Cora’s Adventures at the Los Amigos Masters of the Universe Convention in Neuss or the Six Hundred Kilometer Roundtrip, Part 3: The Road Home… and Tecklenburg

Last Saturday, I attended the 2024 Los Amigos Masters of the Universe fan convention in Neuss. For the three hour trip to get there, see part 1 and for my impressions of the con itself, see part 2.

The Quest for a Place to Eat

Once I’d had my fun at the con and spent quite a bit of money – luckily, I’d headed for the ATM to get cash on Friday evening and some of the bigger shops also took cards – it was time to embark on the long drive home. So I carried my haul to the car, paid for the parking (4 Euros, which is a reasonable price, considering how ridiculously expensive parking is in Bremen and Oldenburg these days) and realised I’d made a mistake.

Because as I mentioned in the previous post, I hadn’t eaten at the con due to a lack of food options other than currywurst or crepe and indeed hadn’t eaten since the night before, because the apple cake that was meant to be my breakfast turned out to be not edible due to being covered in some gloopy glaze which would trigger an allergy. So I was hungry and since there was still time for a late lunch, I’d meant to find a restaurant somewhere. However, I was in a city where I’d never been before and that I didn’t know at all. Now my phone would give me restaurant options in the wider area and my GPS navigation system also has an option to look up restaurants (you can even specify the cuisine) and direct me there. However, both options require a bit of time to look up a restaurant, check if they’re actually open – like I said before, many German restaurants no longer open for lunch hours – and program the GPS. However, I’d already paid for parking, which meant that I had to get the hell out of the parking lot, lest I need to pay extra.

So I programmed the GPS for home, drove out of the parking lot and decided to just stop en route and find a place to eat. Maybe I’d pass an open restaurant on my way back to the highway or I’d just stop somewhere and use my phone and the handy restaurant list in my GPS system to locate a suitable restaurant.

There was just one problem. My GPS directed me onto a major road almost immediately and there was nowhere to stop nor was there a restaurant, open or otherwise. I eventually passed the Rheinpark Center mall, a 1970s Brutalist slab of concrete. The mall had a parking lot where I could have stopped and likely food options as well. However, it was Saturday just after midday and the parking lot and likely the mall as well were packed with shoppers. So I drove on and crossed the bridge over the river Rhine into Düsseldorf.

Now Düsseldorf has a great restaurant selection, particularly lots of Japanese and Asian restaurants in general, since Düsseldorf has Germany’s largest Japanese expat population. However, I no more knew my way around Düsseldorf than I knew my way around Neuss, so I had no idea where those great Japanese and Asian restaurants were to be found. Also, I was still on a major road with nowhere to stop. So I drove on and found myself back on highway A46.

So I thought, “Okay, I’ll just drive onto the nearest highway parking lot and then check if there is a place to eat nearby.” Normally, along German Autobahnen, there are service stations every 50 to 60 kilometers, which have a large parking lot, a gas station and some kind of restaurant. There also are Autohöfe – basically truck stops – just off the Autobahn, which also offer a large parking lot, a gas station and some kind of restaurant. Autohöfe cater to truckers and are somewhat basic, but the food is generally better and cheaper than at the service stations. Finally, there are parking lots, i.e. just a parking area with a few picnic tables and maybe a toilet, along the Autobahn every twenty kilometres or so.

In short, parking lots are quite common and a good place to stop and get your bearings, should you need to.  However, I was in the Ruhrgebiet, where there are more highway junctions and interchanges than exits. So I passed several junctions, but not parking lot or other place to stop. I also passed a few exits, but pulling into a random highway exit is always a gamble, because you have no idea where you’ll end up. It might be in the middle of an industrial zone or a residential neighbourhood and there might not even be a good place to stop your car.

