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Germany motorhome country guide
Germany has it all; bountiful beer, amazing architecture, stunning scenery and toll free roads. History vultures will be flying high at Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. Bavaria has some pivotal pilgrimage sites including the Wieskirche and octagonal Chapel of Grace with its Black Madonna. Hopeless romantics may wish to start or end their scenic drive along ‘Romantische Strasse’ taking in elaborate country houses and castles along the way. The Romantic Road is Germany’s most popular tourist route and runs from Fussen in southern Bavaria, 340km north to Wurzburg. Wine not meander alongside the Mösel or Rhine and marvel at the seemingly endless vineyards. Motorhome tourists are well catered for and can stop at any of the frequent stellplätze along all three routes. Getting around by foot and bicycle could not be easier as the busses and ferries can transport you and your bike.
Germany is crisscrossed by 7000km of clearly signed cycle routes and there are plenty of marked walking trails as well. Germany’s ski resorts are a well-kept secret, having chosen to keep them low-key, family-friendly and affordable. Cash is king in Germany and very few places take credit or debit cards; consequently you will have to make regular visits to cash machines.
Campsites, Motorhome Stopovers and Offsite-Parking in Germany (free wild camping)
Germany has 3500 campsites that cater for all desires and budgets. The German Tourist Board produced guidebook, 'Campsites and Motorhome sites in Germany', is written in English and lists around 1000 campsites. It can be downloaded from www.freegermanyguide.com. Motorhome Stopovers are called Wohnmobil stellplätze in Germany and there are over 2,000 to choose from. German motorhomers are happy to pay for electric; as a result plenty of stellplätze offer hook-up. Often there will be meter controlled hook-up bollards distributing electricity either by kilowatts used or duration, commonly €2 for 12 hours. German stellplätze are the best kept Motorhome Stopovers in Europe making Germany a joy to visit. There are several important road signs to watch out for. ‘Nur Fur’ means ‘only for’, ‘Nur Von’ means ‘only from’ whilst ‘Frei’ means ‘entry allowed’ it does not mean free. The publication Bord Atlas by Reise Mobil, lists 2162 Motorhome Stopovers and 1078 farm and vineyard stops located in Germany. This comes as a pack of two guidebooks and is available from German bookshops and newsagents. All the Aires Mountains lists Aires in Bavaria. All the above books are available from Vicarious Media Tel: 0131 208 3333. Offsite-parking is possible in Germany as long as it is undertaken in accordance with the traffic and parking laws.
Driving your motorhome or campervan in Germany
Germany is a good driving country with only a few things to note. German driving tests are the most comprehensive in Europe and the driving style reflects this. Motorways ‘Autobahn’ across Germany are toll-free and frequently have only two lanes, despite this there will be very fast cars on them. Some motorways have no speed limit, except during bad weather conditions when speed limits are indicated on overhead gantries. Motorhomes or campervans over 3500kg are frequently restricted to the inside lane so look out for signs if you are affected. Do not ‘middle lane’ on German motorways because it is very dangerous, and you are likely to be chastised. Before overtaking take a good look in your mirrors, then if no speeding cars can be seen, indicate and overtake without delay. Motorway exits are signposted as ‘Ausfahrt’. Be aware that very short slip lanes followed by unbelievable steep bends are common. Cyclists often have priority at traffic lights, be vigilant when turning right in towns and be prepared to stop. Winter tyres are compulsory in Germany during snow or icy conditions and snow chains are not considered to be enough. Therefore it is advisable to have winter tyres fitted to your motorhome if you visit Germany between October and April. See www.bmv.de for detailed information about road rules.
Free roadside parking may be time bound and vehicles’ must display the arrival time on a time disc. Discs are available from newsagents for a few euros.
Low emission zones, called ‘Umwelt zones’ in Germany, are on the increase. Vehicles entering an Umwelt zone must display a colour-coded sticker (red, yellow, or green) that identifies the euro emission class of the vehicle. Non compliance can result in a €40 fine. The sticker must be stuck on the inside of the motorhome or campervan windscreen at the bottom right corner. Some towns exclude higher emission, red stickered vehicles and this will increasingly include yellow stickers. The sticker is valid for the entire life of the vehicle as long as the number plate is unchanged. Umwelt zones stickers cost €29.90 see www.umwelt-plakette.de. Stickers can also be issued at local Dekra vehicle registration offices for €5. www.dekra.de has a Dekra station search facility. Just type in a postcode or town name and the details of the nearest Dekra office is displayed. Red stickers are awarded to Euro 2 and Euro 1 diesel cars/motorhomes with retrofit particulate filters. Yellow stickers are awarded to Euro 3 and Euro 2 diesel cars/motorhomes with retrofit particulate filters. Green stickers are awarded to Euro 4/5 and Euro 3 diesel cars/motorhomes with retrofit particulate filters. Green stickers are also awarded to cars/motorhomes with petrol engines fitted with closed-loop catalytic converters, excluding some older models. Visit www.umwelt.nrw.de and click ‘English’ then ‘low emissions zones’ for a good explanation of how engines are given a euro rating.
LPG is widely available and a list of LPG autogas stations can be found at: www.autogastanken.de/de/tanken/autogastankstellen-karte.html. The ADAC Reise Atlas, 1:200,000, shows LPG stations and roads closed to cars towing caravans. The atlas is available from bookshops in Germany and is updated biannually.