Quedlinburg, Roßtrappe & Rappbodetalsperre

Alarm at seven, up at eight, it’s turning out to be a real lazy holiday.. I feel perfectly fine, warm under the bedcover, but with the first steps out of bed I can tell it’s a good idea to take a day off: my calf muscles are quite sore. It becomes better after moving around a minute or two (after emptying the dishwasher) but worse again after sitting still (after breakfast). We look at some of the things to do nearby that don’t require long walks and decide to drive to Quedlinsburg first. I love the German language, because even though my own mother tongue Flemish is closely related, I often have no idea what stuff means. A burg is a stronghold or castle, but what’s a Quendlin?

It’s raining when we set off, raining all the way over there and raining even harder when we arrive. We easily find a parking spot near the old town, put on rain jackets and hats and set out on foot. It turns out we’re right behind the fortified town, the giant rock with its castle and half-timbered houses looming over us. Unfortunately, most of it is scaffolded and when we get to the main entrance a sign explains that major renovations are ongoing and most of the stronghold is closed to the public. As only the old church is accessible, we visit it for 4,5 € pp. It also is scaffolded, even inside, so we cannot even see the shape of it. While we’re waiting for entry into the treasury to view the reliquaries, I Google and Wikipedia to find something of the history of the place. It reads like a soap, with kings and queens, lost graves and Nazis. The crypt is the oldest part of the structure and has beautiful paintings on the rib vault. You wouldn’t say it if you see ancient churches in Western Europe today, but they originally had very colorful interior decorating. We walk out feeling a bit disappointed, this castle is UNESCO world heritage and one of the most impressive in the region and we saw almost nothing of it.. Plus, it’s raining and the place is full of tourists.. We have a bratwurst as lunch to make us feel better and buy three kinds of locally produced mustard. In German it’s called senf and they make endless varieties, this shop sold 60 different kinds!

After lunch we continue our little road trip and follow small local roads towards Thale, to see the Roßtrappe. Roß means ‘steed’ and trappe ‘steps’ and this makes total sense when we start our walk from the parking lot and encounter some info panels. Local legend has it that a giant lusted after a princess and she jumped on her horse and fled from him. She encounter a ravine, spurred on her horse and jumped over the divide, losing her crown in the process. There is an indentation in the rocks, showing where her horse pushed off. The giant and his black horse tried the same trick but failed and now he (the giant, not the horse, nobody says what became of it) roams the ravine as a ghost, guarding her crown. The river down there is called the Bode, we encountered the Kalte Bode yesterday, which joins the Warme Bode upstream to form this ravine river. Another Bode tributary is the Rappbode, which we encounter on our next stop. Rappbode-tal-sperre means Rappbode (the river) – valley – dam and this is the highest dam in Germany.

I’ll take a detour to see a dam anytime, but this one has the additional appeal of the longest suspension bridge in the the world, crossing the 100 m high valley right next to the dam. There’s also an insanely long/high zipline, operated by the same company, but the waiting queue is just too long and I’m not even tempted. We walk over the narrow suspension bridge, I admire the view over the dam and valley, even when it starts raining again when we’re halfway across. Even though the footing is a rigid metal mesh which allows you to see clear through it, I’m not scared of falling. I do keep a good hold on my cell phone when taking pictures, because there is a definite and irregular sway, making it sometimes difficult to keep my balance. Cool also to see how a suspension bridge works, all the parts are exposed.

We continue south, making a brief stop at a charcoal industry museum (we skip the museum, share a cheese cake and I rescue a butterfly) and then driving the back roads to Stiege. They’re curvy and narrow, just enough room to pass another car if you’re willing to put your wheels right on the white line. Stiege is a lovely little village, its medieval castle looking out over a small lake. It’s beautiful country side, wide open meadows bordered by mixed forests. We also see the same swaths of dead spruces, but much less often then yesterday.

After Stiege we take the scenic route back to Hohegeiss. The sky is painted with rain clouds like a Turner painting, we can sometimes see the Wurmberg stick out of the landscape, that’s where we walked yesterday. We pass the old Iron Curtain again and are back at the apartment around five thirty. I just have enough time to sort the pictures before we go out again, first to pick up more cash – it’s amazing how many places only accept cash – and then to a restaurant nearby. We end the evening with The Hunt for the Red October,

Tomorrow we should have better weather, we’re planning to walk out to Sorge and visit the border museum there.

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