Today meant another early start as we wanted to zoom across the border to Germany’s ‘Europa-park’ for opening time so we could try to beat the crowds. Despite the fact that it was peak time for visiting (being the summer holidays), we’d decided to just go for it: when else would we have the chance to visit?
Now even if you’re not into the big-thrill rides, Europa Park still has plenty to see and do, with each area split off into (VERY) stereotypical ‘villages’ based on the countries of Europe (with some Elvis thrown in for good measure). It’s like a Mini-Vegas in some areas (just without the gambling and drinking) as they have Venetian themed canals complete with gondola. In fact, we only spent first thing enjoying the big-ticket attractions- with the boys jumping on one last white-knuckler before we left- and spent the rest of the time perusing the sights, being utterly confused by their depiction of Switzerland, and going on some of the more family-friendly rides.
By this point, Adam’s feet were in agony, having only had his formal dress-shoes with him after leaving his trainers in our car in Brussels! Therefore one of our first stops was at a random shoe shop within their grounds. Amazingly, Adam managed to get a decent pair of Adidas trainers for a really reasonable price considering the location!
As well as having different lands dedicated to the different aspects of the European Union, each aspect also provided ‘traditional’ food for the country. As we were going to be visiting many of the countries and sampling genuine cuisine, we decided to opt for a taverna in ‘Greek-land’ for lunch and enjoyed a decent meal. The food was of a decent quality considering the rate by which it was having to be pumped out and they had a good system for dealing with the queues, meaning that despite it being rammed, we were served with relative ease.
Having become addicted to online-arcade game ‘Rocket League’ before we’d left for the trip, one of my highlights was in ‘Little England’, where they had a football/dodgem hybrid in the ‘Arena of Football’! The Fjord-Rafting was also BRILLIANT and we bonded with the non-English-speaking guys who we shared our boat with over they hilarity of the situation as Will and one of the pair stood up in the raft to try and avoid the thorough drenching we were receiving: to no avail!!
Conveniently, there is a Lidl Supermarket just outside, so we were able to stock up on supplies for that evening, including amazing Pretzels, which we developed a massive taste for during our trip!
Upon leaving we made our way cross-country in a bid to get as close to the next day’s stop-off (Neuschwanstein Castle) as we could. This was the first occasion in the trip that we were staying somewhere that was not booked in advance, so my anxiety was a little higher at this point. We’d liked the idea of camping by Lake Constance, opposite Switzerland, so I’d spent a lot of time looking for decent camp-sites, and contacting several ahead of time. Unfortunately, very few took prior bookings so this turned out to be a farcical and stressful evening.
Firstly, the satnav failed us as soon as we hit the general vicinity and the signposts took us to a car-park a block away from the lake, meaning that we had to retrace our steps and then try and work it out from what we’d seen from slightly further up the hill.
Finally arriving at the planned camp-site, we headed into reception, where thankfully there was still a member of staff (this was our other concern on not being able to book in advance- as we’d be arriving fairly late on, due to a full day at the Park and then a slog in the car). Our initial relief at seeing someone still there soon began to dwindle as he revealed that the site was booked up. After explaining that we’d be gone first thing in the morning, he seemed to take pity on us, telling us to go and have a look and if there was space for us to fit our tent then we could have it for the night.
Wandering down to the lake, there seemed to be in numerous tent-sized spaces, thus creating more confusion as to where we could and could not pitch. In the end we decided to just go with it and returned to reception with the ‘good news’. At this point the situation became even more bizarre as it seemed our cards were marked. Whether it was because we were British and they were concerned about the ‘Brits Abroad’ stereotypes or because we were fairly young I’m not sure, but we were told that a refundable-if-we-didn’t-cause-a-problem deposit of 50 Euros per person, per night was required. Thankfully we weren’t having a repeat of Dunkirk and we managed to cobble together the deposit, as well as the meagre 30-Euros payment for the night’s camping. The more we thought about this, the weirder it seemed- there were huge groups and families of people here who clearly looked set for a long holiday- how much was their deposit? How were they possibly affording it? All became clear the next morning when we were handing our ‘deposit’ back of 20 Euros (Clearly the standard fee) and it was only after further prompting that we managed to get the enveloped wads of cash back.
Following this, we were asked to move our tent by a pair of teenagers and I was ‘adopted’ by a toddler, who I’m pretty sure mocked me for not being able to understand her German. All-in-all, it wasn’t the best experience, but the lake was stunning and we had a leisurely couple of beers and the remains of our Lidl picnic sat by it. Adam even managed to squeeze in a run around part of it the next morning. We slept well, had lovely freshly cooked pretzels for breakfast from them and were off and away again bright and early.