Tuesday 20th September 2016 - Another fine day with some sunshine but much cooler.
This morning we left our Stellplatze at Worlitz and headed for Heidecamp at Schlaitz where we knew there were more flooded opencast mine lakes to ride around. And really, other than a pleasant drive, I've got nothing much to say about our day. So, like all good British people, I'll talk about the weather! It has dramatically changed, and we seem to have gone from high summer to autumn all in the matter of a couple of days. The leaves are rapidly changing from green to gold and as they drift down from on high the ground is starting to become covered in a crunchy carpet. The nights are also drawing in, and it is now more or less dark by 8pm, and depressingly, John says the days will soon be shorter than the nights! Having said that, there is no rain in the weather forecast for the next week so we will definitely be making hay while the sun shines and getting out and about as much as we can.
Wednesday 21st September 2016 - a bit cloudy but warm and with some sunny spells
This morning our picnic was quickly packed and our bikes released from their dark cavern in the back of T4rdis2 - and then we were off, but at first we thought our ride was going to be a bit of a damp squib! The cycle track was highlighted on our map so we knew we were on the right road, but to start with, it was really only a rough old forest track that was unimpressive and didn't have any views.
Added to this there were a couple of diversions that made finding our way quite challenging, resulting in us having to backtrack, and I think we were nearly at giving up point, when all of a sudden the track improved and with the aid of a viewing tower the vistas became much more interesting.
And it was here that we paused for lunch, but when I perched up on the surrounding sill John became a little concerned, because knowing how clumsy I can be and seeing a 20 foot drop behind me....... needless to say I sat very still as I munched my cob!
Then, once we resumed our ride, it became better and better, and the 53 kilometres that we covered just slipped by without much effort - especially, as we were soon parked up again overlooking our second lake of the day, Grosser Goitzschesee on the See promenade at Bitterfeld, eating cake and sipping coffee.
After that we were homeward bound, but on the way through the village of Schlaitz, we found numerous, humorous wood sculptures - and one was of 5 monkeys!
Thursday 22nd September 2016 - another very pleasant day with plenty of sunshine
|Is that me and John on a bad day?|
Once we'd settled in and had our necessary cuppa we went for a walk around the old town, and very quickly revised our impression of the area. It is stepped in legends about witches and devils, and almost around every corner we found sculptures that told fairy tales that may or may not be believed. Additionally, Thale is set at the head of a strikingly beautiful river gorge and there are is a lovely gondola chair lift that sweeps you up to the hillside to the Hexentanzplatz - a place from where witches are said to fly to Sabbath celebrations on Walpurgis Night! So tomorrow we will be putting our walking boots on and investigating further!
|A giant buried in the 'sand'|
Friday 23rd September 2016 - Mr Sun has got his hat - perfect weather for walking.
Our planned walk for today was from the campsite to the Gondola site - then via the easy route up to the Hexentanzplatz, and from there we would walk through the forest until we came to a track that would lead us back down the cliff side, and eventually spit us out part way along the gorge. Then, depending on how much energy we'd got left, we would either head back to Thale or walk deeper into the gorge along a path that closely tracks the River Bode
And all went according to plan, resulting in a walk of about 10 miles, however the main attraction - the Hexentanzplatz - was hugely commercialised and a bit like Land's End, so not quite our cup of tea! Having said that, the rest of it was spectacular from start to finish so it was more than worth every bit of effort that we made.
To start with our gondola, which had a glass floor, whisked us up to the top of the mountain, and although it wasn't quite as good as if we'd flown up on a broomstick, we were afforded magnificent views from over a 100 feet high of the river, that over the millennia, has carved out a gorge that continues for about 12 kilometres
When we arrived at the top we found ourselves on a huge natural platform with viewpoints that allowed you to view the many mysterious rock formations, as well as more of the gorge far below. It was here that we also saw the Witches Rock and learnt more about the festival of Walpurgisnacht which is celebrated each year on the 30th April. It originates from an English missionary - Saint Walburga - it is said that she could defend the faithful against witch-craft and offer protection against plague, famine and the bites of rabid dogs!
There was also an open air theatre cut into the side of the mountain where productions such as Robin Hood took place, but as the summer season has finished, it was all closed up and out of bounds so we didn't linger long before continuing onto the Hexentanzplatz itself.
Here we found a few interesting statues of devils and witches that elicited a few lewd comments from John, but I made him behave himself, and then it was just a case of scurrying past the numerous touristy tat shops before we continued with the much more scenic part of our walk!
Now, it isn't often that you can walk in the woods and see wolfs prowling - we could have paid to go in the little zoo, but being as tight fisted as we are, we just peered through the fence and saw several patrolling the perimeter! Apparently, the zoo is also famed for it's raccoons - the story goes that these creatures are not native to Germany but a colony of them escaped during the war and now they have made themselves at home in the forests, and although we haven't seen one so far, we are ever hopeful!
After the wolves, lunch was the next important thing on our agenda, and a little further down the track we found a view point with a bench - again we could see into the valley, but additionally, we could also see across to the rock formation that forms the other side of the ravine - a place called Rosstrappe, where they regularly have downhill mountain bike events.
Once fed and watered we started our decent, and despite the health and safety warnings we decided to continue! However, by the time we were half way down I'd got very little concern regarding head injury from falling debris - I was much more worried about the constant risk of going a..e over t.t due to the boulder strewn very steep path that had numerous hair-pin bends back and forth all the way to the valley floor!
Anyway, we made it safely down, and decided we did have a little bit more energy to spare, so we headed deeper into the gorge. After about a mile we passed over the Teufeisbruecke (Devil's Bridge), but then the path started to rise steeply again, so when we found a convenient bench we decided to have a rest with our coffee and cake and then call it a day.
Our return journey still required us to walk about another 4 miles, and for the first 2 the going was still quite rough, so by the time we made it back to civilisation all we wanted to do was get home and put our feet up, but we did have to stop off at the supermarket for a little beverage to help us recover.
Saturday 24th September 2016 - More sunshine
And this more or less set the scene for the rest of our walk. It was on a sharp ridge - think Striding Edge in the Lake District - in places the 'path' was about a foot wide - with sheer drops on both sides, and to get along it's length you were required to nip up and down little 'genels' that either steeply climbed up or down. Sometimes there were guard rails and sometimes there were chunks of rock to protect us from the precipice, but at other times there was nothing at all!
Oh, and did I say it was a fantastic walk - we probably did about 3 miles before turning back, and it was on this part of the journey that we scrambled up onto a huge boulder and sat perched like pixies while we ate our lunch - anybody looking at us from the road below would have wandered how on earth we got there!
Then, once we had scoffed all our food we retraced our steps back to the town of Blankenburg (Harz), and found ourselves in the Little Castle Baroque Gardens. It is the third that we have visited that belong to the Historical Gardens and Parks of Saxony Anhalt and, with it's statues, fountains and flowers, it made a lovely place to pause and rest after our 2nd strenuous walk in 2 days.
Following this a visit to the local Tourist Info office elicited loads more in this area for us to see and do so I don't think we will be leaving the Harz Mountain Area any time soon.
Anyway, that's all for now but I'm sure I'll have loads more to tell about this area in my next episode.
Take care xx