Saturday, 31 August 2013

Saturday 31 August. Bleckede to Hohnstorf.

The day started well with an excellent breakfast. Much more than we could eat. Fruit, yoghurt and muesli as well as the standard cheeses, meat and a boiled egg.

One of the better breakfasts we've had this year. To be fair to our other B&Bs though we were paying €67 instead of the more normal €50 further east. A significant difference.

We left before 9am and headed for town passing the Italian restaurant where we ate last night. We went out the back of the town and then headed for the Deich. The weather was cool and overcast, excellent for walking. However I found the first half of the walk,  north to Radegast, pretty hard going.

The route from Radegast headed largely westwards to Hohnstorf.The sign shown in the first photograph is, we think, a PC interpretation of a male and a female going for a walk in the countryside.

The walk west seemed less tiring than the northerly stretch. As the day wore on it clouded over and we got some rain. The second photograph shows the bridge across the Elbe between Lauenburg and Honstorf. We arrived in the rain but had difficulty finding our B&B.

We did eventually find it and showered and did our daily wash. We then went to a restaurant near the bridge in the photograph for our evening meal. We found it using Google Maps. However it was an expensive place with below average food. A disappointing end to a hard day of 23.5km in 6.5 hours.

Thursday 29 August. Hitzacker to Neu Darchau.

After a very pleasant two day stay at our B&B and a good breakfast we set off on our way. Frau Radke suggested that as we were walking and not biking, we should use the south bank of the Elbe thus avoiding two ferry crossings.

The road out of Hitzacker, up past the Jugendherberge (YHA), was an easy climb for a walker but would have been a bit of a pain for a cyclist. From the YHA onwards it was largely all down hill, on a very pleasant forest walk (see first two photographs) until we joined the road down by the Elbe near Tiessau. Somewhere near Tiesmesland we saw a working farm but it had an interesting collection of plastic farm animals in its garden, I found it amusingly eccentric for a place with real animals. See accompanying photograph.

We then took an Elbeside path to Drethem which was in a reserve and only suitable for walkers. There was plenty of wetland for mosquitoes and frogs and a number of fallen trees that had to be negotiated.

We then started to head  inland a bit and a little up hill through some small villages. I got a nice photograph of a thatched farm building that was near the German Stork Road, that we were now walking. We saw a few empty nests but no storks.

We followed near the Elbe into New Darchau. There were some very expensive houses on the south side of town and one had a beautiful bronze horse in the garden. I took a photograph. The horse was bigger than a man. It is difficult to judge scale from the photograph alone.

They obviously had a lot of problems with flood water in New Darchau as can be seen from the last slide of an improvised sandbag Deich built behind the housing area where we are now staying.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Tuesday 27 August. Doemitz to Hitzacker.

We left our B&B slightly early this morning. The landlady had to go off to work early and left us to lock up. I remember a similar thing happening when I was walking near Abbotsbury on the South West Coast Path in the U K.

We walked over the bridge over the Elbe, shown in the first photograph, from the 'DDR' east side towards the west. As we were nearing the west side we met up with a partially sighted chap who was heading towards us waving one of those balls on the end of a long stick. He obviously wanted to chat and we were in no hurry. Chats with different people, from different places with different experiences are what make this type of walk so enjoyable.

As we were talking two cyclists came towards us along the bridge and I tried to warn them the chap was partially sighted. The woman managed to stop in time, but the panniers of the chap in front caught our friend behind the leg and knocked him to the ground. I was however able to grab him by the arm and slow his descent to the ground. The cyclist also fell off.

No one was seriously hurt but the partially sighted chap had a very bad grease mark on the back of his trousers. The whole thing took place on the bridge path shown in the second photograph about level with the position of the white truck.

We met up with the cyclist later. They had to go into the nearest town to have work done on the man's bicycle. The chain wheel had been bent in the accident. It turns out they had recognised us on the bridge as they had seen us in a restaurant the day before.

