June 4, 2019 Colditz GE

When I was 11 or 12 my friend John and I were totally fascinated with the story of Colditz Castle and the allied prisoners of war who were held there during the war.  The Germans designed the POW camp at Colditz to hold the most difficult prisoners, people who had attempted multiple escapes or were just a large scale pain to the Germans.  John and I read the book by one of the prisoners called Escape from Colditz and spent a large part of the summer pretending to be prisoners trying to escape from Colditz.  Today I got to visit the real thing.

It was not on the plan, but when we were traveling from Dresden to Leipzig the other day I saw the exit on the Autobahn for Colditz and told Ton the story and she insisted that we visit it.  It was a short drive down from Leipzig with the only adventure being Greta insisting there was a road to follow when there was not one, after 10 minutes or so of circling Greta’s imaginary road we followed our noses and eventually found our way to Colditz.

The castle has been in existence since the middle ages, and was for a short while the home of Augustus I of Saxony.  After a while it fell out of favor as a royal residence and became at different times a hospital, prison, and mental hospital.  When the Nazi’s came to power it was used as a concentration camp, before being converted to a prisoner of war camp in 1939.  During the war it held prisoners from many different countries including Poland, Holland, Belgium, France, the US, and Britain, with the British making up the bulk of the  prisoners.

The courtyard of Colditz Castle, which during WWII was a POW camp for recalcitrant officers.
A formation of prisoners in the Castle courtyard during the war.

Today we were fortunate to be the only ones on our tour of the castle which was led by an Englishman named Alex who had married a local Saxon girl.  He did a fabulous job of showing us around the castle explaining the living arrangements of both the prisoners and the guards.  He talked about the various escape attempts.  The most fascinating was the French tunnel which as you would expect was the work of the French prisoners held there.  They dug this tunnel for over 9 months and covered over 500 feet going up and down around the stone that the castle rests on including cutting thru the original wooden supports that were adjacent to the chapel.

A vertical shaft of the French tunnel.
A horizontal shaft of the French tunnel that was uncovered during renovation.

The German government has spent a lot of money fixing the castle in addition to the museum they have converted the old German guard quarters/Mental Hospital (under the East Germans) into a hostel.  If you are in the area we recommend it.  It was nice to see a place that had given me a great adventure one summer when I was a kid.

June 3, 2019 Leipzig GE

We spent the day touring around Leipzig which is a nice city.  This is an up and coming city in Germany, which means it still has a little roughness around the edge which we liked.  Dresden’s downtown felt like it had completed it’s makeover, in Leipzig it felt like it was well on its’ way but still in progress.

We went to St. Thomas Church which was the base of J.S. Bach for many years.  As we entered the church a youth orchestra was beginning to practice for a concert.  We sat and listened to them for a few minutes which seemed a fitting way to pay homage to Bach.  

Bach’s statue in front of St. Thomas church.

Leipzig embraces its’ role in the downfall of East Germany, and as you walk around town you see plaques telling stories about key events in 1989.  It is humbling for me to walk the ground to see the role that common people played in bringing down a government with the repressive power of the old East German government.

This cross is part of the story of the revolution of 89, as people would come to the church to leave messages for friends as well prayers.

Leipzig is also the site of one of the great battles of the Napoleonic era.  At Leipzig Napoleon was defeated by the combined army of Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Sweden. This defeat led to his first exile.  There is a huge monument to the battle on the edge of Leipzig.  While the scale is massive, (it takes over 500 steps to reach the top) the aesthetics of the monument were not to our taste.  We gave it a quick walk around without buying a ticket to go inside, and moved on to one of our favorite activities.

This massive monument to the Battle of Leipzig was finished in 1913.  Huge statues and huge blocks of stone.
This picture is from  Auerbachs Keller that has been operating since the 1400’s, they claim you cannot say you have visited Leipzig unless you visit here, so we had to stop.  It is supposed to be Faust and the Devil on top of the barrel.

