We returned to Berlin a week or so ago from our summer travels through Germany and France, straight back into the hectic normality of everyday life, and with a notebook filled with scribbles and reflections on the places we have seen and experienced. So where to start? On page one of course, and a man-made lake at the southern edge of the Harz Mountains…
On our second morning at the Wiesenbeker Teich and we emerged from our tents to a view of the forested mountains above the lake shrouded in mist. There was some rain in air, and from our camping spot above the water, it looked as if the lake itself was smoking in the early morning gloom. Apart from the campsite, there is not much around the lake. A crumbling hotel stands at the end closest to the town of Bad Lauterberg, but otherwise it is steep-sided hills falling into the water, with trees growing all the way down to the water’s edge.
Yep… it is that time again. Under a Grey Sky will be taking a little break for the next month or so, as we recharge our batteries, think about what we want to do with this project moving forward, and of course, to have some more adventures beyond the front door that we can write about here. Our plans will take us on a road trip through Germany, some time in the steephead valleys of the Jura, in France, and who knows what else closer to home? We hope all the readers and contributors to Under a Grey Sky have a great summer, and many thanks to all of you who have continued to read, write and comment over the past twelve months.
Paul and Katrin
From the house Derry Hill rises steeply out of the village of Menston, a narrow lane along which drivers race just a little too fast and unsuspecting walkers have to keep their wits about them. So it is something of a relief, about halfway up, to follow a footpath sign over a style and to head out across the fields. From this point on, during our seven mile loop that will take us south and then back round to the village, we will only ever encounter roads as we cross them… apart from a couple of farm tracks along the way, the walk will very much be across the fields, through the woods, and over the moors.
So far… so Yorkshire. This part of the world has all the things you would hope to find on a walk such as this, from the dry stone walls to picturesque villages, lonely pubs on the edge of wild moorland, and amazing views across the rolling landscape. But beyond these clichés there is something else that makes walking in West Yorkshire so fascinating, and that is the opportunity – especially once you get up high and the countryside unfolds before you – to understand not only the natural beauty of the region, but also the social history of this landscape, and the human interaction that has shaped it.
On the Thursday before the riders of the 101st Tour de France lined up along the Headrow in Leeds city centre for Le Grand Depart, we went for a walk through the market town of Otley, just a short way along the planned first stage route. The last time we had been in this part of West Yorkshire was back in February and it had been clear back then – from the first sightings of yellow bicycles leaning against dry stone walls or the first signs advertising camping the nearby farms – that the region was most definitely looking forward to their two days in the spotlight… but this was something else.
We found ourselves stopping at almost every shop window, whether a butchers, a newsagents, a bakery or an estate agents, to see how they were marking the arrival of the race, and it felt as if there was not a single shop front in the town that was not getting in on the act. The streets were criss-crossed with bunting – most frequently small representations of the three leaders jerseys from the race – and every pub had translated their name into French on banners that hung above the doors. Inside and yellow-jersey’d bar staff offered up a selection of themed real ales – pint of Saddle Sore anyone? – and the conversation in the snugs and lounges revolved around the impending arrival of the race from across the channel.
By Katrin Schönig:
A month or so ago, I spent a week on the island of Rügen. During my stay I took a walk in the Natur Reservat Prora and its treetop trail. Indeed, it was the idea of walking amongst the treetops that drew me there.
The Prora Nature Reserve is located between the Jasmunder inland sea – the Bodden – and Baltic bay known as the Prora Wiek, therefore bringing together different ecosystems. To protect these ecosystems, but at the same allowing people to experience the area, the park was closed off and you can only walk through it on a guided tour. The idea is that the Urwald (primeval forest) should be able to form itself again without human interaction. For example, dead wood is not taken away, and no new plants are planted. Yet, to still be able to enjoy this beauty of nature, the Naturerbe Zentrum of Rügen built a big wooden trail through the treetops.
My friends at Slow Travel Berlin have just released the second print run of their most excellent 100 Favourite Places book… it is a collection of, well, a hundred of the Slow Travel Berlin writers favourite places in the city, from museums and bars to shops, parks, architecture… and more. Everyone I know who owns a copy – including Berliners such as Katrin – are impressed by the choices, the writing and the photography, so if you are coming to Berlin at any time soon it is the only guide you need.
I asked the founder of Slow Travel Berlin, Paul Sullivan, to select an extract from the book that he thought would suit Under a Grey Sky, and he choose one of his own favourite places, the Britzer Garten in Neukölln:
Given its reputation for industry, war and high-rise buildings, visitors are often surprised at how pleasantly green Berlin is. With almost a fifth of the city covered in trees, it’s quite possible to be diverted regularly from the city’s turbulent past by at least one of the city’s 2,500 parks and gardens. One of the loveliest is the Britzer Garten, which laps at the southern fringes of Neukölln.
Built in 1985 for the Federal Garden Show, the garden was originally designed to provide a green escape for local residents whose excursions into the countryside were, at the time, impeded by the Berlin Wall.
This morning I woke up, caught the S-Bahn to the end of the line, and ran home again. The route I chose was to follow the Panke river from Bernau for 25 kilometres until it arrived just a couple of footsteps away from our front door. It is a journey I have wanted to make for a while, passing through the north of the city alongside the river. As it happened, for the first third of the journey the Panke kept itself fairly well hidden. It was little more than a ditch when I began, running through an allotment colony just south of Bernau station, and then it swung away into some fields, only to appear periodically until I reached Buch, the Berlin city limits, and the overgrowth of the Schlosspark.