Horn-Bad Meinberg (~18,000 residents) is actually two towns separated by the train station; Horn and Bad Meinberg in the North Rhine-Westphalia region (very near my family’s stomping grounds).

In the information that I had Horn-Bad Meinberg is touted as a state approved mud and mineral spa resort on the edge of the famous Teutoburg Forest nature reserve.  That and the many walkways through the forest is what drew me here.

One of the many Wanderwegs through the forest

As far as I am concerned the advertising was misleading.  I never did find the mud spa.  However, most days it was raining so heavily I suppose you could have just rolled around on a pathway somewhere and called it a mud spa.

Horn had the more historical draws, but I didn’t go there.  Bad Meinberg was the spa town.  Bad in front of the name generally means something like a spa specializing town.  It isn’t pronounced like “bad” in English though, the “a” is more like in baa baa (sheep noises).

Bad Meinberg - foot bath - for use prior to walking

I did go to the thermal/mineral bath twice.  It was just a regular pool though, the only neat thing about it is that a part of it is outside, and it remains open year round. That would be so cool (in more ways than one!) to swim outside while it is snowing.  I also went into the salt grotto once.  It’s a room that has had the lower part of the walls covered in Himalayan rock salt crystals, the upper walls and ceiling is salt encrusted with stalactites hanging from the ceiling and salt is heavily strewn on the floor.

There are several beach chairs with pillows and blankets provided for your comfort while you lounge around in the grotto for about 45 minutes soaking up the vibes of the crystals.  Music could have been more soothing or loaned itself more to meditation though – Oompah type tunes – not so soothing.

Foot bath instructions

I did go to one absolutely fascinating place; the Externsteine rock formations which are located several kilometers outside Horn.  On one of the two nice days out of the seven I was there I hopped a bus to this park.  Based on my lacklustre experiences so far I was prepared for a “yeah, whatever” type of venture.  Instead it became one of the most profoundly moving places I have been to.

Coat of Arms of Baron who had a picnic on site

The Externsteine are about 70 million years old and since before the time of the Celts they have been used as a spiritual/holy place.  There is a cave complex that had an altar which was dedicated in the year 1115 as a Christian place of worship.  Additionally, there is a relief carving on the outside wall of the cave which dates from the 1sthalf of the 12th century.  It is not only the largest relief carving in Europe but also an outstanding example of Romanesque sculpture. The tallest stone tower has a “window” carved in it that lines up perfectly with the rising sun on the summer solstice.   A piper that I spoke to said that the Externsteine are located on one of Earth’s energy lines and that people still come here to worship – especially at the solstices.

Externsteine - tower to the left has a chapel at top

I spent a goodly amount of time here and it was the only time I was annoyed with people, especially those whose only goal seemed to be clambering up and down the stone/metal steps and not appreciating what this place was.

You can go into two of the stone towers.  I really tried but I only made it up about 50 steps (of the tallest one – the one with the bridge) before my knees started clattering together.  Drat!  No access is permitted to the cave.  Double drat.

Relief carving detail - removing Jesus from the cross

Apart from the spa aspects and the Externsteine, the area’s claim to fame is the famous Teutoburg Forest.  It was here in about 9CE that the Roman general, Varus, and his Roman soldiers were devastatingly defeated by the Germanic warriors under the leadership of Arminius, a man of one of the Germanic tribes, but who had been raised in Rome.

Varus had heard of rebellion fomenting and set out to quell it.  Unluckily for him the notoriously fiercely independent Germanic barbarians had banded together under the leadership of Arminius and, once again, weather played a significant role.

To make a long story shorter; it was when Varus and his soldiers marched into the forest that Arminius attacked.  The extremely wet weather had rendered the Romans nearly defenceless as they couldn’t use their bows (sinew strings became slack when wet) or their shields (became waterlogged). The Germanic warriors used light swords, large lances and a spear with a short narrow blade called a “fremae”.  These spears are described as being very sharp and “warrior friendly”.  You know you have to mull that term over a bit.  I’d say that maybe the spears were “warrior friendly” or “warrior unfriendly” depending on what end of the spear you were on.

Externsteine caves - unfinished

It is estimated that of the 20,000- 36,000 Romans 15,000-20,000 lost their lives.  The Germanic warriors fared far better, of 10,000-12,000 only 500-600 bit the dust (well mud).

Like all dutiful and honour bound Roman officers, Varus promptly fell on his sword an example followed by several of his officers.  Several more, which were maybe not so quick or didn’t care for pointy things, were ransomed, but many (according to Tacitus, Roman historian) “were sacrificed by the Germanic forces as part of their religious ceremonies cooked in pots and the bones used in rituals”. (Wikipedia).  Note that Tacitus is not the most accurate of historians and he was born in 55CE, several decades after the battle.

In due course the Romans retaliated and whupped the Germanic tribes, but despite that it was largely due to the Teutoburg Forest battle that the Romans decided that the lands on the other side of the Rhine weren’t worth the aggravation of conquest.

Externsteine - Me on Critter bench

All in all, except for the Externsteine (which is an easy part-of-a-day trip) I would give this area a pass.  I hadn’t wanted to stay here as long as I did, but Oktoberfest was going on and I couldn’t get to Trier (my next stop) before October 3.

Health and Happiness,

Anita

 

Located on the North Sea coast around 5,000 people call this small fishing and tourist town home.

I was surprised to learn that in medieval times Büsum was actually an island with three villages, but severe flooding in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries drowned most of the island and destroyed two of the villages.  Later in the 16th century Büsum was connected to the mainland by a dam.  Over time sediments from the sea created new
land and now it is like it has always been part of the mainland.

Dyke walkway along the North Sea.

Exposed as it is to the North Sea flooding and storm tides continued to be a major problem, but since 1825, an improved dike system has sorted that out. A “storm tide” is a non-scientific term for “the rise of water associated with the storm, plus tide, wave run-up, and freshwater flooding” (Wikipedia).  The scientific meteorological term is “storm surge”.

The first documented mention of Büsum (as an island) is  in 1140.  Despite being fairly small, insignificant and out-of-the way it had its share of being acquired by others.  In fact from 1559-1867 it was Danish territory and later became part of Prussia.

