Category Archives: travel in germany

Medieval town – straight out of the box

This week I was in Ochtrup – a town in the Münsterland, near the Dutch border.

The city fathers have just constructed a new “medieval” walled town in the centre of the village. Actually it’s one of those outlet-centres where eye-wateringly expensive brands are offered at merely wallet-flinching prices.

The entrance to the shopping-village is through a pseudo city-gate.

FOC Ochtrup

The city gate lacks only a portcullis and drawbridge.

Inside, despite the cute step gables and olde-worlde street lights, the place feels odd. The upper floor windows are all blanks. There is no sense of street-life or community. It’s all very Stepford-wives-ish.

Outlet centre Ochtrup

Sterile cuteness…

And of course the impression is exacerbated by the fact that nearly all the shops are selling designer labels. What the place really lacked was a greengrocer, a cheese shop, fishmonger, butcher…

I think I’ll stick to our high-street and local market.


Filed under About Germany, Life in Germany, shopping in Germany, travel in germany

Mönchengladbach Pongs

I was out and about in Mönchengladbach yesterday when I saw a sight which filled me with that kind of joy which only a Brit in Germany can experience. That same jovial smile crossed my features as happens whenever a Teuton wishes me a Gute Fahrt, or when I pass the Autobahn exit to this place.

The reason for my delight was a bus emerging from a side-street to my right.  Not just any old bus.

This bus.

Mönchengladbach Pongs

Whiffy bus?

I have to admit that the sight of this splendidly labelled vehicle caused me a brief moment of dilemma. You see I was driving through Mönchengladbach on my way somewhere… at that very moment, Helga the satnav was commanding me in her brusque tones to drive straight on. I had a purpose.

But those who know me well will realise that this brief flash of doubt was quickly over. To Helga’s immense dismay (and trust me, no real person can spit out the word “Recalculating” as fiercely as she does), I did the only thing possible under the circumstances.

I followed the bus.

Within a few miles I found myself in downtown Pongs.  I quickly made sure my car windows were completely rolled up and the air vents closed… after all, surely a place doesn’t get a name like that for no reason.

Downtown Pongs

Downtown Pongs… move along, nothing to smell here…

Luckily the refuse collecters were out in Pongs at the time… presumably Pongs pongs less today.

The 024 to Pongs is now my second favourite German bus. My favourite still has to be the vehicle run by this company…


Another example of an amusingly named German bus

1 Comment

Filed under About Germany, Life in Germany, travel in germany

And the Planet Germany award for the best named German Imbiß (snack bar) goes to….

German snack bar

Spotted today in Mönchengladbach…


Filed under About Germany, food, Life in Germany, shopping in Germany, travel in germany

Travelling near the Dutch-German border this morning…

… I was pleased to see this expression of civic pride from the village whose name we all know so well….


Yes… that really is the name of the village, not a comment on the weather, or a rude word in Latin….


Filed under About Germany, Life in Germany, travel in germany

Stolpersteine in Emmerich am Rhein

Today I was visiting Emmerich am Rhein – a town on the border between Germany and the Netherlands.

Emmerich am Rhein

Suspension bridge over the Rhine at Emmerich

While I was walking through the town centre, I came across a group of brass Stolpersteine – small plaques in the pavement reminding passers-by that holocaust victims had once lived in the house they are passing.  Stolpern means to stumble – so these are literally stones that you stumble across.

This set remembers a family of three from Emmerich who fled the national socialist regime and escaped to America.


The Gompertz family fled to America in 1939 and survived the Holocaust.

This was the first time I’ve seen Stolpersteine remembering people who actually survived the war – most of them record death in one of the concentration camps. I hope the Gompertz family settled in America and had a long and happy life after the war.


Filed under german history, Life in Germany, travel in germany, World War 2

Cool stuff for kids in Germany

When I was visiting Kempen I also spotted these cool street-sculptures which double as entertainment for kids.

Rocking Horse

Hoppe hoppe Reiter…

Bendy chicken

Flexible fowl…

Rocking pig

For future Bastian Schweinsteigers?



