Here be Dragons

Message from afar

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In Austria the market was unfortunately disturbed by rain, but was warmer than last year.

In between we went on a trip along the foot of the Alps. First we visited Bad Tölz. A very traditional Bavarian town, where the pattern of one of our materials comes from, The Tölzer Rose. In the 17th century the pattern was used as decoration on the cupboards from the cottages. Then in the late 19th century two brothers took the pattern and printed it on material that was then used for curtains and sofas. We have now made some pencil cases with this pattern, and we asked in the town museum if they wanted to sell them. They are interested but it has to be approved by a jury, so we will see. We also visited in the town the organizer of the Bad Tölz Rose Day. A garden and handwork market. She was delighted with our Tölzer Rose shoulder bag and asked if we could come with a small table and take orders for our bags. The market ran for four days and so we were down in Bayern again at the start of this month.

The first two days were dry, the third day, the Sunday rained the whole day, and the last day started to rain two hours before the end. Unfortunately the people in Bayern see themselves more as citizens of the world, and did not share the enthusiasm of the organizer for products from their own region. We took no orders, but sold a few of our smaller bags, so that we just about covered our costs. We live in the hope that the museum jury will be more delighted than the market visitors.

On our first visit in May to Bad Tölz, we then had a beautiful view of the Alps with a sprinkling of snow on the peaks, as we drove to our second appointment of the day. A young mom in the Allgäu has collected the old patterns from her deceased grandfather and experiments with her own blue dying. She has a nice house, two lovely children, and experiments with dying using plastic buckets, cake rings, table cloth weights on the lawn. Her grandfather’s house with the original workshop is falling down, and so isn’t suitable to work in. She gets help from museums, and it was very rewarding for us to see that the interest for the old handwork is being kept alive. We enjoyed sharing experiences and giving her support in doing her blue dying.

On the way home we visited Erfurt. A beautiful old city with a bridge like Florence and Bath with shops on it. The river is not so wide as the Avon, and so the bridge is also smaller. That was a pleasant bonus, because we wanted to visit another Blue Dyer. He is a Pole married to a German woman. They have a pretty shop, where he also sells his jewellery. He is building up a base of customers, showing them how the Blaudruck is printed and dyed. It is the right way to do it, because the awareness is then raised about the material, the patterns, and the time involved. The customers can then associate with the higher prices that this handwork costs. We missed him in Austria, because this year they didn’t come to the market. So when the mountain doesn’t come to Mohammed, Mohammed has to go to the mountain.

We visited a Water Chateau on the other side of the Polish border. The roof, and windows have been restored by a rich Pole, who then unfortunately died. So now it stands there looking splendid , across its moat, but his wife is not so keen to finish the work and make it accessible to the public. All we can do is look at it from afar, and dream of what could be. At the end of a visit we went to Leipzig where the ICE high speed train goes direct to Munich. That enabled us to visit Leipzig after they had caught their train. The old town part of Leipzig has been beautifully restored and they have many shopping passages, almost like the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan. It seems that around the turn of the 19/20th century the shopping passages were all the rage. It was the first time that we have spent time exploring Leipzig on foot, and we used the time to best advantage.

This Sunday we visited another Chateau, which was why we called a bit earlier. The summer holidays in Saxony start at the end of June, and so there are now a lot festivals and ‚Days of open -‚ before the start of the holidays. In the morning of Sunday there was a Day of Restoration in Görlitz. Last year, they had just started restoring two houses in Görlitz’s Middle Ages part of the town, and we wanted to see how far they have come. Beautiful, the best flats are already occupied and so we could only see the remaining flats on the top floor. But as everywhere, the rent price are also climbing here. Luckily we have no quick rail connection to Berlin, only Dresden and so we are not a dormitory town yet.

On our travels to our Tax advisor, the bus drives along a stream and we have always admired a Chateau on the hang on the other side. On Sunday they held a Middle Age Garden festival at the Chateau, which we then visited in the afternoon. In comparison to the Baroque Chateau in Rammenau where we attend the Linen Market, they are at the start of restoring the Chateau and so one sees the difference of before and after. The Saxony kings were a bit like the French ones, all Pomp and Ceremony. Their palaces along the Elbe are one finer then the next, and so the nobles also wanted their own fine chateau, and because in the Lausitz there were many woods and forests, they needed chateaus for their hunt parties.

Slowly one after the other, societies are formed that take on the responsibility to restore the old buildings. In Hainewalde, where we were, the Count also specialised on citrus fruits. In summer the plants were all displayed on the terraces and then in Winter stored in Orangeries at the side. Unfortunately only the Chateau and the terraces have survived, and only the ground plan is left of the Orangeries. The themes of Middle Ages, Baroque, historical steam engines, even old tractors – on the way home they passed us on the road going home after an old tractor meeting – are as much loved here as in England. People are busy sewing beautiful baroque dresses, hats and coats, and they all seem to love dressing up and and using the opportunity to dance to the old music played on the old instruments.

The weekend after we visited a Sorbish Tracht festival near to Bautzen. Around Bautzen all the traffic shields are in two languages because of the Sorbs. They are a Slavic ethnic minority here in the Lausitz. There was a Sorbish Riders Festival at Easter that I watched in our monastery – Kloster St. Marienthal in Ostritz, and our friend from the Tourist office in Bautzen told us about the Trachten festival in the farmhouses near to Bautzen. So that weekend we were busy again.

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