Regular readers will have noticed a quiet spell on this blog for a few weeks. The reason is that I was presented with an opportunity to realise one of my life’s ambitions and it was too good to pass up, so blogging was suspended for a while!
As a child, my parents had an LP record which featured Christmas carols sung by that legend Bing Crosby. His rendition of “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” was always a special part of every festive season for me and left me with a yearning to experience at least one of these beautiful snowy Christmases during my lifetime. Every year, we also received many traditional greeting cards featuring wintry landscapes, sleighs and snow laden fir trees, all of which were totally foreign to me.
My ambition was to get to a suitable place in the northern hemisphere in a year when the snow was indeed “deep and crisp and even” as Bing sings in another carol! So when an opportunity arose recently to go to Germany for a week (even though it was not over Christmas), I decided that this was an offer too good to miss!
The weather forecast promised snowfalls, and not only was there snow where I was staying, but I was also able to visit the beautiful Harz Mountains and to experience snowy scenery that was simply exquisite and more than filled my expectations!
The Harz Mountains are serviced by a number of steam trains which take passengers to the very top of the range – a place called Brocken. This is certainly a novel way to travel through the snowy countryside, and creates a far more relaxed atmosphere than would be the case with busses or regular trains. The other great thing is that one can travel on the outdoor verandah at each end of every carriage, so taking photos is a lot easier as there are no reflective windows to get in the way.
On the lower slopes, the sun teased and emerged intermittently from cloud cover – sparkling on the fir trees – their branches sagging under thick layers of snow.
The only sounds were the puffing of the steam engine, the clickety-clack of the wheels on the tracks and an occasional whistle as we approached a road crossing.
From time to time, the gradient got a bit more challenging, and the engine had to work a bit harder to keep moving up the slope.
All the while, patient parents entertained their excited small children while holding on to the sleds they had brought along for the latter to enjoy at the summit.
Towards the top of the range, the fog set in and by the time we had reached our destination, it was difficult to differentiate between smoke (from the train) and the fog. This made the stay at the top rather more interesting as it was difficult to see more than about 20m!
Despite the fog, I was able to get many great photos of icicles, snowy expanses and pretty branches decorated with fresh snow. A lot of fun was also had lobbing a few snowballs (of course!) and making a snowman (of sorts!).
And now I am content, so if I never get to have a white Christmas, I will have experienced something just as good!