Germany – A round trip through the 16 federal states
It was the first quarter in 2021. We needed planning security. We were famished and needed certainty in making plans regarding a trip. We wanted something to look forward to, and in times of pandemic, there was little to prompt us to make big travel plans. Then we came up with the idea that would ensure us the maximum flexibility and independence. A tour with the camper. But where was the thrill here? What was the challenge? Did we want to drive on all the highways? No, not really. We needed a destination. And quickly the only real option came to mind. We would explore all the German states in times of corona virus. We would really get to know Germany. So we created the route below, which would take us almost 4,000 km to the most beautiful corners of Germany (and that in two weeks):
What companion for the companions
A camper is not equal to a camper and where do you actually book your vehicle? The first challenge was to find the right vehicle for our purposes. A VW Bulli, an alcove, a van, a camper (fully or partly integrated) or a caravan? What did we need and what was actually the difference between the vehicle types?
It quickly became very clear that we were “too young to drive old” and thus did not want to drive an alcove or a model from Detleffs and Co. We wanted the maximum features for the smallest vehicle and so only a panel van came into question for us. The maximum use of room (we already knew this from our small apartment) in the smallest space. So we found the Challenger and with it our dream vehicle for two weeks. We found it on erento.com and booked our Challenger Road Edition Anniversary V114 at Taunus Rent.
This time without booking.com
From the first contact to the vehicle pickup and drop off, everything was perfect. The vehicle was very well equipped with everything you need. The contact with Mr. Götte very pleasant and human (with all professionalism). We thank Taunus Rent at this point for two great weeks in their camper. This way our Germany tour could start with the camper. Not to be confused with a camper vacation in Germany. You will notice the difference in the end for yourselves.
We traveled the entire east coast in the USA; we explored Scandinavia in one week and the Baltic States in four days; we explored South America with a round-the-world route. But what the Germany tour with the camper demanded of us dwarfed anything we had experienced up to that point. Fasten your seatbelts and join us once again on a unique exploration of Germany – in a temporary home on wheels.
State No. 1: Saarland
Hand on heart. Who has actually been to Saarland? Normally, Saarland has to serve as a comparison when describing something small. For example, “as small as the Saarland” or “as crazy as the Saarland”. But then you don’t really know it in detail. So we were excited to get to know this small state in the west.
Our first destination was the Saarschleife. A picturesque bend of the river Saar. To be able to see this perfectly, you can get to the viewing platform via the tree top walk (11,-€ per person). The platform can be climbed barrier-free over several levels. Alternatively, visitors can also reach the Cloef viewpoint via hiking trails. This is free of charge, but lower than the viewing platform and therefore less appealing to us.
The second destination in the Saarland for us was then the World Heritage Site Völklinger Hütte, 50 km away. This unique industrial monument from 1873 simply left us speechless. The entrance fee of 17,-€ is worth every cent ( besides, the parking spaces are free of charge and suitable for campers). Here you can plan at least three hours of stay. The tour (over 7,000 m) through this former ironworks with seven stations is like a hike through the machine city in “Matrix”. Shut down since 1986, but still vibrant and alive. A brilliant testimony to the art of human engineering. But at the same time also of inhumanity over many years. A must-visit for all those lost in the Saarland.
State No. 2: Rhineland-Palatinate
We continued to Rhineland-Palatinate and here to the Dahner Felsenland. After industrialization, nature was again on the agenda. The impressive landscape in the Palatinate Forest on the border to France impresses with its unique rock formations and hiking trails. Characteristic for us here was the Teufelstisch in Hinterweidenthal. From the parking lot we climbed a few steps up the mountain until we stood in front of this impressive rock. We then quickly sought the distance, because the evening hour had struck. We did not want to disturb the devil at dinner like the poor unbeliever from Fritz Claus’ local legend.
The first day ended for us then on the camping site Büttelwoog and was at the same time our baptism as campers. An advance reservation was not possible for one night and we were lucky to still get a spot. For 25, – € we got the night in the beautiful valley in the middle of the Dahner Felsenland. We have not made it, but within walking distance are the sights Lämmerfelsen as well as Schöne Aussicht Eyberg.
