Summer Camping Weekend

8 08 2014

Berlin is famous for the many lakes in its backlands, and on a beautiful summer weekend in July we packed our camping gear and headed north, with the general aim of Bernsteinsee (lake amber) in the Schorfheide nature reserve. Realized again we should do this much more often – just 1-2 hours out of Berlin and one is out of the big city and quickly in holiday mode. We ended up on a campsite on Ruehlesee, just next to Bernsteinsee: Beautiful low-key campsite in a pine tree forest with its own lake. The backlands of Berlin all belong to former East Germany, and 24 years after re-unification it seems the camp sites are often still run in a different way to West Germany: Lots of space, landscape mostly left untouched, everything a bit low key, but the necessary facilities in place and very friendly and unpretentious people. This one comes with its own diving school, and a cable waterski facility on an adjacent second lake – not really our thing, but amusing to watch for a while. In addition to their German web site I found this English site, both also a bit out-dated.
Thanks to Wikipedia I’ve just learnt that parts of the Schorfheide nature reserve are actually a UNESCO listed world heritage: Protected since 2011 as one of the last surviving ancient beech forests that probably covered most of middle Europe some long time ago. It is also home to the lesser spotted eagle, which we actually saw when we meandered through the forests on the way back to Berlin!

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Sage Green Family Meeting

31 05 2014

Nice encounter last weekend at the local DIY market: Taiga Lily met a cousin, a 1977 Westfalia camper in identical Taiga Gruen/Sage Green, freshly restored and in fantastic condition. Beautiful new paint job, fold-up roof also freshly re-sprayed. Also met the owner and learnt about another group of kombi fanatics here in Berlin. Greetings to Ruediger – looking forward to catching up with you guys sometime later this summer!

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Of Autobahns and Country Roads

12 08 2013

Three weeks of vacation have come to an end. They started with a power weekend for Taiga Lily as she was booked as a wedding limousine in Stuttgart. Stuttgart is about 800 km from Berlin when driving via Marburg where I dropped of the dog with my parents for the weekend. With some stops along the way to fill up on petrol, coffee and food, to walk the doggy and to have dinner, the trip took me some long twelve hours. But the weather was great, traffic not too bad and Taiga Lily drove smoothly all the way, so I enjoyed the ride. The route took me through “Volkswagen country“, with VW production sites along the way in Hannover, Wolfsburg, Salzgitter and Kassel, and towards the end into the homelands of Mercedes and Porsche, Stuttgart and Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen. Pretty amazing how much richer Stuttgart looked compared to Berlin.

Taiga Lily all shiny and clean for the biog day in Stuttgart.

Taiga Lily all shiny and clean for the big day in Stuttgart.

Official maximum speed of the van is 127km/h (70 h.p. CJ engine), and given enough time to ramp up the speed she easily goes 120-125km/h – haven’t pushed her beyond that yet. But on those hot days, the top speed quickly went down to 90 or even 80 km/h as the engine temperate otherwise raised beyond 100°C. Air cooling comes to its limits when its 35 to 40°C in the shade. The new sliding window in the sliding door paid out massively – always a nice breeze on the backbench, no more problem with too much heat in the back as during last summer’s ride to the Czech Republic.
To spare the little one of at least part of the long rides, my lovely wife and wonder baby flew from Berlin into Stuttgart. The way back was then still a long five-hour-ride from Stuttgart to Marburg, some days spent in Marburg and then another eight-hour-trip for the last 465 km to Berlin.

VW Bus Fans - The Next Generation.

VW Bus Fan – Next Generation.

After the VW Bus festival and a week at home in Berlin, we spent the last week in a bungalow on a campsite in the Spreewald, 100 km southeast of Berlin. This time we deliberately avoided the Autobahns and went for the small country roads, both to get there and while exploring the environments. Amazing how much more pleasant it was to drive the old bus at 60 to 80km/h through the forests instead of racing her at 100km/h over Autobahns. Probably this is more the speed for which these buses were designed in the late sixties. Now the holidays are over and it is back to work – what a shame.

Our dog enjoying the prime seat on the porta potti box...

Our dog enjoying the prime seat on the porta potti box…

Back streets in the Spreewald region southeast of Berlin.

