My 9 day break from cycling proved fruitful for catching up with former classmates (20y reunion!), family at my cousin’s wedding along with a new godson, team Nepal over a raclette evening and Alex who represented his school at a cross-country event. I feel like I should get a special discount for any travel from/to Berlin Schönefeld with three flights in a week by now. Back to Serbia to continue my cycle trip…
20y school reunion
20 years ago I finished off my A-levels before heading to the army for my basic military service. Thankfully we have a group of people who keep the anniversaries in mind and organise a get together every 5 years. We had a school tour with a rather hilarious former teacher and i learned that we had prison cells somewhere in the basement… Different ones for different problems (such as STDs!?!). Many things have changed now that the school has been renamed, extended and hosts a Czech focused class and teachers. But there was still plenty of memories berried those old walls of the former Rainer-Fetscher gym.
The dinner and party in Pirna’s city center was nothing short of amazing. Really good to catch up with old friends until the early hours. Gossip central!
Denise / Mitko wedding & Anton’s baptism
My cousin finally got married to her Mitko after living together what seems forever to me. Crisp church service including the christening of my new godson Anton and then it was party time in the village of Weissig with wonderful views of the surrounding Saxon Switzerland countryside.
The party was good and many made an effort to surprise the newly weds. Good moments to chat with people who i don’t get to see often. Thanks. I had a good time.
Team Nepal in da house
Jon, one of the Everest climbers, just commenced his time off from service on his ship and stopped over in london before heading to africa to climb Kilimanjaro. Good time to catch up and retell Nepal stories. Rory and Zena came along too for what turned out a fantastic evening over a raclette – my preferred choice to socialize over dinner. Looking forward to the next catch up. And good luck to Rory for his Nepal cycle trip.
Not quite Usain Bolt, but good effort nonetheless
Alex already told me over the phone that there will be a cross-country event with 120 kids from different schools. He was excited to have been picked amongst a handful others in his class to represent St saviours.
He was busy thinking how fast he could be. I was busy managing expectations. His run turned into a series of sprints with some walking in between. Pacing is something he will need to improve. In the end it was just place 94 this time. Room to improve for the next run.
After my canoe paddle adventure had ended, it was time for a bit of family action back in Königstein. First and foremost the 50th birthday of Bodo, but also some downtime with Alex, sightseeing with Laura and catching up with the grandpa’s. A really great time, though I was also happy to get back on the road. Off to London briefly while Alex flies to St Petersburg to spend the second half of his summer holidays with babushka 👵 and dedushka 👴 in Russia.
Bodo turning 50
Great evening to honor the 50th of Bodo with loads of guests and a program boasting everything from magic to songs and dancing. We also put a revised version of we will rock you together while Laura impressed with her very colombian dress. Fun indeed though never enough time to catch up with everyone. Well, there are plenty more occasions this year.
Visit to Königstein fortress (on 2nd attempt) & Klettergarten
A visit to the largest fortress in Europe is almost mandatory for anyone that visits the town first time. Our first attempt was sadly thwarted by a massive rain shower with hail, lightning and thunder. So strong that even the fire alarms went off and a dozen of fire engines turned up (the fortress has a long history with lightnings).
On the 2nd attempt it worked out fine and Frances was helpful throwing in the remaining pieces of info from her time as a guide here (lets call it … patchy 🤣). For me the views remain some of the best in the region. See here for more on the history.
A new activity for me was the high ropes course near the fortress. Alex had been there with grandad before and wanted to try the higher levels now with me. Frances and Laura joined as well. It is tough once you get past the first 4 initial stages and pretty tiring (esprcially if you clear obstacles without cheating). Nice workout.
Dresden… Always a beauty
We didnt have much time to see Dresden, but surely I didn’t want to leave it out completely. So a quick round through the now reborn old town of Dresden. The amount of work put in to restore this beautiful place impresses me time and time again.
