Beers, Bratwursts, Blues, and Barbarossa: A Short Excursion in Saxony

Public holidays in the middle of the week are perfect from the viewpoint of the working traveller. Ascension Day gave Hattivatti and friends just enough free time to make the long awaited trip to the Saxony region of former East Germany to visit some friends. First an early morning flight to Berlin and then a three hour bus ride to Dresden followed by half an hour in a car, and finally the small town of Nossen was reached.

Rapeseed fields in full bloom spread out by the road on the way to Dresden

Rapeseed fields in full bloom spread out by the road on the way to Dresden

The sun was shining and the temperature rose to about 20 degrees C, so the conditions were perfect for having some beers outdoors. For some reason, Ascension Day is celebrated as a men’s day in Saxony, which turns out to mean that men go around wearing funny hats and drinking beer outside from early in the morning until they fall asleep. A couple biergartens were seen and then it was time for dinner at Jägernos, where the tasty local food was followed by an ex tempore whiskey tasting with the chef. The evening ended at the Altzella International Blues Rock Festival with an energetic show by Johnny Masters & Mama’s Boys.

Enjoying some blues and rock'n'roll in an old stable

Enjoying some blues and rock’n’roll in an old stable

Day two was spent seeing the sights of Nossen and enjoying the lovely sunny weather. First a visit to the ruins of the Altzella Monastery, which was a wealthy and influential site run by the Cistercian brotherhood from the 12th to the 16th century. Naturally, this being Germany, the tour ended with beers outside in the garden area.

Ruins of the Altzella monastery

Ruins of the Altzella monastery

The second sight of the day was the castle of Nossen in the town center, dating back to the 12th century. The exhibitions of the museum housed in the castle varied from hunting memorabilia and family portraits to a dungeon and torture devices. Hattivatti couldn’t help thinking once again that humans are such strange creatures…

Castle Nossen and a nearby square

Castle Nossen and a nearby square

After some quick beers at a local pub, it was time for the designated driver to get behind the wheel again. The destination was Watzke Ball- und Brauhaus in Dresden, a busy brewery restaurant with a packed biergarten, tasty housebrewed beers, and delicious large portions of typical German brauhaus food, such as roasted pork knuckles, potato dumplings, and sauerkraut. After feasting and a short nap in the car on the way back to Nossen, the evening was finished off with beers and darts at a local pub.

Food and beers German style at Watzke in Dresden

Food and beers German style at Watzke in Dresden

The weather continued to get better on the third day, when a trip to the neighbouring state of Thüringen was planned. A couple hours were spent in the car before the first stop of the day, the Barbarossa Cave in the Kyffhäuser hills. The cave turned out to be very different compared to all the others Hattivatti had seen before: none of typical stalactites and stalagmites but instead crystal clear underground lakes and various types of gypsum rocks formed from anhydrite under high pressure over thousands of years. Only two of this type of cave have been found so far in the world, this one and another in Russia. A really amazing place!

Crystal clear waters of an underground lake in the Barbarossa Cave

Crystal clear waters of an underground lake in the Barbarossa Cave

The chill of the cave was soon forgotten sitting in the sun, enjoying beers, bratwurts, and ice cream before heading on to the Barbarossa Monument (Kyffhäuser Monument), an astonishing tower on top of the highest hill built at the end of the 19th century to honor the legend of Barbarossa, the red-bearded king who should one day rise from the depths of the cave and bring eternal peace to his people. The tower is really an impressive feat of engineering and offers beautiful views of the countryside, filled with bright yellow fields of blooming rapeseed this time of the year.

The majestic Barbarossa seated on his thrown

The majestic Barbarossa seated on his thrown

Beautiful views from high up on the Barbarossa Monument

Beautiful views from high up on the Barbarossa Monument

After an outdoor dinner at Burghof Kyffhäuser, built originally to feed the workers involved in constructing the tower, it was time to continue on to Leipzig for a death/black metal show at KH 87 Pferdehaus WW. The after party had to be cut a bit short, since the way back to Nossen was more than an hour on the autobahn, but all in all a cool ending to a great day.

Sunset in Saxony

Sunset in Saxony

As befits its name, Sunday was yet again full of clear skies and temperatures well above 20. Unfortunately, most of the day had to be spent travelling back to Berlin by bus. Luckily there was just enough time before continuing to Tegel airport to have kebabs outdoors under the needle towering over Alexanderplatz. Although Hattivatti’s companions have never really likes Berlin during numerous previous visits, the sunny relaxed atmosphere made it seem more inviting than before. Maybe Berlin needs to be given another chance sometime in the near future.

There's still a bit of East Germany left in Eastern Germany

There’s still a bit of East Germany left in Eastern Germany

PS – Hattivatti was going through a bad hair phase during the trip and hence didn’t feel very photogenic, opting to stay out of the photos this time around.

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