I tend to forget that Germany as Germany is actually a  “new” country. Prior to 1871 it consisted mainly of Bavaria and the many states eventually known as Prussia. Then there was the division after WWII into two Germanys and only since 1990 with the reunification of the two has the “German Question” finally been resolved.  The “German Question”, as I understand it, basically being what the heck was Germany way back when. That’s not to say that Germany is only 20 years old, that WWII thing was a blip, even so as a country it is a young whippersnapper.

Büsum was a  poor island before shrimp fishing became viable in the 1600s.  To make ends meet, so to speak, the residents often took up piracy and their favourite target was Hamburg.  Hamburg even then was a large trading/shipping port and all those ships filled with goods were just too tempting to pass up. Of course Hamburgers (that is what they are called. I’d like to live in Hamburg just so I could call myself a Hamburger) would retaliate and usually won.  These days as a tourist town it is mostly people from Hamburg that come to enjoy the sea air and beaches at Büsum and, I’m sure with the inflated prices that seem to go hand in hand with tourist towns, Büsum is getting its own back now.

Playground - tide coming in.

Fishing and shipbuilding have declined and over the last one hundred years or so tourism has gradually taken over as the main industry.  People have come since 1818 for the healing benefits of the seawater and mudflats of the Wadden Sea (an intertidal zone in the south-eastern part of the North Sea).  In 1949 Büsum was officially named a Nordseeheilbad (North Sea Health Spa).  Although Büsum is a popular summer vacation spot nearly all of its tourists (99.5%) are Germans, most from Hamburg.

Dyke - soaking up the rays

Popular tourist activities in and around Büsum, besides lounging around on the beach, include boat tours – especially for wildlife viewing, fishing, kite flying, going to Helgoland (an island nearby), or mudflat hiking of the Wadden Sea.

Mudflat hiking is  a fun pastime for people who live in areas that lend itself to that (well, I suppose you could go even if you didn’t live in those areas) – such as the Netherlands, and the low-lying sea areas of Germany and Denmark.  Basically at low tide you wade and walk on the mudflats.  However, on/in the Wadden Sea National Parks you are only allowed to do this with a licensed guide.  Tides are pretty regular but if you don’t know what you are doing you can find yourself in deep do do pretty fast – as in how long can you tread water?

Germany, Netherlands and Denmark are working together to protect and conserve the Wadden Sea National Parks famous for its rich flora and fauna.  In 2009, the German and Dutch parts were included on the UNESCO list.

I chose to come to Büsum only because it was in northern Germany, by the sea, was small, and had a train station.  I had been to parts of Bavaria and around Cologne,
Dusseldorf and the Rhine before, but never to the north.  Flat, very flat, and windy, likely because of that there are dozens of windräder (wind turbines) around.

It was a long way to Büsum from Altendiez even with the ICE for most of the journey.  If I remember rightly – with stops and transfers (yes, you can actually wait more than 5 minutes for a connecting train) it took almost 9 hours.  I did enjoy the journey, but was quite weary when I finally got to Büsum.  Strange how you can get tired of sitting.

Intrepid windsurfer on the North Sea.

The town was quite different from what I had gotten used to seeing.  As a consequence of repeated flooding there are no medieval buildings and no old town centre.  Instead of stone the buildings are all of red brick.   I also saw one house with a thatched roof.  An extensive dike runs between the town and the North Sea, and to help keep up the dike every overnighting visitor pays a Kurtaxe (Resort Tax) – cost me 15 Euro for 5 nights.  For that you get a Kurcard which gives you free entry or reduced rates on some attractions.  For instance it gave me “free” entry to the dike and beach (you actually can’t get to the beach without going over the dike) otherwise every time you want to walk the dike/beach you pay for the privilege, visitor or not. I walked up and down that dike a fair bit as it is also a straightforward shortcut into town.

This Kurtaxe was something that I had not encountered before, apparently it is usually charged by sea-coast resort and spa towns so you can use the beaches.  I don’t recall being charged it anywhere else, although having said that I have a vague recollection of paying some extra fee on the Oberammergau hotel bill (figures).

Dyke entrance - pay your fee here.

I enjoyed my stay in Büsum, but not sure if I would recommend going there or if I would go back again, although there is nothing like the energy of sea air!  There was some very good shopping (if that turns your crank) and the seafood was divinely
scrumptious.  The dike is fairly extensive and a good walk and the beach is plentiful for catching rays.  There is a protected area for swimming but it is pretty shallow although good for kids.  If you want to swim in the North Sea you generally have to go down some concrete steps for ease of access as the shoreline is mainly unwelcoming tumbled boulders.

When the day arrived to leave Büsum it was raining so hard water was sheeting off my umbrella – a good day to leave.  I was grateful for two things on this train
trip out.  One was seeing one of the original steam trains.  It is the 175th year of train travel in Germany and I was lucky enough to be in Neumünster (for a connection) when an old train came through.  Filled with happy people (current or retired train industry people, I believe) waving and grinning at folks waiting on the platforms, I was too busy waving and grinning along with everyone else to remember to take a photo.

The other gratitude was having booked a reserved seat.  It was a Sunday, and a lot of people were going home after a weekend away.  In Hamburg we took on so many people that it was a real crush – folks trying to move along the aisle from both directions looking for their reserved seats or just an empty seat.  Their efforts were not made any easier by trying to manoeuvre suitcases through as well.  Tempers were barely held in check and I think in the end a fair number just gave up and remained standing in the aisle, which of course, added another dimension of jocularity when someone needed to get off the train.

One of the many warning signs.

Blessings,

Anita

Speyer Kaiserdom - view from Rhine

Speyer is a city of the Rhineland-Palatinate with a current population of about 50,000.  It is advantageously located along the Rhine River which at 1,232 km is the longest in Germany.  A UNESCO World Heritage site the Rhine River is itself historically fascinating and is a commercially and recreationally busy river.  Along with the Danube it formed most of the northern interior frontier of the Roman Empire.

Barge on the Rhine

Founded by the Romans as a fortified camp around 10BCE, Speyer is one of Germany’s oldest cities.  However, long before the Romans established a fort in Speyer’s vicinity others as long ago as 5000 years had seen the locational advantages.  The relatively flat area here has high banks which keep fields, dwellings, etc. safe from flooding, yet it is on a major river and all the benefits that go along with that.

