Click here for the Introduction.
28 miles, Saturday, August 28
The sun rose over the distant hills. A half moon glowed, shimmering across the lake to our tent on its shore. Ducks quacked. We were among a handful of early risers, eating breakfast at 6 a.m. A windy evening had left the tent dry; one less task to do before setting off. By At 8:15 Andy and I lifted our legs over the saddle; another adventure, another landscape most surely lay ahead. I loved those perfect starts to a day.
|The Silver Road and it's lace curtains. Photo credit: Flickr, revjett and rjcgrove|
With another tailwind we followed the Silver Road through the Erzgebirge Mountains. The campground manager provided brochures written in English. On the border with the Czech Republic the region was a snake-full of silver mining towns during the 1500-1700s. It was also known for its lace-making. Indeed, every home we went by displayed white lace curtains - a dainty touch in this rugged land.
Again, the terrain was tough with steep climbs and descents, eventually climbing a long valley past an alpine ski area. The mountains attract many visitors. Fortunately for us, they all weren’t out on a Sunday morning.
I felt stronger today. Enjoying the scenery, I constantly looked over my shoulder at the vistas. The green pastures, the villages identified by pudgy black towered churches, and ugly smokestacks, surprisingly without billowing smoke. We wondered if they’d been closed since reunification or the demand had dwindled for their products.
The clouds were forming all day and eventually an ugly draping curtain covered the sky. The temperature dropped. With the disappointing reminder of earlier soggy days we bolted for cover beneath the wide wings of a gas station/store.
For two hours we waited in gusty rain. But the time it slowed to a drizzle we set out. A wet chill shivered up my rain jacket’s sleeves and zipper. The highway descended again and we turned onto a quieter road. My hands were cold and numb. Ahead, the unconfirmed campsite near the Czech border wasn’t inviting.
|Another village in the Erzgebirge Mountains. Photo credit: Echt-Erzgebirge|
We started climbing a narrow valley beside a beautiful, trickling stream. A sign on a house advertised a bed, shower, TV, and coffee. It was too good to be true. The promise of a warm room won out and we gave the proprietor 60 marks, leaving us with only 10 left. The irony was that as we unpacked the weather improved and sunshine sparkled on the garden in front of their home. We shook our heads with big smiles.
Later, the owners, husband and wife, came by to ask a question and ended up visiting for an hour and a half. We used our small dictionary, hand signals, scribbling pictures, and eventually aided by their daughter’s old English schoolbooks, we managed to communicate a few ideas. The husband used to be an upholsterer until the reunification. He explained that there wasn’t much work since the assimilation, though our experience showed that at least there was highway and sewer construction, along with new buildings going up. He needed to leave by 7 a.m. We never learned his current source of employment.
62 miles, Monday, August 29
As we prepared to let ourselves out of the garage in the morning, a couple books caught Andy’s eye from a laundry basket - presumably left for discard or storage. He leafed through an English tutorial, complete with a comparison sketch. In politics it listed Communism for East Germany, The USA’s Communist party, Socialists, and ACLU, but not one mention of Democrats or Republicans. It was an amusing look at the propaganda fed to former East Germany’s young.
|Steinbach. Photo credit: Erzgebirge|
Within a few miles of the Czech border, we climbed through the beautiful Thuringian Forest. In Steinbach colorful crepe paper decorated houses, clotheslines, and fences. Lifelike dummies posed in front of homes in various positions of work or drink. There was a math teacher, woodworker, a drunken man slouched in a chair. Some had small signs attached. A banner arched over the town entrance; folks loaded portable toilets onto a flatbed. We’d just missed a weekend celebration.