Wer das Weinen verlernt hat, der lernt es wieder beim Untergang Dresdens.
Yet again i am completely exhausted while writing this. Only difference, it’s a few hours earlier. It goes without saying that both Alex and myself slept pretty well last night (despite the random fireworks of a campsite neighbor). By 6am day 2 was underway (for daddy at least).
Relaxed breakfast and packing up. Takes all a little time with an 8y old and also for me with the extra gear (i go obviously much lighter on hiking trips). On top, the gate closest to the river was locked until we got out 8.30am. 15 minutes later we were paddling again (the plural form arguably incorrect). From Decin it was about 16km to the last Czech village – Hrensko. Funny enough we saw the rivercruiser ‘river allegro’ … My dad used to be the capitain. Here is him performing Jonny cash’s ‘I walk the line’ to his passengers.
I remember the place too well for cheap petrol and cigarette shopping when i was younger. No such interest today. By lunchtime we were paddling in German waters and were greeted by the mighty sandstone hills of Saxon Switzerland… HEIMAT.
Bodycheck: That i am a novice paddler goes without saying. Hence i can feel muscles i didn’t quite know exist. Despite gloves the hands feel the strain and so does my bottom… Somehow i wonder how it will feel on this tiny saddle during my Sultan’s trail bike trip in September. 😲 The other bit is the constant sun exposure. There just no trees on the river 🤣
Before we even stopped for lunch we met granddad again. Bodo had some business in the small village of Krippen and came to greet the canoe team. We agreed where Alex will go off-board today.
Finally lunch (pasta carbonara out of the bag) and a little stretch in the city of Bad Schandau. There is a spot with sandbanks near the Toscana Therme. Really relaxing.
From there it was only a little more than an hour to my hometown of Koenigstein with its iconic fortress towering on the hills. Mum and dad came to pick up Alex and I was off for my solo section. Only 9km to go for today.
Waterlevels (Pegel) vs. Speed of waterflow – the higher, the faster (but current pegel is only 60cm and falling)
Pegel 100 cm = 3,6 km/h
Pegel 240 cm = 4,4 km/h
Pegel 300 cm = 4,6 km/h
Pegel 410 cm = 5,4 km/h
Pegel 550 cm = 6,1 km/h
Pegel 750 cm = 6,7 km/h
Pegel 800 cm = 7,2 km/h
P.S. All for Pegel level in Dresden
The last stretch takes you through arguably the prettiest part of the national park – Rathen and the Bastei. Thankfully the waterflow was decent enough for a little passive paddling to take in the scenery. Simply stunning.
And then i had reached todays target – the campsite of the german canoeing association near Stadt Wehlen. By air, the village i grew up in (Naundorf) is only a stonethrow away. For many years my football team SV Struppen joint forced with the youngsters of Wehlen and on numerous occasions i walked here on mens day (=drunk 🙃). A trip down memory lane.
Good night. Tomorrow off past Pirna and Dresden towards Coswig. So for me the last time in known waters.
Christmas in Germany kicks off pretty early on the 24th in the evening (usually with the closest family), followed by two bank holidays that are usually spent with either set of grandparents (mum’s side and dad’s side).
Striezelmarkt: Before we even got to the delights of this years’ xmas, we enjoyed a day on one of Germany’s most famous xmas markets in Dresden. 8 degrees plus didn’t really give it an authentic xmas feeling, but heh. First up a long overdue catch up with Sandra, a former fellow Commerzbanker. She was part of the insane group of people to offer me a job many years ago ;o) Then straight into mulled wine, snacks and shopping with Alex, mum and sister. Good times. Even had the time to catch up with my cousin Denise and the family of her better half. Great evening!
