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.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Marburg, the end of one leg and the start of the next.

Since my last post I have worked my way steadily westwards to the University town of Marburg.

As I've walked along I've had companions who have chosen to walk in silence with me.  Silence, because once I've explained that I am walking Jakobswegwege, where I have come from, and where I am going - in the short term and the long term - there is nothing more to say!  I can't understand them, and they can't understand me!  However we walk in companiable silence, occasionally commenting, with gestures, on something around us and frequently using the word "Schön" to describe the sunshine, the view, the birds.  Yes you've guessed it, Schön means beautiful.

Looking back down the path to the village of  Dagobertshausen 
A sign on the way
In the village of  Ostheim
The snow still lingers.
Leaving Ziegenhain, this man stood guard, with just one of the prison buildings over his right shoulder!

I have been very fortunate these past few days to see flocks of geese returning home.  When I was entering the town of Homburg four flocks flew over - either that or it was one flock that had got lost and were flying around in circles! Then a couple of days later walking into Stadtallendorf there were even more flocks heading home.  This, according to one chap I spoke to, is a sign that spring is on its way.  Mind you in between that I had a day of snow!
 The beautiful half timbered houses, here (and below) in Homburg, are in every village along the way.

 The path continues up the hill and along the edge of the forest to the right.
 This historic ruin is in the lovely village of Treysa.
I walked through the forest in the background and past these giants which threw a long and moving shadow in the late afternoon sunshine.  It was soon after this that I met one of my silent companions who went at least 3 - 4 kms out of his way to make sure I got to my hotel, escorting me right to the door.

Marburg is a lovely city.  The old town sits on a hill with a castle perched on the top, while the famous Elisabeth Kirche named after St. Elisabeth is at the foot of the hill.
 Elisabeth Kirche (above and below).  St. Elisabeth moved to Marburg where she lived a life of poverty, following St Frances example.  This was after the birth of three children and being widowed by the time she was 21.

The Lutheran church near the top of the hill, and part of the castle in the distance.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

About the half way point across Germany

Yesterday I said farewell to Emrys.  It has been great having him here for the first leg of this part of my journey.  His language skills have been invaluable and it has been a treat not to be solely responsible for map reading and decision making.  He has headef back to Munich for a few days with our exchange partners before heading on home.

On his last night with me we took a detour for accommodation.  WiFi is very infrequent at present and as we needed to do some internet research chores we hopped on a bus back to the town of Eschwege, and what a treat that has been!  This is a delightful town with fascinating buildings.  Yesterday I went by bus back to Waldkappel and Emrys by train to Munich.
Just one of the interesting buildings in Eschwege.

Having left Eisenach on Sunday our days have been spent basically meandering along river valleys, though Emrys did manage to throw a hilly shortcut into the mix!  Leaving Eisenach we passed the Opel factory.  Eisenach was also the home of car factories before WW2 which led to some destruction of buildings during bombing raids.
Looking across a frozen lake to the to the Opel factory.

We left Jakobsweg for some of this first day and instead followed the path of the old DDR border.  All that remains is a clear swathe through the forest along with a concrete path running through it.  We actually climbed quite high, walking through unmelted snow along the top.  It seems remarkable that we were walking along the border that was once two different countries and is now one.
Crossing the bridge over the River Werra at Hörschel to be in our detour on the old border path.
The former border dividing Germany in two.
A monument along the way.  To quote Emrys "that's a hefty piece of steel".
At the top of the path and about to descend into the village of Ifta.

This path led us to the village of Ifta.  There was a pilgrim refuge here, and after bailing up a bloke who had come to the church to do some work, but ended up calling the lady who runs the refuge, which turned out to be a mattress on the floor of the "winter" church, a newer and warmer building.  She then took us to the guest house to tell them we needed food.  There were a few people having a quiet Sunday afternoon drink and we were very quickly the topic of conversation.
The view from our refuge the next morning.

After our spartan accommodation of this night we found a nice little Pension the next night and were able to have a shower!  Datterode was a small village, but we managed to find a kebab for dinner.
In Datterode our room looked out at the church.

Somehow, leaving Datterode, we ended up on the wrong path and had to cross fields that had been recently sprayed with slurry!  Mess and smell!
Brown fields covered in slurry.

Arriving at the village of Hoheneiche we stopped outside the church for a rest.  Here the highlight of our day eventuated.  A lady who had passed by, with her mother, earlier returned and invited us for coffee.  Several hours of hilarity ensued and we consumed not only coffee, but some delicious cake. A real treat and much appreciated.
Marlies, our hostess (2nd on the right), with Wilma (right), her Mum.  Emrys is not there as he is behind the camera.  Only some of the delicious cakes can be seen! 
 A panorama of the village of Hoheneiche.

Now that I am back on my own I am having different adventures.  My day of walking yesterday was very pleasant, even the traversing of the hills on my own.  At one stage I had to divert into the bush because a tree was completely blocking the path.  It was quite icy on the top and so I had to be particularly careful - a slip in these conditions could have severe ramifications!
It was here that I had to divert into the bush as, with my pack on I had no way of getting over or under the tree that had fallen across the path so my only choice was to go round it.

