As I’m sure many of you have experienced, travel has become much more difficult in the last two years. We’ve been forced to quarantine, due to travel, twice this year – once on our way to Germany and once on the way back home to the UK.
To quarantine in a mobile home is easy, as long as you can find someone who will let you stay on their land and we were very lucky twice. We spent our German quarantine in Freckleben, a tiny village between Magdeburg and Leipzig. The authorities require an address – ours was Auf dem Schloss 1 (no.1 The Castle).
A grand title, but really it was just a meadow and a well. The weather was hot and we had 10 days to just stop and count the bugs in the grass, of which there were so many as I hadn’t seen since my childhood!
Freckleben is a village that time forgot. As we approach it, we drive through miles of 21st century landscape – huge fields and hundreds of wind turbines – until the road takes a turn and drops down into a crack in the landscape where the nights are pitch black and grasshoppers and jackals are our neighbours. I rig up a shower from the well – the water comes from 11m depth and is only 8 degrees – brrr. Perfect for those hot summer days!
The quarantine finishes in time for us to take part in the yearly summer festival at the castle, with entertainment that hasn’t changed for generations. Children climb on a wooden horse on tracks and, winched along by their parents, they try and spear hoops off poles. There’s a bowling alley where the main price is a local sausage, and a large effigy of a bird provides hours of entertainment for those who try and shoot at it from 25m distance to determine who is going to be this year’s Schützenkönig. Whoever wins, has to pay for a round of drinks at the end of the festival and will be collected to next year’s event by horse and cart. This year’s winner is someone from another rivaling village – Shock Horror! But, as someone points out, the good news is that he has to pay drinks for all the locals.
We were welcomed by the locals and fell in love with this quirky little village – for a few days, we even seriously considered investing in a cultural center that had fallen into a deep, 30 year long slumber. In the end we felt the task was too great – and Frank doesn’t think his German is up to living there.
On our way back to the UK, friends of friends offer for us to stay at their orchard near Cambridge. Yet again, we stay at a place that has its own special magic. The orchard is in fact only a small part of the land, with extended fields and forests. There are various outdoor buildings in one of the forests – a large open-air kitchen and dance space – and a magical clearing for tents. The trees in the orchard are in need of some TLC. We take on liberating one apple tree per day from the stranglehold of brambles and hawthorn. This is hard graft but very satisfying.
All in all, I’d say that to step out of our lives for 10 days and stop in one place, allowed us to get in touch with the plants and animals around us and was a really good experience for us. It brought an extra quality to this summer’s travel.
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