A Life in the Slow Lane

Basil has a traumatic flashback

The Bierwagen did not turn out to be a magnificent feat of Germany engineering, but rather what in Britain we would call a burger van, with draft beer taps incorporated and German sausages sizzling on an adjacent barbecue. On second thoughts well done the Germans – fitting draft beer into a burger van – genius. The food on offer was very limited and nothing for Sarah so we popped over for a beer late on, just to be sociable!

Today was an awkward day in that our next real target, Wittenberg, was just a bit too far to drive comfortably in one day, but our guidebooks did not have anything particularly interesting in between. Berlin is the obvious point of interest in this part of Germany but we have decided that Berlin probably deserves more than a quick walk round with the dogs and is high on our list for a dog free long weekend.

So I scraped around and found Rheinsberg, which apparently had an interesting chateau built by a pre-coronation Frederick the Great and some associated gardens that we could wander in with the dogs.

On our journey today it started, for the first time, to feel a little autumnal. Not that it is getting cold or that the trees are turning orange, but more that all the harvest has been gathered in and some fields have even been ploughed ready ready for re-planting.

Our other shock today, in particular for poor old Basil, was the state of rural roads in old east Germany. We abruptly changed from lovely smooth autobahn to roads every bit as bad as those we came across in Bulgaria and Romania. Even the forest tracks in Finland were much smoother. It wasn’t just a small patch either, we had tens of miles with Basil’s suspension being tested to its limit and our fillings threatening to rattle loose.

It is now 27 years since German re-unification and I have been reading how things have not run smoothly. Unemployment is much higher in the east and some cities have suffered de-population as residents have moved west for a perceived better way of life. It is clear from our experience on the east’s roads today that infrastructure in the east still lags behind.

This brings me neatly on to the German general election which takes place on 24th September. Since we entered Germany from Denmark, every town and village has been full of election posters, normally tied to street lights. There is usually a photograph of various candidates and often these are supplemented by posters either of Martin Schultz the leader of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) or Angela Merkel of the Christian Democrats (CDU). I was surprised that Martin Schultz’s face looked familiar, because I am no expert on German politics, but now I have read that until recently he was head of the European Parliament and I must have seen him expounding on Brexit or some such.

Mutti stares down from many lamp posts

We arrived in Rheinsberg, as is often the way, in time for lunch. No sooner has we done the washing up and were prepared to explore Frederick’s schloss than the skies opened. We waited for the rain to abate and set off under umbrellas. The rain put paid to the idea of a long walk in the gardens but we managed to have a look round the castle’s outside. It is designed in what is known as the German Rococo style and I have to say looks much the same as many other fancy palaces of the period.

Sightseeing in the rain

Rheinsberg was in essence Fredrick’s apprenticeship in architecture while he was still Prince Regent to the Prussian Crown. Once he was crowned he used much the same style to produce some of the the most magnificent palaces in Europe including his main home in Potsdam.

Impressive Entrance!

Rheinberg Schloss

Reinsberg is also well known for its potteries and Sarah has a quick look round a factory outlet and said that some of the ceramics were quite unique looking with surface textured and reflecting different colours from various angles.

Frederick as Crown Prince

Following Reinsberg all that remained was to find somewhere for the night. My databases are fairly empty in this part of Germany. I assume that east Germany is not yet up to speed with motorhoming, although there seems to be plenty of stopping places around Berlin. We have plumped instead for Campingplatz Flachsberg Gortz (52.501732, 12.665778) another ACSI site which at €15 a night seemed a bargain. We bumped and rattled our way to the site only to find that it is one of the strangest sites we have been on to date. Again it reminds us of Bulgaria and Romania. There are dozens of rickety wooden huts, some of which seem, from their gardens, to be permanently occupied. In addition all of the “touring” caravans also seem rooted to their pitches often with wooden structures built around them. There is one other motorhome and an Austrian caravan and that appears to be the total of genuine tourers. We are only here for one night, but I’m a little surprised that ACSI approved the site.