Call me crazy, but the idea hit me that it would be fun to take people on tours of Germany, so I did it. Literally overnight. I decided a September tour date would give me enough time to plan . . . and, of course, we needed to be in (East) Germany the last Saturday of the month, because the huge Leipzig flea market is the last Saturday of every month, and so the decision was made. So the tour will be September 18th (leave from the US) through September 30th (return to US), with the official Germany dates being September 19th through the 29th. It was also a given that the tour would be of the Erzgebirge and Thuringian regions of former East Germany, as that's where I always go and know best. My friend in Germany will be my co-tour leader, so he and I just finished driving our route the past 10 days in Germany . . . all 1600 Kilometers . . . and we're excited about showing my American friends (East) Germany, with an emphasis on toys and Christmas, as this is what these regions are best known for.
Of course, there has to be a visit to a castle along the way, and the very charming Schloss Scharfenstein in the Erzgebirge will work just fine. It even has an Erzgebirge/toy museum displaying beautiful antique Christmas in a gorgeous setting. The view from the top of the castle tower is breathtaking, as is the view on the long walk up to the entrance.
We had to make sure to get proper accommodations, and we'll be spending the first four nights at the four star Hotel Wilder Mann in Annaberg-Buchholz/ Erzgebirge and the last six at the Hotel Anker in Saalfeld/Thuringia, the oldest Gasthaus in all of Germany dating to 1483.
Obviously, food ranks high on the list of importance, so I came home all Schnitzled out tastetesting and eating three large meals each day, something I'm not used to. This Thuringian restaurant made the cut and will be on the tour. It met all the charm requirements . . .
And the good food requirements . . .
Seeing Lauscha, where Christmas ornaments originated and are still produced, is a must for the Christmas collectors, so I was thrilled to find a little "Familienbetrieb" (family run business) which will allow us to blow our own ornaments, something the large production facilities won't allow anymore because of safety requirements. I gave it a try myself, but working so close to the fire is frightening.
Dresden will be our first stop Sunday morning after arriving in Germany. The city is wonderful. However, the next Sunday I've planned to explore the historic old city of Erfurt in Thuringia, which I'm certain will make a lasting impression on everyone. We'll begin at the Domplatz, which is the only place in Europe to have two churches of two denominations standing side by side -- Catholic and Evangelical. After a tour of the churches we will walk down a little street which suddenly takes you back in time hundreds and hundreds of years. Before long you are walking over the Krämerbrücke, which is the longest bridge of its kind in Europe, made up of half-timbered centuries-old houses and shops all built on a bridge . . . yet you would never even know there is water running beneath you. The image below is a photo of the Krämerbrücke from the back side of the structures which line the bridge.
I can't wait until September to show everyone Germany Off The Beaten Path which I've come to know. There are a few more seats left on the bus. We've got a great group of people coming along, and if you're interested I'll be glad to send you the itinerary!
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