The campground was fully equipped and also had a restaurant on the premises. We parked our camper for the first time and connected to the power supply. Quickly making the acquaintance of our site neighbors, we learned the first rule of campership: Never park awning across from awning.
State No. 3: Baden-Württemberg
We used our second day for a quick drive through Baden-Württemberg (as long as the highways were free). Sorry you Swabians, but your neighbor from Bavaria offers so much more that we had to be content with Hohenzollern Castle. We enjoyed this from a distance at the Boller Wasen barbecue area in Hechingen.
From there, we walked to the pilgrimage church of Mariazell. The best view of Hohenzollern Castle is from the Zellerhornwiese (a meadow). For this you have to hike a bit further. The castle itself is located almost 900 meters high on a mountain and thus dominates the Swabian panorama.
State No. 4: Bavaria – Part 1
The second highlight on this day was in Bavaria and took us to the Breitachklamm in Oberstdorf. Since we arrived late in the afternoon, we saved on parking costs and, due to the rain, queuing. We had the hiking trail through the deep alpine gorge to ourselves. For 6.50 € per person, the visitor gets a unique spectacle. We crossed the gorge in a good 30 minutes. The water whipped under our feet and the noise was deafening. Without another soul the experience was even more impressive. For the way back we needed another 45 minutes.
A few minutes from the gorge was our RV park for the second night of our tour. The Wohnmobilstellplatz Allgäu or Rieder Wiesn. For 20, – € the night we stood on an asphalt surface, but in the middle of the most beautiful nature. Next door are two restaurants to enjoy in the evening. A reservation was also not possible here in advance and so we hoped for our luck, which we then also had.
Not only was a space free, but also the manager of the campsite was present (between 08:00-9:00 clock as well as 18:00-19:00 clock). The sanitary area was excellent (key necessary). The coin shower completely okay and apart from the small time window for “check-in” the registration was simple.
State No. 4: Bavaria – Part 2
We began the next day with an excursion to Neuschwanstein Castle in Schwangau. We enjoyed the scenic view of the fairy tale castle from the Reith Alpe at the Tegelbergbahn. The advantage to the alternatives, such as the Marienbrücke, is the remoteness and the free view of this cliché castle sprung from the imagination of King Ludwig II. In the Allgäu, however, a visit to the castle is definitely a must.
The tour then continued along the German-Austrian border to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Here the train station was our destination. From there we took the rack railroad to the Zugspitze. The highest mountain of Germany with nearly 3,000 m height. For 61, – € per person we used the rack railroad from Garmisch-Partenkirchen to the glacier. From there, we took the glacier train up to the Zugspitze. On the way back from the top, we used the cable car (including three world records) down into the valley to Grainau. From there we finally took the rack railroad back to Garmisch-Partenkirchen to the camper.
We experienced an exciting tour at a not quite cheap price. Soaping up your girlfriend with snow in the middle of summer is not something you do every day in Germany. But thanks to the more than 10°C difference between the valley and the glacier, it was quite possible on this day. The wonderful view over the Alps was unfortunately denied to us because of the clouds, but that was to be forgiven in view of the still coming weather circumstances and the luck we should have.
For the next two nights we drove to the no less picture-perfect Berchtesgaden. More specifically, to Schönau am Königssee. We parked at the Königssee public parking lot and saved the first ticket here as well, since we arrived relatively late. Parking here cost us 7, – € for two nights. One must note here that there are no connection points for water or electricity. But the toilets are open 24 hours. Dinner is also available. We had dinner at the Pizzeria Lago on the patio. Always a delight after an eventful day.
State No. 4: Bavaria – Part 3
Our attraction for this day was the Röthbach waterfall. With its almost 500 m the biggest waterfall in Germany. But already the way there must be called a sight. Early in the morning we made our way to the Königssee to get to the other shore by boat. For 23,-€ per person we went on water in the best sunny weather. In the comfortable retiree pace we skippered the good 8 km past the St. Bartholomä church and got some info about the Watzmann (second highest mountain in Germany), the Kehlsteinhaus (Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest) and the acoustics of the mountain formation told (including demonstration).
