Altendiez, is a Dorf (village) with a population of 2,246 (Dec. 31, 2009). It seems to have fallen under the “state reorganization hammer” at least a couple of times, but since 1949, has been a part of the Federal State of Rhineland-Palatinate (or Rheinland-Pfalz).

Area around Altendiez - Diez in background

While archaeological finds, dating to the Upper Palaeolithic (10,000 BCE), have been found in caves in the area the first reference to Altendiez is recorded in 790.
In 1285 it became distinguished from Diez, which I am assuming is the “new” Diez as Altendiez means “old Diez”.  Diez, by the way has a population of almost 11,000 and is located a mere two kilometres away.  Travel 10 kilometres more and you get to the nearest large centre, Limburg, with a population of about 33,000.   It was from Limburg that we caught the high speed IC/ICE trains.

Aside about the trains.  The ICE (which stands for Inter City Express) can reach speeds of 316km/hr.  I was in one that travelled comfortably at 270km/hr – the handy onboard computer information screen told me so.  However, at those speeds the sound when they come through a station (one they aren’t stopping at that is) – you cannot prepare yourself for it.  It is an intense rumbling roar that vibrates up into your feet, through your body and painfully assaults your ears on exiting. Thankfully, it lasts only a breath and a half and it’s gone.

Frankfurt Airport Station - 175 years of train travel

I actually don’t care to travel by IC/ICE as they are so fast you barely have time to register that you’ve passed by a village let alone catch its name, and if you try to fix on zooming by landscape it just makes your tummy all gookie.  I much preferred the Regional trains as they generally travel at a top speed of 120 km/hr.  I like looking at ungookie countryside.

Another aside:  Have you ever noticed that announcements on loudspeakers anywhere are garbled.  I thought it was just a language barrier, but Germans listening would look around at everyone too for comprehension (you know how you do when you can’t understand something) and shrug their shoulders as well.  The announcements always ended on a friendly note though, by wishing everyone a nice trip.  Of course being nearly impossible to understand and combined with foreign language they could have been warning you not to trip onto the tracks.  Well, if you were so unlucky as to fall into the path of an ICE train I don’t think there would be enough of you left to fill a small sandwich bag – at least not enough all in one place.

Back to Altendiez.
Altendiez, Diez, Limburg and a host of other towns and cities lie within

Diez - typical architecture

the Lahn River Valley.  The Lahn River is almost 246km long and is a right tributary of the Rhine.  The Lahn itself has several tributaries as well.  The river is quite historically fascinating.  While not the whole of the river is suitable for shipping most of it seems to have been.  The Romans used it to supply their forts and settlements and the first significant shipping data indicates that it has been used for shipping since the early 14th century. By the end of the 19thcentury over 300 castles, fortresses and fortified churches were built along the river.  Although, Lahn is thought to be possibly a pre-Germanic name its origin and meaning are unknown.  The name, in its current spelling, dates to 1365.

Diez and Lahn River - view from Castle

The history of these places always gives me a cozy thrill.  The buildings, the rivers, the
area – I always like to imagine what the people were like, what they were doing, etc.

For instance, picture this:  it is the year 49CE and a Roman supply boat is sailing on the Lahn River.  It is on its way to a fortress near what will become the city of Dill (in the year 1107).  It is mid-afternoon, on a crisp sunny day in late September, the boat’s passage stirs up the scent of water lilies, and a river otter slides unnoticed from the bank into the water.

Marcus, a young soldier doesn’t notice any of it.  He and nine others are being sent to replace the loss of seven soldiers in a recent raid by a particularly persistent barbarian tribe, and he has heroic visions tumbling in his head as he polishes his short sword.  Marcus just knows that it will be due to his efforts that the Germanic barbarian tribes will finally bow to Roman rule.  It vaguely troubles him that subjugation is proving nearly impossible.  He’s heard tales from northern Brittanicus that the Celtic tribes are just as fierce in their resistance.