Leave a comment

Filed under About Germany, children in germany, Life in Germany, travel in germany

German markets

Everywhere you go in Germany, there seem to be reminders of former markets. Not that Germany doesn’t have markets nowadays too, of course. But in past times, they seemed to have one market per type of produce, at least judging by the old street names.  I was in Kempen this week which has a marketplace which claims to sell only butter (there was a market on at the time, though it seemed to be all fruit and veg).


A whole market just selling butter?

There was a bit of confusion about the Viehmarkt (cattle market) – which apparently used to be a horse market. These days it’s a car park. How appropriate!

Horse market

A cattle market… formally a horse market…

I also visited Rheinberg which arranges its markets very neatly, next to each other. So you can pick up your fish and also the wood to cook it on. How marvellously well organised!

Fish market

Wood sellers to the left, fishmongers to the right….

Whatever market is on, it’s so much more fun than buying produce in a supermarket.

German market

German market scene in Kempen with street sculpture…





Filed under About Germany, german history, Life in Germany, shopping in Germany, travel in germany

Austerity in Germany?

When I was in Wuppertal this week, I noticed that the Germans are economizing on street signs. Looks like it’s going to turn out to be a false economy…

Stick-on street signs

Stick-on peel-off street signs in Wuppertal

Either that, or they’re planning to change the names of the streets on a regular basis….

Leave a comment

Filed under About Germany, Life in Germany, travel in germany

Random stuff spotted while driving through Krefeld

I had to go to Krefeld today. Not an exciting trip – just to a business area of the city. But while driving though I snapped a few images of… well random things.

First up… the aftermath of a Polterabend. This is the German equivalent of a stag night/hen night. The Germans don’t celebrate separately – they invite all their joint friends to one raucous party. Traditions include hanging up a washing line of baby clothes – just in case the bride-and-groom-to-be haven’t got the point about marriage.  There were also a few remaining shards of broken crockery on the footpath. Guests at a Polterabend traditionally smash crockery outside the house. The broken pots are swept up, usually by the groom, under the watchful eye of the bride, who will be getting the marriage started how she means it to go on.


Baby clothes to encourage the bride and groom

Next… a few streets further on… a relic from the last war.

This is one of the old bunkers, or air-raid shelters which still stand in many German cities.  Some of them are up for sale, if you want a very sturdy property with two metre thick walls and no windows. Handy if the teenage kids take up the drums, I suppose…


A left over air raid shelter from the second world war

Third, a burnt out lumber yard. This, I admit, I came upon by accident because I took a wrong turning. But I had read a news report about a timber yard going up in flames the other day, and all of a sudden there I was, outside the gate of the very spot.

Timber yard

Aftermath of a “Großbrand”

Not far from there I turned round in a supermarket carpark – which interestingly enough is a solar powered supermarket.

Solar powered supermarket

Solar panels on the roof

And just in case you wanted to know how much solar energy is being generated – there is a notice board to tell you.

solar panels

One supermarket roof produces enough energy to power 25 households, apparently


1 Comment

Filed under About Germany, Life in Germany, travel in germany

Train travel in Germany

Summer holidays have started in Germany – and to beat the traffic, many Germans will be taking to the trains.

German Trains

Well connected

Of course no self respecting German would embark on a lengthy train journey without first grabbing a Wurst or two at the station…

German sausage

Bratwurst to go?

… and of course a bag of Prezels, just in case the buffet car is crowded….

German Prezel Stand

Stock up… you never know where your next Prezel is coming from….

… and maybe a Fleischsalat on the side.  Germany is the only country I know where you can buy “salad” which doesn’t actually contain salad.


“Meat salad” – warning, may not contain salad.

There’s plenty to see if you pick the right route.  In Köln the railway bridge is guarded by imposing statues… and of course the central station is only a few yards from the famous Kölner Dom.  (Zero out of ten for town-planning  – though if you have to change train, it’s a chance to pop out and visit one of Germany’s most impressive sights).


Guardian of the tracks

I also recommend the slow train from Köln going South which runs along the banks of the Rhine. Spectacular views of the vineyards, castles and the Loreley rocks.  Definitely worth the extra time it takes.

Before you know it, you’re abroad….


Definitely a foreign language


Filed under About Germany, food, Life in Germany, travel in germany