We got off at the Salet landing and walked the rest of the way to the waterfall. Passing the gorgeous Obersee and the Fischunkelalm, we reached the magnificent sight of the Röthbach waterfall after a quite tiring hike. On the way back, we lingered over a proper snack at the alp and cooled off in the Obersee. A wonderful moment that will remain in our memories for a long time. All in all, our tour lasted just under four hours. In the afternoon, we didn’t let ourselves get stressed out anymore and enjoyed the one or other beer garden with a Mass (or was it the one or other Mass in the beer garden…).
State No. 5: Thuringia
It was time to leave the Free State of Bavaria and head for the new federal states. To do this, we first had to overcome nearly 600 km of distance before arriving at our next destination (Weimar). Here we first headed for the public parking lot relatively central at Hermann-Brill-Platz. Besides cars, campers can also officially park here (12,-€ per day). There is even an electricity connection. Unfortunately, it is not sufficient for all pitches.
Supply and disposal facilities are also available for a small fee. If one considers this with its planning, the parking bay fulfills in any case its purpose. A major advantage was the proximity to the center and the presence of an outdoor swimming pool (Schwanseebad) directly opposite the parking lot. Since we caught a sunny weather as well, we first went into the cool water. We booked our time slot online and were able to swim the long drive out of our bones a bit. Convenient were then also the showers, which we gratefully accepted.
I don’t want to do Weimar any injustice, but this city seems to offer little except Goethe and Schiller or Schiller and Goethe. We strolled through the center and, of course, to the Goethe-Schiller monument on Theaterplatz. For further “cultural” activities we simply had no motivation (and were grateful for it). Striking was only the crowd of art students. Well, at least you know where a lot of taxpayers’ money is going. For dinner we went to Arno’s at the Goethe fountain opposite the Goethe residence (where else?!).
State No. 6: Saxony
After so much culture in Weimar it was time for some nature again. So we headed for the Saxon Switzerland to Lohmen at the Elbe. More precisely: to the Bastei Bridge. This bridge is located on a rock formation with a great view and an open-air museum. Parking spaces are sufficiently available and also for the further well-being, including restrooms and food, is taken care of. It took us a good hour to visit the Bastei Bridge. As a hiker, you can also easily spend a day there and in the surrounding area.
The Bastei is simply impressive and the Bastei Bridge makes the heart of every “Lord of the Rings” fan beat faster. Around every corner, you expect to see an Uruk-hai jumping out and the sound of clanking steel. Admittedly, one or the other visitor there really looked like a dressed-up statistician from a movie – very authentic. Many thanks for that.
State No. 7: Saxony-Anhalt
We had what we wanted and continued towards Wittenberg (Lutherstadt). Here we first stopped at the southern bank of the Elbe in our MCE Marina-Camp Elbe. The night cost us here indeed sumptuous 45, – €. But the site, and the campsite itself, was just terrific (if you can use the word at all in connection with camping). After the public campsites, this was really luxurious and also scarcely visited.
We got ready and marched into town. The distance is certainly borderline, but we made the four or so kilometers in about 30 minutes. Before the trip, we reserved a public city tour at the local tourist office and wanted to be there on time at 7 pm. We managed to do that. Unfortunately, however, no one was present for the city tour and the tourist information was closed. However, we did not receive a cancellation of the tour. Too bad and here a big minus for the responsible ladies and gentlemen.
Wittenberg surprised us again with its picturesque streets and its center. In the end, the old town consists of two parallel streets (Collegienstraße, which becomes Schlossstraße from the market square, and Jüdenstraße, which becomes Coswiger Straße from the market square). In the east, the Old Town begins at the Lutherhaus and continues west to the Schlosskirche (Castle Church). This is also where Luther’s 95 theses were nailed to the gates.
So we did our own city tour leading us to the Kartoffelhaus Wittenberg Zum Schwarzen Bären to end the day. The food was hearty and delicious and we enjoyed the old town panorama before heading back home. We saw the sunset from the Elbe bridge and checked off Saxony-Anhalt. That in this particular night, rainfall should start, which threw all of Germany into chaos, we were by no means aware of at this time.