Rastplatz Höfgen

After twenty minutes of driving, I finally spotted a parking lot, Rastplatz Höfgen, so I pulled off the highway. I parked the car, pulled out my phone and perused the restaurant search function of the GPS system as well as the map function to check if there were any restaurants in reasonable distance. However, Rastplatz Höfgen is situated in one of the few parts of the Ruhrgebiet, where you don’t have one city bleeding into another (which is probably why they found the space to put a parking lot here. The nearest town is Haan, which is quite small. Neither my phone nor the GPS in my car showed many restaurants nearby. There was an Italian restaurant and a German country inn, both closed, as well as McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken, neither of which I was in the mood for. Also, it was already half past two PM and those restaurants which are open for lunch hours normally close at three PM, so even if I found a restaurant, I might arrive just before closing time and probably wouldn’t get anything to eat anyway.

So I decided to scratch lunch and stop at a bakery café for afternoon coffee and cake further along the way. If I was still on the road around six PM or so, I would stop somewhere for dinner. It was a good plan, but there was only one problem. I was really hungry. Luckily, I’d packed a bar of chocolate as a quick sugar rush and pick-me-up, should I need one. So I opened up my bar of chocolate and ate a few pieces, which somewhat soothed the hunger.

At around this point, someone suddenly knocked on the window of my car, half scaring me to death. However, it was only a Polish truck driver who asked if I happened to have a cigarette lighter. Alas, I don’t smoke, so the poor guy had to find someone else.

My hunger satisfied for now, I drove onwards. I passed Wuppertal, which surely has plenty of bakeries. However, I’d decided that I wouldn’t stop until I’d left the unpleasantly narrow A46 behind and was back on the nice and broad highway A1. Not that there were a lot of exits anyway, most of them were junctions.

Once I’d made it back onto the A1, I wasn’t feeling overly hungry anymore. I briefly considered leaving the highway in Hagen with its five monuments and two ruined castles on hilltops over the Ruhr valley. But it was a hot day, too hot to go hiking up a hill to see a monument. So I drove on.

Kamener Kreuz

I finally left the highway at Kamener Kreuz or rather at the exit just before Kamener Kreuz that goes to Kamen proper. Because on the way out, I had spotted a large shopping park right next to the highway and a shopping park would surely have a bakery café or coffee shop. And if not, no problem. I’d just drive back onto the highway and find another exit.

However, no sooner had I pulled onto the big parking lot of the shopping park that I spotted a bakery café operated by Bäckerei Grobe, a Dortmund based bakery chain active all over the Ruhrgebiet. So I went inside and ordered a latte macchiato and a slice of spelt rhubarb cake. The coffee was much better than the sorry and soapy excuse for latte I’d had at service station Dammer Berge on the way out. The cake was delicious as well and the slice was nice and big, so hunger shouldn’t be an issue for the next few hours.

Latte macchiato and spelt rhubarb cake

Latte macchiato and spelt rhubarb cake, courtesy of Bakery Grobe at Kamener Kreuz

After I’d finished my coffee and cake and perused the toilet, I made a brief detour to the Smyths Toys superstore (Smyths Toys is an Irish chain which took over the European Toys R Us stores) right around the corner from the bakery café. Of course, I’d just been at a con, which had all the toys you could ever wish for, so a trip to Smyths Toys was somewhat superfluous. However, I’d promised a friend to check Smyths for a rare He-Man variant (which uses a torso type it shouldn’t use) that had been spotted in some European shops, so that’s what I did. Alas, the Smyths Toys superstore at Kamener Kreuz did not have this particular He-Man variant, so I returned to my car and drove onwards.

I left the Ruhrgebiet behind and passed Münster. When I approached Osnabrück, I started to feel a little tired and achy again. Time for another stop and a cup of coffee and some leg stretching. But where to stop? I knew that service station Tecklenburger Land was not far, but after my underwhelming experience at Dammer Berge that morning, more overpriced and soapy service station coffee was the last thing I wanted. Especially since service station Tecklenburger Land doesn’t even have the benefit of a cool bridge restaurant.

But then I spotted a sign pointing to the next exit ahead. The exit is called Lengerich, but the sign listed a bunch of towns including Tecklenburg and Bad Iburg. It was the latter that prompted me to drive off the highway. Because my Mom was at a physical therapy clinic in Bad Iburg (which in retrospect did fuck all to help her) in the summer of 2022, so I knew the town and knew that there were lots of cafés and bakeries there. I also knew where I could park my car.

