Das Camping

  • Posted on: 22 July 2014
  • By: Michelle

I went camping this weekend for the first time in Germany. Correction. I went “camping” this weekend. In Germany, camping is camping by name only.

Let me do an imaginary poll of imaginary Canadians. Okay, the results are in. According the the imaginary Canadians I imagined I spoke with, the following are the top 10 things they associate with the word ‘camping’: campfire, backwoods, unplugging, s’mores, lighting stuff on fire, hot dogs, quiet, peeing behind a tree, whittling and a general acceptance of low personal hygiene standards for a given period.

Oh. And bacon. But that was a presupposition.

I got a sense that camping wasn’t going to be the same in Germany when we were driving down the autobahn one day and someone pointed out the window at a ‘Camping Platz.’ First lesson, Germany, if you can see if from a highway, it’s not camping. Second lesson, if there's no fire allowed, it's not camping. And lastly, if there is no fire, there can be no S'mores, and if there are no S'mores, it sure as hell isn't camping!

Yup, that pretty much summarizes the two problems with trying to go Canadian Camping in Germany. No space and no fire.

Let's start with the more concerning of the two: campfires in Germany? The short answer is no.

The long answer is, if you are at a private location, whose proprietors have diligently filled out the appropriate forms and acquired the appropriate licenses to allow them to apply for a ticket to stand in line to request a meeting with the appropriate authorities in order to present their case regarding the necessity of a regulated area where the controlled burning of items could potentially occur, and if the local youth fire brigade is available for patrol at that location on that particular date, and if your firewood has been procured from an environmentally-friendly and appropriately licensed and regulated source, THEN you MIGHT be allowed to have a fire.

But if you can find somewhere where fire IS allowed, you can be guaranteed that overnighting isn't.

Second, Germany apparently lacks the space needed to be able to drive a hundred clicks out of town, then a few miles down a back road and finally another dozen or so kilometres down a loose gravel road, so you can pitch your tent in the middle of nowhere, out of sight and sound from both civilization and the next group of happy campers. It took me awhile to realize that in Germany there IS no middle of nowhere. Case in point, as we arrived at the campground, we passed a street car station. On the line that leads directly to our apartment. Let me rephrase. I could have taken public transit to the campground. WITH NO CONNECTIONS.

Meanwhile, don't expect any privacy or personal space at a German campground. Or trees for that matter.


You get, literally, enough space to park your car and pitch your tent (or park your trailer and pitch your garden furniture). Campgrounds serve the purpose in Germany that "going up to the cabin" does in Canada. People actually rent a permanent spot, park their trailer, put up a white picket fence and spend their weekends there during the summer.

In the morning, when I am camping, I unzip the bottom of my sleeping bag and shuffle over to the fire where I cook bacon on a stick and drink coffee full of grounds out of a pot. In Germany people pull out their garden furniture to sit and enjoy the view along the river, while sipping cappuccinos and reading the newspaper.


Camping in Germany is meant to be a convenient escape from the crowded cities. But not an escape from the conveniences of the city. Bathrooms, showers, sinks, stoves, stores, restaurants, swimming pools, tennis courts, public transit ... you name it.

Although, I can't say I minded the clean, brightly lit German campground bathrooms and showers.

In Canada, when you think of a campground bathroom, the follow-up thought is "It's probaby better to just pee behind that tree." Campground showers? Hope you brought flip flops. And if you drop your towel? Good thing campfires are allowed ...

At one point this weekend I saw a woman walking up the road to the bathroom wearing a bathrobe and carrying a hair dryer.

And I have no words for this:

lawn mower

"Helmut, have you remembered to pack the lawnmower for camping?"

So, I think my wistful days of redneck camping à la Waiporous, Alberta style, cutting down trees, shooting off fireworks and mooching off crown land at a spot that requires a quad to access it after a 2-hour drive, with zero amenities and zero cell phone coverage, but a lot of s'mores, are temporarily by the wayside.

On the upside, the wildlife here is not likely to maul me to death in my sleep.