Our last stop was at a brewery in an old train station near downtown.  Bayerischer Bahnhof Brewery is one of the originators of Gose style beer.  We usually don’t much like sours but this one was good and Ton claimed it helped with her allergies so we had a second round.  The brewery is located in one of the old train stations in town, the station was closed down around 2001, but the entrance hall was a historical site so it was saved and eventually converted to a brewery.  It may be the nicest brewery we have ever visited and we have visited a few!

The exterior of the brewery.
The interior.

June 2, 2019 Leipzig GE

Today was a day of rest mostly.  We woke up and decided to get some chores done, the biggest of which was laundry.  Leipzig was next on our list and I found a campground with washing machines so we were off to Leipzig.  After an uneventful 120km drive on the autobahn we arrived.

It’s about 90 degrees today so Ton and I are having dreams of beer.

It was around 10:30 when we arrived, I went in to check in, and was asked if I had a reservation, when I replied negatively she gave me a lecture about planning, making reservations and added that check in time was 2pm, after she got that off her chest she checked me in and we were off to our spot.  Having settled in we went to find the laundry room to scope out the equipment and the cost, but the laundry room was locked.  Back to the office to find out that you needed to check out a key and buy tokens for 30 minutes of electricity.  We were a little perplexed about the whole buying electricity thing but guessed we would figure it out.  After getting our laundry sorted I headed back to get the key and tokens, the office was jammed with people checking in so I waited patiently, and was amused to see another person with poor planning skills get the same lecture I had gotten about the importance of reservations, this time in German.  Then the next person in line bought a bunch of tokens and took a key, shucks!  Hoping there was more than one key I continued to wait only to be told as I expected, that there was only one key.  After 3 hours went back to check on the key, and the same lady a little shamefaced told me that the key was still not back, but gave me the space number of the person who had it, so off I went on my quest for the key.  They turned out to be a nice couple who said they would be done in 8 minutes (how precisely German of them), sold us their 4 extra tokens, agreed to give us possession of the key, and explained the purchasing of electricity with the tokens.

Some greatest hits photos from Ton.
Cool flowers.
Our favorite German coffee.

Tomorrow we are off to see Leipzig.

June 1, 2019 Dresden GE

We made the short hop up the Elbe River to Dresden this morning.  We had a bit of an adventure checking out of our stellplatz in Meissen.  As I said when we checked in it is quirky.  The first thing is they hand you a key and insist you lock the gate every time you enter or exit.  Each day there were 10 to 15 campers there and we each had a key to the gate and everyone did their duty to insure each others security.  To get the key you have to leave a €20 deposit at the municipal swimming pool which looms over the aire.  There is a nice clean bathroom on site but again the instructions are clear, lock the door every time you use it.  One morning I was in doing my thing when one of the maintenance guys came by and locked the door while I was in there, fortunately I had my key.  The parking is a free for all and there is only two electrical posts so everyone is running a 100 foot electrical cord from their vans to the power post.  This became a problem when the maintenance crew showed up to mow the grass, but we all pitched in and shifted cords around to clear paths for the mowers.  Finally, in the middle of the aire is an immense abandoned pool from the communist era that has trees and bushes growing from it, everyone seemed to need to hop the fence to get a closer look at it like an archeologist.  All of the eccentricities made it kind of charming and a memorable place to stay.  So as we were leaving I needed to return my key and retrieve my €20, when I walked in there were 50 people in line to check in for the pool, with 2 people at the desk to handle them all, so half an hour later I got rid of the key and we were on our way to Dresden.

The air in Dresden lacks the quirks of Meissen and is quite packed, (apparently due to an American Football game that is being played tomorrow between two German professional teams) but it is an easy walk to the center of town.  After settling in we headed to town.  As we neared the city center we discovered that today was gay pride festival weekend in Dresden (actually it is a 4 day event)and we had found the staging ground for the parade. We hung around to see the beginning of the parade and it was quite entertaining.  Dresden has a large and proud gay community.  

One of the 20 mobile sound systems and improvised dance halls that made up part of the parade.

Next we walked thru town to look at all of the sites.  They are nearly all rebuilt following a controversial fire bombing of Dresden by the RAF during WWII which caused a fire storm in the city killing around 20,000 people and destroying the old town.  

The old town of Dresden fronting the Elbe River. A lot of construction and maintenance work being done.

