Yesterday was the Day of German Unity, i.e. the anniversary of the unification of East and West Germany on October 3, 1990, which is a public holiday in Germany. The official celebrations have become somewhat subdued in recent years and the glut of East Germany, Stasi and unification themed on TV has ebbed a little. Though should you want to read something in celebration, there’s always The Other Side of the Curtain, my spy novelette set in East Germany, Leipzig specifically, in 1966. Coming soon in German translation, hopefully in time for November 9th.
However, October 3 is still a public holiday and since the weather was tolerable, we drove out into the Lüneburger Heide, a nature preserve with a quite unique heath landscape located between Hamburg and Hannover, for a bit of hiking. Legend has it that the barren heath was the result of salt mining in nearby Lüneburg, because the fires intended to evaporate the water from the saline springs of Lüneburg and leave only the salt behind needed a steady supply of wood, so the people of Lüneburg gradually cut down all the forests in the area. It’s a neat story and would work well as a cautionary environmental tale, but unfortunately it’s false. Recent research shows that the Lüneburg Heath has looked the way it does since the Bronze Age, i.e. long before the saline springs of Lüneburg were discovered, and that the barren landscape is really the result of sand moraines left behind by retreating glaciers in the Ice Age.
Unfortunately, the blooming of the heather was largely over and so the landscape looked brownish rather than the bright purple it’s supposed to look when in bloom (and how I painted it at school many years ago). It’s still a unique and fascinating landscape and ideal for hiking, as you can see by the photos behind the cut:
Here is the English language Wikipedia entry for Hermann Löns. Project Gutenberg also has several of his novels and poems. Alas, in spite of its intriguing title, Löns’ novel Der Wehrwolf is not actually about werewolves.
Another thing that’s iconic for the Lüneburger Heide are the Heidschnucken, a specific breed of sheep that is only found here. Unfortunately, we did not see any real Heidschnucken. But I’ve got photos of the next best thing, artistic representations of Heidschnucken.
At noon, we had lunch at a restaurant in the village of Hanstedt, which offered Heide specialties. I’m not so much for lamb or mutton, so I had the other regional specialty for lunch, trout caught in the brooks and ponds of the region.