Hello again and welcome to the 17th blog in The Olivia Rose Diaries on August 29th 2020.
We are on the move again! We have decided that we will re-trace our steps from last year and cruise around the Moselle/Saar loop, passing through Germany, Luxembourg and then back into France. At the beginning of the season, when everything opened up after the confinement, we had decided against re-visiting this particular area as there were parts of it that we hadn’t enjoyed, primarily due to the close proximity of busy roads and train lines running adjacent to the river. However, after so many months of sitting in port we’ve decided to give it a second chance. Forewarned is forearmed – it will be interesting to see if that knowledge helps in reality.
Just four hours cruising from Basse-Ham takes us into Luxembourg and Germany at the same time. Luxembourg is on the left bank, Germany is on the right. The Moselle marks the border between the two countries for approx 35 km and, despite that short distance, we ended up staying two nights.
We stopped for our first night at a place called Bech-Kleinmacher which had nothing remarkable about it other than that we shared our mooring with another English boat. Our last such encounter was way back in June so we fell on them with great glee! They were doing the same route as us but in the opposite direction and we were the first English boat they had seen. We spent a happy hour out on the quayside sharing each others experiences during this strange year.
It was just a short hop the next day to Grevenmacher, where we stopped for fuel. The petrol station was less than a hundred metres away, which is helpful when you have to ferry two twenty-litre barrels back and forth on a trolley. This is usually how we have to fill-up the tank and as it holds 500 litres it can take a while. We were on half-empty and with diesel in Luxembourg priced at 97 cents/litre it was well worth the stop.
You can find the most unexpected things on the way to the petrol station. Le Jardin les papillons (Butterfly garden) was literally just round the corner from the boat. Due to Covid restrictions they were limiting the number of visitors so I had to make a reservation for the next morning.
The garden is actually a huge tropical greenhouse. They import most of the butterflies in pupae form Costa Rica and hatch them on site. Surrounded by exotic flowers, humid, misty air, and a host of gorgeous, impossibly delicate butterflies in shades of electric blue and silky white and black I could almost imagine myself walking through the rainforest. What a wonderful way to start the day.
At Konz we turned off the Moselle and on to the River Saar. I had always been under the impression that a good portion of the German population spoke English, but I’ve never yet met a German lock-keeper who spoke any English at all. If I tell you I failed my German ‘O’ level you will have some idea of my fluency. The only phrase I can remember from the torture of my school days is ‘Der himmel ist aber dunkel’ which I think means ‘the sky is getting dark’. Whilst this might be a pleasant way of opening a conversation on a rainy day, it’s never proved to be particularly useful in negotiating my way through a lock.
All is not lost however as Google Translate gallops to the rescue. We approach each lock with my notepad gripped tightly in my hand and my pre-prepared questions at the ready. The first attempt is as follows; Wir naherrn uns ihnen’ (we are approaching you),followed swiftly by ‘Konnen wir in die Schleuse kommen?’ (can we come in to the lock?)and then I finish off with a flourish of ‘wir sprechen nur ein bischen Deutsch’ – I’m sure you can work that one out – as I invariably don’t understand anything that is said to me in response. It is a strange quirk of human intelligence that when someone explains that they don’t understand our language, we rattle off another reply to them in exactly that language, not making any attempt to use single, simplistic words or speak slowly. I’ve been on the receiving end of this so often in Europe that it’s made me re-assess how I behave when I’m the one speaking the native tongue to a foreigner.
The northern half of the German River Saar is picturesque but the southern end is industrial by nature and has motorways and train lines running alongside it, sometimes on both sides and often hidden in the trees. We had a number of very uncomfortable nights here last year and were determined to avoid at least some of them this time. So we cruised merrily past Ham and Saarburg where the trains and road noise kept us awake for hours. Last night we moored up at the marina in Saarbrucken, which is mercifully much quieter than last year, when a rave in a nearby warehouse went on until three in the morning.
Background sounds, and our awareness of them are an interesting phenomenon. During the day we are adept at blocking these noises out, our attention so often focused on other things. But in the dead of night, with nothing else to distract us, sounds become louder, more insistent and the more aware we become the harder they are to ignore. Sounds also travel across water so there are times on this river when it feels like as if the motorway has decamped into our bedroom. Some people are lucky enough not to be bothered by noise – I am not one of them. I love silence. Fortunately most moorings are pleasant places and if they’re not we can just leave the next day and put it behind us.
Today we head back into France, towards Sarreguemines, leaving the River Saar and joining the Canal de la Sarre. Hopefully it will be a bit quieter.
I shall leave you there until next week’s instalment.
Best wishes to you all.