Or…. It is a cold unpleasant day in late March in the year 1380.  Winter isn’t easily letting go its grip on the land and trees are struggling to bud.  Georg worryingly eyes the increasingly thunderous looking sky, and notices that the ducks are taking shelter on shore.  The waves are slapping more vigorously against the small, dangerously overloaded transport boat.  A significant portion of the cargo is fine wool that he had purchased in Bristol; its loss would ruin him.  He alternately frets and prays that the boat will make it to Limburg before the storm breaks.

And, one more!  It is a sultry evening in mid-August, 1793. The air softly caresses the skin and the riotous scents of numerous flowering plants thankfully mask the stink of the river.  Elisabeth is travelling in a pleasure boat to the castle of Graf von Buchen for a pre grape harvest party.  However, she is not at all pleased.  Elisabeth is wearing a dress of the latest fashion with an extra daringly low cut bodice.  Too late she has realized that the slightest bend forward poses a very real risk of revealing far more than intended.  Another of the travelling guests, 17 year old Friederich von Batten, has sussed out Elisabeth’s dilemma.  He, on the other hand, is eagerly anticipating what he hopes is an imminent revelation.

Wasn’t that fun!  Ok, back to Altendiez!

Altendiez - Charli - Lahn River bank in background

Altendiez - Charli - Lahn River bank in background

Charli and I were in Altendiez because that is where she lived during her German exchange from March to May 2009.  Charli was very happy to be back as she is fond of her host family and of the area.   A very lovely geographic area it is too.  Rolling green hills, a fine river, walking and biking trails, generally agreeable weather (not too hot, not too cold), mega history – what more could you ask.

Charli took pleasure in showing me around.  She’s a funny one.  Charli never knew the name of the street she lived on (apparently it isn’t important to know one’s address), but regardless of what route we would take (although it didn’t inspire confidence when she would say “I think if we take this street we will get there”) we always found our way back to the house. I knew I should have taken her on the pilgrimage with me!

Altendiez area - Charli

Although, I had often emailed Charli’s host “parents”, Daniel and Hilla, I had never met them so I was a bit nervous.  I could have saved myself the fretting; right from the start they were warmly welcoming and made me feel comfortable in their home.  Victoria went the “extra mile” and gave up her bedroom to us, and she gave it up again when I returned to them after my pilgrimage.

Even the cat, Lexi, was welcoming, although her brand of welcome left something to be desired.  She had learned to open doors that had a lever handle by jumping at the handle until the door opened.  Since, Lexi often shared Victoria’s bedroom that meant that unless we barricaded the door we would have a vocal night visitor inquiring as to our presence in her domain.

Lexi - the door opening cat - Altendiez

It was low key, but very good to be in a home environment after all the hotels we had been in.  We explored around the area a bit and since school had already begun, Charli was able to spend a day in school with Victoria visiting with chums and some of the
teachers.

One evening, Hilla took Charli and me to an organ performance at the Limburg Cathedral.  I have to say that organ music is not at all what I gravitate to, but I have never heard the organ played like that!  Incredible. The fellow, who was the cathedral organist, played a few classical pieces and several renditions of Frere Jacques.
Turns out it was his farewell performance as it was his last day as the Limburg Cathedral organist. He had accepted the position of organist at the Speyer Cathedral.  A very prestigious appointment, I’m sure, but in my opinion a step down in cathedrals despite the fact that the Speyer Cathedral is an important one historically as well as presently.  Interestingly, Hilla had the same take on the Speyer Cathedral as I did.  However, I will talk about all that when I get to Speyer in the “timeline” of my journey.

Diez - random statue

Altendiez marked the end of Charli’s European Vacation.  On August 31, I accompanied her to the Frankfurt airport – taking the ICE to the very handy airport train station.  We got her checked in, had a meal, and then it was time to say good-bye, so long, farewell.  No blubbery good-byes for us, just a good hard back thumping hug, and she was off and I was on my own.

Charli - going home - Frankfurt Airport

Charli’s flight back was good and uneventful and she was full of news upon her arrival home where she no doubt received many hard back thumping hugs from relatives and friends.

I remained in Altendiez only a couple more days leaving on September 3 for Rothenburg ob der Tauber – the launching pad for not only my pilgrimage but my solo travel as well.

Health and Happiness,

Anita and Charli

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