettelbruck being the prettiest. It was Christmas Day 1944 that General Patton liberated the city during the final stages of the Battle of the Bulge and the town square is named in his honour.
As I dropped down out of the hills of Luxembourg and dropped into Germany, there was almost an immediate change in the scenery, the traffic, the roads and the pace. The grassy green hills morphed into flatlands and the lazy winding roads of Luxembourg became wider and ugly with unsightly bridges over dirty rivers and occasional hideous looking industrial towns on the Saar and the Rhein.
It was as if I had passed through the capillaries and veins of Europe and was now in the artery heading for the industrial and financial heart. It really was quite a dramatic change. I skirted around Stuttgart and got hopelessly lost in Ettlingen whilst trying to find somewhere to buy lunch.
I ploughed on along the horribly busy autobahns that seemed to have an abnormally high number of Porsches and Mercedes all fighting to be the biggest dickhead on the road. With both companies seeing Stuttgart as their home, senior executives get to use the roads as a racetrack to test out the cars. That might not actually be true but it was the only way their driving made any sense to me and I am not noted for my sedentary pace in a car.
It was just north of Ulm that I nearly died as a truck pulled out of the inside lane towards me in the middle lane without either indication or reason to do so. If there had been one of the German racers belting up the third lane at the time it would have wiped me and them clean out but it was my only escape route. I was lucky, the same could not be said for my underpants.
I was getting tired and the skies were starting to look dark and ominous. I was about half way between Ulm and Augsburg, some way short of my target of Munich, when I spotted a sign at the side of the motorway for a campsite and so let fate be my guide. It seemed to take an age to get from the autobahn to the campsite but maybe it was just the ever-darkening imposing skies adding a sense of drama to my tent erecting.
I drove past the entrance to LEGOLAND, just 5 minutes off the motorway and my 10-year-old self was really pissed off at me for being this close to a theme park and not going in. Well off the beaten track, and by now under the gloom of a slight misty rain, I pulled into Camping Stubenweiher. http://www.stubenweiher.de It looked closed but after three circuits of the Bavarian Style reception/bar/restaurant sitting on the duck pond, a chap eventually popped out and took my cash and showed me to my pitch.
I sat in the car for 5 minutes deciding if the drizzle, upgraded from a mist, was as bad as it was going to get or if I needed to pitch the tent quickly in the wet before it turned into a full-on cloud break. I was hungry and thirsty and so decided to make a break for it. I got the tent up in no time at all with minimum fuss and sat under the shade of a tree and polished off a coffee and a tin of curried chicken.
Where I had pitched my tent, there was no phone reception and I needed to get my daily fix of Titchy Feet. Wandering back up the hill, along the windy roads that led through the cornfields, I could hear nothing except the gentle breeze tickling the trees and the occasional hoot and squawk of wildlife. Eventually I got my signal and had a good old catch up with home as well as hitting my daily step target on my Fitbit.
I wandered back down to ‘home’ and headed over to the bar to buy my shower voucher for the morning. I set up my laptop at a table for one by the side of the lake and ordered myself a beer. As I watched the ducks pottering about, chasing the fish that seemed to be nibbling at their feet, I looked at Google Maps and tried to nail the big question, Italy or Bavaria?
I pondered for a while, then gave up and had a quick check of the news to see what was going on. It was then that I realised that the following day, Saturday, was the Champions League Final and that swung it for me. I could watch the Juventus v Real Madrid match in Italy, enjoy some proper fancy Italian food and hospitality and spend the day driving over the Alps. What could be more perfect than that I hear you say? A fly swat and a mosquito net I reply. Never camp next to still water.