Kiri and


Barefoot in the Black Forest

July 31st, 2014 (by Steve)

There is no doubt that Bertha is a miracle on wheels. How else could a 24 year old motorhome make it so far through Europe? However, occasionally her performance is a little sub-optimal and so it was with her brake lights. During our weekly checks, we noticed to our horror that they weren’t working. Nada. Zilch. Kein licht (as they say in Germany). So, we checked the fuse first… intact. Next was a bulb check (although strange that 4 bulbs would go at once)… all fine. Finally I dug out the wiring diagram and followed wires for a while. I found plenty of loose wires… but then they’ve always been like that (we guess previous owners liked to play with electrics!), but multimeter readings at various points in the circuit showed no voltage.

This is the point at which we were pleased we were due to visit family near Stuttgart; they’re German speaking and they arranged for us to visit a mechanic nearby. In the meantime, we adapted our driving style to be smoother as well as making occasional use of rear fog lights when braking (well, you’ve got to improvise). It’s not as if we brake much in Bertha anyway; “slow” is her preferred speed setting.

Prior to seeing Catherine, Michael + Jessica, we parked up for the night in the beautiful town of Esslingen, up by the castle. This location afforded us stunning aerial views of the vineyard and town in the evening light and we added a brief interlude to our twilight stroll to watch locals playing boule. This is the life!


And then to Böblingen. We had barely stepped through the door when our clothes were in the washing machine and we were being treated to a traditional Schwäbisch dinner of maultaschen and spätzle coupled with a tasty local Schönbuch beer. Correction from earlier… THIS is the life! Happily replete after such a warm welcome and with the promise of the first proper bed and non-campsite shower in over 3 months we settled in for a great weekend.

Whilst it can sometimes be difficult to get out of Bertha’s bed due to headroom and the ladder, it’s even harder to get out of a proper bed… but for different reasons! Having dropped Bertha off at the mechanics we were introduced to the first of many riches that this part of Germany has to offer. Chocolate. More precisely, the Ritter Sport chocolate factory where we had a free wander around the museum before stocking up in the outlet shop. Upon our return to the house, we got stuck into a bit of gardening in the afternoon… well, actually it was Kiri doing most of the work. Then in the evening we all ventured to Schlemmen am See; one of many “fests” happening in the area with local restaurants providing tasty offerings, accompanied by good music. Enough to make you want to dance (well, some people anyway!)


The following morning, a guided tour of some nearby woods was punctuated by a call from the mechanic; Bertha was fixed. The problem was the switch above the brake pedal; whilst the original part is no longer manufactured (quelle surprise… oh wait, that’s French!) the mechanic had found a Renault switch that worked just as well (ooh, that’s French too!) and had fitted it; all for £25 or so. Bargain!


Sadly, as has happened so often in Germany on this trip, the rain arrived for the day, stubbonly refusing to move on. Nevertheless we ventured to a local organic farm which was having an open day, refusing to let the weather put a dampener on proceedings. As well as livestock, we appreciated seeing old farm vehicles, including cars that had been adapted to run off wood burners during the war when petrol was scarce. But the highlight for us was the chainsaw carving. Now I’m not sure how to word this to avoid making Kiri sound scary, but she loves chainsaws. I’m not quite so passionate about power tools, but I was still transfixed by the guy carving stuff out of wood (he was in the early stages of sculpting a frog, we think).


After offering hospitality in the only way possible we know with Bertha (i.e. a cup of tea!) we were treated to another local dish for dinner; a thick lentil soup with sausages. So tasty! This was followed by another treat; watching the film “About Time“, which made us nostalgic for the UK and, slightly surprisingly, London (considering that we had previously vowed that we wouldn’t return there after this trip).

It was impossible to be this close to the Black Forest without venturing there, so for the first time in Germany we got to experience what it’s like to be in a normal car on the autobahn. It’s such a different feeling being in a car that’s overtaking slow motorhomes rather than driving your home on the inside lane, struggling to reach 90kph! Our destination was the Barfusspark (or barefoot park) in Dornstetten. With naked feet, we set out on a 2km trail through woodland (and a little bit of meadow) that took our exposed tootsies over gravel, pebbles, water, bark, pine cones, glass beads and mud. Now that’s a novel way to experience the Black Forest – it was great fun and my feet felt very invigorated as I washed and scrubbed them (with a patriotic brush!) at the end.


After a leisurely picnic (during which a large dragonfly landed on my head) we meandered our way through the Black Forest to Nagold where a local delicacy awaited. Yes. Black Forest Gateau. In the Black Forest. It would be rude not to! So much tastier than any reproduction we’ve had in the UK. By chance, there was a classic car rally there at the same time, providing unexpected entertainment as we munched. According to their definition, Bertha only has 6 more years to go before she qualifies as classic… the label of “vintage” (as applied by the 2014 Summer Special of Practical Motorhome magazine) will have to suffice for now.


Sadly we had to say farewell the following morning, but Catherine softened the blow by arming us with half of the contents of their fridge. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with them and it was great to explore an area with local people who could point out hidden gems.

So here we are. Day 227 in the Big Bertha household. Kiri has a revelation:

Steve? We live in a van. I’ve only just noticed. It’s so weird

Do you think it’s time we made our way back to the UK? Maybe.

All posts about Germany

Homeward bound

Barefoot in the Black Forest

Ups and downs in Bavaria

Melting in Munich

Fußball und Achterbahnen

Just another brick in the wall

Speeding in the sunshine

Little people in Hamburg

Currywurst with a side of pondering

4 Responses

You forgot the nails we walked over!

Great weekend, thank you for coming to visit 🙂

How could I forget the nails? Thanks again 🙂

Boeblingen! I spent a year working there! And I cycled to Nagold once! Thanks for the memories 🙂 Can you bring me back a beer?

Nice! Happy to help with memories. Would Belgian beer be ok? If so, any requests?

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