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Published: June 19th 2016
We have two days to cross virtually all of Germany to get to the Moselle River far in the west of the country and in doing so we have booked a couple of nights in places no one before has ever heard of simply because they are just the right distance between each other, they are apartments with cooking facilities and they fit the BBA V3 budget!
It has been a most comfortable stay in our Air BnB apartment in Radebeul and we guess the weather hasn’t been too bad either.
The road taking us on the first leg of the journey had us really confused as we seemed to head in all 4 quarters of the compass. However as we negotiated an entry onto a motorway, the A4 we were pleased to see that our direction was finally westward.
After a short distance the highway split and we were on the A14 and now with a bit more north in the westerly direction.
We counted the vehicles around and ahead of us and trucks outnumbered cars 3 to 1 we reckoned although it was hard to keep up with the number of cars as most of
them sped by us in the outside or third lane doing way more than the 130kph speed limit. The trucks for the most part were well behaved trundling along at 80kph in the right hand lane and just occasionally one would pull out into the middle lane, which was favoured by us, to overtake a slower truck ahead. Sometimes this meant we had to join the outside lane to get past the two trucks without slowing right down. This meant very good vigilance on what was coming up behind us due to the speed of the cars that approached us from behind.
This area of Germany between Dresden and Leipzig is open rolling countryside with no hills to speak of. There were small communities in villages off to the side of the highway but no way to get to explore them even if we had wanted to as there was infrequent off ramps.
The land area had some small stands of forest here and there but principally the land was being used to grow crops which looked mostly like wheat or barley in fields that seemed to go on forever.
With such enormous plantings of crops you
need to have a method of spraying them and in true German precision they have worked out the perfect way.
It was quite amazing to see the long straight lines where the machine they used for spraying had driven and we reckon that they must use a GPS system to keep the lines so straight.
We continued to speed along the A14 and as the off ramp for Grimma came into view so did a directional sign for the town of Colditz.All of a sudden one and one made two. This must be the home of the infamous prison where the Germans held the most difficult Allied prisoners, all officers, who had either escaped from other camps or had been trouble in some other form. We had read much earlier of its location but as Dresden wasn’t in the plans then to visit we had dismissed going there. Now here was the opportunity.
The GPS was quickly reprogrammed and we head off the highway at Grimma to drive the 14 kilometres south to the small town of Colditz.
You see the imposing Schloss Colditz from a good distance away as the town is situated in a
river valley lower than the surrounding countryside.
We found a car park near the Lidl supermarket next to the river as it looked like trying to find one closer to the Schloss would be difficult.
The Schloss or castle is nowadays a Youth Hostel, or at least one wing of the enormous building is, and apparently offers modern rooms.
However, a small area in one wing has a museum set up to display some items retained or found after the war particularly related to the attempted escapes by the Allied officers, successful or not.
We spent an absorbing hour or so looking at the exhibits and reading the history of the escape attempts after having walked up the cobbled entry drive and through the large doors just as the prisoners would have when they bought here for confinement.
Many decorated and famous soldiers and pilots such as Douglas Bader and Charles Upham were held here at some stage of their captivity.
One of the most amazing attempts to escape was when a group of prisoners had built a glider behind a false wall within the prison. The glider attempt to escape was never executed
as liberation came by the Americans before the plans were completed. The idea was to launch the glider from high up on the castle and glide across the river than runs through the town and land in open fields away from the town to get a head start in the escape.
Another interesting fact was that the prisoners had somehow had a radio receiver smuggled in and it was hidden in a place never unearthed by the Germans.The prisoners were able to listen to the BBC news and keep updated on what was happening in the war probably making them even that much more keen on escaping.
It had been a while since our last little gem of a find for sightseeing when we didn’t expect it and this visit will rate right up there with the previous ones.
We had a boot lunch of sweet treats before we hit the road again and rejoined the A38 which took us well clear of Leipzig. All the while we were driving through cultivated fields still mostly with barley or wheat and occasionally maize.
Getting a little closer to our destination of Bad Sachsa the topography started to
change and as we came down into more of a river valley we realised that just about all the previous 3 hours driving had been on a plateau of gently rolling land.
For the last 20 kilometres we switched to the B243 which bought us to a two lane road but still with a number of trucks.
It had been a real United Nations of trucks on the road and although most were from Germany there were also a considerable number from the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.
We discovered that we weren’t actually staying the night in Bad Sachsa but in the small village of Steina a couple of kilometres short of the town.
Our apartment was easy to find as there was only one main street to Steina and the buildings were all clearly numbered.
There was a man outside cutting grass and it looked like he had been waiting and watching for us to arrive as he stopped and came over as we slowed down and pulled into the kerb.
He came over and greeted us in German and carried on talking as if we understood what he was saying. So
this was going to be another of those occasions where you try and catch some frequently used German words that describe things like ‘bedroom’ and ‘bathroom’ etc to get the gist of the place.
Connecting to the internet proved a bit of a problem even after his wife appeared with a piece of paper and rattled off in German her explanation of how to connect and the password.
We have now got to the point where we try and resolve these sorts of things ourselves especially where neither party can speak each other’s language and we have overcome all obstacles to date!
What the woman was saying was the password was actually for something else and after trying the 3 sets of numbers and letters, hey presto, we were in.
Booking.com has produced a number of these family run apartments in the owners home and each have turned out very satisfactory.
This was what we would call a ‘Mum and Pop’ place decorated as the owners part of the building probably was, in colours that were not particularly modern and furniture that was more 1980’s but still comfortable and functional. And at least the shower
head was attached to the wall and not one of those hand held jobs!
It had been a long day and after a quick trip to the supermarket in the pretty town of Bad Sachsa (yes we did understand the directions which were all waves of the hand) we settled down to catching up on emails and a pre dinner drink.
Then great excitement!!
We had heard in the distance what we thought sounded like a fire siren similar to the volunteer type we have in small town New Zealand. And then it all went quiet. And we mean quiet, as this little village with its one street hadn’t had a lot of traffic since we arrived.
Then it all happened.
The familiar sound of the siren of a fire engine could be heard getting closer. In Germany it is sort of a ‘nee naw nee naw’ fairly high pitched sound and quite unmistakeable if you need to get out of the way on the road.
But then the sound of the siren multiplied by 2, 3 and 4!
And the fire engines were all coming up Lindenstraffe, Steina and passed our apartment.
We headed downstairs and outside and watched #4 fire engine race by.
By the time we got up the road to where the action was a couple of hundred metres away there were 6 fire engines and a couple what turned out to be support vehicles and an ambulance.
But there was no dramatic scene of flames and smoke to be seen.
Obviously with all this machinery and vehicles in the street we couldn’t get close to the action to see what was going on and it was only when the firemen put up the snorkel with two fire fighters in the cage that we noticed a puff or two of smoke from the steep roof of the building everything was parked outside of.
Locals arriving home from work were turned around initially by two young girls carrying lollipop indicators and dressed in outfit’s way too big for them. Eventually they were replaced by two burly fire fighters who were more direct with their instructions for any driver who approached.
We hung around for a quarter of an hour and with no dramatic flames, just a lot of smoke at times we decided that perhaps the building was a restaurant with a fire in the fat ventilators that had been caught before it got out of control.
We would drive by in the morning to check out the scene.
Walking back to the apartment we met our hosts talking to neighbours and we still couldn’t get any English out of anyone so we returned upstairs mystified as to what had actually happened to bring such a number of personnel to attend to what seemed a fairly minor incident.
PS.for those of you old enough to remember the Colditz TV series from 1972 enjoy the theme music while you read this blog.You can also watch episodes on Youtube from the series.
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