Week 5 – Berlin to Dresden to Harz Mountains
- You can click any picture to see a bigger version
- See photo album links here
After our exhaustion of seeing Berlin, we planned to have a fairly quiet day. This idea started badly when trying to leave our superbly located site – the guys running it all appear to either be rude to everyone or just hate the English! Long story – but after an argument over incorrect dates on the form we just left the right money and left. We headed for a short drive to Potsdam – supposedly “One of Germanys most attractive towns”. We would not agree with this – some parts great but no real wow factors in the town, and as appears common in Germany, nice is muddled within the tatty. There appeared to be lots of building works and improvements ongoing so maybe worth a visit in the next few years. After there we went for a run in the Park Sanssouci to try and stretch out our ongoing aches. This park is, it has to be said, superb. We ran for around 5 miles and the park is full of superb statues, castles, and works of art. Sadly they were in the middle of “box-protecting” the statues for the winter. In the summer this would be a lovely place to chill for a day.
The fog started to descend so we headed to Leipzig for a couple of days. TomTom was superb guiding us to the city centre – rather than the campsite. Human error – but it gave us a superb tour of the city on a fortunately quiet Sunday afternoon! First impressions were of a poor typical Eastern Europe town, wide tram-cabled roads, semi derelict shops, and rows and rows of flats. The following day we took a tram into the city centre – a highly modern and clean tram – and we were efficiently dropped off at the central station.
Inside the ring road, Leipzig is a marvellous city – vastly different to the area just outside. We were greeted with clean streets, stunning buildings, nice shops and good eateries outside. Clearly work is still ongoing, many of the superb views and sites are surrounded by building works, but that said – it didn’t take anything away from the place. We went to the Stasi museum and realised that only a few days before we saw Michael Palin there in part of his New Europe show we brought with us – shows how much attention we paid to the programme! A very interesting museum with insight into how the Stasi used to work…
Leipzig also has a zoo – so, as usual, Mel dragged us there to see the animals as apparently the zoo (though 130 years old) has been modernised and has animals in “natural” enclosures without bars… Sadly, out of season it was quiet and a lot of the animals were in their indoor environments rather than the massive outdoor areas they had. However, there was a superb indoor large 360’ aquarium which was stunning – loads of fish we’d never seen before in almost total freedom.
When leaving Leipzig we headed towards Dresden – a place we both wanted to go to, but one we’d heard conflicting reports of. We arrived safely and found motorhome parking right in the centre with the best ever signing! They appeared to want you there and went out of their way to ensure they could accommodate you, even giving you free WiFi! All this about 3 minutes walk from the main city centre – a model facility. We ventured around the city in awe of many of the sites. As usual, modernisation work is in full swing, but Dresden still looked superb. Many old buildings, such as the Frauenkirche are rebuilt from the war – and this particular stunning church retains the dark original stone only which shows how much rebuilding was necessary.
We pretended to have an arty side and went into the Old Masters picture gallery – and whist some of the pictures were quite interesting to look at – we don’t think we’re particularly arty enough to fully appreciate them. After a nose around Zwinger and the old town we decided to chill for the rest of the day and explore the following morning when we were pleased to see the sun out shining well for the first time in a while. We started off with a run along the river Elbe and through the Grosser Garten park where we saw a load of wild red squirrels! All we can say – is this was a perfect start to the day – lovely weather and absolutely stunning views along the river – must be hard to beat anywhere. 7 miles later and showered we ventured back into town to see the old town in the sun and also the new town. The former was even more impressive – we found bits we missed yesterday with a stunning shopping mall hidden away. After an easy afternoon we headed back for a nice meal in the evening washed down with some large German beers. Overall very impressed – we reckon Dresden will be *the* city break in the next few years.
The next day was foggy so we just had a long drive to the Harz mountains ready to explore the following day. We opted for “interesting back roads” – but with the fog and road-works the journey wasn’t great. Where we camped wasn’t either – and we got stung for €21 for the night – most we’ve paid by far!
In the morning we headed into the mountains, via Harzgerode than Ballenstedt where we explored a glorious castle and grounds. These towns are much more what we expected German towns to be like so were very impressed! From there we headed to Thale which was a very pleasant surprise – another glorious town at the base of a mountain, with a couple of cable car runs to the top and some extreme mountain bike trails down. Very tempted to get the bikes but they are more hybrid than mountain… We took a ride to the top to check out the Hexentanzplatz (where witches fly from apparently) which was fun, and we stumbled on a cross between a toboggan run and a roller coaster! Surprisingly Mel wanted a go – but only with Ryan “driving” – and away we went! Ryan was very generous in the application of the brakes so didn’t make any of the “jumps” – but Mel didn’t kick him and thus enjoyed the experience! There is so much to do at Thale, especially in the summer months, it is well worth a visit.
Leaving Thale we headed towards Blankenburg where we found a camping place for €4 – much more like it. We decided to stay there the night and explore another gorgeous town; stunning castle and grounds; and plan our morning run via the “Devils Rocks” (or something – a 3km cliff and forest run) followed by another look around the nice but quiet town. We then headed off on some challenging (fun!) roads into the mountains to Rubeland – which appeared to be a ghost town apart from some caves. Trying not to remember “Descent movie” – we ventured into the caves to admire the Stalagmites and tites they had to offer. Reasonably interesting as the tour was in German, so clearly we could not understand the “no photo” rule! Then off to Bad Sachsa and a very quiet site in the hills with a lovely meal in a quiet restaurant and some German beer, thus ending our penultimate week.