A diocesan town in 346, Speyer was already beginning to show its importance, but it took a Salian from the Speyer district to be elected King of Germany for it to really get a boost up the status ladder.  With the election of Conrad II in 1024 Speyer was drawn into the centre of imperial politics and became the spiritual hub of the Salian Kingdom.  More upward mobility occurred in 1294 when Speyer joined the élite circle of Free Imperial Cities, although the Bishops of Speyer probably had their noses out of joint about that as it effectively ended their 325 year control of the city.

Speyer has a very long history and as an increasingly important city it attracted the usual territorial tussles (some more energetic than others) and churchy type
wrangling.  It also figured prominently in many events such as being the site for the extradition of Richard the Lionheart to Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor, in 1193.  Speyer is another city that has managed to keep its medieval city core largely intact.
Despite its prominence and therefore, a juicy target, it came through many takeovers relatively unscathed, even escaping the bombing raids of WWII.

Rhine river park fountain

When Conrad II was elected King he immediately set about commissioning a Cathedral, a massive red sandstone triple aisled vaulted basilica.  An immensely ambitious project begun in 1030, its construction and reconstruction would continue into the 19th Century, although its basic structure was complete in 1061, the year of its consecration.  It is undergoing another restoration project at the moment, one that won’t be completed until 2015.  Although the Cathedral has undergone many facelifts the crypt is in its original state.

Speyer Kaiserdom - front

Speyer is dominated by the Kaiserdom zu Speyer (Imperial Cathedral of Speyer), the seat of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Speyer.  Regarded as a symbol of imperial power it is the burial-place of eight (Salian, Staufer & Hapsburg) Emperors and Kings, assorted wives, one girl child, several bishops and a bunch of unidentified bones tossed into a stone coffin. They lie in the crypt beneath the main altar. Conrad II did not live to see the completion of the Cathedral by a long shot, but he was the first one buried there.

Pope Pius XI raised the Speyer Cathedral to the rank of minor basilica of the Roman Catholic Church in 1925, and in 1981 it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list as a major monument of Romanesque art in the German empire.  It is the largest and one of the finest Romanesque churches today.

Speyer Kaiserdom - partial back view

It was another lovely day when I arrived in Speyer, but I was a bit anxious.  Speyer is the only place I have been where I did not have a room booked in advance.
Because it is larger than the other towns on the pilgrimage route the only listing in the wee guidebook was for a hostel – a big hostel – not my kind of thing.  However, I knew that tourist information centres had listings of accommodation and trusted that I would find something through them.  I was very pleased when not only was a room found for me that was in keeping with my budget, but it was within five minutes walk of the Altstadt, ten minutes to the Speyer Cathedral and fifteen minutes to the Rhine. And, bonus the gal at the tourist information booked it for me.  My accommodations were clean but austere, almost like a monk’s cell which was probably not too far off as the establishment was owned by one of the churches.

My Room

Since I had arrived with plenty of the day left for exploration, my first outing was to the Speyer Cathedral – the end point of the Rothenburg ob der Tauber to Speyer pilgrimage.

There was no question about not being able to easily find the Speyer Cathedral.  However, when I left the Cathedral to go back to the guesthouse, I took a different route out just to be adventurous, and lo and behold found myself back at the Cathedral.  Maybe in a former life I wasn’t a crow attracted to shiny things, but a
homing pigeon – a homing pigeon with issues.

Interior - partial view

They aren’t kidding when they say Cathedral dominates the city.  A basilica with four towers and two domes, it is Mammoth! Its basic dimensions are:  length 134m, width 43m, and height of towers (eastern) ~71m and (western) ~66m. (I’ve rounded the figures up or down).  Despite those impressive dimensions it is not Germany’s largest church. That honour goes to the Cologne Cathedral. Whose length is ~145m, width ~87m, and height of  the two towers ~157m.  Mini digression:  The Cologne Cathedral is a Gothic masterpiece.  Begun in 1248 and finished in 1880, it became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996.  Unlike Speyer, Cologne was pretty much flattened during the bombing raids in WWII, but incredibly, despite taking seventy bomb hits the Cathedral did not collapse – awesome construction, or, puny bombs.  I’ve been to the Cologne Cathedral three times and it remains one of my favourites despite its size.

Oddly enough, although the Cologne Cathedral is larger and taller it does not seem as massive as the Speyer Cathedral.  The Cologne Cathedral is sort of airy – largely due to the lacy fretwork style of the towers, the Speyer Cathedral hunkers and looms.

Speyer Dom - interior painting

Since the Cathedral is undergoing restoration it is almost devoid of interior adornment.  At the time, I didn’t know about the restoration, although scaffolding at the far end should have been a clue. I figured that “they” had run out of money after the construction and didn’t have a penny left over for fancy stuff, which seemed highly unlikely. The only decoration is a series of paintings high on the walls and almost as many relief sculptures lower down on the walls – these depict Christ his crucifixion and arising, etc.

Relief carving

There is no question that it is an amazing work of architecture, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was built to the glory of humankind in the name of God.  It is so vast you feel swallowed in insignificance.  There is an impersonal and distant type of energy within.  Unlike the other churches I had been in the Speyer Cathedral inspires no silence let alone silent contemplation, but to be fair the industrious sounds of hammering and sawing, etc. probably had a lot to do with that.  As well, it is so massive that heating it must be an enormous expense.  It was cool in the fall; I can imagine it must be frost cold in the winter.  No warm embrace here.  Nonetheless, the Cathedral is well worth seeing.

Candle offerings

I spent several hours the next day down by the Rhine, until the cool chased me indoors.  Sure was good to be by the water again.  I knew the Rhine was a commercial as well as recreational river, but I was surprised by extent of the traffic; e.g. numerous barges with all manner of goods; cars, lumber, giant parts of something, etc., tour boats – some very large, motorboats, the coast guard, even an intrepid kayaker.  There is  a long wanderweg along the river as well, but I had had enough of walking for a bit, and just enjoyed the interesting activity.

Tour boat on the Rhine

Speyer is in a beautiful locale. As near as it is to a large river the area is relatively flat but with a good deal of greenery around.  The Rhine valley is known for its wine production and Speyer is one of the cities along Germany’s wine route.  Good chocolates too.  I would visit again and check out its outlying areas as well.  In fact 2011 would be a good year to go as Speyer is celebrating three very historically important events.  A) 950 years since the consecration of the Cathedral.  B) 900 years since the coronation of Emperor Henry V (the last Salian ruler). C) 900 years since its citizens received certain rights as a first step to becoming a Free Imperial City.

