It was another uncomfortably hot and still night, broken at 2am by a bizarre gusting wind that lasted all of two minutes but sent awnings, chairs and tables skidding wildly around the aire and past the vans. Bleary eyed and anxious owners came out into the dark to reclaim them and the wind blew out as abruptly as it had blown in.
We were packed up and on the road heading east before 10am. The fast roads took us quickly out of building weekend-traffic on the Wein Strasse and into the lovely Neckartal, or Neckar valley. Tall fir trees rose up like cool green curtain walls along the roadside and the wide and green river wound gorgeously through small towns of Italianate villas and close, narrow streets. We enjoyed a passing peek at Heidelberg’s gigantic Schloss, making a mental note of a new campsite along the river bank, and then arrived at our aire at Hirschhorn.
This lovely medieval town on the river banks had its own football club, and it was next to their pitch that we made ours. The charming bar owner, head groundsman, supporters club manager and number one fan of HHFC welcomed us warmly and invited us to stay until Christmas or Easter, whichever was our preference. After two wonderful days we were giving some consideration to his offer!
Our first treat was a trip to the local Edeka. Food shopping is always a highlight on a trip whether at a local market, direct from the producer or in this case at a very large supermarket chain. Deli counters full of Bavarian delights such as smoked meats, salamis, wursts, soft and hard cheeses, cream, butter, forest mushrooms, orchard fruits and fresh spätzle lined up along the aisles of fresh market vegetables, pickles and preserves and every conceivable larder essential. Beer, wine and bottled water was kept separately and coolly in a ‘getranke markt’ and we loaded up our bags of goodies mindful of the hot cycle ride back under sunshine well in excess of 30 degrees.
Imagine our delight on discovering the Edeka two day ‘sommerfest’ outside in the car park…
Covered tables and benches were bursting with happy shoppers drinking half litres’ of cold beer and munching fresh wurst or steak-filled bread rolls being cooked at a smoking hot grill by a father and daughter team. It was time to enjoy a late lunch with the locals!
We joined familiar faces at the next morning’s fortnightly flea market for some breakfast. Munching again on a hot wurst and bread we picked our way through the many stalls offering castoffs and attic junk alongside collectors’ items of guitars, paintings and jewellery. I continued my hunt for a soup ladle and could have come away with thirty but none were as pretty as the Puglian one I wanted to replace.
Biking along the Neckar we enjoyed cool wooded paths, apple orchards and open, harvested fields. At Eberbach we meandered around the old centre and found the motorhome aire but neither of us felt a pull to leave Hirschhorn just yet. Instead we followed the instructions of our host and stopped for ‘kaffee and kuchen’ at a small village’s cake shop. Perched up in its lovely terraced garden we devoured a Sunday lunch of Black Forest cake and a light mango sponge cake with coffees whilst successfully swatting away pestering wasps.
Powered by a sugar rush we raced back along the river to Hirschhorn and hilariously bought the traffic to a standstill a key crossing. Impatient drivers of porches, flashy audis, daimlers and Harley Davison’s all had to stop at five way lights for the two English cyclists. We were chuckling as they all roared passed us in succession on their way to or from a visit to the town’s pretty Schloss and stylish eateries.
Back at the aire we joined the returning, but defeated football team together with our host for a beer and chat about the politics of the beautiful game. Aside from the result (4-6, an improvement on last week’s crushing 2-7) the conversation was about the predicted storms of that night, which duly arrived at 3am.
Crashing thunder, sheet lightning and torrential rain made for a nervous hour of weather watching but the morning’s sunshine again brought searing temperatures as we bade a fond farewell to a lovely spot along the Neckar.