Sunday, 3 June 2012

Luneburger Heide


Today we drove into the Luneburger Heide; a famous heath which is North Germany’s equivalent to the New Forest. It’s all very picture perfect in this part of the world. The houses have these incredibly steep sloping roofs which almost reach the ground; little dormer windows with German-style shutters peek out from within the pantiles. One assumes they have a great deal of snow round here...

The heath itself is probably not as nice as the New Forest, although when the heather is in bloom, it’s meant to be stunning. We rolled into a village where the local speciality seems to be pony-and-trap rides to the top of the highest point in the national park, which, at about 100 meters is probably not that impressive. Much against our collective better judgement, we decided to commandeer one, and trip-trapped our way through a few rolling moors, past all manner of wooden summer houses and back to where we’d started via a deep forest. It was an enormously pleasurable experience, except when the horse farted, which it did rather regularly, emitting the most hideous, sharp stench about every 3 minutes which hit the back of our throats and almost made us gag. I've never really understood horses. How can you get so attached to a creature which smells so horrible?
On the pony and crap!

My Dad, who comes out in a rash when confronted by anything remotely touristy opted to take himself for a walk instead, but the pony-and-cart went so slowly that he managed to keep us in eyeshot for our entire journey.

He came back triumphant, having seen a cuckoo, some kind of finchy thing and... A PIECE OF LITTER. Genuinely the first piece of litter any of us had seen since we’ve been here. No word of a lie!

We had a picnic sitting on some logs in a forest by the side of the road. We pulled up next to a sign which pointed towards a “naturplatz”, which we hoped had nothing to do with naturism, but were further alarmed when we stumbled across a second sign which read “barfuss spielplatz” (barefoot playground.) I don’t think the Germans do the whole picnicking thing. I certainly don’t think they do it spontaneously. The few people who walked past us (fully clothed, thankfully) were looking at us rather strangely. “Guten appetite” one woman shouted. Odd. Maybe she was off to eat something entirely different...
It's in the trees...

We went ten pin bowling in the afternoon. My idea – and it was a jolly good one. It was fascinating to find ourselves off the tourist track in some out-of-town trading estate rubbing shoulders with real Germans. We had a blast. Even brother Edward, who is the least competitive man I reckon I know, had a fair crack.

From the kegelnplatz, we travelled east to Luneburg; a stunning medieval town with various impressive churches, and buildings which looked decidedly “Baltic”, architecturally speaking. It's difficult to explain what I mean. They have these sort of stepped, triangular gable ends which I've only ever seen in places like Hamburg and Gdeinsk. We had an Italian meal which has filled me up rather horrifically. It’s only about 9pm, and I’m already contemplating bed. I slept for ten hours last night – and think I might try and break my own record. Whatever virus I’ve had is still hanging about, deep inside my aching bones, and, though we’ve been hugely lucky with the weather here (it hasn’t rained once), it’s still quite cold when the sun goes in and the Germans tend to prefer showers over baths, so I can't have a long soak.
Those Baltic-style buildings...

We understand that the weather was hideous in London for the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations, which saddens me. I may not be a particular fan of the monarchy, but I am a massive fan of street parties and anything which gets us rubbing shoulders with our neighbours.

350 years ago, Pepys got a smithy to smash open a metal chest which had been locked in his office ever since he’d taken on his post. Curiously, the chest contained the model of a very fine ship. Pepys vowed to discover which one it was.

After lunch, he went with his father to his brother Tom’s house where they received a four-day old letter from their sister Pall in Huntingdonshire. Pepys' mother, who was with Pall, was dangerously ill, and possibly close to death. Such strange times. Pepys actually seemed quite lackadaisical about the news, probably because he realised there was nothing he could do if she had died, and probably assuming another letter would arrive the following day if the situation had got any worse. It must have been a very helpless feeling, that; having to make judgement calls about whether or not to drop everything and journey up north. Reading between the lines to work out if your presence was neccessary.

Gosh... I'm just watching pictures of people across the UK braving the most hideous weather to have street parties across the country. I am inexplicably moved. Sometimes it feels rather lovely to be British.

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