State No. 8: Brandenburg (Attempt No. 1)
It was raining when we left our campsite and drove to Potsdam. Here we wanted to visit the Sanssouci Palace. Due to the weather, however, our motivation was not very strong, so we just headed there without a reservation in advance and let fate decide whether we would get in or not. Fate was then also quite dispassionate and did not let us in. Due to the large crowds, no tickets could be bought spontaneously. So we simply moved on.
State No. 9: Berlin
For Berlin, we had made it quite clear in advance that we would just drive by the Brandenburg Gate and be content with one picture. Berlin is just too big and exciting for us to try to explore anything there in one day. The capital deserves much more attention and will surely get it sometime in the future.
State No. 8: Brandenburg (Attempt No. 2)
We went on and we were back in Brandenburg. Since fate did not want us to look at the Sanssouci palace complex in rainy weather, we went to the alternative. This one also suited the weather better and took us to Oranienburg. We visited the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum. The crowds here were manageable and both parking and admission were free. Visiting this place is mandatory for us and in hindsight we were glad to go to this place.
We didn’t have a guided tour, but we were able to navigate the site quite well with an overview map. At the latest after passing the gate with the inscription “Arbeit macht frei” (work makes you free) a shadow settled over our mood. The different areas of the camp (we could not walk through all of them due to lack of time) were explained on information boards. Areas such as the assembly point, where prisoners were publicly hanged on the gallows (and at Christmas there was a Christmas tree), the crematorium (for burning the corpses directly in the camp) or also the neck shooting facility (the prisoners were made to believe that their height was being measured) testify to the inhumane deeds of the Nazis. Accordingly, our further journey passed in silence.
State No. 10: Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania
With reaching the Baltic Sea island Usedom and our destination Koserow, we also reached the halfway point of our trip. Koserow can be described as less crowded and touristy than, for example, the well-known Heringsdorf with the longest pier in Germany. For our purposes, however, just right. Especially since Koserow also has a lot to offer.
Such as the campsite Am Sandfeld, which was to be our home for the next three nights (for a total of 117, – €) and finally let us completely immerse ourselves in the camper life. We can definitely recommend the campsite. The booking, the sanitary area as well as the entire site (including the location) were excellent. So we used the short distances for a grocery shopping in the evening and had to quickly hide in the camper, because that evening the thunderstorms started again.
But what’s the point of having a fully equipped camper if you can’t just relax and turn the driver’s and passenger’s seat 180 degrees, turn on the gas and prepare your can of ravioli on the stove. In addition, a bottle of wine and the certainty to be on an unforgettable tour. But we were not yet aware that the heavy rain had literally washed away our next destination.
We spent the next day exploring the surroundings and, of course, going to the Baltic Sea. The most direct route to the beach leads from the campsite through the forest to the steel structure that makes up for the difference in elevation. From here, we walked towards the Koserow pier just about three kilometers along the beach and enjoyed the sea breeze.
We then spent the second full day completely on the beach and in proper style in a traditional beach chair. The weather could not have been better and the sun burned mercilessly. The cooling wind was a relief and so were the chilled drinks. A last brilliant day ended like this on Usedom and gave us a genuine vacation feeling.
State No. 11: Schleswig-Holstein
On this Monday we actually wanted to visit the chalk cliffs on Rügen according to our scheduling. However, as our attentive neighbors told us while we were still at the campground, that the road to Rügen was closed. Due to the storm, numerous slopes slipped and thus a visit to the island was not possible. This also meant that the excursion to Prora, with the longest connected building in the world, was cancelled.
Hence, we drove to the next stop in Zingst. Not only the beach and the promenade are worth a visit here, but also the pier with the diving gondola. Sometimes timing is everything and in our case the timing failed by just a few minutes, so we didn’t get to enjoy a ride on the diving gondola. But we are sure that it is a great experience. Next time then. We didn’t spend the night on a campground this time, but quite comfortably with relatives. In any case, it was a nice change, and of course we spent the night in the camper. Just parked on the driveway.
For Schleswig-Holstein we had chosen in advance the Viking Museum Haithabu. Located about 1.5 hours north of Hamburg, the museum and open-air museum with its huge layout offers a lot of space for recreational activities. We used one hour to walk through the museum (9,-€ per person) and the Viking settlement. We are probably too spoiled by our visit to the Bygdöy Museum Island in Oslo, so Haithabu didn’t knock our socks off. However, if you’re nearby and have a day of leisure, the museum and grounds here are quite relaxing to explore.
