8th August – 14th August
In the past four weeks we have crossed 5 borders and are now in our second home, Germany. The border crossing again was a drive through, although the buildings are still there. Is there a reason none of the border posts have been demolished? Maybe the days of Schengen are soon to be over and the border posts reopened? Food for thought. Anyway, it was nice to get back onto a decent road system and we arrived in Angermünde around 2.30 after a drive of approximately 230kms. We are nice and close to town so we had a walk down to Mündesee, the local lake and around the lake for a short distance before coming back into town. Such a tidy place with little shops and cafes along the Main Street. We walked around what remains of the old wall past the only surviving tower and then home again for a sit in the sunshine and a nice cold beer!
We had a drive free day today so after breakfast we took off for what turned out to be a 14 km long walk. The first part of the journey (sounds like a song) took us alongside the train tracks through a fruit grove where we sampled the apples and plums (some of which found their way into our backpack) until we got to the Unesco bio reserve for birds. Several lakes within the reserve were teeming with birdlife although a bit difficult to see through the trees. We continued on to Wolletzsee, a large lake with a camping ground near the water with what looked like a private beach. Into the forest for several kilometres and past corn fields before we came to the main road on the other side of town. Back to Tilly for lunch with the rest of the day spent reading and relaxing.
On the way to our wildcamp spot 37 kms from Berlin at Klosterfelde, we stopped at Niederfinow famous for its spectacular Schiffshebewerk, one of the most remarkable early-20th-century feats of engineering. It was completed in 1934 and measures 60m high, 27m wide and 94m long. Huge barges sail into a sort of giant bathtub, which is then raised or lowered 36m, water and all, between the Oder River and the Oder-Havel Canal. We were fortunate to see this spectacular sight, firstly watching the raising of a coal carrier and then the lowering of a grain carrier. There is a second ship lift currently under construction that is even bigger and looks like it is using the same engineering design. We had our lunch before continuing on to Klosterfelde 40kms away through lush forest and a few pretty towns where we will catch the train into Berlin tomorrow.
An early start today for our train journey into Berlin which took just under 1 hour. German efficiency had the train arriving right on time at Klosterfelde and we had to change trains at Berlin Karow for the second leg. We arrived at Brandenburg Tor station and once out of the station we had the huge gate right in front of us. Our first job was to head to the Reichstag to see if we could get tickets to view this impressive building. The lady at the booking office said we would get in after 5pm if we wanted to wait the two hours to get our identity checked, nein, not going to happen. We had too much to see to waste two hours standing on the footpath so off we went. While Berlin was severely damaged during the war, there were still some amazing buildings to see. Some had been reconstructed but many were originals. We visited checkpoint Charlie where sections of the wall are on display as well as an exhibition describing the horrors of that time. We visited Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin’s most graceful square which is bookended by the domed German and French cathedrals and in the centre is the grandly porticoed Konzerthaus Berlin. We also visited the memorial to the murdered European Jews which consists of 2711 sarcophagi-like concrete columns rising from the ground. We also visited Bebelplatz where the first public full blown book burning by nazi youth in 1933 is now commemorated with an underground installation called the Empty Library beneath a glass pane at the square’s centre. We finished off our day with a walk through the huge Tiergarten past the Soviet WWII memorial to the Berlin victory column where we stopped for a quiet beer before heading back to the train station and home after a huge 7 hours walking around.
We are back on the Luther trail and drove 120kms to Lutherstadt Wittenberg, where Martin Luther is buried. The drive started on the autobahn before we turned off onto the B road where the scenery was tree-lined streets and brightly coloured houses. We found a nice wild camp spot right on the Elbe river and once settled we walked the 6km Elberundweg, along the river for part of the way, past a Viking river cruise boat before heading into the fields where we watched a flock of Eagles soar in the thermals. We made it back just as the rain started.
