Day 1 – Malmö to Kassel

“…On the road again
Goin’ places that I’ve never been
Seein’ things that I may never see again
And I can’t wait to get on the road again…” (Willy Nelson)

Map Malmö to Kassel

And we are off, 670 km, 6.5 hrs driving and a one 1 hour ferry crossing between Denmark & Germany before I reach my overnight stop in Kassel, in the heart of Germany.  An 8.30 am get away, beautiful sunny day, some slight delays in traffic to the bridge over to Denmark, then a straight run for Rödby and the ferry at 10:45 am.  Well that was the plan until I arrived to queues waiting at the ferry.  These queues lead to me missing the 10.45 am crossing (even though I had booked) and it meant having to wait until the 11.15 am.  People with no bookings blocking queues for us who have bookings.  Grrr!  Anyway it meant I could have an early lunch on the boat and thus delay the need to stop along the way once I arrived in Germany.  A delay turned to an advantage 🙂

As the day passed the temperature began to rise.  It was as the thermometer hit 30 degrees that I began to notice my A/C wasn’t doing the job it should have been.  Not what I was wanting.  Only solution, a window down on each side of the car and let the air blow through.  At 120-140 kph on the autobahn it worked perfect as a substitute for the A/C.

Sweden and Northern Europe had been suffering a heatwave since the beginning of May.  We have had no rain since the 29th of April and temperatures have been in the mid to high 20s nudging on 30, and it was starting to show.  What I was not to know at this point in time was that it would turn into a drought of major proportions in Sweden lasting until late August and bring catastrophic consequences for Swedish agriculture. We were on total water & BBQ bans for almost 3 months.  Anyhoos, after almost continuous driving since lunch time, I trundled into Kassel late afternoon and was pleased for a break from the driving.  After settling into my hotel I headed off to explore the city and stretch the legs.

Kassel is situated on the Fulda river and was originally part of the Holy Roman Empire until its dissolution and later became home to the Land-Counts of Hesse-Kassel.  Kassel was infamous for selling mercenaries (Hessians) to the British crown to help suppress the American Revolution.  In the early 19th century, the Brothers Grimm lived in Kassel. Here they collected and wrote most of their fairy tales there such as the Frog Prince, Hansel & Gretel and Cinderella.

In the centre of the city, is the Karlsaue Park situated on the banks of the river Fulda.  A lovely place to stretch the legs.  It is made up of a mixture of Baroque garden elements and arranged “natural areas” containing many man-made lakes, long canals, fountains and the famed Orangery.

Kassel skyline is dominated by the baroque style Bergpark Wilhemshöhe (Mountain park) which overlooks the city.  It is the largest hillside park in Europe and second largest hillside park in the world.  It contains the Wilhelmshöhe Palace (b. 1786), the Löwenburg (The Loin’s Castle, b. 1801), the Hercules monument and the spectacular water cascades which flow down the hill from the monument to the palace.  At the top of the park is the Hercules monument (b. 1701) with a statue of Hercules atop a Pyramid, which stands atop an Octagon. From its base down to Wilhelmshöhe Palace runs the long set of artificial cascades that end in the big lake in front of the palace.  The water runs down the cascades, over the Steinhöfer’s waterfall, under the devil’s bridge, until it tumbles down the aqueduct before finally arriving at the lake where a fountain of about 50 meters in height ends the spectacle.  This whole system relies on natural pressure from reservoirs and underground pipes whose locks are opened manually.  This system has been in place for more than 300 years.  The monument is the highest point in the Wilhelmshöhe Bergpark and towers over the city.  Unfortunately, it only runs on certain days of the week and on my visit it was under major repair.

The Löwenburg or the Lion’s Castle can also be found in the park.  It was built by Wilhelm IX in 1801 to resemble a semi-ruined knight’s castle on the outside while inside it is a typical Baroque country palace.  It includes apartments, an armoury and a Neo-Gothic chapel and in 1871 Napoléon III was imprisoned here.  The Wilhelmshöhe Palace was the summer residence of the German emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II.  In 1918, after the armistice ended World War I, the High Command of the Germany Army under Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff was moved here from Belgium to organize and lead the withdrawal and demobilization of the German troops.  It was damaged in WWII and is currently being restored.  Nearby is a Prisoner of War camp from WWI at Niederswehren where allied prisoners from the Western Front were held.  Conditions were atrocious and many died from their wounds or disease including 4 New Zealanders with 2 from Southland.

In WWII Kassel was a major sight of heavy industry including tank and locomotive production.  It was not spared the ravages of aerial bombing by the allies.  The most severe bombing of Kassel in WWII came in April 1943.  The bombing destroyed 90% of the downtown area which has subsequently never been rebuilt.  However, the aim of destroying the factories producing the tanks and trains failed for the most part.

With daylight running out (short days here than in Sweden), sightseeing over, time to rest up ready for the 9-10 trip to Salzburg.


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