The excursion challenge: Steinhuder Meer or Cultural Loop Elze?

Christina/ August 7, 2023/ Culture, Ideas of philosophy

Champagne or sparkling water? Rain or sunshine? This year, the weather app or, more precisely, the rain radar decides where the weekend getaway is headed. With the changeable climate, it’s not easy to estimate how long the next rain gap will last. Often, the raincoat is closer than the swimsuit. So, we gather all our courage and just set off. Fortes fortuna adiuvat: “Fortune favors the bold”! The Roman wasn’t entirely wrong. Both Thursday and Sunday are expected to have very unsettled weather. Nevertheless, on both days, we can engage in our activities in the dry and even with some sunshine. On Thursday, we’ll circle around the Steinhuder Meer (Lake Steinhude). On Sunday, we’ll hike along the cultural loop in the Elze area. Which destination will win the excursion challenge?

Rainy Arrival Brings Blessings
Naturally, on Thursday morning, we closely tracked the rain radar. When we got into the car around 11 o’clock, things still looked good. However, on the highway, the first dark clouds appear on the horizon. Will the weather hold? Of course not. The first shower comes down. Holger remains optimistic: “It’s good that it’s raining now. Then it’ll be dry later.” And it actually works. It pours almost until the end, then the rain subsides and finally stops completely. Arriving in Mardorf, it’s overcast, windy, and gray. We hop on our bikes and set off. Just a short distance and we’re right by the water. A strong breeze awaits us, the wind brushes against our faces, it smells good. I take a deep breath, push my bike to the end of the wooden pier. “Yes,” I think, “it almost feels like the Baltic Sea.” That’s vacation. The mind becomes free. There’s only the here and now.

Surfers, Beach, and Storks
We continue cycling towards Steinhude. We’re pedaling quite hard against the wind, but it’s still fun. We briefly stop at the beach and watch the kite surfers. “Surfer’s Paradise” is really bustling today. Understandable, with this wind and waves, it’s a dream come true for every wave rider. On a meadow, we observe storks gracefully landing. Then we reach Steinhude. Here, we quickly realize that mediocre weather also has its advantages: despite the summer vacation, it’s pleasantly quiet. So, we immediately look for a nice spot for a refreshing drink. The outdoor area of the Aalräucherei Schweer catches our eye. That’s where we want to go. And sure enough, “Claudia” is already on the terrace. Just a week ago, I saw her sitting on the roof of the Jaeschke Gallery. Now, we meet again during a brief visit to Lake Steinhude. It can’t be a coincidence, can it?

Fishermen’s Friend
At the entrance to the restaurant, a fishing figure greets us. He has already caught plenty of fish. A glance at the menu confirms that we’re in the right place. Just as we’ve taken our seats on the terrace with fish sandwiches and drinks, the sun breaks through the clouds. Well, that’s more like it. It’s so cozy here that there’s really no reason to get up again.

Meerbruch Viewpoint at Winzlaer Tower

Reluctantly, we continue our tour around Lake Steinhude. From the promenade in Steinhude, we still have a lovely view of Wilhelmstein Island. In fact, we even see a few people lying on wooden loungers in the sun. Just a few meters further, we reach Hagenburg Castle and its beautiful moor garden. However, the associated beer garden is closed.

Shortly after Winzlar, we reach the Meerbruch meadows. The signposting to the observation tower piques our curiosity. From here, we have a splendid view of the landscape. Everything is so calm and untouched. It would be wonderful if not for the distant rumbling of thunder. Suddenly, almost black clouds appear in the sky ahead of us. Oh, that looks like a thunderstorm. There’s no choice but to head back to Mardorf. Miraculously, the clouds move on. It remains dry until we’re back at our car. Only a few minutes later, the rain begins…

Cultural Loop in the Elze Area
What draws us to Elze on a Sunday? Essentially, the offer of the “Offene Gartenpforte” (Open Garden Gate), which invites visitors to Gronau this weekend. As always, I want to combine the garden visit with a hike. That’s how I came across the cultural loop in the Elze area. The starting point is the Elze outdoor pool, which isn’t particularly crowded on this Sunday morning. However, the Latin American music emanating from the grounds fills the entire town. After leaving Elze, we quickly enter the open countryside. I’m surprised by the number of thistles here. The butterflies and bees seem to like it. We walk amidst a mix of sunshine and clouds. We can see rain on the horizon, but it won’t reach us today.

Culture Only on Sun Hill
From Elze, we march towards Sehlde. On the way, we see more storks searching for lunch. When we reach Sehlde, we wonder what there is to see in this little spot. Well, not much, actually, except maybe a few residents doing some gardening and an explanation of what a “Bäkebrink” is, namely, a dry meadow by a stream.

We continue along another field path and reach Esbeck. It’s very quiet here too. There’s supposed to be a 1830 three-sided courtyard to visit. We already saw it on our way to the village, so we head straight towards Sonnenberg. And there, quite hidden in the undergrowth, we actually come across the Kaiser Wilhelm Monument. It was erected in 1913 and commemorates a military maneuver by the Kaiser. With the Sonnenberg living up to its name and the rays warming us on a bench, the hiking bliss is complete! A cold blonde beer would make the moment perfect. Unfortunately, there’s no place to stop along the route. So, after a snack break, we leave this idyllic place and descend to Eime. From there, we return through the countryside to Elze. Back at the car, we drive eagerly toward a delightful garden experience and the prospect of coffee and cake in nearby Gronau. However, we’re in for quite a disappointment there.

All Expenses, No Benefits

While my previous experiences with the Open Garden Gate in Lamspringe and Münstedt were quite enjoyable, we experience a crash landing on this Sunday. Advertised as “the smallest English garden outside the British Isles,” we quickly realize the true meaning of “small” as we enter the premises. Initially, I notice that the “Open Garden Gate” is closed this time, which strikes me as odd. But okay. What’s even stranger, though, is the list of “Etiquette Rules” at the garden gate.

This doesn’t bode well, and that’s exactly how it turns out. We open the garden gate and first see many older ladies and gentlemen eagerly devouring cake and coffee, or rather, they’ve already devoured them, as the platters are empty. However, that’s not particularly surprising, as you can see everything on the small premises in a maximum of three minutes. At first, I’m still wondering where the garden is. Until I realize that the small piece of lawn and the flower beds around the “Cottage House” are all there is to see. It takes me a moment to realize that there’s nothing more to see. The whole event resembles more of a sales show, especially since Bianca and Johann Andras Frey are professional gardeners. I can’t help but feel deceived compared to my previous garden visits.

For this reason, after what feels like five minutes of accomplishing nothing, we retreat and find a café on the way back. What a shame. Unfortunately, I have to award the points for this excursion challenge to Lake Steinhude.

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