Furth im Wald and an encounter with dragons

Thursday 6th July 2006, Furth im Wald, Bavaria, Germany
We left Anne and Ray mid morning after a few delightful days where we were made to feel really welcome. Thank you both for your friendship and hospitality, (and particularly for the use of the washing machine!) We are now just a kilometre or two from the border with the Czech Republic on a very small and agreeable campsite sheltering from the heat under a wild cherry tree laden with tiny sweet cherries. Above, the blackbirds are singing happily as the sun finally sets, its work finished for the day. We are grateful for this and are sitting outside Modestine with glasses of Italian wine. Nearby is a swimming pool, silent now but when Jill went for a swim around 5pm it was crowded with youngsters on school holidays.

As we are unable to visit Hubert we do not want to pass too close to Weimar. We had been very much looking forward to revisiting the town and the surrounding area. Both hold so many memories for us. Even worse would be to visit the area and be unable to see a friend we have been so close to for over forty years because he is unwell. This hot weather has a great deal to answer for.

So we are making our way towards Dresden and have been recommended to visit the Bavarian forest on the way. We have not yet had chance to explore it but it seems a very pleasant wooded area. With the temperature today still into the 30s it offered us the prospect of some shade. Generally the day has not been too unbearable. We found a shady spot to picnic at lunchtime and a swim and cool showers have made the evening pleasant and comfortable.

Saturday 8th July 2006, Furth im Wald, Bavaria, Germany
We are still here two days later as we had so much fun yesterday we couldn't tear ourselves away. It looks highly likely we will be here tonight as well.

Yesterday dawned hot again though fresher than it had been after some thunder and lightning with a little rain during the night. This campsite is delightful, being small and peaceful with excellent facilities and only a few friendly fellow campers, all of whom are German. It does not seem to be an area much frequented by other nationalities. Word had got around that Ian speaks German and we have become objects of some curiosity. People keep coming to chat with him, astonished that we have been living in Modestine for so many months with space for tables, chairs, computers and bicycles. It is excellent language practice for him.

Furth im Wald is just a few kilometres from the border with the Czech Republic. We are delighted to find we are actually in Bohemia so any slight eccentricities we may display are calmly accepted. It is an area famed for glass-blowing. (Are you reading this Mostyn in Boubals?) There is a glass blowers' route that follows the border, with studios and retail outlets along the way. Bohemian glass is renowned throughout the world and, as we have seen in local shops and the museum, can be truly beautiful, rivalling that of Venice.

Hinge and Bracket took us for a short ride through the nearby meadow beside the river and up into the historic part of the little town. Here, their immediate work over, we tethered them to a tree outside the baker's shop and went off down the cobbled main street to explore the town and find internet access.

Town Hall and Glockenspiel, Furth im Wald

Main street and maypole, Furth im Wald

The library was completely deserted but the librarian willingly gave us access to the computer. It worked after a fashion but, with a centralised cache which we all found impossible to clear, we were actually unable to see the recent blog we have just loaded. We just hope there were not too many errors. Even librarians need lunch breaks so we were thrown out as her tummy started to rumble around midday. Next door though, we discovered a real delight. A dragon museum! As dragons have very irregular eating habits and only consume the occasional maiden once a month, the museum did not close over the lunch period. Two hours later we had still not finished exploring the many rooms we discovered which included not only dragons, but a local history collection and several rooms devoted entirely to the manufacture and history of Bohemian glass.

It's that time of the month again! Furth im Wald

It's behind you!! Furth im Wald

Dragons come in all shapes and sizes though most of those depicted beneath the hoofs of mounted figures of St. George, impaled on a spear through the mouth, looked rather pathetic and small. After seeing hundreds of dragons - Chinese ones with forked tongues, papier-mâché ones carried through the streets on feast days, shadow ones from Java, fluffy velvet ones with happy smiles and round tummies and even blown glass ones made in the immediate area - we found our sympathies far more with the dragons than with their persecutors. The town though has a very long history of conflict with dragons. One terrorised the town back in mediaeval times but was eventually destroyed by a handsome knight who then married the beautiful princess deda-deda-deda ... Ever since this time there has been an annual re-enactment of this event. We saw a video of it in the museum. We also saw the actual poor old dragon which gets trundled out each year to have spears plunged into his threadbare tongue by the gallant local knight Freiherr von Dingsbums as he saves the town for another year and wins the hand of the fair Kunigunde, who wears a long blond wig with plaits.

Scary! Furth im Wald

Locally made glass dragon, Furth im Wald

Just as we started to feel really hungry we discovered a different area of the museum covering local history, geology, archaeology, antiquities and industry. This was great for Ian but less so for Jill who cannot easily understand the German labels. However, after a brief exploration of the gallery displaying wooden religious figures and rosaries made from local glass, we found stairs going to the top of the tower which opened on to the roof with wide views across the town and the surrounding countryside, the further hills heavily wooded.

Stadtturm from where we viewed the town, Furth im Wald

Furth im Wald from the tower

On the way down we explored a gallery of local costumes and rooms filled with old country furniture that included huge wardrobes, box beds and iron ranges for the kitchen.

19th century farmer's living room, Furth im Wald

19th century box bed, Furth im Wald

Finally we found the glass gallery. Apart from a display of beautiful Bohemian ornamental glass we were led through the glass making process and an exhibition of mirrors deliberately angled to give multiple reflections. Here, as we were the only ones around over lunchtime, we had great fun playing around with kaleidoscopic images of ourselves. It was like rediscovering childhood!