Alas, once I actually left the highway, I realised that Bad Iburg was twenty kilometers away. Which I should have realised, since we never took the highway to get there when visiting Mom. The nearest towns were Lengerich and Tecklenburg. Tecklenburg was the closest, only 4 kilometers away, so that’s where I went. And I’m really glad that I did.


Even though Tecklenburg was only 4 kilometers from the highway, the road there led through a forest and up a mountain – Tecklenburg is situated on the northern edge of the Teutoburg Forest. Since North Germany is super flat, I’m not used to driving in the mountains, even fairly small mountains like those of the Teutoburg Forest. The road twisted and turned and the forest was dense to the point that I wondered whether there actually was a town nearby or whether I had taken a wrong turn and would just drive ever deeper into the Teutoburg Forest.

However, I eventually did reach the outskirts of a small town. There were business and a hospital here, but no sign of a bakery or café. So I drove further into Tecklenburg and spotted a public parking lot next the townhall, a disappointingly modernist slab of concrete. I pulled onto the parking lot and checked my phone for bakeries or cafés nearby. There were two in easy walking distance. In order to get to the closer one, I’d have to cross a busy road, while the other café was a little further away, but in a pedestrian zone. Since I wanted to stretch my legs anyway and didn’t fancy getting run over, I opted for the further café.

This choice was absolutely the right one, because the pedestrian zone led into the medieval city center of Tecklenburg. Now I knew the name Tecklenburg, because there is both a highway exit and a service station named after the town (and it’s remarkable how many towns I only know because their name is on a highway exit sign). However, I’d never actually been there and knew nothing about the town itself.

Turns out Tecklenburg is beautiful, a medieval town of winding streets and timbered houses on top of a mountain in the Teutoburg Forest. Okay, the mountain is only 200 meters, but by North German standards that is a mountain.

Timbered houses and church in Tcklenburg

The spire of the city church looms above timbered houses in the town of Tecklenburg.

The café I’d been looking for, Kaffeehaus Louise, was located in one of the timbered houses. It was delightfully cozy and filled with antiques, the sort of café which looks like your grandma’s parlour. I’ve always preferred these cozy and slightly old-fashioned cafés to the minimalist hipster look that unfortunately fashionable right now.

I ordered a latte macchiato and decided that yes, damn it, I wanted another slice of cake. I picked chocolate cake and the waitress asked me if I wanted ice cream and warm fruit with that. Oh boy, did I ever want that.

Latte macchiato and chcolate cake with ice cream and hot fruit

Latte macchiato and chcolate cake with ice cream and hot fruit, courtesy of Kaffeehaus Louise in Tecklenburg.

The cake tasted just as good as it looks, by the way. I also chatted a bit with the owner of the café (at least, I think she was the owner) and another guest who turned out to be a local handyman and remarked on my He-Man t-shirt. I told him that I’d been at a HeMan con in Neuss and was on my way home, which led to some commiserating about long drives and particularly the thirty kilometer road construction zone on the A1 between exits Lohne/Dinklage and Neuenkirchen/Vörden.

I also learned a bit more about Tecklenburg. It’s the northernmost mountain town in Germany – from here it’s all downhill until the North Sea. “I know”, I laughed, “Where I live, the highest elevation is 80 meters above sea level and we call it “Hoher Berg” (high mountain).

Since I commented on how pretty the town was, I was told that the people of Tecklenburg were very glad to have been spared both WWII bombings and postwar modernisation efforts aside from “that ugly silver cube” that houses the townhall and city administration. “Yup, I saw that one”, I said, “That’s where I parked my car.” Someone than pointed at a photo of a beautiful turn of the century Art Noveau villa on the wall and told me that building stood where the ugly townhall now stands until the 1960s. It was a hotel, the best in town, and even the Kaiser stayed there once. They didn’t specify which Kaiser, though it must have been Wilhelm II, since the hotel was built in 1904, when Wilhelm I and Friedrich III were both long dead.

