Hiking path markings, Germany (2015-05)

Walking Home, week 8: Not the lonely one


Day 50 – to Waldalgesheim (Bingen)
It’s almost ten, when I depart from Steffen. I’ve decided to take the train to Kaub. After all, I had already made it there yesterday afternoon.
On the way to the station I buy a coffee at the bakery. At half past twelve the train leaves. I get off at the next stop, go down to the ferry and cross the river, back to the side of the Rhine I have been following for the past few days.
Below Rheinstein castle I bit the river farewell until Worms and climb the steep slope. Behind the castle I find a narrow path which takes me in the direction of Waldalgesheim. Couch Surfer Hu has agreed to host me there for a couple of nights.
The path was established by the lords of the castle, maybe a few hundred years ago. Barely wide enough for more than one person, it runs along the mountain and then into the forest. Even though it is Sunday, I fortunately encounter few people. There is only a cyclist in front of me who carries his mountain bike up the mountain, probably looking for a better path in the forest.
After about one hour I reach the “Schweizer Haus” (Swiss house), a restaurant with a nice view of the Rhine valley below. After all this hard work ascending and with only five kilometers to go to Waldalgesheim I think I deserve some ice cream.
Hu wants to meet me on the way, with his dog. But we miss each other several times, because I take a different route than he had expected. Finally, we succeed to find each other. The welcome is warm and we continue together to Hu’s home.
Hu is a mineral collector and therefore it seems quite fitting that he has an apartment in the former office buildings of an old mine. He enthusiastically shows me his treasures, which take up the entire apartment all the way to a little square in front of the building. I listen and learn. Some of the rocks are really pretty. But so much stuff!
For dinner, we have a barbecue in the garden. I love the marinade Hu improvises with coke, oil, rosemary, crushed fennel and all sorts of other spices.

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Day 51 – Waldalgesheim, near Bingen
Hu is a late sleeper and early riser. I try and stay in bed at least until after nine.
After a long breakfast Hu takes me in his car to explore the area.
First we drive to Rotenfels, a rock wall near Bad Kreuznach, that shines red in the right light. I enjoy the view, but am more busy worrying about Lena, the dog, who is so excited about a pine cone that I’m afraid she might jump after it into the abyss.
Afterwards we visit the Silver Lake, a fully accrued pit on a mountain peak. The water is teaming with millions of tadpoles and grass snakes that feast on the baby frogs. As we dip our feet in the lake, the tadpoles start nibbling the dead skin. That tickles.
Hu decides to go skinny dipping. His “Coward! Coward!” chants don’t impress me. For one thing, I realize that the water is heated up only to a meter deep and underneath it must be freezing. I don’t like icy cold water. But the experience in Koblenz has also shown to me that it is good not to cross certain lines between couch surfers and hosts.
In Stromberg, we look from afar at Johann Lafer’s famous restaurant in the Stromburg castle and drink a glass of wine outside the local swimming pool.
Hu once again cooks us a delicious dinner. Afterwards we get comfy in front of the telly. Big Bang Theory. Sometimes that’s just what I need.

Day 52 – in Waldalgesheim, near Bingen
I use the morning to work a little on the blog. In the afternoon we drive to the Rhine. Hu wants to show me rare turtles that live in tanks that have been separated generations ago from the Rhine to provide juvenile fish an optimal environment to grow.
Though we don’t find any turtles Lena has a blast jumping countless times after a stick into the Rhine.
In the evening, Hu is eager to watch a film from his vast collection. We opt for the classic Russian “Night Watch”. Although some of the effects are quite interesting, I find the story rather confusing, especially the resolution seems very forced.

Day 53 – to Worms
Hu offers to take me to Alzey. So I can, at no additional cost, make it to Worms tonight, as agreed with my hosts. Silvia from Marburg had made the contact.
But before we say goodbye, we walk for half an hour over a field, to search for fossils. Unsuccessful.
The route to Worms leads primarily through vineyards. I notice that the plants are trimmed differently and decide to ask the next wine expert, what it’s all about.
I arrive in Worms around six. Irmi and her two boys welcome me and invite me to dinner. We eat salad on the patio and drink Hugos with homemade elderberry syrup. The boys, of course, in the non-alcoholic version.
Irmi and I chat for a while and are quite surprised when we look at the clock. It is almost midnight and the working mother needs to prepare for an appointment the next day. So I retire to my bed under the roof. During the night a heavy storm passes. But by then I’m already sound asleep.