From Speyer I went back to Altendiez for good company and a pause in my travels.  I have already written about Altendiez so my next update will be about Büsum.

In case you weren't sure how to do it.

Warm Regards,

Anita

I arrived by train from Möckmühl, although I very nearly ended up taking the bus.  The train ticket office was closed for a two-week vacation.  This was astounding – was there no one else in the town of 8200 skilled in selling train tickets?  Apparently not and the helpful notice told me that I could still get a ticket from the helpful ticket machine.  Urk.  I had never used one of these, but had watched people. They invariably walked away with a ticket clutched firmly in sweaty hand, but not without a lot of vigorous button pushing and mutterings.   I was not looking forward to the experience and I did try to get out of it by purchasing a ticket at a travel agency.  However, due to some silly regulations, only train stations are allowed to sell train tickets.

Since I knew certain future events were going to try my patience I had gotten a printout of train times from the Tourist Information.  At least I had a starting
point now to tackle the Ticket Machine.   What I realized very quickly, once I took the time to study the printout, was that the gal had neglected to print the platform numbers. Unless the town you are changing trains in has only one or two platforms this is not good.  Maybe not as much of an issue if you have the power of teleportation so that you can pop in to every platform and check the “board”, but teleporting is not one of my gifts, neither is being fleet of foot so that ruled out running up and down platforms as well.

Generally, of course, a train will arrive at one platform and a connecting train leave from a platform on the opposite side – helps prevent time-wasting crashes.  In some cases like the Frankfurt Airport station, the connecting train platform is most often literally the opposite side of the arriving train platform.    However, usually the connecting train arrives at a platform on the opposite side of the station.  I figure it is Germany’s answer to making sure at least some of its citizens get a dose of invigorating exercise.   German trains wait for no one and you might have five minutes (six if you’re lucky) to make your connection. I saw a woman who had made it to the door just as it closed and the train left her behind.

So…. On your mark, Get set, Go!  As the train is coming to a stop politely elbow people out of the way so you can get off the train first, find the platform exit, try not to push people into the path of an oncoming train as you hustle down the platform, drag the suitcase that weighs a ton (how did it get so friggin heavy?) down a flight of 20 or more steps, speed walk through a tunnel (swing those hips!), find the correct exit for your connecting platform, drag the now even heavier suitcase up a flight of 20 or more steps and gasp your way to the platform.  I’m not at my best when I have to catch a train in Germany.

In a huge train station like Frankfurt Main (different from Frankfurt Airport) it is essential to have platform number information.  If I remember rightly this station has at least 24 platforms above ground and something like 6 underground.

It’s a much more relaxing state of affairs in Scotland.  If the train isn’t already waiting there is generally plenty of time to catch it and the platforms in the station tend to be side by side.   No frantic headlong dashes necessary and you may even have time for a dram or two of whiskey.

Back to the Ticket Machine.  Armed with a new printout complete with platform numbers, I’d allowed myself plenty of time to work out how to use the Machine before the train arrived.   These machines are “multilingual” – you just press the country flag button of the language you want – as long as the language you want is German (or so it seemed).  After doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, I considered my options; a) I could try again b) I could beat the Machine to a nuts and bolts pulp c) I could board the train without a ticket.  They don’t always check and my trip was a short one d) I could bat my eyes and sigh helplessly in an effort to attract someone who would help.  Heck I was willing to consider swinging both ways if it would get me a ticket.   In the event I didn’t have to do anything, a fellow who had probably decided he’d had enough amusement for the day came over to help and in due course I too was clutching a ticket in my sweaty hand.

Hope everyone is keeping warm and happy!

Anita

Möckmühl is one of the towns on the Pilgrimage route and it was going to be the end point of my revised timeline, which as you may recall, got revised again in Dörzbach.

City view from castle wall

As with so many towns and cities Möckmühl was inhabited long before it received its city rights around 1250.  Records show that there was a population already there and that the Monastery of Fulda had rich holdings in the area by the 8th century.  During significant restoration of the Town Hall in 1992, Roman artefacts were discovered indicating that the city had been settled as early as the 2nd-3rd Century.

Möckmühl sits in slightly steep rolling green hills and is at the confluence of the Jagst (our old friend from Dörzbach) and Seckach Rivers in the State of Baden-Württemberg of South Western Germany. Among other things the site loaned itself to the establishment of a mill.  In fact its name is thought to originate from the Frankish Princess Mechita who owned a mill there.  One of the early variant spellings of Möckmühl is Mechitamulin = the mill of Mechita.  While it would not be the original mill, Möckmühl’s town mill closed its doors in 1959 (torn down in 1964) after 400 years of service.

Patience

Compared to other medieval cities not too much happened in Möckmühl beyond the usual death and destruction due to the incessant battles and diseases of the times; basically nothing out of the ordinary.   Its castle,  built in the 13th century,  is now a private residence.  Spoiled my fun as you can’t even traipse around the grounds and the wall is too high to see over to take photos.  Drat.  However, I was mildly mollified because you can at least see the original tower of the castle (The Götzenturm) which at 25m high is too tall to hide behind a wall.

Part of the city wall

The town had a surrounding wall thrown up in 1470, but like Rothenburg ob der Tauber, it didn’t do them much good either during the 30 Years War.  As far as I can tell the city was not besieged, but 80% of the population died regardless as casualties of the war plus the plague.

The town wall has a number of towers, one of the more famous or infamous of these is the Hexenturm (Witches Tower).   During the mid 17th Century, witch hunts were common and various German cities avidly participated in the hunt.  There is the story of one stalwart and tough woman in 1655, accused of making fleas.
Personally I would have gone for something bigger, but I suppose back then fleas would have been a major deal.   At any rate she never confessed to being a witch despite several sessions of “interrogation” including one of three hours of continuous torture, and 26 weeks in irons confined in the tower.  She was eventually released and lived to the advanced age of 77.  In fact she would have been alive when the last woman accused of witchcraft in Möckmühl was burned in 1667.

Despite standard turbulence throughout its history Möckmühl suffered little in the way of damage, and like Rothenburg ob der Tauber, preserved its medieval quality so buildings like the Town Hall, built in 1589-92, are still in use.  It does not have Rothenburg’s charm though;  the town square is small and uninviting and the streets radiating out from the square seem haphazard.  It seemed that I always ended up where I started from no matter what street I took out, but then again, I do have that “circling thing” going for me.

