Like a tortoise, it’s not the quickest way to travel, but you’ll always have your home on your back. Just you, the open road and your motorhome. What better way is there to travel?
I’m not one for caravan parks and ablutions blocks, but I must say I did enjoy it. Not once but twice we flew into Frankfurt Germany (in winter no less) to hire motorhomes. When visiting the Netherlands its was clear that motorhome traveling was a big thing, evident from the fields of motorhomes outside Keukenhof.
Both times we used a company called PaulCamper and opted for the two sleeper Dethleffs Globus compact motorhome. It was spacious with a kitchen, dinette, bathroom and two single beds that converted into a king. Crockery, cutlery, and bedding were optional extra’s. Traveling in winter was not a problem as the motorhome came with snow tires, a compulsory option for that time of the year and a gas heated interior. I remember we both slept in our underwear one night while watching snowflakes gently fall on the skylight above the bed.
The route (1st trip) – December 2011
Our first trip (11 nights) started in Frankfurt. After collecting the motorhome, we headed towards Munich. Having just travelled for sixteen hours we were pretty tired. That night we only managed to put a few Km’s between us and Frankfurt. We “platzed” that night (our term for parking overnight for free) outside of a closed motorhome park. The problem with traveling that time of the year is that most of the smaller parks outside of the cities are closed.
Nuremberg – The next day we continued our journey to Munich stopping along the way at Nuremberg. The town boasts one of the biggest and best Christmas markets in Germany. Gluhwein, handmade glass decorations and cinnamon pastries are not to be overlooked.
Munich – Arriving in Munich we also found the park closed, but a very patient and hospitable caretaker was kind enough to let us in, light the boiler and let us camp there for the night. After settling in we headed for the infamous Hofbrauhaus. The live oompah band, excellent beer and crispy Eisbeins served with sauerkraut and mash was just what the doctor ordered.
Salzburg – A beautiful town located on the Salzach river and the birthplace of Mozart. It also had a fabulous Christmas market with all sorts of handmade goodies and treats traditionally served at that time of the year. I must say the Germans (and Austrians) certainly know how to celebrate Christmas and make it feel special.
Venice – For obvious reasons, it was not possible to take the motorhome onto the island. We parked in a lovely park on the mainland and took a ferry over to explore Venice in the winter. What a pleasure it was to see Venice when the ratio of tourists to locals was 1:1 LOL. We spent two days exploring and falling in love with the city.
Zurich – Saying goodbye to Venice, we headed for Zurich and encountered heavy snow along the way. For a South African who had never seen snow before it was a MUST to stop along the highway for a quick frolic in the fresh soft powder. That night we explored the city, tried a delicious cheese fondue and ended up “platzing” in a parking lot right on the edge of Lake Zurich.
Paris – We stayed at Camping De Paris. A great setup with restaurant, bar, laundry room, reception/tourist office and a café where we were able to get fresh baguettes every morning. It was also conveniently located close to a bus station. We used the bus to get into the city center to do all the touristy stuff. Two days in Paris was not long enough, but we did manage to do a Seine River cruise, saw the Eiffel tower up close, strolled down the Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe and visited the Montmartre district. There was still so much to see and do in Paris that we knew we’d be back to spend more time in the city of lights.
From Paris we headed in the direction of Frankfurt and stopped overnight in Luxembourg. The next day we travelled to Frankfurt where we spent the night. Then it was time to pack, clean and refuel the motorhome and drop it off before heading for the airport.
The route (2nd trip) – December 2016
It was such fun touring Europe and experiencing the Christmas markets that we decided to do it again five years later. This time taking a more northerly route. We were using PaulCamper again so after landing in Frankfurt, we took a train to Friedberg where we collected our motorhome. Once again it was the Dethleffs Globus compact motorhome albeit a newer model this time.
Nuremberg – This time the collection process was much more streamlined and we got on the road early enough to make Nuremburg that evening. We spent the night in a small motorhome parking area and then headed for the Christmas market the next morning. Later we found a supermarket to provision the motorhome and then headed off in the direction of Prague.
Prague – Arriving in the early evening, we checked into the Petrakovawe Motorhome Park. This was a great location and is only a short bus ride into the Old Town. They had a beautiful Christmas market in the Old Town square. We wondered through and saw the astronomical clock nearby. The next day we caught the City Sightseeing Hopp-on Hopp-off bus followed by a cruise on the Vltava River. An evening stroll over a misty Charles Bridge was the highlight of our time spent in Prague.
Berlin – We then headed for Berlin arriving later that afternoon. The next day was Christmas eve, so we visited the Christmas market for some gluhwein and other goodies. After that we visited Checkpoint Charlie and the Brandenburg Gate. Christmas day the roads were relatively quiet without too many trucks, so we did the long haul from Berlin to Amsterdam.
Amsterdam – It took us a full day on the road to reach Amsterdam and when we did, we prepared a Christmas dinner in the motorhome. We were staying in a motorhome parking lot in the Amsterdam-Noord area and the city was just a short ferry ride away. This was the first time that either of us had been to Amsterdam, so we did the touristy things including the touring on the canal boats, visited the Icebar, the red-light district and a coffee shop to buy some “Mary Jane”. We were also in Amsterdam on Boxing Day so took advantage of the after Christmas sales. The next day we visited the World of Windmills. Here there are seven operational windmills with a typical Dutch village where you can see how clogs are made and sample local cheeses.
Bruges – We left Amsterdam and headed for Bruges. It was a relatively short trip on very good roads, so we got there early. We spend the rest of the days exploring the medieval town with its many canals, bridges and cobbled streets.
Paris – We promised ourselves we’d be back in Paris! We stayed at the Camping De Paris Park again. This time around we got to see a lot of what we missed last time including The Louvre Museum and the Palace of Versailles.
It was a leisurely two day drive from Paris back to Frankfurt where we went through the same routine of getting the motorhome ready for drop-off and heading to the airport for our trip back home.
We particularly like traveling with a motorhome (and cruising for that matter) as you only unpack once. Then there are also the cost benefits. Your motorhome serves as your mode of transport as well as your accommodation. The equipped kitchen on board means that you can prepare meals in the motorhome rather than eating out all the time. Besides all the benefits, we particularly love the independence that this form of travelling offers. Our itineraries were quite fluid. On a few occasions we elected to either stay, move on or explore locations that weren’t originally part of the plan. Travelling with a motorhome gives you the freedom and flexibility to do this.
We’ll certainly be back behind the wheel with our house on our back quite soon.