The buildings are impressive, particularly the old palace of the Elector of Saxony.  The Cathedral was rebuilt but they had a hard time finding matching stones for the walls that collapsed so you can clearly see the old and new stones.  Most of the buildings in Dresden are quite black, I am not sure this is by design, but am guessing it is a result of pollution, as a few of the buildings look like they have been recently cleaned and are not black.

The grounds of the Elector of Saxony’s Palace.  The buildings and grounds are quite impressive, you can see the contrast in the color between the building on the far left corner of the picture and the main hall.
This is part of a block long mural showing all of the Electors of Saxony including Augustus the Strong in the center who funded the Meissen Porcelain Factory.

We wandered around the old town for a few hours before crossing the bridge to the new town for a beer and curry wurst.  After our beer as we were crossing back over the Elbe the gay pride parade came down the riverfront and since they seemed to be taking the same path we were taking to François we walked along with them for a while before stopping for one more beer as it was hot.

The Christopher Street Day Parade passing along the waterfront downtown in Dresden.

May 31, Meissen GE

A very light day for us.  After sleeping in we took our time getting going in the morning with Ton updating her friends on Line, and me catching up on what was going on with the Timbers.

Meissen is famous for being the first place in Europe to manufacture porcelain.  Porcelain from China and Japan was all the rage in the late 1600’s and imports were really expensive so the local prince told some of his best minds to figure out how it was made.  Eventually they successfully reverse engineered the process and in 1710 opened the first porcelain manufacturing site outside of Asia in Meissen.  It has been in continuous business since then.

The symbol of the Meissen Porcelain Factory with some examples of their product.

The demonstration of the manufacturing process is quite interesting as actual artisans from the company perform work as you watch them.  The work is quite intricate and artistic, so it is fascinating to watch them actually perform the work as it is described to you.  

The initial process uses a potters wheel and molds to form the piece.

We really enjoyed seeing the process. The work at Meissen is still largely done by hand unlike most porcelain manufacturers who have automated the process.  As a result Meissen porcelain is highly valued and is expensive.

This lady is hand making details for the statues on the right.
This lady is hand applying the paint, they apply one color at a time, you can see different stages of the process in the background.

After the demonstration we walked thru the museum with over 3000 pieces from different eras on display. There was a lot of very interesting porcelains on display, and we spent quite a bit of time walking thru the exhibits.  

A porcelain clock produced at Meissen in the late 1700’s.
This porcelain piece is available for €31,000.  The cheapest thing we saw was a cup for €35.  

We decided to head back to François a little early for the day after we picked up some things at the grocery.  We relaxed for the afternoon, while I tried to have a conversation with our Dutch neighbor.  He was quite a character, but also the first Dutchman I have come across who was not fluent in English.  As a result I spent a lot of time nodding and smiling while maybe understanding 20% of what he was telling me.  Still it was nice, and gave Ton and his wife some time to take care of business without us in their hair.

May 30, 2019 Meissen GE

Today we decided to end our stay in Bavaria after 2 weeks.  We were tempted to head into Nuremberg, but after some more thought we decided to make a jump north.  So today we are in a very quirky Stellplatz in Meißen in Saxony.  

The German countryside at 60mph from the autobahn.

The trip was our longest in Germany so far at a bit over 220km’s.  Feeling a little lazy we decided to pick the fastest route which turned out to be almost all Autobahn.  We were on a nice roll and covering distance at a rate we are not used to even though we were among the slowest vehicles on the autobahn.  It turns out today is a holiday in Germany so while there was virtually no trucks on the road there were a ton of cars.  When we were less than 2km’s from our exit the right lane came to a complete halt with an equal number of cars stopped in the right lane and the shoulder.  At first we thought there must be an accident, but it turns out there was some kind of event at out exit.  It was interesting to watch the disciplined Germans behave just like the rest of the world when faced with a traffic jam, most people stayed in the right lane and crept towards the exit, a higher percentage than we would see in the US decided to run up the shoulder to the exit and force their way in there, this ended after a few minutes when a couple of cars blocked the shoulder to prevent that happening.  Also a few real jerks  just like in the US used the left lane (which was still moving) and then forced their way in right at the exit.  It turns out people are the same everywhere, even the disciplined Germans.

