Our winter tour of Europe continued as we left Innsbruck in Austria behind. As we entered Switzerland the weather finally turned for us with blue skies for our visit to St. Moritz. The views were stunning both from the roadside and high on the mountains following a cable car journey. We overnighted at a Stellplatz in Bivio, just beyond St. Moritz. It was time to think about heading home and so heading north we found ourselves back in Germany. The next campsite we would visit was to be Camping Hirzberg in Freiburg. Freiburg is an attractive old city in the state of Baden-Württemberg in Germany’s famous Black Forest.
Camping Hirzberg – First Impressions
I had never visited Freiburg before but had heard good things about it from my father who had done business there before. Unfortunately the good weather we had experienced in Switzerland had deserted us. We arrived at Camping Hirzberg sometime early afternoon to find the reception closed. Apparently they close for lunch between 1pm and 3pm. It seemed very empty and quiet so we just selected a pitch and waited for the reception to open. Camping Hirzberg is a fairly small site with about 60 pitches. The landscaping is nothing special, particularly in winter with the bare trees. As a campsite however and a base to visit Freiburg we thought it would meet our needs perfectly.
The man on reception spoke perfect English and gave us some information about how to reach the town centre on foot. He also handed us a device that we would need to install between the EHU (electricity outlet) and our lead. The device measured your usage since only a limited amount of electricity was included in the price. As it was still raining I decided to take a shower rather than walk into town. The shower block was heated and the water pressure was ok. After my shower I used the free wifi to catch up on emails and to upload some photographs I had taken earlier in the trip. Russell was able to get a decent satellite TV reception so he was happy.
Camping Hirzberg – A bitter taste
As the afternoon wore on we noticed that no other motorhomes arrived. Since it was a Saturday and Freiburg being a tourist town we were somewhat surprised. Reception finally closed but the barrier remained open. Not long after a steady stream of German registered motorhomes and campervans arrived. Each pitched up and connected to the electricity without a device to measure their usage. At no time did any member of staff make an appearance to hand out the metering device.
Early next morning a number of these late arrivals left before reception opened. A few however remained as we went to pay the bill. The rate charged per kWh seemed very high. Certainly it was much higher than we would pay domestically in the UK. The receptionist assured us that they were merely charging the rate they would have to pay themselves and produced a bill to evidence this. We have since discovered that indeed the German people do indeed pay a hefty green tax on power usage. This is why shares in German utility companies are not doing well. It’s only renewables that are attracting investors since the German government is trying to meet an ambitious target for renewable energy. Perhaps not surprisingly German industry does not pay this high tax on power usage. The industrial lobby is strong in Germany and politicians are reluctant to cross powerful, successful industries.
We then asked why we were the only vehicle with one of the electricity meters. It seems the locals know if you arrive after reception closes you will get away without paying. The only real excuse given was that the other vehicles who arrived late did not have electric boilers and would have been using gas to heat their vehicles. The campsite owners were confident these German registered vehicles would not have exceeded the amount of electricity included free within the price. Without looking inside each vehicle it’s hard to know how anyone could be so certain what type of heating a vehicle was using. Since some arrived late and left early we are not sure if Camping Hirzberg even realised how many vehicles had actually pitched in total.
When the weather is good Freiburg is a pretty city worth visiting. If you plan on visiting with your motorhome, especially during winter don’t be surprised if as a UK registered vehicle you are treated differently to the locals. Certainly if we ever visit Freiburg again we will give Camping Hirzberg a miss and will perhaps try Camping & Gästezimmer am Möslepark in Freiburg which it seems gets better reviews on the internet.