Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Nienburg, Mittelweser (Germany) - Monday, 3 October

We breakfasted on the ship, having prepaid, and disembarked around 8am. We headed straight into Lübeck, only a few miles, although as it is on the south of the city, it seemed that we went quite a long way round. The city was very quiet for a Monday morning. We parked by the river and had a wander round. It was very pleasant, people fishing, sun shining. It was all a bit too early so we moved on. We wanted to avoid the inevitable traffic around Hamburg so planned to take a route south to Lüneberg.

Before we left Lübeck, however, we located a Lidl. As we drove into the car park, we realised it was virtually empty. I went over to the entrance and saw that it should be open. What was going on? As I walked back to the camper, a lady came over and said today was a "feiertag" (holiday) and so the shop was shut. Anyway, we found a garage open and bought some long life milk and a few bread rolls so we wouldn't be destitute. Amanda went online and ascertained that today is German Unity Day, a public holiday, presumably since 1989.

On we went, a very pleasant drive down to Lüneberg. Parking was a problem initially as there seemed to be a disproportionate number of "parking houses" which are out of bounds to our camper, unless we want to lower the roof. However, going down a side street, Lüner Straße, we found a space just by the church. It was then just a short walk in to the centre of the town. Here, our ears were assailed by the sound of live music and found a crowd gathered round a band, Lazy Beat Bones. They are a school band whose members are disabled and able bodied and were rather good.

Going on to the town square, there was more music and suddenly we were among numerous stalls. Far more (and better) than a Christmas market. It was a three day event, the fourteenth annual Lüneberger Sülfmeistertage, celebrating the town's history and heritage of salt mining. There was music, food and beer stalls, crafts and all sorts of other things. We grabbed our lunch for later, one roll each of brown shrimps and Bismarck herring. Apart from these festivities, none of the shops were open.

We had a quick look round the church of St. Nicholas, just over the road from where we were parked, an impressive building dating back to the 1400s. Neither this, nor any other buildings in the town suffered damage in WWII. Lüneberg is noteworthy for being the place where Montgomery accepted the German surrender; also, Heinrich Himmler's ashes are buried in an unmarked place somewhere in the surrounding Lüneberg Heath.

We planned our overnight stop at Nienburg and had a meandering drive across country to arrive here around 4pm. We are amongst other camper vans alongside the River Weser. I took a walk into town, pleasant enough but not particularly noteworthy.

A very civilised start to the day, with breakfast from 7.30 to 8.30 included in the overnight charge, then disembarkation at 9 (still on Finnish time) and the weather is lovely. Although we wouldn't want to do such a long journey again for a while, it has been a very good experience. Once again, the old fashioned feel suited us. Peace and quiet, very restful. Geoff did go a little stir-crazy yesterday, but a trip to the gym helped.

We drove straight to Lübeck, having put our watches back an hour. Even so, it seemed terribly quiet for 8.15 on a Monday morning. Was this rush hour? We parked by the river, and strolled back towards the Tourist Office, admiring the old red brick buildings. No shops open yet, but that was not surprising, and we decided not to wait another ten minutes until the TIO opened at 9, as we were a bit uncertain about the lawfulness of our parking place.

The decision had already been made to avoid the motorways around Hamburg this time, so we headed south, putting Lüneberg in the satnav - a random choice. After two days on the ferry we had an empty fridge, so stopped at Lidl. No cars in the car park, and no sign of life. It was now getting on for 9.30. As Geoff went to investigate, it dawned on me that it must be a Bank Holiday of some sort. A kind lady meanwhile had approached him, and explained in German that he was able to understand that it was indeed a public holiday.

As we continued on our way I used a day's data roaming allowance ascertaining that today is German Unity Day, a celebration of Unification, and everything is well and truly shut. All Day! I also did some research into Lüneberg, and learned that it had much of historical interest, old and relatively new, to offer, both as a Hanseatic town which had not suffered in the war, and of significance in relation to WW2. Montgomery took the German surrender here, the town hosted the Belsen trial, and Himmler committed suicide here.

We were fortunate to find a garage with a shop, and there we purchased one of two remaining cartons of UHT milk and half a dozen rolls, the best on offer, and enough to see us through. We do have a few tins of stuff remaining in our dwindling store cupboard.

Finding somewhere to park in Lüneberg proved a bit of a nightmare - all roads led to car parks with height barriers - but then, in escaping from one of said dead ends, we found a two hour roadside parking space next to St Nicolas Church, and right in the middle of the old town.

Lüneberg is a particularly attractive town, and we were already enjoying it when we came into the Town Hall Square to the sound of singing. A school band/choir, called The Lazy Beat Bones. They were very good and I will see if I can find out more about them when I can get internet access. We strolled on down the next street, where there were a few street food stalls. And then we emerged into the main town square to a full scale street fair going on. Think German Christmas Market without the Christmassy tat, just loads of great food stalls and some really nice craft stalls. It was the last day of a four day annual Town Festival. We made some purchases, some edible, some not, and got back to the camper with just enough of the two hours left to look around St Nicolas Church, which was really well worth the visit.

The satnav led us through what seemed like a rather circuitous route, which may have been to avoid a closed road, and was also in obedience to instructions to avoid motorways, to the Camperstop we had picked out at Nienburg. One very strange thing we noticed as we drove is that autumn hasn't arrived here yet, and all the leaves are still on the trees. So different from Finland, where they are settling in for the winter. It was an enjoyable meander through quiet roads and small German towns, but it is possible that the motorway may beckon tomorrow!

Nienburg itself is an unremarkable place, but the municipal Camperstop, on the banks of the river Weser and a short walk from the town, is very pleasant. And it has electric hookups, an essential requirement tonight to chill the fridge!

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