I also learned that Tecklenburg has a castle ruin, as the name implies, and that bits and pieces of the castle have been integrated into buildings all over town. The ruined castle now houses an open air theater – the largest in all of Germany. The open air theater opened in 1924 and is hugely important for the town, since it’s a major tourist draw. The local handyman frequently builds sets and backdrops for them. The theatre used to stage everything from boulevard comedies to operas, but nowadays they most do musicals and children’s plays, because those are the most popular. They also host pop concerts on occasion. This summer, the open air theater Tecklenburg is staging Mamma Mia!, Madagascar (based on the eponymous CGI animated kids film) and a musical version of The Three Musketeers. Personally, I’d prefer operas and operettas or regular plays (Shakespeare should be great on an open air stage in the middle of a ruined castle), but money talks and musicals are popular with people who’d otherwise never watch musical theater or otherwise set foot inside a theater.

The fascinating thing is that Tecklenburg is only a one and a half hour drive away from where I live and yet I never had any idea that all of this existed. And it’s not as if my parents never took me to all sorts of touristy places – when Mom was still well, we went on a day trip almost every public holiday. As for why we never went to Tecklenburg, I guess my Dad had no idea that the town was so pretty either. Though considering how motorbike friendly the winding roads leading to the town are, I’m surprised he never discovered it. Anyway, I’ll definitely return to Tecklenburg for a day trip in the future to explore more of the town.

After I finished my coffee and cake, I decided to walk around the town a bit more rather than go straight back to my car. Below, you’ll find some impressions of Tecklenburg:

Timbered houses in Tecklenburg

Two timbered houses in Tecklenburg. The one on the left houses an inn and was built in 1550. Between the houses there is a staircase leading up to the church. Since Tecklenburg sits on a mountain top, there are several staircases around town.

Tecklenburg Granny

This plastic granny welcomes visitors to “Granny’s Preserves”, a shop offering homemade cookies, preserves and gifts.

Timbered houses in Tecklenburg

Timbered houses in Tecklenburg. The one in the middle was built in 1655. Once again, you can see how hilly the town is.

Timbered house in Tecklenburg

This timbered house in Tecklenburg was built in 1587 and now houses a gift shop. The proliferation of gift shops shows that this town very much caters to tourists.

Tecklenburg market place

The market place of Tecklenburg with yet more cafés, a maypole and a fountain.

The fountain is a lot more modern than the rest of the town. It dates from 1971 and was designed by Josef Baron. The fountain is apparently somewhat controversial and was almost demolished in 2015 for supposedly not fitting the surroundings. Luckily, it was saved and became a listed landmark, much to the annoyance of those local politicians who wanted to see it gone.

Personally, I don’t get it. Yes, the fountain obviously dates from the 1960s/70s, but it is based on the style of old town fountains, it does fit the surroundings and it’s not ugly at all. One of the articles above explicitly mentions that it’s a popular spot for photos, so visitors obviously don’t think it’s ugly either. I guess this was a case of some local politician wanting to leave his mark on the town.

Once I’d reached the market place, I originally wanted to go back to my car. But then I spotted an archway and decided to explore further.

Legge archway in Tecklenburg

The so-called Legga archway in Tecklenburg is a former city gate with a timbered house on top. Built in 1577, it originally was a place to inspect the quality of linen, linen weaving being a major industry in Tecklenburg. Now it’s an art center.

Legge archway in Tecklenburg

A look through the Legge archway in Tecklenburg back at the market place.

Legge archway in Tecklenburg

The so-called Legge archway viewed from the other side.

Behind the archway, there was a terrace with an open air café/beer garden and a beautiful view across the town.

View across Tecklenburg

View across Tecklenburg from the terrace that leads up to the castle ruins.

The path spiraled further up the mountain and if I’d followed it, I’d eventually have gotten to the castle ruins and the open air theater (which is still closed, since the season doesn’t start until July). But though the sun was still fairly high in the sky, it was getting late and I still had a one and a half hour drive ahead of me. So I decided to make my way back to the car, this time taking a steep staircase rather than going back via the archway and the market place.

Staircase leading down into the town from the castle terrace.

This rather steep staircase leads back down into the town from the terrace behind the archway.

