Near Plauen, Germany. 3rd August 2007, close to 4,000 miles so far

In the morning I drove around a little, to find an internet connection, and noticed a sign in brown on a signpost. Suspecting it was to a tourist spot I followed it. Indeed it was, a castle, I drove up to the entrance but there is no space for parking, you have to park lower down and take a road train up, or walk.

I went shopping in Konigstein, and got diverted to another brown sign. This is to some interesting rocks, with stupendous views over the Elbe river. On the way I stopped and took a photo, the rocks are to the right of the picture.

After taking the photo I fell into conversation with a pleasant couple from West Germany, the Schafers. They said, call in, if I was passing. Since Gerhard, from Vienna, had said the same thing, then sneaked off on holiday when I called, I checked. They are back home in 3 days, then staying for a while! They were wanting to climb the rocks. You know, the ones on the picture on the right above, with the stupendous views.

I tried to drive nearer but found you had to take a park and ride, so returned, pausing for lunch by a more than adequate view. You can see a white spot on the skyline, about 1/4 of the way in from the right. That's a reflection from something at the fort, where I am just going.

On the way to the fort I noticed the Schafer's van. They too didn't like park and ride, and had found somewhere to park while they walked to the rocks.

The view from the fort was superb. That's the River Elbe in front.

It was built on a rocky outcrop. They say no one ever attacked it.

Well, it was was well defended but I think the reason is that no one ever wanted to attack it! There were several museums there. The whole lot good enough to keep me happily occupied for few hours, but nothing special to photograph or write about.

I went back to the same spot for the night, at the end of a long lane in a wood. Next day was to be Dresden.

I picked up email and drove on, and got flashed by a speed check camera. Can you imagine that? I generally drive so slow that I have to stop every 5 minutes or so to let the build up of traffic get past and I got flashed! In my defence I have to say it was a 40 kph (25 mph) limit and I hadn't seen the limit sign. Luckily I don't live in Germany so the only dent will be to my pride, not to my purse or to the points on my licence. Even if they do try to follow it up I'm using a 70 year old registration number - it's my initials - and I've managed to transfer it from vehicle to vehicle in the almost 50 years I've had that number. It doesn't look like a UK number because it has 2 or 3 digits less than current numbers and has a different letter/number sequence. It looks very much like a current Czech number, and I was just over the Czech border at the time. Maybe some innocent Czech motorist will get my speeding fine!

Just as a side point, the number itself, which is transferable, is worth about 2,000 or 3,000, say $5,000. Lots more than the value of the van.

Here are some of the beautiful old buildings in the centre of Dresden.

Did I say old? They are, mostly, almost brand new. They have been rebuilt. In February 1945 the Allies carpet bombed Dresden. Carpet bombing is massively bombing absolutely everything in sight. Or even out of sight. 35,000 civilians died. Here is the centre after the bombing.

Not one building with a roof. Here's a fragment of a church recovered from the rubble. The space in the relief top left shows where it fitted in the structure of the dome. The church, behind, has been rebuilt.

Even nuns take guided tours and carry their stuff in rucksacks. I later saw one of them writing a postcard. At the monastery I visited in Hungary the guide told us that the monks had computers and internet access. Whatever is the world coming to?

I think every one of these shops is a restaurant.

I went to the transport museum. Which reminds me. I had been told parking in Dresden wasn't a problem, and it wasn't. I parked right in the centre of the city, and it cost 6 Euros for all day. Actually I was just at the end of the above street, right next to the transport museum.

Here's 2 old trikes, with motors.

I watched a film about Dresden in the 1930's, and checked out the trams and railway engines and bikes and motorbikes and cars and even old airplanes.

The Bleriot is a replica, but built 1909.

There was a balloon display, and several models of airships.

Couple of things I have been meaning to mention. Back in the Czech Republic, I noticed money change shops on just about every street corner in the popular tourist places. They have big signs outside with rates "we sell Euros" and they quote 28, 29, 30 crowns to the euro and say "no commission". This sounds great, the official rate is about 28. But they are as close to being fraudsters as is possible. I was conned but luckily only for 15 Euros ($20). You see, we tourists don't want to BUY Euros, which the shops announce they are selling, we want to sell Euros, for them to buy, and they don't put that rate on their boards. It's very easy to get confused as to whether you are buying or selling, you expect the rate they show will be the rate you get. And their rate for selling Euros, which they don't quote on their promo boards, is way less. Way less! I got about 22. Of course they tell you beforehand. Ah,15 Euros they say. The rate is mumble mumble with strong Czech accent that means you'll get mumble mumble is that OK? Of course, you say yes, you presume that as an exchange shop they are reputable. I noticed one shop, only one, that quoted both rates and they had by far the best rates for buying Euros from all the exchange shops. (They are buying, we are selling) The best deals for cash I noticed are some of the bigger supermarket chains, who work with fair rates, and will give you local currency change for your Euros. Of course for the very best rates you would need to go to someone like Lukas, I don't know I guess he's probably content if he gets 0.0001% but you'd have to be a bank and talking approaching millions of Euros..................

I also meant to tell you about my luxury disposable paper plates. More pictures first.

After the museum I headed off in the direction of Munster, sort of, looking for the pretty roads. These took me south, back almost towards Czech Republic. I found a neat spot for the night, a track into a wood running off a minor road, it went up over a hump and dropped, so I was close to the road but hidden.

I drove past a museum about something. It looked well maintained so I decided to visit. It wasn't open for another hour so I drove on, then found a good internet connection, killed the best part of an hour, and went back.

It wasn't a big museum, but was very well presented. I wish there had been more information in English! These are lime kilns.

During the last war many of the Dresden art treasures were stored in the mine.

Further on there was a town with a market. I bought cherries and raspberries.

It also had a museum and a couple of silver mines but I thought I ought to press on, I need to drive right across Germany to get to Munster. About 500 Km, but you can't drive fast on the pretty routes. Not that I want to.

There were flowers too. I bought a small blue flower in a pot to go on the dashboard. The colour doesn't go with the purple and yellow artificial flower already there, I got that from the New Orleans mardi Gras a few years ago, but so what. I'll need to remember to water this one.

Ah. Paper plates. When I last got married, in 1983 I think, we had a wedding celebration at my in-laws flat in Paris. There were about 100 guests, mostly balloonists, since father-in-law was a balloonist too, and mother-in-law bought paper plates. She bought 100's and 100's, in all sorts of different colours and designs. Needless to say, there were 100's left which, for some reason, I inherited. I've been using them on all my European travels since. I think Eleanor took them to Budapest last year. But now I'm down to about 30 or 40. Currently I'm using gold (colour) plates. So soon I'll be on to plain white, cheap things.......

Best regards

David Barker
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