Take me to church: People from Saxony are mostly not religious. Those that are tend to be protestant – a statue of Martin Luther in front of the Frauenkirche (Dresden) underlines that. Our family has always been protestant yet we didn’t visit Church all that often and usually only on Dec 24th. Could be a byproduct of anti-religious policies in East Germany (the central government disliked competition) or that freely available schooling made a lot of the wanna be believers i meet in London redundant (‘pay or prey’ to get your kid into a good school). Who knows. Anyway, after a brief stop in my home village Naundorf and granddad Kaiser, we made it to church in Struppen and enjoyed this year’s nativity play. Always good fun.
Kartoffelsalat: Most of my fellow students in Russia will remember my praises for my mum’s potato salat. A tradition in Germany in most families. Each mum has her own recipe passed on from previous generations. Add a few frankfurters and you have a basic yet tasty meal … and afterwards its time for presents. Dominated by lego sets this year. I got 5 finger shoes … as inspired by ‘Born to Run’. Lets see if it helps me reducing running related injuries.
Stollen in Dresden: After our family trek to the Barbarinea, we visited granddad in Dresden. Like the one in Naundorf, he lives by himself and so we usually just swing by for coffee instead of a full festive meal. Part of any coffee that time of the year has to be Stollen (Stollen is a cake-like fruit bread, see here). And there is none better than the one from Dresden! Taaaaasty!
Goose & green dumplings: Traditionally the 2nd bank holiday is reserved for dad’s side of the family. Originally we picked that day due to them being busy on the first bank holioday serving xmas lunches to guests in our restaurant, while they closed the 2nd. Now I guess it’s a routine even though the restaurant is just a B&B by now. A lot of the lot i hadn’t seen for a year (and some like Steve’s new girlfriend Anastasia not at all really) and so we discussed a bit the Lhotse adventures and future plans. Food is always excellent including tasty & tender goose, dumpling (Klösse) made with raw potatoes giving them a slightly green-ish colour and red cabbage. Wine is also never in short supply teaditionally kicikng off with a glass of Pinot as aperitif. Its tradition in Thuringia where my grandma is from … and tradition matters (and is super tasty).
The tradition to meet up with former classmates from Pirna’s Rainer-Fetscher high school has been around for some time though, depending on family commitments and how the calendar around xmas comes out, it is not always possible for all to join. For me it was the second time and first time with Alex. In total we were 26, if I counted the group picture well, dominated by loads of young-guns. A productive vintage! Go Saxony!
My silent protest: To unite both of Pirna’s high schools is fine by me and was probably underpinned by ever fewer babies. HOWEVER, to rename a long standing institution like the Rainer Fetscher into ‘Schiller’ is either a very dark form of humour or plain stupidity. I strongly suspect the latter.
We met up in Stadt Wehlen and hiked along the Uttewalder Grund. Kids found to each other quickly and i guess alex got one or the other free german lesson. There is a little creek along the way, which proved tempting for most kids and got some of them a pair of wet shoes. Life! After about 1:20h we reached the inn ‘Waldidylle’ for some well deserved refreshments.
Geocaching: Along the way the Schill family located a geocash. A little tube hidden in the rocks where you can record yourself in a little logbook. Theses cashes were new to me, but are a global thing that can lead you to nice places. Read here for more.
There was plenty to catch-up on. A clear trend seemed the drive for folks to move back home – be it Anja, Schmitti or Jens. I guess a global phenomenon once kids are about or the right job comes along.
On the way back we had torches and lampingnon’s for the kids as well as a few fire crackers supplied by us. It was dark already by the time we got back to the ferry in Wehlen. Mum already waiting on the other side for our bowling night – she hates being late (while i have a somewhat larger tolerance by now).
What a fun afternoon! Alex almost in tears as we concluded the event … given that we didn’t have anymore wristbands to give to his new friend Valentin. I promised to fix that via mail. Let’s see.
Thanks go to Heiko (aka RAUMSTATION) for putting this together & to everyone else for attending of course. His email is clear evidence that sometimes democracy ain’t the right thing, but we need dictatorship. Just like the Roman’s did in their days.