All in all, I spent about two hours in Tecklenburg. I’m definitely coming back to explore the town further, since this was a delightful and completely unexpected discovery.

Once I got back into my car, I drove back onto the highway and continued home without any further stops along the way. It was theoretically dinner time by now, but I was still full from the cake, so I decided to just have a quick dinner at home. That said, I did stop one more time, when I passed a gas station some six kilometers home and saw that the price was low, so I stopped to refuel my car, since the 600 kilometer drive had depleted the fuel tank.

Once I got home, I unpacked my haul and the overnight bag I’d packed and put the rose, which had miraculously survived the con and the trip home, into a vase. I also had a cup of instant noodles for dinner and went to bed, since I was really tired.

All in all, I’m really glad I went on this trip. Not just because I got to visit a great con and picked up some wonderful things, but also because it gave me the opportunity to test my limits and see how far I could get by car on my own. So now my travel radius by car has expanded to roughly three hundred kilometers both ways or roughly six hundred kilometers one way. Three hundred kilometers gets me north to the Danish border and somewhat beyond (which I actually knew, because I have driven to Rendsburg near the Danish border on my own), eastwards as far as Berlin and Leipzig (not that I would ever go to Berlin by car), westwards quite deep into the Netherlands and southwards to the Rhine Ruhr metropolitan region and almost to Frankfurt. That means a lot of places I could theoretically visit, if I want to. Since I don’t like train travel very much – bad German, I know, but I never liked trains and find train travel extremely stressful, though it’s not supposed to be – this is a good thing.

What is more, I’ve also figured out how long road trips work for me. I’m not my Dad. And while I appreciate his strategies for long trips, mine are a little different. For starters, Dad always said that music made him tired, but talking on the radio (or from fellow passengers kept him awake). I’m the opposite. Music keeps me awake and alert, while too much talking makes me tune out and literally sends me to sleep – a combination of a what I think are mild audio processing issues (which is also why audio dramas on cassette tape never had the same meaning for me as for other Germans my age, because they literally sent me to sleep) and a response to Dad listening to people talking on the radio on long trips, which led me to just tune out the talking, which annoyed me.

Dad also liked to drive onto a parking lot or service station for what we would now call a power nap, though he did it long before power naps were a thing. I have done this is in the past and would have done it during this trip, if necessary, but I much prefer stopping for a coffee and walking around a little. I also learned not to bother with the highway service stations, unless I need a toilet or it’s a time where nothing else is open, because the offerings there are overpriced and the quality isn’t great. Which I actually knew, but the lure of Dammer Berge and its bridge restaurant was just too great.

So in short, this was a great trip and I’m really glad I did it. So expect more roadtrips and also more con visits in the future.

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3 Responses to Cora’s Adventures at the Los Amigos Masters of the Universe Convention in Neuss or the Six Hundred Kilometer Roundtrip, Part 3: The Road Home… and Tecklenburg

  1. Pingback: Cora’s Adventures at the Los Amigos Masters of the Universe Convention in Neuss or the Six Hundred Kilometer Roundtrip, Part 2: The Con | Cora Buhlert

  2. Lurkertype says:

    What a picture-perfect German town! Lovely.

    I always carry protein bars with me, since they keep you going longer than sugary things or even granola bars. The kind I eat have 19-20g protein and yet taste like sweets, so that does me fine. There are some long stretches between everything out west, and nothing worth eating (or at least for the prices they charge) at convention centers and hotels, so I’ve always got at least one bar with me, and nuts and dried fruit in the car.

    • Cora says:

      Nuts and dried fruit are a good idea and you can get them in resealable bags, because I don’t want food crumbs in my car, if possible. I also found a cheap bento box for sale at Aldi, which allows me to take along a somewhat more substantial meal for future road trips.

      Germany is a lot more densely populated then the US, so you can usually find someplace to eat. Though a lot of restaurants aren’t open for lunch anymore, so sometimes all that’s available is döner kebap, roast chicken, sausage and MccDonald’s, Burger King or Kentucky Fried Chicken. Plus, there are bakeries everywhere, where you can get coffee and sweet or savoury snacks.

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