We Couldn’t Park Diva in Hamburg, Germany…..
….so we ended up in at the nearest Ikea 15 miles out of town. They had plenty of WIDE open spaces, and parking garages with 8 feet high entrances. Unfortunately, the city of Hamburg lacked both.
In fact, Ray ended up making one of the most miraculous maneuvers in this big ol’ metal box I have ever seen as we ended up almost slicing the top off of our van as we attempted squeezing her into one of these “mini-cooper-tastic” garages head on. I must admit, as we circled round the town center (for the 4th time in desperation) the city truly did look stunning. “HO-diddly-HUM.” Perhaps the next time we’re our ‘Long Way Down’ through Europe…..
Well, the good news is that we scored some some hardcore zip locks at Ikea (my personal fetish for those that know me) and got to go to my very first German Grocery store and eye up some of the local delectables (artsy fartsy MEAT… who knew?). But the best bit about missing the great city of Hamburg and its ‘deceptive parking spots’ was the fact that we made it just outside the city Hannover to a lovely little place called Irenensee Campground where funny enough, we ended up arriving just ‘after hours’ and had to camp just outside of the gates in the ‘after hours camping spots.’ Even better, we had to wait for cars to go through the gate so we could run through with them and use the bathrooms. (as there were no facilities on the outside… can you imagine, “LYSS, LYSS— a car is pulling up…. READY??! OKAY… GO!!”) Now, certainly, you ask…. how could this be the best bit?
Because this is when Peter in his St. Pauli over sized sweatshirt and his big black ‘supped’ up VW pulled up….. and this is when our miserable ‘after hours camping spot’ was magically transformed. This is when I realized that the whole day revolved around us being here; “missing opportunities,” to have THIS chance-meeting.
SIDENOTE: The first thing I noticed on Peter (besides his daunting red rodeo moustache) was the “ST. PAULI” SWEATSHIRT that he was wearing (as my hometown is St. Paul- MN)….. I later learned that no, this was not a crazy cosmic sign —but that it was a German Sports Club (Football) located in Hamburg, Germany….. Silly me.
Now even Ray, truthfully said to Peter at some point of that fun-filled-music-listening-story-telling evening that if he met him on the street, perhaps he would have been slightly, how do you say….. ‘intimidated’ by his appearance? But I think we can all remember a circumstance in our lives where we have misjudged…… and, in turn– missed out, or….. took the risk– and gained. That Monday evening, just 20 KM’s outside of Hannover, the Wyatt’s gained. The next morning after feeling as though we had known each other for a lifetime, Ray cooked all 3 of us breakfast in-between our VW’s and we then said our Goodbyes…. (I think Diva was showing off and started first time, however much to HER satisfaction Peters ‘newer model’ took a few more turnovers) and as we paid the 15 Euros to stay ‘outside the gate’ on the way out, I didn’t even mind….. it was ALL worth the story now to tell you.
Wednesday, September 7th- Dortmund, Germany:
Then there are some that just judge on accents……
Like when we pulled up ‘after hours’ AGAIN (it was 4pm, mind you) into Campingplatz Ruhrtablick in the area of Dortmund where a lovely German man whom lived in a seasonal caravan on site (this is very common at these campsites in Germany) pointed out the mobile number in which we were to call to pay for our ‘space.’ Well, first thing the German Lady asked us on the phone as we were stranded in the midst of nowhere in the entrance to her campground was “call me back in 45 minutes, I am on the other line.” Er?? Okay. And then….just before hanging up, in a rather odd tone added “Are YOU Irish?!” Well….. we found out when both she and her husband arrived to ‘check us into a space 5 feet from where we pulled into the entrance’ (super, we could have done that 45 minutes ago) that they once had a large Irish family stay with them that was very high maintenance and caused a lot of problems. She wanted to make sure we were not from that country. Ray very matter of factly added….. “You can’t judge a WHOLE country just by one family you meet, surely?!” …..there goes her judgment on all of the UK now, too….
SIDENOTE: Campsites in Germany used a ‘token’ system to pay for the hot water in showers. Some, even for the ‘hot water’ in the taps, as well! (for ex. the Campingplatz Ruhrtablick above was 50p per token. (each token = 5 minutes avg.) However, women bathrooms were fairly ‘classy’ with separate stalls that just had a mirror, sink and outlet. (so you could have privacy whilst you curled your hair, perhaps?) A nice lady at one of the campsites we stayed at had pointed this out to me as I was apparently trying to brush my teeth at the sink you wash your hands at when you come out of the toilet. Silly me. There is a special ‘stall’ for that!