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Day 54 – to Immesheim
Irmi has allowed me to sleep in. I get up at half past seven, to say goodbye to the boys. Irmi returns briefly after she has dropped them off at school but has to leave at eight.
I shower, have breakfast, butter two slices of bread for lunch. At half past nine I pull the door shut behind me. Before I go West – towards Trier – I would like to see a little of the “Nibelungen city”. Irmi has marked a few highlights on a map for me.
The first takes me to the Jewish cemetery. There, the tombs are up to 1200 years old.
Before I visit the cathedral, I want to ask at the tourist information for hiking maps towards Trier and maybe even drop my backpack for am hour or so. Unfortunately, there are no routes which would fit my itinerary, and the staff at the tourist information is also not willing to keep the backpack. Instead they suggest I rent a bicycle box at the train station. But I don’t want to pay.
So I put the backpack in a niche in the Cathedral, and have a look around for half an hour. Then I walk along Lutherstraße to the old synagogue and through a bit of the old town.
Finally, it is time to say goodbye to the Rhine city.
Again, I’m passing through numerous vineyards. The weather is sunny. I put my hat on. It’s ugly and too small. It also doesn’t protect my shoulders from the sun. I will have to think about a solution in Trier.
Just before five in the afternoon I see an enchanting cottage by the road that leads to the small village of Immesheim. In front of the wooden house lush rose bushes are in full bloom. I ring the bell. A woman asks me over an intercom to enter. In the large living room to my left I see a number of musical instruments. In the hallway I see bookshelves and decoration, which meanders between religious kitsch and country house chique. I find the owner of the house sitting in a flowered chair in a salon on the right side of the house. She is extremely obese, her feet swollen. Her friendly, smiling face is framed by blond curls.
I report briefly who I’m, what I want. First she doesn’t understand that I’m alone, offers a room that can be entered from the outside of the house. I should go and have a look at it. However, she warns, it is not prepared.
In said room I find two plush beds with mosquito nets and floral bedspreads. There are dead insects and cobwebs everywhere. Next door is a bathroom with shower. It’s not perfect. But why not?
Back in the salon the old lady finally understands that I’m alone. She feels now no longer comfortable with the idea of letting me spend the night in the uncleaned room. With my sleeping bag I could indeed sleep on one of the beds upstairs. They have been prepared for guests who will come at the end of the week. However, the choice would be with me.
So I’m going upstairs. Again, everything is pretty with lots of floral decor and trinkets. A few individual cobwebs signal that my host herself can no longer take care of the house and has to rely on a cleaning service.
I opt for the upper floor.
From her chair my hostess directs me through the kitchen. To find canned food. To find cutlery. To find bread. She apologizes that I have to take care of myself, because she still had to prepare for the weekend.
Before dinner, I go upstairs to settle down and take a shower.
When I return, my host has already taken care of the meal: she has ordered salad and lasagna from a delivery service for me. Fine by me.
Over dinner I learn a little more about my host. Brigitta Seidler-Winkler was once a classical singer with engagements in Belgium and France. Eventually, she was asked if she would teach other aspiring singers. Hesitantly, she took on the task, but noticed that there were students who were soon improving their technique under her guidance and there were others who she could seemingly not teach anything. By chance she then got to know two doctors who dealt with the idea of Terlusollogy (http://www.hagena.info/1.html). According to terlusollogy there are two types of people: those who consciously inhale, and those who consciously exhale. Which type you are, is determined by the position of the moon to the sun when you take your first breath after birth. Depending on what type you are, certain behavior should result in better health.
Ms. Seidler-Winkler queries some data from me and tells me that I’m the solar type, a conscious exhaler.
During the meal, she tells how this knowledge has helped her in the education of her students and that ever since young singers come from all over Germany to her to learn. However, I also learn that she herself gave up professional singing because she made the mistake of retraining from lunar to solar type which resulted in her voice losing range.
I listen spellbound. In the coming days I will be watching myself when I sing loudly in the forest and fields to see how I breathe when I sing.

