Dreiländereck in Koblenz, Germany (2014-05)

Walking Home, week 7: C’mon, live a little!


Approaching day fifty. This week I have made two observations:
1) I have been more relaxed with my money. So far I’m doing well with the budget (on average 10 € per day). And sometimes you just have to treat yourself to something special.
2) For the first time my hosts irritate me. I don’t know if this is because I have gotten to a point where I feel I have heard everything before or if I have simply had a lot of luck in the past few weeks and struck bad luck this week…

Day 43 – to Wilmenrod
Sunday morning starts early. Since my hosts’ living room, dining room and kitchen are one, I can’t ignore their preparations for the communion for long. We have to be at the church by nine. I ask to be taken to the place I had stopped walking last night to continue my journey from there. I’m allowed to enjoy my breakfast in peace while around me the whole family poses in festive dress, Kira despairs over her hair and Heidi worries about the food for the party afterwards.
But finally Rick steers the large family car off the farm towards the church.
Five minutes later we return: the fries!
At exactly nine o’clock Kira jumps out of the car to the church. The rest of us continue a few more meters to the bakery: the baguettes!
Shortly after nine it’s time to say goodbye. A big hug from Heidi and off I go.
I follow the signs to Krombachtalsperre, but soon find out that they have led me to the wrong side of the reservoir lake. Now I have to traverse the forest to get to Westernohe, and finally Herschbach.
At first everything goes well. The roads are very good and hardly affected by the recent rains. In the middle of the Westerwald I cross an invisible border to Rhineland-Palatinate. Unbelievable how long I’ve been in Hesse! On the map the state did not seem that large.
After about half an hour I notice when looking at the cell phone, that the GPS has for some time not managed to determine my position. The blue arrow just doesn’t want to light up along the familiar thick gray line on the map. I conclude on the basis of a group of small lakes that I see to my right that I should turn onto an almost overgrown path. Obviously I haven’t learned from the past experiences in Hesse. For I do as I’m told. The path eventually disappears more and more in the undergrowth until I no longer know where to go.
What to do?
I stop for a moment, take a deep breath. Back would be an option if I were sure where the path lies. But then I would still have to find a new path through the forest. A path that would probably be much longer than the one on my display.
Walking a longer route is always bad. So forward is the only way. Luckily a small compass has been dangling on my backpack since I bought it.
Sometimes analog is better.
According to the map Koblenz is located about 70 km in a south-south-west direction. Likelihood should have it that if I continue in that direction I should eventually come across a forest road or at least a path.
Luckily the forest is initially quite light. I only need to avoid the watering holes and not trip over fallen branches. Several times I think I see a path through the dense undergrowth, or a clearing. However, it takes more than half an hour before I step out onto a road. For me, this feels like an eternity.
On the forest road, I decide to continue to rely on the compass: to the west, south, … And really, as Google Maps predicted, I finally stand in front of a camp of the Boy Scouts of Saint George and I feel like a Girl Scout myself. A bit proud.
It is now noon, and once more it starts to rain. In Westenohe I sit under a roof for a while, and again in Seck. I have just left Gemünden, when the rain comes. Maybe I will get used to it eventually, marching while being wet down to the bone.
On the way to Wengenroth I miss my turn and instead end up in Westerburg. Walking without GPS is annoying.
To distract myself, I sit down on a rock in front of a shopping center and study Google Maps. Where can I stop for the night? A pottery in Herschbach seems a reasonable goal. After Janne, Nelly and Gesa that would be the third pottery. Even better, the route there – from Wilmenrod I simply follow the L300 – seems hard to miss.
On the outskirts of Wilmenrod I can see the L300 already. Now it is only about one more hour. However, above the road, I can also see big black clouds. Another downpour is coming. I look around and discover a sign that says “Gauklermühle” (“jugglers’ mill”). Now I also notice the hand-painted signs on the road, calling on the motorists to reduce their speed.
Next to the parking lot at the entrance to the mill site is a shed with a roof planted with grasses. Is that an alternative project? It doesn’t matter. At least there are some doors where I can ring to save me from the approaching rain. Herschbach will have to wait.
I find a father with his son on a small meadow. The man with the long grayish-blond ponytail and full beard is mowing hay. He doesn’t want to accommodate me, but sends me to the houses. At the first door Roland opens. “We don’t run a hotel or a hostel.”
I know. He doesn’t want to send me away, does he?
After a short discussion, he offers me an old construction trailer at a few meters distance from the house.
Roland lends me a hand so I can get into the car which is sitting on a slope. I’m not picky, but I like what I see. There is an oven, a self-timbered, large bed, candles and flasks with all sorts of oddities. Large windows offer a panoramic view, which is limited by large trees only on the side of the road. Clearly in the summer the vehicle serves for parents and children alike as a getaway.
When my host returns from the house with a mattress and his daughter, the rain starts with monsoon-like strength. Father and daughter invite me for coffee and cake in the house. It is Mother’s Day. The mother of the family, although on the way to a job training, left behind cake to celebrate the occasion .
In the coming hours Roland’s 13 – and 15-year-old daughters teach me a lot about the celebrity status a YouTuber can achieve these days. I feel old and at the same time reminded of my own teenage enthusiasm for singers and actors whose work I would nowadays no longer consider artisticly valuable.
Roland endures the excitement, especially of the younger daughter, with stoic calm, even more so shows sincere interest in their world. He tells me about his profession, his passion for music, his travels and the history of the mill.
The ensemble was the birthplace of the first German TV chef. My host and a few friends bought the land in the eighties, restored it from the ground up, ran a restaurant, inn and conference center for the left-alternative scene. But their priorities changed. Today all the buildings have been upgraded to apartments, of which some are rented out and others have passed into the ownership of their residents.
At half past eight I retire to my car. The daylight disappears only slowly. In the hope that it may rain again overnight, I hang my socks on a leafless tree. Since the shoes are wet again, my socks smell musty in the evening.
Therefore, dear children, you should always wear socks in solid shoes.