The next photograph shows where to take pregnant women who are expected to have a short labour.

The morning alternated between full sun and partial cloud and the next photograph shows Shiel on top of the Deich in a sunny period. Note the patches of sand. The sand came from the inside of the sandbags used during the June floods.

We saw storks today but again they were extremely nervous. I did manage to photogragh a pair above a power pole and another pair on a roof nest. The sign in one of the photographs lists the number of young storks born in the house nest in recent years.

The final two shots show the town square of Hitzacker. I don't know why but we expected a more modern town centre. It was a pleasant surprise to find we are in a nice old town on our day off.

Wednesday 28 August. Day off in Hitzacker.

We are at our B&B, Privatpension Karin Radke. We decided to stay two days to see if Shiel's leg improves. If it doesn't I'm thinking of putting some Bute in her salad tomorrow evening! (RDA joke.)

Karin Radke runs a very efficient B&B with none of the penny pinching that has spoiled one or two other places we've stayed at. She seems a nice woman, she reminds me of my auntie Gladys. :)

At breakfast this morning there were five other people beside us and we were all told, "if you can't eat all your breakfast please take it away to eat later." (My translation, E&OE). She even supplied plastic bags with cable ties on the table so we could seal up our 'doggie bags'. That's what I call hospitality! It makes you feel more  like a family member than just a source of income. Wonderful!

Two cyclists  we met on the Elberadweg, with a similar family name to Karin, recommended her B&B to us and we will gladly recommend it to others.

Today we largely 'blobbed out'. We did a bit of sight seeing and visited the local church, with some modern stained glass,  it looked art deco to me, like some of the things we saw in the Ashmolean two years ago. It was very good. We also visited the local museum which had an excellent interactive display of what it is like to live, as Hitzacker does, between two rivers that flood on a regular basis. 

How the Elbe course has drifted over the years was also very interesting and there was a good photographic display of the June floods. I've attached a picture of the poster advertising the museum. In it you can see how extensive the flooding was. It has adversely affected the income of many businesses on the Elberadweg this year.

We had coffee and Kuechen at Albis, a cafe run by a French woman, who is married to a German. They lived for many years in Cornwall. She knew Torquay well and her son still lives in Truro. We had also visited her cafe the day before. They have good coffee and cakes. We had been talking to her in English and she said it had affected her dreaming that evening. She said last night she dreamt in English, French and German! Brussels would be pleased.

This evening we went out for a meal in Greek restaurant. Interestingly Germans seem much less reserved than the British when eating out. They are happy to greet strangers and chat with them and even share tables with them. 

We had a very good meal and the first Greek coffee we'd tasted for 38 years!!! No 'Greek delight' though?

As I write this Shiel is enjoying the highlight of her day. The American Open on the TV in our B&B! Last week she was able to watch the European Show Jumping Championships.  

Tomorrow we head for Neu Darchau.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Moday 26 August. Moedlich to Doemitz.

We set off as normal about 9am. There was a cool wind, but it was sunny and even Frau Barr decided a sweater wasn't necessary.

We passed the small church of Moedlich and a little later a thatched house with a stork's nest in the garden. There were quite a few thatched cottages, the first we've seen on this trip. They seemed to be in very good condition.

Another new feature on this bit of the walk were the groynes of gravel and sand stretching from the northern bank out into the Elbe. A lot of them were covered in birds. This part of the Elbe must be very popular with people interested in water fowl.

We passed a large number of donkeys at one farm. We think it was probably a donkey sanctuary. A little further along we saw a stork's nest complete with stork. I tried to get a little nearer and it flew away. Even though they are well out of harms way, at the top of high poles, storks are very, very nervous birds. Worse than sandhill cranes, they only sneak away slowly.

The highlight(?) of our day was our walk through Baarz. I was hoping someone would pass by and I could get them to take a photograph of Shiel and me below the sign.

