Monday, 3 August 2015

rennsteig oder überquerte

Over the weekend, H and I took an albeit short but rejuvenating camping excursion to the Rennsteig—ridge-trekking—National Park in the highland of the forests of Thüringen.
Normally, we’ve blasted past this area on our way towards Leipzig and Saxony, although we’ve taken a few occasions to visit the promontory castle the Wartburg and a few other locations in the region beforehand, tunnelling through the mountains in one of the longest enclosed stretches of Autobahn that goes through the mountains in Germany—whereas only the passes were navigable before this engineering project.
This time, however, we paused at the head of the trail in a conservatory called Hohe Sonne to take a hike through the so-called Drachenschluct—the dragons’ gorge, a narrow path that winds through the rocky outcroppings that tower above. It was only an infinitesimally small fraction of the trails through the woods that link up with the international path from the Balkans to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, the pilgrimage route of Saint James (Jakob).
Afterwards, we toured around some of the villages, which were pretty distinctive places, within the park and visited the ruins of a fortress above the Werra valley known as Brandenburg, whose campus represents on the largest keeps in Middle Germany. It was fun to imagine what it might have been like intact.
Slowly we made our way back to the campsite we had found hugging the little lake (See) of Altenburg, just south of Eisenach and the entrance to the park. It was relaxing to finally get settled and sleep out-of-doors, even if it was only for the night and we aren’t exactly roughing it. The next day, we had a late start but we were still able to do a little exploring with the balance of Sunday and drove to Gotha.
This city, birthplace not only of many the royal houses of Europe and the commercial, services-sector boom that followed the Industrial Revelation—spinning straw into gold, as it were, with insurance and finance, was a beautiful but surprisingly quiet place—the sort of quiet that I am sure is not altogether constant or pervasive but tends to go, subdued, with those places whose history needs to be studied and teased out.
Below the patio of Schloss Freidenstein, one of the largest Baroque compounds of Europe and residence for the dukes of Saxe-Gotha, cascading down to the market square and the ancient Rathaus is a water-feature, whose fanciness is testimony to the water supply problems that the city in almost the geographic centre of Germany and the point nemo of any natural sources for plumbing.   A canal was dug of some twenty-five kilometres to form an aqueduct to channel fresh water into the city—surely not a feat to be memorialised by Roman standards but certainly a reminder of how much was lost in terms of the civilising arts when Rome went away—and allowed the city to thrive