Thursday, September 8th- Saturday 10th- Aachen, (said with a long throaty choaky ‘A’) Germany:
On our ‘Long Way Down’ (the whole 800 miles of it) from Phil’s house in Gedved, Denmark to our workaway job in France, we did have one massive pitstop to make as we had an old dear friend to see. Back in 2007 when we did our 6 month around the world we were on the go… touring 16 countries all within those months didn’t leave a lot of time to form as many friendships as we would have liked….. Much to do with the reason why we are taking our time and doing it a bit differently, this way around. But there was one special place in 2007 where we stayed for quite some time…. and that was Byron Bay, Australia. There, we had met our German friend, Steffen Bruning and have kept in contact with throughout the years. It was the perfect opportunity drop in and see him (in HIS hometown, of Aachen) and revisit some great memories with our friend…. FANCY PANTS. Now, many of you that know me, know that when I like someone—there is always a ‘nickname’ that will be associated with you. Ray couldn’t keep track when he first came into the U.S. of who was who and what was what…..one of my favorites was, “Now Lyss, someone’s nickname is WHISKER BISQUIT…. REALLY?”
But alas, when Steffen showed off his new ‘short shorts’ that day in Byron Bay and those long lanky German legs….well, the nickname just stuck, I guess. Within minutes of our meeting, we were right back to where we were on that campsite on that beach just 4 years ago. Just this time, a bit older…. a LOT pastier (it was the Gold Coast of Australia, when we were together last….mind you) but that didn’t mean we STILL couldn’t rock it out. Aaaaaaaaaachen Style.
We spent two fabulous evenings with Steffen at his father’s beautiful home right in the center of Aachen. (free showers, no tokens) We even skipped over the border on Friday to go to the Netherlands (which is literally 6 km’s away) to see where he went to University in the gorgeous town of Maastricht. Picture oodles of cafes lacing in and out of the streets with cathedral views…..alleys intertwining with shops bursting at its seams…. and at the center was the University, which was alive with students. (Very hip-Dinky Town-esque, for those Minneapolis friends) I couldn’t drink in the scene fast enough…. And of course, it always helps to have your own personal ‘tour guide’- Fancy Pants.
SIDENOTE: Something that I had learned whilst being a part of the University world that day was that unfortunately for Europeans there is one big thing lacking amongst their education system. And that’s ‘dorms!’ I can’t imagine not being able to experience my college education without being able to ‘live’ on campus? But here…. they either A) live at home and bus/drive/bike to school (which a high % do) or B) live in a flat near University (which is very expensive). That freshman year in Griggs Hall at UMD was probably one of the best years of my life. Europe may have a ‘more inexpensive’ education…… but the COED DORMS? Priceless.
Of course throughout all of this, there never seemed to be an end to the ‘Diva Saga’ and we were still dealing with the registration nightmare on the other end in England. So we figured while we were grounded for a couple of days in Aachen, we would call England (the DVLA- similar to our DMV in the states) and see how our English Number Plates were coming along. You see, we needed this magical number to be able to give to our insurance company by the 15th of September, otherwise—they would cancel our insurance, and we would have to start the process all over again. (In the U.S. insurance companies would be ‘chomping at the bit’ to take your money and run…. but here in Europe, we had too many factors going against us, and almost ‘scarily uninsurable.’ With a ‘new UK license’ by Ray (even though he had been driving in the U.S. for 10 years) an imported car, left hand drive and….. Well, I could go on. It was expensive, but when you are driving your ‘home’ and everything you ‘own’—you don’t take any chances, my friends.) So we called the DVLA in England to check on all the paper work we had sent before we left, (and this was EVERYTHING ORIGINAL—Ray’s new UK license, customs clearance doc’s, title, medical cards) and we almost dropped dead when they told Ray, “I am sorry sir, it looks like you may have placed the wrong zip code on your package (there are several, it seems)…. it may be lost within another departments mail. We can search, but in the meantime, I suggest you get together new documents and resend.” YOU. MUST. BE. KIDDING. Diva, you couldn’t live up to your name MORE if you tried.
The good news is that they eventually found our paperwork. The bad news is we got the registration number on the 16th of September…..
Our adventures in Germany were coming to a close, (we were just only 6 km’s from the border- it was staring us head on the past 2 days, really) and just like that—We were parting ways with Steffen again. It hadn’t seemed like that long ago we were just driving away in Byron Bay towards our next destination and waving goodbye. Funny how time moves so quickly….. Tschüss Fancy Pants!
Sunday, September 11th- DIVA DOES THE AUTOBAHN: I can tell you what else moved quickly, and it was the countries out my window….. I would just blink and we were in another one. From Belgium to Luxembourg to France all in one day, it was almost like Diva was on the autobahn. But wait! Then there was a moment—when Ray looked over at me when we were still in Germany and said “Wow, I wonder what it would be like to be on the autobahn with Diva…..”
And then, quite suddenly as a car shot past us three times our speed, there was a sign that read….. ‘AUTOBAHN.’ “Ray, I think we already are…..” Seems that Diva wanted a chance to play with the big boys in Europe, must be the ‘hometown pride’ in her.
Stay tuned….. VIVA LA FRANCE!