Today was all about Luther. Our first stop was the Schlossplatz where on 31st October 1517 it is said he nailed his 95 theses onto the main door of this beautiful gothic church. It houses his grave and the final resting place of the reformer Phillip Melanchthon and inscribed on the bell tower in large words, “a mighty fortress is our God”. This line of text was taken from a hymn of which Luther was the author. Next stop was the Cranach house and courtyards. Lucas Cranach owned a printing shop here where among others the bible was translated and reproduced by Martin Luther known as the “September Testament”. The Luther house was next, and in 1504 it was an Augustinian monastery. It later became his home and today is the largest reformation museum in the world. We spent a couple of hours here before having our lunch. Our final stop was St Mary’s church where Martin Luther used to preach. Lucas Cranach designed the reformation alter and it also houses valuable paintings by him. After walking home, we spent the what was left of the afternoon outside watching the comings and goings of the ferry boat, people riding past on their bikes and reading.
Over the past few days we have walked about 30kms, so today is a rest day. We had a short drive to Oranienbaum where we filled and emptied before finding a wild camp spot near Strandbad Adria, a lake just outside of Mildensee. As is the case with a lot of Strandbads, the swimming areas are privately run and fully fenced off, so if you want to swim, you have to pay for the privilege, however this one was closed, not that it was hot enough for a swim! It would have been nice to sit by the lake, never mind we made do with our little patch of forest and had a relaxing day.
15th August – 22nd August
Our final destination today was Thale at the base of the Harz mountains and along the way we stopped at Quedlinburg. Famous for its 1400 half timbered houses, it was a treat to just stroll around the streets and soak up the atmosphere. We walked up to The Schlossberg, on a 25m-high plateau above Quedlinburg which gave us a great view over this pretty town. After we had driven the rest of the way to Thale we parked Tilly at our overnight spot and headed into town to the tourist office. Maps in hand ready for our hike tomorrow we then walked to the cable car station where there is an adventure playground as well as several rides, trampolines and a roller coaster for the kids. Two cable cars take you up to the two peaks, Hexentanzplatz and Rosstrappe however we intend to climb up the Hexentanzplatz tomorrow as part of our hike but may catch the cable car back down.
Our hike today was in the Bode Valley along the Hexensteig walk between Thale and Treseburg which follows the river through a gorge for about 10kms. The path started at river level and soon climbed up to almost the top of the trees. As the river twisted and turned through the valley, so the path went up and down. We reached Treseburg after 2 hours and the town was basically a couple of hotels and restaurants and not much else. Our options for our return were either the bus, the path we had already taken or the ridge walk at the top, which is what we chose. A little disappointing as after a great start climbing through the forest, we ended up on an access road for the fire fighters and the hunters for their hides although we did meet a lovely Spanish gentleman named Jody who amused us with his pinhole photography stories. Another 10kms on and we ended up at Hexentanzplatz, one of two cliffs, the other being Rosstrappe. These once had Celtic fortresses and were used by Germanic tribes for occult rituals and sacrifices. The landscape also inspired the myth of Brunhilde, who escaped a loveless marriage to Bohemian prince Bodo by leaping the gorge on horseback; her pursuing fiancé couldn’t make the jump and plunged into the valley that now bears his name, turning into a hellhound on the way. The impact of Brunhilde’s landing supposedly left the famous hoof imprint in the stone on Rosstrappe. Hexentanzplatz is the most popular of the two with lots of stalls selling witch dolls, wands and Teufel (devil) dolls. We even saw a couple of people dressed as witches and one warlock who surprisingly looked like Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, minus the long hair. The view from the top was fantastic, looking down on the gorge walk and off to the town of Thale. We stopped for a well deserved beer before heading back down a great path through the forest and home again. 25kms all up so tomorrow will be an easier day.
After our big hike yesterday, today was a short drive and a quiet day. Our first stop for water along the way at Harzgerode was a waste of time. Camper contact said there was a toilet and water, and there was only the toilet but it was locked, so we ended up driving another 20kms to Breitenstein where there was everything and that is where we stayed. We sat in the sun for awhile reading and then went for a little walk into the forest area near the Stellplatz, into the very small town of Breitenstein and home again for a quiet evening.
