We arrived in Goslar late in the afternoon. We arrived at the City Wall and were the first car at the traffic lights so there was no-one to follow. Hilda told us to “veer to the left and then make a right turn at the second”, never quite figured out what the ‘second’ was, when I looked to the left all I could see was a ‘No entry’ sign, what I couldn’t see was that the road into the town went to the right of the sign, through the big Tower and ‘hey presto’ we were in the Medieval town of Goslar. ‘Hilda’ kept up with the instructions on the ‘one way’ entry into the town and our hotel. “Turn left at the second” said Hilda in a calm voice, “at the second, make a turn to the right”, WHAT’S WITH THE SECOND ALL THE TIME? screamed Lance (and please add the expletives. ed) To the right, ‘no entry’, go left, it’s the only alternative, I could see the ‘chequered flag’ winning post of our destination, but couldn’t work out how to get to it….In a more stern voice, ‘Hilda’ said to continue on this road and at the end make a turn to the left and then another turn to the left (AT THE SECOND!!)… back down the first street again! After several attempts at this seemingly impossible task, we decided she must mean ‘straight ahead’ into the pedestrian only section of the road, and THEN turn left….(at the second!!!) so we went straight on, past people having coffees and beers, people walking their dogs and shopping.
About half way down this street, we realised there was no ‘SECOND’, we were now following a really old man using a Zimmer frame and he didn’t move out of the way, why should he? …just to make this embarrassing part of the journey seem like an eternity, by this time the whole of Goslar were watching us. We got through to the end, “MAKE A LEFT TURN, AND THEN LEFT (at the second)…back to the start! By this stage we saw a car not dis-similar to ours being chased by the polizia. We finally got what was happening and arrived at the hotel, by this time ‘Hilda’ was hoarse!!!
The hotel was very nice, the room was really big, with huge bathroom and kitchen, light and airy, all the ‘mod cons’, flat screen TV, high speed Internet, fantastic. It quickly became obvious that this hotel was more than just a hotel. There was another purpose; it was a ‘retirement home’ and a very nice one at that. We didn’t ever quite figure out how the whole thing worked, but we think the hotel part of the business helped to support the running costs of the facility and by the look of things, the business was expanding in all directions. Each morning we would enter the breakfast room and have breakfast with the residents and other hotel guests. They all appeared very happy and content. After all they were living in a wonderful hotel. Our only regret was we couldn’t say more than ‘guten morgen/tag/abend’ in German.
The next morning we left early to go for a ‘bush walk’…up a mountain! We left the confines of the city wall and headed out to the edge of town and into the forest…and up the mountain! Prior to leaving on our hike we went to the bakery and bought food to be eaten after our climb up Mount Gelmkeberg. We hiked the mountain tracks using modern technology, iPhone with compass, iPad with map and SLR camera with a selection of lens! About two hours after we started we reached the top, we stood there, at the peak to admire the views of …PINE TREES!
One section of the trees had been removed thus allowing a ‘slither’ of a view in the opposite direction from the town we had left. After lunch and a few photos to commemorate our historic climb we made our way back down through the forest, only consulting the iPad once for directions, to the bottom of the hill ……….(MOUNTAIN!)
The next day we visited a local mine. The Rammelsberg mine is a recommended site to visit in the guide books/iPad, as it has been in operation since before the middle ages. We arrived to buy the tickets with our by now, familiar question, ”do you speak English”?….the ticket lady said “nein” and gestured in the direction of a nearby ‘Tour Guide’, a very serious young man who spoke English extremely well and explained the two parts of the tour, first ‘walking’, then the second part, ‘a train ride’…”It’s a wonderful tour, everything about the mine is exciting!” he explained. With a salesman like that, how could you refuse, “zwei tickets please”… We found out we must enter the next room and equip ourselves with a helmet, for protection, down the mine. Always strikes me as being a bit comical that a really light weight, bright yellow helmet is going to do a lot of good when the tunnel collapses and about 5 million tons of rock fill the gap that was once a tunnel……I’m safe, I’ve got my trusty ‘YELLOW HELMET’ on…..We then waited in the communal shower area (did I mention that the mine closed down in 1988?) (There was no-one using the showers!)
Our guide arrived, we were in luck, it was the same guide we spoke to earlier, in English. Into the next room… the guide burst into his ‘Safety Message’, (we think!) history and a lot of other stuff all in German, that’s fine, we are after all in Germany…..He’ll talk to us soon and tell us the safety message……Wrong! We went down lots of tunnels, reached a big wooden wheel that played an important part in the mine…..we think! Down more tunnels, ladders, tunnels, more big wheels! Then we began our ascent, almost straight up a circular staircase. The funny part was that we were at the backend of the tour group, our tour guide would wait for us to catch up with the rest of the group before he began his, I’m sure, very interesting commentary about the mine…….in German! At one stage we were like bored kids on a school excursion, messed around and got the giggles!
There was a short period of time between the tours and we waited patiently, after all we had paid for this and maybe this time the guide would speak to us, so we could understand. It was a much bigger group than the first tour, but same tour guide who gave the safety message and instructions only in German – this time we didn’t even bother to look interested!!!!
The tour began with a ‘train ride’ in a miner’s train, or should that be, a ‘MINOR TRAIN’……The carriages were about 4 foot tall and were fully enclosed and you had to sit slightly hunched over….the door was slammed shut making it even more claustrophobic but safe, we had our little yellow helmets on! Our guide assumed the role of ‘Casey Jones’ and we began our bone shattering excursion down the mine once more. Once again, our guide waited for us before he began his speech. At one stage we stood right alongside him facing all the assembled tourists, he went through his information, which was all very good, WE THINK! As he imparted all of the information that he was so obviously very passionate about, he sometimes turned, made eye contact with us. We would give an approving nod in the affirmative, as though we knew what was going on….we must have nodded at all the right times…….We think we got away with it!
After a tour of two parts which took about 3 hours, all information in German, (fair enough, I’m in Germany)…..I can honestly say……in the words of Sgt. Schultz (Hogan’s Heroes) “I KNOW NOTHING!!!”….however unlike Schultz, we saw a lot, I don’t know how people worked in those conditions. Very brave people!!
During the afternoon we drove around the Harz mountains, visiting the small villages and towns. It really is a very beautiful part of the world. It is very green, obviously with lots of pine forests growing up mountains, but also areas that have been cleared and turned into very lush farming of grain crops and vegetables.
The next day, we bid farewell to our foray in retirement living and headed to Berlin.
Lance and Barbara