Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Anarchists In Disguise: Travelling Germany via Wohnmobil Stellplatz - for free!


We have been travelling Germany for around 4 months, and distinguishing where is acceptable / legal to park and how has been a general game of trial and error. Although so far, there has been pretty much zero error!

A few months back, when driving back into Germany after a confusing journey from Czech, we were looking for a place to stay the night (for free of course!) For some unknown reason, our SatNav directed us into a car park next to a sporthall, with a symbol of a campervan. It turns out that we had accidentally arrived at a Wohnmobil Stellplatz.

A nice lady explained that there are many of these all over Germany and that many of them are for free. These Stellplatz (translated as "putting place" or similar), are available to park your camper for usually 2-3 nights, often with water, sewage facilities, and a toilet (if you're lucky!). The free ones seem to generally be located in small, old fashioned towns of Deutchland, which is great if you want to be more in nature, on the outskirts of snivilisation. After we stumbled across this strange German phenomena, we searched for more online, and found a website, which we have used for free places to stay ever since. Here it is: www.stellplaetze-kostenlos.de

Coming from England where sleeping anywhere for free in a van is considered illegal, under the 1994 Criminal Justice act (the same law brought in to stop travellers, ravers and general cultural heretics) I find it refreshing that free places for camper vans exist at all. Van dwelling in England seems to be ridden with stigma and negative association, I guess this is linked to a social phobia of any group doing something outside the norm; perpetuated and encouraged by media stories about traveller hippies, anarchist squatters, drugged up ravers and "Swampy" (eco-warrior of the 90's). Its been strategically conjured into the public narrative for decades. 

Back in Deutchland, this kind of prejudice dosnt really seem to exist. In fact, van dwelling in Wohnmobilen (Mobile Homes) is mostly a privilege of the retired. Here, it seems to be traditional for retired couples to own a massive luxury campervan and spend time travelling, mostly for the weekend, with their home on the road, to escape the usual and mundane. In our cosy 7m x 2m Ford Transit Hightop, we're usually thinking, "what do they do with all that space?". We've become tiny by contrast. Inside these mechanical monsters  there is, more often than not, an eldery couple, watching satellite TV, drinking beer and eating traditional deutsche essen. A stark contrast from the motivations of the freedom junkies, but never the less a beautiful convergence of humans looking for peace.

I've come to think that perhaps the Wohmobil Stellplatz were not orginally designed with us in mind, but more for the hardworking Germans who have paid into the society their whole lives. For whatever they were oringally intended, we've always felt welcome, safe and relaxed when staying over, and as long as you're not partying or getting loud and messy, everyone's happy!


A few more practical things worth mentioning, is that many of these places are next to rivers or lakes, which opens up opportunities for washing without running water, and of course, morning naked swimming (probably illegal too, but everything real is!).  

Secondly, they provide a temporary destination for the adventurous traveller; when travelling Germany, most only visit the big cities, which i feel only gives part of the story. Loads of these free "stellies" (as they are now called - by me!) are located in small suburban towns, and many also not too far from the motorway / autobahns, so sometimes you dont need to take a massive detour. Travelling like this, we have seen a lot of towns and countryside that most Germans probably have never even heard of.

Make sure you search the address on Google Maps first! We had a situation once near Lake Constanz, which was located in a Wohnmobil repair centre. After being there for a few hours, a guy came and told us that its not a stellplatz and we need to leave. There are also some on the kostenlose-stellplatz website, which seem to be hotel carparks (which we've been wary of). So just make sure you research a little, to make sure it seems legit (enough!).

Lastly, they are not all free; most stellplatz are businesses, and can cost up to 18 Euro a night, which usually dosn't include water or electricity and many are just a dull bit of car-park at the side of the road. Who knows why the oldies spend their holiday there! We did feel morally just parking outside one once and nicking their water and shower facilities. 'Cos property is theft, innit!
I've probably thought way too much about Kostenlos Wohnmobil Stellplatz (Free Campervan Parking Place), and have grown a deep appreciation for the relaxing serenity of a free bit of gravel where pesky vagabond travellers are actually welcome, for once. Whether you're on a family holiday, a dissident traveller or band on tour, these stopping places are an invaluable resource to make the most of when travelling Germany - and many of the locals don't even know there are ones for free!

If you are planning to travel Germany or know someone who is, make sure they read this!Long live the rubber-tramps and danke fur alles! Wilkommen in Deutschland! Happy travels!

- Ryan-

PS - We've recently been using www.park4night.com, which seems show "stellies" and random parking places. Its really good too. Check it out!

3 comments:

  1. Hi Ryan and Ems,

    I love your blog...Maria just sent it to me! So glad you are doing this...brave pair that you are! Based on the theme of your blog, I'd like to suggest a book that I think you would both enjoy. It's called 'The Surrender Experiment" by Michael Singer. It's his story of how, at the age of, I think 23 or so, he realized there was a voice in his head talking all the time. Obviously, he couldn't be that voice because he was listening to it, but he couldn't shut it up. After trying and doing a fairly good job of experiencing peace and bliss through intense and long meditations, he decided to just not listen to what the voice was saying, and do what life was asking/presenting instead. Fabulous story...and very exciting. Let me know if you like it! Love, GAJ

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  2. wicked blog hun , and such handy information , i know its hard trying to park up in places and not knowing wot what in a country , safe travels dude xx

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