16th Dampf in Melle, Steam Automobile Tour – 1-4 May 2015
(or, How to keep the cake bakers of Germany in business!)
An experience written by Marilyn Oliver.
At the kind invitation of Heiner Rössler and his team, John and I were fortunate to be able to join Basil Craske at the 16th “Dampf in Melle” tour for steam cars from 1 – 4 May 2015. The base for the tour was at the magnificent Automuseum in Melle.
After packing Basil’s car with the essential steam car spare parts and hitching up the trailer carrying his Stanley Model 70, the three of us set off for Harwich to sail to the Hook of Holland. This was really exciting for me as I hadn’t travelled anywhere by sea since I was 12 years old when I went “abroad” for the first time to Belgium on a school trip – yes, I can remember that far back!
The North Sea was as flat as the proverbial mill pond for our crossing and we reached the Netherlands refreshed after a night’s sleep followed by a good breakfast.
With the aid of the sat nav, we set off for Melle, with only one “minor” detour at a new roundabout/junction (maze?) being developed, at which point the sat nav threw up her hands and said “I give up – sort it out yourself”!
We arrived at the Automuseum in Melle in good time and were greeted by Heiner. After offloading the Stanley we checked in at our hotel before returning to the Automuseum in the evening for the fire-up dinner – which was a magnificent spread. There, we had the chance to meet the other members of the tour, who had travelled from a number of European countries.
Day 1 of the tour dawned cool, but bright. We had the chance to see the other guests’ vehicles, which included Stanleys, Whites, Locomobiles and Toledos.
We were given the details of our routes for the next four days and we all set off – safe in the knowledge that Heiner had arranged a superb back-up team ready to supply tools, fuel and water, as well as a trailer should there be a complete breakdown (virtually unknown for a steam car!).
The route took us initially towards Rödinghausen where we stopped for a short break to have coffee and cake. Refreshed, we continued on through the beautiful countryside, through Schwenningdorf to Hüllhorst where we stopped to view the Rossmühle (horse treadmill). The octagonal shaped mill was built in 1797 and was designed for up to 6 horses to operate the pounding mill to produce flax and corn. The mill was fully restored in the 1980s and now operates for educational purposes.
A short drive took us to our lunch stop at the restaurant Kahle Warte at Oberbauerschaft where we enjoyed another delicious meal.
The route then took us through Muckum and Bad Essen to Unsere Kleine Fischfarm (Our Little Fish Farm). Here a man-made lake provided customers with the opportunity to catch rainbow trout, gold trout and salmon – and of course, the opportunity to drink tea and eat home-made cakes! We spent an enjoyable 30 minutes sitting in the sunshine before taking the picturesque route back to the Automuseum.
On arrival at the museum, we decided to explore the vehicles on display. There are three floors full of vehicles, with each vehicle only being stored for 6 months maximum. After that time it is changed for another, which keeps the display fresh. An unusual addition to the museum is a large collection of prams – wonderful! We then decided to go down to the museum’s café for a cup of tea and found that they also sell cake (of course), all of which are hand made by the volunteers running the coffee bar. In the evening, we all met at La Grotta, a local Italian restaurant.
Day 2 - An even sunnier day dawned, and we made ready for the day’s route. We were a little later setting off today as a very rare Lane steam car had arrived, for which there was a lot of interest.
We eventually headed off towards Oldendorf, revelling again in the beautiful scenery – and appreciating the extremely quiet roads. It was a real joy to be able to drive a steam car without being hassled by other drivers! The scenery is made particularly pleasurable by the lack of hedges at the side of the roads as we have in England. This enables you to see for miles – and see other traffic on small roads.
We had also noticed on the previous day, how immaculate all the property is in the area, to the extent that I decided the wild birds had been trained to avoid flying over houses as the roofs were pristine (if you get my meaning …?). A coffee stop at Bergwirt Pöhler had an added unexpected pleasure as members of a brass band arrived and played traditional music while we were waiting for our coffee … and cake. J
We proceeded through the countryside, crossing the stunning Mittellandkanal, the longest artificial waterway in Germany at over 300km. Construction of the canal started in 1906 and was completed in 1938 – which doesn’t seem very long at all for an undertaking of that magnitude!