We wanted to do another hike today so we drove the short distance of 8km to the town of Stolberg. There was nothing written about this place in Lonely Planet and oh what a find. The whole of the town’s buildings are timbered houses dating back to the mid 1500’s and have been restored beautifully. Once we were parked, we did our hike first, through the forest along the side of the Schloss with views over the rooftops. The path wove its way through fir, birch and beech trees before coming out at the back of the Schloss. We had a walk inside the renovated section through rooms that house some of the furniture from the time along with many pieces of art. A large part of this structure is currently being renovated (and it’s not too soon either) so we weren’t inside for long. The gardens were small but pretty and once all of the work is finished, there will be a path that leads back into town, today we had to walk along the road. Houses and businesses along the Main Street were adorned with flower boxes full of geraniums and some had colourful murals painted on the walls facing the street, it was just lovely. We spent the rest of the day again sitting outside and enjoying the sunshine. We had another walk into town later in the day to take in more of these beautiful buildings, stopping at one of the small museums along the way. A must see toy town.
20kms along a winding road through the forest, we stopped at Kyffhausen where there is an 81m high tower, the Kyffhauser monument with a sculpture of Kaiser Wilhelm that was erected to celebrate his victory over Napoleon in the 16th century. Next to the tower are the ruins of Germany’s largest medieval castle, Reichsburg which we had a walk around before strolling through the forest and back to Tilly. Our next stop was Bad Frankenhausen where we hoped to do a small hike. We parked at the sports ground and headed into town. A nondescript place, the area we were hoping to hike too was not that great looking so we had a walk around the Main Street before stopping to have our sandwiches in the square and returning home. Do we move on? We didn’t, we just spent the rest of the afternoon sitting outside reading, which we seem to be doing a bit of, but it makes a nice change.
We have left the Harz mountain range and had a pleasant 50km drive through some lovely little towns on our way to Freyburg. We walked into town along its cobbled-stone streets. There is a lot of work going on around the main church with new paths and roads and sadly the church was closed. Not a lot to see here unless you climb up to the Schloss, which we weren’t that fussed about. We had lunch next to a loch before driving a further 8kms to just outside of Naumburg which we will visit tomorrow. We had a nice walk along the river Unstrut for a couple of kilometres passing some very fine houses with huge gardens along the way. Our overnight spot is in a Geopark and behind us is a small cliff that has carved reliefs of religious scenes which have been dated back to 1733. Unfortunately all of the information about this is in German so we don’t really know the history of it. This area is Europe’s most northerly wine district and produces crisp whites and fairly sharp reds, which we may sample tomorrow. For now, it’s a chair by the river, a good book and a nice cold beer.
On our drive today we stopped at Naumburg, just 6kms away for a walk around the Altstadt (old town) with the lovely Renaissance Rathaus and the Marientor double gateway, the only one of five gateways still standing. The Cathedral of Sts Peter & Paul is a masterpiece of medieval architecture. Normally €6.50 each to get in to, we snuck in during Sunday service and had a look around for nothing! Continuing on the road to our overnight stop at Saalfeld we had another pleasant drive through fields of corn with lovely villages along the way. Our wild camp spot is next to the Saale river with a little waterfall in front of us.
The plan today was to have a walk around Saalfeld before heading off to Kronach about 60kms away. Well, we did have our walk around the small town and from there it was a disaster. Detours due to roadworks had us driving around in circles just to get back onto the road we needed. On our way again after about 10 minutes researching which direction we now had to take put us on a lovely drive through forests of trees that are beginning to change to their autumn colours. About 38kms out of Kronach, we hit another detour which resulted in us going down some very narrow streets to find we were at a dead end! Poor Dave had to reverse out and head back the way we came. We eventually found the road we were supposed to travel on only to be thwarted again by a 2.9m height restriction. We should have given up at that point but venture on we did heading back toward Saalfeld with a change of destination now being Bayreuth via Warzburg. Nope, that road was closed too so we ended up sitting in a supermarket carpark in the little town of Leutenberg reviewing our plans. Suffice to say we hit two more detours, one being the Stellplatz we were planning on staying at for the night before finding our resting spot in Poßneck, only 24kms from where we began the day although we had travelled over 100kms!! Thankfully we don’t have many days like this (only two others come to mind in almost 500 days on the road). We just have to book it up to experience and look for alternatives and a nice cold beer to settle the frazzled nerves.