Road through fields to the horizon (2014-05)

Walking Home, week 6: Every day stories


How do you escape the daily grind when you have already escaped the daily grind? After five weeks, a routine has now ingrained on the trip: I pack my backpack in a certain way, I have my daily creaming ritual, I have an idea of what I have for lunch, … Even the daily rain seems now to be part of my routine. Only the people surprise me still every day. Sometimes negatively, for example, when a pastor doesn’t know where I can find shelter. Often, however, very positively.

Day 36 – in Fulda
My couchsurfing host Niki and I enjoy a relaxing Sunday with a lot of sleeping, eating, and an attempt on my part to write for the blog. The latter is once again thwarted by WordPress: As I finally find out, the MultiLingual plugin is not compatible with the latest version of the blogging system. A new installation of the plugin fixes the problem. On the other hand, I presently don’t manage anyway to write the English versions of my adventures.* Therefore the failure of the plugin would hardly be noticed.
For dinner I cook: noodles with some kind of sauce of red lentils and peppers.

*This translation of the original German text was published in July – weight weeks after the events.

Day 37 – to Lauterbach (Hesse)
After resting for three nights in Fulda, it’s time to get back on the road. The farewell to Niki is short and heartfelt.
In Lauterbach I will couchsurf with Tommi and Sibila. The path proposed by Google Maps is a walk along the main road 254. Yuck! So I’m looking for bike trails that at least temporarily, save me from walking next to the constant stream of trucks and cars. In Grossenlueder I finally enjoy the ice cream, which I have been looking forward since Gotha. I sit in the sun at the bus stop with a ball of licorice flavored ice cream in my waffle. Sweet life!
Shortly before Lauterbach I once more end up in the forest. Although, this time it is not because of Google Maps. The path through the undergrowth is the drier and thus better alternative after all the rain in the last few days.
Tommi and his dog Bruno, a Rhodesian Ridgeback with a weakness for balls, receive me cordially. At the property all sorts of extraordinary beds are available to me: in a teepee, in an Airstream trailer, there is even a hammock in the conservatory. With temperatures going down to the single digits at night I’m thinking that the huge sofa in the living room with views of the city under the house might have to do. But before I have to make a final decision on that, we watch a group of children practicing ballet in the living room and afterwards do two hours of yoga – in the garden and then in the living room. The first part of yoga class seems tailored to me: We walk barefoot and alternately put our weight on different areas of the feet. At the end of a walking day I tend to stalk like a stork because the achilles tendons have become accustomed to the weight on the back. The walking exercise loosens the area.
At dinner we have a good laugh when it turns out that my host was also at the screening of “Blue is the warmest color” last Friday in Fulda.

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Day 38 – in Lauterbach
I had actually planned Lauterbach only as a stop for one night. But I like it so much here that I decide to accept the invitation and stay for a second night. Tommi is currently working from home. Therefore, he has time to entertain me. First we go on a tour with the dog to a nearby tower, which is modeled after a fortification. Then we race in a Corvette for a Currywurst with chips to Dora up on the Hoherodskopf mountain. I’m once more impressed with the wonderfully intense conversations I can have with someone who is actually a complete stranger. My host and I talk about traveling, life, real friends and those that turn out to be false friends, dreams, happiness and luck. Of the latter Tommi and Sibila have evidently a lot: Not only do they appear to be a very loving couple, they have also been able to build their home not with wealth but with hard work, wit and just the right amount of luck.
During our evening walk with Bruno we meet the Doctor and his Dalmatian Kato. Tommi persuades the sprightly pensioner to join us for a glass of rum by the fire in the teepee. As we sit and chat, the conversation turns to real adventure. “Today there are no more adventures. We are bound to be insured against everything,” the Doctor explains. But my journey is once again evidence to the contrary.
In parting, he recommends me Biarritz as delightful place with a sandy beach that runs for miles to the north, and with the largest sand dune in Europe, in Arcachon.

