Motorhome: Nobody stands alone – on the campsite

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Nobody stands alone – on the campsite

Motorhome: Nobody stands alone - on the campsite-campsite

Haiko and his family go on vacation with the Hymermobil

Source: Jakob Hoff

Vacation in a mobile home – that sounds like closeness to nature, freedom and adventure. Our author tried it out with his family for three weeks and found himself mostly on full parking spaces.

HIn Garmisch-Partenkirchen, not only is the air getting thinner, my hands on the steering wheel also feel wetter with every meter of altitude. Suddenly it goes steeply downhill, behind the guardrail an abyss opens up. Hopefully the brakes won’t fail now!

Such a mountain pass is a challenge for some drivers. However, I am behind the wheel of an eight-meter-long motor home that drives through the narrow serpentines like a huge wardrobe. Driving dynamics? Unavailable.

You always have to be careful not to offend the white monster anywhere. We want to go to the south, to the sea, just as countless of our compatriots do every summer: with the camper van. Over 1.3 million mobile homes and caravans are registered in Germany – more than ever before.

"Just watch out for the cross wind"

The caravanning industry recently made an annual turnover of over seven billion euros. So there must be something to the mobile holiday apartments. What, let’s find out.

During our three-week tour we will keep changing the route. That is the advantage of vacationing in a motorhome: Where it’s nice, you just stay a few days longer. And if the neighbors on the campsite are annoying or the weather gets bad, you keep driving until it gets nice again. For example to Italy.

Maybe the spontaneous crossing of the Alps wasn’t such a good idea after all, I think now. “Just watch out for the cross wind,” my mother had warned us. What should she do if I pass out while driving? My wife asks. Pull the handbrake? Steering and staying in lane are more important first, I answer nervously.

This is not going to be a wellness vacation

It is not my first vacation with the motorhome. I practically grew up in a campervan. As a child, I was with my family every summer for years with the "Womo", which we called our mobile home at the time. That was in the mid-1980s. France, Italy, Austria, Croatia – we traveled through half of Europe and had many adventures.

Now I am a father myself and am behind the wheel of a motorhome for the first time. Steering is the appropriate term for the steering wheel of this swaying vehicle with the turning circle of an inland tanker. At the back of the dining table is Lydia, who doesn’t have a driver’s license, and Emil, our two and a half year old son. “Play cars!” Shouts Emil and hurls a Matchbox excavator against the windshield. It quickly becomes clear to us: this is not going to be a wellness holiday.

Our motorhome is comparatively luxurious. The company Hymer, based in Bad Waldsee, provided us with an upper class motorhome for three weeks, it is a Hymermobil Premiumline B704, the starting price is almost 95,000 euros.

A luxurious four and a half ton truck

Hymer is the top dog in the caravan segment, the largest competitor is the French Trigano Group with brands such as Eura Mobil and Forster. Our Hymermobil is based on a Fiat Ducato and offers special living and kitchen comfort: on-board shower, large refrigerator, underfloor heating, multi-zone cold foam mattresses.

Motorhome: Nobody stands alone - on the campsite-alone

The Hymermobil offers plenty of space and comfort with a maximum payload of over 1100 kilos

Source: Jakob Hoff

But do you also find lonely parking spaces in the country with this huge thing? Brew coffee on the gas stove in the morning while listening to the birds chirping: Does this camper romance still exist? Or is that an outdated cliche that no longer has anything to do with reality?

We were allowed to pick up our Hymermobil from a large truck parking lot in the east of Berlin. For a vehicle handover on our doorstep in the Friedrichshainer In the old-fashioned neighborhood with its narrow cobblestone streets, the mobile home was much too big.

Twice I fully loaded our car with luggage and transported the whole thing to the Womo on the truck parking lot, the caravan swallowed the cargo completely unimpressed. The four and a half ton truck has countless drawers and storage compartments, the maximum load is over 1100 kilos.

"Probably the most hated road user"

Driving into the narrow neighborhood with this huge thing in order to load up our bicycles was still a wrong decision. When I park the Hymermobil in the second row in front of our house, the street is immediately clogged. A considerable traffic jam forms, accompanied by a loud horn concert. In just two minutes I managed to make about 50 drivers my enemy.

After all, after the bike-loading campaign, I managed to get the Hymermobil onto the autobahn through Berlin’s city traffic without an accident. So, cruise control to 100 km / h and head south. Finally holidays! The first traffic jam comes just before Leipzig.

A text by Clemens Gleich comes to mind. "The mobile home is probably the most hated road user in Germany," the motor journalist once wrote. Overloaded Sunday drivers blocked the streets with their swaying snail shells. “At least trucks bring wine for everyone from Spain. Motorhomes bring the rest of the company at most full holding tanks. "

A connection with nature seems to be of secondary importance

We have to empty our on-board toilet for the first time on the third day of travel, on a designated parking space for mobile homes shortly after Wurzburg. There are now hundreds of these spaces across Europe and they are extremely practical.

Here you can not only empty the chemical toilet and the waste water tank, but usually also connect to the local power supply for a small fee, take a hot shower (when you go under the shower in the motorhome, the fresh water tank is empty pretty quickly) or for a change put on a proper toilet.

Motorhome: Nobody stands alone - on the campsite-nobody

Everything you need for camping is in the motorhome, and yet vacationers are sometimes drawn to the convenience of the pitches

Source: Jakob Hoff

Some pitches also offer wireless internet, a sauna, coin-operated washing machines and even a fresh bread roll service. Most of the "RVers", as camping fans like to call themselves, watch TV in the evening, some even in the afternoon. There is a retractable TV antenna on almost every motorhome roof. The connection with nature seems to be of secondary importance.

