Sunday, 2 October 2016

T4rdis2 Tour 2 - Day 87 - 94 - Germany

Day 87
Sunday 25th September 2016 - Sunshine from start to finish!

T4rdis2 has stayed put today on our Stellplatze at Blankenburg while we went for another little walk, this time about 11 miles, with our goal being a monastery called Kloster Michaelstein.  However, it has to be said that this walk lacked some of the 'WOW' factor of the last couple of days, but having said that,  wandering along woodland paths, as we did for most of the way, was quite tranquil and very pretty with all the autumnal-ness of the season around us.

As we approached the Kloster the first thing we noticed was the fish pools which contained huge numbers of very large (and some small) carp.  At first it was difficult to know why all the fish were clustered around one end of the pool - but then we noticed the fish food dispenser and a number of visitors liberally chucking handfuls in!

Next came the usual tourist shops and eateries where lots of people were tucking into said fish, served wrapped in foil and on huge platters, (but not with chips!), but as usual our picnic was in our bag, so although it smelt very good we avoided the crowds and continued on to the monastery buildings that we had come to see.

The Cistercian abbey has been renovated several times but parts of the old Romanesque and Gothic buildings are still present in the quadrangle, part of which houses the Music Institute where there is a collection of over 900 historical musical instruments.

Apparently, there is also an old herb garden where numerous well known herbs flourish, but unfortunately we missed that bit - maybe because by now we were quite hungry after sniffing the fish, so our main concern was finding a picnic spot, which we did in a quite area by another small  lake.

Following lunch and a rest we set off again, and completed a circuit that brought us back into Blankenburg town, and after a quick look at the historical sights there, which included numerous old half timbered houses, civic buildings and more churches we headed back to T4rdis2 for Sunday dinner!

The Historic Town Hall


To the right is another historical monument - No, I don't mean John, I mean the arcade!

The house on the left is the oldest in Blankenburg and dates from the early 15th century, and the bells on the right used to belong to St Catherine's Church - a building that was destroyed by fire in 1836

Day 88
Monday 26th September 2016 - Cool enough for a jumper but still very pleasant!

This morning we left the Stellplatze at Blankenburg with a plan to travel back in time, first to visit Regenstein Castle and then to the site of part of the old Iron Curtain!

Regenstein Castle can be seen from afar perched up high and set against the backdrop of the Harz Mountains, and although the remnants of it are still very impressive, not much of the original man-made buildings have survived.  Now, there are mostly only  the naturally formed caverns upon which it was initially built.

Wheres Wally!
Apparently, back in 1757 the walls of the fortress were destroyed under the orders of Friedrich II - and the damages were so huge that it was never reused for hostile purposes.   However, as early as 1903 this ancient monument started to serve as a tourist attraction and museum, so we followed in the footsteps of many others, paid our 3 euro entrance fee, and explored the numerous caves that, in days gone by had been used as  store rooms, stables, kennels, living quarters and prison cells!  We also enjoyed the 360 degree far reaching views from the top, a lookout place that would have given the soldiers of yesteryear plenty of time to prepare for their enemies approach.

Following our explorations it was back to T4rdis2 for a quick drink and then onto our next venue - The Green Belt!  This is a 'path' that has replaced what used to be the longest fortified border in the world.  The information boards told us (in German) that for nearly 40 years the Iron Curtain divided Europe, and in this part of Harz the reminder is still very clear to see.  Huge concrete slabs mark the line of the old fence  and the land on either side was declared a military zone that had mines in it to ensure that nobody tried to cross 'illegally'.

A Replica of the old fence

One of the watch towers -
they were replaced several

After the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 conservation groups took over and The Green Belt was created, providing a long distance walk or cycle way that extends across Europe for 12,500 kilometres. Apparently it also has a 150 nature reserves along it's length and stretches though  23 countries.

Today, we only walked for a short distance along it's length, but it was quite eerie when we considered it's previous use and the deprivations it must have caused.  However, now with all the work that has gone into it, it provides a lovely place to be, and in view of  the above, I think we may well enjoy more of it some time in the future.

Our next job was to find somewhere to spend the night, and as usual, John had ear-marked a spot that turned out to be not far from our original starting  point of this morning.  In the book it all sounded very nice because it was near a resevoir and seemed to have all 'the services' that T4rdis2 was nearly ready for (emptying out and fresh water).  When we arrived the chap on the right greeted us quite cheerfully (I think he thought we'd got food), but 'oh dear' - it just didn't feel right or safe!  The parking area was spacious but there weren't any other vans, and a large group of scruffy children seemed to have adopted it as their play-ground.  That might have been ok, but there were also a couple of dodgy looking chaps lurking about - possibly all very innocent, but we decided not to hang about and see.  Instead, we headed back to Blankenburg and were soon settled just 2 pitches along from where we had been parked for the previous 2 nights - and the added bonus - it was 15 euros at the dodgy site and only 4 here.  Oh, and T4rdis2 will just have to cross her wheels until we find 'facilities' tomorrow!