Looking toward city square

I had arrived mid-morning on a tangy fall day, by bus from Dörzbach and would only be staying the one night.  Because of my relatively early arrival I was able to take in a number of the old city sights.  Another day would have been good, but I was
getting tired of cycling through the same three pair of underwear, two pairs of socks, two pants and two shirts.  However, having said that, I did squeeze out enough clothes tolerance to spend two days in Speyer, my next stop.

A vigorous walk up to the Castle at the top of the hill – where all good castles sit – got the blood moving after the bus ride.  I didn’t wheeze once!  On the way back down I enjoyed a very fine stroll through the old city, and much as I disliked adding weight to my backpack, bought small pottery chicken salt & pepper shakers.

House built in 1515 - added to 7 times over the centuries

I haven’t gotten mundane yet about all the old timey buildings and hope I never do.  It enchants me to see a building like the house built in 1515, still being lived in, and not only that, but added on to over the centuries so that now there are about seven eclectic residences in all.  Or, the wonderful juxtaposition of the old and the new, such as the young woman leaning out of her third storey window talking on a cell phone in a building from 1615.  This same building housed a voice school and had been a music school in the 1600s.  I was at the right place at the right time and was treated to a delightful melody as I sat on a bench near the building in the city square.

My accommodation in Möckmühl was my least favourite even though the building was very old.  I had gotten lost (imagine that!) looking for the back door and ended up in the cellar.  Talk about a perfect venue for scaries at Halloween.  Lit by a single light bulb it could have passed for rooms in a dungeon.  Walls of centuries darkened stone at least four feet thick, an oppressive ceiling and small arched openings leading to crypt darkness…. Gave me the heebie geebies!

Creepy cellar in Gasthaus

The Inn was a recommendation in the Pilger guidebook, but they neglected to mention that it was a smoking establishment.  Smoke smell was heavy in my room so I had to open all five windows for a nice freshening.   The good news is that I had a triple room on the corner of the building which meant light from two sides.  The bad news is that the toilets (shared) were down a series of confusing hallways.
However, I came up with a creative solution to that problem as I was not going
to wander around in my jammies at night looking for the washroom.  I’d probably end up in that creepy basement never to be seen again.

Gasthaus Zum Baren - where I stayed

I had gotten used to large German breakfasts of meat and cheese slices, fruit, yogurt, several different types of bread, eggs, juices, and cereals  which provided enough fuel so that I only ate twice a day; in fact my second meal of the day was usually a snack.  However, the brekkie here was chintzy by German standards – probably because they had to feed Benny.

Benny is the largest dog I have seen in a while.  He is a large breed, Bernese Mountain dog, which can get up to 120 pounds, but Benny was bigger than that and it wasn’t all big bones.  He wheezed and puffed after coming in from a 15 minute walk as much as the rotund man who took him out.  Still, like everyone I had meant so far, the proprietors were friendly.

Cheers,

Anita

Dorzbach, Germany

Monday, Sept. 13, dawned to rain drumming and pigs squealing, neither of which I greeted with any degree of enthusiasm.   The night before I had determined that I would only walk 10 km a day and I was quite happy with that decision even though it
would mean that I would not be walking all the way to Speyer (end point).   My
reasoning was that:  1. I would do less damage to my poor toes, and  2.There would be less area covered and therefore less opportunity for me to find alternate routes (that is – get lost).

However, the rain was not helping to bolster wavering determination.  Then there was Karin (Gastehaus keeper) who was quite unhappy about the possibility that I could catch a terrible cold, and possibly my death if I were to head out in such horrible weather.  Death catching not being on my agenda, I decided to take the bus (there is no train service in Dorzbach).  It made Karin feel better.   As it happened it was possible to take the bus today, because school holidays had ended and buses were running again.

Dorzbach - former train - no fancy IC/ICE

You have no idea how much I enjoyed the bus ride to Dorzbach.

Dorzbach is a town of about 2400 souls in the Jagst River valley, an exceedingly lovely area of Germany.  The Jagst River, a pleasant meandering river that travels for 189 km and eventually flows into the Neckar River (by Heidelberg), would be considered small to medium in British Columbia.

Dorzbach

In Dorzbach there is a place along the river where you can swim, but it looks muddy and weedy to me.  Having grown up swimming in a “see clear to the bottom”, weed free area of the Okanagan Lake, the thought of squelching through mud, and all sorts of mud creatures not to mention  monster weeds, that are surely intent on wrapping themselves around my legs to pull me under,  makes me feel all icky tingly.

Jagst River

For those of you that are cycling enthusiasts you will be interested to know that the Jagst and the paralleling Kocher River (name originates from Celtic word “cochan” which probably means winding, meandering) form one of Germany’s favourite long distance bike tour routes.   The 330km circular route, which is family friendly, but also has challenging sections,  takes one through interesting towns and villages and fabulous scenery.

As I have arrived in Dorzbach earlier than planned I decide to wander along a couple of the many Wander/Radwegs that are in and around the village as penance for taking the bus.  Miraculously the rain stopped on the bus ride over and, while it is still overcast and glowering, there are hints that the sun will make an appearance.

St. Wendel Zum Stein - door to the other side

I head out to St. Wendel zum Stein – a side trip of five kilometers and one I would not have taken if I had walked (but then again maybe I would have).   This is truly a fascinating little church and a testament to the value one man placed on his sheep.    Well, that is what I understand from the signage.  A shepherd found his lost sheep at this place and in gratitude he determined to build a church.  Must have been some sheep as this would be a difficult place to build a church in modern times let alone when work started in 1478!  The bulk of the work was completed between 1511 and 1515, with the small tower being added a couple of centuries later.  St. Wendel is the patron saint of shepherds.

What makes this wee church standout, and not just for the sheep factor, is that it is built into the stone (zum stein).  The rear wall of the church is cave wall rock.  The cave complex right behind and above the church was inhabited many thousand years ago and eventually became a Celtic ritual place as well.

Path to cave complex behind church

The church is situated on the Jagst River.  You can’t actually go around to the front of the church as it is too near the steep bank down to the river.   In order to see the other side you have to go through the church.  It is possible to do this because, even though the church is quite isolated, it is left unlocked.  A tiny stream, purported to have healing properties, flows under the nearby uninhabited caretaker’s cottage.  I don’t venture down to it as the leaf covered rock is slippery wet and I am mindful that absolutely no one knows that I am here.