A builder working on a house in Baarz (actually pronounced more like Bartz more than Barrs) came over to talk when he saw us walking with packs. It turned out he had walked from Dresden to Hamburg in 2008, but he was camping. When I said we were hoping to walk to Cuxhaven I got the impression he now wished he had done that too.

The last photograph shows the nearest I managed to get to a pair of storks on the bank of the Elbe before they flew away. My cell phone has no telephoto lens.

It is interesting that 25 years ago the journey we made today, as two pommes, would probably not have been possible. Whilst Snackeburg was in what was then West Germany, the north bank of the Elbe, where we walked today, was all in Eastern Germany, the DDR. I've always been suspicious of countries which need to put the word Democratic in the name of their country. It very much suggests the one thing the countries aren't is a democracy.

We arrived at our pension at 3pm but no one was in. I rang up to find out where people were but as I have said before my German is not that good. I got the impression a daughter should be coming to let us in at 3.15. Nobody had come by at 3.50 and we were getting worried. A very friendly chap came by on a bicycle and asked why we were waiting. When we explained he said he knew our landlord and would go home and give him a ring on our behalf. We don't know if he did that but about 4.05 the pension door opened and the young daughter of the house appeared and showed us to our rooms. We had the pick of two sets. The rooms, as usual in Germany, are very good, better than zu Hause. (Their showers work!)

We went out for our evening meal and I started talking to one of the chaps sitting behind me. We all left the restaurant at the same time. As he was staying in digs near us we went the same way. He saw Shiel was limping. He made my day when he suggested Shiel could have some green Pferde (horse ointment) to put on her ankle which he himself used when he had sore limbs. I've been trying for days to get her to run cold water over it like they do on horses feet at the RDA.

Sunday 25 August. Schnackenburg to Moedlich.

We had to walk a little way from the accommodation block to the pub where we ate last night and where this morning we were provided with breakfast.  However it was a good breakfast.

We ate earlier than normal and we were on the ferry before 9am. It set off with only the two of us on it but a car turned up seconds after we moved off so the ferry returned to pick it up.

I got a photograph of Snackenburg from the ferry, which I couldn't get last night because of the lighting. I also took a picture of the ferry from the northern bank of the Elbe, looking back towards Schnackenburg.

Instead of walking back towards Luetkenwisch we took a short cut across an empty cow paddock and headed up onto the Deich in the direction of Moedlich. The teacher we met yesterday said Lenzen was worth a visit so we took a turn off north up to a small village called Wustrow. My map showed a reasonable sized road between Wustrow and Gandow, on the edge of a forest, which then joined the road to Lenzen. However what looked like a road on my map was a very overgrown forest road. I've taken a photograph so you see what it was like.

I took off my dark spectacles to take the photograph, putting them behind a rucksac strap and sadly without my noticing they fell off whilst I was walking.  We went back to look for them but couldn't find them. The anthill shown in the photograph gives you a good idea of how well used a road it was that we and it were on!

In complete contrast the broad concrete road shown in the next photograph was marked as a thin black line, that is as a path, on my map! However we got to Gandow without further incident.

I took two photographs on entering Lenzen to show how the wood framed houses are gradually being tidied up and what a difference it makes. Lenzen was largely deserted, being Sunday morning, as we headed past the church and out to the Burg where we had refreshments and cake on the beautiful terrace of the Burg restaurant. There were a number of bronzes before the restaurant which are well worth a look.

From Lenzen we headed back down onto the Deich where there was an old observation tower from DDR days which now serves more as a viewing platform for the surrounding area.

The last two pictures, taken together, are self explanatory. A very dramatic sculpture and a clever location.

Our evening meal was taken in the garden of our pension. We both had drinks, I had a good feta and olive salad. Shiel had a vegetarian dish. I then had a coffee and we shared a very tasty light cheesecake. The bill was modest at only €28.80 and I suggested to the waiter/owner he should take €32, a tip of 10% which seems to be the accepted norm. However both Shiel and I noticed that after giving change for €35 the waiter paused significantly before handing over all our change. (This has happened only once before in Germany in an Italian restaurant near the Dom at Havelburg). It turned what had been a very pleasant evening a little flat.

