I’m Not Back At Home :: Δεν Γύρισα στην Αγγλία

Today was not the end of the holiday I really wanted it to be. Instead of driving back to England, I’ve only really made it half way.

I had a good breakfast in Boppard before getting on the road shortly after 9 – Earlier than planned but I wanted to leave sooner and get some miles covered early in the day.

I’d been on the road for a little under 3 hours when the car started playing up; The engine management light came on and it went in to its limp home mode – just as it had done in Greece. However this time I couldn’t clear it; Cue 2 hours of sitting on the hard shoulder of a Dutch motorway waiting for a breakdown truck. The truck came, he plugged his thing in to the car’s data port, said it was a faulty sensor, cleared the error, and sent me on my way.

All was fine until I got to about Brussels. I’d stopped at the Services just past Brussels for a drink and got on the road again – then the real problems started; The engine was misfiring. No warning light (probably because the guy who came out had cleared it), but something certainly wasn’t right.

I pulled in to one of the emergency breakdown lanes they have every few hundred metres on Belgian motorways…Played about with the car, stopped and started it a few more times, and decided I’d try and make it to the next services rather than sit on the motorway. Didn’t know how far ahead they were, maybe 20-30km away? I’d not long come out of one lot of services! But I didn’t make it that far. I drove off fine and for a couple of minutes it was normal again, before the misfiring began again. It was no good, I needed to stop.

Another 2 hours of sitting beside the motorway.

This time the driver managed to identify the real cause of the problem; A faulty valve was sending exhaust fumes back in to the engine. Definitely not right! When it became too much for the engine it would send out an error message and that’s when the light would come on, and when in this latest incident the engine would misfire.

So… Where now?

This late on a Sunday – and a bank holiday weekend (Pentecost) for most of Europe – there was now no chance of being towed back to Calais tonight.

So instead my car’s been towed to a garage and I’ve been sent to a nearby hotel for 2 nights. I’ve got the number of the garage and will have to call them on Tuesday morning.

The result of this is that tonight I’m in Aalst. My room has a good view of the motorway. I think there’s a park within 10 minutes walk, and about a 30 minute walk to the centre.

Might as well make the most of this… I’m here until Tuesday (at the earliest)…

But now I think I’m just going to stick the TV on.



Today’s Mileage: 214.9
Accumulative Mileage: 3505.8

Journey Map

Germany Again :: Η Γερμανία Ξανά

Bodensee as seen from Austria. On the left is Switzerland; on the right is Germany.

Tonight is my last night abroad and I am staying back in the area of Germany I came to during my first trip to Germany in 2006 (in the same hotel even); the same place I came to when I first drove to Germany 2 years ago.

I started with a good breakfast at my hotel in Bregenz. After checking out I took the Pfänderbahn to a viewpoint above the city – 1064m in height. The views from the top allowed me to see all the way to the Swiss Alps in one direction, to Germany’s Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria in another direction, and across the city of Bregenz and the Bodensee Lake in another direction.

I also enjoyed wandering around the free-of-charge Tierpark (animal park) at the top of the mountain, home to a range of Alpine animals. The deer were too far away to see properly but I did manage to get this photo of them…

I got on the road I think at around midday and set the Sat Nav for Stuttgart. I had a good 4 hour journey ahead of me and Stuttgart was roughly half way between Bregenz and Boppard.

Arriving in Germany I was back on the Autobahn, and going fast. The Autobahn today also gave me the first big traffic jam I’ve had since the M25 3 weeks ago.

In Stuttgart I stopped off at the Fernsehturm (the TV tower), to enjoy the views across Baden-Württemberg and to enjoy a drink and a light lunch in the Panorama Café.

Stuttgart, The capital of Baden-Württemberg, is Germany’s 6th largest city
Boppard-am-Rhein, Rheinland-Pfalz

My arrival in Boppard marked the first time since Lefkada that I have seen other British cars in any great number. There was the odd British camper van in Switzerland and I got a thumbs up from a bike on GB plates who overtook me in a traffic jam on the Autobahn today.

After I had checked in to my hotel and then walked in to town enjoy my last evening meal abroad. By dinner time tomorrow, I’ll be back in the UK. In some ways I’m so close to home, yet so far away at the same time! Driving on the left will feel weird after 3 weeks.

The last couple of days haven’t been without their problems; Somewhere along the lines my passenger side wing mirror has been damaged – I don’t know by what, but I think it happened while I was parked in Italy, it is like something has hit it.

I’ve patched it back up as best I can and it seems to be holding OK but I’ll want to get that fixed sooner rather than later. I’m still not 100% happy that the alignment of the mirror is totally correct, so I’m being extra careful when changing lanes.

The other problem is I have another warning light which has been on since Athens (it did go off briefly this afternoon but then came back on). The light is telling me a bulb has gone. The only trouble is I can’t figure out which one, everything which I think should work, does.

Other than that so far so good and I’m now within a day’s driving of the UK on roads I know fairly well, now that I’m back in an area of Germany I know well. It’ll be a long day on the road tomorrow – Maybe as many as 14 hours including stops – so I will need to stop plenty of times, drink plenty of water, eat a good breakfast/lunch etc.

So given that I’ve got a long day tomorrow, I’m going to have an early night, I’ll go in to my room and stick the TV on for a bit (I can get some BBC programmes out here, albeit dubbed in to German, but that doesn’t bother me) and I did manage to get a BBC channel in English last night, which was showing W1A and Live At the Apollo – I think it is one I’ve seen before; Josh Widdecombe talking about going on holiday and being asked by friends and colleagues “can you get me…” which turns the last day of his holiday in to a day of going round looking for things, like in an episode of The Apprentice. Somehow I felt this was quite accurate!