Ton had picked out Meissen because it is supposed to be a relatively undiscovered gem. After the sophisticated tourist cities of Bavaria, Meissen was really refreshing.  Meissen is famous for its porcelain as well as its castle and cathedral on a bluff overlooking the Elbe River.  The climb to the castle was steep but worth it.

The Cathedral in Meissen.  I suspect the black on the towers is due to pollution and not design.
The red roofs of Meissen from the castle grounds.  Ton tells me these rooftop shots are “the thing” these days.
The Elbe River from the castle.
The only really touristy thing in town, and there was only one wagon.

As we walked around the town it was crowded as not only is it Ascension Day but also Fathers Day.  Interestingly in Germany, Fathers Day is celebrated by the men having a boys day out without the families.  We saw one group of guys being pulled thru town on a trailer behind a tractor with beer steins in hand.  Also, unlike in Bavaria we did not hear any English (or Thai) as we walked.

As we were waiting for our bus back to the aire we noticed this moving monument to the inmates of the small concentration camp located near Meissen.

This is our first experience in the old East Germany so the differences in the buildings and the infrastructure we saw was interesting.  We need a few more days to decide if the difference is Bavaria vs Saxony, or West German vs East Germany.

Also today Google Maps let us down for the first time.  We decided to take the bus back to save a couple of miles of uphill walking.  We really rely on Google Maps to help us navigate and to use the transit systems over here.  It gives you good routes and even tells you what busses/trains to take and what stops to get off.  I do not know how we did it before.  Everything was going well and we got off at the bus stop Google told us to.  It showed a route for us to walk, and when I began to follow it it lead us to a hedge row and I heard a creek behind it.  I looked at the map and realized that it was sending us directly cross country not following a road or trail.  So our easy walk home became about a mile and a half as we circled the woods and the creek between us and our destination, we trudged along in silence me cursing Google, and Ton I am sure thinking I was lost again.

June 4, 2019 Colditz GE

When I was 11 or 12 my friend John and I were totally fascinated with the story of Colditz Castle and the allied prisoners of war who were held there during the war.  The Germans designed the POW camp at Colditz to hold the most difficult prisoners, people who had attempted multiple escapes or were just a large scale pain to the Germans.  John and I read the book by one of the prisoners called Escape from Colditz and spent a large part of the summer pretending to be prisoners trying to escape from Colditz.  Today I got to visit the real thing.

It was not on the plan, but when we were traveling from Dresden to Leipzig the other day I saw the exit on the Autobahn for Colditz and told Ton the story and she insisted that we visit it.  It was a short drive down from Leipzig with the only adventure being Greta insisting there was a road to follow when there was not one, after 10 minutes or so of circling Greta’s imaginary road we followed our noses and eventually found our way to Colditz.

The castle has been in existence since the middle ages, and was for a short while the home of Augustus I of Saxony.  After a while it fell out of favor as a royal residence and became at different times a hospital, prison, and mental hospital.  When the Nazi’s came to power it was used as a concentration camp, before being converted to a prisoner of war camp in 1939.  During the war it held prisoners from many different countries including Poland, Holland, Belgium, the US, and Britain, with the British making up the bulk of the  prisoners.

The courtyard of Colditz Castle, which during WWII was a POW camp for recalcitrant officers.

 

A formation of prisoners in the Castle courtyard during the war.

Today we were fortunate to be the only ones on our tour of the castle which was led by an Englishman named Alex who had married a local Saxon girl.  He did a fabulous job of showing us around the castle explaining the living arrangements of both the prisoners and the guards.  He talked about the various escape attempts.  The most fascinating was the French tunnel which as you would expect was the work of the French prisoners held there.  They dug this tunnel for over 9 months and covered over 500 feet going up and down around the stone that the castle rests on including cutting thru the original wooden supports that were adjacent to the chapel.

A vertical shaft of the French tunnel.
A horizontal shaft of the French tunnel that was uncovered during renovation.

