Friday 15th May 2015, Tübingen
Today we woke to constant rain which has continued all day. Nothing daunted we took our umbrellas and sallied forth along the banks of the Neckar, possibly our favourite river in Germany. It flows peacefully through the verdant wooded countryside of Baden-Wurttemberg and, unlike the Danube, is too small to accommodate large cruise ships. In any case, most of the towns on the Neckar, while being some of the loveliest in Germany, are too small to cope with the numbers of visitors that would arrive.
We left Modestine standing on wet, muddy grass hoping the rain would stop and the ground dry out before we leave tomorrow. She is useless on grass, slipping around and making a mess.
We visited Tübingen fleetingly back during our first year of travels in 2005 on our first visit to Germany with Modestine. It stuck in both our minds as a lovely town and we have long meant to return. So there was no way the rain was going to stop us. There is an island in the river that leads to the bridge into the old town. From here the cobbled streets lead steeply up to the market place and the Stiftskirche which is late GOTHIC!! The market place was doing admirably what it has done since the middle- ages, with stalls selling foodstuffs, vegetables, crafts and flowers. Despite the rain the Hausfrauen of Tübingen were out with their bicycles and their umbrellas chatting with friends as they queued for beetroot or Wurst. The atmosphere was delightful.
Knowing we’d be heading for the highest place in town I resigned myself to following Ian up to the castle with its views down over the rooftops of the town. The castle was built during the 16th century on the remains of an earlier mediaeval building. It is now occupied by part of the University of Tübingen and the central courtyard has a massive head from a Greek statue on display.
Back down at river level we explored some of the quaint corners of steeply roofed houses and the half-timbered buildings along the river front.
Here we discovered all the student punts moored up beneath weeping willows, a dejected and soggy scene in the rain but on a nice day being punted along the Neckar by University students is said to be delightful. Ian waxed lyrical about his punting exploits on the Isis. Fortunately for him the rain refused to stop or I may have called upon him to prove his prowess! The punts are not like the British ones though and looked very uncomfortable with boards to wedge your back against along each side while the punter, with his long bendy pole, declaimed passages from Hölderlin or Mörike as you gently glided along the Neckar. Oxford punting sounds more soothing I think.
After a coffee in a cake shop to warm up and dry out we made our way to the University library across town. It was very busy with students but there was little evidence of books. The quietest and emptiest place was the main reading room, lined with bound volumes of encyclopaedias that looked to be rarely used while the desks were occupied by students with laptops, or more frequently Ipads and mobile phones.
The building though was impressive with it heavy façade depicting the great names of German literature - Goethe, Herder, Schiller, but also Dante, Shakespeare and Plato.
Across this part of the town were numerous university buildings and accommodation including the Alta Aula. We also discovered the Stadtmuseum with its current exhibition about the German student protests of the 1970s.
By mid-afternoon I was fading fast and we returned to Modestine, still beneath the dripping trees and constant rain. We steamed gently for the rest of the afternoon as we sorted photos and caught up on this blog.
Sunday 17th May 2015, Molsheim, France
The sun returned today. Fortunately we were able to get Modestine off her pitch without more than a few brays and cutting of her engine. Once on firm ground again she was fine.
Our first stop was only a few kilometres along our route at Rottenburg, another charming little town on the Neckar. It was market day and a delight for us to stroll amongst the stalls of dried meats and local honey. Dried meats and sausages are, it seems, eaten far more frequently than fresh meats or vegetarian foods in Germany. Germans are adamant about their foods being "bio" so we were rather surprised that they are perfectly prepared to eat dried sausages, ham and other processed meats. Maybe the bio beetroot and Spargel they eat with it make up for that.
The town rises steeply up the hill from the river. Here the market ends on the main square with the cathedral of St. Martin occupying the far end. It is a place of pilgrimage but unfortunately for us the doors were locked.
Higher still we reached the mediaeval town gate with its little bridge over the dry moat surrounding this side of the town. The other side is defended by the river Neckar. It has been delightful since we arrived in the province (or Land) of Baden Wurttemberg to find the half-timbered buildings and gothic churches again.
Germany is a clean and efficient country and everything they do is done very well indeed. Nowhere is neglected. The villages are all perfect, in excellent repair, clean and a credit to the country. It does though lead to everywhere looking a little bit the same within each Land – in my eyes at least – and finding a sudden change of architectural style here has been a delight.
Baroque is still widely found in Baden Wurttemberg, but is no longer all pervading. I suppose that travelling around as we do, whenever we find something fresh it strikes us by contrast with that which has so recently been familiar. Maybe by the time we are home again Gothic charms will be lost on me, but just now I am enjoying it by contrast to the Baroque we have seen throughout Bavaria. Always when we arrive in Bavaria I am captivated by the lovely onion domes of the churches, the curving lines of the gables and the pastel coloured walls but eventually everything begins to look the same and all just a bit too perfect.
We left Rottenburg with some difficulty. Ian was determined to follow along the Neckar Valley which for some reason seemed to entail driving through the town centre several times! Eventually though we were on the right road to our next little town where we would be spending the night. It was supposed to overlook the quaintly timbered town of Horb. It does but from the high street to the cliff top above requires a steep and winding drive of some ten kilometres - something conveniently unmentioned in our camping guidebook.
Once we’d settled we decided there must be a way down to the town somehow and set off along a woodland path that wound down to a pretty chapel from where there were indeed views down on to the town. There were also the Stations of the Cross set out along a winding series of steps that descended through the long, flowery grass, all the way down for 800 metres to the very top of the town.
By the time we reached the bottom of the steps my knees were jelly and the town itself was still way below us. We passed the Town Hall, the public fountain and the church until eventually we arrived at the first little shops and cafes.
Here we bought large ice creams and sat on a shady wall to recover. Ian always enjoys going up more than coming down so was happy to comply when I said enough was enough and I was going back. We found a longer but more gentle route back, winding up through the cool woods. Unsurprisingly we saw nobody at all until we reached the top once more. Most campers are content to snooze outside their vans or tents with a beer when it’s as hot as it is here.
Related links: Tübingen 2005