Sunday, May 24, 2009

Reunited with the Grey Wanderer

Tiniest bit of Bremerhaven harbor

The Otello unloading

The Grey Wanderer on the dock

A German train in Buxtehude

Dietrich Buxtehude was a famous organist, Bach's idol, and I thought we'd hit pay-dirt with a lay-over in the village of Buxtehude; but he always claimed to be Danish (I learned) and never got closer to here than Lubeck, 100 miles away...oh well, his music is great, and you can hear seeds of Bach in it

22, Mai, 2009. So hier bin Ich, sitzen in mein campingvan, essen mein mittagessen--brot und kase and pigfleisch--und trinken bier, mit mein Frau. Wir in das Steller See campingplatz campen, in Bremen, Deutchland.

Not bad Deutsch pidgin, huh?

Largely through Vicki's persistence, we picked up the Grey Wanderer Friday morning in Bremenhaven.

We'd taken the train from Hamburg to Bremerhaven on Thursday afternoon. The Otello was due to arrive Thursday, and we had high hopes for Friday. Of course, Thursday was a national holiday, so there was going to be no unloading of the vessel that day. The jugend gasthaus (hostel) we stayed at in Bremerhaven was very nice. Friday morning, we commenced calling the shipping agent. Our liaison had called in sick (a four day holiday), but a colleague was willing to help us. She then called the shipping lines, who said not possible, call again maybe Monday. At that point, Vicki's persistence came into to play, persuading agent A to call agent B again, plead, cajole, threaten, whatever. It worked. They said if we could be there in an hour, we perhaps could get the van. A taxi ride got us there in half an hour. More waiting, more forms, more documents, more perhaps. Another colleague drove us to another office. More forms, more questions, more documents. Then the keys to the van appeared, and we were told someone else would drive us to the pier. (Bremerhaven harbor is very, very large, miles long where we were, and that was just the auto-carrier section; the container section is even bigger). Then they drove us to the pier and, behold, there was our van, the Grey Wanderer, already off-loaded, along with dozens of other vehicles. (Monday Schmonday, it was already debarked when they told us Monday). We quickly inspected it, ascertained nothing was amiss, and then drove it out of the port and onto the next adventure...customs.

Those of you following Vicki's blog know that in order to drive off into Germany, and the EU beyond, we had to plop down some $18k as a deposit, presumably against our selling the vehicle and evading taxes (or someone else's evading taxes). Whatever (as long as we get the $ back; at least we're not losing much on interest these days). (Germany, I might add, is the only EU country doing this...unfortunately, the vicissitudes of shipping brought us here). Monday Rebecca had wired the money, but, even by Friday morning, it was not yet in the German customs account in Frankfurt. It was looking like Monday, again, as we had lunch. At least we could sleep in the van in the customs parking lot until Monday morning.

But then, when we checked again after lunch, the money had arrived, and with a few more transactions, forms, questions, documents, inspections, we were on our way, out of Bremenhaven and on to Bremen, where the nearest campground is located (less than an hour's drive on the autobahn). It rained intermittently as we set up camp at the Steller See campground, the 220/110 volt converter does not appear to be working, we have no propane...but we were relieved and happy to have our van, our home, back, to start unpacking and organizing it all, and to get on with the rest, and major, part of our trip. RVing in Europe is something we have always wanted to do, for 30 years anyway, and now we're going to do it!

Oh yes, all the bureaucratic crap we had to go through reminded me of an adage to which I have long subscribed, at least since working in state government in the early 1980s: “one man's red tape is another's due process.”

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