The German government has spent a lot of money fixing the castle in addition to the museum they have converted the old German guard quarters/Mental Hospital (under the East Germans) into a hostel.  If you are in the area we recommend it.  It was nice to see a place that had given me a great adventure one summer when I was a kid.

June 3, 2019 Leipzig GE

Spent the day touring around Leipzig which is a nice city.  This is an up and coming city in Germany, which means it still has a little roughness around the edge which we liked.  Dresden’s downtown felt like it had completed it’s makeover, in Leipzig it felt like it was well on its’ way but still in progress.

We went to St. Thomas Church which was the base of J.S. Bach for many years.  As we entered the church a youth orchestra was beginning to practice for a concert.  We sat and listened to them for a few minutes which seemed a fitting way to pay homage to Bach.  

Bachs’ statue in front of St. Thomas church.

Leipzig embraces its’ role in the downfall of East Germany, and as you walk around town you see plaques telling stories about key events in 1989.  It is humbling for me to walk the ground to see the role that common people played in bringing down a government with the repressive power of the old East German government.

This cross is part of the story of the revolution of 89, as people would come to the church to leave messages for friends as well prayers.

Leipzig is also the site of one of the great battles of the Napoleonic era.  At Leipzig Napoleon was defeated by the combined army of Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Sweden. This defeat led to his first exile.  There is a huge monument to the battle on the edge of Leipzig.  While the scale is massive, (it takes over 500 steps to reach the top) the aesthetics of the monument were not to our taste.  We gave it a quick walk around without buying a ticket to go inside, and moved on to one of our favorite activities.

This massive monument to the Battle of Leipzig was finished in 1913.  Huge statues and huge blocks of stone.
This picture is from  Auerbachs Keller that has been operating since the 1400’s, they claim you cannot say you have visited Leipzig unless you visit here, so we had to stop.  It is supposed to be Faust and the Devil on top of the barrel.

Our last stop was at a brewery in an old train station near downtown.  Bayerischer Bahnhof Brewery is one of the originators of Gose style beer.  We usually don’t much like sours but this one was good and Ton claimed it helped with her allergies so we had a second round.  The brewery is located in one of the old train stations in town, the station was closed down around 2001, but the entrance hall was a historical site so it was saved and eventually converted to a brewery.  It may be the nicest brewery we have ever visited and we have visited a few!

The exterior of the brewery.
The interior.

June 2, 2019 Leipzig GE

Today was a day of rest mostly.  We woke up and decided to get some chores done, the biggest of which was laundry.  Leipzig was next on our list and I found a campground with washing machines so we were off to Leipzig.  After an uneventful 120km drive on the autobahn we arrived.

It’s about 90 degrees today so Ton and I are having dreams of beer.

It was around 10:30 when we arrived, I went in to check in, and was asked if I had a reservation, when I replied negatively she gave me a lecture about planning, making reservations and added that check in time was 2pm, after she got that off her chest she checked me in and we were off to our spot.  Having settled in we went to find the laundry room to scope out the equipment and the cost, but the laundry room was locked.  Back to the office to find out that you needed to check out a key and buy tokens for 30 minutes of electricity.  We were a little perplexed about the whole buying electricity thing but guessed we would figure it out.  After getting our laundry sorted I headed back to get the key and tokens, the office was jammed with people checking in so I waited patiently, and was amused to see another person with poor planning skills get the same lecture I had gotten about the importance of reservations, this time in German.  Then the next person in line bought a bunch of tokens and took a key, shucks!  Hoping there was more than one key I continued to wait only to be told as I expected, that there was only one key.  After 3 hours went back to check on the key, and the same lady a little shamefaced told me that the key was still not back, but gave me the space number of the person who had it, so off I went on my quest for the key.  They turned out to be a nice couple who said they would be done in 8 minutes (how precisely German of them), sold us their 4 extra tokens, agreed to give us possession of the key, and explained the purchasing of electricity with the tokens.

Some greatest hits photos from Ton.
Cool flowers.
Our favorite German coffee.

Tomorrow we are off to see Leipzig.