Jagst River & swans directly in front of the church

At the moment there are three swans alternately dozing and paddling about.  The sun is happy in the day and has come out to play; I take my jacket off, settle a bench and lean back against the cave wall (first making sure there are no crawly critters hanging about).  Happiness and Contentment snuggle into me like a pair of eight week old kittens.

It occurs to me then that this is what has been missing from my pilgrimage. No not snuggling kittens, but the enjoyment of the moment.  In all honesty I have not enjoyed the walking. While I did not expect the pilgrimage to be a walk in the park it was more of an endurance test than anticipated, although in some ways it was a forced meditation too.  Breath in, breath out or a count of 1 2 3 4  to stop from thinking about the pain in my legs/feet and general miserable walking conditions.  It didn’t end when the walk for the day was done either as then the aches, like unwelcome visitors, came to stay for a while.

St. Wendel Zum Stein - bench of contemplation

But that isn’t it completely though, after all my feet are very sore now too, and I am not looking forward to the walk back to town, yet, in this moment, I am blissful.  At this time I can’t really define what it is.   “It” is just out of reach, but like I have done  I trust that it will come.  However, for this moment and the next, I let go of the pressure of completing a pilgrimage that I am physically ill prepared for.  I am posting this nearly 10 months later and the black of my toe nails has just disappeared.

Addendum to the shepherd and his lost sheep.  It turns out that when he found his sheep he also found a treasure trove, hence his gratitude.

And that, my friends, ends the physical part of my pilgrimage.

Smiles to you all,

Anita

Mulfingen, first established in 980, is a small Dorf (village) of about 1500 people, set in rolling, but somewhat steep green hills.  There is a bus system (school days only), but no other public transportation.  I wonder about the teenagers in these small villages; unless they hoof it, drive, or otherwise catch rides they are stuck.  There is little in the way of teenage friendly entertainment as well; no theatre, only a restaurant or two, no video rental, etc.  They must rejoice when school vacation is over!

Mulfingen insect hotel

I am staying in Mulfingen one more day.  I have to admit that I am seriously thinking about quitting the pilgrimage right now.  I don’t like the look of my three bruised toes and am concerned that my right knee is giving out even when I am walking without a heavy pack.  In addition, walking and consequent recuperation is taking more time than I had allowed and the weather is becoming daily cooler as the season advances.

Quitting thoughts aside, I am a bit bored on this “extra” day, and don’t want to spend such a nice day indoors, so I take my book (Eat,Pray, Love) and go to St. Anna’s Kapelle (about 1.5 km away).  It is a small, pretty church first constructed in 1510. 2010 marks 500 years of service to the community of Mulfingen.   This church honours St. Anna, who according to the family tree posted in the church, happens to be the grandmother of Jesus.

St. Anna's Kapella

According to this family tree, St. Anna married three times (way to go Jesus’ granny!).  She had one child (daughter) with each of her three husbands and named each daughter Maria. Anna might have been “hot” or wealthy or both, but she sure wasn’t creative, or maybe her creativity just didn’t run to names.   The first Maria was Jesus’ mother.  Given Anna’s three marriages, which I am sure was very unusual for a woman during those times, I wonder what else she had going for her – charm, a fun gal, maybe?

That in turn brings me to thoughts of Jesus.  When Charli and I were in Oberammergau our dining mates were two fellows from the United States.  Ian posited that in addition to Jesus being charismatic in order for him to have the following he had he had to have been fun to be around too.  I was SO captivated with the concept that Jesus was a “fun guy” that for several days that notion crept into all of my conversations.  It’s put Jesus in a whole new light for me. And, now a new thought – did he, by chance, maybe inherit his charm and fun self from his maternal grandma?

Snail - fish eye effect

I spend about three hours at this church sitting outside reading, ruminating and people watching.   There is a Radweg nearby and several people (adults, teens and children) are cycling along it (this Radweg is also “the Pilger Way” to Dorzbach, the next village that I will attempt to get to).  It is a heavenly day and I am enjoying my quiet contentment.

However, it is time to head to the Gasthaus and get some supper.  I can’t put my finger on it, but I don’t particularly like staying there.   It isn’t the people, they have been unfailing kind and helpful, and the room is comfortable enough although I don’t like sharing a bathroom, especially with six fellows.   They are quite a friendly bunch of guys that have lots of laughs and are doing a motorcycle tour of some part of Germany – they have left that morning.  *Pilger tip #6 – if you want a private bathroom you have to specify that.  Not all rooms come with “in room toilet”.

My room in Mulfingen

I find out what the problem is very early Monday morning at about 4:30AM, the day I leave.   The Gasthaus is situated above a Metzgerei (butcher shop).  I never gave this much thought, but this is a working butcher shop, and Bernd is a butcher by trade.  What that means is that the meat is not delivered all magically cut and wrapped for sale; it is brought in live on-the-hoof.  This particular Monday morning is pig delivery day.  My room is directly beside the delivery area.  It is distressing to hear the pigs screeching and then silence but for the sound of machinery.  The pork steak I had the evening before threatens to crawl back up and I vow to curtail my “pig” intake.  I still like bacon though.

Gasthaus Zur Krone

Joy and Health to you all,

Anita

Saturday, Sept. 11, the day for walking has come and it is a lovely one – temperatures are expected to reach 25C.  Great!  A sunny day!  One of a handful that I have experienced since arriving in Scotland August 9/Germany August 15 – no wonder both countries are so green.   However, people in both have said that it has been unseasonably cold and rainy this summer/fall.

I have elected to go via road.  The roads between villages here are small ones so I’m not as concerned about becoming road kill.   Sometimes I think Germans treat every road as if it were the Autobahn.

I figure going by road I am less likely to get lost, plus I had stopped in at the Schrozberg Rathaus (city hall – “a” is like “ah”) a couple of days ago and gotten a map of the area.  The map shows all the wee villages that the guidebook mentions right up to Mulfingen, which is my next overnight stay 20 km away.   Another 20km you say?  Yes, well I am brightly confident – my legs are no longer achy breaky and my toes will do – besides I have a map!  And, Marlene and Rolf (her husband) had spent some time going over the routes with me.

