I’ve always wanted to learn to ride horses. Growing up on a heavy diet of Disney, it’s always been a dream of mine to ride off into the sunset… Galloping away, on a horse’s back. But the fact is… I was always terrified. The last time I sat on a horse was in Darjeeling when I was about 11 years old (gosh, that’s more than half a lifetime ago!!), and I vaguely remember (well, there are pictures that won’t let me forget) that I cried the entire time.
Sometime in the beginning of July, when I was making plans for my upcoming 5 week trip through central and eastern Europe, I came across a host in Germany who said she lived in a horse farm just outside of Berlin. I got super excited and wrote to her immediately, and, very luckily, she said she yes! She could host me!!
After a week of wandering around in Munich, Fussen, Lohhof and Berlin (and falling in major love with German bread), I made my way to Wesendahl in Brandenberg. It took me about two hours- an hour and a half or so on the train, and then half on hour on a bus that drove through this..
…and I finally reached Camargue-Pferdehof.
My host, Mareike, was absolutely the image of ‘free spirited’ that I had in mind. She studied Design in college, and eventually realised, like so many of us do, that she couldn’t live like this. And she actually went ahead and did something about it, unlike most people who continue living like that anyway. Dreadlocked, skinny and tan, Mareike decided she wanted to work with horses instead, and so applied for a job at this farm. At the time I met her, she had been there for a year, and would have to leave in another two or three months, because at 26, she was too old for an ‘internship’ there.
In the summer, the farm hosted kids in two week batches who would spend time there and learn riding and taking care of horses. Apparently horse-riding is big in Germany. Almost every young child is enrolled in such classes. When I was there, there were about ten girls, all between the ages of 8 and 14.
I spent the day walking with the girls when they were taking the horses for walks, watching them have their riding lessons, exploring the farm as Mareike showed me around whenever she had time, and petting a bunch of gorgeous horses.
Look at Honey. Isn’t she beautiful?
The day was calm and lazy, and it was a welcome change from the past week where I had been walking for hours all day. I was quite exhausted, and this one day break was such a relief!
In the evening, Mareike arranged a bicycle for me, and we rode through what seemed like untamed wilderness (to me), and emerged in front of a lake.
I was so annoyed that I didn’t have a swimsuit with me. So jealous when I watched Mareike swim in the lake. while I had to satisfy myself with selfies and those cliche ‘feet in water’ pictures (check out my tan, though 😛 ).
I really envy the quality of life Europeans enjoy. I’m sure Indians living in the countryside get to experience these clear, clean lakes… But as someone from the city, something like this is hard to come by. While in Europe, almost everywhere I visited is literally a 20 minute drive (or ride) away from a ‘swimmable’ water body. (In 20 mins from my home, in any direction, I’ll still be right in the middle of ‘civilization’. On particularly bad traffic days, I’ll even be in my own neighbourhood)
Anyway, I digress, let’s get back to Wesendahl.
Scariest part of the day? When this horse was really close and I was taking a picture of it to brag about my awesome day and then it turned to face me and it was TOO CLOSE, and I screamed, and everyone around me was laughing their heads off. I was sitting on a chair and the horse was right in front, and the only way I could have escaped was if I toppled over backwards. Thankfully someone stopped laughing long enough to pull it away from me
And the best? Easily when I got a little ride. Just a short 10-minute one. But it was awesome!! That’s Mareike. Doesn’t she look as cool as I said?
The next morning came too soon. It was Friday and I needed to get going, because, unfortunately, the bus to the station didn’t run on weekends and I couldn’t stay another night. Pity, cause there was going to be a bonfire that evening that I would have loved to attend!
The experience was so new and exciting for me, especially because I’ve grown up in a city. Lived in cities all my life. When I sat on the horse I was squealing with joy, and that’s when I realised the same experience can mean such different things to different people. Sitting on the horse was a unique moment for me, one of the best parts of the whole trip , while for Mareike, who did it everyday, it was so normal, so ordinary.
Would you like to live in such a farm? Short visit or a longer one? I did contemplate signing up to work for a month or so there, I was so smitten by the idea. Good idea? Would you like to do something like that too? I’m dying to hear! Let me know!!