The Long-Standing Online Campaign, beginning in Germany, travelling through Italy and Greece to the Sea of Azov.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
Arriving in Meppen Sunday
Sunday, August 31, 1650
Cool temperatures with drizzling conditions. A light rainfall lasts for about 35 minutes, to be followed by fresh, chilling breeze.
As it happens, when the party wakes up Thursday morning on the 28th, they find they have suffered a point of damage through the night. And worse, the trip aboard the barge does not prove to be as 'restful' as the party might wish. While each day you do rest and gain a hit point, the conditions are so unpleasant that you lose one in turn. Ahmet alone, who is able to gain two h.p. per day in rest, accumulates hit points - but the rest of the party breaks even.
It rains. It rains and it rains. Friday alone brings a respite, though the breeze is unpleasant after the four hours of steady rain that falls late Thursday; and the rain that falls all day long on Saturday is not at all pleasant, nor is the rain that falls all night into Sunday morning, and Sunday afternoon, and briefly Sunday evening as the party reaches the dock in Meppen.
The rain is by and large light, but there is a whole lot of it. The deck of the barge leaves little room for shelter, though the captain does allow the party to set up their tents. The beam of the barge is, however, only a few feet above the waterline, and when the wind whips up it sprays off the river Ems. The deck does not dry, as you do not see the sun at all except briefly Friday morning. Between rain and overcast conditions, there's fog Thursday and mist for most of Sunday. All in all, thoroughly unpleasant.
The barges going down the river are loaded up to thirty feet high with hay and sacks of grain and vegetables, often to the point where you wonder why they don't topple over. Men with poles pass your barge within a few feet, near enough to jump the distance, and the crew of the barge is friendly and knowing of those crews of other barges. Sometimes a bottle of wine is passed back and forth while the barges go by one another, along with jests and boasts.
The captain keeps a cauldron of tea boiling throughout the journey, into which he dumps lumps of hard candy which slowly melts and sweetens the tea. The party is invited to drink the tea, and even some of the wine shared among the other boatmen. They find themselves at least enjoying the camaraderie, and the sense that the river is a community, and not a group of isolated boats.
Papenburg, you can see as you go by mid-Friday, is a mere fort, an outpost in the forest by the river, without even a significant dock for traffic. That evening the woods look spooky and dangerous, full of fens along the banks, and you're glad when you get another day up the river and the ground turns more solid and with a few more farms. However, you see no manors of any kind, only isolated cotters, each apparently with their small private dock extending onto the river. Some of these docks have rowboats, but most do not. The farms have all been harvested - you see none where the grain is still standing.
Meppen is a small town of about 1,700, swamped at the moment by farmers who have stacked miles of stacked hay and thousands of sacks near the large dock. The Ems here is met by the Hase and the Nordradde rivers, which swell it enough to be navigable. Meppen is a walled town, but charges no entry fee throughout the month of August and September (you are told) ... but there is no market here, either. A road south to Lingen is clearly marked, as is another road to Emmen to the west. Cart-tracks leave out for Nordhorn, Diepholtz and Oldenburg.