Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Mountainous Adventures

Well, where to begin! These past few weeks I've packed in an awful lot, managing to see some different parts of Germany and try my hand at skiing, and also going home to England for a couple of weeks whilst school broke up.

A little less than a month ago, I paid a visit to Meissen, not far from Dresden. The timing my friends and I decided on was a little off (we went on a Sunday, forgetting that around here that means shops are closed) and so it did seem like a bit of a ghost town, but we were able to appreciate its beauty nonetheless. This was the breath-taking view we were greeted with as the train pulled into the station (sadly the weather left a lot to be desired):

Its claim to fame is its porcelain (you might have heard of Meissen porcelain) and so its main tourist attraction is the factory where these world-famous, hand-made, very expensive products are produced. Fortunately for us, this was open, and so we paid our entrance fee and did the tour.The tour was short and sweet - it only took about 30 minutes, if that, but we were shown the journey the porcelain art makes from concept to fully-finished product. We watched highly-skilled men and women create the delicate pieces on their pottery wheels and with their own hands, and then decorate and paint them. In true German style the tour was thorough and alongside the full lowdown on how the porcelain is made, we also got a very interesting history of it and the factory itself. English headsets were provided, which is good news for tourists. It's definitely worth a visit if you are in the area (and is very well signposted so you can't miss it), but maybe to be avoided if you have young children as they will be bored, or possibly even knock over a 30,000 euro bowl (and there are plenty of those there, believe me - my stress levels were high as a kite as I made my way through the displays). The displays were very impressive, but as there was so much and only so much porcelain I can stand to see in one day, I didn't see everything, but got the idea. It made me feel very poor too.

This was gorgeous - and even better in the flesh. The little logo at the bottom is the 'Meissen Porcelain' logo that features on every piece made.

The weekend after this, I ventured a little further; travelling to the deepest southernmost part of Germany; an impressive-looking, mountainous region called Garmisch-Partenkirchen, right next to the Austrian border. After the 6-hour journey, checking into the hostel, collecting all my ski-gear, and then meeting the group of people I'd be spending the weekend with, I was glad to get into bed, ready for the early start the next morning. Getting up early both days was definitely a good idea as I was only there for two days and so wanted to get the most skiing time out of my ski-pass.

A shaky start was had. I spent the first morning almost crying with frustration as I couldn't work out how to control my skis and so spent 90% of the time lying in the snow. And getting up whilst you're wearing skis is nigh on impossible! And so I had to take them off every. single. time (which was most of the time actually). However, it was soon worked out that we had started on a red slope (which is one below a black - the most advanced type of ski slope you can get) and so after a little rest and recuperation we beginners downgraded ourselves to the much easier and more enjoyable baby slope, which was one below green, the easiest.

I did, however, after a while, feel the need to stretch myself and thought I did not want to leave Garmisch without at least mastering the green slope. So up I went. All was going well until I lost control of my skis whilst waiting in the queue at the top and went straight into a group of little four-year-olds on a skiing lesson. One of the children and I ended up on our backs in the snow with our skis so intertwined we couldn't separate them - the ski instructor had to come and do that. But after that mishap I was able to spend the rest of the day going (very slowly) down the slope without hurting anyone. Below is a skiing me.

Went back to the hostel that night reasonably pleased with myself - I had managed to master a least a modicum of control as far as the skis were concerned. But I was bothered that I hadn't plucked up the courage to go very fast. So the next day I decided to set myself free. Got to the top of the green slope and this time, instead of angling my skis so I went down more slowly than a snail, I just let myself go. And it was exhilarating. I even managed to turn a few times in order to avoid people. Pumped full of courage I did it again, but this time was not so lucky. As I was flying down the slope I saw a line of children appear in front of me, walking across the slope following their ski instructor. Scared I was going to go into them, I turned my skis, but not far enough - I (luckily) managed to miss the kids but skied at great speed into their instructor, went up into the air and came down with a thud (which made me feel very glad I was wearing a helmet, although I still had a slight headache for the rest of the day), as did he. Needless to say, after that I was a little more conservative with my speed, but I'm glad I managed to go fast at least once!

We also found time that day to hop on the train and go to the top of Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany. As it was such a grey, snowy day that day, we didn't see much once we got there, but we made sure the moment was immortalised:

And then, after this fun-filled day I had to make my way to Munich airport to catch my flight home. Touched down in Gatwick very late at night and once I arrived home crawled into my nice, warm bed.