A circuitous route to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Stage One beginning in Munich, Germany ending in Jerusalem - traveling through Austria, Italy, Albania, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and Israel. Second stage from Vienna, through Germany, Czech Republic, Holland, Belgium, France and Spain.
Final destination - Santiago!

Post Script: The changeable situation in Jerusalem has led to a change in plans. The Rome to Jerusalem leg of this journey has been changed to the 'End to End' in the UK, after which the journey will resume as above in Vienna.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

In Sound of Music Country, well almost

Today we had a lovely walk from Füssen, in Germany, to Ruette, in Austria.  We only walked about 18 kms for the day, and had completed our chores (washing ourselves and our clothes) by mid afternoon and were then able to go out and explore this really pretty town.
Crossing the Lech at Fussen.
The Lech further upstream.
Heading up the hill towards Ruette.  You might be able to spot a cyclist on the windy path we have just come up.
Descending the hill into Ruette.

Whichever way we look we can see mountains, high ones at that, and atop a couple of them are castle ruins. Ruins that I won't detour to see, as it would be a hefty climb, and I am more than likely to see others at my level!
A little church at Pflach.
A Franciscan church in Ruette - St Anna
A simple little church in the back streets of Ruette, with a splendid specimen of a weeping ...(elm?)
This church in Ruette was very different, which is why I have included it - it hasn't got an onion bulb on the top!

Joan is feeling a touch sad as her walking has finished.  Tomorrow she catches the train to Innsbruck to begin her journey home.  I will miss her company, and will have to resort to having a one sided conversation with myself when I come to an unclear fork in the path.  Tomorrow I will start climbing even higher into the Alps ready to cross the Fernpass in 2 days time.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Geographically embarrassed and good Samaritans!

What a few days! Leaving Schongau we walked for eight kilometres, including a spot of serious cross country bush bashing, and ended up two kilometres behind where we started!  We were seriously lost!  Mind you it was pleasant walking, including a spot of uphill, and even our cross country venture was interesting.  We had to cross a gully to get to a deer hide, which we assumed hunters also had to access fairly easily, and therefore should be able find a landmark.  We did - a busy road, just the wrong one!  I was following Joan down the hill to the road and I could barely see her shoulders poking above the long grass!  She is a little shorter than me.
 The mossy, easy part of the cross country!
Joan emerging from the grass onrothw landmark road!

In the end we accepted an offer of a ride to Lechbruch, the days destination.  The woman we bailed up in the middle of her Nordic walking lap got so frustrated trying to describe where we were and how to find our way that she pointed to her house and said she would get the car and take us.  An offer we couldn't refuse!
This is obviously a landmark character of Lechbruch, stands guard at the end of the bridge.
The Lech.

We had so much time in Lechbruch that we were able to do a side tour to Marktoberdorf where we had a good mooch around before heading back to our B & B. 
One of the churches at Markoberdorf.

It was a day for being organised by others.  Even when it came to getting our room.  We went into a guesthouse asking for a room and the lass we asked scurried off to ask someone else, who in turn scurried somewhere else, with the original lass coming back every couple of minutes saying "one moment please"! Someone eventually decided the moments were enough, came out with a piece of paper and directions on how to get to our room (they had organised somewhere completely different for us to sleep)

Our hosts obviously felt we were incapable of finding our way, and so the next morning they sent us back to the Rathaus, where we could turn left and follow the signs!  They were right and we did, and we didn't get lost once yesterday!  A lovely straight road following the old railway, and then up and over a couple of small hills, where on top of one we found an old Roman Milestone.
The first Via Claudia sign - it just says VIA.

Joan checking the map at the Roman milestone, before we wander into the distance.
On the way to the Roman Milestone.

We followed the path around Forgensee, catching a ferry part way down to Fussen.  An interesting trip as the bow of the ferry nosed into the shore, put a ramp down and passengers got on and off this way.  It meant that, other than a concrete boat ramp down into the water, there was no need for infrastructure like a jetty to be maintained.
On Forgensee, not a natural lake but a reservoir used for hydro power and to help control flooding.

Last night and toady we have been doing touristy things, exploring the town, and today visiting the castles of King Ludwig ll.  He was the King that was declared insane and died of mysterious circumstances in the Lake near Starnberg (there is a photo on a previous post of the chapel marking the spot). He lived in a fantasy world, and the castles reflect that.  He was good mates with Richard Wagner and the walls in both castles were littered with paintings / frescoes of the Wagnerian operas. Saw the bed that Wagner slept in and the piano he played while at the castle.
A shopping street in Fussen.
Schloss Hohenschwangau
The lake at Hohenschwangau.
Schloss Neuschwanstein.
A scary bridge ( that I didn't venture on!) at Neuschwanstein.

People always ask how many pairs of shoes I wear - well have just had to buy new ones!  The old ones had plenty of tread left on them, but the lining has worn in several p!aces, and it has given me a blister, so new shoes to cross into Austria tomorrow!  Joan said price reflects quality, but I actually had to get a cheaper pair as they were the only ones that my orthotics would fit.

Internet has been hard to find, and sometimes slow.  Hopefully it might get better as I head south.  The Alps tomorrow!

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Rivers, forests and the occasional lake.

Well here it is, less than a week since we began walking, following the River Isar from Munich and now we are about to head off along the River Lech to Fussen.  Most of the time we have been following Jakobsweg, although we have in the last day or so got tangled up with the Kings way, and tomorrow we begin following the Via Claudia Augusta.