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Day 44 – to Koblenz-Ehrenbreitstein
At seven Roland takes the girls to school. Just before eight he lets me into the house. I take a shower, even get breakfast. We chat for a bit.
Today I want to make it to Koblenz. Although 38 km is a long march. But I have done it before. I don’t yet have a place to stay tonight. The friend of a friend is not in town. CouchSurfing hasn’t yielded any results. However, I know that there is a youth hostel.
In Guckheim it is once again time to pull the rain cover over the backpack. I do this in a bus shelter. There I met an elderly lady. We have a brief exchange about the weather, I talk about my trip. “You should stay in Montabaur. From there it is still twenty kilometers to Koblenz. don’t exhaust yourself,” she tells me. “There is a hostel for pilgrims in Montabaur where you can stay. ¨
I move on and start thinking. A hostel for pilgrims? That would be something.
A few kilometers outside the city, I pull a big branch, which blocks the right lane, from the main road. An old man with a little dog watches me while walking towards me. “How did this get here? There is no tree that would be large enough anywhere near.”
We muse about the source of the branch for a little while, but can’t agree on a scenario. I tell him about where I’m traveling. He tells me how to get to Montabaur via smaller roads. He used to be a beverage supplier and thinks aloud about where someone like me could stay. He goes through different houses and rejects them because of the bad food or the high prices. I mention the hostel. “Yes, the youth hostel. Then you’d better take a different route.”
Youth hostel. Not on my route. After my previous experience with facilities of DJHV I slowly tend to going back to the original idea of making it to Koblenz tonight.
I go to the tourist information anyway to get confirmation on the location of the house. Still unsure how to proceed, I look at the city’s main attractions, climb up to the castle.
It is not long before the rain sets in again. At first softly, but the gray clouds on the horizon are not a good sign. It’s time for a decision.
In a bakery shop on the main street, I discuss with me over hot chocolate and strawberry cake the options: stay here, or board the bus to Koblenz. It is already 3 pm.
At half past four, I get on the bus and hand the driver 6.80 € for a ticket to the Rhine.
From the bus stop in Ehrenbreitstein the signs for the hostel send me into a small building made of glass. But once inside there is no sign of the hostel. I inquire with the only other person in the room. The man points to an elevator door. I have to take the elevator up the mountain. Another man enters the building and helps me with the ticket selection. 3 € for three days unlimited elevator rides. That seems only fair. I’m kinda in a holiday mood. So I don’t think about if there is maybe a free way to get to the top.
When I see the view from the square in front of the hostel, I know I absolutely want to stay here: Part of the huge fortress Ehrenbreitstein was turned into the guesthouse. From here I have a perfect view of Koblenz and the so called German Corner (Deutsches Eck). The impressive Rhine takes the equally wide Mosel in. From his high pedestal Kaiser Wilhelm of Prussia watches the hustle and bustle.
Once again, I’m lucky: Not only is there a bed in the quad available for me. As it turns out, I also have the room to me alone. 22,50 € for room and breakfast. Of course I’m again asked to present a DJHV membership card. But I delay the process to the next morning.
I use the remaining daylight to explore the fortress, and even treat myself to a proper dinner: Across from the elevator at the foot of the mountain I buy a kebab and ayran for 5 €. The feast at sunset is only disturbed by the gray clouds that obscure the direct view of the red fireball. It doesn’t matter. I conclude the evening with a cup of tea in the bistro of the hostel.

