It's the morning of the 3rd of October - German Reunification day, a public holiday in Germany. And rather than wrapping up in fleeces and raincoats as we should at this time of year, we're again waking to a beautiful, sunny and warm 'summer's' day – incredible.
We decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and campsite and stay here a day longer than planned. After our day in Dresden, we reckoned we could live without a river cruise on the Elbe or a day exploring local castles, and settled instead for a day in the campsite. We started with an early morning run into the forest, spent the afternoon swimming across the lake (in October!), the boogie boards which we've been lugging around finally making an appearance, and then paid a visit to the local Kaufland (a big German supermarket, of which almost half is devoted to the sale of beer – all in 1/2 litre bottles, in crates which the customers stack precariously high on their trolleys) which ended with the rather awkward 'we only take our own store card' scene at the checkout (fortunately we had just enough Euros). In the evening we had a very German barbecue – bratwurst und fleisch mit rosti kartofle!
Sunday was equally glorious, making the early start we needed much easier. Frances had booked for George, Charlie and me to go riding at a local stables. We wound our way through a couple of very typical German villages with colourful old houses fronted by very orderly well kept gardens (hard to imagine that just twenty years ago these would have been the uniform drab grey of the DDR) and found our way to the very impressive stables, complete with full sized indoor ménage arena, with stands and a bar for spectators! And then ensued a very rigorous investigation of our horsemanship before we were allowed to ride. First, we had to lead ponies to a paddock some distance away – odd, as we’d understood these were the three we’d ride. Then we walked back and were instructed to groom three different steeds, all of which were rather small – Frances and I looked quizzically at each other, and then suggested that they’d be rather too small for my gangly legs. Our instructor insisted that this was fine – I’d be able to paddle along. We had a quick a quiet conference, and then complained, rather more forcefully this time – at which she laughed and said she was just joking. Our grooming efforts were carefully inspected and with more good humour – ‘hmm, this pony is supposed to be white, not brown’. We were then helped to tack-up, and lead our mounts to the outdoor ménage where we then led them round at a walk for another 15 minutes before we were finally allowed to mount. And this only under very anxious observation and under a short leading rein! We were then put through various exercises – walking, trotting, rising trot, standing trot for what seemed like ages, with plenty of detailed correction and instruction. Finally, a posse was assembled to head off for a ride out – and again, leading reins were clipped on to each of our mounts, firmly held by our leaders. So, after last year’s wild galloping across the plains of Mongolia, we had a rather sedate walk and trot around local fields. I was very privileged to be let off the leading rein for a while as we walked – but then as we made to trot the rein was quickly grasped once more. When we returned, the starting process was repeated in reverse – endless walking around in circles to warm down, followed by washing down the horses before they were finally taken from us. Despite all the close attention we did have a lovely and memorable time, and headed straight to local Gasthaus for a much needed drink and bite to eat.
We again swam in the lake in the afternoon along with some of the many locals here for the long weekend. The campsite has a full summer-season atmosphere – loads of kids on bikes and scooters charging around, people fishing in the lake, barbecues everywhere in the evening. It will be hard to leave it this morning. But leave it we must, to head on to Prague – it’s only a couple of hours away. We took the awning down in the late afternoon while it was dry, which will make for a reasonably quick get-away this morning. We just need to give the caravan a bit of a wash before we do – it’s looking decidedly second-hand now!
Couple of omissions from my last entry about Dresden:
Besides the beautiful buildings, opera and symphonies which Dresden is renowned for, it’s also the notable birthplace of some important inventions: Odol mouthwash (?), toothpaste in tubes (now that’s a big one!), the bra (an even bigger one), chocolate in bars, the coffee filter, the teabag, the filter cigarette (Dresden was once home to many cigarette factories. The closet one being right in the old city.. the local government told the owner that they didn’t want an ugly factory spoiling the skyline and so he had it built in the form of the most beautiful mosque, where it still stands today looking magnificent!), and magnetic recording tape – where would we be without them? Interestingly it was also the home of the DDRs first microprocessor plant – evidently they had PCs at about the same time as the west and even had early gaming computer consoles to plug into the TV in the mid-eighties.
We’ve thoroughly enjoyed being here – perhaps not seeing or doing all the touristy things we could, but really getting immersed in the local lifestyle. Just wish we could stay longer!