The path has meandered through forests, across fields and along quiet back roads.  We have walked past, or to, huge Lakes (known as a See) and passed through some lovely villages.

Waiting for the Ferry to cross Ammerasee Herrsching to Dießen.
Arriving in Dießen.  The path goes up the hill (after negotiating roadworks) and off to the left past the church
Looking back on Ammersee
One place where the path didn't go through the forest.

After crossing the Ammersee we noticed a distinctive change in the the use of the landscape.  To someone who has yet to see it, I think it has a Tyrolean look about it - lovely fields of wild flowers, barns in the middle of paddocks, wood and hay stored near, or in, them.

Tonight we are in Schongau, an ancient village on top of a hill and surrounded by a wall.  This is the town where around 1592 poor women (around 63) were executed for being witches! They blew up the tower where they had been kept in 1704 - I guess they didn't want a reminder of that part of their history.
Just some of the walls around Schongau.......
....and some of the buildings in the town.  Our guesthouse is the pale blue one on the left.
One of the numerous churches in Schongau, surrounded by a beautifully kept cemetery.
The main church, just down from our guesthouse.....
.....and just some of the interior.
The Saint on the right is Jakobus Mal, which makes him St James (I think)

It has been surprising how hard it has been to get accommodation, with our first and sometimes second choice being full.  Last night we won though as the first pace we tried was closed till next week, the second (at about €115 a night) was full, and the third was a little apartment rented out by a lady for €35 per night!

We left Munich in drizzle, and today the drizzle returned.  That might mean that tomorrow when we set off we might be able to see the Alps clearly, which are quite close but shrouded in a haze all the time.  Due to the drizzly rain there were a plethora of snails out on the march.
              Crossing one branch of the Lech.
This VERY large stork announces the birth of a baby!

The snails are huge.  My pole end gives you something to compare them to.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Music, music, music

Yes, music has been a recurrent theme over the last few days, along with forests and food!

We had some issues leaving Munich, as the path along the River Isar was closed - and I mean closed, no way to get around the barricades - to foot traffic.  This meant "little" detours which turned into quite a long extension to our day.

St Jakob's church in Munich, with the pilgrim shell above the white door.
After negotiating the first 12 kms or so we felt like celebrating when we found the first marker!  The trouble is that we never saw an eating place of any description after we had our second breakfast on the outskirts of Munich, and so it was time to break open one of the boxes of muesli bars I was carrying,  having a couple each and some Roses choccies for lunch - in the drizzle!  There was a reason for this it turned out, because we had intermittent music as we walked alongside the River Isar.

The first Camino sign we saw - roughly 12 kms down the track!
The music was provided by small bands on log rafts.  Their job was to entertain the boozy mob on board, but they did a good job of entertaining us too.  We were surprised on seeing one raft, then another, and another, and another - 12 in total!  Each band had at least 4 members, sometimes 6, all of them with fantastic brass and reed  players, drum kits, guitarists, and even a double bass on one.  It turns out that these log rafts are emulating the journey made by log traders who, years ago, took the logs to Vienna by floating them downstream.  Nowadays the trip is to Vienna, and when they get there they dismantle the logs, put them on trucks and some back to do it all again.    Great employment not only for the oarsmen, but the musicians too.
One of the log rafts heading down the River Isar.  The band are standing near the green umbrella, the clarinet player is in the red jacket, and though you can't see his instrument the trumpeter is standing next to him - in his lederhosen.
Looking back at one of the rafts.  Here you can see the unusual oar they use - the oarsman is standing next to it, and on the right you can see the fancy toilet!
At Kloster Schäftlarn we visited the church just before we left the next morning, and here we were fortunate to hear them putting the organ through its paces in preparation for a special service of ordination for a new priest.
 Approaching the church at Kloster Schläflarn.  This is a very old monastery (early 700's), and still has a role as a monastery today.
....and from another angle
Inside the church Kloster Schäflarn.
We arrived at Kloster Shläflarn on schnitzel night.  This mushroom schnitzel cost €4.80 plus €2.00 for the rosti.
Later in the day, while we were having coffee and cake we heard a band performing, outside the church we think. We ended up in Starnberg for the night, with enough time to spare to take a ferry ride around the lake.
There was a lot of yachting on the lake.
The chapel marking the spot where King Ludwig drowned.
Today we left a little later than intended, fortunately, because this meant that when we got to the village of Maising we arrived just as some special church service was happening.  The locals were all out following the procession, which stopped at various sites along the way for blessings, homilies etc (at least that is what I assume was happening couldn't understand a word!).  All of this was led by the town band - I even recognised one of the hymns "Nearer My God to Thee". We had to be tail end Charlie on the procession till we got to a cafe for a cold drink, as they were taking up the width of the road and we didn't want to disrupt things.  Most people were dressed in traditional dress, the men in their lederhosen and the women in their longish skirts, pretty blouses, waistcoats and aprons.
 The crowd at the outdoor Mass at Maising.
The scene that had stopped the procession a little earlier.
Our day was capped off spectacularly in Kloster Andechs where we had a fabulous lunch of roast pork sauerkraut and potatoes salad sitting right next to a band playing typical German music.  My day was made.  For all the musos out there this is the place where they have a Carl Orff festival, and in one of the little chapel's there is a memorial stone with his names and dates on it.
Walking towards Kloster Andechs.  I decided to be rash and tried climbing the tower - I got up to the bulbous bit and decided I really didn't want to see the view that much and descended!
The church at Kloster Andechs.
And inside the church.

The big lunch we tried to consume (I couldn't eat it all) while listening to the music.