Tri-nation Metropolitan Upper Rhine Region – GER, FR, and CH.

From the tranquillity of the Bodensee came the bustle of Freiburg city and this would be our first stop as we tour up and down the Rhine.  We had to miss out Freiburg whilst touring the Black Forest several years ago as we had cooked the brakes on the Elgrand campervan whilst descending the Schwarzwalderstrase.  This meant we had to swap the care free tourist hours for time spent on the side of the road waiting for the brakes to cool, wearing the obligatory Hi Vis.

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Classic Freiburg

Freiburg seemed a very historical city, but one that is kept updated with it’s vibrant diverse student population.  This would be my only observation of the city really as I was completely pre-occupied with hunting down outdoor sports shops in hope that we could purchase our ruck sacks that would be used on the Camino.  As it turned out, both Sharon and I achieved this goal over the two days in the city, managing both to acquire quality rucksacks at 50% reduction in the summer time sales.   We also had another stroke of luck, well in my book anyhow, as we had stopped off at a lively bar alongside the city’s university and during the first drink the heavens opened and refused to close.  This meant we had to extend our single post shopping refreshment to a few more and then we also added a flammekuchen (a pizza without the tomato sauce?) to the list.  Even with this blatant time killing, the rain refused to stop so after several hours we tramped back in the rain to the van which was parked up about 2 Kms away.  Apparently, Freiburg has the highest sunshine rate in Germany, so it seems we were particularly unlucky here.

After the city break we wanted to stay beside the Rhine, allowing us to do some walking.  We chose Breisach am Rhein, a small town, where we stayed for free on the car park of the Am Rhein restaurant.   Here the owner permits stop overs on a quiet annexed car park to the side of the popular restaurant, as long as you make a visit to the bar or restaurant during your stay.  We ended up staying two nights here for the cost of two rounds of drinks which were pleasantly enjoyed on the river side terrace and when compared to the official camper stop in the town which charges 6 Euros a night seemed really good value.

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Sharon and new rucksack – Rhine river walk

On the Saturday we loaded up our new rucksacks with books, old shoes and pillows to add weight and then set of a practise ‘Camino’ walk.  We managed an idyllic 20 Km route which took us up the Rhine, through wood lands, into historic town Burksheim, through peaceful country side and finally back alongside the river.  The trip took us almost 5 hours including a brief sandwich stop at Burksheim and both the walking shoes and rucksacks gave us few problems which we were pleased about.

After Breisach we had planned one more countryside stopover before hitting Strasbourg.  Once we were heading north along the country lanes we spotted a poster for an ‘African Music Festival’ in Emmendingen which was about 20Km east of our planned destination.  Needless to say we turned off to hit the festival’s last day, unfortunately we had missed the reggae day’s bill, topped by Julian Marley, but the Sunday offered Afro Beats and World Music – all good!!

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The festival itself was in the small grounds of the town’s central castle and was quite chilled out upon our arrival.  We were amazed that entry to the festival seemed to be free and the main acts would start to appear around 17:30. Obviously, free entry was too good to be true, and we were informed that the site’s security would begin to sweep the grounds removing people without the festivals wrist bands.  Not trusting our hiding skills, we decided to get a seat in a café just outside the festival allowing us to hear the music if not see the actual acts.

After the free stop over that comes complete with services we headed back to original destination, Messenheim, which lies about 10Km from Strasbourg.   The remarkable thing about here is this wild futuristic building that sits by itself in the country side, nestled between old wooden beamed houses typical of the Alsace region – it makes an interesting contrast.

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The Fuchs Technologies building in Messenheim.  The cost was 2 million euros back in 2009, but the building now stands empty as the company (steel fabrications) went bust in 2012.

En-route to Basel we travelled down the French side of the Rhine staying the night at Strasbourg, Turckheim and Eguisheim.  Strasbourg aside, the Alsace villages are very picturesque, with many small pastel painted wooden beamed houses tumbling aside narrow streets.  It is a region though that is very popular and the tourism is high and often we have had to fall inline within in the mass of visitors and tour the streets completing the tourist ‘shuffle’.

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Alsatian village.  One of the many down the wine route from Strasbourg to Colmar.  We completed some wine tasting in Eguisheim (Famille Banwarth) and increased our knowledge lot about Alsace wine. 

For me personally this has helped me understand what I like and often I lean towards normal cities where people are just getting on with their lives.  In these cities I enjoy people watching, absorbing the city through its people more than it’s architecture or tourist attractions.  Strasbourg was a great example of this, combining wonderful tourist attractions (cathedral and ‘petite France’) with the normal bustle of an energetic, commercial, and industrial city.  A nice detour on the way out of Strasbourg was the European parliament buildings park. We could have sworn there was not a union jack flying outside the building for Humans Rights……..is this the Boris Johnson effect?

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European Parliament Buildings

……………………On a motorhome point, Strasbourg was the first major city on our tour where the municipal has purposely assigned a motorhome parking area complete with all services where you can park for FREE with the only restriction being that you can only stay there for seven nights, which is much more than many of the paid areas.  Nice one Strasburg, maybe your mayor is a motorhomer?!?

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Matt at the French Swiss border

Once at Basel, Switzerland we managed to park the van near Steve and Maryann’s apartment which allieved our worries (thanks Steve for the prior research and parking space measurements).  The weekend consisted of great food and drinks and walking around the Tri-Nations.  On the Sunday we even managed a Caminoesque 20 Km walk around the hills that surround Basel taking in the great views, observing the hordes of sunbathers enjoying the banks of the Rhine and marvelling at the seemless borders – we must have crossed in and out of Germany ten or more times during Sunday’s walk.  On the Saturday we topped this, walking into France, over the bridge into Germany and then back into Switzerland.

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Maryann at the Swiss German border.  It was a good job there were not any wild ‘Schwein’ around, or they might have found themselves slaughtered for a very small cost (!?!)

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The old Warteck Brewery building, Basel.  Cantina Don Camilo (French, Asian, Vegan fusion) was the venue for Sharon’s belated birthday dinner – Cheers Steve and Maryann.  

Today (Monday 15-08) we are leaving the luxuries of their Basel apartment and heading towards St Jean Pied de Port which is 1200 km away.  We hope to arrive there late on Wednesday in time to find a storage location for the camper.  Once this is done, we will pack up our rucksacks with the essentials, strap on the hiking boats and head off for a long walk………

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