A few months after buying the van we set off for Germany with the aim of finding my grandfathers grave, which, through extensive research, and a few false starts, I had traced to the German town of Kassel. My grandfather had signed up for service in the13th Batallion, the Royal Scots in late 1914 at Kirkliston, near Edinburgh, shipped down to England for training, had a son (my father) in January 1915 and would be dead in October that year.
What exactly happened to him, and why he ended up being buried in Kassel is a bit of a mystery given that he was in the Battle of Loos in northern France. He is recorded as having died of his wounds and my guess is that he was captured by the Germans and subsequently died of his wounds. He was originally buried in a cemetery at ????? , then after the war, and after the formation of the Commonwealth Graves Commission, he was reburied at the newly created Niederzwehren Cemetery on the outskirts of Kassel.
My father obviously never knew his father but when I was born in 1954, he commemorated his father by naming me after the brave Piper who fell at the age of 26 in a foreign field. To see more details and pictures of the battlefield at Loos see the French page.
We had arrived in Kassel on what was a public holiday to mark the Berlin Wall being breached and Kassel was like a ghost town.
After lunch on the campsite we headed for the graveyard on the outskirts of the town and found my grandfathers grave. It is an odd sensation to see your own name on a gravestone but it is also a source of pride to visit and commemorate his bravery. Angus was a Piper and would probably have been unarmed and playing as the battle commenced.
The next morning the town sprung into life again and we decided to buy some flowers and return to the graveside before moving on. The large supermarket was laid out like a UK supermarket with the flower section near the entrance. Call it fate, or simply a coincidence, but the plant of the month, and on offer, was Scottish Heather so we bought a plant with the intention of planting it at the headstone.
Entering the graveyard we were confronted by a dog that came bounding towards us, which was being shouted at from a distance by the German gardener, returned to work after his days holiday. This was where it got a bit humerous in trying to convince him to plant the heather for me. I don’t speak German and he didn’t speak English but after showing him my driving license and pointing out it had the same name as on the headstone the penny dropped that this was my grandfathers grave and he kindly planted it. Hopefully it is still there and thriving.
After these few days spent in Kassel we headed off for a drive down the Banks of the Rhine and Moselle rivers. Germany, like France, is a paradise for motorhomers with most towns and villages having an overnight parking place to park up, most with water and dumping facilities. This encourages tourism and the local businesses reap the benefit of extra trade. Why British towns and villages can’t grasp this principle is beyond me!
The following few pictures are of Rudesheim on the Rhine, one of the most popular tourist villages in the whole of Germany.
Bernkastel-Keus on the Moselle is another little town not to be missed in this region. “With its beautifully preserved mediaeval centre, Bernkastel offers far more than just a glimpse into a bygone era. Its range of attractions, coupled with the excellent hospitality of its inhabitants, guarantee an unforgettable holiday experience.”
Heading north from the Mediterranean in 2015 we headed for Freiburg, a town we had not visited before, and what a gem it is. There is a Stellplatz within walking/cycling distance of the town centre and we stayed there. On the day we visited there was a market on in the square around the church and it added to the colour of the town.
An interesting feature of Freiburg is the open drainage channels running along a lot of the streets in the centre. These were once used to provide water to fight fires and feed livestock, and are constantly flowing with water diverted from the Dreisam. During the summer, the running water provides natural cooling of the air, and offers a pleasant gurgling sound.
Heading north we stopped at a (Moselle) riverside campsite called Klusserath which was excellent.
A few miles further down/up the river was our old favourite, Bernkastel.
The final stop in Germany on the 2015 trip was at the lovely city of Trier. There was a Stellplatz on the opposite bank from the city centre, but well within walking/cycling distance. Trier has is an excellent shopping centre but its claim to fame is that it is known for its well-preserved Roman and medieval buildings, which include:
– the Porta Nigra, the best-preserved Roman city gate north of the Alps;
– the ruins of three Roman baths, among them the largest Roman baths north of the Alps; including the Barbara Baths and the Trier Imperial Baths;
– the huge Constantine Basilica, a basilica in the original Roman sense, was the 67 m (219.82 ft) long throne hall of Roman Emperor Constantine; it is today used as a Protestant church.
– Trier Cathedral, a Roman Catholic church that dates back to Roman times and is home to the Holy Tunic, a garment with a recorded history back to the 12th century, in Catholic tradition said to be the robe Jesus was wearing when he died. It is exhibited only every few decades, at irregular intervals.
– the Roman Trier Amphitheater.
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