Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Hamburg Again

At the autobahn lay-by

We spent Sunday night at the carpark across from our former hostel, on Max Brauer Allee, part of the infamous St. Pauli section of Hamburg, and in the Schanzeviertel, where the alternative 20-somethings are said to hang out. (Most of them hung out outside our room's window last Wednesday night, until 5AM). Sunday night was very quiet on Max Brauer Allee. As hoped.

Monday was a day of errands. First, with some help from our friend Katrin, we found and visited the ADAC, Germany's equivalent of the US' AAA. AAA has reciprocity with ADAC, and we were thus able to get maps of Austria, Germany, Scandinavia, etc., camping guides, and a variety of other materials. Free. The ADAC central shop in Hamburg was quite impressive...not only travel and member services, but tons of travel maps and books, a travel accessories boutique, and more. For those interested, the ADAC is on Grossmoordam Str., #69, pretty much right downtown.

Next we moved on to what might have been the St. George section of Hamburg (our map was of the old city only), and the nice folks at Gas Meier, #53 Pappal Allee. They took care of our propane needs and gave us helpful advice as well.

Next we sought a camping/RV accessories/supply store. A stop at a helpful Hobby caravan dealership sent us to Camping Salon, #30 Schwarzer Weg. Some readers of this blog will be familiar with Camping World in the US. All too familiar. Well, imagine a store with 3 times the merchandise of a Camping World. But imagine it all set out in warehouse style, no clever/colorful/attractive displays, no special deals, just aisle after aisle of camping/RV Stuff, arranged on shelves and bins. And English-speaking staff willing to spend whatever time with you, explaining the nuances of LPG availability in Europe, merits of this kind of grill versus that, and so on, ad inf. The prices were decent, and we helped ourselves to several needed items, particularly vehicle levelers. The lumber ones I had fabricated in St. Cloud were just too big and heavy.

I should note that all our navigation about Hamburg—something we could never, never have done by ourselves—was handled flawlessly and effortlessly by Tom. He is a marvel.

We proceeded on, down the autobahn toward Berlin. The country is pretty flat, very bucolic. After a huge field of wheat, many many hundreds of acres, you see a small woods, then a huge pasture area, a few cows, then a commercial conifer forest, then another humongous wind farm. The wind farms are all over. Mile after mile. Then it begins all over.

Autobahns in Germany have changed in the years since we were last here. Some actually have speed limits. The Hamburg/Berlin autobahn apparently does not. We have resolved to drive the Grey Wanderer no faster than 60 mph...fuel economy, drag, impending senility of driver, safety, etc. Passing us at speeds probably twice that were scores of Japanese cars, Opels, VWs, Audis, a Porsche, several Mercedes, and one yellow Lamborghini that was as much sound as speed. It sang by, quickly, a great Italian basso, and then was gone in an instant. No Smart Cars.

Germany has very liberal laws about Wohnmobil camping, and tonight we are in a lay-by about 50 miles short of Berlin. The lay-by has a few 18-wheelers, a few campers like us, and a 24 hour cafe/restaurant/gift shop. An autobahn construction area begins right at this point, so all the traffic is slowing down to 60kph, very quiet. From what I have seen the last few days, Germans are very law-abiding when it comes to traffic laws; when there are traffic laws. Helpful visitors at the lay-by have already told us about cheap and quiet "frei camping" sites in CBD Berlin (one behind the Chancellry).

Vicki adds:

May 24, Hamburg again

We picked up the camper Friday after leaving a cool $17,400 with the Germans. No longer on my list of countries I like. Had a few f'alse starts--at first the shipper said not until Monday, but I begged and she called back and said maybe. So we jumped in a cab and went to the port. Camper was already sitting on the dock! We handed over $$350 for unloading and headed to customs. They didn't have the bank wire yet, so we thought we might just stay there for the weekend camping behind the large fence. However, about 2 pm it showed up and 30 minutes of paperwork later we drove to a nearby campground in Bremen. Mark hooked up the electric and it didn't work. We have tried every possible combination--power comes into the step-down convertor but no power comes out. So we spent two days with no electric and no lpg. Batteries got very low so we had to keep frig on minimum. Did do some shopping for groceries. About 25% cheaper than Ireland--about US prices. I had to buy a new robe--I had left mine at hostel in Bremerhaven--called, but no one had "found" it.

We got most things unpacked and put away. The camper itself is extremely comfortable. We just drove back to Hamburg after spending an hour or so in Bremen town center. I am at the hostel we stayed at last week using the free wifi--Daddy got the two bags we left here and put them in the camper. We will spend the night across the street in the parking lot--perfectly legal in Germany and only cost $5. The batteries recharged on the drive up here so we are good till our drive tomorrow.

Tomorrow the nice German girl we met at the hostel (she is living here temporarily) is going to help us phone around to find an lpg dealer who can "unpurge" our tank. Mark will send an email to the US company who sold us the step-down convertor and see what can be done to get the electric working. We are also going to visit the German AAA to get maps, etc. So hopefully within a day or two we will be ship shape and heading for either Berlin or Denmark.

1 comment:

kiwi said...

I'm glad you found an ADAC branch in the end - so sorry that the one I told you had closed down :(
Many thanks for the surprise in between the chocolate bars - it was my pleasure to help you, didn't expect any money for that :)

Have a save journey - I'll keep on reading your blogs,
Katrin aka Kiwi