Day 89
Tuesday 27th September 2016 - A warm sunny autumnal day

Today we had awarded ourselves an easy day - a slow get up, and then a departure form Blankenburg and a dally along to the town of Gosler, which together with The Upper Harz Water Management System, form another UNESCO listed site within the Harz region.

On the way we stopped off to see the Okerstausee Reservoir and it's massive Dam.  The Dam itself was constructed in 1942 and is 235 metres long and 65 high, and apparently, resists through it's own weight a water pressure of up to 420,000 tons.  It has a storage capacity of over 13 million cubic metres - but, judging by the water level (which must have been at least 50 feet below the tide mark on the dam), there was nowhere near that much in it at the moment.  In fact the level was so low that it was a wonder we couldn't see the spire of the old church in the small town of Schulenberg which was flooded to make way for the Oker Dam!

We had a little walk around the area and a bit of lunch while we were there, but we didn't pause for very long because the lack of water really did detract form the beauty of the area.  Also we didn't want to delay to long because all we really wanted to do was get to our destination, Waldweben Camp site, so that we could sit out and enjoy the afternoon sunshine.

Day 90
Wednesday 28th September 2016 - Overcast, windy and a bit cold.

The main reason w'd come to this area of the Harz region was to explore the World Heritage Upper Harz Water Management System which we planned to do by cycling along some of the lanes and tracks that surround it.  We'd read that this area is the world's largest and most significant combined system of ponds and ditches, and that it was so important because it provided hydro-power that was used for ore extraction and to keep several pumps working in the many mines in this area.  It's development took over 800 years and was started way back in the Middle Ages, and today, 107 ponds, 310 km of water ditches and 30km of subterranean watercourses are preserved, some of which are still in use.

However, our ride didn't prove to be one of our best!  Maybe it was the damp dreary weather, maybe it was the hills (of which there were many), or maybe it was because we were a bit fed up of forest trails - either walking or riding we seem to have done a lot of that lately!  The thick forestation also resulted in us only being able to catch occasional glimpses of the pools and ditches, and then to top things off, I got a puncture in my back tyre! ( I think that was where one or two little swear words slipped out).  This was quickly fixed, but as we had already ridden 20 odd kilometres without much enjoyment we decided we wouldn't go much further - we'd just look for a picnic spot, and then once fed we'd head home.

But, because we weren't having a great day we decided to have a little 'debrief' while we sat and munched our sarnies. We briefly discussed how much we're still enjoying this lifestyle, or if after a year on the road  it was time to go  home and settle down.  The unanimous decision was DEFINITELY NOT - we've still got far to much to see and do!  However, we did decide that maybe we ought to  think about the things we like best and aim to do more of them, and we also thought a break from constant travelling might do us good. With this in mind, we identified that some of our favourite places  have been by the sea, particularly wild coastal cliffey ones, but at the mo we're a very long way from being able to access them.  So for now, we're going to stick with our original plan of visiting some of Germany's large reservoirs and rivers, and then head back into France for a 'Holiday' by the sea before we cross back over to England towards the end of November.

I think following the airing of our feelings we both felt much better, but luck was still not really on our side today, because once we set off again, we hadn't gone far when I got my 2nd puncture of the day - this time in my front tyre, and it turned out to be quite a big hole, so although John managed to fix it so that I could get home, the tyre will definitely be a write off!  And probably it's my own fault anyway for being so miserly - I've known for a while that I needed new tyres, but because we're planning on trading our present bikes in  to get new electric ones when we get back to England, I didn't want to spend any money.

Day 91
Thursday 29th September 2016 - Another nice warm and sunny day.

This morning we were soon on our way to the state of North Rhine-Westphalia where we planned to visit Lake Mohne - think DAM BUSTERS, it's where they  dropped there bouncing bombs back in the 2nd World War.  Our journey was to be about 240 kilometres, but on the way we planned to stop off to get my new tyres, and also some foody bits to keep us going over the weekend.  And we thought to do this, we could kill two birds with one stone by visiting one of the massive Kaufland hyper-markets - when we'd been in one previously they sold all manner of bike goods.  But alas, when we got there - not a tyre in site - and our back up plan of getting them from the bike shop across the road, also failed.  The shop had quite a few tyres haging from the ceiling but the non English speaking assistant reassured us in sign language that none of them would fit.  So, it was fingers crossed that plan C would yield what we wanted - there was another bike shop quite near our target Stellplatze, but that was another big fat NO.  Maybe we'll have to walk around the resevoir instead of riding!