House in Kalberbach

According to the guidebook the next stop of interest is Erpfersmeiler six km away.   I’ll never know how interesting Erpfersmeiler is because I never get there.  I end up in Kalberbach.    In my defence both villages are somewhat in the same direction even though the roads they are on are several km apart.  What can I say, I have a gift.

I have no intention of backtracking again, after all I have a map and the next town , Herrentierbach, is about five kilometers away.  All I have to do is figure out which
direction to go – I must be a closet optimist. I give up after about 10 minutes of spinning myself around like a top trying to place myself in what I think is   Kalberbach’s compass orientation.  It is only confusing me, and making me dizzy.  I fold up the map thinking it will make a good souvenir with all its pretty red, green and yellow lines randomly scattered all over.

Once again I put my trust in trust and straight ahead it is.  I am out in the middle of somewhere and there is no one around to ask this time.

At least the weather is nice, of course now I’m too hot.  For a time I follow a bicycle route figuring it will eventually have to go somewhere habitable.  Mini digression:  Germans are great for their Radwegs (literal translation – wheel ways).  These are
also Wanderwegs (walkways).  These “ways” can follow along beside a road or not.
There are a great many bicycle routes/wanderwegs set up in Germany.  Often established with families in mind the majority of them tend to be quite level.

Miracles do happen and I get to Herrentierbach in a relatively straightforward way.   It is here that I end up following the guidebook again as the next village, Simmetshausen,  is only 0.6km away and there is really nowhere else even I can manage to get to.

Herrentierbach

From Simmetshausen I have to go through the Wald (forest).  It is going through the Wald that I get somewhat nervous.  I have seen a number of hunter’s blinds scattered here and there and I see from the map that this is a popular hunting area.  I
realize that being September it is probably hunting season.  After seeing 3 tiny deer flee across the path behind me (no, I don’t have eyes in the back of my head – I happened to turn just then) , I hope some hunter doesn’t think he’s found the mother lode when he sees my burnt orange and muted yellow pack.  It takes me an hour to get through the forest all the while hunching my shoulders up, because we all know that makes you invisible.

Through the Wald

Hohen Strasse or Hoch Strasse

From here the guidebook directions are excellent and I end up on the Hochstrasse (High street) just like I am supposed to.  It is a straight run on this wanderweg to
Heimhausen about 7km away, and then only 3km to Mulfingen – my end point of the day.  Historical note of interest:  The Hochstrasse or Hohen Strasse is an ancient route travelled by both the Romans and the Celts before them – so cool to have walked it myself!  For those of you that are unaware the Celtic people originated in what is now Austria.

Straight and easy run it may be, but after a couple of kilometers or so it goes steadily down hill to the valley of the Jagst River.   The geography of this area is the prettiest
I have seen in Germany, but I don’t spare too many thoughts for the beauty
because this down hill walk is giving my right knee some issues and is causing my toes serious grief.  When I eventually get my shoes off in Mulfingen, I see that three of them are blackened under the nail.

*Pilger tip #4 – footwear is extraordinarily important!  I cannot emphasize that enough.  Your footgear and your feet are going to become more intimate than lovers, so be sure they get along. “They” suggest that you wear your shoes at least a month before you plan on doing a lot of walking to break them in.  I would say longer than that, plus walk around wearing the gear you will be using – uphill, downhill and sideways if you have to.  My shoes are very comfortable, but they were not up to this task. *Pilger tip #5 – it is a good idea to pack some moleskin – because you will probably need it anyway.

Heimhausen

At Heimhausen my feet give out and I call for help once again.  There is the possibility that I could have made it to Mulfingen, but I could see the village in the distance  and that distance was all uphill.  That did it for me.  Bernd, owner of the Gasthaus zur Krone in Mulfingen, came and collected me.   Marlene had insisted that I phone her to let her know of my safe arrival and so I do.  Karin, Bernd’s sister, brings me some tea and offers a lotion for my feet.   I settle in for the night.

I spend two days in Mulfingen – legs were fine, toes not so much.

Wishing you all health and happiness,

Anita

Here is the recipe for the vegetable soup that Marlene made for me.  I have translated to the best of my ability!  Translations follow in brackets.

Marlene’s Gemusse Suppe  (Marlene’s Vegetable Soup)

*Note – all vegetables are chopped as you like.

6 kartoffeln  (potatoes)

4 grosse mohren (big carrots)

1 kleiner kopf weisskohl oder spitskohl (small head of cabbage – white or ??)

2 kleine zucchini (small zucchini)

Green beans (a handfull or so)

½ zwiebel (onion)

2-3 el olivenol (el = tablespoon olive oil)

1 el gemusebruhe pulver (vegetable stock powder)

Gemusse in olivenoil anbraten,mit wasser auffullne bis
gemusse knappbedeckt ist, mit salz abschmecken, ca 30-40 mino. Leicht kocheln.

(Saute vegetables in olive oil, then top up with water until vegetables are just covered.  Salt to taste.  Simmer for 30-40 minutes.)

Liebe anita, du kanst jedes emussewerwenden, das du in
kuhlschrank hast und du kerne isst!

(You can also use whatever vegetables you particularly like and have in the fridge!)

I hope you enjoy this fabulous yet simple soup as much as I did.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber to Speyer Pilgrimage – Pt. 1 – the lull between or rest and recuperation in Schrozberg.

Schrozberg, established in 1249, roughly 20 km (in a certain direction) from Rothenburg ob der Tauber , is a town of 5889 people (as of Dec. 31, 2009) and big enough to boast a taxi service and a Bahnhof (train station).  There is a bus service as well, but as it is school holidays they are not running regularly. However, if your heart (or pocket book as it is cheaper) is set on taking a bus you can reserve one an hour in advance of when you need it.

Geographically, Schrozberg is situated along the Vorbach River which has diminished to a stream by the time it gets to town. This is a relatively flat area with only the gentlest rise of hill here and there.  As it seems for almost every village, town and city – large fields and tracts of forest surround it.  As well as being on the route for at least a couple pilgrimages, Schrozberg is also in the centre of some prime bike touring country.

Schrozberg in the distance

It is Tuesday, Sept. 7, I have arrived at the Gästehaus Im Tal (guesthouse in the valley), Marlene Weigel’s establishment, and I will be here for the next 4 days.  Achy breaky
legs and bad weather conspire to keep me here for a time.