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Day 45 – to Koblenz City Center
In the breakfast room, first no one knows of my reservation. So I have to pick my take myself. Of course, I choose the view of the German Corner.
Upon check-out the receptionist simply forgets the youth hostel card: “Look at it as a test use of our facilities,” she winks at me.
I sit down the bistro, write my diary. Late in the evening I have received an enthusiastic invitation from a Couch Surfer in Koblenz to spend the next two nights with him. Strange, but somehow it all works out.
We are set to meet in the afternoon around three o’clock.
At two I’m looking for the cable car that spans from the fortress of the Rhine in the city and spits me out near the Deutsches Eck. I only manage to take a few snapshots of the water and the emperor, before a heavy rain shower descends. Together with a group of cyclists I find refuge under an umbrella next to a snack house. Their guide tells me a few anecdotes about the city. Thus survived the 1897 built Kaiser Wilhelm Monument World War II without so much as a scar (as opposed to most of the Koblenz city center). After the end of the war, however, a French soldier up in the fortress Ehrenbreitstein got bored and used the larger than life statue as a target for a shooting exercise. With a large gun. The place on the pedestal at the Deutsches Eck remained empty for nearly fifty years. It was only in the nineties that the city raised the funds for a new version of the monument.
At quarter past three, we are interrupted by Ibraheems call. I say goodbye and wish the cyclists better weather for the remaining distance.
Ibraheem’s welcome is enthusiastic. He shows me the corners of the city, which he has learned to identify in the year since his arrival in Koblenz and babbles happily about the wonderful experiences that he had thanks to couchsurfing. We eat ice cream in the ice cream parlor, which was already recommended to me by several friends as “best in the world”, e Ge Lo Sia. Ibraheem insists to pay. His rule is simple: three days he pays everything for his guests and expects the same from his hosts elsewhere.
I want a typical Yemeni dinner. So there is delicious spiced rice with onion and potato vegetables.
Ibraheem tells me stories about his homeland, his family and the Arab culture. It is obvious that it hurts him to be so far away. However, not least because of the political situation in the country, he has very good reasons to write his doctoral thesis in Germany. He tries to not to show the difficult situation. “‘Forget and forgive’ is what I always say.”

Day 46 – in Koblenz
After a quick instant coffee, we go back to the city center. I want to take another look at the futuristic Forum Confluentes. Ibraheem points to various fountains in the old town. I suppose that they, like so many other things around here, were built as part of the National Garden Show 2011. He buys us breakfast at Dietsch and we enjoy the sun. After that I must have more of the ice cream at e Ge Lo Sia. Shortly before one I say goodbye for the afternoon to retreat to the library. I want to get on with my diary. I need some time by myself.
At about six Ibraheem calls: dinner is ready and he is hungry. I begin to follow the Mosel up to his apartment. I find him on the promenade near his home in conversation with friends. He introduces me. They invite us for a beer later on. Nothing big. We tell them we’ll think about it.
There is again rice with onions and potatoes for dinner. This time, however, Ibraheem has also cooked calf. And again, everything tastes excellent.
However, my host begins to more and more irritate me. I’m not sure if this is due to his views on the merits of Islamic dealings with a wife and family. He is certainly not very conservative, only deeply convinced of the merits of his faith. Or is it because of the ongoing dispute, which he carries out with his landlord in front of me? The old man has forbidden Ibraheem to have overnight guests and otherwise set up all sorts of abstruse rules. But in true macho style my host has to point out how superior he is to the old man over and over again and that he could disassemble him if the old man went too far. Or is it all the stories that Ibraheem mobilizes in response to any of my stories? They get wilder and wilder until I start to question their truthfulness.
I’m very happy that he agrees to accept the friends’ invitation.
We go to the other bank of the Moselle, near the university to a group of prefabricated buildings. There, almost at the forest and on the eighth floor Alexander and Isha live.
We chat for a few hours over beer and chips. Isha’s friend Michael has collected a bag of acacia flowers (the tree is actually the common black locust), and we give it a try.
I’m a little sorry, because we speak German and Ibraheem’s German is not very good. But he doesn’t admit that he doesn’t understand most of what is being said. He looks just offended. I can’t help him with that.
We say goodbye shortly after ten and when we return to the apartment, it seems to me that Ibraheem is moving closer and closer to me. I can not say if it happens with sexual interest or because he believes we were already good friends. He tells a lot of the friends he has already found after two or three days couch surfing. I can not confirm that for me. I have gotten along extremely well with some of my hosts and would like to meet them again. But to call them friends? Very good friends? Not after three days or less. Friendships need to grow over time. With a casual movement I brush Ibraheem’s hand off my hip.

