Monday, 20 October 2014

The Grand Tour: Part 1

As a child I had always loved the idea of the Grand Tour.  My romantic notions were fed by Howards End , thoughts of young ladies, in pretty dresses, holding parasols; accompanied by maiden aunts touring the artistic and architectural delights of Europe.  So when DH suggested asking for a month's sabbatical from work, it seemed just the thing to do: a roadtrip!  As we had been to Italy for the last three holidays and visited most of France at one time or another a traditional 'Grand Tour' wasn't really on the cards.  We decided our roadtrip had to be to places we hadn't been to before or were unlikely to visit on our usual holidays.  Of course when we told people we were driving to Sweden, their response often involved a raised eyebrow - 'really?' they'd say, 'why?' would be their next question!

So that's what we did, we drove to Sweden, through northern Europe, camping and hoteling on the way.  Planning the trip was almost as good as doing the actual trip as we tried to decide our best route, what we wanted to see or do and how long it was going to take us to drive from one point to the other.

A quick nip under the Channel and we headed to Bruges as our first destination.  A beautiful city and one we'd always wanted to visit after seeing In Bruges - a very funny, black comedy, which was set in Bruges.   Ok a bit of an odd reason for visiting a city - but why not, it was lovely.

I loved the way they all decorated their bikes in Bruges!!

Next stop was just over the border into Germany, where we found a campsite near a volcano.  This was very important as Little Roo had been learning all about volcano's at school so was very excited that we were going to climb one.  Unfortunately it wasn't as dramatic as we had hoped as we had already driven up the side of the volcano and when we reached this area we realised we were at the top!  There was a lake in the middle. I think it would have looked more impressive from the air!
We did also get to go round a local ruined castle, which was very exciting for little boys who love knights and dragons - luckily there were no dragons at this castle!

We then had quite a long drive to the Harz Mountains.  DH had researched a bit about the Harz Mountains and discovered that they were where the Brothers Grimm based their fairy tales and I have to say there was a definite feel of enchantment in the area!  The towns were quite gothic and were decorated with witches every where you turned!!  The landscape was beautiful and the towns were also very pretty and quite German - if you get my drift!  We were quite an oddity in these parts, an English car in a very German part of Germany, we didn't see any other brits while we were there!
 A shop in Goslar
 Witches at the Brocken railway

We did make it up the Brocken mountain which was definitely worth a visit.  We went up by the stream train and walked down, which was by far the best way of doing it.
The other interesting thing about the Harz Mountains was the border between East and West Germany ran through them.  It was a good reminder of what the border would have meant to Germans, living either side.  It also gave us a good opportunity to talk about history with the little ones, although how much of it they understood was another matter!!

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