Before we left I actually previewed some of the roads and towns with Google Earth’s Street View. However, since the TomTom always seeks to find the quickest route, persistently rerouting us to the autobahns and large highways, we often used hard copy maps to navigate through the countryside.
We passed the lightly marked border between Holland and Germany and arrived at Hammerhofen Worpswede campingplatz, north of Bremen, late in the evening. We exited the cab and turned the lock on the Tonke. It didn’t budge. Jane tried it. No luck. I tried again. The Tonke had the most elaborate locks I had ever encountered, with three bolts going through the side door. I jiggled and jiggled as the darkness gathered. We almost despaired when suddenly the locks released. I was happy. Jane was even happier.
There were showers and toilets at a central office, but no hook ups in the field where we camped. The campingplatz cost was US$30.
Morning came with a thick fog. I arose early and walked down the lane near our camp. It looked like an old master painting.
Young people were already boating on the old canal that curls by the camp. The canal had been built to drain the area – part of the coastal region of northwest Europe known as the Low Countries.
We talked to the director of Hammerhofen, Rolf Soujon, about camping in Germany. He explained that the largest crowds were in July when most families have 5-6 weeks of “holiday”. There are literally thousands of camping places across Germany with farmers opening up their lawns on occasion.
Many European campers use the Reisemobil International guide that has an exhaustive list of camps and RV parks. According to Rolf, many people travel without reservations, relying on the Reisemobil phone app to seek accommodations at the last minute. However, the Reisemobil has no English version, and neither of us are fluent in German.
We paid when we left the camp, which is customary. We then traveled a short distance to the town center of Worpswede. Jane would let out a whoop when she thought I was too close to a roadside sign or tree limb. I got a bit frazzled.
We toured Barkenhoff, the home of artist and designer Heinrich Vogeler from the 1890s to 1931, when he fled the Nazis. The home is now restored as a museum with original artwork by Vogeler and period furnishings. Vogeler attracted artists to the village and, today, over 130 artists and craftsmen live there permanently.
Watching carefully overhead, I tenderly nosed the Tonke into a German ESSO station to fill up the fuel tanks. I understood that the gas stations would take Visa and Mastercard, but one never knows until you swipe the card. Some require a pin number identification which we had obtained before we left the US. It worked! My first top-up of diesel cost $74.27.
As we drove on a rural road outside Worpswede, we saw an ancient thatched roof barn. True to our truck camper traveling style, we hit the brakes. Above the barn door was the legend, “Dieses haus steht in Gottes Hand…Bauherr Johann Berken …1856”. “This house is in God’s Hand”.
I was pleased that I was becoming comfortable with European driving. With our truck camper we drive everywhere – and that was becoming true on this trip.
Our destination for the evening was campingplatz Am Deich, on Fehmarn Island overlooking an arm of the Baltic Sea. We had made internet reservations on the nearby Scandines ferry to Denmark at Puttsgarden, Germany for the following morning.
We drove north to Am Deich on narrow country roads lined with groomed birch trees. The roads ran through beautiful, carefully tended, though uninhabited farmland. Every few kilometers a tidy village appeared, with brick barns and brick houses in the center of the settlement.