Germany is a country steeped in history. Most of us are aware of the country shaping a lot of foreign policy over the past century, but it has been a home for Kings and Queens and Saxons and Romans as well.
The Middle Ages - what I like to think of as the 'fairy-tale age' - have certainly left an imprint on the vast German landscape. Towns inspire folk stories with their cute, distinct houses. Cobbled roads weave through chocolate-box villages often situated at the foot of a spectacular peak or along a gushing river, protected in the time of long ago by imposing stone fortresses.
Unfortunately, Father Time - and the invading armies and air forces of 1945 in particular - have not been kind enough to leave all of the magical monuments of the German Kingdoms alone for us to enjoy today. However, there are some that evaded the brutal bombs and the aging process, or were in good enough condition to be restored close to their glory days.
We visited two important cultural sights to begin our grandiose and ambitious continental adventure. Heading south from Düsseldorf, we briefly stopped in the village of Burg. Burg and Schloss seem to be interchangeable words for 'castle' or 'fortress'. This one, recommended to us by an information centre in Düsseldorf, sat proudly on the top of a hill, and can be accessed by what was described as a cable car. I think antiquated ski lift would have been more accurate.
The city of Köln (Cologne) is not far from here, and it was along these banks of the Rhein that we decided to set up camp. Using a tent should help to help offset the costs associated with hiring a car, though the €22 we had to shell out has made me think twice about that assumption.
The jewel in Köln's crown - which is not cologne, for the record, as the 'original' eau de cologne that comes from here certainly didn't impress - avoided any punishment in the Second World War. Locals are grateful for this, partly due to the fact that it took almost six centuries to complete Köln's Cathedral. A masterpiece she is too, with her twin towers standing dominantly as they watch over the low skyline.
Like its northern neighbour, Köln is a pretty place that doesn't have a 'big-city' feel attached to it, in spite of housing over a million citizens. Köln and Düsseldorf are rivals in a way that would hearten anyone from a British city - think Manchester and Liverpool. This even extends to the local beer - ordering an Altbier in Köln would be alcoholic suicide. The homegrown variety here is called Kölsch, and is more like a standard lager. Whisper it quietly, but I think Düsseldorf's is better...
One unfortunate event that happened in Köln was a rather large rainstorm. This continued even after our departure, which resulted in a very wet tent being put away torrential rain. Campers will know that this is not a fun experience, and invariably results in a tent that can become quite dirty and beginning to develop a mildew smell. I couldn't take any pictures at that time simply because our camera may not have worked afterwards.
The road show won't stop for something as ordinary as lashings of rain, however. Driving is in itself quite a challenge: something I will elaborate on from our next, hopefully drier, location.
Love you all