June 1, 2019 Dresden GE

We made the short hop up the Elbe River to Dresden this morning.  Had a bit of an adventure checking out of our aire in Meissen.  As I said when we checked in it is quirky.  The first thing is they hand you a key and insist you lock the gate every time you enter or exit.  Each day there were 10 to 15 campers there and we each had a key to the gate and everyone did their duty to insure each others security.  To get the key you have to leave a €20 deposit at the municipal swimming pool which looms over the aire.  There is a nice clean bathroom on site but again the instructions are clear, lock the door every time you use it.  One morning I was in doing my thing when one of the maintenance guys came by and locked the door while I was in there, fortunately I had my key.  The parking is a free for all and there is only two electrical posts so everyone is running a 100 foot electrical cord from their vans to the power post.  This became a problem when the maintenance crew showed up to mow the grass, but we all pitched in and shifted cords around to clear paths for the mowers.  Finally, in the middle of the aire is an immense abandoned pool from the communist era that has trees and bushes growing from it, everyone seemed to need to hop the fence to get a closer look at it like an archeologist.  All of the eccentricities made it kind of charming and a memorable place to stay.  So as we were leaving I needed to return my key and retrieve my €20, when I walked in there were 50 people in line to check in for the pool, with 2 people at the desk to handle them all, so half an hour later I got rid of the key and we were on our way to Dresden.

The aire in Dresden lacks the quirks of Meissen and is quite packed, (apparently due to an American Football game that is being played tomorrow between two German professional teams) but it is an easy walk to the center of town.  After settling in we headed to town.  As we neared the city center we discovered that today was gay pride festival weekend in Dresden (actually it is a 4 day event)and we had found the staging ground for the parade. We hung around to see the beginning of the parade and it was quite entertaining.  Dresden has a large and proud gay community.  

One of the 20 mobile sound systems and improvised dance halls that made up part of the parade.

Next we walked thru town to look at all of the sites.  They are nearly all rebuilt following a controversial fire bombing of Dresden by the RAF during WWII which caused a fire storm in the city killing around 20,000 people and destroying the old town.  

The old town of Dresden fronting the Elbe River. A lot of construction and maintenance work being done.

The buildings are impressive, particularly the old palace of the Elector of Saxony.  The Cathedral was rebuilt but they had a hard time finding matching stones for the walls that collapsed so you can clearly see the old and new stones.  Most of the buildings in Dresden are quite black, I am not sure this is by design, but am guessing it is a result of pollution, as a few of the buildings look like they have been recently cleaned and are not black.

The grounds of the Elector of Saxony’s Palace.  The buildings and grounds are quite impressive, you can see the contrast in the color between the building on the far left corner of the picture and the main hall showing the effects of the pollution.
This is part of a block long mural showing all of the Electors of Saxony including Augustus the Strong in the center who funded the Meissen Porcelain Factory.

We wandered around the old town for a few hours before crossing the bridge to the new town for a beer and curry wurst.  After our beer as we were crossing back over the Elbe the gay pride parade came down the riverfront and since they seemed to be taking the same path we were taking to François we walked along with them for a while before stopping for one more beer as it was hot.

The Christopher Street Day Parade passing along the waterfront downtown in Dresden.

May 31, 2019 Meissen GE

A very light day for us.  After sleeping in we took our time getting going in the morning with Ton updating her friends on Line, and me catching up on what was going on with the Timbers.

Meissen is famous for being the first place in Europe to manufacture porcelain.  Porcelain from China and Japan was all the rage in the late 1600’s and imports were really expensive so the local prince told some of his best minds to figure out how it was made.  Eventually they successfully reverse engineered the process and in 1710 opened the first porcelain manufacturing site outside of Asia in Meissen.  It has been in continuous business since then.

The symbol of the Meissen Porcelain Factory with some examples of their product.

The demonstration of the manufacturing process is quite interesting as actual artisans from the company perform work as you watch them.  The work is quite intricate and artistic, so it is fascinating to watch them actually perform the work as it is described to you.  

The initial process uses a potters wheel and molds to form the piece.

We really enjoyed seeing the process. The work at Meissen is still largely done by hand unlike most porcelain manufacturers who have automated the process.  As a result Meissen porcelain is highly valued and is expensive.