Gute Nacht,


Today’s Mileage: 304.5
Accumulative Mileage: 3288.9

Journey Map

Bavaria :: Βαυαρία


My first of 2 mornings in Bavaria started with a good breakfast in the hotel, various rolls with a choice of jam, ham, cheese, honey, etc, an egg, yoghurt – the normal German breakfast.

Today not as much driving as the last 2 days. The Sat Nav estimated I should be able to get to Sindelsdorf in under 3 hours. Sunday is also a good day to be driving on the Autobahn – no trucks!

Before I left Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber I went for a walk in the old town and a little way round the outside of the City Walls, signposted as the Tower Rail. Selection of photos below…

I had time to browse one of the tourist shops, and before getting on the road I sat in an Eiscafè with a nice cold drink. Then I got on the road – filling up with yet another tank of fuel (I’d got through 2 tanks in 2 days) before getting on the Autobahn.

The roads were quiet and free-flowing for most of the journey. There were 2 traffic jams, one on the A7 caused by roadworks, and one on the A8 just outside Munich – a car was on its roof in a field next to the Autobahn. A reminder that, while the accident rate is no higher in Germany than it is elsewhere in Europe, despite the higher speed, when things do go wrong they go badly wrong.

But that only added half an hour to the journey time the Sat Nav estimated when I set off from Rothenburg. I made up for lost time when the roads cleared; When the roads were clear, when traffic flow and speed limits allowed, I went fast. Going downhill I briefly got to a GPS speed of 183km/h (113.7mph according to Google) with an indicated speed on the dashboard of 119mph – and still people would overtake me as though I was standing still!

Getting round Munich was easy enough; From the start of the A95 at
the München-Kreuzhof interchange on the outskirts of Munich, it was a simple 30 minute drive to Sindelsdorf.

A few km after joining the A95 I went round a corner, got my first glimpse of snow-topped Alps less than 30 miles away, and at the same time it clouded over and started to rain.

I got to Sindelsdorf at 15:10 and despite the rain it was warm enough to sit on the (sheltered) terrace with a drink while we talked; I unloaded the car after the rain stopped.

In Sindelsdorf I stayed the night with Alison and Dieter; Alison is Grandad’s cousin, but until now we have never met. It is useful to know that there are little pockets of friends and relatives around the world where I can go and be welcomed by a friendly face.

For dinner we got the BBQ going to cook the beef and lamb (New Zealand influencing the choice of meat), then went in to the sitting room to watch the TV – Death in Paradise and Lewis (both dubbed in to German – It wasn’t the German which put me off, but rather the characters all having the wrong voices). This was followed by a bit of Tatort, the German Police drama which I watch in England (sometimes with and sometimes without subtitles), while we looked through the family photo album.

Tomorrow, I’m heading in to the Alps to stop at Innsbruck, in Austria, before continuing to Sterzing in South Tyrol – an German speaking region of Italy.

Gute Nacht.


Today’s Mileage: 182.6
Accumulative Mileage: 866.4

Journey Map

Fast Through Germany :: Γρήγορα μέσω της Γερμανίας

Looking from Schloss Drachenburg towards Bonn and Cologne

After I left the hotel this morning I got straight on the road and pointed the car towards Germany for another 300 mile journey.

My first stop for sight-seeing was Königswinter, not far from Bonn. It took around 2hrs 30 to get there – the only delay caused me taking an earlier exit off the Autobahn to go in towards the centre of Bonn, rather than towards Königswinter, but I soon corrected myself!

Königswinter is next to the Rhine river I went in order to see the nearby Schloss Drachenburg which I got to by taking the Drachenfelsbahn (Drachenfels Railway).

Schloss Drachenburg
Drachenburg Railway

I had a late lunch in Königswinter (Schnitzel… What else when in Germany!?) before setting off on another 3 hour drive, to Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber in Bavaria.

I’ve had a clear run most of the way so far – Some slow bits going through all the roadworks (there are lots of those on the Autobahn), but otherwise I’ve reached Bavaria and have not been stuck in a traffic jam since the M25 last night.

The journey in to Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber was a particularly good one – Once I got past Frankfurt it was as though everyone left the Autobahn and left it all to me. I had the best part of 50km (30 miles) on an almost empty, completely unlimited A7 Autobahn. 165km/h (102mph) in lane 1 with Bavarian radio playing Born to be Wild.

At one point my speedometer was reading slightly over 110mph – The published top speed of my car is 114mph. Normally, traffic flow doesn’t allow such speeds for a prolonged period of time but today, there was no traffic and so I could just… go fast.

I got in to Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber just before 8, checked in to my room and went in to town to have a walk about, and to get a light dinner (I just got a sandwich from the supermarket – having eaten a full meal in Königswinter).

Most British stereotypes of Germany are actually Bavarian; Rothenburg is a distinctly Bavarian town. When I arrived at my hotel I was greeted by staff wearing the traditional Bavarian dress. It feels so different here compared to Königswinter!

There are many City Gates in Rothenburg – to the point I started singing ‘Underneath the Arches’ to myself each time I walked through them.
Marktplatz, Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber

An easier day of driving tomorrow – I should be able to reach Sindelsdorf from here in under 3 hours. It’s Sunday tomorrow, usually a good day for Autobahn driving.

It’s getting late so I’m going to bed now.

Gute Nacht.


Today’s Mileage: 366.3
Accumulative Mileage: 683.8

Journey Map