When I reached Spangengberg, my destination for the day, I was faced with a dilemma - I couldn't find anywhere to sleep!  The lady in the post office directed me across the square to a pension, but no answer when I rang the bell.  She even tried ringing them for me without success.  Some people in the street sent me to a guest house up the hill, but they weren't taking guests.  As I walked back down the hill my post office friend saw me and tried ringing a couple of numbers for me, without success, shrugged her shoulders and wished me luck!

I had decided to head out of town when I spied a bus shelter that, at a pinch, would suffice for me to be homeless for a night!  With that in mind, I decided to head back up the hill and eat, and shelter, in the pizza bar I had just passed.  Fortunately the chaps there took me in hand, making numerous phone calls and eventually finding me a room, then driving me to it and staying to translate for me.  Angels are found in all sorts of guises!
A corner house on he entrance to Spangengberg.
A street in the town, at the bottom of which I found the bus shelter I thought I'd have to spend the night in.
The square in Spangeford, near where I tried, unsuccessfully, to get a bed.

Today, because I didn't want a repeat of last night's fiasco I actually stopped when I reached Malsfeld, only 11kms down the road, where I knew I could get a bed.  This made it a short day, but I have an opportunity to post this blog and put my feet up so it is not wasted time, particularly as it takes fifteen minutes or more (on this VERY slow WiFi) to put one photo on the blog!
The path leaving Waldkappel doubled as a cycling track.
Emrys and I made good use of bus shelters such as this to take a rest in.  Wish our bus shelters were as protective - especially those in the hills.
I have been seeing quite a few of these snowdrops over the past couple of days - makes spring seem closer!

Walking through the village of Schemmern
 This was one nice little pilgrim rest stop on the outskirts of a village.
 Looking back from where I had come towards Schemmern......
 ........and towards where I'm headed

The weather continues to hold.  The other day, despite the temperature being only about 3°, I walked without hat and gloves for most of the day.  There have been a couple of hazy / foggy days, but thus far no rain (forecasted for Monday!), and not overly much wind.  I am not sure when I will get a chance to post again.  WiFi is getting scarcer, and slower.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Eisenach, and in the sun!

We have spent the day being tourists in the town of Eisenach.  Eisenach is a small city with a big history.  Wartburg castle towers high above it as the city sprawls up the various valleys funnelling down onto a central part.  It was once an important market town on the Via Regia, the section of Jakobsweg we have been following till now, when we are going to switch to the Elizabeth Pfad.  Saint Elizabeth was the Hungarian born wife of one of the Wartburg's who over a thousand years ago, after being widowed, devoted her life to the sick and poor.

Wartburg Castle is very important in the history of this town, a place in more recent times, where Goethe came to organise art "soirees".  Its major claim to fame though was from nearly 500 years ago when Martin Luther sheltered here and translated the New Testament from Greek to German.
Wartburg Castle.
Overlooking part of Eisenach, at Wartburg Castle.
Inside the castle walls.  I was intrigued by the ladders of varying lengths on the side of the building on the right.

Eisenach itself has a number of claims to fame.  Apart from Martin Luther who lived and studied there it was the birthplace of Johann Sebastien Bach.  The museum is built around an old house from the time of Bach's birth, and has been in existence for over a hundred years old.  As part of our tourist activity we went through the museum where we heard a keyboard player demonstrating on the various instruments there - a couple of small organs, a spinet, a clavichord, and a harpsichord.  It was wonderful to hear and see these instruments played.
Looking over Eisenach, with Wartburg Castle in the distance.
The Bach museum.  The yellow house was mistaken for being the house he was born in, but that is now thought to have been a few doors along, and no longer exists.
This statue of the great man stands outside the museum.

Walking into Eisenach we took one of Emrys' short cuts, which took us the longest, steepest way to our accommodation!  So much for being shorter and quicker - it was a more than a kilometre further and took us nearly an hour longer by the time we stopped to admire the views across the valley.  Until then most of our days had been reasonably flat or just steady inclines.
We were very grateful for the absence of wind on this stretch as in this flat landscape there was minimal shelter.
On this day we had numerous opportunities to sit and rest awhile, but the next day these opportunities were few and far between.
As we were walking through the town centre of Gotha we came across this hurdy gurdy player.  He was very busy, turning the handle with one hand and playing a variety of percussion instruments with the other.  He played a traditional song for us.
 The way out of Gotha
The inn where we stayed in Mechterstädt, complete with sausage factory out the back.  While having dinner here we were subjected to an interesting custom.  Each person (men) enterering the bar would give a general greeting to all, come to our table and knock on it and then join his friends at the other table.  It was the first and only time we have seen this and can only assume it is a Thuringian custom.
In the village of Stätelstädt we stopped for coffee and cake, passing some very old buildings along the way, including this one which looks like adobe, or wattle and daub.
 It's easy to see where the moles path is, and I see the saying "making a mountain out of a mole hill" in a whole new light. 
 On Emrys' detour (the longest way between two points) we had a great view across the valley, past where we should have been, to Wartburg castle in the distance.
On the detour we went past a monument with the flag proudly flying.

Since starting from Leipzig we have covered over 200 kilometres, walked in snow, across snow covered paths and always walked in the cold, though we are cosy warm as we walk.  For the past week we have watched the snow melt, now only seeing it occasionally in little icy hollows, and though the days have begun in frost we have had beautiful sunshine for the day.  Emrys has even had to stop and put sunblock on!  Spring feels very close.  I have seen forsythia in flower and a couple of days ago we passed a bank of crocus in bloom.