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Published: October 3rd 2021
Shirley and I were ejected from the first class compartment on the train from Brussels to Stuttgart, but got to share a second class compartment with USA cuties Colleen and Pattie, as well as some other foreigners. We chatted with the girls at odd times and made it through to Stuttgart by 6am. We then had an hour’s uphill walk to the autobahn and were lucky enough to get two pretty quick lifts, the second taking us all the way into Munchen in a German kombi van. The two front seat passengers nodded off frequently during the 3-hour ride, but fortunately the driver didn’t follow suit. Shirley and I first wandered around the streets of Munich, took in lunch at a local restaurant, then finally met up with first Linda & Julie (ex Sundowners), then later Bob & Jules (plus a host of other Aussies) outside American Express in the afternoon. We collected our backpacks from the station, then made it back to the campsite, Camping Thalkirchen, packed with Aussie vans and personalities. We were pretty knackered from our lack of overnight sleep and crashed in the roof section of the van before having a slops dinner with all the troops.
All in all, we were part of a 'flotilla' of four kombi vans booked into the campsite, each ostensibly with 2 people (and paying for those), but in reality there were a total of 26 people, of whom 9 were assigned to our van – Bob & Jules, Shirley, Tony, Bob, Janet, another couple & myself. It was an uneventful night just sitting around and making acquaintances with Rick, Mick & Pru, Bill, Max, Gary, Sharon & Anne, Cheryl, Chris & Dave ….
There was only room for 5 people to sleep in the van, so the other 4 had to find space elsewhere. A big group breakfast next morning was remarkably well organised. Around 10am, a group of about 20 Aussies took a free bus trip into the city to see the 11am parade. It was a fun environment, with many Kodaks and a great unrestricted view from the gutter, and even got a few gulps of beer from a passing float. After following the procession, we made it down to Theresienstrasse, a big amusement park with around a dozen different branded beer halls. We decided to give Hofbrauhaus our custom, along it seemed with about a thousand
other Aussies, with whom we spent the next 8 hours demolishing multiple litre steins of beer, along with pretzels and wursts. A fabulous time was had by all, with no incidents apart from a puke or two, and a really great pissy atmosphere, along with a swinging band. Maybe the biggest potential winners of all were the Turks who took up residence outside the ladies’ loo, looking for a grope or two, although a couple of them got back from the girls what they deserved! We all got a bit lost making it back to the campsite, which was not surprising given our condition, but we finally made it back to the van by 10pm. It took a while to get to sleep, what with so much happening in the campsite, but finally the grog took its toll.
A combination of little sleep and a fierce hangover didn’t leave me feeling too flash next morning. The others shot off early, but Shirley and I stayed back and just relaxed at the campsite. We finally made it into the city early in the afternoon for a decent meal before the next big night’s fling. I farewelled Shirley, who was flying
back to Tel Aviv that night (but not before receiving an invitation for me to fly over to Israel for a visit to the kibbutz), then shot down to the Deutches Museum, which had some fabulous working exhibits but unfortunately no English explanations. From there, it was a long trek in the drizzle back to Theresienstrasse, meeting up again with US cuties Colleen and Pattie on the way. I made it into the beer hall around 6pm, and initially felt right out of it being sober, but that didn’t last long, and the night ended up being even wilder and drunker than the previous night. It was an indescribable atmosphere, with everyone chatting away to everyone else in a pretty uninhibited way, and plenty of Turks still hanging around looking for some social contact! We stayed until we were all kicked out at 11pm and had another walk back after getting lost. We finally caught a bus back with a million pissed Aussies and lots of laughs.
I absolutely crashed overnight, having my best night’s sleep in ages. After a morning shower, I washed all my beer-saturated clothes – the stench was unbearable. We then received news that Janet,
a very extroverted American gal who had joined our group at the start, who we assumed had slept elsewhere and was having ‘a good time’, was in fact admitted to the local hospital with suspected hepatitis. And I had spent the previous two nights in her sleeping bag! Everyone was feeling distinctly guilty at having misjudged her. There were people coming and going and visiting all day, so there was no shortage of company, with even the sun giving us some relief from the colder weather of the last few days. Finally, a crowd of us, including Rick, Mick & Bill, made it into town for a good chicken dinner and a visit to the Hofbrauhaus near Mariensplatz (beer at 2.60Dm per litre as against 3.50Dm at Beerfest). We all finally made it back to Beerfest by about 7pm, but the night’s drinking was pretty mild only. I was able to have a good look around the other beer halls and the amusement park. We all got home a little more directly than the last two nights and into the cot not much after midnight.
