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!


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.