State No. 12: Hamburg
On our way to the Hanseatic city of Hamburg, there were several options for us. Similar to Berlin, Hamburg simply offers too much to process in a few hours. Nevertheless, we wanted to take a certain something with us and this was the Speicherstadt. Rationally speaking, visiting the Speicherstadt with a camper was not very promising.
So we searched for a place for our camper (preferably near the center). We found it next to the Millerntor stadium (on the Hamburger Dom fairground). From there we took a cab to the Speicherstadt. Hamburg is an amazing city and after our Insta-Pic we walked back to the camper.
State No. 13: Lower Saxony
After Hamburg we went to Lower Saxony and the Lüneburger Heide. Our camping site Campingpark Lüneburger Heide in Schneverdiengen was in the retrospective the best camping site we had on our trip. For 80, – € we had two nights in this microcosm, where you do not know exactly whether the dogs or the children were more annoying. Regardless of the mood that made us breathe a sigh of relief when leaving the pitch, the sanitary facilities were a dream and the restaurant really good to linger.
We then used a whole day to explore a fraction of this nature reserve. Recommended here is a bicycle or a horse. We marched on foot. On this day we covered 15 kilometers and managed “only” the Pietzmoor. With its alternation between heathland and swamp, it is an impressive spectacle of nature. Who has the time and the opportunity should definitely go to Wilseder Berg or Totengrund.
State No. 14: Bremen
We dedicated the penultimate day to Bremen. The city nobody wants to go to. That’s what you’d think if you talked about Bremen in your circle of people you know (that is, if it wasn’t about first division soccer). In the run-up we have really learned little positive about Bremen and were all the more surprised when we arrived there. We parked the camper at the Bürgerweide parking lot for a few euros and walked into the city.
Our first destination was of course the Bremen Town Musicians, after a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, at the Bremen Town Hall. The town hall was then immediately the next highlight. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is an imposing Gothic building and almost 700 years old. Across the market square we reached Schüttingstraße and then Böttcherstraße. The alley, which is a good 100 meters long, impresses with its buildings. Strolling through it is a true exploration of details that you don’t immediately notice when you first walk by. An experience.
State No. 15: North Rhine-Westphalia
Continuing our drive towards North Rhine-Westphalia, we made our way to our last camping spot, Ferienpark Teutoburgerwald in Barntrup. The site itself is very well-managed and in a very tranquil location. For the night we paid 47, – € and could have gladly spent more nights there. By the way, most visitors came from the Netherlands, which did not detract from the atmosphere.
Our destination in NRW was not the great camping site, but the Externsteine in Horn-Bad Meinberg, 30 km away. The impressive rock formation can not only be incorporated into a hike, but also climbed by yourself. Many stories, myths and legends surround this spectacle in nature. Over centuries, these up to 40 m high rocks developed and gained more importance. The total of four rocks have different corners and areas, which were shaped by history and the settlement at that time.
For example, the open rock tomb, the relief of the cross from the 12th century, the viewing platform or the altar chamber with the altar niche. All these areas still puzzle scientists today and thus indirectly create the myth that literally attracts visitors (including us). A great excursion destination is offered here to the curious. Around the rock formation there are hiking routes to round off the visit.
State No. 16: Hesse
Our final stop on the Germany tour was Hesse, one of the most beautiful German states. More precisely, our hometown Frankfurt with the highlight Römerberg. The town hall square is the center of the old town and the landmark of Frankfurt (if not all of Hesse due to the stepped gable facades of the historic buildings). In contrast to the glossy skyscrapers, the Römerberg with its 15th century town hall (Römer) forms the historic part of this international city. Not only tourists cavort here in Frankfurt’s living room, but also locals.
This is how our camper tour through Germany ended, which demanded quite a bit from us. The charm with the 16 federal states was just right and we also feel a good bit of pride to live in such a diverse country. From the mountains through the forests over heathland and fields to the sea and back. This makes us want more and makes us eager to travel further and further. The experiment with the camper has been a complete success. Surely it won’t take another worldwide pandemic to get us back into a camper. In any case, we could be on the road again tomorrow.