Day 39 – to Marburg
After the previous day I had had so much fun racing through the Vogelsberg region in the Corvette, I quickly agree when my host offers to take me to Gemünden (Felda), about halfway to Marburg. When we say goodbye, dark gray clouds are already gathering in the sky. Nevertheless, I’m setting out to cover the remaining distance to Marburg. However, only a few kilometers into the walk a dark blue compact car stops on the open road next to me. Mareike sticks her head out: “Shall I take you?”
“Are you driving in the Homberg direction?”
I sink into the passenger seat.
“I have to go to Marburg. Let me know how far you want to come along. Your decision.”
Looking at the gray sky I decide to go with her all the way.
From the back of the car Zarah, Mareike’s daughter, let’s her mom know, “I think it is very nice of you to have stopped.” I agree. And I owe this lift to the fact that Zarah has to go see the pediatrician in Marburg.
Mareike, who I guess to be in her late twenties, grew up in the area, left after graduating from school and then came back after the birth of her children. Her husband works in Frankfurt. She herself, in order to have more time for the children, doesn’t work in her learned profession as programmer but as an office assistant. They share a car. But her parents are always there to help out if need be. The neighbors in the village are irritated because Mareike recently started to grow vegetables in her garden. You can get those at the supermarket with less effort!
In the summer, Mareike takes a short break from the family: For one and a half weeks, she will ride all by herself on a bike through Germany, visiting friends. And when she can’t stay with friends there is the Christian network of families who make a bed available to traveling Christians. I tell her about My driver finds the idea rather scary. Staying with complete strangers?
We reach the center of Marburg at around eleven. As my hostess for the next two nights is busy until late afternoon, I decide to explore the city. This gives me a day off for tomorrow.
I stroll through the old town up to the castle and along the narrow streets. The many fraternity houses along the road leading up to the castle serve as a reminder of the long tradition of Marburg as a university town. While the numerous graffiti on the fraternities’ name plates hint to the highly active leftist political scene which started here in the 1960s.
At the tourist information I ask about hiking trails towards Koblenz. The Lahn trail (along the river Lahn) looks promising.
After five Silvia welcomes me with a papaya almond milk smoothie in her tiny half-timbered house below the church in the old town of Cappel. The former educator and psychoanalyst is a good friend of my former roommate in Berlin. For dinner there is soup and ice cream. Afterwarts we watch a movie about the Spiegel affair on TV. Once again I have arrived in a warm home.

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Day 40 – in Cappel (Marburg)
What a delicious breakfast: boiled stirred millet, fruits, nuts with almond milk for cereal. Well fed, we jump into Silvia’s Smart car and drive the three kilometers to the Frauenberg. Silvia quickly orders a table at the restaurant for her upcoming reunion. We walk to a lookout point and encircle the mountain in a less than one hour walk.
In the afternoon my hostess leaves me for a few hours to visit a sick friend. I plan to use the time for new blog posts. Instead, I surf the internet and learn a lot about the New York Club Kids of the eighties and nineties.
After dinner, we fine-tune Silvia’s bed. So I can at least return a little help for the wonderful hospitality she has bestowed on me.

Day 41 – to Rossbach (Bischoffen)
Silvia sends me off with a big hug, best wishes and her thoughts about “home”: for her it’s friends, people with whom she shares not only experiences, but who are there for each other when things are not so rosy.
I have decided to choose the less-developed, northern route instead of the Lahn trail. Here are my chances to find free accommodation are hopefully better.
After little more than an hour, I stumble across a sign: “DeKene coffee roasting”. Coffee sounds like a great idea. There was none at Silvia’s. So I enter. At 1,50 € the coffee with milk is very inexpensive. The Barista surprises me first with a new composition. The Americano, she serves me, however, doesn’t taste good to me. Too watery. Understanding my objection she exchanges the drink. The second round is more convincing: good acidity with a finish reminiscent of rosemary.
While I sit in the café and watch what is happening around me, I realize that DeKene is an inclusive institution. Torsten who is employed here gives me a little tour of the production facilities. After we have stopped and chatted for a few minutes at the sorting station, he releases me with a hiking tip: “The Siegerland I can highly recommend. It has to be seen.”
Strengthened through the coffee, I head back on the road.
Shortly after four I reach Rossbach. At the village entrance I see a sign “Kamala Institute of Biosynergetik”. That makes me curious.
I have few problems to find a free bed there. Biosynergie is now “Psycho bionics”. But the big house still also serves as a training center and therefore has numerous rooms. Coincidentally these are all empty now. I decide on a mattress in the “American Indian room” and I’m glad that I bought a can of herring fillets in tomato sauce and pumpernickel in Fulda. I enjoy my dinner in the large living room.
With a well-rounded warm fire in the fireplace I chat a little with my hosts: In a nutshell, psycho bionics puts clients (not patients!) into deep relaxation and asks them to search in their memories causes of fears and diseases. These are then not only made conscious, but also destroyed by bashing them as hard as possible with a kind of stick. I can well imagine that this is a very good exercise for some people to overcome the past and to gain self-confidence. Astrid, Kathrin and Wolfgang are all three psycho bionics coaches, but work in the shadow of the founder of the method. Since none of them is a traditionally trained psychologist or analyst, the skepticism which they are met with doesn’t come as a surprise. But at least these three deal with the prejudices refreshingly open and with a healthy dose of humor.

