A Hot Saturday in Mayen – Classic Cars & Castles
Summer is over. Or so the calendar says, as I wake up to a thankfully cooler dawn in Mayen, on Sunday 1st September. Every window that sports mosquito nets has been wide open throughout the night – rain and all. And I thank the Gods that we were in a Stellplatz and not just parked at the side of the road somewhere.
“What if someone tries to break in?” asked Jay, quite sensibly, as we got ready for bed last night.
I didn’t care.
For one thing I couldn’t see why anyone would be more likely to come through our windows here than in a house.
For the second thing Marley would definitely get a bit growly if hands started coming through the blinds. She is, when all is said and done, carefully bred to be a snarling, protective, guard dog. And those instincts are definitely alive and well in our cuddly, friendly, giant Greek wolf dog.
And finally, for third, we either risked it, or we all suffocated from the heat in our little metal box.
Personally, I’d take being robbed any day of the week.
Whether I would have felt quite so safe without Jay in the van beside me I don’t know. But the point was moot. The heat was unbearable. The humidity too high for our coats of sweat to make any difference at all. The windows were staying, well and truly, open.
Any worries Jay may have had weren’t enough to stop him falling instantly asleep. He’s lucky that way. Each night he relinquishes the waking word without a thought. Diving into sleep with a relish I cannot begin to emulate. For me sleep creeps in and takes me while I’m looking the other way. But it’s not so easy to catch me looking the other way. My mind doesn’t go easy into the dark.
And it doesn’t rest easy once it’s there either. The greatest of luxuries for me is a night when I fall asleep and don’t wake until the morning. I sleep lightly, dream often, wake regularly, and even more so when it’s hot.
Somewhere close to daybreak and the heat finally, thankfully breaks. The vivid, churning dreams it provoked, smooth and settle. It’s very early but everytime I stir I think of getting up and starting to write the blog. Sleep pulling me back under to dream it written three times in a row before I finally hold on to wakefulness for long enough to clamber out of bed.
Jay snoozes on, and I wish I could stay beside him. Catch some proper rest in the early morning cool. But it is half past seven. There is no more time to sleep. We want to be on the road south by eleven at the latest. Just enough time to write about yesterday’s journey. Yesterday’s journey to Mayen.
It was an easy drive to Mayen. Most of it through a largely uneventful landscape of fertile fields and woodland. Germany felt large. Large and, still, mostly flat. Not as flat as England’s Fenlands, or the western stretches of Belgium to be sure. But flat enough to be a bit tiresome to my eyes.
As we drew closer to our destination the landscape started to undulate more. Mayen is in the Eifel region so wiki tells me. The remains of low level mountains and volcanoes around the Rhine area of Germany.
It all sounds very interesting, but we are on a bit of a mission to reach our friend David by Sunday. He is further South in Mosbach, and so a brief stop in Mayen is all we will see of this area for this trip.
The free Stellplatz is nice. ( German for motorhome parking, Wohnmobil Stellplatz to give it’s full title.) It has shade, services and the Aldi and Lidl supermarkets are right next door. The fuel station just down the road has good prices on diesel and the historic centre is just a few minutes walk away. Everything is perfect.
Or leastways everything would be perfect… if only we had a working water system!
Completely out of the blue that morning, just as I was about to heat the water for a shower, nothing was coming out of the bathroom tap. What now? We had just had a broken valve replaced back in July and everything spruced up and serviced ready for our tour. What on earth was it this time?
A quick check of the taps and the kitchen was kind of working, but only a trickle. We could hear the pump churning away with it’s usual noise. So not the pump. Not the switches. Was it that same overflow valve that had just been replaced? It was definiely acting the same way.
Jay jumped outside to check, and sure enough, as I turned on the tap all our water was gushing out from underneath the van. No! We’d just had this fixed!
Packing up and getting on the road to Mayen we decided the best thing to do was phone Knowepark, the dealership who’d done the repair, on Monday. Hopefully they’d redo it for free once we got back to Scotland at the end of October. In the meantime we’d have a look at the outlet pipe when we arrived in Mayen. With any luck we could keep the system working for the next seven weeks until we got back.
