Having previously mainly arrived at Coburg on local trains from Bamberg, it was very novel to step out of the ICE right where we were going to. Even better, my friend who had invited us to stay with him was standing on the platform to meet us. I had been wondering about the logistics of getting from the station to his home in the outlying area of the city, but he had planned ahead for that and when we reached the parking lot we found his wife and daughter waiting in their other car. I rode back to their house with her, while my nieces rode with him to his mother’s house the next village over where they would be able to stay a bit more comfortably than all of us trying to squeeze into his house. He dropped them off and helped them get settled, than came back to his house and we visited for a bit. After an hour or so he headed off to pick up my nieces, and when they returned we set off on a walk down a rural road to a forested area about half a mile away.
Once there, he pointed out a swatch of trees about 20 yards wide that were clearly younger and more uniform than the forest on either side of them and asked my nieces if they had any idea what might have caused that. After a few guesses, he announced that we were standing on “The Place Where Worlds Collided” and then proceeded to inform them that we were standing on the eastern side of the former East / West German border and that the swath of younger trees was what had grown up in the formerly cleared area. That led into a lengthy conversation on all sides over the concept of hard and soft borders, which continued on into the evening as we enjoyed making use of the unusually mild late April evening to dine and visit on their patio. After dinner my friend produced an array of Schnapps and we ended the night with a tasting of several varieties by a local distillery before his wife drove my nieces back to their accommodations.
The next morning began with an enjoyably long breakfast on the patio before heading into Coburg for a tour of the city and, to work off some of the dinner and breakfast excesses, a walk up to the Veste Coburg, the intact medieval castle over the city. We had lunch plans elsewhere and so did not have time to tour the museum, but we did have plenty of time to walk around the grounds and enjoy the view. Coburg was where I stayed as a high school summer exchange student, and I enjoyed being able to introduce my nieces to their first German castle at the Veste, which was my first one as well.
Following our visit to the Veste we walked back down to the city and headed off to the nearby town of Sesslach, where we had a late lunch of regional specialties in the outdoor courtyard of the town’s main restaurant before a walking tour of the town, which is still within it’s medieval walls.
We then headed to a farmstore in the town of Neuendorf for ice cream straight from the dairy before heading back to their house for a bit of a break. As we were approaching the house we saw a balloon appear in a field nearby, and we stopped off just in time to see it launch.
Later we drove over the former border to see a bit more of the traditional architecture of the area – the East German government didn’t put much effort into updating the villages along the border, and as a result they were spared the sins of the urban planning ideas from the 1950’s through the 80’s. Now that isolation has left them with an intact village image of Fachwerk houses along narrow roadways. We then proceeded to Scholss Rosenau for an afternoon stroll before heading off on a small roadtrip to see some of the renewable energy projects being worked in the local area. Dinner was a fairly relaxed affair on the patio with occasional backlighting provided by a distant thunderstorm.
The following morning we breakfasted at his mother’s house so I would have a chance to visit with her, and then we headed down to the train station for the next leg of the trip.