This lady is hand making details for the statues on the right.
This lady is hand applying the paint, they apply one color at a time, you can see different stages of the process in the background.

After the demonstration we walked thru the museum with over 3000 pieces from different eras on display. There was a lot of very interesting porcelains on display, and we spent quite a bit of time walking thru the exhibits.  

A porcelain clock produced at Meissen in the late 1700’s
This porcelain piece is available for €31,000.  The cheapest thing we saw was a cup for €35. 

We decided to head back to François a little early for the day after we picked up some things at the grocery.  We relaxed for the afternoon, while I tried to have a conversation with our Dutch neighbor.  He was quite a character, but also the first Dutchman I have come across who was not fluent in English.  As a result I spent a lot of time nodding and smiling while maybe understanding 20% of what he was telling me.  Still it was nice, and gave Ton and his wife some time to take care of business without us in their hair.

May 30, 2019 Meissen GE

Today we decided to end our stay in Bavaria after 2 weeks.  We were tempted to head into Nuremberg, but after some more thought we decided to make a jump north.  So today we are in a very quirky Stellplatz in Meißen in Saxony.  

The German countryside at 60mph from the autobahn.

The trip was our longest in Germany so far at a bit over 220km’s.  Feeling a little lazy we decided to pick the fastest route which turned out to be almost all Autobahn.  We were on a nice roll and covering distance at a rate we are not used to even though we were among the slowest vehicles on the autobahn.  It turns out today is a holiday in Germany so while there was virtually no trucks on the road there were a ton of cars.  When we were less than 2km’s from our exit on the autobahn the right lane came to a complete halt with an equal number of cars stopped in the right lane and the shoulder.  At first we thought there must be an accident, but it turns out there was some kind of event at our exit.  It was interesting to watch the disciplined Germans behave just like the rest of the world when faced with a traffic jam, most people stayed in the right lane and crept towards the exit, a higher percentage than we would see in the US decided to run up the shoulder to the exit and force there way in there, this ended after a few minutes when a couple of cars blocked the shoulder to prevent that happening.  Also a few real jerks  just like in the US used the left lane (which was still moving) and then forced their way in right at the exit.  It turns out people are the same everywhere.

Ton had picked out Meissen because it is supposed to be a relatively undiscovered gem. After the sophisticated tourist cities of Bavaria, Meissen was really refreshing.  Meissen is famous for it’s porcelain as well as its castle and cathedral on a bluff overlooking the Elbe River.  The climb to the castle was steep but worth it.

The Cathedral in Meissen.  I suspect the black on the towers is due to pollution and not design.
The red roofs of Meissen from the castle grounds.  Ton tells me these rooftop shots are “the thing” these days.
The Elbe River from the castle.
The only really touristy thing in town, and there was only one wagon.

As we walked around the town it was crowded as not only is it Ascension Day but also Fathers Day.  Interestingly in Germany, Fathers Day is celebrated by the men having a boys day out without the families.  We saw one group of guys being pulled thru town on a trailer behind a tractor with beer steins in hand.  Also, unlike in Bavaria we did not here any English (or Thai) as we walked around town.

As we were waiting for our bus back to the aire we noticed this moving monument to the inmates of the small concentration camp located near Meissen.

This is our first experience in the old East Germany so the differences in the buildings and the infrastructure we saw was interesting.  We need a few more days to decide if the difference is Bavaria vs Saxony, or West Germany vs East Germany.

Also today Google Maps let us down for the first time.  We decided to take the bus back to save a couple of miles of uphill walking.  We really rely on Google Maps to help us navigate and to use the transit systems over here.  It gives you good routes and even tells you what busses/trains to take and what stops to get off.  I do not know how we did it before.  Everything was going well and we got off at the bus stop Google told us to.  It showed a route for us to walk, and when I began to follow it it lead us to a hedge row and I heard a creek behind it.  I looked at the map and realized that it was sending us directly cross country not following a road or trail.  So our easy walk home became about a mile and a half as we circled the woods and the creek between us and our destination, we trudged along in silence me cursing Google, and Ton I am sure thinking I was lost again.