Day 47 – to Boppard
Ibraheem has decided to accompany me for a few kilometers. He says that one day he would also like to go on such a long hike and wants to see how it feels. He grabs his bike, insists on carrying my backpack – because otherwise it would shame – and we are on our way, moving along the Rhine towards Bingen. There in a few days I will leave the Rhine behind me in order to find a shorter path to Worms. Martin in Kassel had suggested to me to stick to the river, rather than to write the “m” with a flick in the direction of Riesweiler.
After about an hour Ibraheem realizes that he hasn’t brought any water with him. When we approach a man who tinkers in his garden, he gives us a bottle of mineral water without even thinking twice about it. Ibraheem, however, doesn’t like the taste of the carbonated water. So I hand him my bottle and refill it afterwards with the mineral water.
Outside the Rhenser mineral water factory I’m excited to discover a well from which I can taste the fresh water from the spring, before some of the minerals have been removed. I’m surprised that it is already slightly bubbly.
In Rhens I decide to move away from the water and follow the Rhine castles trail (Rheinburgenweg) into the hills.
This means it’s time to say goodbye to Ibraheem. He asks what I liked most and least about the stay at his place. I don’t want to be mean, for I’m still very grateful that he has taken me in for two days, even though he was not supposed to, and I believe that he is trying in his own way to be a good host. Or as he himself once said. “Be the best couchsurfing host in the world.” So I soften the message and just say that sometimes I would have liked more space and a few times had the feeling of being pushed into a corner.
The trail leads away from the water, and as was actually to be expected, onto high mountain slopes. For that extra effort I’m rewarded again and again with enchanting panoramic views. Only at the end, during the descent to Boppard I feel a little queasy, when the path runs under a chairlift, partly on steep serpentines and partly on bare rocks. I descend so slowly and carefully that I can talk to the chairlift riders above me. Honestly, with my dislike of heights I still prefer the slipping and sliding…
I stay in Boppard overnight. The last few days have exhausted me, so I treat myself to a room.
At the tourist information, the lady at the counter is amazingly compassionate and willingly looks for the cheapest accommodation. I unsuccessfully phone some of them and then make my way to a corner shop three blocks down. The tourist information lady said the owners probably also rent private rooms.
The woman behind the counter is not interested in hosting me: Her husband is out and both of them won’t be at home before seven. But I should try a joint down the road. The “Rooms available” sign could not be missed.
A few meters down the road I ring at Mrs. Decker’s door. She operates the “Pension Eisenhofer” – ten rooms, spread over three floors, without a lot of tam-tam – apparently alone. “That would be 25 € then. I just need to think about which room I had set up as a single room.”
We find room 6 on the second floor. It is dominated by a large double bed. The left side of the bed is covered with a bedspread so as to warm me from lying there. There is a table with two chairs, a small TV mounted to the wall, a fridge and a balcony with another set of table and chairs. Mrs. Decker explains the TV and the heaters in bedroom and bathroom to me. “Today we are still feeling cold Sophie. But it will be warm tomorrow.” Breakfast is served from 8 to 9:30 in the morning. Mrs. Decker leaves and I go out once more to fetch some dinner from the supermarket.
At Penny I find chocolate, bread, cheese and blueberries on sale at a total cost of 2.56 €.