Soon after, we arrived at our lunch stop at Schloss Benkausen, a beautiful location now used as a venue for business conferences and private events such as weddings. In the same grounds is the Deutsches Automatenmuseum owned by the Gauselmann family. When I saw the words “auto” and “museum” (see, I am virtually fluent in German!) I had a feeling I would be spending the next hour going “ooh” and “aah” over a collection of ancient hub caps, or even some old car radiators – but no! In reality this was to be for me, probably, the highlight of the attractions we attended during the tour. It is a collection of historic slot machines, vending machines, gaming and entertainment machines, juke boxes, music boxes and mechanical music automatons. It is FABULOUS! The collection includes machines dating back to the 1880s, and there are around 1800 machines. I could have stayed there for the rest of the day. When entering the museum, our “ticket” was actually a metal brooch in the design of the museum’s logo – which we were allowed to keep. I now wear this on my ‘steam car hat’ and will treasure it always.
As we were visiting at the beginning of May, it was lovely to see that so many people still celebrate May Day by decorating poles with ribbons and carved figures portraying various trades carried out in the town. Apparently it is tradition for someone to try and steal the maypole the night before, and it has to be retrieved by paying a ransom, in beer. (Personally, I would have thought cake was a much better bargaining item!)
Talking of cake … having gently driven the next 20km or so, we made our scheduled afternoon refreshment stop. Well, all this fresh air does make one a little peckish! After returning to the Automuseum, we all gathered at the beautiful Postillion Restaurant in Melle for dinner. There, I was able to learn a little German from the menu. My philosophy is that at least I won’t starve in any country if I can read the menu!
The third day of our tour took us out to Borgloh and Bad Iburg, where we stopped for coffee, etc.! We then carried on to the club house of the Leedener Old Timer Club “Schwarze Wolke” (Black Cloud). I did wonder if the name referred actually to a “black hole”, because men were never seen again after entering the clubhouse, but it transpired that the black cloud refers to the cloud of diesel fumes created by the collection of historic tractors. The club had a huge and very varied collection of farm machinery and implements. There was great interest in the steam cars and we were then treated to a wonderful lunch of home-made soup. What wonderful hospitality again!
On the way back to the Automuseum, we had just enough time to squeeze in a cup of tea and a piece of cake. Basil was intrigued with the minute timers we received with our tea, so we could choose the amount of time we wanted it to brew.
The excellent evening meal was at the Heimathof restaurant, set in the beautiful Gronenberg Park, surrounded by trees.
Our last day started out rather grey and with a little rain, but soon brightened. We set off towards the hamlets of Föckinghausen and Westerhausen. Our morning refreshment stop was at Gasthaus Wortmann in the beautiful church square at Ostercappeln. It was here that the rain stopped and the sun started to appear, so we were able to take down the hood on the Stanley. Finding the correct road in which we should park had taken a few attempts, but our scenting skills had become so finely honed by now, that we could track down cake and coffee at a distance of 2 km!
From Ostercappeln we drove to the sheep farm at Hüde, which forms part of the Naturraum Dümmerniedering – a conservation area. The shepherd, Michael Seel and his family care for the “Diepholzer Moorschucke” breed which can cope with wet pastures. Grazing of the pastures has encouraged a return of arctic geese benefitting from good feeding grounds, and also spring meadow birds seeking nesting sites. The area has been returned to its natural wetland state and is used for educational purposes for groups and individuals alike. Michael introduced us to his flock which were housed in their shed at the time of our visit. On opening the door, we were greeted with the bleating from a huge flock – they were probably just as surprised to be looking at us, as we were of them!
Lunch was provided in the charming Schäferhof Café, where cute models of sheep adorned the room. Lunch was the most delicious, tasty casserole I have ever had and was most welcome.
Sadly we were now on our last leg of the tour. But thank goodness, there was one more coffee and cake stop to attend at Altes Forsthaus located on the scenic Gut Arenshorst golf club before returning to the Automuseum. The cars were loaded onto their trailers ready for the journey home the next day and we had a magnificent last meal at the die Knolle Kartoffelhaus before saying our goodbyes to everyone.
The hospitality shown to everyone on this tour was positively outstanding. Wherever we went people went out of their way to make us welcome (yes, even this lazy English threesome who don’t bother to learn the language!). A huge, belated, thank you to Heiner and his team for a most pleasurable and well organised tour.
I sincerely hope John and I will be able to attend again – and who knows, perhaps I will have learnt to speak a little more German than just “three black teas and three pieces of cake please”!