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Day 42 – to Driedorf
Exactly at 8.20 I step out to buy breakfast from the bakery van. It stops right in front of the Institute. My hosts had given me the advice the prior evening. I get two eggs, two rolls and a small cake.
After breakfast, I do as I always do these days: I stowe all my possessions in their usual place, put cream on my feet, turn on the GPS, motor on.
At the ReWe supermarket in Bischoffen I refill my supplies: turkey sausage is replacing the herring.
After an initially relaxed hike, just after two the rain sets in again. Yesterday I was lucky: I was sitting on the balcony at the Institute when the first heavy showers came down. Now only the intensity of the rain changes from time to time. The rain itself, however, doesn’t stop. I finally give up on the idea to get to the Krombachtalsperre tonight.
In Guntersdorf I see a Canadian flag on a hillside at the end of the village. This looks promising for me. When I get closer, I see that the flag belongs to a large block house. This should be large enough for them to have a small space for me.
“We have no guest rooms,” says the woman at the door. Even the objection that I would not need much space, doesn’t change her opinion. She sends me to Driedorf: “They have also holiday homes there, I think.”
Driedorf is too big for me to simply ring somewhere. At the same time I can’t find any advertising for the apartments. But I do see that the door of the church is open.
In good spirits I approach a group of women who are gathered in the church. “I’m on a pilgrimage, looking for shelter for the night. I hope you maybe can help me.”
Their faces express helplessnes. “No, I would not know now where you could go.”
“A dry spot would be enough for me,” I try to help.
Finally, one of the women offers: “I have a caravan.”
“Yes! That’s enough for me. The main thing is that it is dry.”
The woman briefly talks on the phone to her husband and asks him to light a fire so I can dry and warm myself before going to the caravan. One of the other women opens a bottle of champagne and pours. In a happy round I learn that the group is assembled to prepare the communion of their children the next morning. I also find out that one of those present is the pastor. She had kept strangely silent during the brief discussion about where I could find shelter.
But spending the night with Heidi’s family is probably better anyways.
We drive for about ten minutes up a mountain to the end of a hamlet of Driedorf. “I hope you’re not allergic to dogs or horses?”
No, I’m not.
We reach a street with small bungalows rather than large permanent houses lining the road. Heidi explains that here indeed many houses are holiday homes. But she and her family live here because only here they could afford to have a large grazing area for the family’s nine ponies right behind the house.
On the porch, the two family dogs greet us: Knodel (“dumpling”) is small and looks with the ruffled beige fur just like, well, a dumpling. Roxy is a Labrador Husky mixed breed, that, as I learn later, has both, an aversion to the cold and to water. In the living room I meet Heidi’s husband Rick, who came to the country 35 years ago with the U.S. Army. He is very friendly, though at first a bit confused about what to do with the strange woman who his wife leaves behind to head out again for the preparation of the daughter’s Communion celebration.
I hang my wet jacket to dry above the fireplace and gladly accept the hot tea Rick is offering. Rick is drinking beer. The radio is playing music charts. Outside the big living room window Roxy is begging to be let inside.
It takes a few minutes but eventually we get a conversation going: about the differences between U.S. and Germany, the horses, the family and the house. Outside, the rain storm continues.
An hour or so later Rick puts a few readymade lasagnas in the oven and after a brief telephone consultation with Heidi we start with dinner. We drink beer. On television, the Eurovision Song Contest is broadcast. Heidi and the kids, Kira and Erik, return shortly after nine, we see Conchita Wurst take the crown to Austria and my hosts decide that they can’t send me out into the rain to stay in the caravan by myself. So I sleep a few hours on the couch, while the rain splashes on the roof.

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