Now that we’d arrived in Mayen Jay quickly located the overflow pipe through the simple means of me turning a tap on inside the van. One of our “essential items” for motorhome life is a bundle of cable ties. In the case of the overflow pipe it’s a straightforward job to bend it over and secure it with a cable tie. We run the tap to double check and – Presto! The water system is functional once more!
It’s fine to do this so long as we make sure not to overfill our water tank until we get the overflow fixed. As we never fill the tank more than half full anyway this isn’t a concern for us. So we’re a couple of very happy nomads as we set off to discover what hidden joys Mayen has waiting for us to find.
It didn’t take much walking for us to find out. Almost as soon as we left the van we got our first glimpse of the magnificent Genovevaburg Castle over the tops of the buildings.
With the castle pulling us onwards we soon found ourselves at a wonderful section of city walls which made a fantastic introduction to the town as we scrambled up the spiral staircase into the tower, and wandered our way along towards the castle.
From one side the slits in the walls showed us down onto the town and coutryside beyond. From the other side we looked out through wide glassless openings and walkways onto the stunning church and square.
A wedding was in process and the wedding car sat waiting, bedecked in finery, for the happy couple to emerge. It was hard to imagine a more idyllic place to be married, and I was tempted to linger and wait to see the wedding party leave. But the castle waiting at the end of the walkway was more enticing still, and on we went.
Germany firsthand, is an awful lot like Germany in photos. On only our second day in the country everything is still very new and unknown. But there’s a sense that these castles, walls and half-timbered houses are kind of normal here. And what an amazing normal it is.
Poking our noses around the bits of castle we can get to with a large hairy dog we find ourselves looking out over the vista of the pretty town centre. Right in the middle of the marketplace ( marktplatz in German ) is a shiny row of classic cars. Amazing! How lucky are we to stumble upon this by sheer chance!
Our stomachs are making “We want lunch!” noises, and we don’t want to miss seeing the cars. So, regretfully, we abandon the castle gardens for now and head down to the platz for some shiny chrome and running boards.
Neither of us are entusiasts, but we both love to have a look at these beautiful old machines. There is a fabulous collection here. Each one in immaculate condition.
There are only a few cars here, carefully arranged by colour. Yellow, green, blue and finally red. Each different, each unique. Wooden spokes, starting handles, carefully crafted, luzurious interiors.
We wander blissfully among them for half an hour. Oohing and Aahing over this detail and that delight. Finally driven back by the hot sun in search of shade, liquid refreshment, and lunch. Ideally in that order. Though water was fighting hard with shade for top spot.
Lunch is a bit longer coming than planned as we wandered the pretty, cobbled streets trying to decide where to eat. “Eiscafes” were new to us, but, if Mayen was anything to judge by, were a common feature here. We’d seen ice cream parlours in other countries of course, we even have them in Scotland. But here there seemed to be three or four main kinds of eateries.
First there are taverna type bars selling beer, wine and food. Then there are coffee houses, bakeries that sell coffee as well as cakes and savoury snacks. And finally the icecream cafes, selling everything icecream and coffees and soft drinks.
The idea seemed to be to go to one place for food and beer. And then to go to an eiscafe foe dessert and coffee. Or so we guessed, and this seemed to ring a bell in my head as something I’d maybe read someplace.
We loved this idea. It was so different to the culture I had grown up in. Such a little thing. But it’s these little things that make us who we are. That give us our ways of looking at the world. Our memories, our stories we give to our children, and their children.
We wandered some more through the beautiful streets, and lovely atmosphere of this pretty little place. Finally settling on a bar with food at the top of the marketplatz that had “Apfelstrudel” scrawled on it’s blackboards.
Jay opted for another currywurst, and I had schnitzel. Local wine and beer. Strong, sillky German coffee. And strudel, with wafer thin pastry and sweet vanilla ice cream.
Before us evening fell over the brightly painted half-timbered houses. Children splashed in the fountains. Adults chatted and drank in the cafes the bars, and the ice houses. Behind us the castle watched protectively over the fairytale scene.
And, as they say in Germany… Alle ist gut.