{The chap redeemed himself somewhat the following morning. I was sure we had arranged a price of €51 for the night but he said the room we were in was only €49, so we rounded up to €50 and everyone was happy}.

Todays walk was 19.6km in 5.5 hours. By contrast we walked 24.6km yesterday, including our trip to the museum.

Shiel has been suffering a bit with a swollen right ankle. I wanted to post a photo yesterday but she refused to cooperate. We reduced her load a bit today to see if it helped. Sadly it did't.

We are having a day off in Hitzacker in two day's time and hopefully that may help. I've suggested cold water treatment, as used on horses at RDA, but this was pooh pood.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Saturday 24 August. Wittenberge to Schnackenburg.

Left Wittenberge on time after an excellent breakfast. Headed to the river, past the sculptures to find a dragon boat festival setting up. We saw a boat training yesterday.

A little further along we were stopped by an elderly German cyclist. It turned out to be our first experience of a DDR rapper! That is to say he spoke German at high speed, but in rhyme. It sounded a bit like Wilhelm Busch, Max and Moritz. We could catch no more than about 10% of what he said but it was clear he thought things were better in DDR times. He was 79 years old and looked fit for his age. I was sad we couldn't understand more of what he said. Lots of people's faces  seem to glaze over when you mention 1989 but he was quite happy to talk about the changes. In fact you couldn't stop him!

The path followed on top of the Deich, beside the river, but you could also walk below the Deich as Shiel is doing in the first photograph. We missed a turn to Wentdorf but my Viewranger maps said there was another turning a little further on. We couldn't find it. It appeared to have been ploughed up as we have seen before on the walk. We decided to walk as near as we could to the track using GPS. We started over an area that must have been flooded a few weeks ago. There is a photo looking back towards Shiel in the scrub taken from where the old track reappeared again between two fields. It appears the track had been ploughed up where it left the Deich. In walking through the scrub I found quite a lot of blackberry brambles as the photograph of my calf shows.

We took a farm track, just south of Wentdorf, to bypass the village and finished up in Cumlosen where we had refreshments and cake. The gnome garden photograph was taken in the village.

We moved back to the Deich to do a sock change and had our second memorable meeting of the day, a woman who teaches in Wittenberg. Her daughter spent a few months in New Zealand last year. I think she is currently in Vancouver and about to study medicine. The teacher said we should visit her uncle in Hitzacker who is 92 years old and likes to chat. Whilst we would like to do so it is very difficult to make a 'cold call' on someone. Especially a 92 year old who speaks a different language but it was a very friendly offer and one can't help wondering what the old chap is like. He seems to have been well educated.

Outside Cumloser we walked on past an old concrete tower structure, from DDR times, which was used when this area along the Elbe was the border between the DDR and the West. It now seems  to be an area where flood water services are based.

In Lutkenwisch, just before the ferry, was a memorial to the people who patrolled the DDR border. It seems quite a few of the older people feel the same way as our rapper.

We walked onwards to the ferry which was just leaving as we turned up. I took a photograph on the ferry and one of the sign, which one passes on entering Schnackenberg, showing a map of Europe before 1991.

We checked in at our hotel, did our washing, and then went to visit the Border Museum where the last few photographs were taken. It was an excellent museum and really took you back to the days of the DDR. We lived in Western Germany in 1983 and 1989 and made one visit to Berlin, both east and west via Checkpoint Charlie. To me at least the regime seemed very oppressive. I find it incredible that in the last two years we have walked from Poland, through the Czech Republic and what were East and West Germany without needing to show a passport. How radically times have changed for the better. Children born in the last 20 years can have no idea what it was like. The last two photograhs show pictures of a mini submarine an engineer and his wife used to try and escape from the DDR.