Country road in the Spreewald region southeast of Berlin.





Things That Can Break. Today, The Brake Booster

2 08 2013

I learnt a bit about the break booster (German: Bremskraftverstaerker, BKV) in the last few days. Mainly that it is not good when it fails. The first impression is that the breaks do not work at all any more, which is pretty frightening when it happens out of the blue. The breaks actually still work, but need a lot more power on the break pedal to show some effect. Turns out the systems runs under a vacuum which is generated at the engine in the back and is transferred via vacuum hoses to the brake booster at the front axle. My Berlin VW garage, Beetle Clinic, checked everything and found two dodgy sections in the vacuum hose which they replaced: One part with a kink in it and one where one of the previous owners had bridged a short stretch with non-vacuum hose. While at it, they also replaced a vacuum valve, just to be on the safe side. I picked the car up today and so far the breaks have worked correctly. So hopefully it were just these weak points in the hose and not the brake booster unit itself. I was told these are not made anymore and it may take some time to get a working unit second hand.

Taiga Lily meeting a close cousin at the Beetle Clinic.

Taiga Lily meeting a close cousin at the Beetle Clinic.





Surfer Bus

9 01 2013

Nice key ring. Good that it’s not the ever present T1 splittie. We have waited long enough – now T2s are getting cool, too!

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The Biggest T3 – Ever!

2 08 2012

So it is out and you can download it from the Festival Web page: The aerial photograph of a T3 front, built last Saturday at the 5th Berlin VW Bus Festival from 335 Volkswagen buses! And we were part of it! Taiga Lily is where the little yellow arrow is in the left indicator, with us on the picnic blanket next to her. Someone did a brilliant job in organiszing those hundereds of buses so precisely!





First Long Ride on the Autobahn

21 06 2012

We finally managed to get Taiga Lily out for her first longer ride on the Autobahn. High time as, for one reason or the other, the new engine, already delivered and installed in January 2011, was not really heavily used since then. It urgently needed to be driven in on a longer trip where it could warm up and run for several hours. So last weekend the whole young family plus uncle Matti plus Leon dog wonder hopped on the bus and we went the 470 km from Berlin to Marburg to give the grandparents a chance to see our baby daughter’s latest developments. She just turned 9 months a week before.
I was a bit worried that some new trouble could show up, so we deliberately did not start on Friday evening but waited till Saturday morning. This way any break down could at least be dealt with in day light. But all went well, and after 7-8 hours and a mostly rainy trip with several coffee breaks and dog walking stops we arrived in Marburg in the late afternoon. To drive the new engine in, we kept accelerating slowly from 80 km/h to 110 or 115 km/h and then slowly decelerated again back down to 80 km/h. Must have been quite weird for anyone driving behind us, but then nobody drives that slowly anymore nowadays. The night before I had finally installed a power point under the dashboard so that we could run a smart phone with a GPS based speedo app. Turned out the old VW speedometer is almost correct, generally only 2 to 2.5 km/h faster than the GPS-derived speed.

Tank stop at Königslutter, just after the former inner-German border.

Checking the speedo with a GPS app.

Recovering in the sun in Marburg.

Stopover at a petrol station on the way back, near Magdeburg.

Seeing that the ride would take so long, we had taken the following Monday off. So after a wonderful and very sunny family weekend we started the long way back on Monday afternoon. Again accelerating and decelerating all the way, this time occasionally pulling her up to 120 km/h. The way back was fantastic summer weather all the way. Not ideal because so far none of the windows in the back can be opened. Before any future longer trip in summer I need to build in a louvered window. I bought one second hand already some time ago for the window opposite the sliding door. Better even to also add a sliding window in the back behind the sliding door. Petrol consumption was at 12.5 l/100km. I understand this is ok for this old engine (70 h.p. 2000 ccm CJ motor). With the additional oil cooler, the engine temperature usually stayed at a friendly 80 and 100°C and never went beyond 105°C. At the end of the trip it actually felt already as if the engine was running more willingly and smoothly up from 80 to 120 km/h, so this whole driving-her-in business may have already worked. Time from 80 to 120 km/h was 70 sec, with relaxed acceleration to treat the new old engine gently. I am happy that all went so well.