City of my heart
Move the car
Right in the heart of the picturesque landscape of Central Germany, in Franconia, about 130 km from Nurnberg, lies one of Germany´s best known thermal spas: Bad Kissingen. “The spa´s historic centre is dissected by a pedestrian zone with countless restaurants and cafés, beautiful historic houses, a theatre and a casino. City showpiece is the spa park and the spa centre with the largest colonnade in Europe,” to quote local tourist brochures. Yet even without witnessing any of this my own experiences convinced me that this is a city of my heart.
Bad Kissigen is – surprise! surprise! – home to Europe´s largest off-road trade fair: Abenteuer Allrad Bad Kisssigen. For us motor nomads, lovers of life and aficionadas of exploring the world on wheels, a compulsory must. “You just have to see this,” raved my friend Honza, who had already been there once. “You´ll see things there you can´t even imagine! Tyres, winches, maps, books, dormobiles in all shapes and sizes, extensions, gear. But the best stuff is out there on the municipal parking lots away from the fair grounds.” And was he right! During the trade fair motor nomads converge not just from all over Germany but also from the neighbouring countries. On Friday evening several hectares of pasture on the edge of the city were covered by parked automobiles ranging from off-road trucks to exotic loners who had adapted their vehicle for a single passenger. For three days the sleepy spa transformed itself into an automobile colony numbering some two to three thousand people. Whole groups migrate here, complete with families and their kids. It took a single glance to realise that for most of them this excursion was more than a holiday. “We spend at least two weekends a month outdoors,” said Horst, who was parked close to our Manka and who joined us to give her the once-over. “Those two are mine,” he said, pointing to two little boys in raincoats who were running across the boggy field track ploughed up by heavy trucks and which now looked something like a tank training area. It had rained the night before and even today the evening skies were dark with rain clouds. “We usually spend our holidays travelling. We´ve done a large part of Europe. The boys love it, my wife takes it in her stride,” said Horst with such a satisfied smile that we believed him.
We spent the whole of the first day at the fair so that we missed out on buying something for dinner. “Let´s go somewhere for a sausage – can you see any smoke wafting up from a barbecue?” suggested Honza as soon as we got back to our miniature “township”. So off we went to explore our surroundings. That´s how we discovered the one and only weak spot of this enterprise. We circumnavigated the entire camp without finding a single delicatessen stand. Not surprising, really, since most of the campers had their own grills so there wouldn´t have been too much business for a stall owner. We were saved by a mobile pizzeria which we had originally turned up our nose at. Right next to it was a large tent where they were screening videos of people´s trips. The field tent was chockablock when we entered. A young couple were just screening a film about their “Motor nomadic” travels across Turkey. The atmosphere was really friendly, the way it always is when a group of people with the same interests get together. We spent the rest of the evening roaming the grounds and enjoying this caravan bivouac. .A myriad sounds merged with countless aromas; someone strumming a guitar while his neighbour ´s radio blared out German pop. A guy squeezing into a tent on the roof of his car while just a little further on a party was warming up. A sudden rainstorm finally drove us back into Manka. Next morning we got up and set out to photograph the camp by daylight. After four hours of photography the battery in my camera simply gave up the ghost. Hardly surprising! I just kept squeezing the shutter, barely able to decide where to aim my lens next. The ideas, the technical inventiveness and, above all, the diversity of vehicles! Some looked fresh out of a showroom, others had obviously clocked up tens of thousands of kilometres all over the world. But why waste time describing what´s on the photos? Actually, even selecting photos for my gallery was a headache. “You´re really live cool, man. I sure could do with some of those spa procedures,” sighed a lady friend of mine back home after I had told her that I had just returned from a German spa. I was about to protest that I had been out there on a job but said nothing. After all, she was right in a way. I had come back refreshed as if I had spent the whole weekend wallowing about in icy water. Only this time the regeneration was not physical but spiritual.