In the evenings we played dice and card games

30 years ago, when I was on a motorhome vacation with my parents, we almost never drove to parking spaces. There were hardly any. Instead we stayed somewhere in the country, in the great outdoors. We didn’t attract much attention with our old boxes.

Motorhome: Nobody stands alone - on the campsite-stands

No one needs to travel light when spending their summer vacation in this Hymermobil

Source: Jakob Hoff

Once we traveled with an older rental motorhome. Then my father bought a discarded workshop car – a VW LT 28 – and had a refrigerator, gas stove and bed installed. My father then freshly painted the LT himself: with blue anti-rust paint.

Anyone who had to go on vacation back then would go into the forest or the bushes with the toilet roll. Once I accidentally pissed my pants somewhere in the Dolomites. My mother washed her pants in a cold mountain stream.

In the evenings we played dice and card games. We didn’t even think about television, except for the soccer World Cup in 1990 in Italy. We watched the games of the German team in bars and restaurants. Then we went back to our Womo at the edge of the forest or on some meadow.

Unfortunately nothing with idyllic nature

I believe that wild camping was already forbidden in most countries back then. Today it definitely is. On a parking space in Upper Bavaria Another motorhome driver warns us of fines of several hundred euros.

With so many campers, of course, the authorities cannot tolerate pooping in the forest everywhere. And I don’t want to know how many holding tanks are illegally dumped somewhere every season.

So there is nothing with idyllic nature on this holiday, at least for that we don’t have to go for any comfort in the Hymermobil dispense. The air conditioning also makes trips to the hot south pleasant. In the comfortable beds you sleep at least as well as at home, and the crossing of the Alps ultimately turned out to be half as wild.

The 130 hp turbo diesel from Fiat pushed the four-and-a-half-ton truck straight up the passes, but also happily allowed himself 25 liters. On normal roads, the average consumption is around 10 liters of diesel.

We only miss the awning, which is subject to a surcharge, in Italy. If on the Adriatic at noon the sun is at its zenith, then you go in without any shade. A friend with Italian roots had warned us against a vacation on the Adriatic.

A sea of ​​mobile homes

Holidays in Italy begin at the beginning of August, and half the population travels to the seaside. Finally, on a parking space in Ravenna, we are standing in a sea of ​​mobile homes. The site has 163 parking spaces, almost everyone is occupied. When we look out the window, we don’t see any greenery or waves, but rather other motorhomes.

On some days we perceive these pitches as a miserable desert. Instead of nature and the blue sea, we only register sun loungers, awnings and mobile homes who drag their full chemical toilets behind them on the way to the sanitary area.

Motorhome: Nobody stands alone - on the campsite-nobody

Camping on the Adriatic: The sense of community has waned

Source: Haiko Prengel

In return, there is ample opportunity to come into contact with other people on a full pitch. For example with the Kaisers, a retired couple from the vicinity of Heidelberg, whom we meet on our way home on a parking space in the Upper Palatinate.

"You really drove Samba with it"

The Kaisers are real camper professionals, "Erwin Hymer World" is written on a sticker that they have attached to their LMC Cruiser. The LMC Cruiser is the Kaisers’ sixth motorhome, previously they had one from Laika and two Hymer and two Dethleffs each. So far they have not been really satisfied with anyone.

"Above all, the processing quality has deteriorated", says Heinz Kaiser, "because of the lightweight construction". In the past, the motorhomes were much smaller and narrower, the short axles made them manoeuvrable. “You really drove Samba on the autobahn,” he says and laughs.

During our trip, I also noticed that mobile homes have gotten bigger. Today they are often almost as wide as 40 tons, but should ideally weigh less than 3.5 tons. So manufacturers have to save weight wherever possible – with plenty of pressboard for the furniture and lightweight components that are often not able to withstand the constant stress of camping.

Even the tilt windows on the side are sensitive plastic constructions, one of us broke while driving. In order to repair the hinge, we had to stop at a friend’s house.

German RVers prefer to stay to themselves

The Kaisers have long got used to their LMC Cruiser. They are much more disappointed with their fellow campers than with the breakdown susceptibility of their motorhomes. The parking spaces are full, nobody is lonely anymore. But the community has greatly diminished.

“In the past, you gave each other a friendly wave when two motorhome drivers met on the street,” says Erika Kaiser. "That seldom happens these days." People come to the parking spaces with their huge boxes, pull out the TV antenna and draw the curtains. "They seal themselves off."

We made this experience during our trip. Most German motorhome owners are older couples who prefer to be alone when they fold out the deck chairs and have a drink. Newcomers are viewed with suspicion, especially annoying toddlers.

Instead, these couples really celebrate the emptying of their chemical toilets: Modern on-board toilets have small wheels and you can pull them to the drainage point like a trolley suitcase. It’s convenient, but it also looks kind of absurd.

The parking spaces are not decisive

We had the best time of our vacation in Italy. Not only because the weather was wonderful and the Adriatic is just the thing for a holiday with a toddler, but because the Italians were so welcoming. We hardly speak any Italian, and yet we met a lot of people while camping.

We just communicated with our hands and feet. At the end of the journey, after more than 3200 kilometers with the Hymermobil, we find: How nice the holiday with the motorhome will be does not depend on the parking spaces. It’s about the people you meet there.

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