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Day 48 – in Boppard
In the morning I don’t feel like walking on. Being lazy for one day, working on the blog that would be nice. And since I’m currently also well within the lines of my budget of an average of 10 € per day I tell Mrs. Decker at breakfast that I intend to stay another night.
After the somewhat meager breakfast I’m getting comfortable on the balcony. The pleasure lasts only one hour and is abruptly stopped by a violent headache. Cold feet are simply not to be trifled with. I retreat to the bed until the afternoon.
Shortly after two I finally go back down to the city, enjoy two scoops of ice cream (one of them wine flavored), stroll along the river and watch for fifteen minutes or so how rowers try to fish a paddle from the water. Again and again it drives off as they can’t grab it. So they row further down the river to get in front of it. Eventually the maneuver succeeds after all.
At the entrance of Boppard I go past the loading stage of the cruise boats. Groups of American, Dutch and French retirees are getting ready to discover the city. I remember with a smile the short cruise on the Egyptian Nile, which I did with my friend Joe while on Africa 360 °. Cruising the Rhine could also be interesting…
For dinner I once again spend little more than 2.50 € at Penny. I go back to my room, eat and watch TV. This is also a form of home.

Day 49 – to Sankt Goar (or Kaub)
After breakfast I discover in my emails that a couch surfer in Sankt Goar has replied to a request I had written a few days ago. Actually, Sankt Goar is really too close for a day’s walk. However, the man works until late at night in a hostel. So I would at least get the opportunity to watch the cup final between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund …
I leave the decision to take the free accommodation option to the afternoon and continue from Boppard along the Rhine castles trail.
I soon curse the idea when the path once again ascends along steep slopes. But at least summer has now arrived. The sun is shining, I even pull my hat out of the backpack. When in Bad Salzig the trail goes back down to the river bank, I decide to simply follow the water to Bingen. Next to the river, there are no mountains to climb …
At shortly after two I have already arrived in Sankt Goar. I discover written in bold letters on a house wall below the castle the word “Youth Hostel”. Good, so I can go explore the city for a while, even visit the castle, and then come back here to stay with Steffen. Easy.
I cross the town all the way to the other end to find the infamous Lorelei rock. The bronze sculpture of young Loreley sitting by the river I only notice on the way back. I feel almost sorry for the campers here: they pay a lot of money for a beautiful view, but that comes with a constant noise from ships’ engines, and trains and cars rushing by on both banks.
Back in the old town I once again treat myself to two scoops of ice cream: Extra Dark chocolate and fruity mango. Yummy!
At four I’m at the hostel. At the entrance, I find a note: “This hostel is closed.”
How confusing!
I pull my phone out and dig after the email from Steffen: “… working in a youth hostel in Kaub … ”
I guess it’s always better to concentrate when reading an email.
Kaub is roughly ten kilometers (and a ferry ride) away. But I don’t really feel like walking another two and a half to three hours. So I go to the station to look for a train to Oberwesel. It runs every hour. Lucky for me: the next train leaves in five minutes. The vending machine is blocked by a group of Japanese, who under the direction of a local are fighting with the perils of technology. I quickly realize that I will not be able to pull a ticket out of this machine before the train enters.
I cross the train from the rear to the front, without finding a vending machine. And once again I’m lucky, because there is also no conductor to check for tickets.
From Oberwesel I walk again for almost an hour to the ferry, which doesn’t go to a fixed timetable, but whenever required.
Steffen is surprised when I find him in the hostel, but not retreating from his offer. We stow my backpack and sticks in a chamber which gives me the liberty to go exploring the town for an hour or so and learn about “General Forward”, Field Marshal Blücher.
My host recommends Benno’s Truck Stop as cheap and good dinner option to me. Among dozens of bikers and cyclists I order a “winery pan” for 4.50 €. Benno asks from behind the counter: “With fries, noodles or pasta salad?” Clueless as I’m, I request the pasta salad.
Unfortunately the food is not good. The vinegar in the pasta salad is stronger than any other taste in the dish. The insult to injury, however, is the bill: instead of 6,50 EUR for the food and a small soda, the cashier wants 9 €. Obviously, everyone knows – except me – that supplements are extra …
Crestfallen, I return to the hostel. Steffen invites me to a bionade and sends me to the Rhine, to watch the sunset.
Shortly after the whistle, I join the guests of the hostel in front of a large screen TV. During half-time break a seven-year-old blond girl strikes up a conversation with me. She thinks that Bayern is stupid and Dortmund great. But really it doesn’t matter to her who wins. And if I was Protestant I’d be in a cool club. I’m still not religious and Bayern takes the cup home. So I guess we both win.
Around midnight we finally arrive at Steffen’s place. The good-looking twenty-something shows me the couch I’ll sleep on tonight. We joke. He casually treasures of his shirt to head for the shower. For a brief moment I’m turned on. Then he curses his stupid roommate and the monopolies that control the world and explains why he will vote for the right wing AfD party. The moment is over.

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