LOve at first sight
Husky-Adventure in the Turingian Forest
A trip to faraway Siberia or Canada? Fiddlesticks! A short trip to the Thuringian Forest is enough to experience a real adventure. There are forests covered in deep snow here, too. And real huskies to boot! In Tambach-Dietharz, I meet the Kraft family and the "Arctic Speed Crew," as they affectionately call their sled dogs. My goal: to complete the big musher training course while roaming the local wilderness on speedy runners. I had no idea how much these huskies would captivate me - a simply unforgettable experience!
The anticipation is rising - off to the "base camp" in Tambach-Dietharz
"Experience tours with Nordic sled dogs", it is written. Well, I pack my seven things and am ready for anything. A little I rummaged in the Internet - one would like to know finally, on which one gets involved. That just I, there actually cat fan and before dogs plentifully respect, this route booked, surprised me even. But the curiosity is huge and the experience reports of enthusiastic friends have convinced me. So off I go to the big musher training: My favorite music booms from the speakers of my car and I drive in a good mood to Tambach-Dietharz. Arriving at the Krafts', I am warmly welcomed and it is immediately clear to me: this is going to be a fantastic day! The atmosphere at the "base camp" is relaxed and informal. I am offered hot coffee or tea - as a coffee junkie, the choice is quickly made. While I sip the wholesome elixir of life, Ralf and Christina Kraft tell me roughly how the day will proceed and what needs to be taken into account. Mainly, of course, it is about learning how to lead, train and steer a dog team. While I listen attentively to the two, my excitement subsides and I can hardly wait! I quickly change, slip into my padded outdoor pants and sturdy lined winter boots. Hat on, gloves on. Yay! The husky adventure can come. I am ready!
Off to the Thuringian winter paradise
First I take a seat in the Krafts' spacious car. I watch as four huskies are made ready for transport in a separate vehicle - so there they are! My heart begins to pound. We drive up into the dense forest for a few minutes and talk during the drive about many an exciting episode that the Krafts have already experienced with their huskies. Just recently, a film crew from the German television station ZDF was on site to report on the sled dogs for a program. Always a special experience for the whole team. And then suddenly the time has come: We stop below the Rennsteig. The doors open and I'm in paradise - bright blue sky, snowy tops and glittering snow crystals as far as the eye can see. The air is crystal clear and fresh. I take a few deep breaths in and out, hold my face to the sunlight and smile at this wonderful day. Then I hear the characteristic yelp of the sled dogs and again my heart starts to pound. Ralf Kraft ties the dogs briefly to the trees and cheerfully introduces them to me one by one: "Allow me - these are our faithful companions for today: Bendit, Mascha, Baikal and Banja. All Siberian Huskies." I was "warned" beforehand that the Krafts' huskies love to cuddle, are outgoing and affectionate. Oh yes, I can confirm that! Excitedly they eye me, want to jump up on me and immediately make me laugh.The ice is broken - her cheerful nature, the beautiful fur and the deep blue eyes immediately draw me under their spell! Love at first sight, I would say.
Technique and commands - good preparation is everything
Before we start our sledding tour, the dogs are harnessed and I help harness them. That went easier than I thought! After a briefing on the sled and the technique, we now move on to the commands, after all, I want to get to know the world from a musher's point of view. Ralf patiently explains to me which commands are the most important for the adventure tour: "Gooo!" means run. A long drawn-out "Haaalt" with simultaneous light application of the brake is used to stop the dogs. "Eeasy!" is called for going slower and "Straight!" is used to get the dogs back on track when they get distracted and want to take a swerve. Good, I got that. And what was that again about the brake? I want to be on the safe side and Ralf explains to me again the mechanism of the bow brake or claw brake: This is pressed with the foot into the snow, so the journey is slowed down. I myself am now also secured - the belly belt ensures that the sled does not rush away alone, if I should fall. Great! It can start. Ralf drives forward with his fatbike in the flattened snow.
Thrills and pure happiness
I feel the same way as the dogs: The moment when the runners start to move in the snow is simply magical! With "Gooo!" we start and Bendit, Mascha, Baikal and Banja pull the sled forward. The adventure begins and in me it bubbles with happiness! This panorama of deep winter forest with white powdered trees and crunching snow, in addition the wonderful sunbeams - what can be more beautiful... The speed of the huskies increases a little, I try to keep my balance. Thereby I remember Ralf's words: "You stand wide-legged on the long wooden skids and shift your weight in the curves like on a motorcycle." The Huskies seem to be having as much fun as I am. Everything works out great, the commands work and I feel safe. After a while we arrive at a rustic log cabin - "Haaalt!" - Time for a break. I take off my belly belt, the dogs are harnessed and tied to the trees. Time for cuddling, sniffing - and lots of photos! I can't get enough of the majestic beauty of these animals. Ralf invites me to a cup of hot mulled wine and we chat a bit about his passion and how the huskies came into the life of the Kraft family. Then we continue with our tour: harness the dogs, get on the sled, put on the belly belt, and "Gooo!". It goes sometimes more leisurely, sometimes brisker back through the beautiful landscape. Arrived at the goal I am almost a little wistful that it should be already over. But: There is still the hike with the huskies!
Cozy snack before the husky hike
We drive back to Tambach-Dietharz and enjoy a snack at the "base camp", as I call it. I strengthen myself with the delicious food, which is carefully arranged: Freshly baked rolls, plus real Thuringian Knackwurst, spicy cheese, fruity dried fruit such as apricots and plums. Drinks include water, tea, coffee, hot chocolate - whatever your heart desires. In a basket I spy jams, chocolate spread and honey. Well, I treat myself to something sweet at the end. Then Christina Kraft calls me to leave: A good one-hour hike with the huskies is on the agenda. I put on the belly belt again and in front of me stands the barking Mascha - not only her eyes shine expectantly, mine do too. Along snowy forest paths we go on a small tour in the surroundings of Tambach-Dietharz. Once again I enjoy the combination of animal experience, winter magic and soothing exercise. Christina Kraft explains to me that huskies simply love the cold and can even lower the temperature of their paws to zero degrees - then no lumps of ice get stuck when they walk. Aha! Again something learned. Back at the Krafts, the husky adventure is coming to an end. I say goodbye to dogs and owners - with a crying and a laughing eye. Because: I will be back!