Rats!

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Not of course the scurrying hurrying burrowing into your motorhome type rats.  More the tourist attraction type rats in the town of Hamelin.  The river Veser, deep and wide, Washes it’s walls on the southern side.    The city has taken a myth, extracted from a legend based loosely on a piece of stained glass (now lost after over 500 years) and built a tourist industry upon it.

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Hamelin is an attractive city with many interesting historical buildings but the rats give it the edge as far as tourist numbers are concerned.  We spent a few days here on a motorhome site just 500m from the city along the Veser.

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We even partook of the hospitality available here and enjoyed the odd beer or two as well as the famous coffee and cakes in the city cafes. 

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The piper and the rat hold sway here and their combined presence dominates the centre of Hamelin.

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WE were able to watch the re-enactment of the events from our café seats as the piper led his convoy of rats and children through the town although we were unable to spot any signs of them in the river on our way home.

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You can just see Sheila behind the piper’s pipe.

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The scheme obviously works as the city certainly was busy, prosperous and very well cared for.

Just along the Weser where we parked there is evidence of an industrial past.  Enormous disused silos hinted at being a recent transport hub as well. 

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There was also an impressive iron railway bridge.  Curiously though, it went nowhere. it just stopped at the River Weser’s edge.  An impressive sight but you can’t even walk over it now.

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Continuing across Germany we called in at Brunswick on the day they were having a medieval fair.

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I am rather glad we stopped by as they had the only hand wound roundabout with a wild boar to sit on I have ever seen.

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For some here I suspect it was just a good excuse to get dressed up and show off your crossbowmanship, longbowmanship or horsemanship.    The symbol of the city of Brunswick is a lion but the city square was closed off for the festivities but I managed to snap up a dinosaur DSC_6442-1

and take a peek through an archway at the lion.

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We were heading for Berlin and had a few ideas about where we could stay for free.  Driving an eight metre van through a city is centre is no fun but we found a dead end road by the River Spree and along the Landwerhrkanal.  It gave us a fine view along the river towards the Oberbaum Bridge.

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Not a bad view for a free site within a capital city of Europe.   In the evening we had a visit from a neighbour begging a favour.  They had been “camped” there for ten days and the battery of their very old camper had gone flat.  “Could we give them a Jump Start?”  Not an easy matter manoeuvring our van in to a suitable position and connecting the leads but we got there just as another problem was remembered.  They had run out of petrol.  Topped it up from a can and with a lot of groinching, whirring and crossing of fingers it did start. 

We were able to cycle quite easily to the city centre and had a day sightseeing. 

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Bits of the Berlin Wall were still in situ and had been turned in to a monument.

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It all seemed so ordinary just cycling or strolling along what had been for so many years a symbol of fear and oppression.

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The last time I had been to Berlin there had been a whole lot more of the wall still standing and even more crushed to rubble.  I remember picking up a genuine grafitied fragment but I don’t know if it still exists. 

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It is bisuness as usual now for Berlin with all the pomp and ceremony of government and selling Mickey Mouse Chinamade Gegaws to the tourists.

Something I have never seen before, however:

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an E.T. photo opportunity.

I could not pass by without seeing the two famous “Gates”.  The Brandenberger Tor

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and the equally famous but not quite as architecturally impressive: Checkpoint Charlie” manned by two bored out of work actors in appropriately ill fitting uniforms.

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A far more impressive sight is the “Holocaust Memorial” or “Memorial To The Murdered Jews Of Europe”

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Simple in it’s concept,  2711 concrete blocks on a sloping site just a few metres south of the Brandenberg Gate.

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Built around 2004, it is a place for quiet contemplation (and photobombing sparrows) in the heart of the city.

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We left Berlin heading north towards our Sweden Ferry in Sassnitz but the less frequented route.  In fact the patchwork roads got narrower and narrower

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until we were on a bridleway! (Looking for that Gingerbread Cottage again.)

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We came to the ancient walled town of Templin whose gatehouse was now no longer wide enough for the road so had been bypassed but was still functioning as a footpath.

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Templin is alongside a canal that consists of several long thin lakes joined together and was a wonderful place for a walk.  We came across what seems to be a reinstated Jewish cemetery, a single stone inscribed with many names and widely separated dates.  Rather overgrown now but a touching monument nevertheless.

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Sassnitz is on the north German island of Rugen, a holiday destination for millions of Germans.  We stayed for a week on a campsite (A rare luxury!) on the beach near the tiny village of Altenkirchen.  The defining feature of this part of the world is a peculiar deckchair / sunshade / invalid carriage that you meet by the hundreds on the beach, in gardens and in restaurants.  

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Altenkirchen was named for this church.  A pretty and well maintained building that housed some very unusual sculptures in it’s garden. 

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Each piece was made of several twisted metal rods that individually meant nothing.  It was only when viewed at exactly the correct angle was the image revealed.

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We had experienced several distinct springtimes this year as we journeyed south.  One particular indicator was of course the plants in flower at the time. 

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Poppies amongst the rapeseed.   It was an ideal place for cycling and we took advantage of the network of cycle tracks.

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Our campsite was next to what I took to be a nature reserve.  On closer inspection I found the remains of an extensive network of aerials.  This abandoned piece of cold war listening station had been taken over by a variety of mammals and birds.

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Quite a treat for a cold war survivor.

This was the week of Sheila’s birthday and we had booked a lunchtime  table at the only restaurant in Altenkirchen.

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A good meal and plenty of beer of course.  Even a little bubbly to finish off with.

At the end of the week we were off to the ferry port via a 1930’s Nazi inspired holiday camp that was to have held 20,000 holidaymakers.  The concept was abandoned in 1939 but many of the buildings are still there and some are being “Gentrified” and apparently appear on “Airbnb” . 

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Then an overnight ferry to Trellborg.  

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Our first view of Sweden through the opening train deck of the ferry at dawn.

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