After a crazy week at work, it was time for us to go away with a few families for a weekend trip. This time, we had decided to go back to the Harz Mountains - about 2 1/2 hours drive out of Berlin (in between Hannover and Hammeln).
The last time we were there was nearly 3 years ago see March 2006, when there was so much snow. We stayed at Wenigerode. This time we stayed higher up the mountain at Schirke, in the youth hostel.
Us, the Ramsay's and Peter and Alison
We arrived at about 9:00 pm, and I had to dig a car park for the car (For a country that gets snow, they are not the best at either driving on snowy roads, or parking in snowy car parks - just because there are no lines, it should be fairly obvious where to park!). I had to use the kids plastic sleds and carve an extra park out of the row because someone decided to 'hog; two spots (with a tiny fiat, of all things!).
Saturday dawned grey and a bit foggy, but this didn't stop us! We rambled down to the train station (sledding where possible) and just missed the 10:30 train to the top of Brocken (We arrived at the station and it was still on the platform..) However, there was another one coming in an hour so we withdrew to the coffee shop and the kids played in the snow.
The steam train at 11:30 (delayed 20 mins..) took us up to the top of Brocken. As we climbed, the scenery was breathtaking (Winter Wonderland stuff, that you couldn't help but sing "Walking in a Winter Wonderland") and the temperature steadily dropped. We reached the top, got off the train...and got straight into some crazy sledding! The kids, Phil and Alan were covered in snow by the time they had finished! We then searched out a restaurant for lunch.
On the steam train. Cameron is fascinated that the toilet has no tank, so you just do your business on the train line. note to others, don't walk up Brocken along the train tracks..and you thought dog poo was bad enough!
Low visibility on the mountain, after about 20 metres, we couldn't see the kids on the sleds. (or Phil)
Here are the boys touching the roof of the restaurant!
Lunch was in an old style hall (VERY DDR!), and whilst we were there, someone stole our good wooden sled. It was obvious that it was a kids sled, but someone (best described here as a 'maggot') made the boys very sad, very quickly. It was not far out of our vision, but at the end of the day it was our fault for not carrying the thing (covered in snow) into the restaurant.
Once the fog cleared, it was beautiful up on the top of Brocken!
Nicole had seen some other sleds in the gift shop, and promptly replaced the stolen item. The boys were soon over the disappointment of the sled being stolen as they began sledding and walking back to the hostel, about 6 kms down the mountain (the adults kept a look-out for the sled - and anyone who happened to be in 'posession' of it on the way down...)
The sledding down the hill was gret fun! Most of it was too flat to really do much, but some sections were enormous fun! We used the wooden and plastic sitting sleds, the disks and the sled mats - each had their advantages for speed or control, and we mixed and matched and tried every combination. It was great fun - lots of laughs, great scenery and a wonderful relaxed atmosphere.
We finally made it back to the hostel, and dragged our tired (and sore!) bodies back inside - the kids on the other hand still had heaps of energy! The Hostel was set up for families, and has won 'family friendly' awards - there were heaps of kids play areas, a disco, table tennis and lots of other stuff to keep them amused. The adults had 'power-naps', a couple of beers, and then it was out to dinner at the local Thai.
Sunday dawned with beautiful blue skies. We decided to take the sleds, and walk/sled into town for a coffee. On the way, we found a wonderful (read:CRAZY) hill that no-one had sledded down. The boys were running up and down it. Phil took one of the disk sleds and 'carved' a track with his first ride down the hill ( a bit like surfing). After that, it was time to go nuts. We must have stayed there for almost 2 hours. We were either sledding down or laughing at others having a turn. It was great fun, and hilarious!
To appreciate this photo of Phil's elegant sledding, you need to click on the photo to enlarge it...Warning, keep the coffee away from the keyboard!
A few Germans doing Langlauf (cross country skiing) came by, and each time they didnt think it was amusing (they take their winter sports seriously, and I'm not sure they could understand how doing something so stupid, potentially dangerous and fun could be amusing!) - we didn't let that stop us!
After about an hour and a half, we finished our trip into town, found a fantastic bakery for coffee and cakes (and the chance to dry out, and compare bumps and scratches!). We then made our way back up to our cars, changed into dry clothes and headed back to Berlin.
It was a great weekend away. Lots of fun for the kids and adults - although for the next few days, Phil could feel the ice burns, the scratches, and the rearrangement of his internal organs....
It was really cold there...trust me!