Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thuringian Forest

Our vacation from our vacation ended. We came back from our week in the Dolomites challenged and with limbs and ligaments in tact. For a few more days we spent time with my Tante Christel in Nuremberg, living life at her speed and style. We walked to the grocery store, did a bit of laundry, and were well fed with fresh and tasty home cooking. To sleep in a bed with sheets, to eat at a table from plates, and have some chilled yogurt with our muesli in the morning was a real treat - traveling certainly breeds an appreciation for the small things in life.

Leaving the city, we headed north along the canal that connects the Main and Danuabe Rivers. Our ultimate destination was Dresden, but we had two weeks to get there. We took a route with stops in the historic town of Bamberg, with its Rathaus (city hall) built literally on a bridge over the Regnitz River which passes through town.

The building is wonderfully restored with vibrant frescoes on one of the exterior walls.

Further north was the town of Coburg. An almost impossibly steep road took us to the Veste Coburg overlooking the city.

Restoration has brought back many of the details of how it appeared when in service during the Middle Ages, including this entrance door.

Our route along the canal was virtually flat, but that soon ended as we headed into the foothills of the Thurnigian Forest. We have come to love the German forests - so rich with shades of green and often much cooler than the valleys below. With a couple of days of steep uphill climbs, we reached the main road that travels along the ridge of the range. The route was punctuated by periodic downhill grades, soon followed by another steep uphill climb, all soothed by the beauty of cycling under a forest canopy.

John has gained a whole new respect for wasps. It took just a second for him to swat at one and to have it respond with a sting on his index finger. Within a few hours his hand swelled so much that the skin was taut and I could not recognize it as his hand. We wrapped it and he elevated it as much as he could that night. The next morning the swelling had extended to half his forearm. We packed up that morning, fully intending to continue our journey after a brief stop at the pharmacy. The clerk took one look at his hand and said he needed to see a doctor. She called the only one in town, alerting him of our situation and that we were on our way over.

We walked into the small office, with a full waiting room and people standing in the hallway. But the patients were seen quickly, and we were soon attended to by the doctor. He was friendly, relaxed and spoke good English, and we chatted about our travels and how great Schwarzenegger looks on TV fighting the California wildfires. It was a warm day, and I can only imagine that the cool tile floors felt so nice as our doctor padded around the office in bare feet. The nurse applied creame and wrapped John´s feverish hand and arm, and the doctor provided allergy pills for to take over the next three days. He sent us on our way with no fee, and we parted with a thousand thanks of appreciation for his care and generosity.

Doctor´s orders were to take a day of rest to ice the hand, so we headed back to the campground of the previous night. We sat under the shade trees and did crossword puzzles and applied iced packs generously provided by the campground matron. It was probably our only day of total leisure on our trip.

We continued our journey in the area of the former East Germany. It did not occur to us immediately, but we noticed the buildings were a bit more run down, and a greater general drabness to the towns. The quality of the roads, however, were as good as any we encountered elsewhere in Germany. And everywhere houses were being renovated, and construction companies were providing renovation services were prominent within even the smallest towns. Some of the prosperity that came with the reunification nearly twenty years ago has allowed some to give their dwellings a facelift.

The Thuringian Forest transitioned into the Frankenwald and back down to the lower rolling countryside near Selb. By now John´s hand was fully back to normal size, and we spent two nights at a lovely campground outside of town. We spent a day visiting the Porcelain Museum which chronicled the porcelain manufacturing industry prevalent in the area. And we were rewarded by a most beautiful sunset on our campsite on the edge of the forest.

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