Day 92
Friday 30th September 2016 - Rain overnight, cloudy though the day, and then a sunny warm finish!

Happy Birthday Angela - Hope you had a lovely day xx 
The view form our door
The Stellplatze we're staying on is right on the edge of Lake Mohne, and it's lovely - all the parking bays are tiered down towards the water so that everybody has a view, and everything is included in the 15 euro charge.  It's actually better that a lot of camp sites, but the only snag is there is only a metre to pay at, and it wont accept our credit card.  Therefore, it is fast swallowing all the change I've accumulated, and in the end, I think it will be the limiting factor as to how long we can stay.

So , because our time was limited we decided to risk and go out on our bikes anyway, and hope that my tyres would limp along to the town of Neheim where we had located another couple of cycle shops.  The first one had closed down altogether, but the second one came up trumps, so once our purchases had been made we quickly found a quiet spot and John changed them for me while we were on route!

And once that was done, we settled down to enjoy our circumnavigation of the Reservoir and finding out a little more of it's history.  We learnt that it was started in 1908 and completed in 1912, and it was commissioned because of increased water demand around the turn of the century due to an industrial boom which included production of steel and metal.    During World War II  this was of crucial importance to the arms industry, and for this reason the dam became a target for air raids.  Specifically, on May 17th 1943 The Dam Busters dropped their 'Bouncing Bombs' - a device developed by Barnes Wallis.  It blasted a 70 metre wide and 20 metre high hole in the dam wall and released massive amounts of water that flooded the Ruhr area, an event that caused havoc and killed 1500 people.  However, due to the lake's importance, and because of German efficiency,  the reconstruction of the dam was completed after only five months. 
Our ride, in total was about 54 kilometres, some of it again through forest, but much of it right on the lake side on dedicated cycle track.  Thus it proved to be a ride we both thoroughly enjoyed, and it also allowed us to do a bit of bird spotting as well - although you can easily see the white heron in the pic - the grey one is well camouflaged. 

Day 93
Friday 1st October  2016  -  Lots of intermittent showers and much cooler.

Well, first I have to fess up and admit to our sin.  Earlier I said we were short of coins to pay for our stay on this Stellplatze, so accidentally, (or maybe it was on purpose), we've managed to get three for the price of two - by paying late one day, not at all the next day, and then early on our third - but we will definitely have to depart tomorrow.   
We saw this lady preparing to take a dip
but we're not sure if she jumped or not!

And I haven't really got much else to tell you about today.  It rained heavily overnight  and for most of the morning so we stayed in snug and warm in T4rdis2.  But as the day wore on we got a bit board cos we hadn't got any internet and you can only read and play games for so long.  However, we have invented a new evening game which I'll tell you about later (and no, it's not rude). 

In the afternoon we got a bit of cabin fever so decided to go a walk into the town of Korbecke where we purchased a few more essentials, such as wine and beer, and then on the way back we stopped of to admire these murals of the town and lake and town.

Oh, and our new game?    Well, overall in Germany we've not really been bothered by biting insects - but around here they are vicious.  Therefore, each evening just before bedtime we both pretend we're  'Grass-hopper' (think David Carradine Kung Fu TV series), and leap about the van scoring points for each one we catch. Needless to say, I usually win, but last night we must have missed a few - either that, or we just missed one very greedy B.....d - John woke up with 3 bites and me with 2 - so he won that time!

Day 94
Saturday 2nd October 2016 - Showery and quite cold.

This morning we've moved on to yet another Reservoir - Lake Eder in Waldecker Land in the state of Hesse.  Our journey was only about 80 kilometres so was soon completed, and now were parked up on another tired Stellplatze overlooking The Eder, and with fantastic views, but we couldn't quite work out why it's so busy.  There are over 50 parking spaces here and we only just managed to sneak in before nearly everyone was full - it turns out it's a German Bank Holiday - Unification Day - it commemorates the anniversary of German reunification in 1990.

So, now we're here, and we've paid the full amount to 2 days - what do you think we're going to do.  Well today we've just been for a walk and learnt a little more about the region and the villages that were flooded in 1914 when the resevoir was filled.  Apparently, when the water is low (as it is at the mo), the remnants of three villages and a bridge across the original river bed can be seen.  So tomorrow we're going to go on a village hunt as we ride around the lake, but for tonight we're just transfixed by the lovely view we have of the sun 'playing peek a boo' with the clouds and displaying more of the lovely autumn colours as it sheds it's glow over the hills.

Today's view from our window.