Breidscheid Revisited - March 2001 Trip

I ought to mention right at the start of this trip-report that I never actually got onto the Nürburgring this time. If you're looking for some high-speed vehicular action, you are going to be sorely disappointed.

On Friday 2nd March 2001, myself and a uni chum, Paul McAdam, headed Nürburgring-ward. We'd decided earlier in the week that it was worth a shot; the calendar on the web site said that the track was open and when we telephoned on the Thursday they said that the Nordschleife would be open unless there was snow. What they neglected to mention was the fact that the track was covered in snow.

As Paul was travelling from Birmingham and I was coming from London, we agreed to rendezvous in Brussels airport, pick up a hire-car there and head across to play. We both left work at lunchtime and, helped by the one-hour time difference, met in Brussels at 5pm. The weather in Brussels was chilly but no snow so after a brief visit to Avis we picked up our Opel Vectra and headed east.

After a largely non-eventful trundle across Belgium we started to enter Nürburgring territory - past St. Vith, past Prum and Gerolstein. As we climbed, rather ominous patches of snow appeared at the sides of the road. Well, perhaps not so much patches. Drifts, you might call them. The temperature gauge in the car flumped down to minus three degrees centigrade and Paul and I began to wonder whether we should have brought some skis.

As we drove under the 'Ring near Nürburg, our fears were confirmed by the heavy layer of snow on the circuit. It was looking rather unlikely that we were going to get to play at all.I had booked into Blau Ecke in Adenau earlier in the week and had in my hand the write-up from Ben Lovejoy's website. The only slight problem was that we didn't have an address per se - we had a black-and-white printout of a photograph and the instruction that it was "in the square in the middle of Adenau". Our problems were compounded by the fact that it was now snowing reasonably heavily and it was pitch dark. We very quickly became experts on the subtle nuances of German architecture ("no, no, it's not that one - the turret tapers higher" - "no, you idiot, those windows are in quarters, not sixths") but fortunately came across the hotel. For future reference, if you come from the Breidscheid circuit exit it is on the far end of the rectangular "square" in Adenua on the right, facing slightly away from you.

The stairs in Blau Ecke are something to be experienced - not only do they slope across at an alarming angle (it feels as though the building is falling down), there are rather odd ornaments scattered liberally around the place, including a complete suit of armour. Best not to ask. Well fed and lightly fuelled, we chatted for a while with the proprietor. He mentioned that he'd run a 24-hour race in an Alpine A110 he shared with a collective and that, while it was a little sluggish on the straights, you could lose GT3s that didn't know where they were going on the corners. He was fairly modest but from the way he was talking I suspect he knows the circuit unreasonably well...

On Saturday morning we felt we ought to at least drive down to the Nordschleife start. As expected, snow halted play so we decided to make the best of it and become tourists. Fortunately, Paul had a European guidebook with him so after a quick consultation we headed down to Trier. Having missed out on the fun and found an autobahn, it seemed almost rude not to see how fast the hire-car went.

Trier, it must be said, was quite scenic. Being experienced international travellers, we followed signs for "Centrum" until we saw an old-looking building, then found a car-park and stopped. We walked out of the car-park and wandered over to the old building, which turned out to be very old indeed. Trier was built 1300 years before Rome and the gate in question was built in the second century. One monument done, we saw another promising one a short distance away and headed over there. This turned out to be Trier's Cathedral - 326 AD, but still in remarkeable condition. A short walk down the road was the Bassilica, which appears to be made of bricks about an inch high and therefore has more cement in it than substance. At this point we decided we'd done sufficient justice to the Tourist Thing and sat down for some sauerkraut and bratwurst.

We made the foolish mistake of wandering into an electrical store and, having established that we weren't going to get the giant wide-screen TV into the car, let alone into an aircraft, we made do with a fine German compilation album entitled "Mega Party Power Mix 2001". Double CD for fifteen quid. You can't complain.

That's not strictly true. You can complain. If you were ever under the misconception that us Brits had a monopoly on trashy Europop, think again. Every track on the double-CD set could have been a strong contender in the Eurovision Song Contest. Somehow, it felt appropriate. We continued our tour of Europe's more solemn landmarks to the tune of such masterpieces as "Er hat ein knallrotes Gummiboot" and "I Bang on My Drum (Dam Dam Dam)". Luxembourg beckoned.

If you ever find yourself near Luxembourg and looking for a wild crazy time, do not go to Luxembourg. It features an odd currency, quite a few majestic-looking bridges and more high-street banks in one city than... well, something that there are a lot of in one place. Australians in bars, perhaps. One thing that Luxembourg does boast, however, is an absolutely extraordinary quantity of attractive young ladies. Everywhere we went there seemed to be oodles of them swarming around the town.

We ambled around Luxembourg for quite a while.

Back in Adenau, we decided that an evening of ale was in order. With that in mind, we headed across to Brauhaus, just opposite Blau Ecke.

After a couple of civillised beers, we chomped through an excellent (and very cheap) pizza and a couple slightly less civillised beers. By the end of the evening we could both speak fluent German and had established once and for all what Tony Blair ought to be doing, how best to establish peace in the Middle East and whether Myra Hindley ought to be released from prison. It's a crying shame that we didn't write these solutions down at the time as my memory is a little flakey. Proof that we weren't as healthy as we ought to of been was provided in the form of a beer-mat bar tab. To complete an entertaining evening, we wandered up to Breidscheid and threw a few snowballs around on the track. Standing on the snow-covered track slightly inebriated in almost pitch darkness made you suddenly realise how long the thing actually was.

Unsurprisingly, the Nordschleife was shut on Sunday too so off we went to continue our European Tour. Neither of us was feeling at all well after the previous evening's escapades and conversation was somewhat muted as we motored off towards Maastricht. After a brief argument as to which country it was in (are all travellers quite this incompetent?) we decided that it was most likely to be in the Netherlands (is this even a country?) and headed in roughly that direction.

Maastricht is very similar to Luxembourg. It features a large number of gothic-looking heavy stone buildings in the historic centre and further out of town is really quite industrial. We drove into the town centre, parked and got out of the car - I for one was really quite relieved at having some fresh air. I was having a quite troublesome Beer Digestive Experience. We bumbled fairly hastily around and ended up being content standing in the square with a bag of chips each. The thing that struck me most about Maastricht was the fact that you don't seem to be legally required to wear a crash helmet if you're riding a scooter. All over the place were people scooting about the place without helmets, smoking cigarettes or shouting at random passers-by. Very strange to see.

After spending the better part of an hour in a toy-shop (they had die-cast models of the oddest cars -Ford Fiesta Ls, VW Passatt Estates, that sort of thing) we decided that our "Nürburgring" trip was done and we'd better head back to Brussels.

Back at the airport, the chap from Avis seemed far too eager to get off his shift and leapt in and started checking the car while we were still in it. I felt terribly indignant and was almost tempted to tell him that he ought to be grateful given what we were intending to do with it. Somehow, though, it didn't seem appropriate...