Glassblower's equipment, Furth im Wald

Examples of Bohemian glass, Furth im Wald

Ian's found a way to economise on photos of Jill, Furth im Wald

Three wise monkeys, Furth im Wald

It's all done by mirrors, Furth im Wald

A moment of reflection, Furth im Wald

Inverted but not introverted, Furth im Wald

We were really hungry by the time we left the museum and made straight for a pleasant bar on the main street where Ian had a thick slice of Leberkäse with a fried egg and crunchy roast potatoes. Jill wanted the Bohemian dish of roast pork with gravy, chopped cabbage and light, fluffy parsley dumplings. They were delicious and apparently on special offer! It was not nice to hear Ian order "and for my wife, the special lunch for the elderly please." Even worse was that it was supplied without a query as to whether I qualified! Maybe the old folk get smaller helpings but as meals here tend to be huge it was quite ample for this old dear.

Next we had to visit the beautiful baroque church which is quite famous. Maybe having seen a few gothic ones enabled us to see it with fresh eyes, maybe it just was very lovely. The white rendered interior walls made the bright gold of the statues and altar less garish and the heavily carved light oak pews were something we have not seen elsewhere.

Baroque church, Furth im Wald

We were in holiday mood and Ian was getting tired of doing all the talking, so at the exciting Konditorei on the main street Jill took the initiative and ordered a couple of coffees, a huge slice of Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte and two spoons (not knowing the German for forks). We got what was ordered! There will be no stopping her now!

Having generally eaten rather too much we peddled slowly back along the cycle track to the camp site where we had time to refresh and enjoy a glass of wine before setting off back into town to a Mozart concert we had heard about. This proved to be a
delightful evening held at the town's smart modern conference centre, proudly advertised as being midway between Munich and Prague. We sat around large circular tables with white cloths, along with other members of the audience. A waitress served everyone with wine, beer, coffee, spirits and fruit juices to drink during the piano recital. We had iced tonic water and it all added to the general informality of the evening.

The programme was given by Heribert Koch who is noted for his commentated recitals and this one was entitled "Mozart wie ihn nicht jeder kennt" (Mozart as he is not generally known). It set out to show the influences on Mozart and his own musical legacy, so there was a piece by Johann Christian Bach (the English Bach) whom Mozart had met at the age of eight in London, and whose music he greatly admired. There was also a piece by Mozart's son, F.X.Mozart, a gifted musician but very much in the shadow of his father, a polonaise which looked forward to Chopin. Mozart's music lost its place in the general repertoire in the nineteenth century and an arrangement by Carl Reinecke was also included. Reinecke did much to reintroduce Mozart to the general concert-going public in the late nineteenth century. The concert concluded with the famous Rondo alla Turca. (Thank you Ian. Fortunately one of us understood the commentary. The music was very pleasant and the Turkish Rondo at the end would have been worth going for alone. It was brilliant!)

Mozart concert, Furth im Wald

Hinge and Bracket took us back along the pavements out of the town. We'd forgotten about lights and it was dark so we just hoped there were no policemen around at 10pm. We were in luck. Too tired to blog we went straight to sleep.

Saturday 8th July 2006 continued, Furth im Wald, Bavaria, Germany
We are now sitting outside of Modestine in the relative cool of the evening. Around us the German campers are preparing eagerly for the play-off between Portugal and Germany in the World cup due to start in less than an hour. We are the only ones on the site without a satellite aerial. Any time now the chilled beer will come out and people will sit outside their vehicles watching the TV inside through the window and cheering loudly.

A camper prepares for the match, Furth im Wald

We have had such a pleasant and relaxing day. This morning was spent on the site catching up on correspondence and editing our photos. After lunch we cycled to the Further Wildgarten, a nearby nature reserve. Leaving our bikes at the entrance we walked through a meadow into the woodland. Here we found a lake filled with water lilies, fishes and 900,000 litres of pond water. Beneath, there is an underwater viewing area from where we could watch the fishes and pond creatures as they swam between the stems of the water lilies in their mysterious underwater world. This was a cool and fascinating place and we were surprised just how clear a view of the fishes we had. Our fish at home would be hidden in water rich in green algae.

Woodland pond, Furth im Wald

Underwater pond life, Furth im Wald

We spent a couple of hours around the nature trail that led us through open meadows, mixed woodland and beside lakes, streams and swamps. We climbed into a wooden tree house where we watched unsuccessfully for deer to appear from the forest. We photographed huge green crickets that were so well camouflaged we couldn't find them when we looked at the pictures later, we crossed bogs on wooden planks, got bitten by insects, explored woodpeckers', hornets' and owls' nests. We looked into bee hives, searched for lizards and snakes in piles of old wood and watched dragonflies mating over a shallow pond teeming with frogpoles. (adolescent tadpoles). The publicity claims the experience offers big adventures for little people and little adventures for big people. We certainly had lots of very agreeable little adventures and left the nature reserve more than satisfied with a lovely afternoon spent there.

Rope walkway through the jungle, Furth im Wald

Butterfly and flowers, Furth im Wald

In the meadow, Furth im Wald

Recycled metal art, Furth im Wald

One of the volumes from the tree library, Furth im Wald

Tree trunk showing how timbers are cut, Furth im Wald

Last night at the concert we learned that there is a Japanese garden in the town, specially commissioned from a team of Japanese landscape gardeners. So we cycled back into town to find it. It is a very pleasant and peaceful place of rocks, stone lanterns and raked gravel beside the river. Having noticed how keen Japanese tourists are to be photographed in strange poses in front of European parks and cultural sites we thought it fitting that we should turn the tables on them.

Zen and the art of photographic posing, Furth im Wald

Japanese garden, Furth im Wald

We ended our relaxed afternoon by cycling into the town to sit eating tiramisu ices beside the fountain where St. George was impaling yet another hapless dragon. We still haven't found time to cycle into the Czech Republic. It will not be practical tomorrow as there is to be a half marathon Nordic walking race along the track across the border as a mark of friendship between the two countries and we would be cycling against the tide.