Vicki's Germany

May 19, 2009 Hamburg, Germany

While Mark has been regaling everyone with the lighter side of our travels, in the background we have been working through further serious camper shipping issues. Seven days ago we got an email from the shipping people in Germany telling us that German customs would require that we leave a $19,000 deposit with them in order to release the camper. Needless to say, it was the first we had heard of this. Turns out one can only have a vehicle in the EU for 6 months at a time otherwise you have to pay customs duty and the VAT (a 19% sales tax). The Germans started requiring a deposit last year which you get back when you take the vehicle out of the EU. We frantically started emailing our shipper, customs etc. and the bottom line was that had we shipped to England, Netherlands or Belgium no deposit would have been necessary. But the Germans require it. Our shipper neglected to mention this. So we have transferred this to an account in California where Rebecca has access and the money is going to be wired to the customs bank account. To further complicate things, the ship arrives on Thursday, which is a holiday in Germany. We may be able to get the camper Friday or maybe not till Monday. In the meantime instead of paying $20-25 a night to camp, we are staying at a hostel with the bathroom down the hall for a mere $70 a night.

At least the food here is much cheaper than Ireland. In fact the grocery—which is a small, urban type, not a large suburban affair—has prices almost cheaper than in the US. I bought ham, cheese, bread, mustard, coke, wine ($2 a bottle), prepared lasagna, milk, prepared salad, garlic bread, muesli—enough of everything for 3 lunches and breakfasts and 2 suppers for $21. So we aren't too far over budget. We plan on taking the 2 hr train ride to the port of Bremerhaven on Thursday and staying in another hostel there until our ship comes in.

The hostel is fine and has free wifi. All ages are staying here, including couples with babies, but it won't be full before the weekend. It is very helpful to have the kitchen with refrigerators. Of course Mark and I are used to sharing communal bathrooms because we camp so much. In fact the hostel bathrooms are always much cleaner than a KOA or such back in the States. But we can't wait to have our own “little home” on wheels.
May 24, Hamburg again
We picked up the camper Friday after leaving a cool $17,400 with the Germans.  No longer on my list of countries I like.  Had a few f'alse starts--at first the shipper said not until Monday, but I begged and she called back and said maybe.  So we jumped in a cab and went to the port.  Camper was already sitting on the dock!  We handed over $$350 for unloading and headed to customs.  They didn't have the bank wire yet, so we thought we might just stay there for the weekend camping behind the large fence.  However, about 2 pm it showed up and 30 minutes of paperwork later we drove to a nearby campground in Bremen.  Mark hooked up the electric and it didn't work.  We have tried every possible combination--power comes into the step-down convertor but no power comes out.  So we spent two days with no electric and no lpg.  Batteries got very low so we had to keep frig on minimum.  Did do some shopping for groceries.  About 25% cheaper than Ireland--about US prices.  I had to buy a new robe--I had left mine at hostel in Bremerhaven--called, but no one had "found" it.
We got most things unpacked and put away.  The camper itself is extremely comfortable.  We just drove back to Hamburg after spending an hour or so in Bremen town center.  I am at the hostel we stayed at last week using the free wifi--Daddy got the two bags we left here and put them in the camper.  We will spend the night across the street in the parking lot--perfectly legal in Germany and only cost $5.  The batteries recharged on the drive up here so we are good till our drive tomorrow.
Tomorrow the nice German girl we met at the hostel (she is living here temporarily) is going to help us phone around to find an lpg dealer who can "unpurge" our tank.  Mark will send an email to the US company who sold us the step-down convertor and see what can be done to get the electric working.  We are also going to visit the German AAA to get maps, etc.  So hopefully within a day or two we will be ship shape and heading for either Berlin or Denmark.