More miserable than a soaked cat, my only thought is to get out of these wet clothes, have as hot a shower as I can stand and get a hot drink into me.   I am not particularly hungry (though I haven’t eaten since 8AM that morning and it is now after 6PM- or 18:00) but Marlene insists on bringing me a hot supper.  In due course she arrives with the hands down most scrumptious vegetable soup I have ever eaten!  I forget that I’m not hungry and it’s all I can do not to polish off the entire contents of the tureen.   I do have the recipe by the way which I have included in a separate post.

That first night is the worst and I fear that I will not be able to sleep because of my legs/feet.  I am full of painful wonder that body parts can be so sore and not fall off.  Tending to necessary bodily eliminations (all that tea) is cause for anxiety (because I have to get up!) and to put off the moment I lie there dreaming up inventions involving tubes and hoses (details not supplied).

Gästehaus Im Tal - Schrozberg

Thankfully, each day is much better and it is during this time that I meet two interesting beings. The first is Helena – a young woman in her mid to late twenties who has just finished her Master’s Thesis in Economics from the University of Stuttgart.  She is doing the pilger because she was too often “in her head” and had a real need to be in nature.   The route she has chosen is the Rothenburg ob der Tauber to Rottenburg pilger, a much more established route of the same length (~185 km).  However, she will not be completing the entire route as her family home is several kilometers from Rottenburg.  She is the one who also got turned around at Enzenweiler.

It is when I am sitting with Helena that I mention that I would like another cup of tea and the kettle starts to boil.  It is plugged in, but did not get switched on. Helena laughs and says, “Wow, if you can do that after only one day on pilger, what can you do at the end of a week?” Alas, we will never find out. Okay, so it was a faulty plug.

Friday, and I have opted to stay the day, although my legs and toes have recuperated just fine   I have the opportunity to get to know Marlene better (she offers me supper and a room to stay in her house) and in the interest of making another friend I stay the extra day.

My room at the Gästehaus Im Tal

There is a big bicycle festival (as in Bike Tours) happening in Schrozberg over the weekend and all the rooms in the Gästehaus are filled.  I spend the day helping out and going on various errands with Marlene. In addition to getting all the new guests sorted Marlene receives a call from two pilger (the Badish pilger) inquiring about a room.  Instead of telling them too bad, so sad, she finds a friend who will take them in.
Marlene delivers them and bedding to her friend.

It turns out that these two people (a couple) are going on the same pilger route that I am.  Marlene asks me if I might want to go with them the next day- she’s probably thinking –“at least she wouldn’t get lost”.    I don’t give it a nano second’s worth of thought. This couple is fiercesomely fit and look like they could eat 39km for breakfast.  Besides, I CANNOT understand a word they say.

It is when the first group of four cyclists arrive that I meet the next interesting being.  Igon (would be pronounced Egon in English) makes his appearance.  Marlene is astounded.  She has not seen him for about three months, and says of course he would show up today when everyone is arriving.   Igon sits in the middle of the floor while the six of us (Marlene, the four cyclists and me) view him with varying degrees of surprise,  although, none of us is so surprised that we all hide behind the bravest of us, or leap squealing and shouting onto chairs and tables.

Sign of the way - and others (bike tour routes)

Igon is the largest garden variety spider that I have EVER seen.  He must have a diameter of three inches!  One of the cyclists calls him a house pet and goes to touch him causing Igon to scamper lively into one of the guestrooms.  Luckily Marlene finds him, scoops him up in a hand towel and sends him outside.   She has obviously done this before.  It occurs to me that Igon might be a she as spider ladies are generally larger than spider gents.

It is in the lull of helping out when there is nothing for me to do but sit and write that the first insight or lesson, or whatever you want to call it presents itself.  It is
about loneliness and being alone. Maybe those are two lessons or just variations of the same?

While in Rothenburg ob der Tauber I experienced a razor sharp loneliness that startled me by how deep it cut.  I had always declared that I could handle being alone and in fact would relish it. However, when faced with it, when the alone was right there, like green eggs and ham, I did not like it one bit, no I did not, Nita, I am.  I was in a city where I did not know anyone.  I missed my travelling companion, I missed my family, I missed my friends.  Being alone when you know someone is going to walk through that door in a couple of hours or even a couple of weeks is a whole lot different than knowing no-one is going to appear.  Internet is ok and helps, but I wanted to see my people, talk with them, laugh with them. In fact I was so disconsolate that I believe my lower lip may have trembled a time or two.

All that changed in Schrozberg sitting there writing just to pass the time.  I am apart from all that is going on and I am a part of it all and I realize that I have never been alone.  There have been all of the people that have helped along my “way” – and particularly those lately because they were people who were strangers to me.  People like Daniel, Hilla and Victoria (who only knew me through Charli, but who opened their home to me), Klaus (of the Pension- Elke in Rothenburg ob der Tauber who kept phoning on my behalf until he reached Marlene so that I would have a place to stay), the “sherry” shopkeeper (whose name I never did learn), the farmer, the young girl at the bus stop, Helena, and Marlene (by the way pronounced as in Marlene Dietrich) they all reached out and in some way scrubbed out that aloneness/loneliness. I am aware that you can be lonely and not be alone the same as you can be alone and not be lonely but, for me at that time they were one and the same.

Schrozberg - last view

And, because of those people the certainty that, at least, in a spiritual sense one is never alone and always well loved became a truism for me.  I have settled into my aloneness and have not felt lonely since (but that doesn’t mean you should stop emailing!).  Sure, you say, it’s only been three weeks or so – will it last? I don’t know, but for the time being, like the certainty that a heavy snowfall on Christmas Eve night will wonder and delight on Christmas morning, I am sure in it.

As always, I hope this finds you all healthy and happy!

Anita

PS – The Gästehaus Im Tal was a recommendation in the Rothenburg to Speyer  Pilgrimage guide book.  I heartily second that recommendation!  Marlene and Rolf are superior hosts – warm, welcoming and nothing is too much trouble.  The accommodations are clean, bright, quiet and very reasonably priced.  The included breakfast is varied and substantial.

The Gästehaus Im Tal is the former hospital of Schrozberg.  It so happens that Marlene was born in that hospital and so she’s tickled that she is now the
proprietor.  As of this writing there are 12 double rooms with private bath available.  As time and money permit more of the additional rooms will be renovated.

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