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Day 55 – to Mannweiler
The further west I get, the lonelier the land seems. Although I walk most of the time on state and county roads, I hardly meet any cars. And most certainly no hikers or cyclists. A glance at the map makes me conclude that Mannenweiler-Coelln should be the next small town I pass through. Here I could probably rent a room if all else fails, I think.
From 4.30 pm on I look for a place for the night. I ask at the first farm house in a tiny hamlet. Around the house cows, goats and sheep are grazing. At the gate a sign announces “Homemade honey”. This looks like friendly people who should have a bed for me.
“Oh, you have to ask my wife. Come with me, ” replies the friendly old man at the door.
I follow him and an excited little dog to the living room.
The woman thinks for a moment. “I can’t do that.”
OK. So on. In the next two houses no one answers.
The last house is very neat, a pretty renovated farmhouse. Walking across the yard I see over and beside the barn door dozens of awards. Once again I’m greeted by a friendly old man. “We have to ask my wife. Come with me.”
The woman stands in a colorful cottage garden. She smiles and puts her hands over her head when she hears my request. “But I have to finally get some work done in my garden. […] I just had visors here for two weeks. […] The house isn’t even cleaned, yet!”
She struggles with my request for almost ten minutes. I offer again and again to help, point out that I don’t need much. And maybe, if I had waited only ten minutes more, she would have given in and said yes.
But I don’t like being this way. I don’t want my hosts to feel uncomfortable.
So I move on to Mannweiler, still convinced that if all else fails, it should be easy enough to rent a room.
I soon realize that most of the buildings in the small town are new. Experience has shown that it is very improbable to find a pilgrim’s bed in these new developments. So I decide to ask at an Italian restaurant where the next room rental or hotel is.
The young waitresses at Don Gino shake their heads. They don’t know anywhere nearby.
A few streets further, I find the pub “Walters”. On the way in I see to the left through a crack in the door, the owners’ kitchen. At the small bar and the table behind it about half a dozen men in their fifties and far older have assembled for the costumary after work drink. They are surprised to see me, but begin at once to discuss where they could accommodate me. “Sit down. Have a drink. We’ll think of something.” one of them announces.
I order a small Fanta.
“I would even take you home with me. But my wife …, ” says another. The others nod in agreement. If only it wasn’t for the wives.
One of the younger ones offers whimsically. “If all else fails, you can sleep in the guest room here at Heinz’ s.”
Heinz Walter doesn’t look thrilled. His wife, so I have learned, has passed away. But hosting this strange woman that seems to frighten him.
After half an hour I give up. I don’t want to be an intruder in the old man’s house. And his guests are really not of much help. But at least they pick up the tab for my soda.
Not far away I come pass a sign for the “Blum Gabelmann Distillery” (http://www.blum-gabelmann.de). Aha!
The old farmhouse on the outskirts of the village, below a slope has been nicely renovated, some parts of the roof have been replaced by glass.
I don’t ring the bell at the small shop, but next door, assuming that that is where the owners live. A woman opens. Behind the door, a dog barks.
“Hmmm, I don’t know where you can stay. But not here.” She looks back towards the barking pet. Then she thinks for a few minutes, but has no better idea. At least she shows me a shortcut through the woods. So I save myself from walking all the serpentins on the way to the next village. Halfway there a car pulls up from behind me. “Are you the pilgrim who has just rung at my friend’s door?”
I nod.
“We are devout Catholics. We don’t turn pilgrims away. Get in the car. I guess your story will indeed be true.”
I can hardly believe my luck. She really drove after me to pick me up! Slightly shocked, I climb into the car.
We drive back to the distillery. As it turns out, she is the owner, the woman I had met before just a tenant.
Franziska and Heiner show me the shower, invite me to join a dinner with friends who have come over. We feast on different cheeses, fresh bread from the local bakery and wine from the estate of guests Martina and Peter, Hahnmühle (http://www.weingut-hahnmuehle.de).

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Day 56 – to Sien
After breakfast, Franziska shows me the property. In a large garden in the back are the apple trees. In front of the house, in a smaller garden my hostess grows herbs, vegetables and a few flowers. After the tour, she drops me in the distillery. Here Heiner shows me how apple mash is turned into hard liquor. I even take a careful sip of the so-called core, 90% apple spirit.
It’s fascinating, but around eleven I must get on my way. I leave the Donnersberg (“thunder mountain”) region behind me and reach the Hunsrück. Again, the land is empty. I even see some deer in the field – in broad daylight.
In Sien I decide to call it a day. Without much ado, I check into the guest house “Zum alten Schloss” (“at the Old Castle”). Astrid, the landlady, did not expect any guests tonight and asks for a moment to prepare the room. To pass the time she hands me an oversized book – the Chronicle of the castle, lovingly painted and written by hand in the 1950s by her grandfather.
I learn that the castle was built by Prince Dominik in the second half of the eighteenth century. But a short time later, when the French captured the land, it passed into their possession. In 1811 Astrid’s ancestors bought the castle and installed a guest house and a butcher shop.
A short walk through the village confirms that I have no other option to get something warm to eat, than in the guest house. Even the gas station down by the main road to Kaiserslautern closes at 5.
I order the cheapest dish on the menu: Cream of asparagus soup with elderflower cream. Behind the bar I discover autographs of famous TV chefs. This suggests that the mistress of the house has ambitions in the kitchen.
And indeed, I’m not disappointed. While the dish – as expected – doesn’t satisfy my hunger, the soup with the strong asparagus flavor gets along wonderfully with the sweet aroma of the cream, which slowly melts into the soup.

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