A dismal rainy morning didn’t make it any easier to sort out the chaos
in our kombi van. We finally got away after all the farewells around 1pm, taking Bob & Tony, Linda & Julie with us. First stop was to visit Janet at the hospital – in isolation with disease still unknown, but they suspected a stone in the kidney. From there, we checked out the Olympic Stadium, Tower and surroundings, before dropping the others off to go back to town, so from here it was just Bob, Jules and myself. About a 3-hour drive on the autobahn had us at Waiblingen by around 8pm, where we found the apartment offered to us by Peter & Gaby (our friends from Konstanz) with little difficulty. It was still cold and wet, but their apartment was fabulous – very modern and centrally heated. We had a few beers and a snack from Gaby, with plenty of chit chat before crashing on the couch in their living room around 11pm.
We had a big sleep-in as we had the flat to ourselves, since P&G left for work around 7am. It was a really lazy morning, just sitting around reading, organizing our things and having a good scrub up. It was cold outside and when it
started raining heavily we lost all enthusiasm for outdoor activities. Dinner was a combo of wursts and corn, washed down with a variety of wines. After dinner entertainment was slides – first Bob’s of Indonesia, then Peter’s of their travels in Fiji and Australia, before an early night.
We were slightly more on the ball next day, and we got on our way in the miserable cold and rain around 10am. We had an uneventful 3-hour drive to Heidelberg, where we checked out the castle (but not the giant beer barrel) and had lunch. A short drive took us on to Mannheim, where we stopped to replenish our Campingaz. We had a lot of difficulty navigating our way out of the city, backtracking a number of times until we finally found the autobahn. We stopped not too far out for a casserole dinner and then drove on through the night (nothing else to do on a freezing night!) through Saarbrucken and the French border by 10pm. We went another 50kms on to Metz, where we again got fouled up by some poor road signs. We finally camped down in a parking lot just outside Metz around 11pm.
again, a freezing cold and windy night precluded a great deal of sleep for anyone. We got away by 10am after breakfast and had an uneventful run for the first 100kms, and then the troubles started. We started to hear weird noises from the suspension and then a short circuit burnt the coil wire right out. The latter caused a 3-hour stop at Ste Menehould, where we got charged 80FF for a mechanic to come out and fix it up. The only consolation was that it didn’t rain, but it was bloody cold. We carried on at a pretty slow pace through uninspiring farming country and stopped for dinner some 50kms short of Paris. We were on our way again by 8pm and into Paris an hour later. We made a circle of the city on the Boulevard Peripherique before making it to the campsite Bois de Boulogne, on the west side of the city. There was lots of fun and games with the idler packing up on the van and the suspension deteriorating.
A late sleep in and frigging around with breakfast took us through to midday. Bob & Jules went into the city, but I stayed back
to relax. It took over an hour to hand wash the car, its first clean for over a month, then I spent the rest of the afternoon in the van reading and listening to music. The weather stayed constant all day – mainly sunny, but not very warm, especially since the campsite was in the shade. I took off into town late afternoon and met up with B&J at Place de la Concorde and we strolled down to the Left Bank for a 20FF all in meal of soup, escalope and glace, washed down with some vino. We then made it up to Montmartre for a repeat of my trip of 3 weeks ago exactly. We took the metro back to Pont de Neuilly and another 30-minute walk had us in the cot by 11pm.
It was yet another sleep in and we took until midday to get started. We took the metro into the Louvre, but only spent around half an hour there – just enough time to check out the two famous girls, Mona and Venus (typical cultured Aussies!). From there, we strolled down the Jardin de Tuileries, where the others split to see the flea market.
I strolled down the Champs to the Arc de Triomphe, which I ascended for a good general view of the vicinity. I then strolled back to the van at Pont de Neuilly, where I met up with the others to take off from Paris around 5pm. We picked up a hitchhiking Brit, Trev, not far out from Paris, and stopped off before dark for a pork chops meal. We then drove on another 200kms after dinner until we were only 60kms short of Calais, with conditions perfect for driving. During this trip, we found out a lot about UK, Spain and Morocco from Trev. It was hard to find a suitable camping spot with few trees around, so we ended up camped in a parking spot next to the main road.
We were away after breakfast by around 9am and up at Boulogne Hoverport soon after. We decided it was too costly for the ferry leaving there, so we persuaded Brits Pat & David (very Oxford – accent and cravats – the works!) to accompany us to Calais, to everyone’s advantage. There we picked up Aussie Ian, making 7 pax for the trip for a total of 283FF –
at 40FF per person, this was cheaper than the single fare, with the van travelling free. It was an uneventful trip over in the hovercraft, and the weather cleared so it was quite pleasant on arrival in the UK. It was a slow trip along the motorway to London, what with 7 people and all their bags, but we arrived safely before 6pm. We picked up our bags (but no mail) from Sundowners, then made it across to Hammersmith to the apartment of Canberra nurses Joan, Catherine & Dale for the night. We had a great roast meal that night, supplemented with apple pie, cooked by Joan (Editor’s Note – Remember that name. She will crop up in quite a few future blogs!), who had taken a sickie that day. This preceded nostalgic nurses chat for most of the night.
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